To paraphrase Aaliyah, if there’s ladies in the house let me hear you – now hands up, how many of you have had something mansplained to you in the last, I don’t know, week? There can’t be many of you who haven’t. In the week that Sam Smith has whitesplained racism to people of colour and the week that people have started remembering Matt Damon mansplaining ethnic and gender diversity to Effie Brown, a black female director, it’s about time that people with experience put power back into their own hands.
Men explaining women’s experiences to women, white people explaining racism to people who have experienced it, people unaffected by physical disability speaking over disabled people and neurotypicals being the authority on mental health issues –we’ve got it all. I can only comment on a very small section of what I’ve described above but even that small section is pretty shit.
I’m not exactly sure what it is that leads people to think that they can comment over and above people on their own marginalisation. Is it because they’re so used to being in positions of power that they can’t cope when they have to hand over authority to someone else? The boys in seminars who use the points I’ve made in words only slightly different and act like it’s pushing the boundaries of intellectual thought (which I do on a daily basis, obviously) to the inevitable mockery when it’s explained that no, you can’t use slut as an adjective even if you do ‘really respect women’ are nothing compared to what I’m sure I’ll come across in my future career.
This also goes for the teachers who can’t be bothered to learn to pronounce non-Western names, and then dismiss the comments of those behind them quicker than they would for Generic Straight White Male #1, or the fact that even at this level I know some people who honestly can’t wrap their heads around why the n-word really, really isn’t for them (not entirely sure how they’re clever enough to do a degree…).
The level of frustration this constant explaining and justifying must elicit is more than I can imagine and I know how privileged I am on the basis of this not being an essential part of my daily life, only to come out when I come into contact with the most ignorant of people.
Essentially, it’s not the job of women, people of colour, and various disabled groups to explain and justify their experiences, ideas and existence. The guilt complex we’re brought up with for daring to even take up space in a world that caters to such an extent for the whims of the rich white man lead us to continually reaffirm our right to exist, not just to people we know but near strangers. But I refuse to do this any more, and hopefully by joining the ranks of women who refuse to feel guilty for taking their place, I will do my tiny bit to stop the mansplaining culture we exist within.