[Content Note: Privilege; silencing. For background on "splaining," please read SKM's terrific post "It Looks Like We're Going to Have a Mansplainer Thread After All."]

Y'all, I think Kevin Drum just 'splained at us about 'splaining:
Hey there. Is there any chance that we could deep six the splaining meme? You know, mansplaining, straightsplaining, whitesplaining, and all their myriad offshoots. I get that it's a useful term, but it's gotten out of hand. Obviously we should all be careful when we talk about things outside our personal experience, and nobody gets a pass when they say something stupid. Still, we should all be allowed to talk about sensitive subjects as best we can without instantly being shot down as unfit to even hold an opinion.

The splaining meme is quickly becoming the go-to ad hominem of the 2010s, basically just a snarky version of STFU that combines pseudosophisticated mockery and derision without any substance to back it up. Maybe it's time to give it a rest and engage instead with a little less smugness and narcissism.
Shaker Mod Scott Madin dubbed this splainsplaining, and I have been humming "Splainsplaining" to Bowie's "The Jean Genie" ever since.


There are a few things Drum gets wrong here. Like, for example, that splaining isn't a "meme," but a useful piece of language used in social justice spheres for succinctly describing the dynamic of a person of privilege condescendingly pontificating at a marginalized person about our own lives in direct contravention of our real lived experiences.

Also, "it's gotten out of hand" at least has the honesty of being a straightforward statement instead of a mendacious rhetorical, but it's still got the same problems as "Have we gone too far...?"

And, sure, there are probably people (it's a big universe!) who deploy "splaining" when it's not totally appropriate, but it's typically deployed not in response to someone merely "talk[ing] about sensitive subjects," but talking about a marginalized person's life having positioned themselves as an expert, while denying the marginalized person authority on their own lived experiences.

Usually, someone who objects to being accused of splaining thinks zie's just sharing "an opinion," in a way that suggests they believe having an opinion on what's the best place for Italian food in town is the same as having an opinion on whether a marginalized person's expressed experience of oppression is valid.

Splaining is about auditing other people's lived experiences. It's not just about having "an opinion" on a "sensitive subject."

What Drum identifies as "narcissism" is marginalized people's assertion that our perceptions matter. That we are the definitive authorities on our own lives. And what he identifies as "smugness" is our contempt for the idea that someone of privilege thinks they are qualified to educate us about our own lives.

And what Drum misses about the fact that, yeah, sometimes an accusation of splaining does shut down debate (such as it is) is that that's okay. It is really and truly okay for a marginalized person to communicate, without apology: "I don't want to listen to you tell me about my own life. Fuck off."

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