Friday, January 25, 2013

Ask-A-Dude: Mansplaining

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another edition of Ask-a-Dude, where I give insight into the male brain for your male characters who have one!

Remember, you can ask your own questions using the submission form on the right!

Today's question is:

Q: I've been reading about something called "mansplaining." Should my male characters do it?

A: Yes. Nothing better telegraphs to your audience that you understand dudes than including some choice mansplaining in your manuscript. Why? Because there is no more authentic male behavior than mansplaining (with the possible exception of farting, which I would argue is simply a gastric version of the same thing expressed anally).

For those of you who don't know what mansplaining is (meaning the three of you who have never actually met a man), it's the process whereby a male will pontificate at length on all manner of topics about which he has limited (preferably no) knowledge. Ask-a-Dude is essentially a monthly practicum on the phenomenon.

Now before you run off thinking you can just drop in some mansplaining without doing some homework, well, I'm here to mansplain something to you: don't. If you do it wrong, you'll just look like a fool without making your male character look like one as well which kinda defeats the purpose.

So, some guidelines.

First. Never, ever have a male mansplain something to another male. If you have two guys talking to each other about something they know nothing about, you'll force them into a recursive logic-free discussion loop otherwise known as Fantasy Football. Mansplaining is ALWAYS committed upon a female.

Second. The more likely the female is to be an expert on a topic, the greater the need for a guy to explain her area of expertise to her. For example, if your main female character is a NASCAR driver, this sets up a perfect opportunity for your male character to discuss his thoughts on how to properly shift a manual. Think of it this way: every male has a reservoir of mansplaining "gas" that is activated when a woman displays expertise on a topic. The male must now release that gas or risk a dangerous build up of pressure that threatens to unleash the stupid in one calamitous explosion of ignorance. Turn on Meet the Press any given Sunday to see what I mean.

Third. Mansplaining does not occur in a vacuum. In other words, you'd never have a dude just start mansplaining something to a woman without any prior knowledge on the topic. No, the rules of mansplaining are clear, there must be a single source for the male's knowledge on the topic. A fictitious movie, for example, or something he once saw written on a bathroom wall. No prior knowledge is unrealistic. One single article, read a decade ago in a lay publication and written by an author who has since admitted to making that sh!t up is the perfect amount of source material. Now your male character is locked and loaded and ready to go mano-a-mano with your female characters.

Fourth. As long as the proper genders are employed, there's no reason to limit mansplaining to humans. I am sure there are numerous male Bonobo chimpanzees who will hang off a branch bloviating about, "you wanna know how this place should be run? I'll tell you how this place should be run. Two words: BCS rankings." Also, no reason you can't do some cross-species mansplaining. Trust me, your male character is dying to mansplain menstrual cycles to a mare.

Okay, so now you know what mansplaining is and how to incorporate it. But what topics make for the best mansplanations?

Following are the three most popular topics men like mansplain to women:

1. Childbirth
2. What women want
3. Vaginas

For example, if you're female character is a gynecologist, you won't even have to write your male character, he'll simply explode into being and spontaneously begin mansplaining without you actually having to type a thing. It'll be like spirit writing (only with smelly, arrogant ghosts).

Properly formatted and sourced mansplaining scenarios, when sprinkled liberally throughout your WIP, will result in two reactions if you've executed them correctly. From your female readers (and gay males), you'll get a knowing nod. From your male readers you'll get a confused look, a groin scratch and a douchy smirk, like, damn, this dude character sure knows his stuff!

You'll find excellent examples of mansplaining all over the web, in casual conversations with co-workers and anywhere classic mansplainers like to congregate, like business school faculties and Congress. For some truly outstanding and real-world examples, go here.

Mansplaining is the full and proper expression of the male intellect and as such it belongs in every realistic portrayal of a male character.

Trust me, babe, I know a lot more about this than you do.

Copil has mansplained chemistry to a female Nobel Prize Winner, animal husbandry to a female vetrinarian and once tried to explain tennis to Serena Williams. For more mansplanations, visit him on Twitter (@Copil).


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