Let me Fansplain something to you.

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.

8 thoughts on “Let me Fansplain something to you.

  1. relentlessflame says:

    But, but, but… acting like an expert in fields you have only passing knowledge of is the hallmark of the Internet! If everyone were wise, thoughtful, reasonable, humble, and slow-to-speak, why, we’d have civilized discourse, and we can’t be having that!

    That aside, I too am often amazed that the various aspects of geek fandom are not more tolerant and forgiving of each other. Even within a specific subset, they’re quick to form factions and to get into arguments about the most petty of things. And as you say, as soon as something “questionable” happens in another subset of the fandom, others are quick to pile-on and wave their proverbial finger in disgust, even if they don’t really know what they’re talking about. I suppose that a lot of this might be peer pressure, group-think, and trying to fit into your niche… but it’s rather pointless at best, and destructive at worse. It certainly doesn’t endear the overall community to the public on the whole.

    But all that said, what can you do… I guess other than writing a post like this and reminding people to not think themselves higher than they ought. Humility is not an often-espoused trait these days.

    • reversethieves says:

      It is just annoying to see petty sniping between fandoms. We don’t all have to sing Kumbaya around the campfire but we could at least avoid making hasty blanket statements about another fandom. In return I hope other fandoms would take that sentiment to heart. As you said we are all sort of niche communities as it is there is no reason to alienate others with infighting.

      If nothing else:
      Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
      You could end up as the only one
      Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
      At night a candle’s brighter than the sun

      – Hisui

  2. recognizer says:

    By etymological derivation from “mansplaining”, shouldn’t “fansplaining” refer to when fanboys or fangirls condescendingly explain something as if people outside their fandom couldn’t possibly understand it? What you’re talking about seems like it should have a reversed term, somehow, since it’s non-fans who are doing the explaining.

    • reversethieves says:

      Well the theory of me using the word is that it is fans condescendingly talking about another fandom when they have little to no experience with the other fandom. So it is fans fansplaining about another hobby. I think therefore the term stands.

      – Hisui

      • recognizer says:

        Okay, so it’s a reciprocal relationship? The Starfire critics and the Starfire defenders are both fansplaining to each other, which is why they can never come to an agreement. :3

        Though I’d tend to argue that the critics of the new DC character designs are feminisplaining (lol), and we should listen to them, but then you support that position too, like you already said in the article.

      • reversethieves says:

        Well there is lots of fansplaining going on in general. The Starfire controversy is just the recent example that comes to mind.

        I think there is a lot of validity to people being upset about Starfire. So I am not really taking people to task for criticizing DC for their choice in how they handled her in the reboot. I just wish anime fans would not instantly judge all Superhero comics on this one incident. If you think all of Superhero comics are sexist and have a decent working knowledge of the genre I will disagree with you but respect your opinion. But if you just go off hearsay and prejudice then I will plainly ignore you.

        – Hisui

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