On the radar: manel
The term manel, used to refer to an all-male panel of speakers, has recently emerged to join the ranks of the ever growing lexicon of words that are formed by blending the word man with an existing word. While slightly older examples of such terms like mankini, a typically revealing bathing suit for men, or murse, a purse for a man, drew attention to how traditional western concepts of manhood might be in flux, the most recent wave of man- words has had a decidedly different effect. Words like mansplaining or manspreading aim to put names to social phenomena that represent the ways in which those traditional concepts still carry on, typically without the men engaging in them even realizing it.
A manel clearly belongs to this newer variety of man- word. Conceptually, the reason why a panel would be organized in the first place, whether at a conference, on cable news, or as part of a legislative session, is to ensure a diversity of opinions and perspectives are brought to the issue up for discussion. Obviously, there are many ways in which panels can fail to achieve this goal, not the least of which is the failure to actually assemble a diverse group of panelists. The term manel has, like its predecessors, become a useful way to take note of a circumstance in which men may not realize that something they’re involved in has the effect of marginalizing women.
Arguably, manel is a somewhat more subtle turn of phrase than a word like mansplain, which first appeared on Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2014. Coming across it as a Twitter hashtag, you could be forgiven for thinking manel was, say, a person’s name or a pop band from Barcelona. Indeed, it is both of those things as well. And judging by the current number of hits on our corpora, it may be a while before the word becomes common enough to warrant inclusion in an Oxford Dictionary.
But this relative inconspicuousness needn’t be interpreted as a waning of public focus on women’s marginalization either. If anything, the brash and sudden appearance of a word like mansplain can be seen as a necessarily forceful interjection into the public discourse, a call to attention that had to be shouted above the fray in order to be heard by as many English-speakers as it was. Now that the issue is on the minds of the public, the resulting conversation – and the new words that arise from it – can rise and fall in whatever registers are necessary to keep it going.