a knitted representation of how much men talk in Montreal city council
May 16, 2019 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Montreal borough mayor Sue Montgomery has been knitting a colour-coded scarf during city council meetings to show how often and for how long men speak compared to women. While men are speaking, she knits with red yarn; while women are speaking, she knits with green. Currently, the scarf is 75-80% red. There is relative parity on city council--31 women and 34 men--so it is not a case of lack of representation; instead, Montgomery attributes it to "an imbalance in the mental and emotional space those 34 men take up...I’ve said, ‘Just make your point and sit down.’ And they say, ‘Well, that’s democracy and we have to debate.’ What they don’t understand is that they don’t have to put on a show."

Many of the other city council members have continued to deny the problem, accusing Montgomery of being unprofessional for knitting in meetings, claiming she is unprepared and simply does not speak up enough herself, and implying that her real goal is to silence healthy debate. However, Montgomery is undeterred and says she will knit until Christmas, when she will auction the scarf for a charity that empowers women. “I’m hoping that as this goes on we’ll see more green, that the men will edit themselves.”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (41 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
I LOVE THIS IDEA SO MUCH!


But.... I can't help but feel that men would never accept it as any kind of evidence. I'm sure they'll say she knit too fast or too slow or that she was mis-hearing, or out to get them. There are a million ways.

If you can find a white man who can knit.... well then maybe...
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:03 AM on May 16 [18 favorites]


I kind of love this project, and I am not at all surprised by the reaction of the men who were called out.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:04 AM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Love this!!!

I'm always interested in the inherent assumptions in arguments like "we have to debate" and "you're trying to silence healthy debate." It's clear that to them, healthy debate = men talking 75-80 of the time, and I'm not sure they realize that that's what they're saying. (It's like "you should hire the best candidate for the job" as an argument against diversity... the only possible best candidate being, of course, a white man.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:06 AM on May 16 [18 favorites]


I love it. It's not scientific or anything, but if it makes people (and particularly men) more self-aware of how much of the public sphere they're occupying, so much the better.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:08 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]


I’ve said, ‘Just make your point and sit down.’ And they say, ‘Well, that’s democracy and we have to debate.’ What they don’t understand is that they don’t have to put on a show."

Every office meeting I’ve ever been in.
posted by sallybrown at 11:08 AM on May 16 [43 favorites]


Seriously. Sounds like having these men STFU and get to the point would be more efficient as well as more equitable.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:11 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


I expect absolutely nothing to change from the guys' behavior ever ever ever, but it's nice to have it pointed out visually.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:15 AM on May 16 [15 favorites]


This short sketch 'G4 World Summit' from the Baroness von Sketch Show is so fucking appropriate. Enjoy.
posted by Fizz at 11:19 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


This is awesome
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:20 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I like the Tuca method for sounding an alarm when no women have spoken. But knitting works too.

(seriously watch Tuca & Bertie it is so good)
posted by emjaybee at 11:22 AM on May 16 [19 favorites]


Actually let's just arm women with knitting needles and yarn all the time to do this every day in our places of employment. Bonus: pokey needles.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:30 AM on May 16 [9 favorites]


Brilliant. Thanks for posting this.
posted by theora55 at 11:41 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Interesting, but the women at my church board meetings talk way, way, way more than the men. Maybe it depends on what the subject is.
posted by Melismata at 11:44 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]


I expect absolutely nothing to change from the guys' behavior ever ever ever, but it's nice to have it pointed out visually.

Well, given that far more men than women are red-green color blind, this, um ...proves nothing?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:49 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


but the women at my church board meetings talk way, way, way more than the men.

Do they get paid for participating in church board meetings? I wonder if that's the difference?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:49 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


If you can’t knit, arementalkingtoomuch.com is a pretty good substitute.
posted by Gymnopedist at 11:55 AM on May 16 [26 favorites]


since only 8% of men worldwide are red green color blind probably the percentage of men on earth who won't shut up is a lot higher. but also there are other colors. in the world.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:56 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


but the women at my church board meetings talk way, way, way more than the men.

What's the gender breakdown of the board?
posted by TwoStride at 12:03 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]


I got an idea for using knitting needles to deal with men who talk too much. I don't even need yarn.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:17 PM on May 16 [21 favorites]


I'm prepared to bet money that City Councillor Marvin Rotrand just fucking loves to hear himself talk.
posted by aramaic at 12:33 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


Even if the ad hominem criticisms of Montgomery were true, why would one woman not speaking up for herself enough cause the disparity in a group of more than sixty people?

It doesn't seem to me that any of the critics are saying her count is incorrect, just that... she should not point it out.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:35 PM on May 16 [22 favorites]


I can't tell if it's just how she's holding it, but it looks like she's knitting a triangle that starts small and gradually increases. This is going to throw off what she's trying to do, since at the beginning, she's going to get a thick stripe of one color, whereas when she's on a longer row, that same amount of time/yarn is going to LOOK much smaller.

Also, am I having deja vu, or have we covered this before?
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:41 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Historically there’s a received wisdom that women are shrill harpies who never shut up. Between gossiping, complaining, and allegedly being fundamentally incapable of relating a short anecdote quickly, it is just understood that ‘women talk more than med do.’

Until you ask women or listen to tapes or watch videos or read transcripts.

While it’s nice that there are some forums where there is parity or women speak more, ongoing and reproduced research suggests that men as a class get to take the floor more often, and for longer. These results are intersectional. Women of color speak even less. And people who are identified as trans or gender non conforming also are offered the floor less, denied it more frequently and interrupted more vigorously than cis people.

So yes,people of some genders should speak less and others more.
posted by bilabial at 12:42 PM on May 16 [22 favorites]


Maybe it's like my college. I'm a man, but if I deliver my thoughts in a short economical fashion they seems to be overlooked. But if some blowhard says the same thing later in a longwinded pontificating lecturing way my colleagues seem to take note. I see them nod and discuss the point.
Perhaps I need to learn to knit.
posted by cccorlew at 1:09 PM on May 16 [16 favorites]


Also, am I having deja vu, or have we covered this before?

I know there was a woman that would knit rows on a scarf every day to show train delays, that's what I thought of when I saw this one.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 1:18 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]


Our local city council meeting is held every week on the night that I've been playing RPGs for over a decade, and before I switched to a classical music station, when I'd drive to the game, I'd listen to the broadcast of the meeting carried on our local public radio station. Depending on where the game was held and what traffic was like, I'd listen to varying lengths of the session, and, although I never really kept track, it seemed like literally every other time I switched on the meeting, one particular council member was speaking... a guy who would go on at some length... and I do mean some length... separating his phrases with significant pauses... as if to make sure... that people were memorizing what he said... or maybe writing it down... Of course, he ended up having the exact opposite effect, at least with me, because I'd just tune him out (sometimes literally--I think that that may have been why I switched to the other station).
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:41 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


This somehow seems relevant here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:30 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Also, am I having deja vu, or have we covered this before?

I know there was a woman that would knit rows on a scarf every day to show train delays, that's what I thought of when I saw this one.


Yup, and I had actually forgotten I had posted that one too! (Can you tell I knit?)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:22 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


“...bugs the crap out of me when young feminists identify problems and immediately conclude that guys have to step back. No, girls have got to step forward. Why are we letting young ladies get away with not engaging, while complaining that the teacher didn’t call on them? Well, raise your hand, babe!”


Grrrrr I understand the work being called for by the researcheris to get teachers to intervene to make it safe for girls (and boys who are not white and/or ‘soorty’ To begin or continue speaking. Instructors who let the girls etc drift away from half completed speech acts are propagating the problem.
posted by bilabial at 4:29 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Seriously, people who knit: what's up with the pointiness of the scarf? Is it a trick of the photography? Is it a knitting technique, and in the end it will be rectangular? Is it an avante-garde scarf shape?
posted by Bugbread at 4:51 PM on May 16


I think it may be a Hitchhiker, which was a super viral scarf on Ravelry a while back. It does have a kind of avant-garde shape, but it looks cool when it's done.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:12 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]


Awesome, thanks!
posted by Bugbread at 5:22 PM on May 16


Why are we letting young ladies get away with not engaging, while complaining that the teacher didn’t call on them? Well, raise your hand, babe!

Genius, that worked super well when I raised my hand all the time in class with the goddamn right answer but a buncha dudes just yelled out whatever fool thought was wandering through their brain at that moment! Thanks for the fucking tip!

This is a very cool project. Not that I equate the issues in any way, but it makes me think of the reception of Colin Kaepernick protesting police violence during the national anthem. Pointing out a problem that relates to power imbalance and control may be done completely silently and without commentary, but it is treated as if the pointer-outer is shouting obscenities or committing violence.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:30 PM on May 16 [22 favorites]


Madame Defarge would be proud. Vive la revolution
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 8:46 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


We know from years of research that privileged people are most likely to listen to people who share or are closely adjacent to their privilege. Cis men listen to other cis men about gender issues more readily (not super well, but better) than they do to people of marginalized genders. White people receive feedback about racism more readily from people they perceive to be white than from people of color. And of course there’s a ton of intersectionality here as well. Ableism, financial position, educational background can all be used as an avenue for discounting a person’s request to consider being inclusive or even just examining implicit bias.

This is really hard because cis men come up with very different suggestions for gender issues than the people disadvantaged by harmful policies and behaviors. Etc.

We should be listening more to the people who don’t look and sound like us.
posted by bilabial at 9:35 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


So what is the real reason men speak longer?
posted by Bugbread at 4:19 AM on May 17


Probably it's larger average lung capacity.
posted by asperity at 9:26 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


So what is the real reason men speak longer?

On the whole, not having various external sources tell you that you take up too much space and talk too damn much is exceptionally helpful
posted by Ashen at 12:11 PM on May 17 [13 favorites]


That makes sense, but I don't see how it's in disagreement with what cccorlew said.

...hrm. On review, it looks like the question I was asking was in response to a comment that was deleted, so never mind.
posted by Bugbread at 3:52 PM on May 17


not having various external sources tell you that you take up too much space and talk too damn much is exceptionally helpful

I bet you could write an app for online meetings (easy to track voices with IDs) or a simple app with M and W buttons that would track how long each person talks. Just keep the thing showing a status bar throughout the meeting for everyone to see. (And you could still dump the data to a loom or 3D printer if you wanted a tangible representation.)
posted by pracowity at 6:35 AM on May 21


In 2014, when she was a journalist at the Montreal Gazette, Sue Montgomery also co-created the #BeenRapedNeverReported hashtag along with Toronto Star writer Antonia Zerbisias.

Someone needs to make Montgomery a Wikipedia entry.
posted by louigi at 10:29 AM on May 21


« Older "Books are an Irishman’s dessert."   |   The English Word That Hasn't Changed in Sound or... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments