Womansplaining: Let me tell you about ... feminism

Womansplaining: Let me tell you about ... feminism

Her choice of weapons in a mansplaining world are little to no patience, endless optimism and word barbs.

Suma Nagaraj

Lately, I’ve seen enough diatribes about the feminist movement online (the current wave of which is the fifth, I’m told), covering the entire gamut on the rebuttal spectrum from polite ‘I-don’t-think-so’ statements to raging hysteria against ‘women who treat men as merely incidental in their scheme of things’. Let me start off my column, Womansplaining, with a helpful reminder of what, for starters, feminism is not.

First up, feminism isn’t “against” men like the sweeping blanket generality it is made out to be. It is against the patriarchy that doesn’t, by definition, consider women as primary or parallel beings but as secondary beings “who should know their place in society,” that is, secondary to men. I’m sorry, what? Let me start with the example of the word ‘mansplaining’. This is what, in linguistic terms, is known as a ‘neologism’, a coinage that Dictionary.com tells us is a “newly coined word or expression.” Which seems to suggest that this is a word that’s a recent addition to the human lexicon.

The irony here being, Microsoft Word prompted me to correct my column name, underlining it with an ominous red squiggly line that kept screaming at me until I right clicked on it to see what the hullabaloo was about. Guess what the suggested alternative was? ‘Mansplaining’.

That’s right.

Try it. Type out ‘womansplaining’ on your computer and see what autocorrect asks you to correct it to.

Even machines that have been forced to learn things that humans input into them seem to think the correct term is ‘mansplaining’. There are several connotations to this we could consider. One, that the word ‘womansplaining’ is not yet cemented in the collective social justice conscious should give us all, not just feminists, pause. That it is secondary even in consideration (even though ‘mansplaining’ is not a word that connotes something positive being a secondary consideration here), should tell you how much patriarchy is entrenched in human society.

But, the corollary of this consideration is…interesting, for the lack of a better word. And this is what we will go with. If machines that learn as their human masters program them to seem to think ‘mansplaining’ is more mainstream, then hey, who am I as a feminist to complain? Machines seem to be far more sentient beings than men, methinks. It didn’t even take them as long as people have been alive to adopt that word into machine parlance. Which, in the case of men, is still a work in progress.

Let me make it simple for you. To parse this mansplaining-womansplaining-Windows analogy into layman’s terms (again: man), Word autocorrect is to womansplaining what patriarchy is to women. The whole androcentric construct that is the order of the world as we know it is what feminism is resistant to.

That a woman in possession of a sound mind must be in need of a good taming is the lie patriarchy peddles in many avatars. This column will attempt to disabuse polite society of that notion.

And no matter what the world tells you, feminism isn’t toxic. It may bite, it may sting, it may cause hives, it may get under your skin, it may leave you with an unpleasant taste. You could argue that that is the very definition of toxic, and I will womansplain to you, in all patience, that that is the energy field women have had to live in since the dawn of time. So, what can you do about it? Deal with it, like women have since time immemorial.

To quote one of my most beloved lines from fiction, from the mightiest pen of Toni Morrison, lady of letters like none other:

'“He licked his lips, ‘Well, if you want my opinion…’

'“I don’t”, she said. “I have my own.”'

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