Sunday, February 14, 2010

mansplaining, whitesplaining, femsplaining, blacksplaining...

Useful terms or ad hominem?

32 comments:

  1. Dunno, but I find the terms irritating whatever they are.

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  2. PS; This is the best instance of mansplaining I've seen. Now with Tolkien references!

    Besides, I'd like echo franzferdinand2's comment; "Just because we criticize your favorite writer's work as racist, classist, sexist, etc. doesn't mean we're criticizing YOU.

    (Unless you're a Gor fan, in which case, I AM criticizing you. Also, stay the hell away from me.")

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  3. Blue, on LJ, someone suggested "classplaining", which I kind of like, or maybe, privsplaining. Because I've been "mansplained" by women in power often, ever since my first job in publishing. I sometimes wonder if women who talk about patriarchy instead of capitalism have never had female bosses. 'Cause what they're talking about is ignorant people who grew up privileged. Feudal lords and ladies were no different than rich folks today.

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  4. Hmm...I'm a feminist, the vast majority of my bosses have been women, yet I don't doubt your word. Privilege has much to do with it, but the whole "My reality trumps YOUR reality." is manifest in most power structures. Just a few days ago, I read a column from a white guy who talked about how wonderful the 50s' were. I wanted to say "Maybe for you, shotgun, but not for somebody like me."

    Then again, I hadn't been born then, so YMMV. ;-)

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  5. White guys like that are just like the Cubans in Miami who say things were wonderful under Batista.

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  6. "Just because we criticize your favorite writer's work as racist, classist, sexist, etc. doesn't mean we're criticizing YOU."

    Sure it does. If you say my favorite writer's work is racist, classist, and sexist, you're saying that I'm the sort of person who enjoys racist, classist, and sexist writing. That's not exactly a compliment. At the vary least it implies that I have bad taste. (Just sayin'. *grin* )

    I understand "mansplaining" conceptually and I'm not ready to say it isn't useful. I just don't like the word. It has an unpleasant texture. Yick.

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  7. serialbabbler;

    LOL! I feel the same way about "womanizer", which sounds like something you do with a machine.

    But seriously, yeah, there are authors who have been hobbled with racism, sexism, classism, etc., yet they're still able to tell a good story. I enjoyed reading "Gone With The Wind", in spite of the fact that Margaret Mitchell thought slavery was swell.

    By the same Tolkien*, one might love "Lord Of The Rings", yet still wonder "Why are all his dark skinned people cast as villains?" and "Where are all the women?"

    *OK, that was bad, but hey, it was there; I had to take the opportunity. ;-)

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  8. Sure, but if you're wondering why all the dark skinned people are cast as villains, you probably aren't going to describe Tolkien as your favorite author. It'll usually come across more as "I love his books, but..."

    Or maybe that's just me.

    (Apart from the bit about loving Tolkien's books which I don't especially.)

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  9. Also not a super fan of Tolkien. I don't diss the guy, and respect him for a number of reasons, but my love of fantasy has more to do with writers of the '60s--which includes some who started earlier, like one of my faves, Fritz Leiber.

    Calling Tolkien racist and sexist kind of misses the point, imho--he was a nationalist and a traditionalist, which is close, but not quite the same thing. While his influences did not include many adventurous women, Éowyn does get her moment in a scene that was mighty enlightened for its time.

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  10. One of my friends is a die-hard feminist (and a Wiccan feminist, no less), and she loves Tolkien--the Eowyn scene is one of her favorites in literature. She keeps urging me to read it, but I haven't found the time to go through LOTR yet.

    Yeah, I agree Tolkien is one hell of a storyteller, yet I still wince at his blind spots . As the link said, that doesn't mean I think Frodo and Bilbo should have been black lesbians or something like that, but I can understand why folks have problems with LOTR.

    Of course, it could be worse, like this classic review which enjoyed "Choosers Of The Slain", yet hates everything about the hero's admittedly odious view of women, non-USA folks, and humanity in general. OH JOHN RINGO NO!

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  11. I was at a convention with him a couple of years ago. Seemed like a damn fine GoH. But I can't say I'm in a hurry to read his work.

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  12. A Fritz Lieber fan! Yay! Murray Leinster too?

    I find Tolkien almost unreadable; it took three tries over the course of several years to read the whole Ring series. Sorry; purple prose is not the same thing as good story telling. Some scenes are gems, but there's just too much stupifying dreck to wade through to get to them. I was never able to read enough in a row to notice the racial and sexual issues.

    And judging by his descriptions of Frodo's quest, he's never been outdoors in his life.

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  13. My memories of Leinster are extremely vague. What's your favorite?

    I understand Tolkien did some camping, but I don't know if that was significant. Now I'm a little tempted to look at his outdoors scenes again. I read the books when I was sixteen, I think, and tended to skim the hiking scenes.

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  14. There are so many, it's hard to pick. Two gems, converted to radio plays, are available here: "First Contact" and "A Logic Named Joe". I remember him, along with Clifford Simac, as good users of the "common man" theme- protagonists who were not superheroes, but ordinary, competent guys who get stuck in a weird situation and prevail.

    By the way, beware of that site I directed you to- it's incredibly addictive.

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  15. I loved Simak. And that link does look scary. Thanks!

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  16. serial, I wasn't much into Panshin for reasons I can't explain--maybe I tried one and didn't like it--but ditto on the rest. I should reread some Henderson soon, just to see how she holds up.

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  17. Now you've got me wanting to reread a bunch of Andre Norton to see if my happy childhood memories hold up.

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  18. I love Norton too much to reread her, 'cause I'm sure they won't. (I suppose I should try one to see if that's so.)

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  19. By the way, I don't know if it's your browser or mine, but in the recent comments on the left, every one has "'" inserted into every sentence.

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  20. Weird- I can't get it to say what's inserted- it's ampersand, number symbol, thirtynine, semicolon.

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  21. My browser has that, too. I think it's a Blogspot limitation. I'm toying with the notion of moving again, but I haven't found anything that seems like a clear win, and I should be blogging less anyway.

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  22. Most of Norton's science fiction held up pretty well for me as of ten years ago. (Dipple, and the Solar Queen, and the crosstime books, and such like. The Time Trader ones come across as pretty dated, though.) I never really got into her fantasy all that much.

    On the other hand, I'm not much of a literary critic.

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  23. I should add that John Ringo said that the bad review was the first one he'd ever agreed with. Good sport, that Mr. Ringo.

    Oh yes, Leiber's wonderful, though I'll have to check out Leinster. Thanks, Joel!

    I tended to tell people my favorite writer was Mark Twain, though.

    Good choice! (And I'm not just saying that because he's a fellow Missourian.)

    While there are a lot of authors whose books I enjoy (like our kind host's and hostess's), I try to avoid naming any living writer as my current favorite, because that always seems to get me into trouble, especially with the 'splainers. If pressed to name just one, I usually say "Poe", which earns me some strange looks, but no real arguments.

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  24. Poe! Someone else to add to the reread list, 'cause I gobbled him when young. Fifth grade, maybe.

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  25. Poe, unfortunately, doesn't really hold up for me.

    I'm late to the party, because it took me a few days to understand what I wanted to say on the topic. I think the words are useful in that having a word helps convey the idea that these things are common reactions. I think their usefulness is limited in practical conversation because it's very hard to use them in a way that differentiates between, "I don't want to explain things to you if that's the reaction I'm going to get," and, "You just committed a crime of the first order. Die, foul beast." And while my language there is meant to be funny, that's already a difficult enough distinction to make.

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  26. My suspicion that Poe won't hold up is a good part of the reason i haven't returned to him.

    As for the limited usefulness of the 'splainin' words, I'm inclined to agree. So long as they're generalizations, they may be useful. As soon as they're applied to individuals, they can create problems. Hmm. Which makes them much like the bingo cards.

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  27. Poe! Someone else to add to the reread list, 'cause I gobbled him when young. Fifth grade, maybe.

    Me too! I read everything of his, including his essay on interior decorating which nobody reads any more. The good thing about Poe is that he's got enough prestiege to make casual fans respect your choice, but he's obscure enough so that his more problematic works (like "The Gold Bug", say, or "A Predicament" where a woman narrates her own decapitation by a giant clock hand) are unknown to everybody but the most dedicated.

    Plus, it's a great way to read scary stories when you haven't reached driving age yet. Parents who would freak out if they caught you reading "Tales From The Crypt" are happy to let you read Poe, because hey, it's literature. ;-)

    But yeah, returning to the subject at hand, it takes a special dose of solipism to distinguish a 'splainer from the common variety jerk. For instance, there's one famous Poe critic who says he suffered nightmares for years after he read Poe's A Predicament. I didn't, but I don't deny that he did. If I said "I'd never get nightmares from that one! It's just a hilarious story!" then I'd be a jerk.

    On the other hand, a 'splainer not only denies the reality of your experience because it conflicts with hir own, s/he thinks you're crazy for even bringing it up. Suppose I say "You know, I feel uncomfortable when I'm talking to a guy and he looks at my breasts instead of my face.".

    If a guy answers "Hey, I'd never feel uncomfortable if a girl stared at my chest.", then he's a jerk.

    If he goes on to say "You women should stop feeling paranoid! Be flattered when a guy stares at your breasts! it's a compliment!" then I know I've seen that not so rara avis known as a 'splainer.

    YMMV.

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  28. Blue, full agreement that there are major 'splainers out there. And on some subjects, I'm definitely one.

    But there's a problem with the idea that the person with a particular experience is judging that experience more accurately than anyone else. The goldfish doesn't necessarily understand the bowl.

    Oddly, I almost mentioned "The Gold Bug." I remember being particularly struck by it. I should read it again to see if I can figure out why.

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  29. I wonder if Ambrose Bierce would hold up as well- I loved his stuff when I was in high school.

    And I must cop to being a 'splainer on some subjects myself.

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  30. I dunno about his longer pieces, but some of his definitions are still grand.

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  31. Yeah, "The Devil's Dictionary" still stands up.

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