Virtual Happy Hour: Manterrupting and the Language of Gender Bilingual Communications
On May 13th, journalist Jessica Bennett sat down with Take The Lead president Gloria Feldt for a Virtual Happy Hour chat on “manterrupting”—that is, “unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man.” If you’re a woman in the workforce, you’ve probably experienced it at least once, and Jessica shared her insights on how best to deal with it, gained from both her years of writing about gender and business and her own personal experience.
Some key takeaways from the conversation:
- It’s tough to point out manterruption as it’s happening, but easier to prevent it in the first place. Jessica recommends finding a buddy at work (realistically, it works better if it’s a male, though it’s unfortunate that’s the case) who can step in if he notices you’re being interrupted during a meeting. So when VP John cuts you off, your buddy Tom can say, “Hang on—I want to hear what Jessica was saying.”
- That said, it’s becoming more common for women to take a direct approach. Jessica sees more and more women advocating for themselves when they’re interrupted, saying, “Hold on, dude—let me finish!” It’s up to you to think beforehand about how that might go over in your particular work environment, but done with confidence in the right group, it can be effective.
- As a woman, you can interrupt someone…you just have to be careful about how you do it.Gloria says, “I learned that as a woman, I had to interrupt in a different way than a man would. I had to pick the right moment & do it with a smile.” Jessica agrees that “the fact that you have to use a different affect isn’t fair…but studies show if you do, you’re more likely to get what you want.”
- It doesn’t hurt to do some self-reflection to see if there are things you could adjust to make yourself more heard. Many women have a habit of apologizing before they say anything, which drives Jessica crazy (and us too). Don’t start with “Sorry, I don’t know if anyone else thinks this…”—just say it! When Jessica is nervous about speaking up, she also has a practice of asking herself: “What would a man say or do in this situation? How was I going to do it?” and finding a happy medium between the two.
- When possible, set the terms of the discussion yourself—and know what you want. As Gloria says, “She who defines the terms wins the debate.” And if you know what you want, you shouldn’t be afraid to say it out loud and ask for it.
Thanks to Jessica for another successful Virtual Happy Hour! And please save the date for our next Virtual Happy Hour with Jamia Wilson on June 10th.
More About Jessica Bennett
Jessica Bennett is a writer, critic and multimedia journalist who covers gender, sexuality and culture. She is a columnist for Time.com, where she writes on women and social issues, and is a regular contributor at the New York Times, where she covers modern language and web trends, pot, gender, emoji, and whatever else might spark her interest.
A former senior writer at Newsweek and executive editor of Tumblr, she is also a contributing editor for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, LeanIn.org, where she curates helps put out a quarterly Careers section of Cosmopolitan (guest edited by Lean In) and is the curator of the Lean In Collection, a collaboration with Getty Images to change the depiction of women in stock photos. She is a newly-joined contributing editor at Vocativ, focused on multimedia and data journalism.
Jessica’s reporting, essays and criticism on women and social issues have been honored by the Society for Professional Journalists, GLAAD, the Webbys and the NY Press Club, which named her the city’s best young journalist in 2011. She is the recipient of four Front Page Awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York and a 2015 ICP Infinity Photography award for her work on the Lean In Collection. She speaks regularly on women’s issues and new media.