The term “mansplaining” comes from Rebecca Solnit’s essy (that became a book) called Men Explain Things To Me. Deftly and with wit she absolutely skewers the sort of males (yes, i know, not all men) who assume that they automatically know more about any given subject than a woman.
The book is rad but it will likely make you furious. Some of the connections she draws are amazing. They go way beyond – say – my classic experience of a taxi driver telling me how websites work. Or even pompous “let me try to simplify this so that you might be able to understand it” lecturing. (Solnit is a Sun-Mercury conjunction Cancerian with those two hooked up in a Grand Trine with Neptune + Chiron. )
So i am used to a certain style of person feeling the need to laboriously explain shit that I actually know a lot about but never until the other day has someone tried to mansplain the Goddess to me. It was on Facebook and apropos of nothing, he launches into this thing about “Medusa had no real power” — “I hope you understand that Medusa only had her head full of snakes lent to her by Apollo” and on and on. It was galling as it is (a) ignoring that there is a massive background to the Medusa myth way before the Grecian version – see Barbara Walker and Helene Cixous’s work on the topic for a start but (b) it was a male lecturing me on my (apparently limited) understanding of a Goddess figure.
So okay, mansplaining by the book with an element of pompous trolling for attention BUT it also made me question my reaction. WHY did it feel so poignant? And then i recalled how, during a difficult and some would say traumatic girlhood, the discovery that there were Goddesses (Persephone, Medusa, Ishtar, Isis…many more) was mind-blowing.
Their powers, that they overcame ordeals, their temples, their stories, the reverence in which they were clearly held once upon a time, that they were deemed worthy of regard outside of the wife-daughter role, that they did whatever the hell they wanted. They had the power of parthogenesis – being able to give birth without having had sex, of which the Virgin Mary story is a pale echo – and of moving between different dimensions…or realms.
Leaving aside their magical strengths and status, a lot of them were unabashedly what today would be called whores, spinsters, witches, single mothers or cat ladies. Some had multiple lovers – others sought solitude in wild enchanted retreats – those choices did not define them. They went on quests. They ruled realms. They dealt with shit. Ancient Queens and Priestesses prayed to them and attempted to connect with their energy or archetype in dreams. They wrote hymns to them.
But is not attempting to say that any power held by a female deity is “not really theirs” and to assert this without any attempt to find out if the person you’re talking to has any knowledge or education on the subject the ultimate patriarchal mansplain?
This Christmas I am going to be raising a glass to the Holy Ghost who was, according to some scholars, Sophia – the Goddess of Wisdom.
Image: Paul Lewin – The Visitor
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