The term Mansplaining has generally fallen into the common Internet lexicon. Mansplaining is when a man explains something to a woman, preferably about a female issues, as if he is a far greater authority about the issue. While nowhere near as weighty a faux pas of ignorance and presumption I have noticed a similar trend thanks to the recent Starfire and Catwoman controversy in the DC reboot. This practice of Fansplaining is a term I have coined who when people make bold statements about an entire fandom that they have little to no knowledge about.
If you read the original Laura Hudson article about Starfire and Catwoman you will see that it is quite critical about the portrayal women in the new reboot. But Laura Hudson is obviously well versed in comics fandom and gives a nuanced opinion that points out problems these character redesigns while at the same time contextualizing them in the greater history of the genre and contrasting it to other superhero comics coming out at the same time. The responses of course were varied from extremely supportive to completely dismissive with an equally wide range of articulation in their reaction.
The Fansplaining comes when the article became viral it was talked about and responded almost everywhere in geek circles. The more fans started talking the more people who are not normally part of the fandom began to weigh in despite having little to no knowledge of the genre. You slowly had more and more fan of other genres of comics giving their opinions despite the fact that they may have read less than a dozen American superhero comics in their whole life. Blanket statements and unfounded opinions soon began flying left and right. There were a disturbing number of people acting like experts despite not even reading the original post let alone the comics in question. Part of the problem is TL;DR culture that just scans for bullet points without actually processing the bulk of the article. But a good deal of it was just statements made by people who assumed their tenuous grasp of the subject was all they needed to act like an expert.
The sad thing is that many of these same people have been the subject of fansplaining in the past. How many times have anime fans been offended that American comic fans (both mainstream and indy) see the medium of manga as nothing more than a tepid and easily dismissed genre? The prejudice that all manga is either Dragon Ball Z style punchy vs kicky, sappy romance comics for girls, or perverted comics for degenerates with the same homogenized art style. I remember going into Jim Hanley’s Universe one time and heard two of the staff members talking about the “frou-frou sakura comics” when discussing how to the with the manga “problem”. I’m not saying you have to a PhD in a subject to weigh in with an opinion. I would just ask that people use their knowledge of 5% of a genre to make statements about the other 95%. It makes your opinion full of assumption and we all know what they say about assumption.
Don’t get me wrong. I saw some very knowledgeable comics fans rip apart the new portrayal of Starfire and Catwoman. Many times there statements were just as vicious as the offhanded statements of those casual commentators. And overall I feel most of the criticism of the new portrayal of the characters is spot on. But the criticism of those knowledgeable about comics had complaints that carried weight that a flippant statement lacks. I think we have all fansplained something about another hobby at some point it time. The main point of this post is to remind you to remember to think about your level of experience before you talk like an expert. Don’t make statements like the frog in the well.