Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Mansplaining, whitesplaining, techsplaining, carsplaining, medicsplaining, churchsplaining: ... Let me splain.

A few days ago, I ran across a discussion on Facebook involving the term mansplaining, which is a composite (or "portmanteau") of the words man and explain, defined as  "to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing."

The FB discussion, involving both men and women, involved a comment from some smartarse (OK, by moi) that I'm frequently aware that people of non-European heritage receive similar painful "explanations" from white people.  Would that be called whitesplaining?  (And it turns out this word is also in use.)

Essentially, any sort of attempt at an explanation that treats the recipient of the explanation as somewhat of a dunce can merit the ...splain suffix.  Looking at it, in addition to mansplaining and whitesplaining, I see there's a whole lot of splaining going on out there. 

As a driver who isn't a "motoring enthusiast", I've been frequently on the receiving end of carsplaining both from mechanics and from amateur petrolheads.

As a computer user who happily uses the thing without really grasping the technology of what makes it work, I'm frequently on the receiving end of techsplaining both from IT professionals and from enthusiastic amateur geeks (the people who were called "computer jocks" when I was an undergraduate at Lafayette).

As the owner-operator of a vintage 1953 human body (brain in great condition, the rest rather flabby), I experience high levels of medicsplaining from health professionals and from amateur health enthusiasts.  (Hey, I think I've just coined a new euphemism.  "Amateur health enthusiast" can be the polite way to say "hypochondriac".)

But, as a clergy type, I'm also conscious of churchsplaining.

I know I've personally been guilty of churchsplaining, particularly in my early years of ministry.  (A tendency to churchsplain is a vocational hazard among those who have been ordained fairly recently.  The current trend toward ordaining people to ministry at a later age can also mean that fewer clergy grow out of the tendency to churchsplain before they retire.)

But I've also frequently been on the receiving end of churchsplaining:
  • I've been churchsplained to by fundamentalists who are worried that by having the "wrong" (in their opinion) doctrine of Scripture or of the Atonement I risk becoming fuel for an eternal BBQ.
  • I've been churchsplained to by "progressives" who believe that, because I find meaning and hope in such traditional Christian beliefs as the Incarnation and the Trinity, I'm really no different from a fundamentalist myself.
  • I've been churchsplained to by "converts" from one Christian church to another, who have adopted a rather eccentric, ultra-conservative form of their new church allegiance, and who wish me to join them in the "Scientology" wing of the Roman Catholic Church or the "Jehovah's Witnesses" wing of Eastern Orthodoxy.  
  • I've been churchsplained to by denominational bureaucrats who want me to be more "missional".  ("Missional", by the way, is churchspeak for "But, Dad, it's what all the cool kids are doing!")
  • I've been churchsplained to by lay "gatekeepers" in congregations who try to inform me, regarding any proposal in a congregation's life they don't like, "We tried it before, it didn't work, and we can't even think about doing it again."
And that can all happen to some of us in the course of a single week.

Anyway, the difference between splaining and explaining is simple.  It's called having some respect for the other person's intelligence.   (I hope I wasn't splaining there.)

1 comment:

  1. And, as it turns out, in addition to mansplaining, whitesplaining, carsplaining, techsplaining, medicsplaining, and churchsplaining, there's also "moneysplaining". I found this out today when I saw my financial planner to attempt to Trump-proof, Cruz-proof, and Brexit-proof my modest savings.


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