The minute Kamala Harris started losing the debate with Mike Pence last night, you could almost see the thought go through her head: “I need to make this about mansplaining.”
Mansplaining, as we have been forced to learn, is the phenomenon in which a man talks over a woman to explain something to her. The term became popular after a 2008 essay by feminist author Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me,” in which Solnit describes the experience of having her own book explained to her by a man.
Neither Solnit in her essay, nor Kamala in the debates, actually used the term “mansplain.” Neither of them had to: the press did it for them. Kamala knew they would, which is why she punctuated Pence’s devastating responses—many of which went over the allotted time—with little smirky interjections like “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” She was laying the groundwork for girlbosses in newsrooms across the country to snap their fingers, cluck their tongues, and say “Kamala did such a great job standing up to that big mean mansplaining MAN.”
It’s literally all she has. Harris lied again and again during the debate—about her position on fracking, about President Trump’s statements on coronavirus, about Biden’s plan to let Trump’s tax cuts sunset. She refused to answer whether Biden wants to pack the supreme court, because of course he does.
So she came across as what she is: an empty, vindictive scold with nothing to show for herself but smug self-satisfaction. Pence calmly and politely, but assertively, held her feet to the fire and insisted on the truth. Harris eventually positioned herself as a victim of sexism so her cronies in the media would have a way to excuse her miserable inadequacies.
But in the end, one of two things is true. Either, as the Left claims, women in general are just as good as men in general at everything, or they are not. If they are, then they should be able to hold their own in a debate, which always—especially in these tense times—involves talking over your opponent, shouldering your way in to get your points heard, and steamrolling over the moderator to make sure you land the message where it counts. In such a context there is no such thing as “mansplaining,” only two opponents duking it out—you know, a debate. To claim otherwise is contemptibly weak.
But there is another possibility. Maybe, in fact, women and men are different and tend to be good at different things. Maybe, you know, the way people have looked at the world for all of human existence is basically the right one. If so, then we actually can talk about mansplaining, because yeah, in reality, guys can get a little aggressive sometimes. Just like women can get a little scoldy sometimes. We all have our natures, and the two genders have different tendencies to excess that need to be tempered against one another. That used to be obvious, basic knowledge.
We can still live in that world. But if so, we need to concede that actually, maybe politics is basically guy stuff by and large. Maybe the person you want in the room with CCP strongman Xi Jinping isn’t someone who’s going to throw up her hands the minute he gets too mean. There will be exceptions, of course: no one would argue that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was too fragile to hold her own. But then, she would never have been caught dead whining about “mansplaining,” had the term existed at the time. She lived in the real world, the one in which men and women are generally quite different, but in which anyone can do anything if they live up to the same objective standard.
That world, by the way, is basically the West. Even as far back as the 5th century BC, the Greeks tipped their proverbial hats to women like Artemisia I of Caria, a naval leader who put men to shame on the high seas. Today, no conservative does so much as raise an eyebrow when a woman like Judge Amy Coney Barrett rises to a position of power and promise on the basis of her merits alone.
But that is not, in fact, the world the Democrats want to live in. They want a denatured world, one in which our natural gender differences make us foul and must be stamped out. There is a hideously dehumanized, endlessly miserable philosophy lurking just behind Kamala Harris and her petty complaints about Pence’s interruptions. It is a world of social engineering, forcible indoctrination, and painful alienation from one another.
We don’t have to live in that world. We can live in the world where men and women get along—indeed, where they even civilize each other and invite one another into the fullness of themselves. You know, the world God made. All we have to do to get there, is tell the truth.
Spencer Klavan is host of the Young Heretics podcast and assistant editor of the Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind. He can be reached on Twitter at @SpencerKlavan.
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