Remember how the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards were marred, when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift in the middle of her acceptance speech and didn’t let her finish? This incident was publicized as the ‘wildest moment’ in the history of MTV Video Music Awards by Rolling Stones.
During the United States Vice Presidential Debate of 2020, one of the remarkable moments happened when Kamala Harris stood up for herself when Mike Pence interrupted her. She responded to the then Vice President with a smile by saying-"Mr. Vice-President, I'm speaking… If you don't mind letting me finish, then we can have a conversation."
These were few of the most public examples of ‘Men interrupting Women’ or ‘Manterruption’. The term ‘manterruption’ was coined in 2015 by Jessica Bennett of Time magazine which simply means unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man. Ask any woman around you and they must have experienced this common phenomenon at the workplace at least once! A woman might pitch an idea, but a man repeating the same thing in a louder voice and authority will be praised for it.
How often do men interrupt women?
A recent study conducted in 2017 by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law found that male Supreme Court Justices interrupt female Justices approximately three times as often as they do other male Justices.
Why do men interrupt women?
Manterruption is a standard operating procedure in our society because men believe women are less important. The moment a woman starts speaking, men do not pay attention to them. They are convinced that their ideas are far more valuable and they become extremely eager to express them, thus triggering the interruption. This is a belief born out of the male privilege and men think that they have the freedom to patronize women, be condescending towards them, and ignore common civility with women. And most of all men think they have the freedom to interrupt a woman who is talking, especially at the workplace. Men were never told that this is wrong and somewhere along the line they not only learned this behavior of Manterruption but also convinced themselves that this behavior is also acceptable.
What can women say when interrupted?
Women are ingrained with the tendency to retreat if their ideas are unwelcome. Usually the minority at the workplace, women are subjected to the unwritten rules of staying quiet when ‘men talk’. And if they dare to voice their opinion anyway, they will be interrupted!
Here are few things you can say the next time you get interrupted by a man-
1. If you feel angry at being interrupted, say so.
2. If you are interrupted while pitching an idea, say-
- “I’m not quite done making my point. I really want to get through these ideas. Would that be okay?”
- “Let me get my thoughts out there first, and then we can open things up for questions and suggestions.”
- “I value your suggestions. But, could you let me finish my thoughts, and then we’ll have an open conversation about them? Thank you.”
3. If you are labeled as emotional, say thank you and keep talking.
4. If a man mocks you for your ideas, smile gently and ask him “What are you afraid of?” And keep talking.
It takes courage for a woman to stand up for herself in the patriarchal society, where women are seen as less competent. But it has to start, so why not here and now. Start saying ‘no’ to being interrupted constantly and consistently, until this universal phenomenon of men interrupting women stops.