It started innocently enough, with a poster advertising a Women in Math club event at BYU that featured “data science, topology, number theory and dynamical systems.” It had photographs of the people who would speak at the event.
But because those speakers are men, it was attacked:
…is this satire? pic.twitter.com/xtYTB3rE2F
— rat girl (@stephdriggs) February 21, 2018
The College Fix reports that the school apologized for the optics, which were accidental, but it wasn’t enough for some people:
When the university’s math department apologized for any offense taken Wednesday morning, while saying they were amused by the optics of the poster, that just led to more accusations of being insensitive to women or marginalizing them somehow.
Well, the optics were amusing. You see, some were tweeting out things like this:
The might have change the poster but it seems that there will be 4 dudes talking anyways. This is the definition of mansplanning in a poster…
— Naty Clementi (@ncclementi) February 21, 2018
Yeah, I think the issue here is that a group of men is going to give some sort of workshop to women about women… mathematically mansplaining. Bring in some outside female mathematicians if you don’t have any. 🤦♀️
— Dr. Batman (@BackFromTen) February 21, 2018
Well, the poster was designed by Bryn Balls-Barker, a research assistant at Brigham Young University. A woman.
Unfortunately, this is the world we live in today. People see four dudes speaking to a women’s math club, and automatically are offended. It couldn’t possibly be anything but nefarious. They want to get offended.
The truth is, nothing happened. There was no “mathematical mansplaining” taking place. Balls-Barker argued: “A lot of my success in statistics has come from networking, which has included men, and I think it was a good idea to try to include more voices in your department in the club.” In other words, she invited the male speakers to provide networking opportunities for the women.
Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?
But no. People want to get offended. They’re creating a double standard. As The Fix noted: “Keep in mind that the people attacking Balls-Barker for inviting male professors to address female students — a good networking opportunity, as she said — probably also attacked Vice President Mike Pence for not inviting women to be alone with him in networking and mentorship situations.”
That’s a valid point.
I also believe it’s a valid point to note that these people who are offended over actual experts in the field of math speaking to women interested in math tend to remain silent when feminists — almost universally women — decide to lecture men on masculinity. At least the mathematicians know what they’re talking about, unlike the feminists who build up strawman versions of masculinity in order to tear it down.
It’s just another reason for most of us to roll our eyes and ignore this nonsense.