Women, it’s time we unmute ourselves


During Zoom meetings, male students tend to unmute to interrupt female students, making women feel silenced, overlooked and ignored. Male students must stop speaking over female students, and female students should assert themselves and call out those who interrupt them. Graphic by Claire Satkiewicz

Claire Satkiewicz, Staff Writer

Over the past year, E-Learning has allowed me to come out of my shell. I went from shying away in the back of the classroom and avoiding interactions with my classmates to engaging with my peers online, whether the topic be political controversy or the outcome of silly polls. While E-Learning may enable introverted students like me to confidently express ideas, this new method of interacting has the potential to escalate into higher levels of confrontation that bring light to preexisting social inequities. 

There have been times when I’ve struggled to express my thoughts in breakout rooms, or club meetings because others in the Zoom meeting keep cutting me off. These interruptions aren’t accidental. Interrupting a peer to share one’s own perspective isn’t instinctive. It requires thinking, unmuting and asserting.

I noticed it was mostly male students who spoke over me, so I conducted a test, keeping track of who interrupted me throughout my classes. Within a week, six male students and one female student (who immediately apologized, unlike her male counterparts) interrupted me a total of eight times in breakout rooms. 

Joanna Wolfe, a teaching professor in the English department at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in communication studies, gender communication and writing studies, said in a video conference that she attributes the gender disparities of being interrupted and overlooked to society’s perception of women.

According to Wolfe, women are often stereotyped as less confident and more friendly, so when women display culturally masculine traits like aggression, others grow needlessly uncomfortable and upset. Women are also perceived to become less angry when experiencing microaggressions like interrupting, which makes men more comfortable speaking over them.

In a study in July 2020 by Catalyst, a nonprofit working to create progress for women in the workplace, 20 percent of women surveyed said they felt overlooked during virtual meetings, while 45 percent of women found it difficult to speak up during video conferences. 

Before this year, encounters with sexism seemed to go right over my head, inconspicuous and unaddressed. I even made excuses for others: “Maybe I was speaking too quietly” or “I should’ve brought this up earlier.” 

Some of my female friends have apologized for being too assertive in policy debate, an activity that’s supposed to be opinionated and dominant.Women and girls have been raised to accept the reality of being overlooked, to the point where displaying confidence makes my female peers and me feel guilty. 

School is a microcosm of society. Implications of online sexism stretch far beyond E-Learning and deep into the workplace, both online and offline. One person’s idea isn’t more or less valuable than another’s, and it’s incredibly important that women and girls don’t let the rampant noise of misogyny drown out their thoughts, opinions and ideas.

It’s time for men to stop silencing women. It’s time for women to unmute. Our voices will never be heard if we don’t make people listen.