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Pinky Webb's Hair Flip Shows How Women Can Fight 'Mansplaining'

Hair flips are powerful.
by Ara Eugenio
Jan 21, 2021

Broadcaster Pinky Webb flipped her hair during a testy interview with a top Palace official and was anointed queen of the internet. Twitter soon used GIFs of her gesture as a retort to people who think they knew better.

The CNN anchor's hair flip appeared unintentional, but has been used in the past by women against men who talk to them in a condescending and patronizing tone. It's called "mansplaining," UP Diliman Sociology professor Ash Presto said in a tweet.

Before Webb, a candid photo of Vice President Leni Robredo paved the way for viral hair flips. Twitter has also praised women journalists who refused to take mansplaining on air, like ABS-CBN's Karen Davila.

"She was just trying to keep her cool.. It was a way for her to cope with the stress [of being in that situation],” said Nathalie Verceles, a professor at the UP Center for Women Studies.

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Two on the hot seat

It's Webb's job to squeeze stories out of her interviewees. On Wednesday, she had Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, a UP alumnus. The topic was the Department of National Defense's abbrogation of its agreement with the state university that required advance notice for troops going to campus.

Things got heated when Webb asked Roque about a "challenge" from UP Journalism professor Danny Arao. Roque said Webb shouldn't have asked him about it.

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"I have to highlight the fact that I think the question on Arao was unfair. In the first place, why am I duty-bound to follow anything that Professor Arao says?" he said. 

Webb tried to ease the tension: "I am trying to be fair, Secretary Roque".

Then she did that hair flip, a gesture first popularized in the early 2000s by a shampoo commercial. She was trend number #1 on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. 

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Why was it mansplaining?

The exchange brought to mind the ordeal of actress Liza Soberano, who was called out on Facebook by an army general for speaking at a forum organized by a left-wing group.

Roque mansplained Webb when he aggresively interrupted the broadcaster despite her efforts to explain her line of questioning, Presto said.

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"You made it appear as if it's compulsary for me to follow him," Roque explained how the exchange went in his perspective, even saying that he spent more time in UP and is a more senior academic than Arao, asserting his superiority. 

"See his overconfidence in interrupting her and aggressively insisting what she meant— despite her dignified clarification? It’s the audacity to hijack discursive spaces afforded only by a society that says men can take up spaces, so make the women shrink," Presto said.

"To me, he just kept on deflecting because he was pushed to a corner. Categorical kasi dapat sagot mo, do you denounce lang naman, eh," said Verceles.

And so, Webb, in defense of herself, said: "Secretary Roque, just to be very clear about this. It was a tweet that I read and I asked for your reaction if you would denounce it...I am trying to be fair, Secretary Roque. I would have never meant that."

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