When a woman keeps talking over a man who refuses to listen and is trying to interrupt her, that is at most an annoyance and a breach of courtesy. If the woman and the man happen to be in a romantic or familial relationship, it is also grounds for some flowers and a nice dinner. It does not qualify the woman for a Bronze Star, the Nobel Prize in Physics (figuring out how to avoid a nuclear explosion,) or the Oprah Winfrey Seal of Approval.
Unfortunately, in the wake of “woke,” we are to believe that a female who continues to yap in the face of a man she wants to slap is heroic. We saw this with Elizabeth Warren a few years ago, when she “persisted” in the face of Mitch McConnell’s invocation of a little-used Senate rule cutting off her tirade against Jeff Sessions. The whole, “Nevertheless, she persisted” slogan became a battle cry for feminists who believed that far too much “shushing” had been going on when it came to the gentler sex. I remember thinking at the time that what Warren was doing was not particularly exceptional. In my family, we called that “being Italian.”
But as #Metoo heated up and women became outraged at the perceived disregard for their opinions and stature, the whole idea that interrupting a gal (but not a guy) was harassment of a sexual nature. We in this evolved era incorrectly believe we are the only ones who have taken a stand against this cruel and humiliating treatment. One of the most famous examples of a woman pointing out to her significant male other that he needed to pay attention was our second First Lady, Abigail Adams, who famously instructed her husband John to “remember the ladies” when corresponding with him during the Continental Congress.
Many women today can’t measure up to the strength and grit of Abigail and her class. They whine, they cry, they use the tools of victimization to advance their causes and agendas. Not all, of course. Some of them are quite capable of holding their own in a so-called “man’s world,” but we generally don’t hear about them because instead of complaining about how they’re being disrespected, they do the things that garner respect, like serving in the military, or in Congress, or in the ministry, or in science, or in business, or in the home. To paraphrase the old saying, “Those who can, do, those who can’t become critics.” Or in the case of these women, complainers.
I’ve often had occasion to complain about the weak and watered-down nature of female character, something so distant and divorced from our pioneer past that I wonder if we will ever get back to that point where the “ladies” didn’t look in the mirror and automatically see the chains that were invisible to the rest of the world. I actually doubt it.
And something that happened the other day confirmed my suspicion, and my despair. Pennsylvania State Sen. Katie Muth was on the floor of the Senate, attempting to read the full text of a letter that had been sent to her by a constituent protesting the decision to cut back on the cash assistance program to the poor. It’s legitimate to be angered about that, and I actually agree with Muth on the substance of the debate.
But when she began to exceed her time limit, her colleague, Republican Sen. Jake Corman asked to be recognized by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who presides over the Senate. Fetterman deliberately ignored Corman, setting the stage for some unseemly vocal theatrics by the latter. But I can also understand why Corman was annoyed, because Fetterman was deliberately denying the Republican his legitimate right to be acknowledged, and he was doing it for partisan purposes.
Women across the nation decided to turn Katie Muth, who just kept talking, into some Joan of Altoona. She kept reading a letter while some man was trying to get her to respect the rules of the Senate. It was a shining moment of courage for some women, as if Muth was leading all of the silent and repressed women into battle against the big bad meanie men who have kept them down for so long. If she had painted her face blue and screamed “Freedom!” the reaction wouldn’t have been more hagiographic.
Let’s be honest. Being interrupted is not fun. I’ve had it done to me, I do it, and it’s disrespectful. It’s also human, and gender neutral. Despite this perception that women are interrupted more often than men, I can tell you from personal experience that it is personality, and not gender, that determines who is most likely to be the interruptor, and who is most likely to be the interruptee.
The fact that Warren and Muth are given credit for just doing what any normal human being would do is a sad commentary on how low we have set the bar for courage these days. It’s so low, as the old joke goes, even a pregnant ant might have a problem slipping under.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.