#allmalepanel no more. 10 tips for organising an inclusive discussion, for men (but not only!)

10 tips for organising a more inclusive discussion from a gender perspective.

Are you tired of participating in yet another manel*? Are you fed up with organising Clubhouse debates where a more or less competent man takes the microphone to answer a more or less competent man’s question? In short, whether you’re talking about politics, science, art, cooking or technology, are you tired of yet another “all male” talk? This list is for you. You can do better, you know it. Find the Italian version of the list here.

Nella foto ci sono uomini e donne che uniscono le mani nel segno "uno per tutti, tutti per uno" e sorridono.
Foto di fauxels su

1. Start with your network and get out of your comfort zone

Think about this: who do you usually ask for professional advice? Always the same three guys? Expanding our network is something we can all do way ahead of organising public discussions and events. If you don’t start with your informal network (think group chats, groups of colleagues, online groups) and you only remember equality when you are in an official context… you won’t get anywhere, because you won’t have built up contacts beforehand.

This is why it is essential to get out of your comfort zone. Practice going beyond your usual black book of people who look like you or you will create a vicious cycle of contacts inviting each other over and over again. Do more in-depth research and call people you don’t know.

2. You don’t need a calculator, but you do need common sense.

Don’t tell me (I can already hear you trying this one) that I am suggesting that there should always be the exact same number of men and women at a public event. And don’t use that as an excuse not to try ;). You are able to see for yourself that a 3 – 2 ratio is ok, but that 9 – 0, well, no.

Corollary: no, that’s not a good reason to pick on exclusive spaces, such as women-only discussions or spaces for people who are part of a non-dominant group. These spaces exist precisely because there is no balance in what should be a neutral common space, but is a privileged space for straight white males instead.

3. Ask yourself why

Why is my event so uninviting for women? What makes them reluctant to participate? How can I encourage participation?

Don’t hide behind “women don’t put themselves forward, they don’t raise their hands to speak!”. Ask yourself why.

I don’t have a simple answer, but this is something I am asking myself too, because I am often the exception. I put myself forward to speak even if -okay, sometimes especially if- ten men in a row have taken the floor before (true story of a debate on Europe on Clubhouse few weeks ago, but which is common). It is certainly not enough, in fact it is even counterproductive, if I stop at “come on, why don’t you do as I do?”

4. Use inclusive language

If you want to talk to and engage a diverse audience, your language can’t be masculine, under the pretence that it’s neutral. It is not neutral.

5. Watch your mouth!

Use appropriate titles and the same degree of formality or informality for all who attend. If you are using titles, use them for everyone. Titles should be used in the same way for all: don’t use “Dr.” for him and Ms. for her, if they both have a PhD. If, on the other hand, you are in an informal context, use the same confidence with everyone. If he’s your “mate”, she shouldn’t be “Madam”.

Don’t use the expression “Mrs. or Miss Surname” to introduce a woman, as if you were unsure what to call her, if you wouldn’t do it for a man. And don’t ask “Mrs. or Miss?”, for goodness sake. You probably raise your eyebrows thinking that someone still makes such distinctions, but I assure you that this is a mistake I’ve heard a lot of people make, for example on Clubhouse, creating a hilarious time dissonance (are we in the 21st century or the 19th?). You’ve probably done it too, without realising it. Let’s listen to each other and learn together.

6. Check your automatisms and cognitive biases

This is an extension of the point above. No one questions your positive intentions for an inclusive and representative debate. Probably, the problem lies in those behaviours that you take for granted, in those reflexes that you have absorbed, as we all have. Start doing something about it: ask yourself why you behave in a certain way and you will unhinge them! You have no idea from where to start? Think about this: women are interrupted three times more than man when they take the floor. Check how you behave: do you interrupt women more than men? Do you credit women’s contributions as much as men’s?

7. Apologise if you have to, don’t grasp at straws.

You’ve found yourself in a manel*, you’ve taken the floor away from women or something similar and… you’re called out for it. Accept the remark gracefully and apologise. There’s nothing worse than feeling marginalised and having to put up with the victimisation of the dominant group (Do you know “not all men?” You really don’t want to be part of that crowd). Don’t be defensive, cut the excuses short, we’ve heard them all before and they don’t change the substance. A few examples:

  • We tried! Did you? How hard? With what intentions? See points 1-6. Are you still sure?
  • They’re the ones who don’t accept! Are they? What would have been the conditions for them to accept? Did you think that they wouldn’t want to be the token woman? Would they really be treated as equals? What other barriers might there be? See point 3.
  • It is not a formal meeting, just a discussion. A network is built through informal exchanges. If you don’t change your approach to informal events, you will never find speakers for formal ones. See point 1.
  • There are more men than women in this field. First, are you sure that this is really the case? And doesn’t this justification create a vicious circle, where if women (and other non-dominant groups) are not visible, there will never be more women in this field? In practice: do you want to be part of the solution or hide behind the problem?

8. Accept the fact that you are part of the dominant group.

The patriarchy is not your fault just because you are a man. You might benefit from it whether you like it or not, but don’t blame yourself by default: you’d be to blame only if you took advantage of patriarchy. If you have never questioned your privileges as a man… yes, probably you are taking advantage of it. Don’t worry, you can fix it: start questioning your privileges. We like to think that we all that we have because we deserve it, but some of us have societal, economic, and gender advantages. We sometimes benefit from and sometimes are hindered by how others perceive us.

As you know, feminism can only be intersectional: different kinds of privilege or disadvantage intersect. Accept the ones that affect you. I too, for example, speak to you from certain positions of privilege: I am a woman, but it is also part of my identity (or of how I am perceived in society) that I am white, educated, heterosexual, with a stable job, European, able-bodied. If I didn’t have these privileges, it would be more difficult for me to express myself in public as I am doing now. We are individuals, we are made up of many pieces: it is up to everyone to question their privilege.

9. Don’t expect a medal, you are not a hero for doing something decent, like organising an inclusive discussion.

Are you for equality? Great! But that’s kind of the least you can do, isn’t it? Think of what the alternative would be! You’re not a child who should be rewarded for doing the right thing (unless you who are reading me are a child: then, yeah, great! 👏🏼). You deserve higher standards for yourself.

10. Let’s cooperate!

Really, that’s the key: let’s create and build together.

  • Manel: man + panel. An organised discussion in which the group of speakers (panel) is exclusively composed of men.

2 thoughts on “#allmalepanel no more. 10 tips for organising an inclusive discussion, for men (but not only!)

  1. Pingback: Mai più #tuttimaschi. 10 consigli per una discussione inclusiva, ad uso degli uomini (ma non solo) | Le Donne Visibili


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