A few days ago, I wrote two posts addressing the topic of appealing to a female audience. One was about the Blag Hag guest post When Gender Goes Pear-Shaped and the other was Reaching a Female Audience: The She-ra Approach. My motivation for writing both of these posts was a concern that free-thought groups would begin to make ill-informed changes, based on intuition instead of facts, which would be well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful.
Then, I come across PZ Myers post about how men should shut up and listen to women:
Listen. To. The. Women.
I’ve got a simple suggestion for my fellow men. Learn to shut up and listen. Seriously. You want women to find your organization pleasant and interesting and worth contributing to? Then don’t form panels full of men trying to figure out what women want
Great. Well, you know what, dudeman? I don’t want men to shut up and listen to me because I’m a woman. I want people to shut up and listen to be because I’m effing awesome, mmkay?
First of all, the panel in question wasn’t a women’s issues panel made up of mostly men. It was an audience choice panel, where the topics were chosen after the panelists were chosen. My guess is that, like most panels on the topic of women in atheism, if the organizers had known in advanced that those would be the topics, they would’ve chosen more women to be on the panel. Secondly, men giving their views on women in atheism isn’t automatically sexist. In fact, I thought the discussion touched on points that may not have been touched on in your average women’s panel (like the fact that atheist gatherings are the only place to find like-minded partners). Guess what—-this wasn’t the only panel in history to ever talk about women in atheism, ever again and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted them to skip the subject entirely because oops there aren’t enough women on the panel. I’m not convinced that when it comes to the subject of ensuring groups are more female-friendly nobody relies on women members to contribute.
The entire point of my She-ra Approach post was to argue that if you want to create an atmosphere which is more inclusive to women then you need to make an atmosphere which treats everyone like people. People are complex and you can’t make assumptions about them because of gender, race, or age.
Don’t make assumptions about me, negative or positive, based on my gender. Listen to what I have to say because I’m smart, funny, and make solid arguments. Invite me to speak at your event because I’m an international award-winning mangaka and TED Fellowship member. The fact that I’m also a young woman and totally adorable might also be a nice plus! But, like She-ra, I’m not awesome because I’m a woman I’m awesome because I wield the effing powers of Grayskull, bitch!
But, if horror of horrors, I were to say something that someone could *gasp* disagree with…ha ha I know, ridiculous, but stay with me for the sake of argument…if I were mistaken then nobody should feel uneasy about telling me so. I don’t want men to be told to shut up and listen to women because a) I don’t want men to “go easy” on me when expression their opinions about what I say and b) I don’t want men assuming that I’ll have the same opinion as someone else because they’re also a woman.
Yes, presenting more women role-models is a good strategy. It’s probably helpful to remind organizers to seek a variety of content; it can be easy for all of us to stick to what is familiar. But, if women aren’t being chosen to speak or chosen to be leaders because of the fact they are women, then that has to stop. But don’t go around telling men they should listen to me because I’m a woman.