- President Donald Trump interrupted former Vice President Joe Biden at least 128 times in 90 minutes in the first presidential debate of the 2020 US general election, according to Slate.
- The exchanges at times seemed hard to watch, especially for women, many of whom have experience being interrupted by men.
- A 2014 study by George Washington University found that men interrupted women 33% more than they did men, and other studies have found similar patterns.
- One researcher wrote that the gendered dynamics of speaking are a show of power.
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The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was widely regarded as a train wreck. One major reason: Trump wouldn’t let Biden speak, interrupting him at least 128 times in the 90 minutes, per Slate.
In one instance, Trump interrupted Biden 10 times as the Democratic nominee tried to answer one question. The moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News had to beg Trump to stop talking over Biden in multiple instances.
If the debate was hard for most viewers to watch, it was sure to be especially uncomfortable for women, many of whom have experience being interrupted and explained over by men in professional settings.
One male tech CEO took to Twitter to share a comment his wife made during the debate, writing: “Dude, just so you know. How you’re feeling? This is how it is for women sitting in a meeting *all* the time.”
As of this writing, the tweet was retweeted more than 400 times and liked by some 1,800 people.
“She is 100% correct,” one Twitter user replied.
Research backs up the impression many people might have felt Tuesday night. Consider one highly cited 1996 Stanford University study, which analysed conversations between men and women. When talking to the same sex, men interrupted only a handful of times. But when speaking with women, that number jumped to 46 interruptions.
It’s no accident. It’s a power play, the researchers concluded.
“There are definite and patterned ways in which the power and dominance enjoyed by men in other contexts are exercised in their conversational interaction with women,” the researchers wrote.
In addition, a 2014 study by George Washington University found that men interrupted women 33% more than they did men. Women were significantly less likely to interrupt men.
And a 2017 Northwestern University study looking at over a decade’s worth of transcripts of the US Supreme Court found that the trend of men interrupting women continued even at the highest position of law in the US.
In that study, men interrupting women accounted for 32% of interruptions, while female justices interrupting others (men and women included) accounted for 4% of interruptions.
As the researchers point out, conversations between men and women are “highly gendered.”
The next debate will be between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris next week, and many will be waiting to see how the gender dynamics play out.
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