How I find it hard to talk around men or WHY WE NEED FEMINISM

A while ago I read this article about how women talk less when they are outnumbered by men. Back then I felt a bit worried, but I suppose I did not take it as seriously as I should have. I mean, yes, women must talk less, but there should be plenty of strong women out there who talk as much as men do and are capable of taking over in a discussion. It just seems reasonable.

However, recently I have started to pay attention to how much I really get to talk around men and how often I actually get through a discussion where I can express myself as much as I would like to.

Just to clarify, I am not the kind of person that likes to talk in public. I can express myself more freely in writing and I find it easier that way. I usually just sit around reading a book and ignore conversations around me (which is NOT a good thing). But, it happens that from time to time some of those discussions appeal to me and I feel like I can bring something in.

Most of these discussions happen between men, as I am an involved philosophy student and philosophy is one of those domains where women are highly outnumbered. So, what usually happens when I try to get involved in a philosophical discussion? At first, I am ignored. Then, I am trying harder and try to speak louder. I am ignored again. I try a few times and then finally I can make my point. Hence, I have to try four or five times harder to make a point than my male colleagues have to. Is that normal? Probably not.

I will give you an example of what happened to me just a few days ago when I was trying to get involved in a discussion about Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and primacy of perception. Two of my friends (both men) were arguing over the phenomenological approach and how right it actually is in contrast to idealism. The discussion really appealed to me, as I am writing my dissertation on French aesthetics and phenomenology, so I have tried to say something. I made a point, they listened and then they carried on talking. I tried to make another point, they listened and then they carried on talking. But, when I tried to make another point, I had to say for five times “I think you would like to consider the approach on primacy…” before I got angry enough and I left. I was talking and it was like I was invisible. They were talking over me constantly ignoring my presence.

The saddest part is that they did not even try to ignore me. They are not bad people and they are not some misogynists that would not let a woman talk. They said they just did not notice me trying to talk. I do not blame them. I really do not think it is their fault. I am not sure it was really my fault either, even though it does feel like it. I could have shouted, stand up on the table, got a megaphone in order to make a point. I suppose I could have done more and tried to talk louder and if I do not get heard, I am the only one to blame. But why do women have to try so much harder in order to get heard? Do women really have to stand on the table to be able to make a point in a conversation? Apparently so.

And THIS IS WHY WE NEED FEMINISM. We need it because even nice not misogynistic men find it absolutely natural to talk very loud and clear and ignore women’s view points. We need it because even smart strong women find it difficult to make themselves heard when they are around men. To me, it seems like a predetermined attitude. It was not really my fault or their fault that I did not get to make a point in that discussion, but it is rather the way society teaches us. We see it everywhere. Everywhere women talk less than men: in cinema, at the radio, in television, in newspapers. even in our own families. So, it comes just natural that in an everyday discussion two men are going to find it more natural to talk and a woman will struggle. We cannot escape society. We are all a little brainwashed by what is going on around us, but I really hope we can try hard and change that. I will keep trying to talk and hopefully next time I will just shout until my throat starts hurting.

So, I would love to know if this has happened to you. Have you noticed in any conversation that you talk less when you are outnumbered by men? Or, if you are a man, have you noticed that the women around you struggle to express themselves in a conversation?

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16 thoughts on “How I find it hard to talk around men or WHY WE NEED FEMINISM

  1. Pingback: How I find it hard to talk around men or WHY WE NEED FEMINISM | differentiateddoormat

  2. Brilliantly written, thank you – I hope you don’t mind me reblogging!

    I definitely recognise this in my professional life and I work in an area based on values & principles of empowerment and equality! I frequently feel dismissed and what is more frustrating, I react by getting angry and then end up clearly dismissed for being an irrational / over-emotional woman! It also drives me wild that my male colleagues will be name checked when they contribute a great idea but when I contribute, it becomes a mutually agreed new idea.

    I went on a course last year to try and address this for myself – on developing personal presence – and I apply the lessons I learned all the time. But that final hurdle (having a vagina) just keeps defeating me…

    • Thank you so much for reblogging my article! It really means a lot to me, as I am quite new in blogging and hardly know anything about it.
      I am glad you are sharing your experience and I really love to know how other people feel about this. I am not saying this is the absolute truth, but it happens to me a lot and I am so curious to see if other people are aware of this problem or go through it.

  3. The hell are you talking about? If anything WOMEN talk more than men. BTW have you considered that maybe the men you were talking to didn’t want to include you in the conversation? As for things like talking in class… that’s more of a personality problem; I’ve seen men who can’t get a word in and women that dominate conversations. Are you sure this is a gender thing?

    • First of all, you are missing the point of the article. It is not about how much women talk, but how much women talk when they are outnumbered by men.
      Second of all, you did not get from this article that I know this men, they know me, we are very close friends and they love me to get involved in conversations. As I have already said I am in no way blaming them, but I think it is more of a society issue and this is what generally happens.
      Also, I might agree with you that women might dominate a conversation, but do they really do so when they feel outnumbered? I think it would be an interesting study to see if men talk less when they are outnumbered by women. From that point of view the study might be unfair and I will agree with that.
      Plus, I am just sharing my own experience and I am very curious to see how other men and women feel about it. In a way I am testing to see if the study is true, if my experience is singular or not.

  4. As usual, I think this is more a problem of the type of person than gender, although I admit sometimes gender plays a key role. I do not have any problem talking in public and I don’t mind if my audience is primarly feminine or masculine: when I engage in a conversation I expect the others to listen to me, whether they are women or men. It’s a politness thing.

      • As I have said in other comments, what I probably also hoped through this post is to find out if this study/ theory really works empirically. I do want people to come and tell me: no, no, you are wrong. This has never happened to me.
        In this way, I will get to see that society is not as bad as I think it is :)

      • Well, I’m pretty straight-forward and if when doing a presentation for my classmates I have to stop and please ask a fellow student to, literally “shut up” I’ll do it without feeling bad or anything which usually makes me come across as proud and you know, the B-word…

  5. You are absolutely right. I read a lot about gender relations and psychology, and I remember coming across a study where they got a load of men and women, then constructed it so that a small group of women would be talking together for a while, and be joined by a man halfway through the conversation. They did the same the other way round- having a small group of men chatting away, and then having a woman join in. What they found was that in the female-dominated group, they welcomed the male newcomer, and the conversation topic would turn to something that the man initiated. At the end of the experiment, the male newcomers all reported feeling happy about the interaction. On the other hand, the female newcomers joining the male group had to try to join in the discussion that was already going on. They were shut out and not listened to, and at the end reported feeling unwelcome and uncomfortable. Definitely a gender thing, I’m afraid. =(

  6. I agree that it’s a combination of personality and patriarchy. I’m writing a post on a similar discussion I had with my male friends, and how I felt silenced. I’m the loud girl in the group, but I felt like I had to fight to get a word in edgewise. My other female friend just smiles and lets them talk, and that’s great for her, but I want to talk.

    For more information on gender and language, I’d recommend reading Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand or any of her other works.

    When I finish the post, may I link it to yours?

    http://confessionofalatteliberal.wordpress.com

  7. This is seriously so great! I identified with this part so much:

    “Most of these discussions happen between men, as I am an involved philosophy student and philosophy is one of those domains where women are highly outnumbered. So, what usually happens when I try to get involved in a philosophical discussion? At first, I am ignored. Then, I am trying harder and try to speak louder. I am ignored again. I try a few times and then finally I can make my point. Hence, I have to try four or five times harder to make a point than my male colleagues have to. Is that normal? Probably not.”

    I was a classics student, and women were severely outnumbered in that department. And it’s not like the people in my program were overtly misogynistic or didn’t respect women; they were just so used to talking right over us and ignoring us.

    Yeah. We definitely need feminism.

  8. The only way to see if this is correct would be to see if a man is outnumbered by women, does he talk less as well? If I worked as a male nurse, among 6 female co-workers and I am the only guy, will I speak up? If I am less likely, then we can see it isn’t just men, but the majority of the group.

  9. I’m not sure this is a gender issue at all, or at least not an intergender issue. I think it’s a human social issue. You could replace “men” and “women” in this article with “black” and “white”, “gay” and “straight”, or “bike enthusiast” and “computer nerd”. If you’re outnumbered, by default your voice is smaller.

    I am a heterosexual male, but I grew up around mostly women. I often have the same issue described in the article, where in a group of men I’m often talked over. Yet among a group of women, my opinion is often considered, and I find I’m listened to more. Perhaps women just listen better in general, and men just love being in an echo chamber.

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