“Oops he did it again….” for those who watched the 2015 Grammy’s, you may have noticed that Kanye West was up to his usual MAN-tics. This time the victim wasn’t young, sweet Taylor Swift but modest, soft spoken Beck. If you haven’t heard or read about the term ‘manterruptions,’ which was introduced into our collective lexicon in January via the New York Times and Time magazine, there are three words/terms with which all women should be aware:
- manterrupted/manterruption – unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man
- bropriating – when a man takes credit for a woman’s idea at meetings
- talk blocking – this happens when you are trying to talk to a person and another intrusive annoying person keeps getting all up in the business, making the conversation difficult or impossible
As we saw at the awards, these manterruptions aren’t necessarily directed at women; men can also be the target of this type of bullying – yes, I said bullying because let’s call it what it is – BULLYING – unwanted, aggressive behavior among people that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Manterrupting is just another way that women (mostly) are victimized due to power, place, and privilege.
The concept of ‘manterruptions’
Let’s take a moment to unpack these concepts and also give some examples of how we as women can empower ourselves to rise above such bullying.
The fact that we are still waiting for the Paycheck Fairness Act to pass in this country is a huge injustice when it comes to power structures in this country. We have all read the statistics that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013, women who worked full time jobs earned, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar men earned and let’s not forget about women of color who earned only approximately 64 cents (African American) and 56 cents (Latinas) for each dollar earned by a white male. These statistics are terrifying. Of course, we are being manterrupted – when we are in a position to give our “2 cents” it doesn’t really mean much since our opinions and voices are literally 22-44 cents less important than our white, male counterparts.
In order to be taken seriously and to make the same amount of money as our male counterparts we actually have to be sitting at the table. According to the US Department of Commerce, although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce. There is a quote attributed to Republican Senator Mike Enzi that encapsulates the importance of women being present within the science, technology, engineering, and math fields “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
There are a myriad of privileges afforded to men, especially white men in this society, so many in fact that it would take this entire blog post (and more) to talk about them all, there are even entire checklists that have been created to talk about all of these privileges. The most prominent and prevalent is the fact that white men have the “privilege of being unaware of their male privilege” and therefore it becomes our job as women in the professional world to constantly be aware and on guard in terms of our place at the table. And of course there is a spectrum of privilege in any situation whether gender, race, socioeconomics but it especially plays a big role when we are discussing manterruptions because in all actuality the men doing it are probably completely unaware (that’s their privilege).
So what can we do as women to preserve ourselves from the bullying that is a manterruption, bropriating or talk blocking? Here are some easy ways we can empower ourselves, our friends/co-workers and our communities.
As women in the workplace, we need to be more confident and exude competency. We are just as effective (if not more so) than our male counterparts and it’s about time we acted like it. Three things to start doing (or stop doing right now)
- Become a SUPERWOMAN – before a meeting or during a presentation make your body language work for you – take up space, watch this Ted Talk to learn more, Amy Cuddy has some great tips!
- SPEAK UP – Sheryl Sandberg discusses this in her book Lean In and in a new essay series in the New York Times but this cannot be said enough. Speaking up is the only way to give yourself a voice – try going to a Toastmasters meeting to help you develop your voice they are all over the country and there are meetings everyday!
- Use direct language – We often start sentences with “Sorry” or “I think” or “I believe” – STOP THAT!!! You shouldn’t be sorry for speaking when your job calls for it – men should be sorry for manterrupting but they never say it so you shouldn’t either – you know what you want to say so say it and don’t provide any qualifiers they don’t help.
Friends and Colleagues
For some reason there is a competition among women socially and professionally especially when there are so few of us in a meeting at the same time but according to the World Bank we make up 50.8% of the population so we shouldn’t be competing, we should be the majority so instead of there being 10 men at meeting to every 2 women, we should switch that and the only way to do that is by acknowledging and supporting each other. I challenge you to compliment a new woman everyday – it doesn’t have to be someone you know personally but you should take a few minutes of your day to boost someone else up, it’s quite easy here are some sample compliments: a) “hey you rocked it today during that presentation!” b) “thank you for asking that question, I was looking for clarity too” or c) “your research/presentation was quite insightful, thank you for sharing” – see EASY!
Make sure you are supporting women in all facets of life – socially, politically, and economically. There are so many women’s groups that focus on empowering women, try these:
Social Groups, try EcoWomen – there could be a chapter near you or you could start your own if there is something missing in your community.
Political Groups, Emerge has recruited, inspired, and trained over 900 women to run for elective office and they are in 10 states, this is area where we are extremely underrepresented and we need to change that!
Business Groups, each state has a Women’s Business Center that helps women start and grow women-owned businesses positioned for long term growth and we should all be supporting them. Find them and share their names with each other so that we are helping other women out.