Twenty-seven-year-old Mansi Gupta has stopped hanging out with her married friends or those of them who are in steady relationships. She tells us that the reason behind this strange decision is that the husbands of her married girlfriends hardly ever let their spouses talk when they are in a group. “I have noticed this, not with one, but three different couples. The men have a tendency to cut in whenever their wives are talking. As a result, these girls hardly ever open their mouths anymore.”
A little intrigued by what Mansi told us, we decided to dig a bit further and found a few puzzling results. According to a study conducted by researchers at Princeton and Brigham Young University (BYU), women speak substantially less when they are in mixed company. “Women have something unique and important to add to the group, and that’s being lost at least under some circumstances,” said Chris Karpowitz, the lead study author and a political scientist, on BYU’s website.
Men think women talk rubbish?
“I think men automatically presume that all women can talk about is clothes, jewellery or what happened in the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother. And why would they not? Ads, films and books have always reinforced that stereotype”, opines 21-year-old student, Aditi Pawar. “My boyfriend always cuts me off mid-sentence, making jokes about whatever I say. That went on for a few months but then I started giving him a taste of his own medicine,” she adds with a laugh. Siddharth Jain, a 23-year-old software engineer, however clarifies, “It’s not like we think women are not smart enough, but when men get together they talk about things that interest them like sports and business. We are sometimes unsure whether our lady friends would like to talk about the same issues.”
Outspoken is mouthy?
Another reason why women prefer to keep mum in front of their male friends is probably the fear of being labelled as mouthy or gabby. “I feel like a lot of men claim that they're alright with outspoken women on the surface, but the minute you start challenging the things that they say, you find yourself either being ridiculed or written off. I may be generalising, but I find this true of most men that I've met,” says Nikita Saxena, a media professional.
Speak up now
Perhaps it’s time women stop caring about what others think of what they say and participate in all conversations. According to another research carried out by a salary comparison website, 8 in 10 women are unhappy with their jobs, but are too frightened to express it. This further tells us that it is indeed time women need to rip off the gag and speak out. “I love engaging my friends in real conversations which are of some relevance to our lives. I don’t care if they think I act over-smart. Had I been a guy they would have welcomed me and my thoughts with open arms and called me a genius,” says 23-year-old Pooja Rajkumar, who is currently pursuing her masters in psychology.
(Some names have been changed on request)