I appreciate the thoughtful response — a few thoughts:
- The reason why I gave you the original response that I did is because you’re far from the first person to immediately bring up the fact that I’m a man when I attempt to discuss what I consider the problems of gender-based labels like this. The argument that I am categorically disqualified from comment by virtue of my gender will always seem strange and ironic to me when the problem of ‘mansplaining’ is about gender-based dehumanization. I recognize that I have not experienced the condescension that ‘mansplaining’ was meant to capture, and I tried to acknowledge that throughout the piece. But the argument that I’m not allowed to give my observations about how the word is used seems like a bridge too far.
- I do not have any realistic expectations that the word will be retired, and I expected to get some of these types of reactions. My argument was mostly meant to illustrate to those who use the word as a way to counter a substantive point what the experience of the accusation feels like on the receiving end. This is not to say that being casually accused of sexism is worse than living a life where men routinely condescend to you — but it’s still part of the equation. And it still has some pretty nasty practical effects to conversations and relationships.
- Words are powerful and important, and I believe they can shift political outcomes. I believe that with new words like this, in a political environment such as this, the problem with not having a well-understood common definition means that the type of experiences like mine are going to be common and internally divisive to those of us who want a culture where this doesn’t happen to women. As the commentator above you articulated well, and as I believe, if the purpose is to educate somebody about their behavior and not simply to shut down an argument, it may be worth spending a little more time to explain the problem in a way that doesn’t just simply make a problem out of the person’s gender.
I do not intend to ‘mansplain’ with these responses — just to further clarify the argument. Since we have a real substantive disagreement here, I don’t think it would be fair to put that label on my responses.