It seems like basic politeness – and common knowledge – that you don’t interrupt people. Especially when they’re giving a speech or presentation. So you can imagine my shock (ok, red hot stabby anger) when during a talk I gave recently a young man would not stop interrupting me.
In a standard speaking event, I’ll do a presentation for about forty minutes and then leave all sorts of time for Q&A (my favorite part). So when this sudent raised his hand during my talk, I didn’t take offense – after all, no one had outlined the structure of the event and I’m a pretty informal speaker. So I just asked him to hold his question until when I was done. That didn’t sit well with him apparently, because another few minutes in (after sulking and huffing a bit) he just yelled out, “What do you want?! What are you fighting for?” I shut him down, but as much as I didn’t want to let it bother me, it REALLY did.
Because I know there is no fucking way he would have interrupted a male speaker. And for the rest of the event he stared at me like I was a piece of shit/piece of meat with a smirk that said it all. I think to the group he came off like the asshole, but it was clear he thought he “won” because he had interrupted my talk, publicly disrespecting me and the issues I was talking about. And it got me thinking about how rude and entitled it is to deliberately interrupt people (no matter what the genders/circumstances) – as if what you have to say trumps anything they could be expressing.
It was clearly male privilege/entitlement that made this young man feel that he could heckle an invited speaker. And while my talk being interrupted certainly isn’t the end of the world or the worst sexism I’ve encountered, it reminded me (as if I needed any more reminding!) how the everyday interactions we have with each other are so embedded in privilege and sexism. /rant