Friday, June 22, 2007

The Explaining Hand

Last week was the week of the explaining hand.

The explaining hand is something that we all do every once in a while. You know, you’re standing around, arms loosely down by your sides, or maybe folded across your ribs and someone says something, something maybe a little off, or maybe a little ludicrous, or maybe skates across the surface of a topic you’re passionate about and suddenly you’re telling them how it really is, and your right forearm has extended itself at 90 degrees from your body and your palm is facing up, maybe tilted in a little, your fingers might be together or they might not, but you’re moving your palm emphatically in beat with your words, punctuating the important bits with a short chop of your hand down and away from your body.

I have been known to apply the explaining hand liberally, particularly when I get my drink on. Most often, people will haul it out to make a point, and then put it away again. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good hand gesture.

But it can be used for evil.

The first time I was on the receiving end of this last week is a primo example of why you must watch yourself and your appendages. I was in a conversation with a man who was staring at my breasts at the same time that he was giving me the explaining hand. He was also very obviously dumbing down what was already a very simple concept for my benefit. And using a patronizing tone. Obviously, he must have been thinking, perhaps subconsciously, if her brains are in her tits, which they must be, because I can’t stop looking at them and what I know about myself is that I am a very deep person and thus what I really care about is a girl’s mind and so whatshername’s brains must be in her tits but her tits aren’t very big, so she must not be smart enough to understand this very esoteric concept about which I am talking.

On an individual level, whatever. I don’t really care that this guy didn’t think I was bright enough to catch his drift without a monologue on his part. When boys do that, I just sit tight and take a vacation until they stop, murmuring “Mmmhmmm. Ah. Oh. Huh. Right.” until they stop. Probably not a good way to solve the overall problem, but I’m not going to fight that battle with someone I’m probably not going to see again.

The problem is that it’s not just one man and one woman. Most of the time I see the explaining hand whipped out, it’s a man whipping it out for someone he thinks is less powerful than him. Or is trying to prove is less powerful.

I’m not saying it’s a conscious thing for an explaining hands man. I’m not saying that all men do it. I’m not saying that every time a man does it, he’s trying to reinforce his position of power in the world. I’m definitely not saying that women don’t do it, possibly for the same reason.

I’m just saying.

Seems to go along with the whole privilege thing. Like the guys who sit on a bus seat and take up more than their fair share of the space bubble.

Which is why it was kind of funny for Ian MacKaye to bring it out at the Evens show.

But that’s another post.

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