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Last week’s Scholars’ Convocation

Topics/tags: Grinnell, short

Disclaimer: I have no idea why UTF-8 is not currently working for my site. I apologize for the strange characters. I don’t think I changed anything, but things seem to have changed.

Last week, I attended one of the best Scholars’ Convocations I’ve attended in some time. Kate Manne gave a talk entitled Unassuming: On Epistemic Entitlement, Mansplaining, and Gaslighting. I know, I know; the title alone is enough to garner interest. And I expect you therefore want to know more. However, since she asked that we not take pictures or live Tweet her session, it seems that I should not write much about the content. Nonetheless, I can write a bit about the form and some context, which may explain why I thought it was an excellent Convocation.

I will admit that I had approached the Convocation with some trepidation. I had started to read Manne’s Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny and found it tough to get through. Sometimes I wonder if I’m smart enough to understand deep philosophical arguments. I also hadn’t looked for a title for the Convocation; I just attended on general principle.

But Convocation really was excellent. Certainly, the topic was of interest. As someone who, on occasion, falls into the habit of mansplaining [1,2], I appreciate hearing more about what enables the behavior and how to address it. I really appreciate the way that Manne was able to weave together deep philosophy [4], clear explanations and definitions, and some painfully humorous examples. She also did a wonderful job of answering questions at the end. And the folks who asked questions asked thoughtful, albeit sometimes complex, questions.

My favorite part of the Convocation was something that was outside of Manne’s control. Midway through her talk, she said something like,

I’m not sure how someone who claims to be a public intellectual can make claims about a topic involving women and people of color without appearing to have read, interviewed, or even having appeared to talk to a black woman.

A child in the room, who had been sitting quietly and listening, was clearly so upset by this concept that they immediately broke down into tears. That was clearly the correct reaction.

In any case, it was a great talk, well worth my time. It seems like I should return to Down Girl and try again. And I look forward to reading the book chapter that it sounds like Manne is planning on the topics of this talk.

Thanks to all those who made this visit possible: Susan Ferrari, the Philosophy department, the GWSS [5] committee [6], and others that I’m probably missing.

Postscript: I see that I also posted a musing on Convocation exactly a month ago. I don’t expect to make Convo musings the normal start of each month, but it may still happen.

[1] I can even see myself in the role of the mansplainer in the famous Rebecca Solnit piece. I’ve certainly pontificated on issues that I know primarily from reviews in The New York Times.

[2] Long ago, I recall a comic strip, perhaps Doonesbury, perhaps Tank McNamara [3], that described Male Answer Syndrome, the need of men to provide an answer to anything they are asked, even if they have no clue. I’m not sure what in our society

[3] It turns out that it was Eyebeam. I miss Eyebeam. It remains one of my favorite strips.

[4] At least deep to me.

[5] Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies.

[6] Isn’t it time that GWSS becomes a department?

Version 1.0 of 2019-10-01.