interrupt me one more time

I ask a bunch of men, "Have you ever interrupted a woman?"

Sure, they say.
But not just women.
I interrupt men, too. 
I interrupt everybody. 
That's not because they're women. 
It's just because I'm impatient/I want to win the debate/that's just how I talk. 
I really don't think it's a sexist thing I do. 
Yes, it's rude, but it's not sexist.
You don't know me.
I really do listen to women a lot.


(Katie pounds a seltzer water, crushes the can on her forehead)

ok
it's gonna be one of these now

I know you don't, like, hang out behind a chair, waiting for a woman to start talking, and then jump out, throw a blanket over her head, and bellow, "CHADDOM BOMB! No more girl sounds sportsball now."

I know you're not a cave man or a bridge troll. Or, maybe you are. But if you are, then this post isn't for you.

This post is for the men who like 
the women they are always interrupting.


I get it. I, too, am an impatient conversationalist. I, too, like to win the debate. And that's just how I, too, like to talk.  I prefer to conduct conversations at the rate of an Italian rapper with a chip on her shoulder.

I bet that if a hidden camera captured you with your boys, and me with my girls, you'd see us both doing a lot of the same things - chattering a mile a minute, finishing other people's sentences, cutting our friends off when we could see the direction they were going and wanted to keep them on our topic.

But if that same hidden camera captured you and me in a conversation, an average man and an average woman, colleagues, you would likely maintain the same conversational personality that you did with your boys, while I likely would not.

Why?

Watch as the screen wiggles and dissolves into...

dream sequence number 1

You're walking into a restaurant to grab lunch. You're the diner. I'm the server.

Server: Hi there, how are you today?
Diner: I'm pretty good, how are you?
Server: Great, thank you! Our special today is gnocchi--
Diner: I actually know what I want.
Server: Great! What can I get for y--
Diner: I'd like the chicken parm, side of cauliflower, and an iced tea.
Server: Great. And--
Diner: (at the same instant) And-- Oh.
Server: Oh. I'm sorry, you please go ahead.
Diner: And I have a call at 1:30, so I'll need to be out of here in about 30 minutes.
Server: That shouldn't be a problem at all. I'll be right back with your iced--
Diner: Thanks.


That conversation feels pretty normal, right? Everybody's doing what they do - the diner places a quick lunch order, the server takes it, somewhere a child is born, and the world keeps spinning right round, baby. Right round.

Now, when you think about the dining experience, whose experience is it, really? I'll give you a hint. Not the server's.



This experience exists to please the diner on his terms. Nobody sees anything wrong with that. This is a standard industry-wide expectation.

It starts when he sits down.
He calls the server and she comes to him.
He gets answers to all of his questions.
He gets exactly what he wants.
It ends when he is done.

The diner is accustomed to inhabiting all the time and space he wants. The diner feels entitled to that space, not because he's "serverist" or because he thinks that he, as a diner, is better than servers, but because that's what he always gets. That's what everybody getes! Them's the rules.

No diner walks into a restaurant thinking, "Gosh, I wonder how I can get what I want for lunch here today. I better really speak up for myself." Hell no! The diner's not anticipating how to WORK the restaurant to get food. He knows for sure, "I'm about to get everything I want. It's guaranteed. I'm the diner. I deserve this."

Then he walks into the restaurant, takes up all of the space in the experience, and does not see how much work the server does, invisibly, cheerfully, to shape herself around him, in whatever space is left over.

Has this diner ever THOUGHT about HOW to order chicken parm?

Uh, that's a hard no. Because even if he ordered chicken parm so wrong that he accidentally ordered chicken parm backwards in biblical Greek, he would get a puzzled look, a smile, and extra help from his server, whose job it is to make sure that he get exactly what he needs out of this interaction. And would he feel bad about needing 20 minutes of assistance to order lunch? No. Because he's the diner. He deserves this.

Now, has this server ever THOUGHT about HOW to take an order for chicken parm?

Yes. She thinks about it constantly. Because if she doesn't do it right, she will be punished for it. And if she can't help this person order his chicken parm while he's speaking backwards in a language last uttered when Christ himself walked the earth, she will be punished for it. And if anyone feels that she is displaying frustration or impatience while nostril-deep in a hot bubbling vat of frustration and impatience, she will be punished for it. Punished how? At least patronized, forced to apologize, or financially stiffed by the customer, and possibly reprimanded or disciplined by her manager.

Let's leave the restaurant for a moment.

Let's call this our smoke break.

Understand that when women talk to men, as when a server talks to a diner, there is a certain default dynamic that both parties have implicitly agreed to uphold, but that only one party is responsible for consciously managing and maintaining. Guess which party.


When you talk to a woman and interrupt her, 
that is not uncomfortable for you
That's an easy lunch order for you


You don't have to work to keep up with the conversation that you are driving. You don't see the mental gymnastics that your conversational "server" now has to engage in, if she wants to:

a) somehow find a way to say what she had started to say before you took a hard left
b) help you to feel satisfied with the outcome of the conversation
c) not get punished.

Now you might be thinking, hey, sometimes women interrupt me, too. And I don't punish them for it. I like strong women. Sure sure. Yes. I know you do.

I'm reminded of how sometimes I'll be working on a document on my computer and it will have 2 columns in it, and when the page fills the screen, the two columns are the same size, and I can see what they both say. But if I have to make that window smaller, to look at something else, as I begin to shrink the page, one column stays the same size, while the other one shrinks and shrinks and shrinks until I can't even see a word.

OK. Smoke break's over.

Let's head back into that restaurant and meet a strong woman:

dream sequence number 2

You're walking into a restaurant to grab lunch. You're the diner. I'm the server.

Server: Hi there, how are you today?
Diner: I'm pretty good, how are you?
Server: Great! Please excuse me for a moment. I'll be right back.

(a couple of minutes pass)

Server: Thank you for waiting! Do you have any dietary restrictions?
Diner: What? Uh, no--
Server: Perfect, you want the gnocchi with roasted brussels sprouts, they're delicious.
Diner: Oh, I actually want--
Server: No, really, it's the best thing on the menu. Perfect lunch portion, too.
Diner: I'd prefer--
Server: I'm sorry, would you please excuse me for a moment? Thank you!


HEYO!

What just happened? How do we feel about her? Do we like her?

i think
i think i hate her

Are we a little put off? Are we annoyed? Angry? Indignant, perhaps?

But why?

The server stepped outside of the implicitly agreed-upon boundaries of behavior for a server speaking to a diner, for a person of lesser power speaking to a person of more power.

And the diner, for his part, felt off-balance, maybe even scared, and almost certainly angry that his space, his choice, his ability to determine the direction and duration of the encounter, had all been shrunk down to server-size.

She wasn't rude. She was sunny and enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

She was also completely in charge of the space.



And that is not how shit usually goes down between diner and server.

Now the diner's lunch, his easy effortless experience, is ruined. Now he has to work to be heard. Now he has to reflect on what just happened, and on these new feelings of invisibility and dissatisfaction. All of these things feel an awful lot like UNFAIR.

Now he's suddenly also aware that he can't make her bring him chicken parm without kicking up one hell of a fuss, and hell, he just wanted an easy lunch.

Now he's asking himself, "Am I really going to die on this hill?"

Now he just eats the gnocchi. While seething.

It isn't bad. It is just as good as the chicken parm. It isn't what he wanted. But it wasn't worth a fight.

Now he's leaving with a tight, no eye-contact smile. Now he's telling his friends not to eat at that restaurant anymore. They ask if the food was bad. "It's not about the food," he says. "It's just not comfortable," he says.

Smoke break?

Smoke break.

You just experienced what a conversation with you is like, from the other side. Someone else took up all your space. And you had to shrink yourself to fit.

Some people have a lot of social power, whether that's because of your money or race or gender, or because you played a superhero in a movie, or all of the above, which we call "The Full Chris Package."

tis i
chris


You have social power. You're the diner.

And people who have power seem to have this idea that oppressors attack the oppressed. So as long as you're not jabbing the less fortunate with a pitchfork, you're not an oppressor. Whew. That's a relief.

But oppressors don't jab. They smother. They simply unfurl, expand into every inch they can find. They stretch out on top of people they don't really see. And most of the time they're miffed because the mattress is lumpy.

Your habit of interrupting women is comfortable for you, maybe even something you're proud of because it demonstrates your quick debate skills and healthy confidence.

But think of the conversation you build with another person as a meal you share. If you two ordered a pizza together, would you eat the entire thing? Would you snatch a slice out of her hand after she'd taken only a bite? Would you do that in front of the whole office? Would that make you proud of your quick pizza-snatching skills and healthy appetite?

How would you feel about her hunger?

How would you feel if she snatched your slice back? Don't worry, she probably wouldn't. As the diner asked himself whether he would die on this hill, whether his nice easy lunch was worth all that pain and conflict, so she asks herself if her own hunger is worth sating.

And she knows the words "abrasive," "shrill," and "sensitive" spread like mono at prom: faster than she can imagine, and once she's got them they'll be with her forever.

Smoke break's over. Let's head back inside. Last time.

dream sequence 3

You're walking into a restaurant to grab lunch. You're the diner. I'm the server.

...

Diner: And I have a call at 1:30, so I'll need to be out of here in about 30 minutes.
Server: That shouldn't be a problem at all. I'll be right back with your iced--
Diner: Thanks.

(You're not high, that part was the same as #1. Wait for it...)

Another man walks into the restaurant.

Diner: Mr. Johnson!
Johnson: Oh. Hello.
Diner: It's John. From marketing? I'm on the team with--
Johnson: Right, right.
Diner: I just wanted to say, I really enjoyed the TED talk you gave at--
Johnson: Thanks, John. I appreciate that. Listen, I'm going to have lunch.
Diner: Oh, great. Great. Yeah. Enjoy. The, uh, chicken parm is--
Johnson: Thank you. I'll see you.
Diner: Yes. Thank you. Enjoy your--

(Mr. Johnson is already walking away)


OH HO, what have we here?

A third player has entered our scenario! 

So now we have, at the bottom of the power pyramid, with the least freedom to grow but all the weight to carry, the server. Sitting right on top of her, enjoying the view from way up there, we have our interrupting diner. And now, the diner's boss, or maybe even his boss's boss, has just walked in, and slammed the roof of the pyramid down on top of interrupting diner. Ouch, he thinks. That was not a satisfying encounter. I didn't get a chance to say anything!

I don't have any insights to offer about male-on-male power dynamics.

The only reason we are back in this restaurant right now is to answer this one fucking question:

So you interrupt everybody, that's just how you talk, it doesn't matter who you're talking to, right? 

Do you interrupt your boss?

Do you interrupt a police officer?

Do you interrupt people that you understand are powerful? 

Do you interrupt people who have the power to disrupt your health or welfare?

You do not interrupt everyone. You interrupt everyone you can. 

It will be work to fold yourself in, even just a little bit, to make space for others. 

It will be uncomfortable. 

You will spend a lot of time thinking about how you are in conversations, while you are in those conversations. You will find yourself standing between two colleagues, looking kind of high and paranoid, as you're thinking, "Can I talk yet? Is it my turn? This sucks. I have things I need to say! I hate this."

I need you to understand that women think those exact thoughts every time they talk to you.

Every.

Time.

You'll be relieved to return to friends who don't ask you to make room. You'll be relieved to sink back down in that big open space you're used to, comfortable at last, even if this mattress is a little lumpy. 

But I need you to understand that your relief is another way you punish women. If you have to play in a smaller yard when you play at a girl's house, you're not going to want to hang out there. And when that yard is a promotion, a team at work, or a small business in your neighborhood that you avoid because going there reminds you that you need to make room for someone else,  you are punishing women for existing. You are editing them out of your life. For your comfort.

I need you to understand that your comfort, in conversations with women, is a red flag right now. Your comfort is a sign that you need to check and see if you're ON ME. (You are.)

As soon as you get comfortable, I want you to think about that pizza you two ordered together.

Are you eating all the pizza? 
Has everyone gotten a slice?

Yes, you can love women and hurt them.

Your personal affection for women exists alongside your unconscious domination of women in the same way that you can have both nostalgia for the movie Babe and a bottomless hunger for bacon.

You, interrupter, are a 30-foot-wall that surrounds me in conversation. Every time I take a step, there you are, in my way. And while I'm staring at the wall that will cost me blood to break through, I say, "It's so cramped in here, I want to scream," and you look out at the enormous field you sit in and think, "Look how much space there is! I don't know what her problem is."

Walls don't know they're walls, is what I'm saying. They don't live inside themselves. 

Oppressive systems of power are largely invisible to the oppressors. They're supposed to be. 

So it doesn't matter if you're not personally trying to shut down women's voices on purpose. What you need to understand is that when you are in a conversation with a woman, you both carry on your shoulders the weight of history - personal history, cultural history, the history of women not getting their own damn credit cards until 1974. The history that tells you that women won the right to vote in 1920 and conveniently forgets to remind you both that suffragists met outrage, panic, and violence in the majority of their male contemporaries, and that it was ONLY WHITE women who got the vote in 1920. Asian women and Native Americans got to vote for the first time in 1952. Black women could vote in 1965.

History DOES try to shut down women's voices. On purpose. About everything. And you know what they say: the past is present.

I don't have any further insights on your personal relationships with women. But that's not really the point, so don't make this about your strong mother or kickass wife. Make it about you.

If you interrupt women and you're fine with it because you also interrupt men, then I need you to sit and think for a long while about what you care about, and who you care about, and who you care about being, and who you care about raising. And then I need you to answer this one fucking question:

So you interrupt everybody you can, that's just how you talk to people who you know can't hurt you, right?

Do you understand that you can change?





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100 comments:

  1. Awesome, true, I've been guilty of it, and I still have to stop myself doing it and apologise. Thansk for the power and clarity of your voice.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a pile of nonsense, no one one is responsible for what other people did throughout history. Women interrupt men just as much. Why don't you stop being a victim for two seconds, and think about what you are saying.

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    1. They have actually done studies PROVING that men interrupt women more often. Google is a powerful tool Doris.

      Delete
    2. This is a recent one about those shrinking violets, Supreme Court Justices... https://hbr.org/2017/04/female-supreme-court-justices-are-interrupted-more-by-male-justices-and-advocates

      Delete
    3. OH my. Why don't you think about what you are saying?

      Delete
  3. What a pile of nonsense, no one one is responsible for what other people did throughout history. Women interrupt men just as much. Why don't you stop being a victim for two seconds, and think about what you are saying.

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    Replies
    1. There are tons of scientific studies that prove that men interrupt women quite a lot more often than the reverse. Just because you say something, Doris, doesn't make it true.

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    2. Amy, Since as you say there are "tons of scientific studies," please post 5 examples. Thanks...

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    3. Not Amy, but a casual search revealed these in 2.5 seconds:
      http://web.stanford.edu/~eckert/PDF/zimmermanwest1975.pdf
      http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0261927X14533197?papetoc=&
      https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2933016/

      There's more, but I'm not doing all the work for you.

      Delete
    4. Female Supreme Court Justices... such victims... https://hbr.org/2017/04/female-supreme-court-justices-are-interrupted-more-by-male-justices-and-advocates

      Delete
  4. This is a flawless, gorgeous piece of writing. You really created the sense of what it's like to be interrupted constantly by people who don't know they're doing it, in a way that (hopefully) is clear and relatable to anybody - at least, anybody who has any desire to pull their heads out of their asses and recognize the realities of systemic oppression (not everybody, unfortunately. Sigh). Bravo. Thank you. I appreciate this.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Alia. Funny story! My husband and I are both fast, energetic talkers. We've had a LOT of fights about interrupting over the last 13 years, and we're at the point in our relationship that when he interrupts me all I have to do is say "BABE," and he stops talking and yields the floor.

      But when my husband read this piece, he was quiet for a long time, and then he said, "I never thought of it like that." Even though he'd changed his behavior over time, he'd never internalized the message that interrupting me was a display of dominance and ownership of the space. I think it helps that we've all been in that position of submission in the workplace, so we can all relate to that experience of being talked over by someone that we're not empowered to stop. I'm so glad this piece resonated with you. Also, I was up until 2 am writing it, so I'm relieved to know it was #worthit. xoxoxoxo

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  5. game changer material right there ! ;) You are awesome.

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  6. dream sequence #?:
    ungendered server/waitron: hi, how are you today? can i get you something to drink while you look over the menu?
    ungendered diner/eater/patr(e)on: hi, i'm feeling good, but kind of in a rush. do you think i'll be able to get something in under 30 minutes? water would be nice, thank you!
    us: sure, we have some great quick dishes! i'll be right back with some water :)
    up: awesome! thank you :)
    us: (sets water down) have you decided?
    up: i'm thinking chicken parm, but what do you recommend that's quick?
    us: the parm is great, but i love the gnocchi and it's quicker.
    up: hmm, gnocchi sounds good, i'll try it! thanks :)
    us: sure! be right back
    up: thank you!
    us: (approaches up while eating) how's your gnocchi? is there anything else I can get you?
    up: the gnocchi are great! and quick, just like you said. the check would be great, thanks :)
    us: here you go! have a nice day :)
    up: thank you! (leaves nice tip for attentive and helpful, but not overbearing service)

    see, we can dream of a world where everyone just gets along (even if the day before there was an implicit power dynamic in the societal fabric) and no one has to be rude or interrupt or call someone an oppressor if they're just grabbing a quick bite to eat before getting back to the job that they love so much. i acknowledge systemic sexism and racism exist in our culture. but we gotta start somewhere, and behaving as though we are citizens of that respectful dream world seems like a good place for our children to live in and see themselves as a part of. i hope that anger at injustices past and present aren't allowed to damage the psyches of the future. your children and mine deserve better from us, they deserve to be shown the dreamiest world we can conjure up for them, and to believe it is theirs to inherit.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Princess feminism. It takes a white girl to think oppression is not being given the floor for every word.

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    1. Clint, I hear you. I am not oppressed because of my race, and this same dynamic can and should be applied to conversations between WP and POC. Nevertheless, this is my experience as a woman navigating this world. I’m not asking for all the space. I’m asking for my portion. And when I’m in a conversation with a WOC I have to constantly watch my inner Chad to make sure I don’t take all the space, so she can have her portion. #Intersectional #WeAreMostOfUsChadSometimes

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    2. Presumably you appreciate the irony of your use of the term 'princess feminism' in order to belittle a female voice on the grounds that it's female. I think this is a fairly clear description of how Katie feels based on her real-world experiences, and that it's something worth sharing since she's clearly not alone (see supportive comments from other women). I also think that it is possible for men to behave in such a way that limits or negates the sexist aspects of their interactions with women, but due to the state of our culture that takes effort, and an effort I promise to make, since it is my obligation as a man. The best thing about this (in my view very good) piece of writing is that it is not accusatory towards men and explicitly points out the usually inadvertent nature of female oppression in this particular context. In other words, there's no need to take offence as a man reading this, but there is something very important to learn from it.

      Delete
  8. This piece helped me reflect my own oppressive behavior as a white person, AND accurately depicted my experience as a woman. Both things. It's possible - - you, too, can reflect on ways to use your power/privilege to engage all voices, instead of shutting this one down.....

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  9. Elizabeth, I totally agree. I have a post in the works about how I am chad when it comes to race. My whiteness makes me blind and clueless even as I roll around on my own lumpy mattress. Thanks for this important point.

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    Replies
    1. My post was intended as a reply to Clint.... I blame the patriarchy for placing it as a standard comment. ;-)
      This piece was brilliant. Thanks for your strong voice and stellar writing!

      Delete
    2. Ditto. I've got work to do in this arena too. Unfortunately I'm also in a white bubble almost all of the time; I'm working on this as well, trying to raise diversity issues at work (to not much success as yet), but it's really my desire to move to a more integrated city so I can gtfo white liberal echo chambers.

      Delete
    3. (Different "Unknown" here)
      Wonderful post Katie; thank you so much for your insight. I would, however, ask you to reflect on your use of the word "blind" in this comment to make your point. Being "blind to one's privilege" is an ableist colloquialism that uses blind people as props to make an intellectual point, and consequently shrinks their humanity and complex lived experience. The same goes for "tone-deaf" "deafening silence" "crippled by ___" etc.

      It not only demonstrates unintended irony when discussing issues of unacknowledged privilege and social justice, but also there are plenty of other ways to express similar (and more specific) sentiment. Thanks for reading.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Male shame to go with my white guilt? Awesome. Also, why tf is the server a woman? The assumption/inference that people that have to serve are automatically women is insulting. Or that women have to serve, in conversation or any other way that they don't want to. Of course this is a woman because we're talking about sexism? This may be a gender issue, it's also more broadly a communication issue. Men, get bullied, pushed, starved of space too. By other men, by women, by organizations. I'd be way more inclined to say "Here here" if this were about something that fundamentally didn't have anything to do with my genitals, or vague aspersions and open ended wondering if I'm a bad person. The examples were thought provoking, the writing was enjoyable to read and easy to follow. You just straw manned the shit out of this thing. You know?

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    Replies
    1. "Male shame to go with my white guilt? Awesome."

      I'm not responsible for your shame or guilt. If those are feelings you're having, I invite you to take responsibility for them and process them in your own space.

      "Also, why tf is the server a woman? The assumption/inference that people that have to serve are automatically women is insulting."

      I considered flipping the genders of the server and diner, but since the piece was creating a parallel metaphor between server/female (position of lower power) and diner/male (position of higher power) in order to make the concept more relatable for men who don't seem to understand why chronic interruption is a gendered attack on women's ability to hold space, it seemed like it would be unnecessarily confusing to flip the gender of the server in order to achieve political correctness for political correctness's sake. Also, I don't think serving is insulting.

      "This may be a gender issue, it's also more broadly a communication issue."

      Do not explain my own writing to me. I was there when I wrote it.

      "Men, get bullied, pushed, starved of space too. By other men, by women, by organizations."

      True, but this post is about WOMEN. WHO DESERVE SPACE JUST LIKE MEN DO.

      "I'd be way more inclined to say "Here here" if this were about something that fundamentally didn't have anything to do with my genitals, or vague aspersions and open ended wondering if I'm a bad person."

      I'm not wondering if you're a bad person. I'm wondering why you seem to think it's my job to make you feel like a good person. Your particular genitals had no bearing on the writing of this piece; the irrefutable culture of hyper-masculinity and misogyny, however, did. And while I'm not a doctor, I think I can be reasonably confident that the genitals do, sometimes, carry some weight when it comes to the execution of hyper-masculinity and misogyny.

      You are literally responding to a piece asking men to make space for women by cramming your genitals into it.

      Please take a step back and check it out.

      "You just straw manned the shit out of this thing. You know?"

      No.

      Delete
    2. There's two groups with polarizing narratives. Idealogically, I'm sympathetic to the plight of humans being unheard or treated disrespectfully. I certainly prefer this position to the knuckle dragging, neck beard, 20 something, internet warrior, trolling and threatening and abusing everyone that disagrees. I know I just generalized from an obnoxious stereotype. The thing is that the sense of moral superiority and condescension from both groups is off putting and fails to critically examine the issue because everyone is so convinced of their moral perfection on the subject. Both groups have biases they are ignoring.

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    3. This is so interesting.

      If you are sympathetic to the plight of humans being unheard or treated disrespectfully, I wonder why you're unable to accept a post written entirely about humans being unheard and treated disrespectfully! I wonder why you need to change the subject to whether or not every sentient being with a y-chromosome on the face of planet Earth

      Serious question, why do you need to try to convince me that my lived experiences are wrong?

      Serious question, is it because I wasn't nice enough about sharing those lived experiences? How do you feel right now? Are you a little... off-balance? A little... annoyed? Angry? Indignant, perhaps?

      Are you feeling exactly the way I described a person who has just had the accepted and invisible power dynamic flipped on him? Do you uncomfortable with letting me occupy space and tell stories about women? Do you feel like you need to make sure nobody forgot about YOUR pain? YOUR opinion? YOUR story?

      Do you feel like I just told you to order gnocchi?

      I wrote a 3,000 word piece with a central thesis of, "Men might not be aware that they're interrupting women, but they are, and it hurts us by perpetuating a toxic and oppressive power dynamic. Please become aware of this behavior and try to change."

      And you're miffed because I didn't write 5,000 words with a central thesis of, "Some men but certainly not all men because there are nice men out there too, interrupt some women, but some women also interrupt men right back, in fact men actually get interrupted all the time and it's not fair to make a definitive statement even though I set out to write a definitive statement about what I have personally seen and experienced and what my friends have personally seen and experienced and what other women who I have heard speak have personally seen and experienced and what peer-reviewed documented sociological studies have observed and documented."

      If you want to read that piece, Oscar, I invite you to dive in and write it on your own time and in your own space. Good luck with structure.

      My bias against men in conversation is based on my life, the life that I am in fact living right here in this thread. My bias is based on the repeated experience that most men feel entitled not only to comment on every part of a shared narrative, whether spoken or written, but also to point out and attack perspectives and experiences that are foreign to them, and therefore, the feel, must be factually incorrect or manipulated to maximize the effect of the story. This is real, Oscar. Accept it or don't, but if you don't then you're still the wall, not knowing it's a wall.

      Most men do not feel that they need to sit back and listen to another point of view. Most men do not believe women when they share stories of being shit on, silenced, browbeaten, and patronized by men who were uncomfortable with that situation for some reason.

      Most men feel as though their suggestions and reinterpretations would be "helpful" and welcome and never ever inappropriate, and hey man, your suggestions and reinterpretations may well be welcome to other women in your life. But that is not the case here.

      I find your presumption of welcome here... what's the word... off-putting.

      I find your refusal to engage in empathy... what's the expression... a failure to critically examine the issue, because you're convinced of your moral perfection when it comes to equivocating on behalf of your own virtue.

      Delete
    4. ** If you are sympathetic to the plight of humans being unheard or treated disrespectfully, I wonder why you're unable to accept a post written entirely about humans being unheard and treated disrespectfully! I wonder why you need to change the subject to whether or not every sentient being with a y-chromosome on the face of planet Earth
      ...
      interrupts chronically, as if a single outlier would cause my entire "teetering" argument of bombast and hyperbole to come crashing down at your feet. My argument is built with bricks that you're handing me, right now.

      Delete

    5. "Walls don't know they're walls, is what I'm saying. They don't live inside themselves."

      Delete
    6. Oh Oscar... I’m guessing you don’t realize that your need to take a story about women and try to make it “make more room” for men is the perfect embodiment of her point.

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    7. OMG, Katie, I think I love you!

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    8. OMG, Katie, I think I love you!

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  11. Very powerful, very evocative, very true, very well expressed. I'm sorry to see some thoughtless/unresearched responses above.

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  12. The only thing I don't like about this, is that you wrote it rather than me! It tells it perfectly. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. LOL! I have felt the same way so many times! Reminds me of an old joke... how many writers does it take to hold a reading? 51. 1 to read, 50 to fill the audience and think, "I coulda done that."

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  13. KatieKate! ThAnk you! You have externalized an internal debate with myself that had been going on for YEARS!
    I am a fairly commanding personality, educated, intelligent...and yet. I would find myself swallowing words... allowing myself to be overridden... be seething with the incredulity that the point of my argument was so past considering that my sentence needed to be finished for me... and not just finished but in the next breath rebutted !!!
    Ooo. Just makes my blood pressure rise.
    I’m talking about this in the past tense.
    There is a reason.
    It’s because now ... if someone cuts me off I look them directly in the eye and say,
    Are you a mind reader? Are you psychic?
    How did you know what I was about to say?
    Maybe I was coming to an entirely different conclusion than the one you have fabricated.
    Maybe my conclusion is more interesting .
    Fuck. What a lot of goddammed work just to get heard.

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  14. Years ago I started in a new sales position, I thought I was doing fine. My boss had the brilliant tool of having me carry a tape recorder on all my sales runs. I was selling mobile homes at the time and we took clients through the homes. Well, let me tell you if you want to get a handle on how you interact with others do this even one time. Wow, I interupted the buyers at every turn I was so eager to show them the features of the home I wasn't listening. I sold the home, but I learned even more listening to that cringeworthy tape!

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  15. Thank you. The metaphor (Business power) and the clear note on the mechanism (smothering by taking all the space) explain everything so clearly.

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  16. Powerful and beautiful understanding and explanation of what it's like. This is hard to convey to the wall. You did a beautiful job. Thank you.

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  17. What a fantastic article. You just articulated everything in my head that Ive always wanted to say but never knew quite how. I always just get so angry when I'm interrupted....not when it's a one-time thing, as we are all guilty of that from time to time when we are anxious to get our words out, but when talkimg to someone who does it to you incessantly. Thank you

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  18. That was great. You have given me a mirror and a prism through which I might see my behaviour more clearly. I will use it to examine my interaction with others, specifically women, more specifically the women I care about. I am pretty sure it will help me to see what I do which shuts down communication and constrains Her, and costs us both. Thank you for your skilful work and its exquisite product.

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  19. I knew this before my male-to-female gender transition 12 years ago. But actually going to work as a woman post-transition served the lesson up on a silver platter for me.

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    Replies
    1. Cassandra <3 thanks for sharing this. That must have been crazy frustrating.

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  20. I have lived this, but never had the words to explain it. Thank you for putting words to my pain.

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  21. this was excellent! rings so true. really smart analogy and I really enjoyed your writing. :)

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  22. Saw this shared on Facebook.

    This is an exceptionally long read and unfortunately I can see the people it's intended for not bothering to read to the end, especially due to the tone. This ironically enforces the problem; men don't stick around long enough for a woman to finish what she's saying.

    All I need to be convinced is the statistics that men interrupt women more than they interrupt men. I started paying more attention to myself and I realize that yeah, even I do this. I didn't read this post to the end either; but in this case the tone put me off even though I already agree with the subject matter. That's not pointing fingers, it's just relaying what happened.

    Anyway, as far as this subject goes, I have started asking people, especially women, to TELL me when I'm interrupting them, to point it out, to help me fix this so I can stop. So far, with one exception, women have just almost taken it for granted that they're going to get interrupted and haven't been much help. And I'm not pointing the finger at them either, I keep trying as hard as I can anyway, but I think it's pretty sad (and shows just how big this problem is) that even some women just take this for granted that that's just how the world works.

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    1. Hi Thortok2000,

      You're right, it is a long read, especially for the internet.

      If you had read i in its entirety, you would see that I write about how women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to doing the work of conversation with men who interrupt them. Consider that your solution has been to ask the women around you to do MORE work, by first policing your choices, and then making you aware of them. It's not their job to help you. That's your job.

      Delete
    2. I didn't HAVE to read it in its entirety to see that it was about women bearing a disproportionate burden when it comes to doing the work of conversation with men who interrupt them. As I said, the statistics alone are enough to make that clear.

      Also consider that I never said it was a woman's job to help me.

      And finally, consider what the problem even is in the first place. This is an unconscious habit. It sucks that I've developed this habit, and a lot of time could go into figuring out how I got it and why, or we could just focus on fixing it.

      As I already said, I try as hard as I can to notice, apologize for, and prevent myself from interrupting people. What's been happening lately is I will interrupt, say like two words, realize I've interrupted, stop, apologize, and tell the other person to go ahead. Often in my apology I indicate I'm working to try to fix this and that's when I ask them to tell me if I do it again.

      But I don't catch it every single time. It's an unconscious habit. I don't NOTICE it happening, every single time. And as the statistics show, I'm more likely to interrupt women than men (although frankly I'm trying not to interrupt them either. No reason to interrupt anyone, really.)

      You could look at it as giving the woman more work. Or you could look at it as giving the woman control of the conversation. I have just handed this woman a golden ticket to put me down, put me in my place, and to interrupt ME, with no negative social consequences. To use your analogy, I have just told her that she's the diner and I'm the server.

      So you can look at that as 'more work' if you want, or you can look at that as giving her more freedom. Doesn't matter how you look at it, I'm going to try not to interrupt you anyway, and I'm going to ask/allow you to correct me if I mess up and thank you for the correction.

      If you truly look at that and continue to take a hateful, spiteful tone towards it, then I'm not sure what else to do. It makes me question whether you want equality or revenge.

      Delete
    3. A couple addendums as this forum does not have an edit function that I can find.

      1 - As I already said, I try as hard as I can to notice, apologize for, and prevent myself from interrupting people.

      I would add to the end of this sentence "whether they help me with this or not."

      2 - If you truly look at that and continue to take a hateful, spiteful tone towards it, then I'm not sure what else to do. It makes me question whether you want equality or revenge.

      I would rewrite this in some way to emphasize it is not the words you are saying which makes me question, it is the tone alone that raises this question. Nothing about what you've actually written raises this question.

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    4. Thortok, it's a common feeling to dislike the tone of an argument rather than the substance of it - there's actually a term for this, "tone policing." This short video does a good job of summarizing it:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCgkiGNOmek

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    5. I watched that for 7 seconds and didn't have to watch it any longer than that.

      I am not attempting to dismiss your claim. I am actively working to improve myself. I agree with you. I even tried to emphasize that in my addendum...there's nothing wrong with your claim.

      But as I indicated in my original post, your tone of this original piece, combined with length, is more than enough to push away your target audience and/or put them on the defensive where they're going to be more interested in refuting you than listening to you.

      But that was a tone directed at the general public. When you take that tone with me again, personally, cherrypicking my response, ignoring the part where I say that I'm not pointing the finger at the woman for not helping me with this, I'm not putting this on her, I'm not making it her job and if I fail it's her fault, and then you cherrypick my second response as a dismissal of your argument, even though it should be clear by now I agreed with your argument before I even read it, now I'm the one that feels like I'm not being listened to.

      This 'tone policing' accusation would make sense if I was saying that I'm not going to listen to you until you change your tone. That is NOT what I said. What I said is, your tone makes me think you care more about revenge than equality.

      Please, take a moment to look at what I'm actually saying instead of how it makes you feel for me to say it. I try to be very precise in my language, especially on such a touchy subject.

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    6. I have read and re-read everything you've written to me.

      Meanwhile, you openly say that you didn't read my whole piece ("I didn't read this post to the end either; but in this case the tone put me off even though I already agree with the subject matter,") and that you didn't watch the entire video that I sent to you as a way of responding to your statement that my tone rather than my message is problematic ("I watched that for 7 seconds and didn't have to watch it any longer than that.")

      If you want to have a fight about who is "not-listening" the hardest, I think I have a strong case here. But I don't want to have that fight with you. I am totally game to have this conversation with you, but only if you are willing to take my labor seriously and respect the work that goes in to responding to you here.

      You ask me to listen to what you're actually saying, and say you try to be very precise in your language, even as you acknowledge that you did not listen to MY language. Why do you think you deserve what you haven't given me? If you are trying to work on relinquishing your conversational monopoly, as you say, you can start right here.

      Please take a moment to notice what you are demanding of me: you're upset that I cherrypicked your response, which means you feel you are entitled to a point-by-point rebuttal or analysis, which means that you think that every word you said was worth my time, which you assert alongside your acknowledgement that my words were not worth your time. You are mad that your mattress is lumpy.

      Notice that sense of deserving "your fair shake," here, and the feelings you have when you sense you haven't gotten it.

      You are demanding my attention, and asking that I change my tone to make you more comfortable. You want me to do the extra conversational work to help you order your chicken parm in Biblical Greek. You are doing exactly what I described in the piece you half-read.

      Please sit for a minute and notice how you feel when you don't get all of the things you want from me, and whether that is in any way in line with the metaphor in the piece of the diner and the server.

      Please also understand that when you say, "I'm not pointing the finger at the woman for not helping me with this, I'm not putting this on her, I'm not making it her job," you are not the one who gets to determine how your request impacts the women around you. If you stepped on my foot, you wouldn't try to tell me whether or not it hurt. It is not the kicked dog's job to ask the owner to stop kicking.

      I am glad to hear that you're working on yourself and catching yourself. Consider that that is enough for now. Asking women to pay attention to how often you interrupt women is just more work for women, which, as I say, is a big part of the inequity here.

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    7. Ah, now I'm hitting the character limit lol. Part 1 -

      Got the reply button to work this time, yay.

      I did wind up watching the rest of the video anyway, as I posted elsewhere.

      I also am completely reading all of the replies, so no problem there. If you really WANT me to go back and read that entire original post, sure, but I did skim it and nothing unexpected stood out for the rest of the document, just going into an extreme amount of detail on a subject with which I'm already familiar with and agree.

      You're starting to project a little here. I'm not upset that you're cherrypicking; I'm pointing out that you are doing so.

      In this case, you pick a single point of my response, and then respond to that....even though the rest of my post already responds to that point. I'm not looking for a point by point analysis of my response, I'm saying, there's no reason for you to have an objection to my giving "more work" to the woman when I have already said I don't point the finger at her. In this case, perhaps that message wasn't clear in my first post, so I'm happy to delve into deeper detail in a response, but then it happened again; in my entire post, even though I have made it clear that I agree with you, you take even a single mention of your tone as 'tone policing' and imply that I am dismissing your argument because of your tone. Again, in the rest of the post you're replying to, and especially in my addendum, I feel like I'm making it clear that I'm not dismissing your argument.

      So that's twice now where you seemingly make a point of something I said even though the rest of the post already seemingly refutes the point you're making. So yes, that is cherrypicking. And doing a point by point response is going even further to separate comments from their context, is it not? So why would I ask for that? I'm not expecting that extra work from you.

      What I am expecting, is to read the entire post as a whole, and realize that what you're objecting to was already addressed in the post. Now, communication is a two way street, and if I say something and you don't get the message I intended to send, I'm partly to blame. But in this specific instance, I'm not sure why you're 'picking out' these comments, twice now.

      I am not demanding that your tone change to make me more comfortable....I am requesting that you stop making accusations that are untrue. I feel that's anyone's fair shake. I am saying that your tone implies something.

      Again, please LITERALLY read the words that I am saying. Did I say "Your tone makes me uncomfortable"? No, I did not. Not once did I. I said, specifically, your tone makes me think you care more about revenge than equality.

      This is a point I'm trying to make and you keep dodging it. Do I expect or demand that you do so? Not any more than the normal expectations in a civil discussion that two people continue to reply to each other in order to achieve mutual understanding.

      Now, I could get all tossy and angry and snarky and toss casual insults about your debate ability, and I do have a habit of trolling people like that in some discussions, typically when I don't expect the person to change their mind in the first place, but I'm not striking that tone with you (or I'm trying not to) because you do strike me as intelligent, passionate on the issue, and capable of understanding. My favorite kind of person to talk to. =D

      Delete
    8. Part 2 -



      Please sit and notice how you feel when you don't get all you want from ME. And then look at how I react to it, versus how you react to it. You take a tone; I don't. Or I try not to and apologize if I do.

      When I'm out in the world and have accidentally interrupted, I give that golden ticket as I said before. This is a different form of communication. It has different rules, different expectations.

      Please also understand that when my request impacts the women around me, I specifically said, "You can see it as more work if you want to." I made a case for why you should perhaps not see it that way. But it is still your decision to see it that way if you want to, AND, more importantly, whether you see it that way or not won't affect my decision to try to stop interrupting you. You can either help me or not help me; doesn't matter.

      My expressing my point of view does not invalidate your point of view, and it is not 'an attempt to determine' your point of view. I also feel that the way I expressed my point of view.

      I completely understand and agree with your analogy of "You don't get to decide if I am hurt." But where does that end? Let's apply a slippery slope here: I just took a breath, and you just claimed that it hurt you. Under this logic, I can't say "No, my breath didn't hurt you." But guess what? I'm human, so I'm going to keep breathing. I'm sorry that you feel it hurts you, but I have to make that decision between whether I BELIEVE you when you say you are hurt, how MUCH you are hurt by it, and obviously how much I need to breathe.

      If I stepped on your foot, I'd apologize. But I'd never stop from myself from ever taking another step again for fear I'd step on someone's foot.

      This accusation that asking for help, but still indicating I'm going to try to stop whether I get that help or not, is to me, as little an imposition on you as it is for me to take a breath. If you truly think it's too much work to do this and it asks too much of you, don't do it. There's still some affect by being asked at all, sure, but THAT effect is so small, such as my taking a breath, that I'm willing to let it be because it's uncontrollable.

      Because let's be honest here. In a real situation, if I interrupt, stop myself, apologize, indicate I'm working on fixing it, indicate it's okay to correct me if I do it and there are no negative social consequences of doing so, then you think to yourself "that's not my job" and you don't correct me and you just stew and let the fact that I asked for help bother you... That's not an equal balance of onus, now is it? And if you say "I'd rather you not have asked me that, that's not my job" then I would again apologize and again indicate I'm going to try not to interrupt you whether you help or not.

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    9. Part 3 of 3 -
      I also feel that this entire situation is much more simple and dynamic and easy to understand that it takes five times as many words to describe it as it does to just do it. And I don't see (which means you're welcome to try to make me see, if you see differently) how this isn't just plain fair equality for both sides.

      There is one change that I will make, which is instead of 'asking' them to, I will just indicate that it is okay if they do. I feel like this was implied in my tone, but I will be more explicit. So instead of "please let me know if I interrupt" I will literally say "You can stop me if I interrupt you, I don't mind" or some such.

      Because either you want the problem fixed or you don't. And there's only so much I can do to fix something I can't even notice in the first place. And yeah, it sucks that I don't notice it, but be realistic. Unless I pay someone to follow me around and listen to every conversation and poke me in the shoulder when I interrupt someone, the only person there who may have any vested interest in getting me to stop interrupting is the person I'm interrupting. And if they take that 'golden ticket' as "just more work for them" and decide they don't want to, they have every right to take that reaction....and then the problem will still be there, and I'll still be interrupting without realizing it, and that's just more work for them in the conversation anyway. So now it's double the work instead of none of the work, which is again why I don't think it makes sense to take that attitude, even though you have the right to.

      Does that make sense at all?

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    10. I clicked on Thortok2000’s profile. The first interest he lists is “submissive, intelligent women”. I don’t think he’s that interested in listening to what women say.

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    11. Do you consider yourself well informed about power exchange or kink in general?

      Delete
    12. You seem to be making several assumptions.

      For one, that submissive women have nothing to say...which is highly insulting to submissive women.

      For two, that being interested in submissive women means NOT interested in listening to what they say....which seems counter intuitive.

      For three, that being interested in submissive women means I won't listen to any other type of woman, or men....which has nothing to do with anything.

      And for four, that a submissive woman can't be seen as or treated as an equal.....which again is highly insulting to submissive women.

      You seem to have a ton of preconceptions all wrapped up in one insulting statement. You should seriously educate yourself before commenting further.

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    13. Of all things you can take negatively about Thortok’s responses, his preference for submissive women doesn’t necessarily reflect an attitude towards women, assuming of course that he means submissive in a BDSM way and not in a 1950s housewife way.

      As a submissive, intelligent, independent woman, it is extremely insulting to women (and men) who participate in the BDSM subculture to assume that submission equates powerless. In a proper BDSM relationship, the submissive has all the power.

      Regardless of whether or not we agree with Thortok’s responses, which I will admit I have several disagreements with but that’s not the point of my comment, attacking him on a subculture that it appears no one is familiar with is just as ignorant and equally as tone-deaf as he is being accused of being.

      My point here is that it is a distinction between getting someone to understand a point or point of view, and ad hominem attacks that do nothing to forward a conversation, but everything to create an unbridgeable divide.

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    14. Wow Thortok, now you’ve written a ton more in response to the article after complaining about the length of the article and how totally amazeballs you are that you “get it” so fast people shouldn’t get to have their own right to communicate the way and length they wish- rather they should get on your timetable, amirite? And thanks for the mansplaining about why women expressing themselves in the way they choose without proper deference to you is so tiresome and off putting. You sound like a real charmer.

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    15. Oh my god Katie. Thortok2000 is interrupting your piece about men interrupting women in order to tell you why he didn’t like your piece about men interrupting women.

      The “I knew what you were going to say” excuse is the excuse that chronic interrupters use to justify their actions. He already knew how your article would end. He already knew how the video would end.

      “Feel free to point out if I interrupt you. I don’t mind.” solves absolutely nothing, because (as he might know if he had read your article), women are used to being interrupted and it is not worth the effort to constantly correct people.

      Thortok, “giving permission” for a woman to correct you only reenforces the power dynamic that already exists. Obviously, you are aware of the fact that you interrupt people and have by now put a good deal of thought into this matter. This article is literally asking you to make the effort to change your behavior, and you are claiming that you can”t do that because you interrupt “subconsciously.” I doubt I have ever read a more ironic series of replies to an article in my life.

      As for the strange road this conversation went down concerning submissive women, I find it highly unlikely that Thortok is boldly announcing his sexual preferences for BDSM submission on his profile. He is announcing his preference for a woman with a submissive personality in general. Like, to date. Just like Katie’s article does not place any blame on women for repeatedly being forced into submissive roles throughout their lives, this says NOTHING negative about submissive women. This says everything about Thortok.

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    16. As someone who has encountered many a sub that doesn't seem to understand that submissiveness and dominance are more about roles taken up for mutual pleasure, rather than having anything to do with the entitlement or desert of one party over the other, I appreciate the above.

      While I do agree with some of the other posters that there is more nuance to the behaviors outlined in the original piece, I also think it's important to listen to the general message conveyed.

      Personally, when I call myself a feminist, I do so knowing that, despite being non-binary and despite my past, I still bear some of the more toxic elements of masculinity on the basis of being raised in a society in which (and possessing the genitals for (if not the sexual proclivities for) which) those are more normalized. And this means I listen and observe more than direct and guide.

      The question for me at the end of this piece is "do I support this sort of power dynamic?" "Is this acceptable?" Regardless of the genders. Or, on the other hand, is one of the behaviors a bit problematic? And how do we step away from those behaviors?

      It's a complicated question... but since I've begun to ask it, I've found that I'm rarely put off by essays or articles that bemoan men, especially articles that seem anecdotal rather than scientific (though I also am aware of the scientific studies that substantiate the basis of this piece). If I find myself feeling offended at such pieces, I presume my offense comes less from the piece intentionally attacking me, and more as a sign that I have more skeletons to unpack from my childhood closet.

      Delete
    17. Thank you, Amanda. I agree, it's a complete ad hominem attack.

      That google profile thing is something I wrote when I was much younger and have not returned to in awhile. I do of course still very much enjoy engaging with and interacting with submissive women (in the BDSM context, not the 1950's context) but I can understand it doesn't come off that way to everyone.

      It was actually kind of meant as a dog whistle. Actual submissive women would understand what it meant, and the rest (at the time) I didn't care if they got it or not. I don't know another term for this "only some people get the message" effect than dog whistle so please don't take 'dog' as a sign of disrespect. =P

      I will be changing (and probably deleting) it due to the conflict it causes, but I left it up for now because I don't have shame in it. So yes, I /was/ boldly announcing my sexual preferences for BDSM, to the right ears. =P

      But since that's an ad hominem attack, that's really quite enough on the subject.

      Moving back to the discussion at hand, I do realize that my last post was quite long. So here's a TL:DR summary of it:

      1 - As far as reading the original post, I will if you want me to. But I feel you're neglecting a key point: I agree with it. I am already ready to stand by and agree with a post even though I didn't read it all the way. Is that not different from disagreeing with a post I didn't even read? So please stop treating it the same.

      2 - On that subject, if you really feel I'm missing something from the post, sure, I'll go back and read it completely. So far, no examples have been given of points I've missed....just a kneejerk reaction to my honesty about having not read it all.

      3 - As far as 'tone policing', even the video linked (which I did wind up watching all of) ends on the final point that if your tone is too negative, why should you expect anyone to listen, even if you're right? As far as my original tone comment, that was my point.

      4 - As far as followup tone, it has not made me 'uncomfortable' so saying this is a false accusation against me. It has made me question whether she wants equality or revenge. I'm not expecting or demanding a defense of this point, but it seems to have gone unacknowledged. I wouldn't even expect acknowledgement either, but when it's followed up with an accusation that her tone makes me 'uncomfortable', then I really do feel like my message isn't literally getting across.

      5 - I have already said repeatedly that whether a woman helps me or not I will still be making efforts to stop. Over and over it feels like this point gets forgotten and the implication keeps returning to "if women don't help me I won't try to stop." That's not it. Instead, it is:

      6 - I'm not sure how effective I can be on my own with this. I have caught myself several times. I haven't caught myself every time, I'm pretty sure. So yes, realistically speaking, until/unless the times I catch it helps me whittle down the times I don't, there will still be times I don't. And we can write 5 thousand words on this subject but I doubt we're really going to come across some mechanism that I, myself, without external support, can break an unconscious habit that I don't even notice is happening. If we can, great, I'm all ears, but until then, I would rather work to fix the problem than let it sit. This leads me to:

      Delete
    18. 7 - In a real world scenario, where I interrupt, stop myself, apologize, explain that I am /trying to stop/, and either ask for help (or 'give permission' to help), it is now up to the woman to choose whether she wants to help or not. If she does, great, it helps me fix the problem. If she doesn't, that's her right, and I'll try to fix the problem anyway. But what I do NOT see is that this question harms her SO MUCH that I should find some other way of doing things. I refer to my analogy of "taking a breath."

      If I'm drowning and ask for a lifesaver, and you want to take the attitude that's "too much work" and refuse, that's your right...but I won't stop asking. In this case, I feel like the benefits of my stopping interrupting benefit myself and everyone I ever talk to in the future, and that outweighs whatever slight harm is coming from simply being ASKED to help.

      8 - And then I even toned that down from 'asking' to help to the 'giving permission' thing. I would hope this would be indicative that I /am/ listening and trying to change my behavior to a rational decision based off of this discussion. So the ad hominem attacks (for those who are making them) feel less like you're angry about the substance of my reply than you are angry that I replied at all.

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    19. Thortok - you understand and support everything about the situation described in the post (so well that you didn't even need to read all of the post), and you felt such an urgent need to correct just this ONE TINY thing (the 'tone', I guess) that you end up spouting (yes, your tone was spouting'ish, fill of itself) as many total words as the post you were replying about.

      Urgh. Take a breath of someone else's perspective - draw that breath deeply, experience it, then ruminate SILENTLY for once.

      Delete
    20. @Pvl -

      1 - The tone isn't a tiny thing. Combined with the length, the target audience no longer reads the post, no change is affected. That's not a tiny thing.

      2 - My original reply was nowhere near the length of the post I was replying about. I forget the logical fallacy this is, but you're swip swapping two different things. My long responses come in response to long replies and are no longer 'spouting' about just that one thing.

      3 - Why does your post seem to strike the tone of "Listening to your dissenting opinion is to much work for me, so sit down and shut up so I don't have to see it anymore"?

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    21. Thor, there's a lot to talk about with regard to all your comments, but I want to discuss one aspect in particular. That you, asking women to tell you when you're interrupting, is the problem.

      Yeah, asking them. It has nothing to do with whether you expect them to do it, or if you're cool with them not doing it.

      You, casually, without a thought, ask the women you're in conversation with to do extra work. To, above ALL the things they have to think about while navigating a conversation with a man who likes to interrupt, decide if they feel comfortable telling you that you're interrupting them, and if yes, to then do it.

      The women you ask this of have two options:

      1) They tell you when you're interrupting, which means interrupting YOU (hey, guess what--some women don't like to interrupt, because they're polite and interrupting is rude). It also means that they are essentially doing what YOU asked them to do, they aren't interrupting for their own sake, though it *may* benefit them. It also means that you are relieved of some of the burden of correcting your own habits--if she could notice that you interrupted her, why couldn't you?

      OR

      2) She doesn't tell you when you're interrupting her. However, you already asked, so now she expects you to interrupt her, but not only that, she KNOWS THAT YOU KNOW IT'S BAD. She knows, you know, yet you continue doing it. So she has to be interrupted by you over and over, all while both parties acknowledge that what you're doing is shitty.

      Why would you put anyone in that position?

      Nobody is objecting because we think that you think women HAVE to correct you or stop you when you interrupt. The objection is that you asked for it in the first place.

      If you were in conversation with a woman and she said "I'm working on my speech patterns, can you let me know every time I say the word "like"?" how would that make you feel? Kind of rude if she's a stranger, understandable if she's a friend. Maybe this is how you see your request?

      Now, what if she asked you "Hey, I've noticed that I have some inherent disdain toward men and when I think a man is being an idiot I raise my eyebrows. Can you let me know whenever I do that?"

      How does THAT make you feel? How do you feel, in that conversation, when you make a joke (one that YOU think is funny) and she raises her eyebrows?

      When you ask women to tell you when you're interrupting them, you are saying: "Hey. I have an inherent disregard for what women are saying, and I interrupt them to say what I want. Can you let me know what I do that?"

      It's rude. You are being rude when you interrupt a woman and you're being EVEN MORE RUDE when you ask them to monitor your interruption.

      Be a responsible, self-aware human being and monitor it yourself. Stop making excuses about it being an unconscious habit. Develop a new unconscious habit: ask yourself, continually throughout the conversation, "Is anyone talking?" If the answer is "yes," then it's not your turn to talk yet. You can learn some great signals (signals women have been using for decades) to let your partner know you have something to say. Leaning forward, opening your mouth slightly, gesturing with your hand, making a face as though you just thought of something interesting, making a "hmm" sound, lifting a finger. These are all tools woman (and men!) have been using for years to successfully let their partner know, politely, that they have something to say. You can also learn to, every time you take a breath while talking, ask yourself "how many breaths have I taken since I started talking? Have I been talking for a while? Maybe my conversational partner has something to say?"

      Eventually you will develop the unconscious habit of respectfully carrying on a two-sided conversation. And you can do that without asking your partner to monitor you.

      Thank you for hearing me out.

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    22. @Alice -

      Thank you for your post, I feel I understand a little more about where you're coming from. I'm not sure I necessarily agree, though.

      However, what I'm thinking about now is that facts and feelings don't always align. Let me elucidate:

      1 - In response to your 1/2 scenarios. In scenario 1, if she doesn't like to do it, she should swap to scenario 2. If they see this as 'being obedient to my whim', they should swap to scenario 2. If they see this as for my sake only and not their own, they should swap to scenario 2. And as far as relieving me of some of the burden, that's sort of the point of asking for help. It's a burden I'm not sure I can handle solely on my own.

      In scenario 2, this implies that I don't catch any of the times I interrupt her...again, I'm already working to catch as many as I can.

      When I compare this to my actual experiences, there has been one woman who helped, and gave me a 'look' every time I interrupted her. The others, I /feel/ like I caught myself every time, but even when I interrupted them, then stopped myself and invited them to go ahead, they said I should just go ahead anyway. And they said this with what look like sincere smiles and positive body language so I don't feel like they're actually hurt by my efforts to stop interrupting them, much less my asking for help, even though they didn't.

      2 - When I boil this down, it's simply someone asking for help to be better at stopping a bad habit. It's not anyone else's obligation to help. It's not an expectation, it's not a demand. It's just someone asking for help. Whether you give that help or not, I don't see why there is such a downforce and a "how dare you" attitude to /asking for help./ I don't understand how that fits into a society of equal, mature people, that nobody can ask for help without the simple asking being enough to offend someone.

      I honestly really do compare it to that "say the word like" example. Because I'm not saying "I interrupt women, specifically, a lot, and I need to learn to stop interrupting women, so since you're a woman, will you please tell me when I interrupt you?" I've said before, I interrupt men, I won't say "just as much" cause that's not true, but I -do- interrupt men too. I've asked men to tell me when I'm interrupting them as well. Frankly, I'm 'gender-blind' in this respect. I shouldn't be interrupting anyone.

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    23. 3 - Even the original post indicates that a lot of two-way, casual, friendly conversation DOES include interrupting on a regular basis. Some people just talk that way. Different people are different.

      All these social cues that you're talking about are already difficult for me; often when two people are talking, and I'm sitting at the table too so there's no reason I shouldn't be part of the conversation, I turn into the silent listener and never get a word in because they keep filling in each other's pauses and I don't know when to speak. By the time I get an opening to speak, what I was going to say is no longer the topic of conversation. My social skills all around are kind of weak. I actually do a lot better in 1on1 conversations cause finding the pauses is easier.

      But interrupting is a pretty simple one to catch, especially for the person that's been interrupted. Yes, I'm communicating that I know I do it and I know it's bad, but what I'm ALSO communicating is that I WANT TO STOP. That I'm -trying- to stop. Hopefully I'm communicating my heart is in the right place. So I'll keep catching what I can, and if I miss some, I pre-apologize for it.

      It should also be mentioned that I'm not interrupting ON PURPOSE. Something in the way you worded it as 'I know, yet I keep doing it' implies that it's on purpose, and it's not.

      Honestly I'm hoping this won't be a long term problem anyway and that I can kick the habit pretty soon. But although I appreciate the point you're trying to make, it feels very one-sided and based on false assumptions. This is where I go back to what I said at the start:

      4 - Facts don't always line up with feelings. I can understand how some women might -feel- this way upon being asked for help, even if I feel there isn't much reason for them too. This is where I am willing to change my language to "It's okay to let me know if I interrupt you" although I still haven't figured out a non-awkward way to say that.

      And again, while I can acknowledge that some women might be hurt just to be asked for help....I still don't see that asking for help is that big a sin, and that the hurt caused by it is so huge, that I should stop doing it. I just don't see it. It goes back to "if you said my taking a breath hurt, I'd take a breath anyway." I need the help, I ask for the help, and if that hurts, sorry. And moreover, I see asking for help as a fair thing to do. People should be able to ask for help when they need it. That should be a thing. Nothing obligates you to give it, but trying to tell them they shouldn't even ask....I can't get on board with that.

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  23. I don't doubt that men interrupt women more than women interrupt men. There are men, and women, who continue to believe in male superiority (have a quick glance at devout Mormons, Catholics, backwoods mouth-breathers, etc...), but as a male who works in the service industry I offer that the gender-based interruption examples in this article are in fact role-based. If you're trying to reach men who are prone to gender-based interruption I think the case would be better served using actual gender-based examples. Just my two cents...

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    1. Hi Jeff,

      You're absolutely right - the example of the diner/server IS a role-based power dynamic. I used it as a metaphor to explain how the, like most women, the server is responsible for the diner's (man's) experience, and defers to the diner (man) in conversation and in space. My hope was that by putting it in a role-based, rather than gender-based context, it might not trigger highly defensive responses, and kind of translate the experience for people who didn't understand whether/why interrupting women is a problem.

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    2. Thanks for the explanation. Maybe it's working for others by not triggering defense responses, as you suggest, but for this male server, who sees both men and women in a hurry all the time, it makes the leap between role-based example and gender-based conclusion too far for me to reach. :)

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  24. I’m with Oscar and Thortok2000. I found the tone of this piece off-putting and the example unconvincing since, as Jeff said, in real life this example is more about role than gender. Even more off-putting is how the author chose to shut down the conversation with anyone who raised questions about her article. Talk about taking up space and not allowing other voices! I mean, Oscar read your very long piece and tried to engage with it. Isn’t that why you wrote it? Or was it written as more of a self-congratulatory celebration of your rightness that would garner lots of “amens” and “me toos?” So disappointing.

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    1. I'm not Katie, so I can't speak to her intent.
      But I think you are too quickly dismissing the need for words to express in metaphor or allegory how it feels to be in that lower social power position.
      So yes---it does seem to me that her main purpose was to express that experience--in whatever tone was needed to make that experience ring true--and give some people the opportunity to say "amen" and "me too" and to realize that they aren't alone.

      As for the purpose of changing the behavior of the interrupters...that might need as many approaches as there are interrupting people. So some might be able to absorb the allegory and "get it". Others might need a different tone to meet them where they are. But that doesn't have to be the job of this author to make this piece valuable.

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  25. Having difficulties getting the reply button to work for some reason, but this is meant to continue in that thread with the youtube link.

    After posting I went ahead and watched it anyway out of curiosity, several good points made. To support what I was trying to say in the first place however, perhaps start that video at 5:24.

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  26. There's a frustrating stereotype that feminists are hyper sensitive and over reactive. As a feminists myself, I object to this stereotype. I don't find it amusing or flattering. To me, you're coming across perhaps differently than you intend. I don't expect your agreement, but let's not be small or sharp or ugly with each other. If I've been any of these things, I'm deeply sorry and I apologise.

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    1. Oscar, thank you for your apology.

      I'm not sure how to respond to the former part of this comment.

      You open by presenting a "frustrating stereotype" that there's no reason to bring up.

      Then you make sure it's crystal clear that the frustrating stereotype that you introduced is not okay with you.

      Then you suggest that I'm coming across differently than I intend... which I take to mean that you think I'm coming across as the frustrating stereotype that you both introduced into the conversation and then immediately disavowed.

      Then you say "let's" not be small or sharp or ugly. Are you saying that I am being small, sharp, and ugly? I agree that I'm being sharp, but I don't have any problem with that. Please give me some examples of smallness or ugliness. I'm genuinely interested.

      It's hard for me to read it as anything other than a "heads up, you're coming across too angry to the men who are trying to tell you that you're wrong about what it's like to be a woman." Is that it?

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  28. Question off of this thread- We know that during middle school (ish) girls self-confidence drops. What I am courious to find out is how early the men interrupting women is traced back (And why it starts)? And how does this affect girls self confidence both in their youth and later in life?

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  29. Great piece and lol at some of the ridiculous responses you've had here.

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  30. lol @ the inevitable examples that ALWAYS present themselves in all their glorious irony.

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  31. Incredible piece! You're on fire, Katie. Thanks for the labor!! I do not have a way with words or the fortitude to try to even deal. So this piece is like manna from heaven. Or something. To have it expressed so well and still see that it doesn't break through the wall is painful. But still so glad it's here. And glad a middle aged male acquaintance shared it on Facebook. Why do I feel afraid to share it myself? Hmm.

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  32. Great piece. I've never seen conversational manspreading explained this clearly before.

    And we see (as always) that the comments on a piece about feminism inevitably illustrate the need for feminism.

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  33. When I read this article, the very first person I thought about was my previous female supervisor (who has predominantly worked with men throughout her career) and the many times A DAY that I have felt myself become smaller and smaller for this precise reason. She wasn't doing it to be unkind or abusive, but it happened so frequently that I can probably count on two hands the number of times I actually stood up for my ideas.

    On the other hand, when I am talking with the director of my department, a man, my comfort level is significantly higher. (I'm still intimidate, but only because he is the director, not because he interrupts me.)

    I only share this because I feel like women interrupter exist too and can be just as hurtful.

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  34. I think it's an important conversation. I think the constructive salient aspects could be summarized (briefly) as, "Often times, interrupting someone asserts a power dynamic. Men, you may not be aware of that power dynamic, or how it feels, because you may have been on the privileged, entitled side of it most of your life. Many women have been on the less-powerful side of that dynamic most of their lives. You should try to be aware of that, and consider whom you are interrupting, and why." That (in gist), I could whole-heartedly agree with. But that isn't where it went... instead, the author decided to imply (assert even) that interrupting is a Bad Thing (tm) (you're literally smothering people, interrupter!) and that people who do it should stop doing it (you can change, interrupter!).

    I'd personally flip this opinion piece on its head, because I think interrupting is an important part of dialogue, and BOTH parties should actually feel okay interrupting when it's appropriate. My hope would be that someday - and speaking in general, because we're speaking in generalities here, which I hope everyone can acknowledge is dangerous to begin with - but my hope would be that some day, women can feel comfortable interrupting men, when it's appropriate. Yep, "when it's appropriate" is a judgement call, the kind we make every time we interact with someone else. But interrupting isn't a Bad Thing, or a Good Thing, it's just a Thing, like language, that can be good or bad depending on how it's used.

    The examples given make the diner seem rude. But what if I'm the diner, and I'm in a hurry (let's say I'm getting a lunch to go, to take to my wife, who didn't have time to get her own lunch, because she's the CEO of a company, and she's prepping a big presentation) and I know what I want to order (it's my wife's favorite and will give her a little pick-me-up before her prez), and let's say the server launches into a long description of the specials that day, without even asking me if I already know what I want. How rude! I am forced to choose between interrupting, and being late with my wife's meal! So I interrupt, and say I know what I want... but then, the server starts telling me about how the special is really great, and it's just been brought in... so I interrupt again and say I'm in a bit of hurry please, sorry, but I just want to order chicken parm and I have to get going as quickly as I can (with a meek smile that says please don't spit in my wife's food). Did I just smother the server? Obviously not, right? Obviously, it's a matter of making a judgement call.

    Another example, someone starts a very long point with a false premise. "This is going to take a while and you're not going to like it, but because you ate all the pizza, I think you need to understand..." and I say, "Hang on a sec, before you go there, I didn't actually eat all the pizza. I put it in the fridge because I didn't want it to go bad before you got home, and I didn't know when that was gonna be, because you didn't answer the text I sent asking!" How rude? Not really... actually, good thing for the existence of interruptions!

    Or how about someone is giving a really long description of a dynamic between herself and her partner and I interrupt to say, "Exactly! That's so well put." Did I just assert a power dynamic, or did I show enthusiasm for the person's thoughts she was sharing?

    ...

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  35. ...


    Especially considering the author's counter examples (you wouldn't interrupt a cop... you wouldn't interrupt your boss... you wouldn't interrupt someone you think can hurt you), it's remarkably fucked up that the author seems to be saying, "You should talk to everyone as if you think they can hurt you." What the hell?! What about if instead, everyone talked to everyone else as if they were NOT afraid they could hurt them? Is that not a better goal?

    I know, I know, clearly I don't get it, right? The point isn't that interrupting is *always* bad, the point is that people (usually men) don't realize how their interruptions make other people (usually women) feel less important, walled in, suffocated. But the article makes it sound like the problem is interrupting, and the solution is to stop interrupting. And so - fully acknowledging the reality of that intrinsic power dynamic, and the truth of how it makes many (most?) women feel - I really do still disagree with the direction this piece takes after stating that reality (which I fully acknowledge and feel is important to address).

    To wit: the problem in my opinion isn't that you may feel it's okay to interrupt your server. The problem is that you don't feel it is okay to interrupt a cop, no matter what, because he has a fucking gun, and can put you in jail, and you're afraid he might get annoyed (even a little) if you stop him to tell him that you understand you were speeding, you will try not to speed because you know it's dangerous, and you accept the fine, and can he please write your ticket and let you go as quickly as possible, because your kid fell out a window, and is at the hospital, and you need to get there before he may pass away.

    Oh no, did you just INTERRRUPT?! What a fucking wall you are. What a smotherer. You may not "get it", but YOU CAN CHANGE. It's not that simple and it's not that one-sided.

    Rather, I'd say, "What can we do, to help women feel like they are free to interrupt when they guage it is appropriate to do so? How can we help shift the dynamic so that women don't feel like they have to sit and listen and nod when a man is talking? And at the same time, how do we improve the judgement of men on when it is appropriate to interrupt? How do we make men more aware of the intrinsic power dynamic that to them is like the air they breathe, so that they can understand and modify to stop carelessly asserting that power dynamic?"

    I know one thing for sure: I don't want to live in a world where everyone speaks to everyone else like they would a police officer, or a boss, who they are afraid can hurt them, good fucking grief.

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