Discourse

UN Women doesn't think women can achieve in a man's world

Why does UN Women think that men need to change in order for women to fully realize themselves their own abilities, and their own contributions?
Libby Emmons
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

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It's starting to look like UN Women doesn't think women can achieve in a man's world. UN Women seems to believe that men need to change to allow women to succeed. If that weren't the case, why would they undertake such linguistic acrobatics to get men to be something different just to facilitate women?

UN Women is not stranger to language policing, but these new efforts, undertaken with the idea of making space for women, are in effect demanding that men change into a male create devoid of masculinity in order for women to flourish.

First there was the explainer on "mansplaining," that seemingly horrifying phenomenon where a man explains something to a woman who might already know it. Apparently, men should first ask themselves a series of questions before daring to open their mouths around a woman.

The mansplaining explainer instructs men that they "can avoid being a mansplainer by asking yourself these questions: "Did she indicate any desire to heat this information? Is it possible that she knows more about this topic than I do? Did I read the room before starting to speak?"

UN Women gives the definition of the term mainsplaining as "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," or "A patriarchal act that training women in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported confidence."

In essence, it's the man's job to make sure the woman doesn't hear any information she might already know, doesn't hear anything she might not have had a need to hear, and it's the man's job to bolster the woman's sense of self-confidence by assuming that she already knows everything and can do with no new information.

None of this is a man's job. In fact, if a woman hears a man speaking information that she doesn't feel pertains to her, she could just say so. Also a woman should know that in the event a man knows something that she also knows, and expresses that information to her, perhaps unaware that she knows it too, that's no reason to self-doubt or question herself. Shouldn't we, instead, teach women not to base their sense of self-worth on men and men's perception of their knowledge and ability?

Why does UN Women think that men need to change in order for women to fully realize themselves their own abilities, and their own contributions?

It was after the US vice presidential debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, however, that a new term surfaced. UN Women came up with the concept of the "manterruption," which is the "unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man," or "a patriarchal act that is linked to a man's sense of epistemic entitlement that makes it very natural to speak over others, and to hold the floor for longer than is proper."

Note, specifically, that this was in regards to a debate between two people who wish to be vice president of the United States. For UN Woman, Harris' and Pence's sex are more important to how they should treat each other than are the stakes of the debate. The going idea is that Pence was wrong to interrupt Harris as much as he did during the debate, and that Harris, who continually told the Vice President that he was interrupting her, was in some way mistreated. She wasn't.

Harris was fully and completely capable of holding her own during the VP debate. The fact that her best rebuttals to Pence's assertions as to her and presidential hopeful Joe Biden's record was to complain about his demeanor was not Pence's fault nor his problem. Pence did interrupt Harris, but this is not a problem of men versus women, or his thinking less of Harris because she is female, this is a battle for leadership. If women are to be equals, as women have been attesting for decades or more is their wish, then they should be given no special treatment on a debate stage, their femininity should should not be considered a liability by their opponents, or something to be looked out for.

UN Women, which claims to advocate for women, is doing what it usually does, which is infantilize women and make men responsible for not only women's physical well-being but their psychological well-being as well. The idea here is that women are so fragile that they can't speak up for themselves in the presence of men, and need men, instead, to judge what they are saying and how they are saying it lest the women's fragile ego is bruised.

If women have to face those scary men and their scary opinions, it might have a negative affect on their ability to communicate, says UN Women. The idea that men should prevent themselves from mainsplaining, or manterrupting, demands that men put a woman's sex first in considering how to speak to her. But neither men nor women should not concern themselves with the sex of the person to whom they are speaking before they open their mouths.

Not content to merely create new words that belittle both men and women for their sex, UN Women had further instructions for men, which was to stop being masculine. Their post on masculinity combats those traditional elements of masculinity that UN Women has determined are toxic. Instead, they advisee, men should relish their vulnerable sides, their sensitivity, their roles as caretakers, and other non-masculine traits.

To further explain, they counter that instead of "boys will be boys," the catchphrase should be "boys should be held accountable."

It is as though UN Women thinks supporting women means denigrating men, their contributions and their masculinity. Women's strength does not come at the cost of men's strength. Women are fully capable of speaking up for themselves, touting their own accomplishments, stating their own achievements, and doing their own work to succeed. Women don't need men to intellectually tie themselves in knots to make sure that women have the space they need to feel confident. UN Women should spend more time giving women the tools they need to be as effective as they want to be, not telling men how to step back, be quiet, and take it easy on those poor little women.

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