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Academic ‘Mansplaining’ 101

June 8, 2017
 
 

“Let her speak, please!” That’s what a member of the audience yelled at last weekend’s World Science Festival in New York during a panel on "Pondering the Imponderables: The Biggest Questions of Cosmology." Video of the incident has since gone viral, with many calling it a prime example of "mansplaining" and general sexism.

Veronika Hubeny, a professor of physics at the University of California, Davis, was the only woman on the panel, moderated by the philosopher Jim Holt. She didn’t get much of a chance to speak during the first hour of the discussion, and when she finally did begin to talk, Holt cut her off several times and described some of her own theories for her -- hence the “mansplaining" charges. An audience member finally asked him to let Hubeny speak, to applause and cheers. (That audience member, an actress and disability rights activist, has since said on social media that she spoke up because no other scientist had.) Holt said he was getting heckled but apologized for talking "too much."

As video of the panel began to circulate online, Hubeny reportedly addressed it in a Facebook comment, saying, “If you allow yourself to enjoy the beautiful things that really matter, if you don’t let social or peer pressure dissuade you from pursuing a field which appeals to you, then no pettiness or childishness or boorishness that you encounter can harm you so much. Please understand that I’m not trying to say that sexism in science is a myth. It is real and we should all aspire to diminish it. But I am trying to say that it need not pose as much of an impediment as you might fear and that you might be in more control over its influence yourself than you might think.”

The exchange starts at about one hour into the video below.

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