SPENCER, WI—Diane Hamm, 38, a lifelong Spencer resident and part-time clerical assistant at Groelke Home Financing in nearby Plovis, was not listened to yet again Tuesday, when her husband paid no attention to what she was saying as she handed him the morning newspaper.
Officials estimate that the incident marks roughly the 10 billionth time Hamm has not been listened to when attempting to speak.
"I talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk," Hamm told reporters at a press conference in the breakfast-nook area of the Hamm household, "and it just goes in one ear and out the other. I might as well be talking to a wall."
Hamm's sister-in-law, Janice Gunderson, who is staying with the Hamms temporarily, was sitting at the family's breakfast table when the non-listening incident occurred. According to Gunderson, at approximately 7:45 a.m., Hamm's husband Gary, 41, asked his wife to please hand him the newspaper. As Hamm handed it to him, she reportedly said, "Oh, by the way, that reminds me. We need to send off the check for that subscription renewal if you still want to get the paper. Do you?"
According to Gunderson, Gary responded by staring into space, in no way acknowledging that he had heard his wife. Hamm then repeated the question twice, to no avail.
"It was only after Diane waved her hand in front of Gary's face while whistling the Twilight Zone theme that she got any reaction out of him at all," Gunderson said. "He just blinked and was like, 'Huh?' I swear, it's like he just tunes her out."
Though Gary, who married Diane in 1983, has denied his wife's allegations, claiming that he "was just zoning out there for a minute," many experts familiar with the Hamm case argue that the incident is merely symptomatic of a severe not-being-listened-to problem that has existed since the beginning of their marriage.
"The specific examples of Gary not listening to Diane are too numerous to list in full. In fact, if laid from end to end, they'd reach from here to the sun," said Patricia Sloane, renowned feminist author and attorney with the D.C.-based Women's Attention-Payment Project.
Sloane then produced an abridged, 800-page document chronicling some of the prior incidents. Among them: the 1987 episode in which Hamm told her husband not to turn on the kitchen-sink garbage disposal because a fork was lodged in it, but he did anyway, breaking the garbage disposal; the week in early 1991 when she told him five days in a row to pick up their dry cleaning, and he didn't; and the much-discussed May 1993 dinner party thrown by the Engelbreits, at which he ignored 27 attempts by Hamm to contribute to a political discussion.
"It is clear that this is someone who does not hold Diane Hamm's words in the same regard he does those of other people," Sloane said.
According to noted New York-based gender activist Lisa Kopani, Hamm's case is far from uncommon.
"Each day in this country, millions of women go unlistened-to, despite their earnest efforts to make themselves heard," said Kopani, a member of the controversial performance-art group Metric Labia. "Unfortunately, you never hear about them in the media because their cases aren't as glamorous and sensationalized as this one."
"I have just about had it up to here," Hamm told reporters. "Gary can remember the plot of every episode of Coach, but my mother's birthday is beyond him? And I don't even want to talk about Jeffy and Craig. Don't even get me started on those kids. Talk about never listening to a word I say!"
The remainder of Hamm's comments are not known, as reporters stopped paying attention to her and just sort of aimlessly wandered off.