August 16, 2013

"Mansplaining" Goes Mainstream And MSNBC Host Is Called Out

I am sure Lawrence O’Donnell didn’t expect his guest to fight back, but she did - with gusto!  Julia Ioffe had been invited on his show as a Russian expert.  She is a senior editor for The New Republic who was previously a correspondent based in Moscow for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.  She speaks fluent Russian.  The segment was about whistleblower Edward Snowden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. O’Donnell insisted Putin had complete control of the situation from the beginning.  Ioffe disagreed saying, “You overestimate the Russians.  I think in general people who have not been to Russia tend to overestimate their abilities.”  Lawrence called her statement “absurd” and every time she tried to speak she was cut off.  He was so heated that she was unable to get a word out to expand on her comment.

She went home that evening and wrote a letter for her New Republic readers,  “Dear Lawrence O’Donnell, Don’t Mansplain To Me About Russia”.  She said in part, “Tonight I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show..what bothers me is that look, your producers take the time to find experts to come on your show, answer your questions and hopefully clarify the issue at hand.”  She then continues to make her points about Russia that she was unable to do on the show.  She ends with, “The problem is that this was not in the ranting comments section...and if you do not have the good sense and education or, hell, the reporting experience to know better then just let the guests you invited onto your show speak - otherwise, don’t waste my fucking evening.”  The entire letter and video can be seen here:

Why is this important? Women go on these shows all the time and get treated like Julia was treated.  But she fought back, in public and called out “mansplaining”.  Of course mansplaining has been going on for hundreds of years, but the term itself is relatively new.

In 2008 Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay called, “Men Explain Things To Me”. She talks about how she and a friend ended up at a party.  They were about to leave but the host wanted to talk to her.  He had heard that she had written a few books and he asked her “what are they about?”. She spoke about her most recent book called, “Rivers Of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge And The Technological Wild West”. It is about the annihilation of time and space and the industrialization of everyday life.  He cut her off to tell her about a book that had just come out and smugly went on about this important book.  Her friend tried to interrupt him to say, “That’s her book”.  But he would not be deterred and continued on.  Her friend had to say, “That’s her book” four times before he hesitated.  As Solnit says, “That I was the author of the very important book it turned out he never read, just read about in the New York Times Book Review a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was speechless - for a moment, before he began holding forth again.  Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we have never really stopped.”

“It is the presumption 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 that harassment on the street does, that this is not their world.  It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence..the out and out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered.”  

Rebecca never used the term “mansplaining” in her essay but it gave birth to the term.  It started as one of those things that women say to each other but then became mainstream.  Now Lawrence O’Donnell and MSNBC know it too.

But mansplaining of course does not only happen in academia but in all areas of life.  Including of course in politics on the right and of course on the left.  These young socialist feminists today have no mercy as they fight back which is why one of the most popular sites is “Mansplained Marxist”.

By the way Julia Ioffe has written one of the best in depth articles about what it is like to be a member of the LGBT community in Russia. All those gay male bloggers in this country who think they know what is best should first listen to what our community in Russia is doing. 

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