I feel a tickle in my throat during the gathering.
I reach for my water and I acknowledge my exhaustion — both mentally and physically. I sigh and smile with tight lips as I begin to speak, but stop, prematurely and abruptly. I re-live the moments where I should have said this and I should have urged that but instead, I spent my evening being muted and muffled.
Manterrupted is when a woman is unnecessarily interrupted by a man. Think: Kanye interrupting Taylor at the VMAs in 2009 but on a much broader spectrum in terms of frequency, routine, and regularity. The phenomenon of male companions who dominate conversations at parties, one-on-one, in the workplace, and in group situations occurs more often than not.
As an adult, and a loud-mouthed feminist, I have begun to note all of the times I am interrupted by a male and have zeroed in on how much I have had to loudly articulate my opinions — physically straining my vocal chords — to be heard. The response often causes me to appear “shrill” or “erratic” as I clumsily word vomit my opinions or ideas before being zipped up and shuttled towards submissive stereotypes. This being said, my shrillness is not erratic. My high pitched voice and my sore throat is in response to the manterruptions and gender confidence gap which has caused me, and many other women, to feel inadequate in conversations fueled my males.
This isn’t something us women are imagining either. Research shows that women speak less in the workplace and are prone to being interrupted by their male colleagues by 75% in the average meeting according to a 2012 study.
In addition to being hushed, women are largely ignored in conversations. After a woman expresses a thought, a man — only a few moments later — will claim credit for the statement and explain it to the interested and intrigued group, furthering the establishment of dominance. We call this bropropriating.
A few months ago at a staff meeting, I was the only female present in a group of five men. My boss, a supportive and encouraging individual, had to repeatedly beg the other men in the group to, “Let Nicole speak.” An unconscious gender bias covers all generations and is taught from an early age in school, by our parents, and adopted by our peers. Eventually, we bring these unconscious biases into our adult life and workplace.
If you find yourself in a situation where interjections are evident and misogynistic conversation detracts from your self worth and clear opinion, assert your voice, create a strong physical presence, and utilize clear and concise language.
Some specific tips include:
- Have the confidence to interrupt the interrupter. Say “Let me finish” or “Stop!” to enforce the importance of your voice during a conversation.
- Support female speakers in a group setting and encourage more female voices.
- Practice “power postures” which include leaning in, using your hands, and asserting yourself with your body.
Here is a hint for my male colleagues: My conversation with you is not a competitive gain. My purpose at the table is not to be interrupted, and my ideas are not meant to be twisted and claimed as your own. I am knowledgeable, I am beautifully confident, and my voice — for all of the raucous that it brings — will continue to speak through it all.