Ghostsplaining: Men Explain Ghosts To Me

If there’s one thing any reader of this blog can be assured of, it’s that I have more than just a passing interest in ghosts. That’s why I love to discuss ghosts with anyone who will listen; I’m skeptical about the existence of ghosts, have had a fair few odd experiences which help me to remain open-minded about them, and have been investigating active hauntings since the age of 18 (over a decade ago), so… why do people feel the need to let me know ghosts aren’t real?

In the introduction of her fascinating book ‘Parapsychology: A Beginner’s Guide’, Professor Caroline Watt explains that ”throughout this book, I will refer to paranormal phenomena and abilities. For fluency of expression, I will avoid repeatedly using terms such as ‘alleged’, ‘purported’, and ‘claimed’, although this is not meant to imply that I think such phenomena are genuine.’ [Watt, 2016]

For a while, I would be careful to use same qualifiers before speaking about paranormal subjects for fear that my message wouldn’t be heard, but instead that my audience (especially at science and skepticism events) would focus on the fact that I hadn’t used a disclaimer before repeating a paranormal or supernatural claim.

And it does happen. More often than not, if I write something on Social Media about paranormal topics without using ‘alleged’ or similar, I will be informed (most likely by a man) that ghosts don’t exist.

I’ve chosen to call this Ghostsplaining.

I’ll often visit the online profile of the person Ghostsplaining me and they’ll not be involved in paranormal research in any way, shape, or form. And yet, they’ll take the time out of their day to explain the most basic concepts of paranormal research to me – someone who is involved in paranormal research.

I recently tweeted that a local woodland was not haunted despite a mainstream media story which reported that it was. As a local who also happens to be a paranormal researcher, I know that the folklore-derived name of the woods has less to do with a spectre and more to do with the English language.

I know that the woods are a favourite hangout for teenagers with nothing much else to do than drink cheap beer and smoke rolled up cigarettes, that the cave system beneath the woods and the creepy-looking tower make it seem spooky. I also know that a whole bunch of reports of a ghostly hitchhiker get attributed to these woods, but when you look for original eye-witness testimony, you can’t find it.

So, knowing all of this (since the age of, oh, eight) I confidently tweeted that the woods were not haunted. Almost instantly, a man replied that ‘nothing is haunted’.

Hmm.

He didn’t ask me to elaborate on how I knew the woods weren’t haunted, or how I had established this. He just explained to me- someone who had identified that I was a paranormal researcher -that hauntings (and, thus, ghosts) were not real.

I could have pointed out that although ghosts and hauntings as paranormal phenomena might not be real, there’s certainly a social or cultural phenomena that can cause people to think they’re haunted. I could have explained to him that some people don’t think ghosts cause hauntings, that in religious communities many people worry about demonic entities haunting their homes, or curses. That poltergeists are often considered not-ghosts…

Instead of justifying my position, I stood my ground and pointed out that he was explaining to me stuff I already know, to which he told me to ‘not get bent out of shape’ and that he was ‘backing me up’, but the thing is… I don’t need backing up.

Especially by a non-paranormal researcher who is explaining ghosts to me – a paranormal researcher.

In her brilliant essay Men Explain Things To Me, Rebecca Solnit describes Mansplaining as an ‘archipelago of arrogance’ and ‘the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world.’ [Solnit, 2012]

Obviously, there are things I do not know about when it comes to anomalous research, paranormal research, parapsychology and so on, and I really enjoy learning about new things through the suggestions of others, but Ghostsplaining isn’t that. It isn’t useful. It’s a way in which men (and yes, it is men) try to remind me that I’m not as expert as I think I am, even though I know far more about this subject than they do.

Ghostsplaining is how men try to knock me down a peg or two by scrutinising why I didn’t say “alleged ghost” – am I really a skeptic? Am I sure I don’t believe in ghosts? Ghostsplaining is Mansplaining and it’s a constant reminder that I’m allowed to voice my conclusions and works until a man deems that I’ve said too much.

Men explain ghosts to me, and they’re usually wrong.

References

Solnit, R. (2012) ‘Men Explain Things To Me’, Geurnica, 20th August 2012 [Blog]. Available at https://www.guernicamag.com/rebecca-solnit-men-explain-things-to-me/ (Accessed 20 October 2017)

Watt, C. (2016) Parapsychology: A Beginners Guide, LondonOneworld Publications

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Hayley Stevens

Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

3 thoughts on “Ghostsplaining: Men Explain Ghosts To Me”

  1. Thank you for this post! Really interesting discussion, and something that unfortunately I am far too familiar with. Indeed I had a perfect example last week when another male blogger commented on my page explaining to me that I was focusing on the ‘low hanging fruit’ of paranormal experiences. ‘Helpfully’ he explained that instead I should focus on issues like perception and examine (in a tone that suggested I may have never heard of this particular story) experiences such as the famous Harry Martingale encounter in York…never mind the fact that I completed my PhD in paranormal experiences at the University of York, and therefore might be familiar with this particular case. Evidently he had completely missed the point of my blog that has a sociological focus, and felt the need to Ghostsplain to me that with his ‘extensive’ experience in this field (that I could find no evidence of) that he was able to assess what were and were not ‘important’ experiences worthy of discussion. After over 10 years researching the paranormal, including a PhD in this area, I feel like I have a good understanding of these events and am able to appreciate from my sociological background that regardless of the ‘type’ of experience they can have important sociological and cultural impacts. I am also aware that I am not an expert in psychological concerns and therefore leave such explanations to the experts. I am glad though that it takes a man to ghostsplain to me that I am wrong. I did think about replying to his comment, but felt that his ignorance and patronising tone did not dignify an acknowledgement never mind a response! At least now if I have any future Ghostsplaining I will simply point them towards this post

  2. OU Harvard Style, once experienced, never forgotten 🙂

    I would be interested to know, how would you differentiate between “mansplaining” and a man having a different opinion? I get the point regarding someone not being a paranormal researcher, but that risks being an argument from authority. Just because someone is not engaged in paranormal research does not mean they are uninformed; they may have experience in related areas, psychologists with experience in pareidolia for example.

    The ability for different opinions to be put forward into a discussion is central to understanding a topic. We may not like what is said especially if it challenges our model of the world and the contexts we create. Does discounting a countervailing opinion and dismissing it as “mansplaining” help us arrive at a consensus? The opinions may be utterly unfounded, but they should never be discounted out of hand, challenging their points directly and providing proof is surely a better approach?

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