Why do Men Ask so Few Questions?

It’s not often I get an invitation to a film premiere, so I jumped at the chance of seeing the first screening of the film London Symphony, complete with live musical accompaniment by the Covent Garden Sinfonia.

London Symphony is a modern reworking of an established cinematic tradition: the silent city movie.  Both Paris and Berlin have received the silent city treatment––Études sur Paris (1928) and Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927)––but London remained a notable absentee in the genre, until director Alex Barrett and composer James McWilliam, sought to rectify the omission.

Filmed predominately in black and white––or, more accurately, filmed in colour but shown predominately in black and white––London Symphony celebrates the capital’s culture, diversity, nature, architecture and quirky humour, through a series of rapidly-cutting tableaus of London-life and –scenery.

The film was followed by a Q&A session with the director, the composer, the producer, the conductor, and a local historian, and it was during this discussion that there resulted an instance of a strange cultural phenomenon.

The film’s producer chaired the Q&A:

“Yes, question from the lady in the front.”

The audience waited while the roving mic reached its recognised target.

“Thank you.  I greatly enjoyed the film.  Can I ask, why does…?”

The question was duly answered by the panel and the discussion moved on.

“Question from the lady at the back.  No, not you.  Yes, you.”

The roving mic duly moved again.

“How did you…?”

Reply; discussion; move on.

“Lady on the left.  You have a question?”

“Lady at the back again…”

“Lady in the second row…”

And so it continued.  Even the term ‘lady’ suggests a wider demographic than was actually the case for the questioners that evening.  A more accurate description for each––and every––questioner could have been ‘Upper middle class woman of a certain age from Hampstead Garden Suburb’.  Throughout the entire Q&A, not a single male hand was extended; not a single guttural voice raised in enquiry.

I think that this is not simply a peculiarity of this particular event.  I believe that it is a wider social trend: men do not like to ask questions.  Perhaps there is a perception that questioning is somehow synonymous with ignorance, and therefore weakness?

It would be interesting to know if this is something that starts early.  Do boys ask fewer questions in the classroom than girls?   I have more questions than answers.

Or, perhaps, I am positing an entirely false hypothesis?  Perhaps, instead, the real question I should be asking is simply: why do upper middle class women of a certain age from Hampstead Garden Suburb ask so many questions.


© The Mudskipper



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