Friday, March 22, 2013

Study: Women Tend to Speak Less Around Men

I was arguing with a fellow student about his doom and gloom vision of America’s future when he began to speak over me and explain to the professor why he was right.
My heart beat faster and my face turned red as I waited for him to finish but I could not abide. “You just interrupted me for the second time!” I shouted.
“I’m really sorry,” he said.
His response was genuine. I wondered how often, if ever, he thought about the act of interrupting someone. It seemed like the kind of kneejerk impulse that he, and most men I’ve disagreed with, have been groomed for since childhood.
But there were many more group conversations where I stayed silent and let the man interrupt me. That is often how women participate in political conversations, if we participate at all.
An article published in the American Political Review reaffirms this sad truth:
1. When there are fewer women at the table, women are less likely to speak up.
2. When those few women speak up, they will be less influential in doing so.
The idea of women being shut out of conversations, particularly on traditionally male topics, like politics, is not revelatory. Feminists and sociologists have been studying this form of gender inequality for decades.
Yet it isn’t something that we talk about very often. We don’t want to think that the men in our lives, our brothers, fathers, friends and boyfriends, could be ignoring our point of view on a regular basis.
That’s an unpleasant issue to explore but it’s especially relevant now.
Notably, two female Michigan lawmakers were barred from speaking on the House floor after “disrupting the decorum of the House.” The two lawmakers spoke against a bill limiting abortion access.
CNN political contributor Erik Erickson called the DNC the “Vagina Monologues” because…women were speaking.
Even before the lid blew off of debates on women's reproductive rights, elected officials were using gendered language to encourage women to shut it. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was called “vile” and “despicable” after she questioned Florida Congressman Allen West’s stance on Medicare.
Worst of all, she was accused of being unladylike.
And there’s this gem:
This is often when people say, “Geez, ladies. Why can’t you be loud, mean, ego-obsessed bullies? What’s wrong with you?”
Women could take classes to become more assertive, dare we say, aggressive. We could try to break through gender assumptions by straining our vocal chords equal to or more than the other guy, purple veins protruding from our temples, a bride of Frankenstein to complement Jim Cramer.
If we do, there are two possibilities: 1. Everyone will stop talking and stare in fear at the Lady Rage Monster. 2. We won’t solve anything.
I fear the second possibility more than the first. The loudmouth vs. loudmouth method of working through our problems isn’t effective. Our politicians can’t come close to an agreement over how to lower the national debt, raise the debt ceiling or grow the economy.
This doesn’t mean we should assume there are only two types of communication based on gender (If you missed it this nugget of wisdom, women like feelings and men like facts!) and one must be superior. Men are missing out when they are taught to disregard what other people are saying and women need to learn how to stand up for themselves.

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