About This Word

mansplain

[man-spleyn]

What does mansplain mean?

To mansplain is for a man to explain something to a woman in a condescending manner, particularly when the woman is an expert in the subject.

Related words:

  • actually
  • #notallmen
  • teaching grandmothers to suck eggs
  • whitesplain

See how it's used

mansplain

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Where does mansplain come from?

Mansplain is a verb blending man and explain. The S comes from the pronunciation of explain (ek-spleyn). It is frequently found as a gerund (mansplaining), agent noun (a mansplainer), and modifier (mansplainy).

While she didn't coin the term, author Rebecca Solnit conceptualized and popularized the idea thanks to her April, 2008 essay, "Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn't Get in Their Way," later collected into a 2014 book. In it, she discusses the way men do not see women as credible in a variety of situations, such as when reporting a crime.

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The essay went viral, especially popular in online feminist communities on the likes of LiveJournal, and helped inspired the term mansplain, first found in May, 2008 on a former LiveJournal clone, JournalFen.

Mansplain spread from the feminist (and anti-feminist) blogosphere to the Twitterverse (where men would notoriously pontificate to women with tweets beginning actually) to the mainstream media, where journalist Sam Sifton and lexicographer Grant Barrett included mansplainer in a 2010 Words of the Year roundup in the New York Times.

Mansplain received yet more attention in 2012, appearing in a spate of newspaper articles on the term and concept. In early 2013, the American Dialect Society nominated mansplaining as a Most Creative word for 2012.

Under the influence of mansplain, -splain spread as a productive word-forming element, from Mittsplain (former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney explaining policy) to whitesplain (white people explaining things to minorities).

CreditAsh Hernandez, via Cathy De La Cruz, via New York Times

We added mansplain to our official dictionary, such was the extent of its use, in 2013, with other major dictionaries following suit.

Mansplain has since gone global—and has been taken very seriously in some cases. In 2016, for instance, a Swedish trade union, Unionen, opened a hotline meant to help men learn how to avoid mansplaining and other acts of sexism. (It's called listening, guys. And asking questions. And ... OK, we're not gonna dictionarysplain it to you here.)

Who uses mansplain?

The general thrust of mansplain is a man presuming a woman is helplessly ignorant on a subject, often when he himself knows very little and she is actually an expert on the matter. Simply put, it's a small but very exasperating and hurtful form of sexism.

The term can be more generic, though, referring to any instance of arrogant, privileged pedantry. It can also be ironic, used when someone genuinely desires a very basic explainer on something.

Some men, of course, have taken issue with mansplaining, crying reverse sexism. That sounds like a whole lotta ... mansplaining.

For example

Tonight at the bar I had a guy mansplain to me what my major is and where to find my advisor... as if I’m not about to be a senior....

@lauren_lexieee, June, 2018

Sara, a business director on the West Coast, has a boss who's a serial mansplainer. He has a tendency to listen to her ideas and then "explain in intense detail the point that you just made," as if it were his own.

Rex Huppke, Chicago Tribune, May, 2016

At work, this white man ask me where I’m from I told him Ethiopia and he said “oh the Italian colony” I said na fam we’re not colonised and he said “yes, Italy colonised you in 1896 and I was cackling inside because this man really try to mansplain my own country’s history to me

@lulutekeste_, June, 2018

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