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?