March 14, 2018

She Speak: The Undermining Coversational Experience of Himterruption



On mansplaining, hepeating, hephrasing, himterrupting and himpathy 

The awareness of misogyny in our every day social culture is on the rise. From calling out cat callers to finally bringing powerful, privileged men guilty of decades of systematic, habitual predatory behavior to justice, society at large is becoming, in popular terminology, woke. A part of that social consciousness has been giving a name to every day reflections of patriarchy, sexism and misogyny in order that they might be more tangibly identified, called out and subsequently dealt with.

Of course where there is feminism there is backlash, and many of the phrases that have been named: the mansplain, the hepeat, the manspread to name a few, have also been (often intentionally) ill-defined by those that vehemently resist feminist effort to draw attention to the issue they represent.

Today I will explain the definition of these words - some of them of my own creation - the origins of the ones I did not myself create, and attempt to communicate how these words are actually experienced by women in a response to repeated attempts to minimize these gender asymmetrical phenomena.

(Note: The only word I will not be exploring in depth is "manspread," because this article will focus on the conversational effect of gender asymmetrical speech habits. However, for those who do not know and/or have not seen the witty ads on the NYC subways, a "manspread" is when a man sits with his knees dramatically spread apart in a public area such as a subway, bus, bench, etc. - presumably to accommodate his genital area - such that he ends up occupying the space of more than one seat and, effectively, prevents an efficient use of the shared space. While children and adults alike are criticized for not taking their backpacks off their backs, and women are criticized if they rest a handbag on an adjacent seat (even if they demonstrate a willingness to move it once the space becomes crowded), the "spread" usually goes unaddressed (except by the MTA) as it seems to call a certain necessity due to biological manhood into question, despite the man's obvious ability to close his legs.)

Before I jump into definitions I want to briefly touch on one quick thing, and coin a phrase while I'm at it.

The Angry Feminist Paradox

The rest of this article will include definitions of words made up of other words with the words "man", "he", and "him" inserted into them. There will be tongue in cheek humor. There will be instances where annoyance and outright anger is expressed. Even in though in the earlier drafts of this, I did in fact write "not all men", I have since deleted it. Because that is not the point.

This article is about the fact - NOT my hormonal, female, emotional perception, but the fact - that men overwhelmingly speak more than women in public spaces. While in personal conversations women are said to talk more, while we may in fact use more words, men still dominate the conversation in terms of time spent talking. Men interrupt more than women, and interrupt women more than men. I have had to tell loved ones - family members, close friends, intimate partner - to stop interrupting me, and usually I am made to feel via some backhanded apology as though I am being aggressive or oversensitive.

This isn't about good men versus bad men. These phenomenons happen in our culture because we are all raised in it. Yes, there are good men out there, not as in "a few" good men. Lots of them. My father is one, my friends are some more, my boyfriend is an incredibly good man and yet - guess what - they all have at least one of the conversational habits in this article, some of them more than one. Not because they're bad, not even because they mean to do these things, but because it is something that so often goes unacknowledged that they don't even realize there is a problem to begin with, let alone that they're contributing to it.

So while I talk about these things I'm not going to sound too happy about it, but guess what? I'm talking about what it feels like being treated like a child as an adult, being constantly interrupted, having other people take credit for something I just said five minutes ago. Any normal person would be upset about these things, so I'm not interested in the backlash for being an angry feminist. We live in a world of enduring gender inequality and oppression where women's voices are not as welcome as men's in the workplace, in public space, or even sometimes in their own kitchens.

So no, I'm not happy about. It's not a happy topic, no need to serve it with a smile.

Now then...onto the article...

Mansplain

Though I have heard it ill-defined as any time a man corrects a woman, this is not what it means to mansplain, nor is necessarily mansplaining every time a man explains something to a woman. While the term is usually credited to Rebecca Solnit for her 2008 essay Men Explain Things To Me, she maintains that she didn't coin it. The experience she describes, however, does serve to illustrate mansplaining perfectly. The correct definition is as follows:


When a speaker (usually a man) explains something to someone (usually a woman) in a condescending manner. The speaker need not be an expert in the matter (and often isn't) but assumes that he is more knowledgeable in the subject area than the woman he proceeds to explain it to. Though the presumption is usually unconscious, it is based solely on gender. The experience of condescension is often punctuated by the woman in question actually being knowledgeable herself in these instances of excessive explanation, equally, if not more so than the speaker.

In Men Explain Things To Me Solnit recalls a conversation following a book party in which a man insisted that they talk about her writing. He inquired about her writing as though he'd been asking a grade school student how their flute lessons had been going. When she started to talk about a book she'd recently published he not only interrupted her but did so to talk about a very important book on the same topic that had been reviewed by the NY Times, one that she just had to read. She was so thrown by this that she lingered a bit in self-doubt before realizing that he'd been talking about her book! Her friend, however, did realize what was happening and said "that's her book!" three times before it sunk in for him. It turns out that he hadn't even read the oh, so important book he just had to tell her about in an effort to make her aware of the real writing she should be aspiring toward. He'd only read the review. Perhaps that's why he didn't realize he'd been mansplaining to none other than the author herself?

PERSONAL MANSPALIN STORIES

The "Well, Actually" Mansplain:

Some three years ago I was sitting in a cafe proof-reading Slut: Declaring war on a dirty word, when a man looked over my shoulder and asked me what I was doing. First, I knew right away that he didn't really care what I was doing, this was just an ice-breaker to flirt, but I was in a good mood and admittedly much more tolerant of being flirted with at inconvenient times back then. When I told him that I was proof-reading an article, he took one look at the title and proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes telling me about his world travels, his experience with monks, and the fact that there is no word for, oh say, "asshole" in their language. "Actually, it isn't about the word," he told me. "It is about the need for it. You don't declare war on the word, you attack the culture that needs it." Mind you that had he bothered to read the article he would have discovered that's exactly I'd done. But he had no interest in what I'd written and, in that, what I thought or had to say. What he was interested in doing was hearing himself speak as he arrogantly presumed to tell me how best to redraft the article he hadn't even skimmed.

The "Didn't Catch Your Sarcasm" Mansplain:

In a text conversation following a first date, a man made reference to my apparent multi-talents by saying, Well aren't you a renaissance woman. I jokingly replied, I'm not that old! followed by a classic lol. I thought the "lol" would indicate that I was kidding. Joking. Being a smart ass. Unfortunately the man responded by saying, No, when someone is called a renaissance person it means they are good at a lot of different things.

My sarcasm relied on the fact that the term renaissance man is pretty common knowledge for anyone outside of grade school. Unfortunately he missed it because he wholeheartedly believed that I - a 29 year old woman, and I writer at that - had never heard the term before. But not to worry. Mr. Smarter-Than-You to the rescue...

The "Dictionary" Mansplain:

I'm having trouble coming up with a specific example of this because it happens so often. But picture this...

You're sitting in a place that is noisy. Maybe it's an outdoor concert. Maybe it's a movie theater. Maybe it's a loud, crowded bar. The person you're with says something. It's noisy, so you didn't hear all of what they said. So you do what most people do when they didn't hear something. You squint your eyes (though this doesn't help you hear), lean forward a little, usually favoring the ear on your dominant side, and say (a little too loud) some variation of, "What was that?" I've been known to also say a simple, "What?" or even, "I'm sorry?".

And then, instead of repeating what they'd just said, the person speaking assumes not that you didn't hear them, but that you didn't understand them. They then proceed to define a part of what they just said. It might be a word they assume you don't know the definition of. It might be a current event they assume you hadn't heard about yet. It might be an author they assume you don't know, or a movie they assume you haven't seen, stop me anytime.

Because even in a loud, crowded place where people are asked to repeat themselves all the time, the speaker is quicker to assume your ignorance than the obvious.

(Lifehack: To avoid this altogether I've started saying, "Say that again?" This way I'm not required to give a "The issue was that I didn't hear you, not that I didn't understand," retort post-mansplaination.)

The "Here, Let Me Help You" Mansplain:

As I was closing out my personal bar tab, a man interrupted me.
"Want me to show you a trick?" he asked.
He then proceeded to explain to me that an easy way to calculate 10% was to move the decimal.
I was 25 years old at the time.
The same man also witnessed me opening a can of chicken broth and, because I was wielding the can opener in a fashion I can only describe as south paw, came up behind me and said, "Do you want me to show you how to use it?"
A can opener. Did I want him to show me...an adult...how to use...a can opener.

Mansplaining essentially attempts to relegate the (usually) woman who is on the receiving end of it to a child-like position by assuming her ignorance - as offering these "teaching" moments necessitates the presumption of her ignorance on whatever matter is being addressed - and/or doing so from a position that assumes her deference to/admiration of the speaker, even (and usually) when there is no basis for such a viewpoint. This puts women in a position of not being taken seriously in situations, or not being taken as seriously as the surrounding men or man she is speaking to, for no other reason but her gender, as well as asking her to automatically take a man's knowledge at face value based on his gender requiring no other evidence than such. No matter his merit, he is still considered the authority in all plausible forms of the exchange, even when he is wrong and finds himself corrected by her. He might fancy himself impressed in such a moment. The presumption of authority is always there, even when the knowledge to back it is lacking.

Similarly, I've also had more than one man proclaim that I am exceptionally smart, only to explain that I am smart because I know things that they do not, or have proven them wrong on occasion. So these men have automatically used themselves as the rubric for which to measure my intelligence against? How arrogant is that?!

This is all a very clinical, academic description of mansplaining. In practice it basically means being considered inferior in discussions with and by people who have no right to consider you thus. When someone tells you something you already know it is invalidating, because they assumed your ignorance, not your intelligence. When strangers tell you what you "should" do with your life, or job, or even what movie or TV show you "should" watch (because screw your preferences, they know best what cultural value you would derive from the viewing) it completely negates your sense of self, as your "self" was never considered. You become merely a sounding board for whomever is speaking to you. They could be speaking to anyone else. It doesn't matter that it's you, so long as you smile, nod, appear gracious and promise to consider their well meant advise, or thank them for the "interesting" information. When what you say doesn't matter, and what you think doesn't matter, and above all when what you know doesn't matter - despite knowing a lot, often more than those deciding your knowledge irrelevant! - then in effect you don't matter.

That is what mansplaining does to women. Makes us feel irrelevant.


Hepeat

As per the former, in instances where misogyny can invisibly dominate conversational relations between the genders, a woman's words are not always heard in the same light, with the same weight, as a man's.

One phenomenon that highlights this kind of occurrence is the hepeat. A hepeat has occurred when a woman says something that is ignored. It could be a declarative sentence. It could be a suggestion. It could be an idea. Whichever, it is ignored by her listeners. Until - and sometimes only seconds have gone by between! - a man repeats whatever she has just said. And alas, his words are celebrated like the second coming. I am not talking about communicating the same idea but with a quantifiable difference in style, verbiage or interpersonal communication skills. I am talking about literally just repeating the sentence, suggestion or idea that flew quietly under the radar. And, of course, not crediting the original source.

Examples:

MAN 1: These sexual harassment allegations are crazy right now

MAN 2: Tell me about it. Every week there's a new list.

WOMAN: And apparently the Trump allegations are back - 14 women.

MAN 2: The good news is, at least something is finally being done about these old, privileged guys being absolute creeps.

MAN 1: It's too bad it's only hitting the Democrats. Al Franken resigning, and all while Trump's still in office.

MAN 2: Yeah, but he's catching heat too. More women have come forward.

MAN 1: Oh yeah?

MAN 2: Yeah, like 14 different women...

This happens so often in casual conversation I can't even tell you. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself repeating the same sentence verbatim, if only to make sure my voice works, to see my words go unacknowledged. That must not have been very interesting, I think, except that ten minutes later a man says the same thing and now it's a conversation topic. So one could still say that I'm not interesting, but not because of my ideas, but because I'm the one that has them, which are two very different things. The former may encourage one to just...read more. The latter (short of a gender transition) one can do nothing about.

Often - and this may just be my personal experience - I find that the man who repeats what you've said without crediting you often glances over at you while speaking, or once the topic has picked up. Does he know he repeated exactly what you said before, or is the glance only subconscious, as though your words only managed to register on the outskirts of his brain, like advertisements on the train?

The world may never know.

The worst part is that when one points out that this is happening it often makes their words even less prioritized, because now rather than casually participating in the conversation like everyone else, they are demanding to be heard. And making demands on feminist grounds? - not a popular move, miss lady.


Hephrase

This one seems minor, but really it's not. One may argue that this is a very particular type of mansplain. The hephrase occurs when a woman says something, and a man takes it upon himself to put what she has said into his own words. Except...

Granted, that there are some people who just need to do this no matter what. Usually it occurs more in classroom settings in this regard and is attributed to these people being auditory learners; only by repeating and sort of explaining a concept aloud "in their own words" can they feel secure in their understanding of it.

What I'm describing is more about dominance. This can be observed when a woman starts a conversation and a man rephrases what she has just said in his own words, effectively resetting the entire conversation so he is leading it, and it's happening on his terms. 

You may be hesitant to accept my view and to this I respond, prove me wrong. Go observe. Give it two weeks. Make it a point to listen to conversations that lack gender difference. Listen to men talking to men, women talking to women, and observe the flow of conversation. Then listen to inter-gender conversation. And observe this phenomenon:

A woman speaks, says something, and a man rephrases it as if to say, so you mean, and does this as though to clarify the parameters of the conversation before it can continue. Usually he is interrupting the woman in order to do this. Sometimes by interjecting in the middle of her sentence, sometimes by interjecting while she is taking a breath between sentences but it is clear that she isn't finished speaking.

Two notable things are happening here.

The first being dominance. By rephrasing her point in his own words, and asking her to say "yes, I mean that..." and continue from there, the man has essentially taken charge of the conversation. It's like a mansplain and a hepeat in one blow. He has basically asserted the topic of conversation such that it is happening in his words, on his terms, via his understanding of the matter, and made her a participant in his conversation rather than participating in hers.

The second thing to note is that, as in many of these gender asymmetric conversational situations, it forces her onto the defensive. It forces her to either say, "yes, that's what I meant," or "no, that's not what I meant" but with either choice she is made to respond or one might go as far as to say answer to him. If she is busy defending an idea, she isn't articulating new ones. He becomes the driver of the conversation, the authority in the conversation, and she ends up trying over and over to clarify the point that he continues to derail and take his own way.

It is most noticeable when the woman doesn't go along with the hephrase and instead asserts her point again, ala No, that isn't what I said, or No, that isn't what I meant. Rather than simply listening or - god forbid - asking a question, the man will often attempt, again, to summarize her meaning in his own words, and then again, and again, until finally caving and asking in exasperated form - "well then what do you mean?" Leave alone that had he just allowed her to speak in the first place her meaning would have been perfectly clear.

Example:

WOMAN: So I was watching this great movie about the philosophy of time as a linear concept versus a continuum, where...  

MAN: So time travel. 

WOMAN: Well, no. It wasn't about time travel, per say. It was exploring the idea of whether time moves in one, constant direction or...

MAN: Yeah, I know what you mean. That's the idea of time travel. Like Einstein's theory that...

And so on and so forth. 

The argument I'm making here is that by doing this in conversation, the man in the conversation ends up hijacking the conversation rather than participating in a woman's proposed topic of discussion. Often, even if the woman stands her ground, because this tension inevitably creates a negative and disagreeable atmosphere the topic is often dropped in mutual frustration and, whether not it was his conscious intention, the woman has been successfully silenced.


Himterrupting

A significant amount of research has been done to understand how the socialization of boys and girls impact the conversations the genders have when they become men and women. One study shows that,  in public space, particularly in business, women speak 25% of the time whereas men speak 75% of the time. What's more is that women are perceived as talking "too much" when they begin speaking 30% of the time. Regarding interruptions, a recent study looked at 10 male-male conversations, 10 female-female conversations, and 11 female-male conversations. In the same sex conversations, there were 7 instances of interruptions. In the mixed sex conversations, however, there were 48 instances of interruptions, 46 of them in which the man interrupted the woman.  (Source)

Just a quick statistical plug before anyone tries to tell me that it's all in my head. (More on that later.)

What sucks about being interrupted when you are a woman is that you have been taught from the time you could understand words - in fact this was probably the method of teaching you words - that little girls are made of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. Nice. We are supposed to be nice. Which means that when I man interrupts you, you let him. The obligatory feeling of being a "lady", and being polite, prohibits you from rudely interrupting the person who rudely interrupted you and, if you dare to, you become the problem for aggressively pointing it out!

Standard interruption takes many forms, from people who interrupt randomly because their phone went off and proceed to narrate their text conversations like court stenographers, to people who abruptly proclaim that they have to use the bathroom and run for it in the middle your sentence.

Himterruption, however, is a special breed, and it usually takes two forms.

The Elaborator

This happens when the himterrupter has particular difficultly with listening. Somehow the act of listening gets confused with the act of being told or taught something, and the himterrupter seemingly cannot stand the idea of you teaching him something. Simply allowing you to speak may give you the false impression that he isn't already knowledgable on the subject you're talking about, and that just won't do, so he finds a way to interject his knowledge into the conversation by way of interrupting you in order to either define a word you've used, add a detail, or elaborate on an idea.

For example:

WOMAN: My umbrella broke yesterday. It was so frustrating. I was walking to the bank, which is usually a quick seven minute walk away, but because of the sleet —

MAN: Oh, you mean when there's a mix of rain, snow, and sometimes hail?

WOMAN: Yes...sleet.... Anyway, because of the sleet it took forever.

It could also look like...

WOMAN: I can never decide what the wear when the weather is like this and the hail is only intermittent.

MAN: Oh, you mean sleet?

[woman sighs audibly]

WOMAN: Yes, sleet. Anyway...

Why is this a problem? In both cases, while the man was technically responding to what was being said, he wasn't responding in a way that contributed to the conversation. If anything the conversation was derailed as in both instances the woman had to get back to her point after the interjection. In the first example the woman is trying to tell the story of her umbrella breaking. In the second she is talking about the challenges of dressing for inconsistent weather. But in both cases, he responds in a way that completely ignores the overall point of the story, and is clearly meant to do nothing more than demonstrate his understanding of the word sleet. These kind of interruptions are absolutely gratuitous.

The Subject Changer

Similar to the elaborator, the subject changer is seemingly incapable of listening. He is much more comfortable being the speaker. He is also much more comfortable talking about what he wants to talk about, and has no qualms about outright changing the subject.

Read any article about being a good listener. Whether the context of the article is about being a better listener in a corporate environment, in a parent-child relationship, or in an intimate partnership, one of the steps is always to essentially paraphrase what the speaker has just said when you respond, if only to demonstrate that you were listening. Another suggestion is to ask a question about what the person has just said in order to encourage them to elaborate.

Subject changers fail on both counts.

If you have lived in the world for a certain amount of time it is very obvious when a person is at the very beginning of a story. But subject changers do not acknowledge these obvious signs when they choose the himterrupt. Instead...

WOMAN: I had to worse morning yesterday. I was walking to the bank and the weather completely destroyed by umbrella.

MAN: Yeah, I didn't have a great morning yesterday either. I thought I was going to get a lot done, but it turned out to be rather unproductive. First, I woke up later than expected...

Sure, it may seem like the man is responding on topic. Technically. But he doesn't seem to be interested in what the woman just said. He doesn't even acknowledge it besides using the topic vaguely as a springboard into his own story. And what his response definitely doesn't do is encourage her to elaborate. Rather, his response assumes that she is done speaking and encourages her to listen to him.

Lifehack: While calling out someone for interrupting may feel validating, it often just ends up being the beginning of an argument or an opportunity for the person to deflect and proclaim - even if they talk significantly more than you to begin with - that you interrupt them equally or even more than they interrupt you. In a relationship you care about it makes sense to be direct about it. However, if I find myself in a conversation with a man who is relative stranger, and he tries to interrupt me, I just keep talking like I don't notice.

Women are so often interrupted that people don't think twice about it, not even when it's mid-sentence, and we just stop talking and allow it to happen.

Don't. The person interrupting you will probably persist at first, because they expected you to stop talking when they started. But at some point (and it takes longer for some than others) they'll realize that you aren't being rude by continuing to speak, they're being rude by trying to push you to stop by talking over you, and they'll back down. It's noisy game of chicken at first, but trust me, it makes a point.


Himpathy

This is a word that I first read used by Kate Manne in Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. It is society's tendency to side with men when issues of sexism and misogyny are brought to light, and both men and women are guilty of this.

Look no further than the recent sexual allegations that started the #MeToo campaign. Women were publicly called out for hearing of allegations against men in Hollywood and immediately saying they doubt they'd behave that way, couldn't believe it, etc. which of course is an indirect way of saying that the woman who came forward was lying. When the allegations against Bill Cosby first came out, even when there were well over a dozen, TV personalities were still grappling with it. I don't want to believe it, they'd say, but why would so many different women lie? It happens on college campuses, too, when a boy rapes a girl and the school minimizes it to be some lesser offense, with a lesser punishment, or no punishment at all. And defends this decision by talking about what a bright boy he is with such a promising future, his whole life ahead of him. And wouldn't it be a shame if all that were taken away? To say nothing of what happens to a person's whole life after they are raped. Forget all about that - he's the victim now...

That is himpathy, and it is part of the paradox of living in a time when the patriarchal society is not yet dismantled.

It isn't just women's voices that are not as welcome in public space (or private space, if we're honest). Our issues aren't either. Just look at how much backlash one can receive for simply being a feminist. It is somehow seen as a dirty word, and even though gender inequality is still blatantly problematic, advocating for equality is misconstrued as an effort to take over.

Himpathy stems from the fact that because right now the scales are imbalanced in favor of men, balancing them inevitably means that some things will be taken away from men. Nothing unjust, mind you, but certainly some privileges that currently come at women's expense. Himpathy may arise in conversation when women do speak out against any of the above conversational habits, particularly if they call it out while a conversation is taking place as opposed to talking about it at a separate time (because most men are very comfortable talking about these things in an abstract way, but less so when being called out for the same behaviors).

Remember when I brought up not just a man's tendency to interrupt women, but a woman's tendency to just stop talking? That is a benefit of social inequality that men currently enjoy, whether or not they realize it - the lack of pushback from women when they are dominated in conversation. Add to that the fact that women are taught not only to be passive when enduring these things, but friendly. Ideally the patriarchy would have women stop talking immediately when interrupted, listen intently, and then later lean in intently and ask a question that encourages her interrupter to keep talking.

In studies regarding "interrupters" it has been revealed that some people - more likely to be men - are just more likely to interrupt anyone. They do it as a way to communicate excited participation in conversations. However, this tends not to damage male-male conversational balance in the same way that it does male-female balance because men overwhelmingly do not yield the floor as readily as women do. Men are more likely to interrupt back or to never stop speaking in the first place. But this also seems to be why, especially in business environments, even men who are prone to interrupt are more likely to interrupt women than other men. One writer described it as an instinct that he doesn't really notice unless he thinks about it, like instinctively opting to sit next to women in public spaces as opposed to men because since women tend to draw themselves inward, yield the armrest, etc. men know that means more space for themselves. In conversation, whether it is happening at a conscious level or not, men instinctively understand that interrupting a woman is less likely to result in a shouting match and more likely to result with them winning the floor.

Thus it becomes an expectation, and if you've ever had a man react with indignation if you've failed to sit with both your elbows on your stomach on the subway to make more space for his elbows as he plays a game on his phone, you understand what happens when such expectations - however unfair - are not met. Himpathy is what happens.

So what does himpathy look like? It can definitely take several different forms, but here are a few notable ones:

1. Gaslighting
2. Objection to Female Aggression
3. Male Behavior Defense

Gaslighting

The simple that didn't happen. Let's say you call out someone for mansplaining, and let's flesh out the situation for a moment. You both work in video editing, and he makes a comment about using a green screen for a certain type of scene. You don't agree that it would be the best approach, so you voice that opinion. Rather than arguing why it would work, he explains to you that all you would have to do is setup the green screen, record the scene in front of it, then later use the key effect to drop in the desired background. Perhaps you respond like this:

"I know how Final Cut works, but thanks for the mansplain."

"I didn't mansplain! I was just explaining..." How Final Cut works. To a video editor. Yes. Exactly.

This is going to happen, and sometimes it can be even worse than the offense itself. Moving away from conversational oppression for a moment, this happens a lot in terms of harassment. Both men and women alike seem to be more comfortable believing that sexual harassment is not or did not happen in a given circumstance, and it is not uncommon to be talked out of discomfort regarding something that you know is not appropriate. How many times has someone said something a little off color to you that you knew had sexual undertones, but everyone told you it was imagined. They were just being friendly, or you were just too sensitive, or they don't know how to talk to women. Only for it to become perfectly clear later on when a much more obvious line was crossed.

If it comes down to he said, she said (and even though gun control shifted the national conversation, I still believe that this will continue to be worked on...) his side is more likely to by sympathized with, while she is more likely to be disbelieved, and gaslighting is a way of making her disbelieve herself.

Crying Aggressive Female

Here is a real life example no more than a week old. I was at a bar pretty late and some guys I'd been introduced to that night were discussing the Trump presidency. That's a really emotional topic for me, so I kept my head turned and stayed out of it. But one of them turned to me and directly asked me whether I would want to see Trump impeached if it meant that Pence would become president, or more directly, who I thought was more dangerous and why. Now ideally I'd rather neither of them were president but rather than change the subject I started to respond directly, only to be interrupted the minute it was clear that my opinion differed from the man who had prompted me to join the discussion. Which was evident in...well...my very first sentence.

I let it go the first time. Let him finish his interjection. Then continued on with my point. The second time I started to say, "You actually just interrupted me again, would you mind letting me finish," but I didn't even get to say that because he interrupted that sentence too! At which point I pointed excitedly and said, "There! You just did it again!" To which he responded, "Okay, okay, no need to be a bully."

Let's examine...

Ignoring altogether the sexist implications of inviting a woman who isn't paying attention to you into a conversation by way of asking her opinion only to cut her off at every turn (the obvious conclusion being you just wanted her attention, you could give two shits what she has to say). Repeatedly interrupting someone is a way of asserting dominance. Talking over someone is a way of asserting dominance. I merely point out that those things are happening to me and suddenly I'm the bully?!

This happens to women all the time when they call out instances of sexism and misogyny. The situation gets flipped so that they are somehow in the wrong simply for calling out the wrong.

To use another personal example, now in reference to harassment: I was sitting in a bar (a lot of my stories start this way. Don't judge me. I like karaoke...) after coming from a jazz show so I was a bit dressed up and receiving a lot of attention. A man I didn't know walked in and was behaving in such a familiar way toward me that for a while I thought it was someone I knew and just couldn't place. I checked in with a friend who confirmed that he wasn't a regular (each of us was), and I was sure I didn't know him from any place else. Though there were other openings at the bar he chose the narrow space directly next to me to try and order a drink. Then apologized for getting too close by putting a hand on my shoulder than lingered too long. I told him it was fine but wasn't shy about pulling away from the touch. Next he tried to get the bartender's attention and - big surprise - his hand brushed against me "by mistake". He explained that he was so sorry by placing that hand on my knee. I gingerly picked it up like it was dirty tissue and dropped it into space by way of removing it. Oh no, did I just deliberately touch you without your permission? said his facial expression, and he started to apologize again. I saw the hand descending, its current trajectory set to land even higher on my thigh. This time I caught it.

"I understand that you're sorry," I said, "but I need for you to find a way to say that without touching me."

Just then the bartender arrived and this man launched into a whole sob story about how he was just here trying to order a drink and I was being so mean to him and treating him like a creep. Thankfully I knew the bartender and had witnesses to his behavior, but the point is that he tried to flip the situation into one where I was the problematic patron. All because I'd politely told him to keep his fucking hands off my legs.

See? I could have been mean if I'd wanted to...

Defending Male Behavior by Blaming Female Behavior

This form of himpathy amounts to men conceding that a behavior is problematic and unfair to women, then following it up with a "but". And the "but" is usually something that women do that provoke that behavior. It may even be followed up with, "and that's not an excuse, but..."

The thing about this it sort of is an excuse. It's a defense. It's a way of acknowledging the bad behavior but essentially saying that, as it's women who are motivating and causing it, that really it's women's fault and on us to change our behavior.

Examples:

Yeah, men do interrupt a lot, but only because women talk so much.

Yeah, it sucks that guys act creepy in bars, but women are so cold and really hard to approach so that's how we have to break the ice.

Yeah, it sucks that women get catcalled, but how do you think men feel being ignored on the street? We're people too.

Yeah, it sucks that the way rape is handled legally makes it so hard for women such that so much crime goes unreported. But on the other hand, women do lie. And that's a really big offense to be falsely accused of so...would you rather have innocent men in jail for rape?

My answer to that is no, obviously, but I also don't want to live in a world of guilty rapists on the streets unbeknownst to anyone but their victims, many of whom will not report their crimes because of the unlikelihood of them being successfully convicted.

I also don't want to live in a world where men are socialized to be dominant and women are socialized to be passive. I don't want to live in a world where men become agitated when they listen to women talk for "too long", even when that too long is 40% less than they talk themselves. I don't want every conversation I have to be peppered in with definitions and explanations that are needless, because a man didn't understand something I said, and rather than asking me a question he assumed I must be confused about something or other and this proceeded to explain. And I really, really don't want to live in a world where the best way for me to articulate an idea is to write an article or send a text or email because that's the only way I'm going to be able to get my point across without someone speaking over me, raising a finger to indicate that they want to speak over me, shaking their head aggressively to indicate that they disagree with me when I haven't even finished my damn sentence yet, or otherwise rudely interrupting me!

::takes deep breath::

I don't want to hear things like "she talks too much" and while I'm proud that people are calling out these behaviors and outright saying "let her speak", I look forward to a time when that isn't necessary.

I look forward to a time that when she speaks, she is heard.








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