What exactly are feminists talking about when they use the term ‘mansplaining’? Is it whenever a man offers his opinion to a woman? If so, how is that any different to the sexism the phrase ‘mansplaining’ purportedly protests? Is this not just sexism aimed at men?
That certainly seemed to be the case when the makers of the deeply inoffensive BBC drama Sherlock were chastised over the show’s New Year’s Day special. Apparently, it didn’t show proper deference to the Suffragettes, as the prodigious sleuth was heavily criticised on social media for supposedly ‘mansplaining’ feminism.
The episode, titled ‘The Abominable Bride’, returned Sherlock and Watson to the Victorian era, where they investigated a secretive group of women, who, it was implied, were Suffragettes responsible for a series of murders of married men. After solving the case and uncovering the mysterious female cabal as the culprits, Sherlock gave a speech, which was entirely supportive of the Suffragette movement:
‘One half of the human race [is] at war with the other. The invisible army hovering at our elbow, tending to our home, raising our children, ignored, patronised, disregarded, not allowed to so much as vote. But an army nonetheless ready to rise up in the best of causes, to put right an injustice as old as humanity itself. So you see, Watson, this is a war we must lose.’
These well-meaning comments, however, were not kindly received by disapproving feminists on Twitter, who accused Benedict Cumberbatch’s character of ‘mansplaining’.