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Many a woman has been in this exact situation: We’ll make a suggestion in the workplace or some other collaborative setting, get shut down for whatever reason (maybe the idea sounded bad coming from our shrill voices? Maybe our shrill voices weren’t loud enough to hear over all other meeting noise?), then watch in silent resentment as a male colleague not only repeats this same idea, he gets credit for it.
It’s embarrassing, infuriating, and also finally, finally has a name: he-peating.
The term, coined by the friends of Nicole Gugliucci, an assistant physics professor at the University of Virginia, has a pretty simple definition. Hepeating happens when a woman suggests an idea, gets ignored, then has the idea repeated by a man, under which circumstance the idea is absolutely adored.
My friends coined a word: hepeated. For when a woman suggests an idea and it's ignored, but then a guy says same thing and everyone loves it— Nicole Gugliucci (@NoisyAstronomer) September 22, 2017
Not sure how to use it in a sentence? Use it as a verb as you would the word repeated, then apply it to the situation. Take Gugliucci’s examples:
Usage: "Ugh, I got hepeated in that meeting again." Or, "He totally hepeated me!"— Nicole Gugliucci (@NoisyAstronomer) September 22, 2017
On Twitter, tens of female respondents sounded off, applying the term to a myriad of situations and recalling when they, unsurprisingly, have been hepeated. Men also chimed in (as they do), sharing stories of similar behavior they’ve noticed in their own workspaces.
2/— Dawn R. Fischer (@1ArtisanJewelry) September 23, 2017
Him: just looking. Male customer approaches male co-worker (trained by me): I need (specific item). Male co-worker:
3/— Dawn R. Fischer (@1ArtisanJewelry) September 23, 2017
Dawn, do we carry (specific item)? Me: Yes, it's in aisle 14. Male co-worker to customer: Dawn can help you.
I used to work at Best Buy. Guys would ask our female camera expert Qs, then a few minutes later ask me the same. 1/2— Thomas Berry (@captainbluray) September 23, 2017
This happened to me all the time at my old job! Also- my boss told me to take notes at a meeting when I was the most senior in the room.— Ilana Wiles (@mommyshorts) September 23, 2017
A guy at work made a recommendation, I called him out, said, "that it exactly what I proposed last week." He stopped. Tiring & frustrating.— Alimal (@alimal22) September 23, 2017
Only woman on a team of 3 male devs, one being our manager. When I called out I had given that exact idea, my manager denied it.— DevChick (@jynclr) September 24, 2017
For example, the term applies to when a male colleague mocks your idea in a patronizing voice:
ALSO WORKS IN CONTEXT OF YOU SAYING SOMETHING TO A MAN, THEN HIM REPEATING EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID IN A PATRONISING AUTHORITATIVE VOICE— Mark Brown (@MarkOneinFour) September 22, 2017
Or perhaps, as a pattern of gendered silencing (possibly unintentional) in the workplace:
Holy moly, this word fits in my research into gendered silencing practices! Would your friend be okay if this became part of my diss?— Heather Erin Herbert (@HeatherEHerbert) September 23, 2017
Or, exactly like the time the internet freaked out over Sen. John McCain’s “no” vote on the “Skinny” Obamacare repeal in July, while Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski had stood firmly in opposition the entire time, and didn’t receive nearly a fraction of the praise he did.
Sort of like when Collins and Murkowski oppose new healthcare legislation, and McCain gets all the credit.— Candace L. Carr (@CCandyLuv) September 22, 2017
People take for granted that these two women are sane on healthcare - Planned Parenthood too. BUT WHAT ABOUT OUR WHITE MALE SAVIOR— Sarah Oestreich (@Sarah_Oestreich) September 23, 2017
While “hepeated” might be a gendered term, the phenomenon itself doesn’t stop at gender. Are you a Black woman whose idea was recycled and credited to a white female peer? You’ve definitely been hepeated (or, maybe in this case, she-peated, or as other Twitter users suggested “copy-whited“).
So many folks deny that this happens. And yet so much evidence and research shows it happens to women AND black and brown men and women.— Nicole Gugliucci (@NoisyAstronomer) September 23, 2017
It also works in the context of a PoC trying to speak at any point.— Camilo (@i_am_camilo) September 22, 2017
OMG yes... I'm liking b/c I realize it's an issue but with a sadface b/c it sucks that we white people do this, too— Nicole Gugliucci (@NoisyAstronomer) September 22, 2017
You win. Hepeaters and copywhiters make a dangerous combination.— YonSolitaryHighland (@YonSolitary) September 24, 2017
The thing is, however, workplaces can sometimes be so averse to listening to women that sometimes hepeating, or as another Twitter user put it, he-laying, becomes a tactic to make sure an idea gets the “proper” evaluation. Which, yes, is complete bullshit, but there’s a reason white male allies are so valuable in movements for equality for race and gender—people generally value their voices more, just because they were born as white men.
I often "helay" ideas - whisper an idea to a male colleague for him to suggest so that it receives proper consideration.— Erin O'Brien (@erinogirl123) September 22, 2017
Or when you're not sure whether the idea will be a hit or miss, but know a miss won't reflect badly on him.— L.A.R.K.A (@LiberatedFacts) September 22, 2017
It works that way for POC in meetings too! Or you need someone W/Male to cosign for YOUR IDEA.....— Ken Jones (@KenJone56612075) September 22, 2017
Unfortunately, hepeating, copywhiting, and all other ways women and people of color are marginalized in the workplace by having their ideas wrongfully appropriated, seems to be much more unintentional than tactical. However, take this advice from the women in the Obama administration who were tired of being ignored or spoken over: They began repeating each others’ ideas, giving credit to the originator, and making the idea harder to ignore as a way to “amplify” each others’ voices.
“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” one former Obama aide told the Washington Post.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.