(of a man) to explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner, typically to a woman already knowledgeable about the topic: He was mansplaining to her about female friendships!
to explain something to someone in such a way: I know some women who are guilty of mansplaining, and even some men who mansplain patriarchy as a historical force for good.
Also called man·spla·na·tion [man-spluh–ney-shuhn] . such an explanation given to someone.
by Jennifer Militello
Dear sir, your air of authority
leaves me lost. Eases me from
a place of ease. Contracts with
my contradictions to take from me
a place. Autopilots my autobiography.
Frightens my fright. Sighs with
my breath. Wins at my race.
Your certainty has me curtained
Your nerve has me nervous. Your
childhood has me childlike and
your nastiness nests in my belfry
like a hawk. You are beyond
and above my slice of sky, peach
as a pie, bourbon as its pit. You are
spit and vinegar while I sour
in my bowl. You bowl me over
while I tread lightly on
my feet. You walk on water
while I sink. You witness me,
fisherman, boat on the lake
while I struggle and burble and brittle
and drop. You wink at me and
I must relate. I close my eyes
to erase you and you are written
in my lids. A litmus test. A form
of lair. God with three days
of facial growth and an old bouquet
for a face. Soap and water for
a brain. I have no handsome
answer. I have no pillar of salt
or shoulder to look over. I have
no feather to weigh. I have no
bubble to burst. I am less
to myself, a character in a drama,
a drumbeat, a benevolence, a
blight. All parts of me say shoot
on sight. Aim for an artery
or organ. Good night.
I couldn’t help myself
with that “Mansplaining” poem.
When I read it
I immediately thought of the chief priests
and elders waddling up en mass
surrounding Jesus and talking over him
at a hundred miles an hour.Then I listened
to Jennifer Militello’s internal dialogue again,
and I closed my eyes
trying to remember times
I had provoked such thoughts
for the women in my life.
And then I went back to the readings
and conjured up the image of Moses
as him mansplaining to God.
God rolls the divine eyes balls
and shoes Moses on down the road
with magic stick in hand.
Frankly, that poem
has made me feel a lot more self-conscious
about standing up here pontificating
about things you know as well as I do:
like, we’re thirsty,
needy little creatures
who want so much more
than we actually need.
When we come up short
with what we want
and wonder whether or not
God is really with us anyway.
I could pad that Moses story
with some other textual goodies
but that is the gist of it, isn’t it?
We’re needy little creatures
who want so much more than we need.
if we start getting more than we need
we start thinking
that all the stuff we got
instead of just gravy
on top of whatever is really needed.
In other words,
the more we get
the more our needs just grow and grow and grow
our actual needs
are not really that great.
I don’t want to be mansplaining here
but I think that is the basic message
of that Exodus story we read,
or at least what it is hinting at.
Not to put too fine a point on it
but rather to summarize:
One of God’s creatures
seems to have confused want and need
and blames God
for everything it wants but doesn’t get.
Then there is that Gospel story,
and here I think I can add some background
that won’t be mansplaining
but preach’n —
and I think there is a difference.
The appearances of John the Baptist
in the lectionary
don’t really tell his story.
In Christian worship and theology
John appears only to make Jesus
better and shinier and more grand.
But John deserves his own story
because it is amazing —
and also, John was way more popular
in Jesus’ day
than Jesus was.
John had more followers,
which is probably why
the Gospel story-tellers
cast him as a shadow of himself
in the presence of Jesus.
Anyway, John was a prophet
who was at odds with the temple —
not just the building
but the whole temple system.
You see, the Judaism of John’s day
was a monopoly religion.
It was all about purity — keeping
oneself ritually pure
and when unavoidably polluted
by the world all around,
to the many ritual acts of cleansing
and purchase of sacrifices
to be restored.
and the temple clergy
were absolutely necessary
to the process of staying pure
and restoring oneself to purity.
Only the temple clergy
could conduct the sacrifices
and pronounce people cleansed
after they had performed the necessary rituals.
and some of those rituals
had to be conducted at the temple
and nowhere else.
In short, to be faithful to the religion
one had to subject oneself
to the entire temple system
and be faithful to the hereditary dynasty of clergy
running that system.
They were a royalty of sorts
and financially well off by the standards
of that time and place.
It was a religious caste system
and the temple minions
regulated and controlled
who was in and who was out.
Enter John the Baptist.
He created an alternative to the temple.
He was a disrupter as we would say today —
he entered the market
long controlled by a monopoly
and provided a cheap alternative for restoration.
He railed against the temple system
and called them corrupt.
He pointed to the hypocrisies
of the temple clergy
and the king himself.
He spoke out loud
about the double-standards
for rich and poor
and provided baptism as an alternative
to those who could not afford
the temple religion.
By the hundreds and maybe thousands
people came out to the Jordan river
to be baptized
for the forgiveness of their sins.
They didn’t have to buy animals
for sacrifice at the temple altar
nor spend days or weeks at home
while performing temple-mandated rituals
to cleanse themselves.
They went to the river instead
and John baptized them
and preached about the time to come
when God would bring about a reckoning
against those in control —
not just against the corrupt temple clergy
but against the corrupt King too,
and against the Roman Empire itself.
The temple was losing market share
and income too,
because John was giving away
what they were selling.
King Herod had him executed
because John challenged his authority.
After Herod cut off John’s head
the people grieved for John.
So that is why Jesus’ challenge
to the temple clergy and elders
was so difficult:
Was John a prophet sent from God or not?
They can’t answer that one
without either alienating the crowd
or pronouncing themselves guilty.
I think we may have some of that disruption
going on in religion today.
I mean after all the clergy sexual misconduct
and the obvious hypocrisy of institutional religion
and our history of participation
and persecution of GLBTQ folks
not to mention resistance to science,
and it’s clergy
lack credibility these days.
Secularism itself has eroded
the authority of the Church and clergy
to the point that I do not assume
you think you need me
to make that bread and wine holy,
even though the church continues to insist
that you do.
But I’m old
and I won’t be around
to fight that battle.
But I will keep raising up
the issue embodied in that Moses story:
that we are deeply confused
about the difference
between what we want
and what we need.
We do not need cities of millions
in the desert where there is no water —
even if people want to live there.
We do not need pesticides on grape vines
if it is going to wash into our water table
and ruin our water — even if we want
to drink wine.
So many things we want
that we do not need,
and that we need
to keep reminding ourselves
we do not need.
I do not think it is mansplaining
to keep picking at the difference
between what we need and what we want
even though it may feel uncomfortable
and be disagreeable.
The Church will have to fend for itself
in the coming disruption
that hearkens back to John the Baptist,
but on that ornery issue
of want and need
I’ll keep on preaching.