Thank you, Martha!

ABC’s Martha Raddatz along with former Bush White House aide Sara Fagen shut down George Stephanopolous after he made the ridiculous suggestion that Vice President Mike Pence was mansplaining Senator Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday.

Raddatz, a correspondent for the network, pointed out to her colleague that Harris is the vice presidential candidate and she should be able to hold her own. Yes, her place on the ticket is historic, but she doesn’t get a pass. 

Raddatz is right. 

Calling interruptions or criticism of a female candidate by a male challenger in a debate mansplaining or manterruptions is in itself sexist. (Mansplaining is when a man comments on or explains something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and inaccurate or oversimplified manner. Manterruption is when a man interrupts a woman who is talking.) If we want men and women to be treated as equals, then let them engage as equals, interruptions and all. 

Here’s the story

During a post-debate political discussion, Stephanopoulos wanted to run with Rahm Emanuel’s suggestion that the way VP Pence “attacked” Senator Harris does not help Republicans with women. He asked Sara Fagen, an entrepreneur and former staffer in the George W. Bush Administration, to respond to that criticism by saying, “A lot of people were noticing some mansplaining going on tonight.”

He probably thought she would agree. Instead, Fagan and Raddatz unleashed a one-two-punch that knocked out the whole mansplaining-of-female-candidates narrative.

First, Sara Fagan knocked down the charge against Pence:

I don’t know. I didn’t see it that way, George. It didn’t come across to me. I do think that he should have stopped talking a little quicker, but I don’t think he was disrespectful of either woman.

Later, Raddatz knocked out the whole idea that a woman can’t handle the back-and-forth of a debate:

When I hear people … talk about mansplaining and talk about these things with Kamala Harris and [say], ‘A man shouldn’t interrupt her and it’s going to look bad’ … Kamala Harris is a vice-presidential candidate. She should be able to stand up for herself.

It was a well-deserved rebuke.

Stop with the gender-card nonsense

In a debate, two people can reasonably and respectfully interrupt each other to challenge a statement, call out an inconsistency, or clarify their position. Not only is this part of politics, but it’s an important way for voters to tease out the differences between the candidates or discover important facts. Interruptions in debates would not be an issue if the two candidates were male.

Stephanopoulos, like many men who throw around these empty phrases, believed he was earning points with women on the left and right. Terms like mansplain and manterruption are constructs meant to make women think they are constantly victims of sexism and misogyny by (white) men. 

In reality, the hyper-focus on interruptions during the debate is a nice distraction from substance, the candidate’s positions, or questions they dodged during the night. Senator Harris dodged questions about court-packing and seemed to waffle on whether a Biden-Harris Administration would end fracking. 

Both Harris and Pence ended up speaking for almost the same amount of time according to a CNN analysis, undercutting any idea that she was somehow disadvantaged.

And let’s not forget that during the Democratic primary debates, women–including Senator Harris–were among the top culprits for interrupting other speakers including other women according to a Washington Post analysis.

So let’s stop with the faux women’s victimization. Let men and women debate.