There isn’t a man brave or stupid enough in this world to try introduce the concept of womansplaining. So it will have to be me.
I will have to do this in conjunction with another little-known word – so little-known in fact, that my computer spell-checker won’t even recognise it. But verily, they are both real words, one older than the other, one which paves the way for, and kinda explains the other.
Innerancy is our first word. It means ‘that which is without error, or what cannot possibly be wrong.’
It is most often used in a religious context, where staunch believers in many faiths are insistent that their sacred written work is ‘Without error or fault in all its teaching’; or, at least, that ‘Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.’ So, a neat trap. The good book cannot possibly be wrong; and if scientific facts disagree, then they are what’s crook. Win, win for the devout, ey!
But, despite its unusual-ness as a word, innerancy finds common, everyday usage. I often wonder if it is the foundational aspect to womansplaining. Which is a real thing. Only not often talked about.
I recall the architect bloke who watched my beloved instructing me exactly how to tie a knot on a bundle of wood we were loading. “You’re womansplaining,” I complained feebly to her, “I think I can do this myself.” I have been known to tie a successful knot or two, without close supervision, in my many greybeard years. Unseen to her, he (the bystander) cracked up laughing, but when his wife appeared, he shut up immediately. He obviously didn’t want to be seen to be appreciative of, or in any way supportive, of my womansplaining bleat.
For if there is one thing in this world that has indisputable qualities of innerancy, it’s your good wife telling you how to tie a knot to hold down a pile of wood. Or how to do anything, in fact. That’s the central truth of womansplaining: it simply cannot be in error. It’s a thing to accept, as it, no question. It’s innerancy, innit?
Now mansplaining has been around for time. Even my computer accepts it, without putting a squiggly red line under it. Whole tomes have been devoted to it. Witness Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 satirical essay Men Explain Things to Me – which introduced the term, though yes, it’s old as the hill – and the subsequent 2014 eponymous book. And yes, I have dutifully read this.
In an interview, surprisingly, Solnit was asked: “Do men still explain things to you?”
To which she replied: “Do they ever! Social media are to mansplainers what dogs are to fleas, and this recent feminist conversation has brought them out in droves. I mean, guys explain ridiculous things to me like that the Louisiana Purchase gave the United States a Pacific Coast. [Solnit is An American] But more than anything since I wrote Men Explain Things to Me, they've explained women's experience to me and other women.”
And what about the natural retort of womansplaining? Is my question to Solnit.
To which she replied, unprompted in that interview, “My beloved has, with time and patience and a lot of going over the same ground again and again and some digging-in of heels, come to accept that I really need two cups of tea in the morning (and one won't do). So I've already succeeded hugely on that front.”
So you see, these are matters of great importance. It just may take us primitive fullas some sweet time to get with the programme. Good luck to us all.