It all started because I deleted some link spam.
Let me explain. On this site, we sometimes get comments that are designed for no other purpose but to promote a certain blog, website, or blog post. “Spam,” these comments are called. Sometimes, these comments are nobly motivated, yet clearly robotic; a blog post about, say, domestic violence gets found by Google and we get a comment along the lines of “Domestic violence harms many women and children! Visit www.CauseWebsite.com to learn more!” Since this is spam, albeit of a well-motivated nature, it gets deleted so that our non-robot commenters don’t have to wade through it. Sometimes, it’s actual people looking to promote their own blog posts by hitching a ride on ours: “Nice post about Doctor Who! I also wrote about Doctor Who one time! My post is here at www.myblog.com/doctorwhopost!” Also spam, also gets deleted. My, what interesting facts about basic comment moderation these must be for you!
BUT. Sometimes — the specialest times of all — this spam comes from people who ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO REGISTER that they didn’t like something we wrote, and need ALL OF OUR READERS to read about that IMMEDIATELY. “You’re wrong! I wrote about how wrong you are at www.MyThoughtsAreTheBestThoughts.com! Click on it, stupid!” Etc. These do warm my heart, as they are composed of that ideal mixture of self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and derailing dickery necessary to be a stereotypical Person On The Internet. But, I delete them as well. So sad!
Ah, but reader. In my recent Game of Thrones post, I was submerged by so many troll comments — we got linked by a few notably troll-breeding Forums That Shall Not Be Named, as well as a few blogs here and there — that I did not have time to hand-Google the resumes of each and every person who commented! And so, tragic as it is to confess this, I did a very evil thing. I deleted some blog spam by a dude who, by his own account, is Really Famous On The Internet. This dude is hereinafter referred to as “Professor Feminism,” or, if you prefer a manlier alternative, “Zoxhor the Destroyer.” From hence occurred a storm of mansplaining so archetypically perfect, and so deeply sad, that I feel the need to share the tale.
Professor Feminism left a comment that was, basically, “I disagree! Here’s my blog post about it!” I deleted it, as usual. For what it is worth: His name and blog were not anything I recognized. And, since we were already battening down the hatches for the inevitable fan rage, which tends to be particularly ugly with Martin fans (last time Emily addressed the subject of Martin, she tells me, she got a bunch dudes telling her to be “raped by Drogo”), I warned people not to do that again.
Professor Feminism then left a comment within the next 20 minutes, saying that “his readers” (and not, uh, him?) should be “allowed” to link to the blog post. This was such a lovably pathetic way of covering up his initial blog-spam — I especially liked the part where it was obvious that he was hovering over the comment section, waiting for the link to his Important Man Thoughts to appear — that I almost felt bad about deleting Professor Feminism again. But I did. Also, made a joke about it.
And that, my friends, was when Mansplain-a-Thon 2011 really kicked off.
For those very few readers who are unfamiliar with “mansplaining,” Karen Healey has a pretty good, concise definition of it:
Mansplaining isn’t just the act of explaining while male, of course; many men manage to explain things every day without in the least insulting their listeners.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.
Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!
This explanation was linked to at the blog Thus Spake Zuska, which then added an additional Mansplaining Process Outline to the mix:
1. You MUST explain why everything I said is beside the point, and wrong, and silly.
2. You MUST explain why you are not a mansplainer, then re-explain things to the wimminz. Also, call them sexist.
3. You MUST explain that you mansplain because you assume that blogs are written by men, then re-explain things to the wimminz AGAIN.
4. Ignore everything everyone says, then accuse everyone else of being sexist to you. Follow this with some SERIOUS explaining! Teh wimminz are slow, but they will surely understand someday! Because you are a MAN! And you are SPLAININ’!
Professor Feminism has managed to cover steps 1, 2, and 4 by now; I am pretty sure he knows I am a woman, but he might still manage to forget it, just so that he can cover step 3 eventually.
Step 1 was covered in his initial blog post, which was a pretty epic Mansplain in and of itself. Tyrion participated in the gang-rape of his first wife, but he was THE VICTIM in that situation! Sure, he “turns” to prostitutes “for love,” but he’s SAD! (This part was especially fun because I didn’t actually object to Tyrion fucking “getting love” from prostitutes; I objected, specifically, to the fact that he turns to one of them “for love,” and then strangles her to death.) And then, finally, the coup de grace:
Sady Doyle wants fantasy to be actually sexist, to present a world in which women are magically free from all the social constraints and domestic violence that women, even in our oh-so-enlightened times, really do face.
Yes. It certainly would be foolish of me to expect something that doesn’t “really” exist to happen “magically,” in a FANTASY NOVEL!!!! What, am I expecting some kind of WIZARD to magic all the sexism away? That would be ridiculous! Wizards aren’t re…. oh.
But, as it happens, Professor Feminism is dead correct. As a woman, as a feminist, and as someone who has spent just an unseemly amount of time writing about nerdy entertainments, what I really want is for there to be MORE SEXISM. Specifically, more sexism in entertainment. You caught me, Professor Feminism! Indeed, you are a masterful sleuth!
Of course, his actual point is that he’s mad that I don’t like the entertainments he likes. All of the bloggers that have linked to us in anger have been big George R. R. Martin fans, or big fantasy fans, unsurprisingly; most of them, like Professor Feminism, have quoted the “you don’t like my toys” line, and been pretty petulant about that, with seemingly no awareness of how reacting petulantly might, uh, prove that point correct. He feels bad that I don’t like his cool dragon books, and he has to therefore not only prove that the books aren’t sexist (or racist: the entire plot about brown, rape-hungry “barbarians” worshiping a white savior is only “a little clumsy,” says Professor Feminism), but also prove that he knows sexism better than I know sexism, and that, in this scenario, I am the real sexist, and he/George R.R. Martin are the real feminists.
And that is how his humble Earth identity was dropped, and his true wizarding name, Professor Feminism (or, if you prefer a manlier alternative, “Zhoxor the Destroyer”) came to be known throughout the world.
There are many varieties of mansplaining. But perhaps none of them are more laughable or aggravating than this: the Pseudo-Feminist Mansplain. It’s a particularly illogical, self-serving, form of Mobius-Strip Mansplaining that occurs all over, particularly whenever feminist women come into contact with liberal dudes. It’s not just random dudes going “THAT’S NOT SEXIST,” as they do every time a woman says the word “sexism” in relation to anything. It’s a dude appropriating feminism in order to silence women who identify things as sexist. Here’s how it works:
- BASIC FACT #1: Sexism is, on its most basic level, the privileging of men over women. It’s more complex than this, of course, because gender is more complex than “men” and “women” in the first place, and we do live in kyriarchy, so not every man experiences male privilege in the exact same ways. But, basically, sexism goes, “man/manliness = good, woman/womanliness = not so good.”
- BASIC FACT #2: All women have a better chance of understanding sexism than cisgender men do. This is because women are targeted by sexism, in their day-to-day lives, whereas cis men have spent their entire lives being socialized not to see the ways in which they perpetrate or benefit from sexism. Again: It’s more complicated than this, because gender is more complicated than this. But all women have experienced sexism, whereas only some men have; women can learn about sexism from both lived experience and study, whereas cis men primarily have to study and work toward a level of self-awareness that the culture simply doesn’t support. Non-gender example: If I want to know more about the food at Momofuku, I can read the Momofuku cookbook, but that won’t make me David Chang. In fact, reading the cookbook won’t even really teach me what the food tastes like; to know that, I have to eat there. Lived experience is knowledge; if you can’t have the lived experience, you can’t have total knowledge of the subject. That is a very basic part of How Shit Works.
- THE COMPLICATION: Where man=good and woman=not so good, men are presumed to always be smarter than women, no matter what the subject at hand is. Hence the phenomenon of Mansplaining, in which a woman — no matter what her credentials, intelligence, or base of knowledge may be — can automatically be cast as ignorant and treated as such by a man, who assumes Real Expert status he does not actually possess. When it comes to Mansplaining sexism, the problems of the man’s credentials as compared to the woman’s are immediately apparent to anyone who gets How Shit Works.
- AND YET: The odds are high that, at some point in his life, a man will hear a woman identify something as sexist, and that he’s not going to like it. Perhaps it is something that makes him feel particularly defensive, such as his favorite book series, or his personal actions. What can he do? Well, he can Mansplain. He can use the powers of the man=smart, woman=less smart assumption to explain away her perceptions and thoughts, by casting himself as the One True Expert on this matter.
- COMPLICATION #2: But the matter at hand is sexism! And this gentleman fancies himself an enlightened sort! He’s not the sort of mansplainer who mansplains sexism away without caring whether or not he looks sexist in the process. He’s got to convince people that he just knows more about sexism than a woman does, in spite of all the evidence and basic logic pointing to the contrary, while still retaining his Liberal Dude Credits. “How can I achieve this impossible thing?” The man wonders, more or less unconsciously. “Perhaps if I… EXPLAINED MY SUPERIOR UNDERSTANDING OF FEMINISM????? Yes, that should do it!” And so the nightmare begins.
- THE SPLAIN-MAN COMETH: And so, it comes to pass that a feminist woman — maybe even one who’s relatively accomplished or experienced, when it comes to her feminism — has feminism Mansplained to her by a random dude who is upset that she’s called something sexist. It’s not just a guy explaining feminism to a woman, remember; that can be obnoxious, but it depends on the man and woman in question. It’s not even just a matter of a guy unsolicitedly explaining feminism to a woman who can logically be assumed to know a fair amount about feminism, as if she’s ignorant; that’s still just garden-variety Mansplaining. This is a guy explaining to a woman who can be assumed to know a lot about feminism that she should not call certain things sexist, because she doesn’t understand sexism as well as he does, because he’s less sexist and more feminist than she is. And how does he prove his lack of sexism? Why, by the sexist act of Mansplaining, of course!
This has happened, to me and to my feminist lady-friends, so many times that I cannot count it. It never stops being mind-blowingly obnoxious. And this is how Zhoxor the Destroyer, AKA Professor Feminism, explained why a feminist writer was The Real Sexist, for seeing sexism in his favorite novels.
That post was Mansplain enough. But it was also just a classic fan tantrum. The disingenuous caricaturing and misrepresentation of my initial points. The ad hominems and claims of psychic insight into my wants and needs. (“What Sady wants is [SOMETHING I JUST MADE UP THAT IS STUPID.]” Apparently, Professor Feminism read my diary, where I expressed all kinds of secret and forbidden desires; I only pray that he hasn’t gotten to my hot, hot Walder Frey/Wun Wun The Giant fan fic.) The sexist dog-whistles. (Apparently, I “shout a lot” and have “wild ravings;” perhaps they are even shrill and hysterical, hmmmm?) And, of course, the complete blanket denial of any problematic elements in the novels, to the point of denying the existence of certain scenes within them. That, all of that, is classic Fan Tantrum. That’s You Broke My Toys. That’s Everything I Like Is Cool And Awesome, You Suck. And that’s par for the course. It’s why people don’t take online “fandoms” seriously, it’s why people joke about “nerd rage,” it’s why I didn’t bother trying to appeal to George R.R. Martin fans when I wrote the post, and it’s what we all expected, when we put the post up in the first place.
But then I deleted his comments. At which point, Professor Feminism flipped his ever-loving shit all over the Internet. At which point, this stops being about his personal Fan Tantrum, and starts being about sexism. I am “cowardly” and “a fraud.” I am operating in “bad faith.” He wasn’t looking for publicity for his blog post — which, uh, explains why he flipped out when we didn’t allow a link to it? And monitored the comment section to make sure we published the link? And then pretended to be concerned for “his readers” who “should be allowed” to link to it? — because his blog gets SO MANY MORE READERS than I do, GAH, he is REALLY FAMOUS ON THE INTERNET. Comment upon comment upon comment. Tantrum upon tantrum upon tantrum.
At this point, Professor Feminism has written an entire second blog post about getting deleted from an Internet comment section. Although, of course, he frames it as a discussion of whether I believe “men can discuss sexism.” Actually, what happened is that a bunch of other fanboys came over, subsequent to his blog post, and started either parroting his talking points or straight-up calling me a cunt. (This was so predictable that, on the Tiger Beatdown Back Channel, people who hadn’t seen Professor Feminism’s link started asking if we’d been “linked by some bro blog;” the pattern of “critique” inevitably escalating into troll-assailment and c-words is well known to every feminist who has ever run a blog. Which is why most feminist blogs — like mine — run very, very heavily moderated comment sections, so that people who are interested in discussing sexism without experiencing it can actually talk without being drowned out or scared off by all the Man Anger.) I pointed out that these commenters were men, and hinted as politely as possible at the sexist, Mansplaining dynamic, by asking them if they could “see a theme.” Apparently, Professor Feminism is not Professor Good At Picking Up Hints, however, because now he thinks I am saying that men should NEVER be allowed to discuss feminism AT ALL, and of course if men can’t criticize feminists, what’s the point of reading feminists, or attempting to understand feminists?
Ha ha, yeah. WHAT COULD THE POINT POSSIBLY BE.
Actually, at this point, I’m pretty confident that Professor Feminism is not Professor Understands Sarcasm, either, so I’ll spell it out: The point of listening to women and feminists is to listen to women and feminists. Because if you listen to them, you might start to understand certain basic points, such as: Women do not automatically have to accept you as an expert, particularly not when the subject under discussion (sexism!) is something you’ve never experienced first-hand. Women do not have to make you “comfortable” and “welcome” in every single conversation. Women do not automatically have to grant you a space in their discussions, on their blogs, or in their lives. Women do not have to permit you to enter their political movements, their self-created spaces, their personal space, their bodies, or anything else that belongs to them; you, as a man, are not entitled to women’s attention, praise, affection, respect, or company, just because you want it. And when a woman says “no,” you respect that this particular woman said “no,” and you stop. You don’t make excuses, you don’t explain why you should be able to get what you want, you don’t throw a tantrum, you don’t call that woman names: You just stop what you are doing. Because she said “no.”
Here’s where we appeal to that “lived experience” thing. Because: Have you ever had a guy come up to you — on the street, in a bar, whatever — and just straight-up say, “hey, I wanna talk to you?” Happens all the time, right? Happens to women, all the time. But have you ever just straight-up said, “no?” Not “no, I have a boyfriend,” or “no, I’m busy,” or “no, I have to race to save the city from the Joker’s diabolical machinations, for I am the Batman,” or any other excuse: Just the word “no,” by itself?
Yeah. So you know what happens next, after you say “no.” The guy always keeps talking. He tries wheedling, or begging, sometimes. But if you say “no” firmly enough, or often enough that he gets the point, the dude just starts yelling. He tells you that you’re not that hot. He tells you what a bitch you are. (“You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce,” was my favorite of these.) Sometimes he follows you down the street, yelling at you; sometimes, he follows you in his car. These dudes are always so fucking certain that they’re entitled to your time and attention that they will harass you until you give it, or at least until you’re scared and sorry for not giving it. You do not have the right not to interact, as far as these guys are concerned.
This is how women are conditioned to live within a sexist culture, and within a rape culture. Unbelievably, I don’t need George R. R. Martin, or any man, to tell me what that’s like: It’s my actual no-fooling life, which I do believe I know more about than George R. R. Martin. Like most women, I currently live in a society where violence, harassment and scary shit can break out at any moment, just because I told some random asshole “no” without bothering to be nice about it. Doing that is so dangerous that most women don’t dare; after a few scary incidents, they learn to make up excuses, to smile, to be sweet and welcoming, to act as if every single random asshole on the street is a precious new friend that they would just LOVE to stand outside of the Chipotle and chat with FOR HOURS, if only cruel fate had not intervened. That’s what it’s actually like, being a woman: Playing nice with every random asshole, because this random asshole might be the one who hurts you. And then, if he hurts you anyway, they’ll tell you that you led him on.
But sometimes, I still don’t feel like playing nice. So: Have you ever had a random dude come up to you and say, “hey, I wanna talk to you?” And have you ever just said “no?” Then you know what happens next. The dude keeps talking. And if he doesn’t get what he wants, he lashes out. And that is exactly what Professor Feminism is doing, right now, in the name of his enlightened, anti-sexist views.
That’s the real problem behind Mansplaining, and all the rest of it: We live in a culture where men are taught that, if they want women’s time and attention, they are entitled to it. They simply cannot grasp that a woman has the right to say “no.” You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce or you coward, I have more blog traffic than you: Whatever it is, it’s a guy insisting that he’s entitled to a form of attention a woman doesn’t want to give him, and lashing out at the woman for not giving it. From hence springs Mansplaining, sexual harassment, rape culture, and everything else we don’t like about how men treat women, from the tiniest violation to the most violent. All of it, ALL of it, springs from the idea that women should be ignored or punished when we say “no.” Which is the idea Professor Feminism is reinforcing with his actions, as we speak.
So, yeah. Tell me one more time how much you understand about sexism and “the constraints that women really do face,” Professor Feminism. Tell me just one more time how much you know about that. Because your behavior would certainly indicate that you are super-credible upon this particular subject. A Real Feminist: That is you, for sure!
Of course, there is the minor problem that, in order to address this creepiness, I have to acknowledge the existence of Professor Feminism, and give him publicity, which is what he wanted in the first place. We have ways of dealing with these things. For instance, since Professor Feminism already has such huge, impressive, superior blog traffic — SO MUCH blog traffic, for REAL; his blog traffic is HUGE and THICK and THROBBING WITH LIFE — he clearly does not need this humble little woman-blog to link to him. In fact, he doesn’t even need his given name! Yes, friends: I invite you to discuss the mighty works of Professor Feminism. But please, in our comments, refer to him by his title. Or, “Zhoxor the Destroyer.” If you prefer a manlier alternative. Which you very well may.