Friday, December 12, 2014

Splain This!

Splain This!

I write to admit a defeat. Events have forced me to accept the validity of a word that I resisted; but the terms of my surrender include hard conditions.

          The word in question is “mansplain”. That ugly ungrammatical neologism has become popular amongst some of the young people nowadays; it means something like ‘clueless male self-justification’. That definition is approximate, for the word’s exact meaning is a cult mystery guarded by self-proclaimed Social Justice Warriors. If you have to ask what ‘mansplain’ means, then you are unhip, and therefore a bad person.

          When I first saw that word, I right away pegged it as a raucous, illiterate, trendy, barbaric shibboleth. My howls of prescriptivist outrage were met by smug scorn from the faithful. So matters stood, until the monster escaped from its cage.
          For several days ago, published an article containing the word “whitesplain”. The writer used that word to denounce Rudy Giuliani’s incoherent and self-serving defense of Eric Garner’s homicide by police.
          When I read the word “whitesplain”, I heaved a huge sigh. Alas, the illiterate “splain” neologism has infected the general population, and is now endemic! “Splain” is now a suffix!

          Oh well, why not. I give up! Language is free to evolve by any means available, including stealing raucous illiterate shibboleths from self-righteous sophomores. But I remain prescriptivist enough to demand that “splain” have a specific definition.

          Therefore I propose the following definitions. Define “splain” to mean “to state a political argument that is smug, condescending, oblivious, illogical, self-serving and self-protective”. Then, for any identity faction [X], define “[X]splain” to mean “To splain while [X].” So to mansplain is to splain while male, and to whitesplain is to splain while white. 
          Now we can coin new words like “straightsplain”, “cis-splain”, “boss-splain” and “richsplain”. I’m sure that the SJWs will like those words. But they might not like some other coinable words.
          The trouble is, everybody splains. Smug self-serving hypocrisy is a human universal, and rightly so, because from time to time it’s a survival necessity. Anyone who denies being a splainer is the lamest splainer of them all. For details, consult psychology, history and literature.
          To self-serve and self-protect; it’s not just a good idea, it’s the Law! Therefore splaining is a human right; an ignoble right, obnoxious to use, but tyrannical to forbid.

          Splaining is universal; so if mansplain and whitesplain are words, then so are poorsplain, workersplain, trans-splain, gaysplain, lesbiansplain, blacksplain and womansplain. I say this not as a prescriptivist recommendation (that they should be words) but as a descriptivist prediction; they will be words. The meme has escaped the laboratory, and will mutate into all available niches.
          Racists will love “blacksplain”, for it means “to splain while black”; and sexists will adore “womansplain”, for it means “to splain while female”. Are these terms not manifestly racist and sexist? And therefore aren’t whitesplain and mansplain?
          After initial reluctance, I have come to like the word “splain”; it is useful and witty. But I still firmly believe that, for any value of X, the term “X-splain” is always collectivist, bigoted, illiberal and essentialist. The term has reactionary politics built in.


PA replied:
To which the SJW response is: The speaker  can only be sufficiently smug, hypocritical, and (of course) oblivious to X-splain if there is a structural advantage given to group X, without the conscious effort of the kindly condescending X-splainer.
The requisite female-privileged society does not exist, yet - Phillip Wylie and W. S. Gilbert to the contrary. When it is possible to build it, as David Brin foresees, society at large be effectively egalitarian.

TP chimed in:
“Lucy, you’ve got some splainin to do.” -- Ricky

DSL commented:
Focusing on the missing element, the privileged position of the splainer vis a vis the splainee, I am brought, again, to realize the importance of intersectionality, in all SJW analyses; for, consider the ur-splainer: Ricky Ricardo. While clearly in a privileged position vis a vis Lucy in regard to the dimension of gender, their respective positions of privilege and unprivilege are reversed in regard to the dimension of race. Yet Lucy never gets an opportunity to splain to Ricky. Clearly, this illustrates the hierarchy of dimensions of oppression: gender trumps race.

All right, then:
Splain: verb: To state a political argument that is smug, condescending, oblivious, illogical, self-serving and self-protective, to a person of lesser privilege than oneself.
          But due to intersectionality, condescension is relative. Two people can condescend to each other, based on two different hierarchies. They can then both feel like splainees; for ritual impurity is always the other person’s fault. Yet they can also both feel like splainers; for smug oblivious hypocrisy is a psychic state open to all.
          With the right bad attitude, a person can splain, without possessing real merit, or even real privilege. The sneer suffices. Therefore this definition of splain reduces, in practice, to the previous.
          X-splain still means to splain while X; so the term is still collectivist, bigoted, illiberal, essentialist and regressive. This is despite it being hypocritically and self-servingly called progressive.

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