Where Did The 'Girl Explaining' Meme Come From? The Evolution Of 'Mansplaining' And 'Girlsplaining' Memes (2024)

The Girl Explaining meme seems to be everywhere lately. On timelines around the world, the same bro girl is helpfully (if loudly) girlsplaining to us about fandoms, niche theories and hot takes. But how does she relate to past explaining memes that made fun of mansplaining and bros explaining? And, what can her rise tell us about the current state of memes?

Like salmon, popular memes seem to follow a life cycle: first, a meme is hatched in some niche part of the internet (just as a salmon spawns in a small mountain stream) and then migrates into the mainstream.

From there it swims into the memetic ocean where it eats other fish and gets really big. If the meme hits enough of a nerve, it starts to get used by everyone from media brands looking to promote their products (below, left) to politicians looking to connect with voters (below, right).

Once a meme gets that big, almost every online person, no matter what or where they like to post, is sure to lay eyes on it. This phase may last a few days, perhaps a week or in exceptional cases, even longer. At that point, the meme starts to swim inland again, out of the mainstream and back into a niche zone of the web.

Girl Explaining seems to have speed-run this meme life cycle over the past few days, emerging in force on English-language TLs in the middle of this week and showing no signs of stopping. But, like the salmon, the Girl Explaining meme is just the latest generation of a more ancient species: at least four other "explaining" memes have come before it.

Where Did Girl Explaining Come From?

The Girl Explaining meme first became popular on the Spanish-language internet. We spoke this week with Denise Sanchez, the young Argentinian woman in the meme, about the spread of the meme and her reaction to it. The meme emerged and became highly popular in some Spanish-language meme circles in February of 2019.

More than three years later, around the middle of August, the meme hopped onto the English-language internet. Early prominent examples showed the girl explaining astrology. The meme then worked its way through Twitter and various subreddits.

Like with "I bet he's thinking about other women" which became popular in Spanish-language internet circles in late 2016 before spreading to the English internet in the summer of 2017, it took some time for anglophone memers to catch up.

What Is Mansplaining (or Girlsplaining?)

Mansplaining is said to have emerged from Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 essay "Men Explain Things To Me" which memorably describes an incident at a party where a man explained a book she herself had written to Solnit. The term criticizes men that explain things to women who already know what those things are or have shown no interest whatsoever in the topic. Many women online used the term and found it relatable to their real-life experiences.

"Girlsplaining" is the reverse, in which a girl explains something to a guy who’s not interested.

What Memes Came Before?

Bro Explaining

Bro explaining is sort of like an illustration of the "mansplaining" concept. It’s the grand-daddy of all the memes in the genre. Originally posted in 2011, the first instances of the meme did not record the dialogue of the bro, but narrated the girl’s thoughts:

The meme circulated at low intensity for about a decade, until in March of 2020, the meme saw a sudden resurgence in virality. In most of the 2020 memes, the bro is explaining some topic, often a niche pop culture, sports, political or video game reference, with no awareness that the woman is not interested.

Milk Edinburgh

A photo taken at the Milk Edinburgh dance club in Scotland offered another illustration of "mansplaining" in the fall of 2018. People reposted the image with captions similar to the other "bro explaining" memes. Again, it showed a man shoving some niche interest into a woman’s ears.

Man Talking To A Woman At A Club

A year later, in the fall of 2019, a video of a different Man talking to a woman at a club became popular. The Barstool Sports media empire invested heavily in the meme, as it became a social game among mostly male fans of sports to caption the video.

Notable entries discussed sports betting, film nerddom and sneakers.

John Silver Explaining To Anna Jay

In February of 2022, John Silver explaining to Anna Jay became the next entry in the series. It’s originally a screengrab from a skit in a YouTube. video, where Silver acts really drunk and annoying as Jay attempts to exit the conversation. Twitter users embraced the photo, and used it to mock the male energy exemplified by Silver.

The meme was popular both in English-language meme circles and in Spanish-language ones.

Why Do People Post 'Girl Explaining' Memes?

Arguably, there are two kinds of explaining.

1) The meme can make fun of the explainer. In this kind of meme, the poster aligns themselves and the audience with the person suffering through the explanation. Memes like this mock the fandoms or types of people who care about the topic being explained.

This matches the original meaning of mansplaining: the term was used by women who thought men unnecessarily explaining things to them was dumb, arrogant and sexist. An example of this kind of meme might be the one below, which seems to mock the Rick and Morty fandom.

2) The meme can also be posted in a way that is sympathetic to the explainer. The poster sees themselves in the character doing the explaining. Often, there’s something self-deprecating in this: the poster shows they know a truly dumb amount about a topic regular people don’t or shouldn’t care about. But posting also signals a kind of pride, flexes the poster's knowledge about something and signals their belonging to an in-group or fandom.

By making fun of themselves through explaining memes, communities like diehard sports fans, astrologers and nerds of all types can show pride in knowing what they know.

Often, the line between these two kinds is hazy.

How Does Gender Factor Into It?

Up until now, the Explaining memes have all featured men in the place of the explainer and women in the place of the explained to. If the meme is making fun of the explainer (kind # 1) then the meme shows women can be just as annoying as men. In memes like the one below, the meme is being used to make fun of a thing often associated with women:

But if the poster identifies with the girl doing the explaining (kind # 2) it shows that people can identify themselves and their niche online communities with a female voice as well as with a male one.

Since most memes where people identify themselves with a speaker tend to center male figures, the emergence of a girl version of the explaining meme is an interesting landmark in meme history. Perhaps it's a sign that more female versions of male-character memes will arrive in the future.

For the full history of girl explaining meme and even more memes, check out our entry on the alliance.

Where Did The 'Girl Explaining' Meme Come From? The Evolution Of 'Mansplaining' And 'Girlsplaining' Memes (2024)


What is the story behind the girl explaining meme? ›

The woman behind the viral “Girl Explaining” meme has spoken out, detailing what was really happening when the meme-worthy picture was snapped. Denise Sánchez, 21, was captured photobombing someone else's pictures at an Argentina beach party in 2018 with her then-boyfriend.

Where did the meme come from? ›

The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as an attempt to explain how aspects of culture replicate, mutate, and evolve (memetics). Emoticons are among the earliest examples of internet memes, specifically the smiley emoticon ":-)", introduced by Scott Fahlman in 1982.

What is the history of the little miss meme? ›

The memes are based on the children's book series started by the late British author Roger Hargreaves and carried on by his son Adam. People are using screenshots of the various cartoons and then giving them their own titles to reflect character flaws, moods and personalities.

Who is the bored girl in the meme? ›

But Lucia Gorman, University of Strathclyde student, has been seeing her face on the internet for three years now. A photo taken of an oblivious Lucia at the Bourbon club in Edinburgh started making the rounds in 2018. In the picture, Lucia stares ahead with a bored expression while a boy shouts something in her ear.

What is meme short for? ›

The word “meme” comes from the Greek mimema, meaning something that has been “imitated.” According to Britannica, the word was first introduced by Richard Dawkins, a British biologist, in his book The Selfish Gene; his intention was for “meme” to sound similar to "gene.” In his book, Dawkins makes a direct connection ...

Who created the concept of a meme? ›

meme, unit of cultural information spread by imitation. The term meme (from the Greek mimema, meaning “imitated”) was introduced in 1976 by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his work The Selfish Gene.

What is the most iconic meme? ›

One of the most popular memes of all time, “success kid” uses a 2007 photo taken of a little boy with a clenched fist and determined expression. It is almost always used to display small successful moments or “wins” that happen to someone throughout a normal day like getting an extra chicken nugget in a fast-food meal.

Who is the what meme lady? ›

Also commonly referred to as the Rug Doctor meme, The What memes are based on a Rug Doctor ad from sometime in the mid-2010s. The woman in the image stares creepily into the abyss while standing beside a vacuum cleaner.

Who is the guy in the hey girl memes? ›

The Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme is a series of images of Canadian actor Ryan Gosling paired with text that begins with the phrase “Hey girl.” While feminist messages are most closely associated with the Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme, the image and phrase have been used to comment on a variety of subjects including art, ...

Who is the actress in meme boys? ›

Meme Boys : Release Date, Trailer, Cast & Episodes
TitleMeme Boys
GenreComedy, Drama, Other
ActorsGuru Somasundaram, Adithya Bhaskar, Badava Gopi, Namritha, Jayanth, Siddharth Babu, Sri Ganesh, Nikhil Nair, Latha Venkatraman, Devadharshini Balamurugan, Janaki Suresh
DirectorArun Koushik
Streaming onAirtel Xstream, SonyLiv
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