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Well Actually, Men Interrupt Women Even On The Supreme Court

In a new study, Tonja Jacobi and Dylan Schweers of Northwestern found that on the Supreme Court, “the male justices interrupt the female justices approximately three times as often as they interrupt each other during oral arguments.” In their Harvard Business Review piece about their findings, Jacobi, a law professor, and Schweers, a J.D. candidate suggest this pattern is not about to resolve itself:

We conducted an in-depth analysis of the 1990, 2002, and 2015 terms to see whether the same patterns held when there were fewer female justices on the court. We found a consistently gendered pattern: In 1990, with one woman on the bench (former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), 35.7% of interruptions were directed at her; in 2002, 45.3% were directed at the two female justices (O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg); in 2015, 65.9% of all interruptions on the court were directed at the three female justices on the bench (Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan). With more women on the court, the situation only seems to be getting worse.

How disappointing that, as a Mashable headline put it, “Not even Ruth Bader Ginsburg is safe from manterruptions.” If the nation’s finest women judges get cut off in this way, what hope is there for a woman who was (say) too intimidated even to do high school debate? One can take comfort, I suppose, in the fact that the issue is being taken seriously and studied empirically. It can be reassuring to learn that a phenomenon many women have experienced is not in our imagination. That may not make it any less frustrating.

On that note — and with apologies for the chametz — I leave you with a highlight from “The Great British Baking Show,” where contestant Nancy refers to super-intimidating judge Paul Hollywood (who, along with British legend Mary Berry, was assessing the competition) simply, and maybe even a bit dismissively, as “the male judge.” Sometimes the smallest acts of subtly feminist defiance are, if nothing else, the most memorable.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at She is the author of “The Perils Of ‘Privilege’”, from St. Martin’s Press. Follow her on Twitter, @tweetertation




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