Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

A Rational Response to "Mansplaining": A Word Coined on the Internet
OSHIMA Chikako  / Auditor, Tsukuba University of Technology

March 3, 2022
SNS is quickly becoming the media of choice for young people when spreading information. Newspapers and magazines that once influenced public opinion via print now release digital versions online that are available anywhere in the world. Heretofore non-existent words emerge in this environment.

The word "mansplaining" is not well known in Japan. However, it is now a common noun contained in the pinnacle of English dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary. As for its meaning, the word was coined by combining the noun "man" with the verb "explaining". It refers to the act of a man condescendingly explaining something to a woman while he maintains the prejudice that "women are less knowledgeable than men". The word is said to have originated and been spread by women who sympathized with the content of Rebecca Solnit's April 2008 essay collection, "Men who explain things", when they used the word mansplaining on the social network "Live Journal". Feminist bloggers played a central role in popularizing the word, and "mansplainer" was recognized worldwide when it was selected as one of the New York Times' Words of the Year in 2010. The term was included in the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries in 2018.

In a related incident, NHK's popular program "BURATAMORI" led to an unexpected controversy in Japan. The program featured Tamori, a 74-year-old male television celebrity, and Risa Hayashida, a young female announcer, visiting the city of Hamamatsu to investigate the reason it has become known as the world's number one "musical instrument town".

One person who saw the program used the internet to express disgust towards the "mansplaining" script where the man condescendingly boasts of his knowledge to a woman. She suggested on Twitter that the announcer, Ms. Hayashida, who had earned a master's degree of music from the Tokyo University of the Arts, could have explained while Tamori listened. Even if a female announcer has more education, the program structure requires her to be a facilitator, so that was the role she had to perform. In this case, there were both tweets defending Tamori, and comments expressing distaste for men who boast of their knowledge. Since Tamori and I are alumni of the same university, I've met him several times at university events. He was never arrogant. He is a very humble and quiet person, and doesn't deserve the social media accusations of mansplaining. However, the fact that you can post your personal one-sided impressions and have that spread worldwide is the scary side of social media.

I first noticed this word in Japan during the “potato salad” controversy in August 2020. This incident occurred as a woman with her child was buying. a pack of potato salad at a supermarket delicatessen. An elderly man chided her, "It's just potato salad. If you're a mother, why don't you make your own?" and walked away. Another woman who was watching posted this incident on SNS, and it was retweeted 100,000 times. Because the Mainichi Shimbun and the Nikkei newspaper printed articles about the incident, it was treated as a social problem. The actual tweets from women were about the role of the mother and commercially available delicatessen food and included comments such as "It takes time and effort to make food from scratch" and "Considering the effort, it is cheaper to buy commercially available products." Under normal circumstances, Japanese men rarely meddle in shopping by other people’s wives. But a rare case happened to be witnessed by someone who chose to tweet it, causing it to spread widely through retweeting.

There were also several posts that raised the issue of the mental distress caused by middle-aged and elderly men. In a world where there are many choices, a woman should be free to choose whether to prepare food herself or buy a commercially available product. It is indicative of a man’s toxicity that he not only disregards her freedom of choice but also dresses her down for doing something he didn't this approve of. Such was the claim made by a young female researcher who tweeted the that this was a blatant case of mansplaining. She noted that Japanese society requires too much of women, especially mothers, and that men do as they please while looking down on women.

The term “mansplaining” is apparently based on the idea that men are more knowledgeable than women. It further presupposes stereotypical roles for women without regards to individual circumstances, and can lead to attacks on others via SNS. On the other hand, I wonder what it might be like when it comes to statements made by women. Speaking for myself, I would not hesitate to correct mistakes when I find them, but I don't feel the need to parade my knowledge in doing so. There is something wrong with an environment where people shrink from giving people advice for fear of being accused of “mansplaining”.

In Japan, the formation of public opinion these days is often influenced by the outcome of virtual polling in the form of comments on the Internet. The words or actions of well-known people are criticized (a.k.a. flamed) on the Internet, and as a result, they are often forced to apologize or resign. Thus, public opinion formed on the Internet has become a new influence. Recently, Professor Tatsuo Tanaka, who specializes in quantitative analysis at Keio University, announced the results of a study on public opinion formation. From a survey of 20,000 people, he concluded that the popular opinion on the Internet does not reflect the opinion of the general public. Internet users relentlessly post and flood the Internet with comments on easy-to-understand themes such as discrimination against women and constitutional amendments. However, if you conduct a survey that includes moderate people who don't post their opinions online, you will get different results.

Now, returning to mansplaining, the abbreviated word "mansupu" is already used on the Internet in Japan. However, in the United States, there is actually opposition to the use of mansplaining. In 2015, Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum claimed that "To suggest that men are more qualified for the designation (mansplaining) than women is not only sexist but ...”. In 2016, an article in the Washington Post raised the issue of using "man" as a derogatory prefix. This goes against the modern mainstream trend to use more gender-neutral expressions such as "humankind" instead of "mankind".

The BBC uses charts on its website BBC.com/worklife to explain mansplaining and recommends asking yourself the following questions before speaking. Did the other person ask you a question? Do you have more experience in the subject than the other person? Did you verify that the other person needs an explanation?

Language is primarily a tool of communication and should be the basis of mutual understanding. Because it was formed by combining words to create a new concept which emphasizes a woman’s perspective rather than promoting gender equality, I believe that the term "mansplaining" should be used cautiously.

Chikako Oshima is a former professor and president of Tsukuba Gakuin University
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

大島 慎子 / 筑波技術大学監事

2022年 3月 3日

マンスプレイニングと言う言葉は、日本ではあまり馴染みがないが、今や英語辞典の最高峰と言えるオックスフォード辞典にも掲載され、普通名詞になっている。意味としては、名詞「man(男性)」と動詞「explaining(説明する)」を組み合わせた造語である。「女性は男性よりも知識がない」という偏見から、男性が見下すような態度で女性に説明する行為のことを指す。この言葉の起源は、2008年4月にレベッカ・ソルニットRebecca Solnitが発表したエッセイ集「Men who explain things」(説教したがる男たち)の内容に共感した女性達がソーシャルネットワークの『ライブジャーナル』でマンスプレイニングという言葉を使用し、拡散されたといわれている。フェミニストのブロガーが中心になって広め、2010年には「mansplainer」(マンスプレイナー)がニューヨーク・タイムズの「ワード・オブ・ザ・ イヤー(英語版)」の一語に選ばれたため、世界的に認知されたのである。オックスフォード英語辞典、Oxford Lerner’s Dictionaries にこの言葉が掲載されたのは2018年である。



私が日本で最初にこの言葉に気づいたのは2020年8月のポテトサラダ論争である。これは子連れでスーパーの総菜コーナーで、ポテトサラダのパックを買おうとした女性に対して高齢の男性が、「母親ならポテトサラダくらい作ったらどうだ」と言い放ち、その場を立ち去った話である。これを見ていた他の女性がSNSに投稿し、リツイートが10万以上となり、毎日新聞や日経新聞が取り上げたことで社会問題のように扱われた。 実際の女性達のツイートは、「手作りするのは手間暇がかかる」「労力を考えると市販のものを買ったほうが安上がり」などで、母親の役割と、市販の総菜の話に終始した。実際には、このような男性は稀であり、日常生活で、他人の買い物に干渉するようなことはおこらない。しかし稀なケースを目撃者がSNSを利用したため、ストーリーが拡散された。



日本では、最近世論形成がネット上の投稿の結果に左右されることが多い。著名人の言動がネットで「炎上」し、結果として謝罪や辞職に追い込まれることが多くなり、ネットで形成された世論は新権力ともいえる。最近、慶応大学で、計量分析を専門とする田中辰雄教授が世論形成について調査の結果を発表している。 2万人を対象に調査した結論からいえば、ネットの世論が国民の世論を反映しているとは言えないということである。ネットユーザーは女性差別や憲法改正のような解り易いテーマに対して執拗に投稿して炎上させるが、穏健な人達は発信しないので、新たにアンケートを取り直すと異なった結果がでるとしている。

さて、マンスプレイニングに話を戻すと、日本ではすでに「マンスプ」などとネット上でいわれているが、実際アメリカでもマンスプレイニングに対して否定的な評価もある。2015年にロサンゼルス・タイムスのコラムニストであるメーガンダウム(Meghan Daum)は「男性が女性よりも批判をうけるべきであるような表現は性差別だ」と主張しており、2016年のワシントン・ポストの記事では「男」を軽蔑的な接頭語として使用していることを問題視している。現代ではmankind のかわりにhumankindというような性中立的な言語が主流になりつつあるのに、時代に逆行しているわけである。

BBCはサイトのBBC.com/worklife でマンスプレイニングを図表であらわし、何か発言する前に、相手から質問を受けたのか? 説明しようとしている分野について、自分が相手より経験があるのか? 相手は説明が必要なのか確認したか?と確認することを薦めている。


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > A Rational Response to "Mansplaining": A Word Coined on the Internet