As a big fan of Sherlock, the U.K drama, this SMT reporter usually downloads episodes onto her smartphone to watch. She releases her stress listening to clear explanations about crimes from people using British accents. The reporter also downloaded ‘Sherlock: The Abominable Bride’ recently released in 2016 to watch while commutes back and forth to school. However, ‘Sherlock: The Abominable Bride’ is shrouded in controversy because Sherlock explains the women’s movement in the U.K as typical mansplain. What exactly is ‘mansplain’?
Mansplain is a newly coined word for a man’s explanation of women’s behavior. It comes from the words ‘man’ and ‘explain’. Lily Rosman, author of Atlantic, defines this word as an explanation that disregards the fact that the listener knows more than teller. Rebecca Solnit, human rights activist in the USA, sees this phenomenon as a combination of ignorance and superfluous certainty. The word, mansplain, has now become a worldwide problem. In fact, it was selected as a Word of the Year in 2010 by ‘The New York Times’, and it appeared for the first time in the online ‘Oxford Dictionary’ in 2014. Korea is no exception. Mansplain has become prevalent in mass media content. For example, on one car insurance advert, when female actor Park Boyoung has car troubles, men say, “Oppa—older brother in Korean—will help you.” Also, an advert for car tires depicts a helpless woman saying, ‘When you need a lightbulb changed, ask Daddy. When you need to fix your computer, call an older brother. And, when you need your tires changed, call Tire-pro.’ Mansplain is also prominent throughout daily life in Korea. Lim Minjung, a graduate student, said, “When I went on a student exchange to Japan for a year, one of my male classmates kept trying to teach me English, even though I told him I could speak English, having lived in the US for 3 years.”1)
The phenomenon is especially noticeable in the fields of IT, natural sciences, and engineering. In 2013, Jessica Meir, assistant professor at Harvard Medical Department, was selected to be a NASA astronaut flight member for group 21. She wrote on her Twitter account, “My first venture is 63,000 km high, the space equivalent zone, where water spontaneously boils!” Shortly after her posting, one man replied with, “Why say spontaneous. The pressure in the room got below the vapor pressure of the water at room temperature.”2) Like these examples clearly show, mansplain affects daily life regardless of nationality, and there is this premise among males that women don’t know well about something because they are women. In other words, mansplain is clearly sexual discrimination that divides the sexes.
Mansplain in Society
Mansplain, why has it appeared? First, it arose from constant mass media ideas. People of all ages and sexes acquire this notion indirectly while watching media images. Many adverts used celebrity spokespersons who said words like ‘Women don’t know’ without giving the idea a second thought, but mass media should be aware of the effect it has on young teenagers viewing their messages. Youngsters are easily influenced by media messages. Especially, it is during elementary school when young minds establish values and morals. During this period, mansplain becomes a fence barring teenagers from clearly viewing properly.
Second, in Korea, feminism education is insufficient. There is no education course for feminism at any of the pre-college education levels. Moreover, these courses are few and often overlooked at university as well. At Sookmyung Women’s University, there is a club that addresses women’s issues and hosts forums on women studies, but in terms of any formal course, there is none. Women’s studies were slowly dissolved in the 1970s and 1980s. They were held on by a string in the 1990s, but in the 2000s, they were completely removed from the undergraduate course curriculum. Because undergraduate women studies courses disappeared, graduate school courses in women studies also disappeared. According to the dictionary about terms at the Naver, there are only 9 universities in Korea still offering a graduate level degree in women studies. Also, there are only 10 universities nationwide offering a women studies interdisciplinary program, and only 20 university across the nation have maintained their on campus institutes to manage women studies. With these few places to learn about feminism, there is a lack of proper understanding about equal rights for both sexes.
Third, there are still vestiges of Confucianism in Korean society. According to Confucianism, there is a clear distinction between the sexes. Men are to be educated, work outside the home, and take the role as head of the household. Women, on the other hand, do not receive an education, do housework, and must be dutiful to men. Modern society does not accept these old ideals and most people think Confucianism culture is somewhat wrong even in term of common sense. However, some of the older generation still believe in Confucianism ideals and accept its principles. Changing our culture rapidly is difficult, but we need to fix it for a better future.
Are Men Superior to Women?
With mansplain running ramped in society, there is increased sexual discrimination and degradation of females. There is also the premise that women are the reasons behind the offences. That is to say, mansplain is creating incorrect stereotypes about the status of the sexes. In the meantime, there is increasing thoughts that women don’t have the ability to do certain tasks and more incorrectly, that they are not interested in the fields of natural sciences, engineering, and sports. Women that are interested in sports or that are admitted into a department of engineering are seen in society as being an exception. Society has predetermined sex roles and stigmatized certain professional fields, so more often than not, at interviews, female applicants are asked, “Do you think you could do this work? It’ll be really hard for a woman.” In terms of sex disparity, among world nations, Korea ranked 100 among 140 countries.3) In today’s modern society, Koreans perception of sex roles is still old-fashioned, and mansplain only adds to incorrect stereotyping. Moreover, it can be barrier for the development.
Relations between men and women due to mansplain have become violent and as a result, there has been a rise in misogyny. Mansplain is partly to blame for the notion that women know less than men, and it may also be the reason for the rise in misogyny. Rebecca Solnit said, "In newspapers, magazines, and television, where women are dramatically underrepresented. That’s mostly symbolic violence. Real violence, the most extreme form of silencing and destroying rights, takes a far more dire toll in this country where domestic violence accounts for 30 percent of all homicides of women, annually creates about two million injuries, and prompts 18.5 million mental health care visits."4) The main challenge for feminism activists is to regulate law regarding rape and sexual harassment and to ensure women that they will be believed and listened to. Mansplain undermines this goal and makes people think women do not have the right to speak out against injustice. Mansplain reduces the endeavor to improve women's rights and it fosters misogyny.
Some people view mansplain as demeaning men. Mr. Kim, a graduate student, said, "Men and women interests differ. While men may have know-it-all and patronizing attitudes, it is unacceptable for women because the two sexes differ in nature." Mr. Kang went on to say, "It is unfair to say that society is in ruins all because of the flaws of men."5) However, mansplain, at its core, assumes women are less knowledgeable than men. Problems related to sex are not rising from interactions between teachers and students or from parents and children. It is clear that they are the results of mansplain because mansplain has come about from incorrect stereotyping of women.
Harmony for Both Sexes
According to an old Chinese proverb, if the mind is really relaxed and harmonious, nothing can shake your mind. Broadly, the proverb is discussing the relationship between men and women as relaxed and harmonious, with all crises being averted as there are no barriers. Mansplain should not be a male concern. It is something women should be concern with as well. There are plenty of women who are yet unfamiliar with misogyny. Everyone is a part of society. Everyone must be concerned with the rights of both sexes and show genuine concern for the opposite sex.
1) Park Sunyoung, Lee Yunju & In Hyunwoo, ""Oppa will teach you"…Male’s need to explain things to females", Hankook Ilbo, May 7th, 2015
3) Kim Seungkyo, "Women advancing in society is being taken for granted", Jeonki News, October 30th, 2014
4) Park Sunyoung, "Mansplain is now being addressed because of misogynie", Hankook Ilbo, May 6th, 2015
5) Same with 1st