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Enough with Mansplaining the Women’s March, Thank You Very Much

Rose Maura Lorre has written for Salon, Esquire, The New York Times, Vice, Civil Eats and several other publications. In her past lives, she’s been an award-winning restaurant critic, a cocktail blogger, a trivia emcee and a JV volleybal...

The New York Times op-ed page is a wretched mess of mansplaining this week

How is it even possible to lose a dignity war against a confessed pussy-grabber? Who would even argue that antiquated flag-waving and proper manners are what’s needed most at a time when so many Americans’ basic Constitutional rights are being stripped away? Do women, their most pressing concerns and the way they choose to give voice to those concerns even matter, like, at all?

These are just some of the unanswerable, crazy-making questions you may be asking if you made the mistake of reading The New York Times’ op-ed pages this week in the wake of the world’s largest-ever political protest.

In a dizzying one-two punch of mansplaining asininity, regular Times columnists David Brooks and Frank Bruni — the respective boiled turnip and SnackWell's sandwich cookie of the Gray Lady’s opinion section — took last weekend’s Women’s March on Washington and its 600-plus satellite marches to task for focusing on the wrong issues and for doing so too impolitely. “These marches can never be an effective opposition to Trump,” Brooks harrumphed on Tuesday in his column, "After the Women’s March." (Hilariously, that proclamation arrives a mere two sentences after Brooks praises the same events as “a phenomenal success and an important cultural moment.”) Why can’t these marches be an effective opposition to Trump? Because “the movement focuses on the wrong issues.” Which issues are those? “Reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.” What’s wrong with them? “They tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities.”

I honestly never thought a New York Times columnist (even one of the bad ones!) could make my mind boggle as much as President Malignant Yam Head when he embarks on one of his conspiracy theory-fueled, run-on sentences, but these are cray-cray times. It’s hard to decide where to start unpacking Brooks’ breathtaking litany of chauvinistic assumptions and falsehoods, so how about here: Obamacare signups have been highest in states that voted for Trump. Climate change is also geographically more likely to obliterate the homes and livelihoods of those in red states. You can argue that Trump supporters don’t care about, believe in or vote with regard to climate change, but registering for health care is a deliberate act; by enlisting in plans brought about by the Affordable Care Act, millions of them essentially voted in favor of Obamacare, and since the election, several have even gone on TV begging the new president not to take it away.

As for equal pay and reproductive rights, these are immaterial only if you don’t acknowledge that 50.8 percent of the U.S. population is female. Or that, in 40 percent of U.S. households, a woman is either the single or the primary breadwinner. Or if you believe that “the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing at the social fabric” — an issue Brooks can’t believe didn’t make it onto any protest signs — necessitates that women’s fight for equal pay takes a backseat to first making sure Midwestern menfolk are handed back the unionized manufacturing jobs their granddaddies once had.

The New York Times op-ed page is a wretched mess of mansplaining this week
Image: Aleesha Woodson/StyleCaster

In short, Brooks tsk-tsks the Women’s March for dwelling in self-marginalizing “identity politics.” (Side note: Identity politics are civil rights.) The protesters should have donned patriotic red, white and blue, he contends, not crass “pink pussy” hats.

Here, his patronizing stance dovetails with that of Frank Bruni. In his op-ed, "The Wrong Way to Take on Trump," Bruni warns that a man who publicly mocked the physical disability of a Times colleague could still “win... the battle between incivility and dignity.” Bruni’s proof of this existential and possibly electoral threat includes SNL writer Katie Rich’s crude joke-tweet about Barron Trump, Madonna’s F-bomb-laden rant at the Women’s March on Washington and that viral video where neo-Nazi Richard Spencer gets punched in the head.

There’s an old saw in media: Three things make a trend. Meaning, if you want to write a piece about how such-and-such is in vogue or on the rise, find a minimum of three examples of that such-and-such. Bruni tries employing that hacky strategy in his piece with shoddy results. He positions one comedian’s groan-worthy joke as “what passes for impassioned advocacy” (huh?) rather than describing it accurately as, well, one comedian’s groan-worthy joke. Similarly, he attempts to center Spencer’s assault and the schadenfreude many liberals felt watching the footage of it as primary evidence of the anti-Trump movement’s self-sabotaging rudeness. I wonder how Bruni would lecture Black Lives Matter organizers whose protests have drawn — as all large crowds do, political or not — fringe stragglers with a yen for chaos and violence.

“What a wasted opportunity to try to reach the many Americans who still haven’t decided how alarmed about Trump to be,” Bruni whines about Madonna’s speech. The same complaint should be energetically levied against those who choose to squander their high-profile journalistic real estate on petty nit-picking, misguided agendas and insulting requests for women to just play nice.

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