This is the Reason Interrupting is Sexist
It is my extreme pleasure to have Rachel Thompson, author of the bestselling Broken books, as a guest blogger. Rachel and I have many things in common. We are both authors (duh), both geek girls, and both advocates for women. Rachel is a voice of reason and intelligence when it comes to advocating. This piece is a great example of that.
In this post, Rachel takes on the unenviable challenge of discussing interruption and sexism, what it means and even why it happens. Please read carefully before commenting because commenting without reading is akin to interrupting. Interrupting, as Rachel will explain, is often sexist, and is definitely not sexy.
This is the Reason Interrupting is Sexist
Me: I wanted to share this piece I just wrote and…
Him: Oh, you know what you should say? You should discuss how I made that hilarious comment about the Kobayashi Maru. You know, about the no-win scenario.
Me: Well, you don’t even know what I wrote, or if that’s even relevant…
Him: Oh, well, go ahead. I just didn’t want to forget. It’s a great line.
Marriage Interruptus. Twenty-two years of it. I saw the red flag of trouble when we dated but you know, love and shit. Somehow, the Kobyashi Maru ended up quite relevant after all.
One of many reasons he’s now my ex-husband. A minor reason, to be honest, but one that, over time, was indicative of larger issues: inability to listen, disrespect for my abilities and thoughts, money issues. Typical reasons marriages die. Nothing sexist about that…or was it? Sometimes it felt that way.
Is Interrupting Sexist?
Is the act of men interrupting women truly about sexism? Is that a stretch? If you’re a man, you might think so because it’s likely because you’ve been conditioned to talk over women, and probably haven’t given it a second thought. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Well, women interrupt, too!” And you’d be right. We do. Humans interrupt one another. But, at the same ratio in the same situations?
Think about this: have you been on the receiving end of constantly being interrupted and mansplained to? Perhaps you have, in a work situation.
If you’re in a position of leadership, you are likely used to people (male and female) deferring to your voice over theirs as a way to assert your power.
In other words, you might interrupt and not even know you’re doing it.
But we know.
Is Interrupting About Mansplaining?
Some would argue that my ex was unknowingly mired in ‘mansplaining’ mode (defined by the brilliant Rebecca Solnit in her essay “Men Explain Things To Me,” as that “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck”), and I wouldn’t disagree.
I don’t believe my ex intended to be manipulative or hurtful — I believe he simply felt his opinion mattered more than mine in a way that (many, but not all) men do. In my corporate life, I had many male managers who constantly interrupted both the men and women they managed. It was the norm.
The man I’m with now is interruption avoidant to the extreme — it’s something we’re working on with me and with my kids — we’ve all learned to interrupt, I believe, as a coping mechanism, as a way to be heard. This breaks my heart a little.
Examples of Conversation Interruptus
Two recent examples come to mind of egregious conversation interruptus: Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, the video which has now been viewed almost 29,000,000 times as of this writing. West ran onstage, grabbed the mic and said, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!” In his shockingly inappropriate fit of interrupting and ultimately, condescending mansplaining, it’s obvious Kanye was not happy for her. Even Beyoncé looked mortified.
Another example is the recent first Presidential debate in late-September of this year. According to Vox.com, Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times during the debate, often with “petulant asides” while she spoke, such as “Not,” or “Wrong.” Clinton, on the other hand, interrupted Trump 17 times, often patiently waiting for him to finish his interruptions so she could continue her allotted time.
Politics aside, because that is decidedly not the goal of this article, it’s interesting to note that Twitter exploded with women who related to being in that same position as Clinton (albeit in work situations).
Key Interruption Facts
Let’s take a look at these studies and facts (Source: Bitch Media):
— “Men don’t just talk more in face-to-face conversations, but in our media conversations.
— According to a 2012 study by the OpEd Project, women write 20 percent of traditional opinion pieces, 33 percent of online opinion pieces, and 38 percent of college newspaper opinion pieces. Bylines on literary reviews and creative nonfiction also skew male, according to the annual VIDA count.
— And when it comes to coverage of politics, a 4th Estate analysis of 2012 election coverage showed women were vastly underquoted.”
— On Twitter, men are retweeted more often than women. This is from a 2012 study, so I’d love to see updated numbers, but it is interesting to note that the majority of Twitter users are women, yet men are retweeted more often
How do we solve this disease of interruptus? Because it is a dis-ease, isn’t it? When we, at the receiving end are interrupted, we are not at ease; conversations become stilted, uncomfortable and awkward. Feelings are hurt, whether it’s in a personal or business situation.
Do women need to be more like men? Do men need to be more like women?
That’s not likely to happen on a grand behavioral scale, particularly if the perpetrators of the behavior are unaccepting that it exists (most men don’t believe sexism is real, but that’s an entirely different conversation for another day), or are unaware they are even behaving in this manner. So, what’s the answer?
Maybe we need to meet somewhere in the middle. Noted feminist Soraya Chemaly believes women need to stop men from talking over us through the use of these ten little words every girl should learn:
- Stop interrupting me
- I just said that
- No explanation needed.
Chemaly explains that girls are taught to be overly polite and active listeners in conversations, but men are not taught to socialize this way. As the parent of both a boy (age 11) and a girl (age 17), I’ve become very conscious of these words in dealing with men, and in teaching them to my children as well, because we all deserve to be heard.
Or, perhaps, it’s not about interrupting so much as it is more about learning to listen, regardless of gender or role. According to mega-successful businessman, author, job placement expert, and millionaire Cash Nickerson (who is a heck of a nice guy), listening is a martial art.
“Never, ever interrupt someone. It is the cardinal sin of listening.”
I believe the resolution is pretty simple: it comes down to respect. Whether you are aware of it or not, reading non-verbal clues during conversations doesn’t take a genius. Clue in. Your voice is not the only voice. Interrupting someone is rude and it blocks effective communication. So, make a conscious choice and stop interrupting.
- If you are a man reading this, ask yourself this question: how often are you interrupting the women around you? If the answer is ‘a lot,’ do some self-checks. Listen to listen, not to respond. Physically bite your tongue if you must.
- If you are a woman reading this and feel constantly interrupted, try using the terms Chemaly suggests above. I keep them in my Notes on my iPhone. (For what it’s worth, I used “Stop interrupting me,” for years with my ex. Didn’t work.)
If you respect the people you are with, take the time to listen to them. Talking over someone is a true sign of disrespect, doesn’t win you any points in the Relationship Department, and ultimately, is a true no-win scenario.
About Rachel Thompson
She is the author of the award-winning, bestselling Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in both the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Book Festivals), and the bestselling, multi award-winning Broken Pieces (as well as two additional humor books,A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed).
Rachel’s work is also featured in several anthologies (see Books for details).
She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post,The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), Feminine Collective, IndieReader.com, 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly,
Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live weekly Twitter chats, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish (Tuesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST), and#BookMarketingChat, co-hosted with author assistant Melissa Flickinger (Wednesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST).
She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
Originally published at www.hmjones.net.