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[Xmca-l] Re: Collaboration

Hi Christopher, Greg, Larry, and esteemed others,

I did post a new thread called "The manologue," which links to the NYT article on "mansplaining," with the idea of taking the topic to a new thread.

In the article there are several links to studies on what I think could be safely called gendered speech patterns. 

Like from Harvard

and Yale:

There are other studies in the article.

I would like to offer that as I think about it, mansplaining is not just interrupting. It's domination through speech, it's also a kind of intellectual censorship, if we accept the relationship between thought and speech. 

The word "mansplaining" seems to have been coined by Rebecca Solnit, who wrote a book about it, though I'm not sure if she came up with the word or it just erupted into feminist consciousness when her book "Men explain things to me" came out. 

She was motivated to write the book out of an experience she had while in conversation with a woman friend at a party with a fellow there. Somehow, as conversations go, a topic from one of her books came up (River of Shadows –which is a great book about partnership of technology and venture capital, the railroads, and California culture). Anyway, this fellow told her that this book just came out about that topic, called River of Shadows. And he catapulted into a manologue about the book, not letting her get a word in to say that she was the author of the book. I think at some point she finally got to say, "Yes, I know, I wrote that book." But he didn't hear her. And continued explaining her book to her. It was her friend who had to interrupt her and say to him somewhat forcefully that Rebecca wrote the book. 

It might be interesting to learn if any women on this list have ever had such experiences, but then who would want to admit it on a listserv? It makes one seem like a cry baby to say "I'm frequently being interrupted and it drives me crazy." Which implies, "Well, maybe you don't have anything important to say and it has nothing to do with your gender?" 

It's a can of worms, but like all problems they must be named before they can be solved. 

Certainly, it is likely that there will be discomfort for anyone of privilege who gets to have their say without interruption while examining this topic. But it remains necessary to pass through the discomfort if we are going to become aware of the problems together and to be able to discuss them freely. In addition, if we really believe in social justice and what it means in an everyday experience, then it means listening to those individuals who feel impinged upon. 

Also, in your everyday experience, maybe if you notice such patterns, you can advocate for those who aren't being given the attention to be heard. That is, if it is a topic that you come to care about. 

Really it's about creating psychological safety to be able to discuss it. I hope that the list here is one of those places, but who knows?

Unfortunately one of the strange outcomes in the public discourse of mansplaining is that some men start to explain what it is, rather than try to understand what it is and what women are saying about it, how it makes them feel. If you look at the comments section in the NYT article you'll see what I mean. I'm not so sure that men can explain what it is like for women, just like whites cannot explain to African Americans what black experience is; it would be a little bit rude, just a little. So I think rather than try to explain what mansplaining is (as if it were an intellectual exercise), it might be more worthwhile to speak about the experience from the first person rather than the second or third. Does that help?

In other words, rather than feel the heat of the spotlight of the Laurence Olivier character in Marathon Man upon you, while he twists a dental tool in his hand, repeating, "Is it SAFE?" Why not reflect on what you yourself notice and how it makes you feel? I'd say it's perfectly safe to admit that it makes you feel uncomfortable to think you might be participating, if that's the case, for example. I think it's more productive than saying gendered patterns are going a step too far, since clearly there is something going on. At least enough for people to be studying it and come up with findings. But do we have to even have a study to legitimize this? Did we need to do a study to learn that African Americans are not treated equally in this country?

Not that I am suggesting to anyone how to act or feel about this topic. Having the courage to speak in the first person is a great first step, even if it is saying, "Gee I never thought about this before. I'm going to notice if I participate in this pattern, or how I feel when I witness the interruption patterns that prevail when women try to speak."

And yes, I don't believe that speech domination has to be limited to gender. Kids who grow up to be seen not heard would be an expression of this same dynamic. I also don't think there is a chromosomal explanation why men behave this way, which is why I think something can be done about it. 

Kind regards on a Thursday,