Feminism for guys, I’ve concluded, is something that is (or should be) simply defined as “more housework and listening”. By which measure I have been, and remain, a rubbish feminist.
Still, we’re here to talk about practical things we have done within the
ivory tower, sorry “academy” about feminist praxis.
This may be a short blog post.
Recently I was at a meeting that purported to be a workshop. Too much detail would be a “career”-limiting move, so just this – it doesn’t matter so much the gender of who is at the front of the room, who is literally and metaphorically around the table – if the structure and practices aren’t both “in place” to ensure that the quieter voices are nurtured and heard. These voices often, but by no means always, belong to those of us (not me) who have been overtly shat upon by The Patriarchy.
Yes, one can ‘intervene’ and try to ensure that quieter voices ‘have their say’, and then run the risk of being seen as another saviour, another paternalistic white-knighter. And I did, for what it is worth, and it ‘worked’, whatever that means. This is mentioned not for the praise or the blame, but just to try to illustrate the point – at this ‘micro-level’ it shouldn’t be about be about individuals using their “power” to create the conditions for others to speak, in the face of rubbish structures and under-challenged institutions. We should be challenging those institutions (in the sense of social norms, unacknowledged practices).
So far, so abstract: in practice. If you are five of you sat round a table supposed to discuss something for twenty five minutes, I don’t actually care what the gender balance is – as far as I am concerned, you have to have a quick go-round to find out what everyone thinks (allowing people to say ‘pass’ of course, but if that happens a lot, maybe you also need to do some brief working-in-pairs so people can test out their idea with one other person instead of four others).
On Monday I am chairing a session at something. Here’s what my pro-feminist practice is going to look like. I will:
- get all the speakers names right.
- keep them all to time by using the ‘clap clinic’ method.
- At the end of the speeches and before the Q and A, have everyone turn to the person next to them and have a chance to discuss for a minute, develop a question/comment, and hone it down to two or three sentences.
then to ask for a show of hands who wants to ask a question/make a comment,
- choose two women to start.
- All speakers will be treated ‘the same’ in the sense that if anyone goes off on a self-serving speech/rant they will get asked ‘do you have a specific question/point?’
Because this is, in my opinion, about how we change academic practice – by modelling behaviour that is genuinely inclusive, and by paying attention to the format and structures of our meetings, and tweaking them as required.
I think of it as a kind of housework; mundane, invisible, but if you don’t do it, there’s just a horrible mess.