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A Proposal to Study the Power, Knowledge, and Miscommunication of Intergender Speech

Dick Powis

on 29 April 2013

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Transcript of Mansplaining

MANSPLAINING Mansplain Works Cited (Academic) Works Cited (Web) \mænsplen\ , verb;
1. when a man breaks down, clarifies, over-interprets, or deciphers something to a non-man who already understands Defined by bloggers (usually women) Defined by me (a man) "Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate "facts" about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does."
- Karen Healey (Live Journal, 2013) Healey, Karen. “A woman’s born to weep and fret.” Karen Healey’s LiveJournal. May 8, 2009. http://karenhealey.livejournal.com/781085.html It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence.
- Rebecca Solnit (Los Angeles Times, 2008) Solnit, Rebecca. “Men who explain things.” L.A. Times. April 13, 2008. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/13/opinion/op-solnit13 Mansplain Micro-level Significance Interpersonal domination Macro-level Significance Discourse domination (Allow me to translate.) Further Reading man + explain = mansplain (Get it? It's a portMANteau, which is when you take two or more words and add them together to make a new word.) Power & Knowledge While it might seem to men that women are just now starting to become self-aware, in reality, social changes (consciousness) and technologies (the internet) are highlighting unavoidable subjects of structural violence and inequality. In addition, my generation is the product of a generation that began the movement toward gender equality.

Now that the discourse is focused on gender relations broadly, subtopics like "mansplaining" and internet rape jokes will rise to the surface for recognition and analysis. Mansplaining has been around for as long as men and women have been communicating, to be sure. The recognition and naming of the concept, however, have arisen out of a heightened societal awareness and sensitivity to gender inequality. Fundamentally, mansplaining arises out of a confusion or misunderstanding of the power and knowledge differential. knowledge: the culmination of one's lived experiences power: one's capacity to produce or alter something, directly or indirectly Power and knowledge can be ascribed via cultural values or they can be legitimated. ascribed: associated with a person based on their age, sex, gender, race, class, etc. legitimated: associated with a person based on their adherence to a set of rules (e.g. education or election; see Weber's concept of rational-legal legitimation of power) Gendered or legitimated power differential
Gendered or legitimated knowledge differential The type of confusion depends on the context. "I’m an assistant professor and Ph.D . . . 40+ years old, with 14 years’ experience teaching . . . Last year I had a male undergraduate student, age twenty, who often stopped in my office to chat. He explained that he didn’t believe in hierarchy, so he just enjoyed “sharing ideas” with me. In class he refused to raise his hand but rather burst in with both questions and answers at least ten times per class session (in a class of 70+ students).

"I spoke to him a couple of times about his conduct . . . and asked that he back off to leave some time and attention in class for the other 70 students. He also didn’t believe in self-restraint, but he said he would try that as a “favor” to me. When I handed the midterm exam back in class, I asked if students had any questions . . . The other students asked a smattering of reasonable questions and were ready to move on with class. This student began to argue with me about every single question he missed, insisting that the questions were poorly written . . . I finally cut him off and asked him to come to my office to discuss it further.

"After class he came in and proceeded to lecture me about how my exam was badly written, and offered to help me write a better exam for the final. He was qualified, he explained, because he had “been a TA once and had written some exam questions.” This student became a fixture in my semester, coming in to my office to give me “advice” on how better to teach my classes. It was outrageous, but somehow it wore me down and I actually ended up crying in one of these sessions." Case #1: Academia - "I was a TA once," Academic Men Explain Things To Me, 2013 “I was a TA once.” Academic Men Explain Things To Me. March 19, 2013. http://mansplained.tumblr.com/post/45754708936/i-was-a-ta-once Case #1: Academia Reality: Legitimate Knowledge Differential
Mistake: Egalitarian The professor has a Doctorate in their field of study and 14 year teaching experience.

The student more than likely does not even have a Bachelor's degree and has "been a TA once." Suggesting that questions are poorly phrased is not the problem. The student has the capacity to negotiate a question, and thus the right to voice his opinion on the structure.

Suggesting that his minimal experience in writing exam questions could be of some use to her in the future, on the other hand, is condescending and disrespectful.

Also, the blatant disregard for hierarchy (i.e. differential) is an example of purposeful mansplanation, whereas most mansplainers are completely oblivious. In 2010, Obamacare was passed with a provision that would require all employers to cover the costs of birth control for female employees. Religious employers (e.g. Catholic hospitals and universities) criticized the provision as infringing on their religious beliefs. Case #2: American Politics "I’ve been having trouble in the sack, lately, but I think it has mainly to do with the fact that my husband, who is otherwise an amazing and wonderful man that is always on the forefront of feminist movements, tells me this when I say that I’m pretty sure that I’m [hurt]...ahem...down there.

“'No, darling, you’re just imagining it. The pain isn’t really physical. Look, I know a woman’s body better than you do. This is just psychological. You need to just think the pain doesn’t exist…and all of this will be fine.'

"The pain really does exist . . . I do know my body better than a person who isn’t in my body and better than a person who doesn’t even know what it’s like to be in my body (i.e. not another woman).

"Mainsplained by own husband. I took him to my gynecologist for a good talking to. [There is] no harm in re-education; he is generally the most amazing man." Case #3: Marital Relationships Case #2: American Politics Reality: Gendered Knowledge Differential
Mistake: Legitimate Power Differential Women . . . are women. They live the lives of women with the bodies of women, and thus their knowledge is gendered.

The committee and the witnesses gained their positions of power through election, appointment, education, etc. and can use that power to affect and implement policy change. The chair, Republican Representative Darrell Issa, claimed that it wasn't a debate about contraceptives, it was a committee to investigate whether or not the government was infringing on the rights of religious employers (to infringe on the reproductive rights of their female employees).

Anytime a male with power (e.g. politician, employer, religious leader) implements a policy that controls a woman's body, this is implicitly an example of mansplaining. Case #3: Marital Relationships Reality: Gendered Knowledge Differential
Mistake: Legitimate Knowledge Differential The narrator is a woman (i.e. she has the body and lived experiences of a woman).

The husband claims to "know a woman's body better than" his wife. If this were true, he had to have learned it, because he hasn't experienced it. In 2012, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a hearing called, "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State; Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" In this hearing, eleven people testified unanimously that such a provision was a detriment to their right to freely practice their religion, and thus, that the federal government had overstepped their constitutional bounds. Exactly none of the eleven people were women. 11 x 0.0 = 0.0
100 x 0.0 = 0% Sidebar: After enough criticism from Democrats, the committee allowed one witness of their choice. They chose third-year Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke to recount the story of a colleague who lost an ovary to a syndrome that is preventable with oral contraceptives. Rush Limbaugh called her a slut for asking the government to "pay her to have sex." - "Knowing my body better than me," Academic Men Explain Things To Me, 2013 Therefore, he believes that there is a "legitimate knowledge differential" that confers him an ability to comment with authority.

This particular testimony is a rare form of mansplaining; despite the fact that many us know from experience that marital relationships are not immune to this type of dialogue, I was only able to locate a handful of examples from the internet.

I hypothesize that this has something to do with the ostensibly egalitarian nature of marital relationships. On the other hand, there is no corresponding lack of mansplaining peers, siblings, and coworkers, with whom women share actual egalitarian rapports. (awaiting quantitative analysis) Opening Title

Lecture Outline


"Mansplain" defined

Power & Knowledge

Case Studies (1, 2, & 3)

Almost: Related Works

The Difference: What Still Needs to be Studied


Works Cited Lecture Outline The Classic Example Introduction Modern Examples You don't worry your
pretty little head. 100 U.S. Senators, of which 20 are women (20%) 435 U.S. House Representatives, of which 78 are women (17.9%) Congress: 18.3% are women Americans: 50.8% are women “Knowing my body better than me.” Academic Men Explain Things To Me. March 12, 2013.
http://mansplained.tumblr.com/post/45195407386/knowing-my-body-better-than-me The question of types of power and knowledge in discourse Are men being oblivious or vindictive? Mansplaining in marital relationships Addressing the criticisms of men's rights activists The term is new (2008), but the concept isn't.
Why isn't described in scholarly literature concerning language and gender?
In the mechanics of the interaction of mansplaining, how is bringing a self
diagnosis via WebMD to your doctor any different?
Is "Mansplaining" better described as some other more general term, as
Lakoff's "Women's Language" was proposed to be called "Powerless
Speech" by O'Barr and Atkins (1980)? My hypothesis: Is the model applicable to the majority of mansplaining incidents?
Is "gendered power" relevant? If so, what role does it play? Almost: Scholarly Work Related to Mansplaining The Difference: What Still Needs to be Studied To Manclude Resources A Proposal to Study the Power, Knowledge, and Miscommunication of Intergender Speech Dick Powis
ANT 243: Language & Gender Power Gendered Gendered Power Gendered Knowledge Legitimated Power Legitimated Knowledge Legitimated Knowledge "Eleanor Smeal, president of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, was a guest on a call-in radio talk show, discussing abortion. No subject could be of more direct concern to women, yet during the hour-long show, all the callers except two were men. Diane Rehm, host of a radio talk show, expresses puzzlement that although the audience for her show is evenly split between women and men, 90 percent of the callers to the show are men. I am convinced that the reason is not that women are uninterested in the subjects discussed on the show. I would wager that women listeners are bringing up the subjects they heard on The Diane Rehm Show to their friends and family over lunch, tea, and dinner. But fewer of them call in because to do so would be putting themselves on display, claiming public attention for what they have to say, catapulting themselves onto center stage." (Tannen 1990) Tannen on report & rapport talk Tannen, Deborah
1990 You just don't understand: women and men in conversation. New York, NY: Morrow. Report Talk vs. Rapport Talk
Report: a means to preserve independence; negotiate and maintain status in the hierarchical social order . . . by exhibiting knowledge and skill . . . a holding center stage through . . . imparting knowledge. Dominance
Theory Men are using "power" and "knowledge" to assert their dominance over women. Difference
Theory Men are using a speech strategy to communicate with women that is better suited for communicating with other men. Mansplaining (See Maltz & Borker 1982) (See Zimmerman & West 1975) "There appear to be two different attitudes towards problem sharing and advice giving. Women tend to discuss problems with one another, sharing experiences and offering reassurances. Men, in contrast, tend to hear women, and other men, who present them with problems as making explicit requests for solutions. They respond by giving advice, by acting as experts, lecturing to their audiences." (Maltz & Borker 1982) Maltz & Borker on the response to troubles talk Thomas-Hunt & Phillips on identifying the expert of a group "In fact, our findings suggest that women are often penalized when they possess the same expertise that men have. We found that being an expert in the group had a negative impact on others’ evaluations of women, their self-evaluations, and their ability to influence the group. In contrast, possessing expertise had a positive impact on men’s ability to influence the group. Interestingly, expert men were not evaluated, nor did they evaluate themselves, more highly than non-expert men. This suggests that whereas male experts . . . did not suffer from possessing and sharing the dissenting perspectives that often accompany being expert in a group, their evaluations were not enhanced by their expertise either." (Thomas-Hunt & Phillips 2004) Maltz, Daniel N. and Ruth A. Borker
1982 A Cultural Approach to Male-Female Miscommunication. In Language and Social Identity. Vol. 2. John J.
Gumperz, ed. Pp. 196–216. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press. Thomas-Hunt M.C. and K.W. Phillips
2004 When what you know is not enough: expertise and gender dynamics in task groups. Personality & Social
Psychology Bulletin. 30 (12): 1585-98. O'Barr, William M. and Bowman K. Atkins
1980 "Women's language" or" powerless language." In Women and language in literature and society. Sally
McConnell-Ginet, Ruth Borker, and Nelly Furman, eds. Pp. 93–110. New York: Praeger. Zimmerman, Don H. and Candace West
1975 Sex roles, interruptions and silences in conversation. In Language and sex: Difference and dominance.
Barrie Thorne and Nancy Henley, eds. Pp. 105–129. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House. Viral Media Global. “Rep. Todd Akin says 'Rape Victims Rarely Get Pregnant'”. YouTube video, 0:38. August 19, 2012. http://bit.ly/NWef49 Is there a miscommunication of paralinguistic and
non-linguistic cues between genders? Why is there a lack of testimony?
Is something else at work in the marital relationship? Is "mansplain" sexist?
Can men be mansplained to by women (and other men)? Mansplaining is a combination of gender dominance and gender difference. Mansplaining is the result of different types of power and knowledge being confused or miscommunicated Mansplaining plays roles in both interpersonal relationships and in sociopolitical discourses (i.e. with biopolitical implications). Schwyzer, Hugo. “Five Tips for the Mansplainers in Your Life.” Jezebel. September 13, 2012. http://jezebel.com/5943051/five-tips-for-the-mansplainers-in-your-life
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