What is mansplaining? Meaning of the term explained and why Liz Truss’s camp accused Rishi Sunak in the debate

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Liz Truss’s campaign has accused Rishi Sunak of “mansplaining” following a bad-tempered live TV debate in which the two Tory hopefuls laid out their policies in the leadership election.

A spokesman for the Foreign Secretary told The Times: “Rishi Sunak has tonight proven he is not fit for office. His aggressive mansplaining and shouty private school behaviour is desperate, unbecoming and is a gift to Labour.”

The comments came after the ex-Chancellor took a deliberately confrontational approach in a bid to shake his reputation for being “too slick” according to supporters.

But what does the term mean and how did it become woven into the discourse surrounding the debate?

What is mansplaining?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “mansplaining” as:

“To explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic.”

Similarly, the Cambridge Dictionary describes the term as:

“The act of explaining something to someone in a way that suggests that they are stupid; used especially when a man explains something to a woman that she already understands.”

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Why was Rishi Sunak accused of mansplaining?

Political commentators have noted that Mr Sunak, who has been trailing in the polls in recent weeks, came out swinging with an aggressive performance.

He took aim at the Foreign Secretary’s plans to cut tax immediately, scrapping the rise in national insurance and freezing rather than increasing corporation tax.

Many viewers noted that Mr Sunak repeatedly spoke over Ms Truss during the debate and found his interruptions condescending. Presenter Sophie Raworth interjected to urge Mr Sunak to “let her [Ms Truss] answer”.

During the live TV battle, Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price took to Twitter to say: “Most women MPs have been subject to mansplaining and being talked over in debate.

“Never a worse example than right now on the BBC.”

Nonetheless, a snap poll by Opinium, based on a sample of 1,032 voters, found 39 per cent believed Mr Sunak had performed best compared to 38 per cent for Ms Truss.

Mr Sunak did attend a private school, but his conduct in the debate has been described as departure from his usual persona. It will be down to Conservative members to decide if he was too rude.

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