Don’t Shush Me, Bro

It seems the only thing of importance that happened at last night’s Democratic debate is that Hillary Clinton interrupted Bernie Sanders and he shushed her. This has erupted into a big debate on the Twitters and Facespace thing, but I actually think it’s an important topic we need to discuss.

The rules of communication are different for women and men.

Here’s the deal, guys: women don’t like to be shushed. At all. If my husband ever tells me to be quiet or shush — yes, it’s happened — it elicits an intense, visceral, negative response. It makes me furious. And when it happens in a professional setting? It pushes every feminist button I own.

Why? Because you’re telling me I’m not important. You’re discounting me. You’re saying my ideas don’t matter, and that I don’t have the right to express them.

Men interrupt each other all the time and I daresay they don’t have that same response. It’s just how they communicate. But men and women come at communication from very different places.

The way we communicate is one of the many subtle ways women are expected to take a subservient role in society. I know it looks like we’ve come a long way, baby — hey we can vote and wear pants, huzzah — but when you look at basic social interactions, we’re constantly sent the contradictory message that we are second place. We get talked over, our ideas don’t matter, our issues aren’t important to the country at large they’re “women’s issues,” so who really gives a shit. Our work is worth less. Our effort is less valuable. This is the world from a professional woman’s point of view.

“But Beale,” you say, “Hillary interrupted him.” Yes, she did. Of course she did. And this is another thing about the difference between male and female communication: professional women always have to assert themselves to express their opinion. Because women are talked over all the damn time, it’s something we’ve lived with for generations, and many of us have learned how to interrupt if we want to say something.

I’ve become a really brazen interrupter, I am the first to admit it. Because if I don’t, I don’t get to speak!

Men interrupt each other all the time. And they are okay with each other doing it. It’s how they talk. When women assert their right to express themselves, we’re shushed. I’m pretty sure you guys don’t even realize you’re doing it, but we notice it, and we don’t like it. Because again, you’re telling us we don’t matter and our opinions aren’t important. You’re not recognizing our right to express them. I know it’s subtle — subconscious even — but it’s there.

This morning I was asked, “Well, what would you have done if you were speaking and a man interrupted you?” I’d have let him, of course. That’s what we women always do when we’re interrupted, most of the time. It’s how we’re socialized to behave. If we don’t we’re rude, bossy, brassy, bitchy, too aggressive. That’s the world, people.

As a professional woman I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings where I’ve had to assert my right to express my opinion. And that means interrupting. I’ve become a master interrupter, and it’s not a pretty habit, but if I want to speak, that’s how it happens. Too often, it’s different when a woman does it than when a man does it. That is my experience.

I’m sure this sounds really unfair to a lot of men out there. Women should be allowed to interrupt but they shouldn’t be called on it? What was Bernie supposed to do?

Well, life isn’t fair, guys. Bernie could have raised his hand, or that infamous waggling finger of his, as a sort of “placeholder” social cue. I’ve seen men do that, and it’s not a shush, it’s a “I want to respond to that.”

One thing I’ve noticed Republican woman do — Liz Cheney is really expert at this — is that they just talk without pausing. Liz Cheney literally never comes up for air once she gets going. I’m sure these women have received media training for this, and I’m sure this is a big reason why they basically recite talking points. It’s really hard to speak without pausing and also do so extemporaneously (see Palin, Sarah — someone else who speaks without pausing but she ends up coming off like a ditz.)

This is a real thing, people. If you ever watch Bill Maher’s show, you will see it in action. There’s always one woman on the panel and she never gets to speak unless she interrupts. The men interrupt each other all the time but when women do it, it’s rude, so many women are reluctant to assert that right. And once we do get going you’d better not pause for air or else you’ll get interrupted in turn, which isn’t rude when it happens to you, only when you do it.

Something to think about. Have at it.


Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, feminisim, Hillary Clinton, Women, women's rights

21 responses to “Don’t Shush Me, Bro

  1. Judith Mann Costello

    Hi, Southern Beale! Just wanted to let you know that this blog post is under (approving) discussion over at Balloon Juice*. Some of us remember when you were an active commenter over there. We miss you and hope you’ll come back when you’re ready.

    * (In Tom Levenson’s “I’ll Take Journalism” midday post.)

  2. Pingback: Monday Reads: “Excuse me, I’m Talking!” | Sky Dancing

  3. Glad I got the reminder to come over here from B-J too. We do miss you!

  4. I love you more today than I did yesterday.

  5. 2aimai

    Yes, I miss you over at balloon juice. I agree with your point here and its really clear from the different attitudes of hillary supporters and bernie supporters over at dkos that they saw that entire debate through entirely different lenses. They simply can’t agree because of their different relationships to the candidates and their messages. If you really support bernie you are enraged because hillary “used more time” and if you support hillary you are excited that she fought to express herself and continued despite going over time. If you think of your candidate as the underdog–which both sides do–you rage/exult every time your candidate plays a little dirty pool.

    On the other hand the thing I find hysterical is that the Bernie supporters are enraged because someone spoke past their time in a debate! They are really in some kind of bubble where Trump or the Republican Nominee is never going to play rough. No, bernie supporters, the media and the interviewers and the trump people are going to play the hardest of hardball.

  6. I like Bernie Sanders a lot better than I like a lot of his supporters, I expect that if he read this or had these points pointed out to him he’d admit that you had a point.

    The other day one of Sanders’ supporters said that she couldn’t support Hillary Clinton because she’s been lied about and hated so much, as if that’s not going to be done to Sanders if he gets the nomination. A lot of them do seem to live in the bubble that someone else here talked about.

    • Oh the Republican Party is so desperate to go up against Bernie Sanders, it’s hilarious that his supporters don’t even see it. Jesus, if Obama is a socialist who “palled around with terrorists” to the right, what does that make Bernie? I’ve already seen a taste of what they’re going to throw at him … the honeymoon in the Soviet Union, trips to Nicaragua … this country is not ready for that. I’ve already told all the Bernie supporters I know that if we get saddled with a President Cruz or President Trump because of their stupidity I am going to I TOLD YOU SO for the next four years straight. Don’t think I won’t do it. Sanders is unelectable and they can take all those “polls” showing otherwise and throw them in the barn with the rest of the horseshit they keep spewing.

      • Kosh III

        Yes, the GOP will lie and defame Bernie big time. But IMHO it will be worse for Clinton because she has been hated by the right since 92: She’ll be blamed for Vince Foster, Monica, email, BENGHAZI, and more.
        Including good reasons to blame her such as her war mongering and fealty to Wall Street. Not that the R’s aren’t worse in that respect but Trump and Cruz will lie like a dog.

      • But we already know what they’re going to say about Hillary. They’ve been saying the same things for 20+ years. Benghazi was a big, fat nothingburger. Any mud they can sling at her has already been flung. Bernie’s are all unknowns. It’s going to Bill Ayers and Commie sympathizer and the radical anti-white pastor and all that stuff we had coming at us under Obama and weren’t prepared for. No surprises with Hillary, and people are bored with that stuff. Nobody gives a shit about Monica Lewinsky anymore, it’s like a medley of their greatest hits. It’s old and played out. Bernie is going to be a whole ‘nother ball of wax. It’s going to be Nicaragua and the Sandinistas and redistribution of wealth. And he’s not able to fight back against that stuff. He’s weak. All he can do is wag that finger and hope his revolution arrives. Finally.

  7. 2aimai

    Can I also say that the notion that, contra KoshIII, what they are going to say about Hillary is worse than ever before, and worse than the voting public can stomach, is simply not born out by the facts. They have attacked Obama and Michelle, the most squeaky clean loving couple, with everything and the kitchen sink. They have spent the last seven years accusing Obama of being a muslim terrorist and Michelle of being a trans person who bought her babies rather than birthing them. Obama has been accused of being a gay whore trading favors for coke. And, of course, he has been accused of being a front for terrorists. There isn’t any Democratic candidate that they aren’t going to do the same or worse to.

    The whole “turn your back on Hillary” to choose a “safer” nominee strikes me as incandescently stupid and insulting. Bernie hasn’t escaped calumny because he’s a better person or a better candidate. They are holding fire until they can spew venom on him and utterly destroy him. He’s not a better person than she is. He just has been less important nationally and internationally. The attacks on her from the left strike me as a horrifically cowardlyf orm of victim blaming.

    • Well put. I agree completely.

      Here’s a very tame example: “Bernie Sanders Is NOT A Jew.”

      Much as I don’t support Bernie, attacks on his religion are way out of bounds. But this piece goes even further: it says Bernie used “invoked his last few drops of Jewishness and the Holocaust in support of a Muslim anti-Semite’s crybullying, he didn’t feel the need to do so for the Jewish State when it actually stood on the verge of destruction.” This is reprehensible but typical of the far right.

      He’s going to get it from ALL sides. From the Commie side, from the pro-Israel side, you name it.

  8. 2aimai

    Bernie’s tough enough, I think. But his followers really, really, aren’t. They seem to have a really hard time with the notion that there are people who don’t want to vote for Bernie on the democratic side. So I don’t know how they will handle people attacking Bernie from the far right side. I’ve never seen so many comments that confuse cause and effect, or that mistake being “right” for winning an argument. The continued insistence that people “demonstrate” why they “like” Clinton so that poster X can “prove” that you are wrong is like reading every psych paper ever about controlling and abusive people and how they handle the people in their lives. Some of these posts, as I just pointed out (thanklessly) remind me of people with borderline personality disorder or other personality disorders. A tendency towards splitting and manichean thinking. People are all right or all wrong. People who were on your side and therefore good are suddenly pure evil if you think they aren’t on your side (Warren after she failed to support Sanders, Franken after he chose Hillary). Everyone knows, or should know, what you know and believe the same things you believe. If they don’t they are willfully ignoring reality–Black people will definitely come around if you just shout “predators” at them enough! One poster even asked, querelously, if black people had “access to media” whether there was any kind of “black media” because they seemed to be the catspaws of the MSM and unable to get informaiton about Bernie! Despite Kos’s best efforst the site is going to crack up again for a while when the most vocal anti hillary voices get shut down.

    • LOL yeah a good analysis … but that’s the really rabid crowd, I think most of the folks I run across are reasonable. Support Bernie but if it comes down to it, will vote Hillary over whatever Republican turd rises to the top.

      I don’t think Bernie’s tough enough, though. He’ll just wag his finger and shout the same old line about MILLyunaires and BILLyunaires. I don’t think he’s ever faced anything like the GOP machine, has no clue what he’s up against. Those people are pure evil on the right and they have been keeping their powder very, very dry. After the horrible way they treated the squeaky-clean Obamas? Sanders has given them way more material to deal with. It’s gonna be ugly.

      They’ve used all of their ammo on Hillary already. Same old stuff, no surprises there.

  9. Kosh III

    First, let me say that I support Bernie but will vote for whomever the D’s choose. Even the worst D is better than the best R.
    I’m not sure that Bernie doesn’t know exactly what trash the R’s will throw at him. After all he’s been in the Congress for years. He surely is aware of pukes like McConnell, Cruz or our own Lame-ar and Dorker.

    • Yes the “non-establishment candidate” has been in Congress for over 30 years. But how is he going to fight back? I’ve not been impressed. He goes on about MILLyunairs and BILLyunaires and revolution. That’s actually not going to help when the reich-wing attack machine gears up.

      I heard Republicans in Michigan crossed over to vote for Bernie. The GOP wants Bernie to be the candidate so bad they can taste it. That alone scares me.

      As I’ve said before, if we get saddled with an unelectable Bernie Sanders and the result is President Cruz or Trump I will I TOLD YOU SO every goddamn day for the next 4 years. Don’t think I won’t do it.

  10. 2aimai

    Yes, I agree with SB. There’s a huge difference between being a lonely, iconoclastic, old man (with a cozy home base) that different factions are always wooing and being HRC (or Obama or Michelle), people who have had charges of drug running, murder, perversity, and every kind of personal insult thrown at them and their children and spouses. No: Bernie has no idea what is going to happen to him, his family, and his friends.

  11. Southern Beale: I’m a regular reader but I apologize for coming late to your post on interruptions and impolite discourse. Turning from a discussion of Bernie vs. Hillary, I’d like to return to the interruption topic. As a man, I had to learn not to interrupt, partly because I had a good tutor who taught me, “Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.” I have been shushed by women, but their technique is to scream. I dared to discuss the fact that the Air Defense Command and NORAD were AWOL on 9-11 in spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars lavished on both entities since the 1950’s. I only got about eight words out before the woman I was talking with screamed. The shushing was entirely predictable, “Conspiracy Theorist!” my friend screamed. End of discussion. Because I tend to question conventional wisdom or received truths, I have had women use the screaming technique in many different contexts and discussions, but the technique is the same — a scream to both interrupt and to shush. My mother used to interrupt and shush by screaming, “Socialism!” End of discussion. Not only are men interrupting women, women interrupt men but with different techniques or tactics. It goes both ways, quite often, and it isn’t always done with a quiet “shush.” Men and women have both been taught that it’s okay to interrupt each other. Perhaps it’s time to take it down a notch.

    • Maybe women scream because we’re “emotional.” Maybe women scream because we feel we have to in order to be heard. It does go both ways but the point is, it does so for different reasons and men and women take it differently. It’s an entirely different thing to be interrupted or shushed when you’re a woman than when you’re a man.

      • I used the word “scream” not because I was accusing women of being “emotional,” but because I intended to describe the facts as I’ve experienced them. My apologies if I gave offense, I did not intend to do so. I cannot pretend to know HOW it is different for a woman to be interrupted than it is for a man, but I do know how bullying (which is what the interruption tactic is in part about) feels, even if one is a man. Men don’t like it, either. (As you can probably tell, these incidents have stayed with me for a very long time.) I realize women are easily labeled as “rude, bossy, brassy, bitchy, too aggressive” if they assert themselves by interrupting or using other tactics. We will hear those and many like insults applied to Hillary as we get closer to November. Male interrupters tend to be called “assholes.” The interrupter is telling you to just “shut up, your voice should not be heard, you don’t count.” It’s ugly and I think both men and women ought to avoid it. Nevertheless, I understand why it happens in emotional, heated discussions. I feel fortunate that I’ve recently been able to greatly reduce my contact with people since during my 60-plus years I’ve found that people have become increasingly rude, or speaking plainly, more assholic than they used to be.
        By the way, I love to read about gun incidents in your area. I’m sure there are many in the greater Los Angeles area, but because there are so many, we seldom hear about them. They are not being reported — they just “happen” and nothing can be done about them. When they are reported, it is consistently with the passive voice or “it went off.” So much for “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Apparently, the guns just “go off” all by themselves.

      • 2aimai

        Sorry for your mommy issues. Have you had your ears checked? Perhaps you are high sensitivity. I can assure you that women, on the whole, do not “scream” at men. Do you know how I know? Because I’m in the world and I interact with people on a daily basis. Lots of both men and women are loud, or forceful, in their speech but its ignored (for the most part) or naturalized when men do it and it is called out and attacked when (some) women do it. Parental interrupting and shushing is a different phenomenon. Perhaps you did have a terrible mother. You might consider getting into therapy for that because abuse is abuse and many people abuse children because they can. However your friend disagreeing with your conspiracy theories is neither here nor there.