Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Where were you on the morning of September 27th- 3am to be precise? If you’re like me, you were up, tuned in to CNN, watching the historical first Presidential Debate between US Democratic Nominee, Hillary Clinton, and her Republican challenger, Donald J. Trump. It was historical by virtue of the fact that it was the first time in American Presidential history that one of the debaters was a woman…and that was enough to keep me up at that hour!
The debate started out on a cordial basis. The rivals shook hands, smiled for the cameras and the crowd, and then took their respective places behind the podiums. But then, it didn’t take long before I -and majority of the viewing audience- began to cringe. Trump, in his characteristic manner, had gotten into full ‘bully mode’. Despite being allotted an equal 2 minutes as his female rival to answer each question, he repeatedly did something that is quite rampant amongst male folk in society as they interact with members of the opposite gender- Manterrupt!
Now, for those who don’t know what manterrupting means, it is the unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man. It is rampant everywhere in society- in homes, offices, schools, even religious institutions. There is scarcely a woman on earth, who has not experienced manterruption at certain points in her life. The most prominent example of manterrupting- prior to the Clinton/Trump debate- was at the 2009 MTV VMA’s, when Kanye West lunged onto the stage, grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift, and launched into a rant about how BeyoncĂ© should have won the award for Best Female Video. But back to the debate.
Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton for a record 25 times in one five minute period. By the time the debate was over, Clinton had been interrupted by the Republican Nominee for a total of 51 times! Incredible! Trump cut into Hillary’s speech on multiple occasions and kept going even when the moderator, Lester Holt, continually reminded him, “Mr. Trump, you’ll get your own 2 minutes.” To Hillary’s credit, she kept her cool. In fact, I kept wondering, “how is she managing to stay so calm in the face of this ridiculous verbal assault?”
As I said before, the issue of manterruptions is one that affects all societal life. I grew up in a house filled with members of the male gender. As an only girl growing up in the same space as three boisterous brothers and numerous uncles- who were a constant presence in the Obichie household- it was a daily struggle to hold my own and assert my individual importance. To achieve this, during arguments, I would usually plant my foot firmly on the ground, look them in the eye, articulate my thoughts as intelligently as I possibly could, and refuse to back down- especially when I knew I had a valid point! In consequence, I tend to be more assertive than most women, now that I’m much older. So for me, watching Donald trying to verbally silence Hillary, felt like a personal assault!
Now, being in the political space is much different from other arenas of human interaction. In my mind’s eye, a woman like Clinton, in a private setting, would not have given Trump even one chance to manterrupt her. She probably would have shut him down the first time he tried it. But in a public setting, with the eyes of the world on her, she let him carry on! Now this doesn't point to a weakness in her character; rather, it casts a beam of light on societal expectations of women, and how we usually tow the path of what is expected of us- by virtue of our gender- so we don't incur the wrath of the larger society! But don't get it twisted; Hillary was by no means passive. You see, women in public spaces have now devised a 'politically correct' method of asserting their individual authority, when dealing with male bullies. I have termed it 'subtle aggressiveness'; and women use it daily, employing their own unique strategies! Hillary's method of subtle-aggressiveness was a combination of self-control, intelligence, sarcasm, cunning; and then, experience, and preparedness. The Democratic Nominee, fully aware of her opponent’s weaknesses- chief amongst which is his big mouth- allowed him to dig himself into his own grave. Making use of a somewhat unique conventional-guerrilla tactic, she would allow him interrupt her with (mostly) outrightly ridiculous statements, then throw in her fatal sucker punch; most notable of which was the now famous line: “I think Mr. Trump is criticizing me for preparing for this debate…and yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President!” And the crowd went wild! I loved it!
Hillary got Trump’s manterruption tactics to backfire so much against him that even twitter users took her side. One user (@cassandrahaven) tweeted, “Part of me wants to start a timer to see how long Trump can go without interrupting Hillary.” Another user (@roger91367) tweeted, “Trump is just a CHILDISH interrupting BULLY. Hillary is clearly the only ADULT in the room.” And he- roger91367- was right!
Greater than the outcome of the debate- Hillary won- I was more happy that the world got to watch in real time, the stupidity of manterruptions. A man may think that by constantly assaulting a woman verbally and trying to hush her down, he is asserting his strength; but in reality, he is displaying his colossal stupidity.
In conclusion, Dear men, you can pass your message across without being disrespectful to women-folk…it is possible. And to ‘the Donald’, I will say this: you messed up- big time. But there are two more debates ahead. You can redeem yourself- if you want to. I’ll give you a piece of advice for free: the next time Hillary is speaking and you feel your heart racing and your tongue about to push open the lids of your mouth, just practice this simple exercise- try keeping your mouth shut and count to 50. And then just breathe…deeply…in and out. I assure you, before you’re done, her two minutes would be up, and you can then have your say!