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Academic 'splaining & silver lining

Some mansplainy shenanigans have been afoot lately. As I have frequently alluded to on this forum, I’m finishing a PhD in biology. We have a new student picking up more or less where I’m leaving off, who is tackling the same problem that I am, but from a more clinical angle (she’s coming in as a qualified veterinarian). We’ve had a couple of shared meetings and discussions where we allude to one another.

A couple weeks ago, we had a meeting where a member of faculty was grilling me on an investigation the new student is planning on continuing, and he brought up his very own factoid about why our proposed investigative pathway is pointless: “These species wouldn’t vary much, because they’re members of the same taxonomic group.” He carried on about that for a good minute before it was my turn to talk - at which point I had to say, “Actually, Honk et al. 2005 published paper says that those species could be varying a LOT, in a highly relevant way, and we presented clear and solid evidence of this.” (Should go without saying that I did this politely, but in case any manpologists are reading this, I did this politely.) He did not acknowledge that he could be wrong - he sort of... 1.5-downed, rather than doubled down, but he certainly wasn’t changing his mind.

Then today, New Student texts me to be like, “Dr XYZ doesn’t think this species could be causing problems even though you have an entire chapter of evidence that they do,” and carried on talking over her while she tried to assert that indeed, they probably do cause problems but... oh... okay... /woman in a meeting shuts up/. I ask her if she recalls his reasoning. Turns out Dr XYZ’s logic is “well they’re small and they don’t bother people.”*


So here are two instances of low-grade, low-stakes academic mansplaining from the past couple of weeks. And I am happy about them! Why? What, honk, is the silver lining here?! you may ask. Here are some silver linings, I tell you! First silver lining: like 99% of us, I suffer from crippling impostor syndrome. As in: look, I made a science, but it can’t have been a good science, because *I* made it, so that means all my findings are probably really really obvious and I didn’t do anything new and groundbreaking and I must have wasted so much time and money... Except now we see that my findings are NOT obvious, either ten years ago or now - and therefore, they SHOULD be something of an eye-opener. Second silver lining: if these are the major critical questions I get during a thesis defense, THAT’S FUCKING AWESOME, because I can bloody well answer those and argue them into the ground. That’s way better than “you violated the Statistical Geneva Convention on Line 12 of Article 209b, please explain yourself.” This kind of defense I can do.

*literally what, since when is that good hypothesis formation

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