What’s in a word?

The year is coming to a close, and we’re continuing the end-of-year reflections we began with our most recent blog post.

2018 began with ‘mansplaining’ and ended with ‘he-ja-vu’.

What is that you say?

At the risk of mansplaining myself, let me explain.

In January 2018, the English language grew, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)– among the words added to the OED was the verb ‘mansplaining’: seen when a man explains something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner that is condescending or patronizing.

We’ve all seen examples of this in various venues of our lives, including that of academic or clinical sports medicine.  I know I’ve been guilty of it.

Later in the year, I joined a group of esteemed colleagues in writing an editorial that appeared in BJSM that looked at gender bias in our profession while looking at the phenomenon of ‘manels.’ Now, I don’t believe the OED has given its official blessing to this term, but a quick search on Twitter using the hashtag #manel will alert you to its widespread use in the working lexicon of social media.

[‘manel’ — an all- or predominantly-male panel of experts seen at conferences]

And now, as 2018 ends, we have a new offering of words looking at related phenomena of gender inequities in academic medicine.  This is commentary just published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) for Christmas:  A Lexicon for Gender Bias in Academia and Medicine. It is authored by three social media physicians (one woman, two men) who do great work on Twitter (definitely worth a follow): @choo_ek @DGlaucomfleken @rfdemayo

The commentary (subtitled “Mansplaining is the tip of the iceberg”) is a wickedly funny satire on so many different aspects of the problem of gender inequities in academic medicine.  It is laugh out loud funny  while also delivering a punch to the gut, as the authors propose various new terms for different regressive phenomena. To wit:

“Asheep”  — Opposite of ‘woke’ when it comes to gender equity

“Errors of bromission” — Failure to proactively endorse qualified female candidates for leadership roles and other professional opportunities

and one of my personal favorites

“He-ja-vu” — When a white male leader is replaced by another white male leader followed by another white male leader, and so on.

What cutting and timely satire [definition of which, per the OED, is ‘the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues‘].

I think the authors have penned one of the best commentaries I’ve read in 2018, and I think their satire is ‘spot on.’  I hope that many of their proposed additions to the lexicon show up in social media feeds — for the first step, I think, in combating something festering in a profession like ours is to identify and name it. We’ve all seen cases of “He-ja-vu,” “manels” and “mansplaining” — let’s start naming and sharing the occasions we come across. and perhaps we can change the trajectory of our profession.

In this spirit I want to credit so many of the female physicians and scientists I know who have contributed to CJSM. They are among the many who have shaped that trajectory in a positive direction. They are some of the superstars of the sports medicine firmament, and include (what follows is a ‘convenience sample’ of professionals I know and admire):

Drs. Kate Ackerman and Hamish Osborne (latter is CJSM Associate Editor), at ACSEP meeting in Australia 2018

Kate Ackerman

Sheree Bekker

Holly Benjamin

Alison Brooks

Anastasia Fischer

Christa Janse Van Rensburg

Christina Master

Margo Mountjoy

Jane Thornton

Phathokuhle Zondi

In wrapping this post, I also want to give an end of 2018 stand up and shout out to the IOC 2020 Injury Prevention World Congress Committee which has been busy sifting through hundreds of abstracts and symposia submissions while they prepare for the conference in Monaco in just a little over a year’s time.  Deliberate thought was given to the composition of the 10 women/12 men panel playing this crucial role in determining the content of this all-important conference.  The comments that have been shared with me and others by some of the members of this panel have noted what an impressive and diverse array of proposals have been submitted — demonstrating the contributions to our profession of so many women and men from all corners of the globe.

I am already looking forward to March 2020.

Speaking as a man (but, I hope, not ‘mansplaining’): as 2018 wraps, let’s aspire like the IOC Congress to adopt models of balance in committees and panels when we are in positions of influence.  Let us learn from the creative and satirical words of the emerging lexicon of gender bias, so that we can work on eradicating the underlying phenomena that persist in our society and our profession.

We all — men and women — can play our part in this important mission.

As ever, CJSM and I are interested in your thoughts on this.  Add comments below this post, or find us on Twitter @cjsmonline

About sportingjim
I work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio USA, where I am a specialist in pediatric sports medicine. My academic appointment as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics is through Ohio State University. I am a public health advocate for kids' health and safety. I am also the Deputy Editor for the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

2 Responses to What’s in a word?

  1. Kate Ackerman says:

    Dr. Jim MacDonald is woke! Thanks for all you do!

    • sportingjim says:

      thanks Kate — definitely don’t want to be “Asheep” on this important issue for our society, for our profession
      love the work you do and your contributions to CJSM

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