Feminist Thought and Online Lexical Creativity: the Case of "Mansplaining"

Abstract : This paper will offer a case study of the term ‘mansplaining’ as a concept that brings together feminist scholarship and online practices, revealing conflicts in both these areas. ‘Mansplaining’, a recent neologism used online, has not itself been theorised, but does owe a clear debt to feminist theory. ‘Mansplaining’ first appeared in 2008, and has no stable meaning. A popular online definition, however, describes it as "[not] just the act of explaining while male [...]. 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 [...]. Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!" It is clear from this definition that ‘mansplaining’ relies on central but contentious feminist concepts such as standpoint and privilege. It also draws on feminist linguistics and their description of gender roles in conversation. Despite such roots, ‘mansplaining’ itself is hardly present in feminist scholarship. It is, however, extremely popular online as a way of naming gendered experience, both amongst feminists and more widely. The spread of ‘mansplaining’ can be attributed both to its foundations in feminist scholarship and to the appeal of naming something already existent in a new and provocative way. However, because ‘mansplaining’ is such a provocative term, it is also contentious, described by some as essentializing gendered behaviours. For this reason, and because of its origins in an online environment, the conceptual validity of the term is open to question. Of course, such questioning has larger consequences for contemporary feminist scholarship, in terms of its relation to activism and its online manifestations.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - 11:06:58 AM
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Anne-Charlotte Husson. Feminist Thought and Online Lexical Creativity: the Case of "Mansplaining". Feminist Thought - Politics of Concepts. 5th Christina Conference on Gender Studies, Université d'Helsinki, May 2013, Université d'Helsinki, Finland. ⟨hal-01250695⟩



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