Of course you’ve been stopped mid-sentence before. What did you think of that person who interrupted you?
Now, think hard: How many of those interruptions came from a guy? Do you start to see a pattern?
A study conducted with 11 pairs of mixed-sex couples found that there were 48 interruptions in the conversation – 47 of them were by the men. Another study also found that there was an average of 2.1 interruptions by men when one was speaking to a female, as compared to 1.8 interruptions if one was speaking to a fellow male.
This is ‘manterruption’, defined by Larissa Johnson as the “unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man” and some women don’t realise it because it’s been done so often that they’ve come to accept it as the norm.
Here’s a famous example of manterruption:
It seems that Donald Trump just couldn’t let Hillary Clinton finish her sentence. Perhaps he did have valid points to make, but isn’t it common courtesy to allow someone to finish her sentence before you start yours?
But ‘manterruption’ isn’t a new phenomenon:
We can still feel the secondhand embarrassment even after so many years (that happened in 2009!).
It feels like a tug of war when a man starts to speak and both of you are trying to control the audiences’ attention and opinion. It seems that he has robbed you of attention when he cuts you off mid-sentence.
Yet it feels more than just robbery. He has taken away your voice and your authority.
Some women refuse to be silenced. They try to retain control by continuing to speak, which is a right. Unfortunately, they’ll be labelled “rude” or “dominating” by their peers. Situations like this happen too often and honestly, we’re quite done with it because the act of ‘manterruption’ implies that:
#1 Our voices and thoughts are worth less than that of a man’s.
When men dismiss our ideas, it means they must think very lowly of it. Generally, people also listen to a male/masculine voice better than a female/feminine voice, which indicates society’s perception of a woman’s intellect.
#2 We don’t deserve to be treated with respect.
An interrupter does what he does to assert dominance over the situation and display his superiority. It’s very rude and shows no respect.
To overcome this, some women came up with creative solutions, such as ‘amplification’. It’s observed that the female White House staffers would take turns to repeat an important point made by a fellow female and acknowledge her. This method was proved to be effective as the President has begun to seek advice from both male and female staff.
While things seem to be improving, we’re still a long way off from being perceived as equals of men in the workplace. It takes more than a small group of women to curb this, so let’s help one another to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
Have you been ‘manterrupted’ before? Share your stories with us!
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Words by Esther Chung.
For more proof of sexism… this time in the workplace, click here!