Recent “mainsplain” tweet incident shows how media whip up woke outrage for clicks

A single tweet that got little attention was enough for the media to drag out across news articles and TV shows to whip up outrage.


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More than providing any kind of a “Twitter treatise” on sexism or lack thereof – or media’s bias one way or another regarding this issue – this tweet by British writer and comedian Andrew Doyle shines a light on the way the cash-strapped digital media operate in this day and age.

And what it reveals is not pretty.

The tweet includes a series of screenshots, including the original, inciting message. According to the mostly British media who picked up the tweet, to blow it up into seemingly legitimate articles – that message came from 24-year-old student Shelby Judge, who did women’s studies for her Masters.

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The original tweet that received little attention and yet caused mainstream news sites to spin it into outrage

And this user was sharing with Twitter that a sexist bias and what is known as “mansplaining” – a condescending way to explain an issue or a problem, typically by a man to a woman – might exist in a series of children’s books published in Scotland as “Mr. Men” – featuring characters such as Mr. Clever and Little Miss Curious, among others.

A host of variously prominent sites soon after eagerly featured articles based on this – even if the clickbait-friendliness of the message here had been tenuous at best.

Some of the news articles that were spurred from the tweet

As Doyle notes – it made no difference that the controversy didn’t even work particularly well for Shelby Judge whose original tweet earned a total of 9 likes and 0 retweets at the time it was picked up by the media.

The Guardian even attempted to “cartoonify” its reporting – possibly to excuse picking the story up in the first place – but what it ends up looking like is a condescending study in (wo)mansplaining to your audience.

Shelby Judge is quoted as saying here that while the books may not contain an overtly sexist message – “it’s an example of these tiny things that build up to create a whole patchwork quilt of sexist iconography that every child of any gender is going to internalize.”

That’s a valid argument – but what about the “patchwork quilt” of online media’s practices, whose quality and credibility is degrading continuously, and who, unlike little known children’s books, have the capacity to negatively impact the lives of every woman, man, and child within their reach?

“This is how the mainstream media fabricates outrage and amplifies woke nonsense,” Andrew Doyle says in his tweet.

One of the commenters posting to the tweet then proceeded to “mansplain” the situation for the rest of Twitter that might be paying any attention:

“Ugh tell me about it. I work in mainstream media, this is basically the entire business model.”


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]