At some point during my college career at the University of Virginia I took a course called Women in Literature. As I remember it, the class was intended to be disruptive--in a genteel, erudite, academic way, but still, disruptive. We were to read only women writers, many of them minor and forgotten figures in a literature whose pantheon consisted mostly of dead white men, and take them as seriously as . . . well, as they weren't usually taken.
It's been a few decades, and it's possible that others in that same class would remember it differently, or not at all. But this is what I remember.
It was a small class, maybe 25 students, and only three of them male. But you had to give them a certain amount of credit for taking Women in Literature at all. And they certainly joined enthusiastically into the classroom discussions.
About that time I read an article. I think it was an article that the professor teaching the class recommended; possibly she even included it in the optional reading list. At any rate, I read it: an academic study that measured the amount of time men and women spoke in mixed groups . . . like for instance, classrooms. The men in this study talked more than the women. A lot more. And they interrupted the women, who tended to stop talking when interrupted; and on the rare instances when a man was interrupted--probably by another man--he was likely to keep talking, thus refusing to accept interruption.
At my classes over the next few days, I was quieter than usual, observing what went on during discussions--and that article was right. Even in our women in literature class. Men were only 12% of the class, and yet they did close to half of the talking. I counted how many times they interrupted the women--and how few times the women interrupted them. And it wasn't just perception--I actually hid a watch in my notebook and timed everyone. The researches were right.
I went off and brooded over this for a while. And then I decided that at our next class, I would talk like a man.
I came out swinging. As soon as our professor asked the first discussion question, I plunged in and talked. Instead of politely conveying my thoughts as succinctly as possible and then stepping aside for the next speaker, I kept talking as long as I had something to say. I interrupted the men, even if I had nothing new to say, or nothing to say at all. (Actually, that doesn't happen too often. I can almost always think of something else to say.) When they tried to interrupt me, I just talked louder. It helped that I have a relatively low voice for a woman, and had learned a few things about projecting it from hanging out in the drama department. The whole trick of talking louder to keep someone from interrupting you worked pretty well, to the consternation of the (male) interrupters.
The other women were mostly stunned into silence. It was me and the boys, and I held my ground. Before the class ended, the men began protesting my behavior to the professor.
Who, bless her heart, figured out pretty quickly exactly what I was doing. And when one of the men became so incensed that he was on the point of storming out, threatening to report me to . . . I'm not sure who . . . she 'splained it all. Much spluttering and vehement protesting. I may have produced the log I'd kept of the last class or two. The professor tied my experiment into some of the discussions we'd been having about women's voices being silenced so articulately that I'm sure a few students suspected she'd put me up to it. But she hadn't. My idea.
It didn't change the world, this experiment of mine. I'm not even sure it changed my life. But it was very satisfying to have pulled it off, and satisfying to think back on it.
In fact, the only depressing thing is that I'm not sure a modern-day experiment would produce appreciably different results.
Hmm . . . might have to try that sometime.