There’s something about the Olympics that brings out the armchair expert in all of us.
It’s so much fun. Suddenly, you have hard-and-fast opinions about obscure sports like water polo and equestrian and you find yourself arguing with the TV about half-point deductions in the diving.
Most of us know that we’re just pretending though. Some people take it a little too far.
I have to say — the invention of the word “mansplaining” was something of a relief to me. Finally, there was a word for that weird, creepy thing men do when they assume authority over you when they have none. “You wrote a book? I read a book once. It was green. The thing about writing books is…”
The word was born from an essay called “Men Explain Things To Me” by Rebecca Solnit. In it, she tells an anecdote where she was at a party when a man, on hearing that she wrote books about the photographer Eadweard Muybridge, told her that she really should read this wonderful new book on Muybridge that he had just read and proceeded to tell her all about this Muybridge guy.
Yes. You guessed it. It was her book he’d read.
The behavior has been around since men could grunt, but it wasn’t until there was a word for it that we could stop being polite. And it’s important that we’re not polite. As Solnit points out, if left unchecked, it means that the voices of the over-confident and under-educated bully the educated ones into self-doubt and silence.
In effect, it means stupid wins.
We can laugh uneasily about it, but it creates a toxic situation when those boorish loud-mouths seize control of the narrative and take authorship of the political space. Because that’s what authority is; it’s taking authorship. Same root word. And when you hand over the authorship of the planet to a buffoon whose mother failed us all when she never once said to him “Oh do shut up Donald,” then you handing over the reins to an idiot with no idea.
The latest victim of the mansplaining phenomena is Dr. Jill Stein. Jill Stein is an incredibly impressive woman. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, graduated from Harvard Medical School, practiced internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital for 25 years and taught medicine at Harvard Medical School. She’s written several books reviewing and aggregating information from scientific studies on medicine, health, and the environment. She’s extremely well-read and quick-witted and even Einstein would be impressed at how she can tweet the most complex of arguments in 140 characters. She truly is a woman for the moment. You’d be a fool to fight her on anything, really. Her grip on foreign affairs is formidable and the truth bombs she keeps throwing in her interviews on Fox and at the Townhall on CNN have even the most jaded of journalists running for cover.
But you’d especially be a fool to fight her on her home-turf of science and medicine. And yet, that is what is happening.
In a coordinated attack initiated by Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, in this email leaked to Counterpunch, the memo stated the following.
“If you have a lot of Facebook friends, you may have recently noticed a high level of activity on your Facebook feed by Jill Stein acolytes. If so, you may find the following links useful to throw them off their game. No warranty, express or implied. You don’t have to prove that Jill Stein is an anti-science conspiracy theorist. You just have to say, ‘There are unanswered questions about whether Jill Stein is an anti-science conspiracy theorist.'”
Done. In one swift movement, the mansplaining attack dogs of the progressive movement were set upon Dr. Jill Stein and her supporters, armed with a swathe of clickbait headlines leading to some scantily-facted attack editorials.
It’s a genius move, really. For a conflicted progressive who’s secretly worried about Trump, throwing even a tiny bit of shade on Jill’s immaculate record will put a wobble on their thing for her. And science is the perfect divide-and-conquer issue amongst progressives too, as progressives are mostly either intellectual know-it-alls or hippies, but rarely both. It splits them right down the middle.
But here’s the thing — Dr. Jill Stein is a doctor. You can tell because her name is Dr. Jill Stein. Isn’t that neat?
So, that should be that. She’s a doctor. Of medicine. An esteemed published one. A Harvard magna cum laude graduate. She’s by far and away the strongest on science of the four candidates. By a long long way. In no universe should this smear stick.
Except, of course, in the mansplaining universe. No amount of diplomas or letters after her name can deter Mr. Mansplain (cue superhero music) from ‘splaining science to a woman of science! He read a book once! It was green. Let him expound on you vociferously while you edge closer to the bar, or the door, or both. You must know about this green book. I think you’ll find it very interesting Miss… what was your name again? Oh, doctor. Well, you should find it very interesting then…
The problem is though, this is their ivory tower. Remember, this is the intelligentsia. These are people who pride themselves on critical reading, hard data, peer reviews, and thorough research, right? But to show such a gross lack of interest in finding any evidence at all to support their assertion that Jill Stein is anti-science belies their purported fondness for the scientific method. To be so gullible as to be taken in by a completely baseless scare campaign and not even show enough cynicism to do a quick Google search before posting — well, it’s all a bit awkward. I hardly like to even point it out to them, poor things. It’s just… embarrassing. Imagine when they work it out! Dear Lord, the cognitive dissonance is going to be horrendous.
So, don’t expect any mea culpas any time soon, hey? To truly grok how meekly they submitted to manipulation will take the kind of soul-searching humility not often seen in the high-brow intellectual crowd. But send them scuttling for evidence and they will be forced to watch Dr. Jill in action, and once they’ve seen her mercilessly dismantle yet another hack talking-head with her scythe-like intelligence, they might just have to change their minds about her.
[Photo by Stephan Savoia/AP]