December 12, 2018 | ° F

Manslamming study is not scientifically accurate


Should established scientific and journalistic practices be ignored in favor of emotionalism and moral panic? The Targum apparently believes they should, evident by the front page news story, “Alumna conducts city “manslamming” test.”

The article concerns Beth Breslaw, a 2012 graduate of the university, who conducted her own “social experiment” by walking around crowded streets in New York City and refusing to move out of the way of oncoming pedestrians. She then claims that a “significantly higher number of men” bumped into her than did women.

No numbers are reported as to how many men or women were bumped in to, and yet the conclusion is drawn that manslamming is an example of a “gender-based microaggression” (a vague and unsupported term). The Targum also writes that the experiment “showcases the prevalence of male privilege in the most minute aspects of society. Breslaw’s experience suggests that some men might be oblivious to space entitlement, but others may forcefully defend male privilege by teaching her a lesson.”

Just how is this conclusion drawn?

This article is a perfect example of using unverifiable, uncontrolled, anecdotal evidence to support claims with a political slant. Breslaw is no scientist. Neither is she a researcher. According to nymag.com, which originally posted her story, she is a “labor organizer,” which lends credence to the idea that she has a certain agenda and that her “experiment” is, correspondingly, probably full of her own biases.

Why wouldn’t she report a single statistic? Did she target an equal number of men and women? How did she choose which men and women to slam into? Clearly, city streets are so crowded that she would have had to pick and choose to some extent. What is her height compared to the average city pedestrian? If she is significantly smaller than the average man, it would make sense that on a busy day she would feel “invisible,” as she reported. Did she control for pedestrians who seemed stressed or in a hurry, and vice versa? Did she use a representative sample size?

None of these questions are answered in the article. Bad science. In fact, there are no checkable facts reported at all! And due to this lack of verifiable reporting, for all the reader knows, the entire “experiment” could have been fabricated. Essentially, the article amounts to hearsay, an opinion piece. And yet the Targum thought it significant enough to report as front page news, and thus give the experiment factual, non-opinion credibility. Bad journalism.

But, of course, I can’t make a judgment about the legitimacy of the test because, as the experiment demonstrates and article stresses, I’m a white man who downplays anecdotes like these to assert my male entitlement.

Aldo Mayro is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in economics and philosophy with a minor in cognitive science


Aldo Mayro

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