7 Studies That Prove Mansplaining Exists
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Remember when Kanye West cut off Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs? As Swift launched into her acceptance speech for Best Female Video, West ran onstage and grabbed the mic and said, “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’m gonna let you finish, but I’m sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” Both Beyoncé and Swift looked stunned.
This is perhaps the most famous pop culture moment of a man interrupting a woman to explain something to her—the YouTube clip has been seen 23 million times. Though the crowd greeted West’s interruption with booing, men interrupt women and discredit their accomplishments every day, usually without backlash from any crowd or TV commentators.
For a primer on the realities of mansplaining, look no further than Rebecca Solnit’s new book Men Explain Things to Me, which collects seven essays on feminism, violence and how men often explain things to women “whether or not they know what they’re talking about.”
In May, Soraya Chemaly addressed the mansplaining phenomena with a great article “ 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn.” In that piece, Chemaly advised parents who want to combat sexism to teach their daughters to practice saying “Stop interrupting me,” “I just said that,” and “No explanation needed.” As her article points out, women are taught to be overly polite and active listeners in conversations, but men are not socialized this way.
Just last week, Fox News showcased some mansplaining on a segment that instructed women to “not raise their voices” or “talk too much” in the workplace. During the segment, host Steve Doocey interrupted the guest author as she spoke about her new book.
While individual women may feel like they’re the only ones frustrated at being ignored or interrupted, studies show it happens all the time: men interrupt women during meetings, in groups with friends, and speaking one-on-one. In the interest of showing how mansplaining is a proven phenomena, I've gathered seven studies that show how men often dominate conversations.
1. Women get interrupted more than men. Both men and women interrupt women more often than they interrupt men, according to a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. In that study, two researchers at George Washington University reported on an experiment where they put 20 women and 20 men in pairs, then recorded and transcribed their conversations. The result: Over the course of each three-minute conversation, women interrupted men just once, on average, but interrupted other women 2.8 times. Men interrupted their male conversation partner twice, on average, and interrupted the woman 2.6 times.
2. Men interrupt women to assert power. Not all interruptions are the same, of course—sometimes we interrupt people to be encouraging about what they’re saying. But a 1998 meta- analysis of 43 studies by two researchers at UC Santa Cruz from 1998 found that men were more likely to interrupt women with the intent to assert dominance in the conversation, meaning men were interrupting to take over the conversation floor. In mixed groups rather than a one-on-one conversation, men interrupted even more frequently.
3. Men dominate conversations during professional meetings. A study by Brigham Young University and Princeton researchers in 2012 showed that women spoke only 25 percent of the time in professional meetings, meaning men took up 75 percent of an average meeting. The study also found that when women were left out of the conversation, it was harder for them to have an effect on decisions and discussions during majority votes on issues.