Speaking out against everyday sexism: Gender and epistemics in accusations of “mansplaining”

Jack B. Joyce, Bogdana Humă, Hanna-Leena Ristimäki, Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, Ann Doehring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


In everyday interaction, subtle manifestations of sexism often pass unacknowledged and become internalised and thus perceived as ?natural? conduct. The introduction of new vocabularies for referring to previously unnamed sexist conduct would presumably enable individuals to start problematising hitherto unchallengeable sexism. In this paper, we investigate whether and how these vocabularies empower people to speak out against sexism. We focus on the use of the term ?mansplaining? which, although coined over 10 years ago, remains controversial and contested. Using Conversation Analysis and Membership Categorisation Analysis, this paper excavates the interactional methods individuals use to formulate, in vivo, some prior spate of talk as mansplaining. In doing so, speakers necessarily reformulate a co-participant?s social action to highlight its sexist nature. Accusations of mansplaining are accomplished by invoking gender (and other) categories and their associated rights to knowledge. In reconstructing another?s conduct as mansplaining, speakers display their understanding of what mansplaining is (and could be) for the purpose at hand. Thus, the paper contributes to the well-established body of interactional research on manifestations of sexism by documenting how the normativity of epistemic rights is mobilised as a resource for bringing off accusations of mansplaining.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-529
Number of pages28
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date2 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the Discourse and Rhetoric Group at Loughborough, and the Conversation Analysis Reading & Data Sessions Group at Ulster for their valuable comments during data sessions on these recordings. We would also like to thank Mia Hayward for her assistance with transcription and Linda Walz for her useful discussions and feedback on analysis. Finally, and not least, we would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers whose careful reading and clear comments strengthened this paper. This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • accusations
  • categories
  • complaints
  • epistemics
  • gender
  • mansplaining
  • sexism
  • social interaction


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