Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Today, we have two different post-mortems of the mansplaining that occurs after a woman expresses an opinion. The first is a statistical analysis of the mansplaining prompted by Holly Wood’s rebuttal of some rich guy’s defense of income inequality. You should read Wood’s essay, as well as the analysis which includes dialetical gems like this:

What is the best way to look like the smartest person in the room without actually saying anything worth noting? Say that both sides are wrong and that having a strong opinion is for overly passionate losers. This is often mixed with tone-policing and repeated efforts to make sure everyone understands they’re not on anyone’s side. You can’t be on a side in a public debate. That’d mean having an opinion that is potentially not just regurgitating the status quo!

“Both sides” is usually just intellectual cowardice disguised as nuance.

The second post-mortem, by Rebecca Solnit, is no less scathing. Solnit wrote an article called Men Explain Lolita to Me; men were apparently honor-bound to educate Solnit after she picked on Esquire for publishing a list of 80 Books Every Man Should Read. A full 79 of those books were written by men, and Solnit pointed out that this:

seemed to encourage this narrowness of experience and I was arguing not that everyone should read books by ladies—though shifting the balance matters—but that maybe the whole point of reading is to be able to explore and also transcend your gender (and race and class and nationality and moment in history and age and ability) and experience being others. Saying this upset some men. Many among that curious gender are easy to upset, and when they are upset they don’t know it (see: privelobliviousness). They just think you’re wrong and sometimes also evil.

It’s tempting take the cheap shot, the sarcastic nihilistic poke and say “well, of course. It’s Esquire. This is par for the course.” You could even link to something actually educational about Esquire’s sordid history to prove your point. But that’s still the lazy way out, and Solnit isn’t lazy. This is much better:

Scott Adams wrote last month that we live in a matriarchy because, “access to sex is strictly controlled by the woman.” Meaning that you don’t get to have sex with someone unless they want to have sex with you, which if we say it without any gender pronouns sounds completely reasonable. You don’t get to share someone’s sandwich unless they want to share their sandwich with you, and that’s not a form of oppression either. You probably learned that in kindergarten.

But if you assume that sex with a female body is a right that heterosexual men have, then women are just these crazy illegitimate gatekeepers always trying to get in between you and your rights. Which means you have failed to recognize that women are people, and perhaps that comes from the books and movies you have—and haven’t—been exposed to, as well as the direct inculcation of the people and systems around you. Art matters, and there’s a fair bit of art in which rape is celebrated as a triumph of the will. It’s always ideological, and it makes the world we live in.