Earlier this month, the blue-checked U.N. Women Twitter account linked to the definition of “mansplaining,” which is, apparently, “the practice of a man explaining something to a woman in a way that shows he thinks he knows and understands more than she does.” Presumably, what the drafters of this loose definition intended to imply is that a mansplainer thinks “he knows and understands more” precisely because he is a man and his listener is a woman, though how this can be applied generally without a capacity for mind reading is beyond me.
After all, there are all sorts of situations in which a man might think “he knows and understands more than [a woman] does” and be entirely correct. My father and older brother, for instance, are both men but also physicians. If they think in our conversations on medical matters that they know more than I, they are almost always safe in that assumption. Another situation in which a man might assume he knows more than a woman is a vice-presidential debate. On such an occasion, each candidate (regardless of sex) naturally believes that he or she knows and understands key issues better than his or her opponent and must set about demonstrating this to the public.
So, you can forgive my irritation, then, with Kamala Harris, who tried to play the “mansplaining” card with Mike Pence at the vice-presidential debate. “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” she said, in her peculiar affected way, later adding the nauseating condescension, “If you don’t mind letting me finish, we can then have a conversation. Okay?” (Er, senator, it’s a debate, not a “conversation.”) The idea that Harris, a highly accomplished, successful woman, running for one of the most powerful jobs on the planet, is at some sort of intrinsic disadvantage to her male opponent on account of her sex is not only patently untrue but actually — by the Left’s own standards — quite sexist.
But then, the whole “mansplaining” thing isn’t about accuracy as much as political currency. For example, after the vice-presidential debate, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times wrote that Harris, through a “perfectly timed combination of pointed statements, glares, smiles and exasperated sighs,” had exposed Pence for “the overconfident, condescending, weak and scared white man that he really is.” Never mind what Harris was actually saying. No, never mind that at all. Harris is a woman. And, being a woman, ought to be judged purely on the basis of her sex, race, “smiles and sighs.”
In 2016, during the third presidential debate, when Trump referred to Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman,” progressives launched a feminist movement by the same name. (Never mind that Trump had previously called Ted Cruz a “nasty guy.”) Trump, who has indeed made a number of strange remarks about serious women (for instance about Megyn Kelly’s period) has been a gift to the pushers of the patriarchal-presidency narrative. When Hillary lost, it was claimed by countless commentators to be on account of widespread “misogyny.”
Oddly, however, when Judge Amy Coney Barret came along, the standard mysteriously flipped. As we have seen these past few weeks, there has been a peculiar focus on her personal reproductive choices, with NPR and other outlets commenting on her “large family.” There has been an even more peculiar focus on her appearance, with Katie Hill — author of the feminist book She Will Rise, as well as a former congresswoman who resigned after admitting to being unfaithful to her husband and having a sexual relationship with her subordinate — tweeting, “I hate to be someone who judges women on their clothes but I’m sorry ACB’s outfits are all the way too handsmaid-y.”
Female lawyer Leslie McAdoo Gordon, who has over 25,000 followers, wrote, “Women lawyers & judges wear suits, including dresses with jackets, for work. It is not a great look that ACB consistently does not. No male judge would be dressed in less than correct courtroom attire. It’s inappropriately casual.”
One would think that ACB, a woman who smashed the “having it all” glass ceiling, would, by the Left’s own standards, be cause for celebration. But not so. A male writer for Slate called her “a shameless, cynical careerist who believes nobody can stop her,” cast aspersions on her alleged “traditionalist wife-and-mother persona,” and stated that “what’s wrong with Barrett isn’t that she’s too pious, or that she’s submissive in her personal life. It’s that she’s bent on making herself one of the nine most powerful judges in the country, even if she has to do it in the most graspingly partisan and destructive way possible.” So, just to make sure I’m getting what you know and understand so well, sir — the problem with Amy Coney Barret is that she is too ambitious? Righty-ho!
The Left has always had a difficult time with smart and successful women on the right. Such women don’t fit the feminist narrative and so have to be undermined and destroyed (undermining and destroying women isn’t very good for feminist optics, but oh well). What’s deliciously ironic and perversely fun to watch is how blatant their hypocrisy is when, devoid of reasoned opposition, they focus disproportionately on the offending woman’s sex. Remember in 1973 when, during a debate, feminist campaigner Betty Friedan called Phyllis Schlafly a witch? Hilarious!
Anyway, ACB is every inch a woman: in her competency, assertiveness, style and good grace. When Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.) implied during the hearing that she would be some kind of Antonin Scalia bot, she retorted wryly, “I hope you are not suggesting that I don’t have my own mind. . . because I assure you I have my own mind.” With minimal fuss, ACB earns maximum respect. What a gal.