By Sean Connolly, Editorial Section Editor
Men have a tendency to dominate conversations, often silencing and ignoring female perspectives and opinions. This is an issue that spans all of our society, from interpersonal relationships to the exalted halls of our democracy.
There’s a harmful stereotype that claims women talk more than men to the point of talking “too much.” Criticizing someone about how they speak is a great way to silence them. This stereotype, unsurprisingly, is rooted more in sexist myth than statistics. Many studies have shown that within any type of large, mixed-gender group, men speak more.
In the workplace, women are often silenced and not rewarded for speaking up the same way their male colleagues are. A Yale University psychologist, Victoria L. Brescoll, conducted a study released in 2011 in which she questioned both male and female professionals about the competence of their chief executives. Male executives who were noted for speaking more than other workers received a 10 percent higher rating of competence compared to their co workers – women who did the same were rated 14 percent lower. A 2012 study by researchers from Brigham Young and Princeton Universities found that men, on average, take up 75 percent of speaking time in professional meetings.
Countless other studies have shown that similar circumstances can be found in education, from elementary school to college. Women in our society are more likely to be interrupted and to have their opinions dismissed. Despite this, the stereotype of women talking “too much” remains. Women aren’t talking more than men, but it seems men would prefer women not to talk at all.
The US government is also guilty of ignoring female voices. Some in Congress, mostly Republicans, have tried to pass legislation on several issues that specifically affect women. From regulation of birth control and restrictions on abortion, to the current attempt to defund Planned Parenthood the Republican Party has often been accused of attempting to regulate women’s bodies. This is more than an issue of party, however. The vast majority of those voting for these bills are men; women make up only 10.7 percent of the Republican Party in Congress. Even outside of these issues, our government can hardly be said to properly represent women. Between all parties, women only make up 20 percent of our current Congress.
The issues mentioned above almost exclusively affect females, yet for some reason, men seem to think they have the right to legislate them. The fact that men, who have no personal experience with these problems, consider themselves qualified to decide what is best for women is outrageous and a clear example of men disregarding female opinions.
Men in our society need to not interrupt women, not dominate mixed-gender conversations, and take female opinions seriously. Men also need to recognize that, on issues that specifically affect women, a woman’s perspective will always be more valid than a man’s. Women, believe it or not, don’t need male opinions on issues of their own bodies and they certainly don’t need males to legislate these issues on their behalf.
Photo courtesy Eric E Castro, Creative Commons