Time for a Timely Quote; or No More What About teh Menz

What happens when men enter women’s feminist spaces? Dale Spender did an experiment to find out, and published the results in Man Made Language:

Present at the discussion, which was a workshop on sexism and education in London, were thirty-two women and five men. Apart from the fact that the tape revealed that the men talked for over 50 per cent of the time, it also revealed that what the men wanted to talk about – and the way in which they wanted to talk – was given precedence.


There is no doubt in my mind that in this context at least (and I do not think it was an atypical one) it was the five males and not the thirty-two females who were defining the parameters of the talk. I suspect that neither the women nor the men were conscious of this. There was no overt hostility displayed towards the females who ‘strayed from the point’, but considerable pressure was applied by the males – and accepted without comment from the females – to confine the discussion to the male definition of the topic.


6 thoughts on “Time for a Timely Quote; or No More What About teh Menz

  1. loveangellove says:

    Well. That IS surprising!

    Er. Not.

  2. loveangellove says:

    Reblogged this on loveangellove and commented:
    Surprise surprise.

  3. Inge Reed says:

    Thank you for posting this. Working with the only public woman-only space left in our city open for political discussions, I often have to defend to the oh-teh-poooor-menz-crowd why men can’t come in during public hours (period). Can you tell us when this experiment was done?

    • weirdward says:

      Dale Spender originally conducted this research as part of her PhD thesis, which was published in book form as Man Made Language in 1981. So this study isn’t recent, but I’m sure that anyone who cared to conduct repeat experiments today would find much the same thing. Those of us who do observe mixed spaces with a critical feminist eye see this kind of thing happen all the time – still the norm for men to verbally and intellectually dominate conversational space, or at least to try to. I think another issue is that women have this very strong socialised instinct to defer to men and not to want to challenge them – it’s another reason I think women only spaces are important.

  4. Good Gravey says:

    If it’s ok, I’d like to share this. Whenever I get I to arguments with other men about our involvement in women’s spaces, I point them here.


    With the primary lesson of “spend a while just shutting the fuck up and listen. Really listen. Think about it. Research. Then politely and respectfully engage. And if you are called out, deal with it.”

    That’s why I thought long and hard about whether to even leave this comment here. But wanted you to know you do have allies. Way too few, but some.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s