This post is also available in: French
I’m glad that we finally can speak, and scientifically, about a phenomenon that represented a serious obstacle in my professional life (much less now because I learned how to fight it!). Let us speak today about Manterrupting !
This is called in English the “manterrupting” often followed by a second equally terrible phenomenon, the “Bropropriating” or “mensplaining”. Serious academics studies just proved that these phenomena do really exist, no offense to some gentlemen!
So first, you will ask: what is exactly hiding behind these names?
As explained by journalists “manterrupting” is what happens when a woman speaks publicly, for example in a workshop or meeting, and systematically and without any serious reasons, she is interrupted by a man. Either to prevent her from continuing, or for allegedly better explain what she was about to say, and sometimes for the worst: to appropriate her ideas which is: “mensplaining”. Women who read me, will understand immediately what I mean, because we all have lived this, and very often in our lives.
Very often in my work in the past, I found myself in the awkward position of being completely prevented from expressing myself, from giving my opinion in a group, or even I was not listened at all. I have always been in male dominated workplace. Whether in the companies of communication or international trade where I worked in the past,, , or in my current work: from more than 15 years in research, exploration, ancient history, archeology, I faced large obstacles as a woman. And the amazing thing, is that it was worst with the people in alternative ideas where openness should prevail over sexism and discrimination.
At university I was extremely shy, always sitting down in the back row of the class to get peace, until an extraordinary professor of classical Chinese, full of humanity and sensitivity, noticed my isolation and my writings, and forces me to go in the front row, in order to often interrogate me publicly, to make hear my voice, inaudible in that time. I can say today that it is due to the extraordinary Professor Cheng, who had since become a member of the French Academy that I progressed, learned to express myself publicly, to affirm me out of my torpor shy. It is thanks to him that I started to believe in myself, in my abilities and that I exercised myself to confront harsh situations. And so, it is with this man of rare qualities that I have prepared myself to face what I would endure with others much less clever, and this: I have not forgotten.
Because the fight was going to be tough. Not only they interrupted me constantly in work meetings, but much worse at the beginning, when I spoke: they turned away their heads, it was as if I had said nothing, as if I was not there at all. At first I thought I was dreaming or somehow paranoid but after several attempts and different circumstances I could only see the extent of this phenomenon. They bluntly denied my presence, and deliberately non listening to my words. It was really violent, I received this information as a slap in the face. It was extremely insulting. I was even not believing it!
Not even to be listened when you say something important, or even worse: to be not answered when you just ask a legitimate question: for me, this is outright torture. It is an action done to dehumanize you, to deny the fact that you’re a full human being . This is not a simple rudeness, it is an attack against your most elementary rights: the right to exist. The person who ignores you in a debate or sabotages your words or appropriates your work, it is not unconsciously done as some would have us to believe, but it does so, with the specific intent to annihilate you, to erase all traces of your intelligence, to shine alone, to exist alone. This is someone who “delete” you, without any problems, without any qualms. This is far to be just a lack of respect problem.
I well remember, to speak only of events of a few years ago, how English and Austrian male colleagues throughout a our journey in South Africa did everything to ignore me, not answering me when I was speaking to them, not saying any words to me for days, just by pure sexism and professional jealousy. You had to be strong to support a total isolation of several days in an unknown country. But I managed to speak of what I endured to a business woman sponsor of the event. Seeing the reality of what I was saying (I must say that they even tried to somehow sabotage my public lecture in front of 800 people!), she was shocked and took me under her wing during my stay and she became a trusty friend. And as I am playful I begun my lecture by dedicating it specially to all the women, even if it was not planned, and I added that an apartheid was remaining: the one concerning the women! Anyway, women of the public liked it so much that they all came to see me at the end of my lecture, and most of them are still in my contacts.
But I could give you hundreds of examples that have happened elsewhere, specially in France with men who had never set foot in Egypt before they write their books and documentaries and had me and others widely copied. Hopefully I have a lot of patience, note in my journal all, and believe in karma!
As it is explained in several academic studies: the one of California University, Santa Barbara and in many others: statistical studies there are scientific proofs that manterrrupting is a true existing phenomenon affecting a lot women. After recording hundreds of conversations: men at the overwhelming majority, interrupt women repeatedly in a conversation. The professor at the business school of Harvard: Francesca Gino tell us again in her recent article in the Harvard review: that several serious studies exist proving the reality of this “manterrupting”.
To overcome this recurring problem there are several techniques because it is not only a problem of self-confidence. Imagine that super assertive women like those in the US president’s team were forced to develop a strategy to overcome this scourge: when one of them is stopped, immediately another resumes by quoting the name of her colleague and another yet again and so on… And it seems that it works nicely. They even gave a name to this technique: “amplification.” (See article link at the end)
Personally, and as I am often the only woman in the assemblies, after several years of “paralysis”, I started, it’s sad to say, to raise my voice and to use tactics of non-stop repetition , although I get hostile looks, it is effective: I am listened. Efficient yes, but painful too! In fact you never have to letting go! The american reports also tell you to stand in certain postures of power while speaking: to do some walking or to designate your interlocutor with your finger … In short a program! The problem now is that they feel that you are strong and therefore do not spare your sensibility, but at least they did listen to you!
You have to admit that this is unbelievable in our times, and it handles so much suffering and unspoken! There is room for everyone and for all opinions, yet there are always people seeking only to denigrate you or to try to silence you, but to quote Simone de Beauvoir: “To exist is to dare to jump into the world “….then let’s go even in this kind of world! Exist!
Text & photos by Gigal
All rights reserved.©AntoineGigal-2016
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How the women of the Obama White House Fought gender inequality: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/09/23/how-the-women-of-the-obama-white-house--gender-inequality-and-we-can-too.html How to fight a "manterrupting" : https://www.behance.net/gallery/22912099/7-ways-to-combat%20manterrupting The harm of mansplaining at work: http://www.unionleader.com/Rex-Huppkes-I-Just-Work-Here:-The-harm-of-mansplaining-at-work How Not to Be 'Manterrupted' in Meetings: http://time.com/3666135/sheryl-sandberg-talking-while-female-manterruptions/?platform=hootsuite -http://francescagino.com/biography/
This post is also available in: French