Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

Women Get Interrupted More Than Men, Even on the Suprem--

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

It's not uncommon for men to interrupt and talk over their female colleagues, as many women can attest -- when they can get a word in. There's even a term for it: "manterrupting."

And the trend extends all the way to the highest court in the land, as a new analysis shows Justices Kagan and Sotomayor being interrupted much more frequently than their male colleagues.

Let Me Mansplain Manterrupting for a Second

Manterrupting is no new phenomenon. Data dating back to the 1970's shows that women are frequently cut off during conversations with men. In a 1975 study, for example, researchers Don Zimmerman and Candace West recorded public conversations and tracked the interruptions. In mixed-company convos, men were responsible for 48 of the 49 interruptions.

The trend continues today. A 2014 study by linguist Adrienne Hancock shows that men were more likely to interrupt women in conversations. So were women. Hancock's study found that women were not only more deferential to men in conversations, but they were much more likely to cut off other women as well.

Trying to Get a Word in From the Bench

Adam Feldman, of Empirical SCOTUS, recently took a look at interruptions during Supreme Court oral arguments. Now, oral arguments are famous for their interruptions. It's not unlikely for an attorney to even finish their first sentence before a justice cuts them off with a question. (If you're not being interrupted, you're not doing well.)

But Feldman looked at a different type of interruption: how the justices interrupt each other. And two of the three female justices were at the top of his list, having been interrupted this term more than any of their male counterparts.

Here are the justices, ranked by how often they were interrupted or cut off:

1. Justice Sotomayor, interrupted 57 times
2. Justice Kagan, 50 times
3. Justice Breyer, 36 times
4. Justice Roberts, 34 times
5. Justice Ginsburg, 31 times
6. Justice Alito, 30 times
7. Justice Scalia, 26 times
8. Justice Thomas, zero times.

The average Supreme Court justice was cut off just under 33 times. (Just under 37, if you remove Justice Thomas for the mix. He was never interrupted, but he's only spoken twice in ten years.) Most of the justices are right within that average range. Justices Sotomayor and Kagan are well above it.

Is Gender to Blame?

What could be the cause of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan's constant interruptions? Perhaps it's their gender, with the male justices behaving like most men, showing a greater willingness to cut off their female colleagues.

But you'll notice that Justice Ginsburg is interrupted less than several of her male counterparts. Indeed, Justice Scalia probably would have surpassed her as well, had he made it through the full term.

So perhaps there's more going on than manterrupting. Both of the most interrupted justices are the newest members of the Court, which could play a role. And Justice Sotomayor certainly gives as well as she gets. While she only interrupted her colleagues 25 times (Justice Kennedy took away that award, with 59 interruptions), she's known for cutting off the attorneys who argue before her. That once led some to call her a bully, a phrase many noted was not often applied to her male colleagues.

Related Resources:

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard