Male undergrad manpslains feminist epistemology to eminent professor of same
I was presenting recently at a philosophy conference called Philopolis in Montreal. It’s a fairly new conference, bilingual, includes participation by all 4 universities in Montreal, -UQAM, UdeM, McGill and Concordia- completely volunteer-run , but nonetheless,this year they managed to get world-renown feminist philosopher and MIT professor Sally Haslanger as a keynote speaker! I was incredibly excited, as were many of my friends to hear Dr. Haslanger talk, especially since Philopolis exists precisely, in part, because philosophy students wanted to address the lack of attention to feminist philosophies in current curricula. Great talk. “Epistemic housekeeping and the idea of a ‘Masterpiece’ .” During the question period, quite a few people asked really interesting questions, and then this young man, looked to be about 19, raises his hand and proceeds to TELL Sally Haslanger what feminism is, what is isn’t and how it should be understood, and why feminist epistemology doesn’t make sense!! Two seats away from me, Dr. Al-Saji, McGill’s philosophy chair is signaling volunteers to have them wrap up this guy’s comments. Sally Haslanger is infinitely gracious. So then manplainer guy waits around and attempts to take more of her time after the talk to continue giving Sally Haslanger the benefit of his wisdom. Next day, one of PhD students runs into mansplainer dude in between panels, and he tells her he felt he HAD to speak, even though he felt sure people would not agree with him, because feminists needed to be set straight about how philosophy should be!!!! I absolutely swear this is true, i wouldn’t think it could be, but yes, this 19-year-old ignoramus felt so intensely privileged and entitled that it made sense for him to have these kind of interactions with one of the philosophers who have helped define feminist epistemology, and who has probably been doing philosophy longer than he has been alive.
As a senior PhD student, I had the opportunity to teach my own class. One of my students was a Masters student in another department on campus, and all the other students were undergrads. I was taken aback when I went to grade his midterm exam, as I noticed that he had scribbled notes to me in the margins about what he thought were ‘good’ questions, and what he thought were ‘bad’ questions to have been asked on the exam, with suggestions for rephrasing them in ways that would apparently have been more acceptable to him. It was clear that he had put more time and effort into deconstructing my exam (and giving me tips for improvement) than he did actually answering the questions, because he didn’t do very well.
I was a TA once
I’m an assistant professor and Ph.D. at a master’s level institution, and am 40+ years old, with 14 years’ experience teaching or TA-ing college level courses. Last year I had a male undergraduate student, age twenty, who often stopped in my office to chat. He explained that he didn’t believe in hierarchy, so he just enjoyed “sharing ideas” with me. In class he refused to raise his hand but rather burst in with both questions and answers at least ten times per class session (in a class of 70+ students).
I spoke to him a couple of times about his conduct in class and asked that he back off to leave some time and attention in class for the other 70 students. He also didn’t believe in self-restraint, but he said he would try that as a “favor” to me. When I handed the midterm exam back in class, I asked if students had any questions about the correct answers or how it was graded. The other students asked a smattering of reasonable questions and were ready to move on with class. This student began to argue with me about every single question he missed, insisting that the questions were poorly written. (I am completely open to learning that a particular question was weak, but I don’t believe that every question he got wrong was my fault.) I finally cut him off and asked him to come to my office to discuss it further. After class he came in and proceeded to lecture me about how my exam was badly written, and offered to help me write a better exam for the final. He was qualified, he explained, because he had “been a TA once and had written some exam questions.” This student became a fixture in my semester, coming in to my office to give me “advice” on how better to teach my classes. It was outrageous, but somehow it wore me down and I actually ended up crying in one of these sessions.