I vividly remember how excited I was to start classes at Wesleyan this past fall. After a long, lazy summer, all of the traumatizing memories of senior year had begun to fade and I was ready to start expanding my mind alongside other bright, intellectually curious young students. I was going to challenge myself! I was going to do all the assigned reading! I was going to attend 8:50 classes five days a week without sleeping through a single one! And for the most part, my expectations were fulfilled. My professors were brilliant and my classes were—mostly—fascinating.

Gradually though, I began to notice something about my male classmates: they talked constantly. This was particularly obvious in my First Year Seminar, a small, discussion-based course where it felt like the seven male students—despite making up less than half the class—managed to dominate every single discussion. At first, I wondered if I was imagining things—if coming from an all-girls high school had made me particularly sensitive to the presence of men—but when I talked to my friends about it they all nodded knowingly.

“Of course the boys talk more,” was the near-universal response. “That’s what boys do.”

This experience is not unique to me, nor to Wesleyan. People (and by “people,” I mean “men”) who believe that institutional sexism is no longer a pressing issue love to point out that women make up around 57 percent of college students, and thus cannot possibly face obstacles in seeking an education. The real story of gender and education is a bit more complicated, as around the world, from elementary to grad school, study after study after study has found that men speak more in class.

This is rarely intentional, especially at supposedly progressive schools like Wesleyan, where few men consciously believe they are smarter or more deserving of class time than their female peers. It’s also not entirely the students’ fault; by consistently paying more attention and giving more constructive feedback to boys than to girls, teachers and professors play a major role in creating an unequal classroom environment. This phenomenon is so well documented that it has a name: the chilly climate. The chilly climate, a term popularized by researchers Bernice Sandler and Roberta Hall, refers to an educational environment that “subtly or overtly communicates different expectations for women,” and there are countless ways for teachers to contribute to this climate. Instructors at virtually every grade level have been found more likely to call on boys, more likely to tolerate interruptions coming from boys, more likely to address boys by name, and more likely to give long, thoughtful responses to boys’ questions and comments.

Furthermore, most people are blissfully unaware of this bias. Unless they hear recordings of their classes played back to them, teachers generally believe they are spending equal time on their male and female students, and when they do call on men and women equally, they report feeling that the women are “dominating” the discussion. As a result of this constant, subtle discrimination, women tend to be much more cautious about voicing their opinions. They are far more likely to phrase their comments as questions or to use excessive qualifiers (“I think,” “perhaps,” “it seems possible”). They are perceived as less confident and thus less knowledgeable, and their contributions to the class are further devalued, leading to increased cautiousness in a terrible and endless cycle. And before you tell me about the girl in your government class who won’t shut up, or about how you always got terrible participation grades in high school, please don’t. I’m fully aware that classroom participation varies widely among both men and women, and that often, the majority of students don’t participate at all. But as a group, there’s no denying that men are taking up more than their fair share of class time.

This phenomenon is hardly limited to the classroom. Men dominate casual conversations, professional meetings, every possible genre of journalism, and even Twitter. Because men are constantly being told that their opinions are worth hearing, they are confident enough to constantly express their opinions. And because women are incorrectly perceived as the more talkative sex, they struggle to push back against this deeply entrenched sexism without being labeled as aggressive or unreasonable. There’s no easy solution to this maddeningly persistent issue, but there are several steps each individual can take. Teachers need to make a constant, genuine effort to listen to and respect their female students. Women need to remind themselves that they deserve to be heard as much as anyone else.

And men?

You guys need to take a step back.

  • Man with Axe

    I don’t care how much evidence you submit, I refuse to believe that men and women are different.

    • Also An All-Girls Grad

      You’re right, men and women aren’t different. However, they are treated differently because of their gender.

      • I could be wrong, but…

        I believe the self identifying male, Man with Axe, was being sarcastic. Of course, I could be wrong since I am a cis white male and I even interrupt myself when talking.

      • Jeff Stevenson

        Oh lord…

      • Nat Rev

        If you think for one second that men and women aren’t different go spend two days in a Marine Corps boot camp for men. Or take an engineering class. There’s a reason that most women major in utterly worthless degrees.

  • Twista WIsta

    This article is so out of touch with reality, it’s laughable. Wanna speak more in class, it’s simple: open your mouth. This article effectively shows that women have no agency. Sad!

  • Bob

    “After a long, lazy summer, all of the traumatizing memories of senior year…”

    Blame others much? Do you just like to complain? Or do you really enjoy bashing men for being their natural selves? Men talk over other men as well as women. We’re naturally competitive. So calling men out for not behaving like women is sexist as hell. And just in case you’re one of those feminists that insists women can’t be sexist, you calling men out for not behaving like women is “sexually bigoted” as hell. ;-)

    • LouisLapierre

      If that little girl is traumatized by school, because men DARED to speak, she is really gonna get screwed up in the real world. Poor little flower, maybe she should learn that she is not the strong women she think she is.

      • Governor Squid

        To be fair, she describes her time at an all-girls school as “traumatizing,” and prefaces her complaints about dealing with assertive young men by noting that she thinks getting to 8:50 classes is a pretty big accomplishment. In that context, it seems obvious that having boys in class is a huge improvement over the trauma of an all-girls school!

  • Frida

    Yep. Well said. I hadn’t considered that coming from a women’s-only High School this would be all the more blatantly obvious at University. As Harvard Business Review reminded us last week, this happens everywhere; not even SCOTUS is immune. Their article last week concluded: “there is no point at which a woman is high-status enough to avoid being interrupted.”

    • Ralphiec88

      Actually it concluded “What our findings additionally *suggest* is that there is no point at
      which a woman is high-status enough to avoid being interrupted” In an article that showed statistics that all male and female justices are interrupted, albeit at different rates, this is hardly an earth-shattering conclusion.

    • Migeulito

      Welcome to playing with the boys. We aren’t changing the rules because you can’t compete.

    • ssgtnelson

      So women, no matter how ‘powerful,’ are still weak and timid compared to men? Interesting….

  • Ralphiec88

    “There’s no denying” is a slippery slope, particularly in an article about the supposed stifling of debate. And how does it promote equality and excellence to ask anyone to “take a step back” based solely on gender?

    • writeby

      “Equality” in this context being, of course, socio-economic (rather than before the law). Let’s play that concept out:

      Social Equality: everyone, despite individual differences—in physique, health, intelligence, ability, achievement, psychology, temperament, character and choice—would be equal in their opportunities and in their responses to those opportunities, so that future opportunities also would be for everyone exactly the same and on and on ad infinitum into a glorious identicalness of thinking and living.

      Or, as Plato put it:

      “The best ordered state will be one in which the largest number of persons … most nearly resembles a single person. The first and highest form of the State … is a condition in which the private and the individual is altogether banished from life, and things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasion, and whatever laws there are unite the city to the utmost …” (Plato’s _Republic_ & _Laws_ c. 370 BCE)

      Academe: Get. A. Clue.

      • Bob

        Too bad Plato isn’t alive to see that his social theory is only partly attainable. He’s right about a mostly equal populace being the most stable but history shows there is no political system capable of making that happen without “equality” meaning 95% of the people are equally oppressed and impoverished. If you’re honest, you’ll admit properly regulated Western-style capitalism has come closest to realizing Plato’s recipe for stable countries.

  • 1st Amend.

    “Of course the boys talk more,” was the near-universal response. “That’s what boys do.”
    Yes, and you can thank them for it. Because that is the force that has created modern civilization. Boys and Men do stuff, are aggressive, want to be first and the best, and civilization has benefited because of this drive. By the way, my daughter is a freshman and came from an all women high school, she has no problem speaking up in class. Men don’t need to “step back”‘ time for you to “step up” or to use a common phrase, “lean in”. Furthermore, if you went to Wellesley, you might not run in to this problem.

  • Bobloblaw67

    Men shouldnt step back, women should step up. Women already outperform men in most academic metrics

  • Mike Danger

    If you can’t compete with men maybe college is not for you…

    Dr. King wanted us to judge others by their hearts rather than by the color of their skin. Let’s apply that to sex. There are some “people” who actively participate in class and other “people” who sit back passively and let them. If you are weak and timid than men and women both will walk over you. Stop blaming others for your short-comings…

  • Migeulito

    Look at this strong independent woman who has to have others fight her battles for her. Fragile much? Pretty easy to see where all the 21st century sexism is coming from (hint: it’s not men…) “Because men are constantly being told that their opinions are worth hearing” – uh, this is the exact OPPOSITE of what men are being told by sexists like this author.

  • lobo81865

    Less talking, more sandwich making.

  • Nathan W

    Anyone else growing weary of this shit?

  • Mike Dehart

    Women receive 60% of the undergraduate degrees currently…maybe they should take a step back.

    • Nat Rev

      While that’s true, those degrees are in subjects that don’t matter.

  • In other… shorter words… womyn are just too weak-minded to hold up their end of the discussion in a class.

  • Brian

    what the fuck is wrong with you

    • writeby

      Well crafted. See my reply to your fellow traveler above.

      Shall we start a Wesleyan Filthy Language Movement in the tradition of (New) Leftist thug Mario Savo?

      • Brian

        new phone who dis

      • ssgtnelson

        You’re as whiny as the author of this article.

  • LouisLapierre

    Strangely enough, men are only allowed to talk, if they say things that those women agree on, but don’t you dare having some diversity in your opinions, because then, all hell break loose. False Accusation, threats, vandalism and ultimately beatings.

    But hey, you know, they are only men, who care ? Am I Right ?

    The only voices who are really listened too, are women, even in the men’s right movement, you’ll find more women and none cisgender male speaking, because the men are easily silence, by all the classics accusation, misogynist, rape apologist, rapist, women haters, bigot, scum…

    Yeah, I feel the privilege, the privilege of being consider a second class citizen.

  • John1838

    “Unless they hear recordings of their classes played back to them, teachers generally believe they are spending equal time on their male and female students…”
    Screw what you say about what teachers believe. Upload the recordings. Let us judge for ourselves.

    “…and when they do call on men and women equally, they report feeling that the women are ‘dominating’ the discussion…
    They report to whom? Let us see the reports.

    “As a result of this constant, subtle discrimination, women tend to be much more cautious about voicing their opinions.”
    So far, all we have is your perceptions and complaints, and three studies whose reports are 10-plus years old, which means the studies themselves are significantly older. A lot has changed since 2004.

  • Nat Rev

    “You guys need to take a step back.”

    Go fuck yourself you whiny little bitch.

    • writeby

      Not the most compelling argument–and I emphatically disagree with this columinist. Your own language refutes your point. Ad hominems do not an argumet make.

      They only makes those who rely on them–e.g., see ANTIFA, many feminists, (New) Left Progressives, people like Steve Colbert, etc., etc.–appear to be inarticulate, irrational emotionalists.

      • Nat Rev

        There’s nothing “ad hominem” about that statement. And I wasn’t making an “argumet” I was encouraging her to “go fuck herself.” The whiny bitch doesn’t deserve an “argumet” she deserves a life in solitary confinement because she’s not fit for human contact.

      • Bob Loblaw

        in fairness to Nat Rev – he is right. The statement “Go fuck yourself you whiny little bitch.” is technically not an ad hominem fallacy.

  • Joshua Grabow

    Yes men. You need to make this strong woman feel better about herself by changing your behavior. She is incapable of controlling her own emotions or asserting herself, so you should take it upon yourselves to quiet down, make sure that you let her talk more than you. Obviously, no powerful modern woman with an elite college degree can speak on the same level as a man. As the superior sex, men must look out for the feelings and whims of these flighty, emotional creatures. If you talk too much, they will feel bad about themselves, and that makes you a Nazi.

  • Did you notice the men not stepping back just because you cried out for such to happen?

    Welcome to the real world, sweetheart. A world where you’re going to be saddled with extreme debt, a worthless degree, and a lifetime of low level food service for employment opportunities.

  • nicholasstix

    “Because men are constantly being told that their opinions are worth hearing…”

    Ah, that oxymoron, “feminist scholarship,” aka liars citing liars.

    Feminist “scholarship” consists of so many liars who have repeated their “sisters’” lies that one
    can’t possibly question their “objective” research findings.

    Feminist “scholars” have given us the Wage Gap Hoax; the Super Bowl Weekend Domestic Violence Hoax; the Campus Rape Culture Hoax, the “Women-Never-Lie-About-Rape” Hoax. Your president has ordered fraternities eliminated, based on feminist lies, er, scholarship and activism.

    Feminist scholarship’s intellectual currency is on a par with that of money issued by the Confederate States of America.

    To the young men reading this, I’ve got news for you. Your feminist professors routinely engage in grade discrimination against men, and in favor of coeds.

    Feminist instructors, staffers, and administrators routinely encourage coeds to ruin the lives of normal white men professors with phony “sexual harassment” complaints, and to commit campus rape hoaxes. And they have been spearheading the unconstitutional campus movement for “affirmative consent,” which turns the presumption of innocence upside down.

    Because men are constantly being told that they are privileged, potential rapists.

  • annademo

    “You guys need to take a step back.” No, actually, they don’t and they shouldn’t. Maybe you little snowflake girls need to grow a pair? Disclosure: I’m the mother of 3 men and I love that they talk…all the time.

  • writeby

    SHOT: The Policy of “Shut up,” she explained.

    CHASER: Hillary Clinton: ‘I was on the way to winning’ until … WikiLeaks.

    HANGOVER: “World Press Freedom Day: From Chilling Arrests in the US to Prisons in Turkey, Freedom of the Press Must be Protected”-Amnesty International USA

  • ssgtnelson

    Nothing like using anecdotal ‘evidence’ to defend your delusions… I mean beliefs… about men and then demanding that no one use anecdotal evidence against women. Let me bet. You believe you’re a strong and courageous woman… who’s so weak and timid that others need to become weak and timid because you lack the integrity to actually become strong and speak up.

    • Frederick

      I couldn’t have summed it up better…good job!

  • Jennifer

    please tell me this is satire. please tell me the writer thinks this is The Onion. Essays like this make me feel embarrassed to be a woman — oops, womyn.

  • JMF

    This reminds me of a quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein (not sure if he actually said it or not) in which he says that a fish will forever think it is a failure if you judge it by its ability to climb a tree. But the little caveat I would like to add to that is that at some point the fish needs to be willing to say ‘Fuck off, I’m a fish, not a monkey. And I happen to be an excellent swimmer.’

    We, as a society, need to stop giving over our power and control of our own happiness to everyone else around us; because that is what we’re doing by blaming others for how we feel. And I’m not talking about serious issues like legitimate sexism, rape, etc. I’m talking about the supposed ‘micro-aggressions’ and imperfections in our daily interactions. Something we, not just women, need to remember is that the way others perceive you, the way people treat or react to you… that’s their damage. Don’t take ownership of their problems or misconceptions – no matter how hard they might try to put it off on you. If a guy is being a real jerk to you, all he’s really saying is that he’s had some experiences that he doesn’t know how to deal with in a mature and healthy way. You let something they say or do negatively get under your skin or keep you from enjoying life and you’re believing the lie that men are superior. You’re telling him ‘You’re right. You’re more worthy than me.’ when usually he’s either completely oblivious to how you feel, or simply doesn’t care.

    Pretty silly.

    Speaking from nearly 9 years of marriage, I think the best things we as women can do to start changing this whole issue of ‘patriarchy’ and ‘male dominance’ is to a) stop letting others define us and how we interact with the world, and b) speak up – and not by complaining or pointing fingers at anyone; raise your hand more, speak up more, and don’t take it personally when someone calls you bossy or aggressive – view it as proof that you are bucking the system and you’re dealing with it so that someday others wont have to. That’s the only way things truly change. Expecting massive, dramatic, overnight changes is simply unrealistic. People don’t work that way.

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