Justice

This Tool Can Help You Prove This Common Sexist Problem Exists

July 24th 2016

By:
Tricia Tongco

The term "mansplaining" entered our lexicon just in the last few years, but it's a phenomenon as old as time.

But how exactly can you prove that it's happening?

A new online tool is here to help you by asking a simple question: "Who's talking?"

The timer — designed by software developer Cathy Deng — clocks the duration that a man or woman is speaking to "check who's dominating the conversation."

Deng discussed the difficulty of fostering diversity, using the tech industry as an example, on her site, AreMenTalkingTooMuch.com:

"When people talk about diversity and inclusion in tech, they often count bodies: What [percent] of women [are] at this company, what [percent of] women [are] at an event, etc. But ... inclusion is more than who's in the room. Often, in rooms that seem diverse, men still dominate conversations to a large extent.

"I'm exploiting the mantra of 'What gets measured gets managed.' Hopefully, measuring participation can highlight disproportionality and ultimately make room for more voices."

Deng said that she noticed at both school and work that men were less attuned than women in realizing when men were dominating a conversation. "[Women], too, can be biased in overestimating the participation of other women; these types of biases are just so ingrained," Deng told ATTN: in an email interview.

Tempted to dismiss the thesis behind this app with a #NotAllMen argument? Consider the following statistics, reported by writer Lucy Vernasco at Bitch:

Such findings support Deng's belief in the power of data.

Concrete numbers are more compelling than subjective statements, such as "men dominated the conversation," Deng told ATTN:.

"If people are surprised by the results, hopefully it will spark deeper conversations about hidden bias in general, beyond gender," Deng said. "What are other ways in which our perception of social situations can be biased?"

Deng suggested spaces in which you can use the tool:

"Use this at events! In meetings! While watching TV! The possibilities are endless."

Deng added that you can use AreMenTalkingTooMuch.com to gauge the gender disparity in television and films, which has been well-documented behind and in front of the camera.

Polygraph, a data visualization website, performed a study analyzing gender bias in more than 2,000 movies and found that men had an overwhelming majority of speaking roles.

It seems obvious that men dominate conversations, but some statistics are still staggering, such as this one, reported by Vox:

"[Of] the 2,005 screenplays Polygraph surveyed, the dialogue in only two of them is 100 percent delivered by women — the '90s dramedy 'Now and Then' and the female-driven horror film 'The Descent.'"

Men dominating discourse doesn't merely result in the injustice of underrepresentation. "Credibility is a basic survival tool," Rebecca Solnit wrote in "Men Explain Things to Me," a scathing essay on male arrogance. It's a serious problem when a woman loses credibility when saying things such as "He raped me!" or "He's trying to kill me!"

Deng's timer is a tongue-in-cheek way to highlight a serious problem that happens in myriad spaces, from offices to courtrooms, yet is so often discounted.