A Simple Suggestion to Help Phase Out All-Male Panels at [Church] Conferences

At the Atlantic, Rebecca Rosen offers “A Simple Suggestion to Help Phase Out All-Male Panels at Tech Conferences.” Rosen writes:

Dear Men,

Have you noticed that a lot of the time it just seems like, gosh, there are a lot of dudes speaking at this conference? Perhaps you’ve been on a panel and you’ve looked around and seen man after man after man. Maybe you’ve thought, it’s too bad the organizers didn’t think to balance this out a bit more and ask some women to speak too.

I love that this has bothered you. And I am happy to tell you about a simple step you can take to help change this: Refuse to speak on all male-panels. Just say no.

… The conference organizer is not the only person here with power. If you have been asked to speak on or moderate a panel, make it your business to ensure that this does not happen. We created a simple pledge that our editor Alexis has taken. Feel free to add yourself or make the pledge in your head privately.

Rosen offers a little pledge form to sign and everything. The pledge reads:

I will not speak on or moderate all-male panels at technology and science conferences.

Excellent idea — too good not to steal.

Rosen’s point, and her pledge, seem applicable and desperately needed for the realm of church and theology conferences as well. So let’s adapt and adopt her pledge accordingly:

I will not speak on or moderate all-male panels at church and theology conferences.

But then involving more people means applying more pressure for change. And involving more people also empowers more people to be the kind of people who can bring about change.

So let’s adapt this pledge further to be something that those of us who aren’t the sort of people usually invited to speak on or moderate all-male panels can participate in as well:

I will not speak on or moderate or attend all-male panels at church and theology conferences.

 

  • spinetingler

     “‘My Experience with Erectile Dysfunction,’…ought to have expert women.”

    Indeed.

  • banancat

    And of course, Christopher Baca decided to dominate this thread while complaining about his paranoia of others silencing him.  Wow, what an obliviously privileged tool.  Only someone in the most dominant and powerful group could complain about silencing while demanding that an entire thread revolve around him.

  • http://twitter.com/wjloewen William Loewen

    Besides hearing women talk because they are women, we also need to hear men talk about how awesome women are.  I would rather pledge that if I’m addressing a crowd that is predisposed to suppressing the female voice, I will uphold the women in my life, my copanelists’ lives and the audience’s lives as valuable, talented and inspiring aspects of God’s creation.

    Already the split is fairly unavoidable: conservative women won’t speak and won’t be asked, liberal women will speak when asked but are often ignored, conservative men will speak proudly and loudly, and now liberal men are being asked not to speak.  That means only one voice will be heard.

  • AnonymousSam

    The problem is, it’s the panelists who are refusing to allow the women to speak, not the audience. So appearing on that panel to talk about how awesome women are somewhat becomes hypocritical, if one does not insist that women should be on said panel. Refusing to attend the panels if they are male-dominated is simply another means of insisting that womens’ rights be observed.

  • Turcano

    You know, he only responded that way because jumping to the conclusion that a call for including women in panels would automatically result in the exclusion of men, no matter what the language used, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense outside the context of “the Shevil Fempire wants to cut off everybody’s todgers.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    the tendency for these discussions to end up saying the white, straight, male should be silent

    There is a difference between ‘the heterocis white male should be silent’ and ‘the heterocis white male should not be the only type of person given a chance to speak’.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I came to the same conclusion:  that what Ross was saying wasn’t, “They’ll just invite random women to fill a quota, so what’s the use of inclusivity” but rather, “Some of these guys will go out of their way to refuse to invite qualified women, instead choosing the ‘tee hee, I’m just a housewife’ types”.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Already the split is fairly unavoidable: conservative women won’t speak
    and won’t be asked, liberal women will speak when asked but are often
    ignored, conservative men will speak proudly and loudly, and now liberal
    men are being asked not to speak.  That means only one voice will be
    heard.

    I wondered if the more constructive approach wouldn’t be for the panelists, instead of declining to attend, contacted a qualified woman instead and let her have his seat?

  • Münchner Kindl

     In that case, it is the duty of those men who took the pledge to talk to the organizers again: why didn’t you invite Mrs. Smith from (Fred’s list) who’s more qualified than Mrs. Fredson?

    The success of this pledge largely depens on speaking out loud: the panelists and the attendees talking to the organizers and the media and other panelists/ attendes on why they aren’t coming and how to change that. With less and less interesting/ known panelists coming, attendance and interest will drop, so organizers will either change or the meeting will become unimportant as most people go to conference B instead with the big-name panelists and mixed representation.

    It reminds me of how the Green Party here adressed gender imbalance and the power plays about who gets what place on the list for the election. They put down the rule that  a man and a woman must alternate on that list. No exceptions. If you don’t have enough women, you don’t fill up with men, you stop. If you have only  unqualified women who are not being elected, well, your bad luck. This puts an incentive on local party groups to go out and recruit women, and put electable = capable women at the front of the list; and it means that women know they won’t play second fiddle, but have a chance as long as they are capable.

  • http://twitter.com/KeroseneBitumen Christina Nordlander

    I was just about to post something along these lines, stardreamer 42, except you probably said it better.

    It’s distressing how any discussion about increasing female (minority, etc.) participation in some field seems to assume that the women (immigrants, queer people, etc.) will just be amateurs picked straight off the street, whereas the straight white men will of course be the leading minds of their field.

  • Mike H.

    Why limit to gender inclusive concerns? Randy Woodley has addressed this as an indigenous minority. There was quite a discussion about refusing to be a part of any conference or forum that contained only white males. Part of the thread can be accessed here:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2012/09/can-you-feel-me-yes-somone-did-by-randy-woodley/
    There are a lot of links that can be poked at to get the whole gist of his concern. A concern that should be ours, also.

  • Carstonio

    Yes. It requires the assumption that calls for including women are merely subterfuges for excluding men. Or that efforts to include women give the mythical hordes of todger-cutters the opening they seek.

  • Carstonio

    I share the concerns over both ethnic inclusiveness and gender inclusiveness as a matter of principle, even though I”m not religious and have no organizational stake in the matter. So why is Fred focusing on gender? Perhaps he seeks to emphasize the link between the lack of female representation and the advocacy of political and doctrinal positions that hurt women.

  • Madhabmatics

     Yeah, this. I can’t imagine a dude who is canny enough to take this pledge and not canny enough to know specific qualified women in his field that he can push to have panels. (“I’m not coming unless you invite Gretchen, we both know she’s doing cutting edge work.”)

  • Münchner Kindl

     Maybe because women are shut out in fundie /evangelical theology (often with that one verse “I suffer not a woman to preach” and the whole complementarian nonsense), while blacks are not interested in the white-oriented evangelical culture anyway, but have their own parallel churches to express themselves?

  • LMM22

    SF fandom was in its early days massively gender unbalanced….  If the audience is mostly male, we might then ask why this is.

    I think you’ve just begged a question. SF fandom was, in its early days, massively gender unbalanced because of sexism. (Most of the early female writers wrote under pseudonyms, for example.)

    “Hey, a woman — let’s put her on a panel!” wouldn’t have been in the culture, period.

  • LMM22

    So why is Fred focusing on gender?

    Maybe because 50% of the population is female, while many religious denominations are *heavily* segregated?

    Maybe because Oppression Olympics leads to nothing getting done ever?

  • Carstonio

    I didn’t ask the question to criticize Fred for not focusing on other types of diversity. It was a rhetorical question to highlight the theme that he has been using over the past month or so. Münchner is right that the gender diversity has much to do with a specific theology, which is very likely part of Fred’s point.

    I loved how Fred listed tons of female evangelical bloggers when some of his colleagues insisted that they didn’t know of such writers. If there was a similar claim about the alleged lack of non-white evangelical bloggers, Fred would probably use the same refutation.

  • Münchner Kindl

     You mean, the Mosaic list (rightmost tab) that Fred made after starting the Bonfire (Women) and Quiltbag list? Because he wanted to hear more voices with different experiences and viewpoints?

  • Wednesday

    Well, a trans woman might have something to contribute there. (Or someone who is physically intersex but identifies as female.)

  • Carstonio

     Yes. Thanks for reminding me.

  • LL

    What do church conferences talk about, anyway?

    And (sure, I’ll go ahead and throw gas on the fire) unlike the “tech” industry, where the people who work in it are primarily male (most mechanical engineers are male, most IT people are male) and it’s somewhat understandable (though not justifiable) for them to think that there are no women in “tech” jobs worth putting on a “panel,” the gender ratio in most religious denominations is nearly 50/50. I’m guessing in some age groups, it is more female than male. 

    So to not include the input of women in discussions of religious issues is not an oversight, but a deliberate effort to keep women out. 

    This seems pretty obvious to me. These panels don’t include women because the opinion of women is either not considered important, or is considered so similar to that of men that the inclusion of women would be redundant. Or both. Probably both. 

    Do they not feel at least silly discussing matters that obviously concern women (like marriage or sex) while not including any women? Or is this just SOP in these things? Are they so fucked up they don’t realize how fucked up they are?

  • Carstonio

    These panels don’t include women because the opinion of women is either
    not considered important, or is considered so similar to that of men
    that the inclusion of women would be redundant.

    Or because the women would be very likely to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy, particularly on gender roles. As an analogy, the GOP had many choices for a female VP nominee in 2008, but the well-known ones were all moderates and pro-choicers.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Wow, you read Ross’s comment completely differently to the way I did. I don’t think he was saying that at all. He was talking about the possibility of conference organisers deliberately playing the rules, obeying the letter of this suggestion while disregarding its spirit.

    TRiG.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Coleslaw had an interesting  post on this topic recently.

    She mentions two Christian conferences organised by the same group, one for women and one for men. At the women’s conference,

    Past speakers at the conferences have included Sarah Palin, Pam Tebow
    (Christian missionary and mother to Tim Tebow, although past video
    trailers simply refer to her as “mother to Tim Tebow”), and Kay Warren
    (“wife to Rick Warren”). Men appear on the podium as entertainers and
    worship leaders.

    And at the men’s conference,

    Speakers include Dan Cathy, Josh McDowell, and Tim Tebow. There are no
    women speakers or worship leaders, at least in this year’s conference
    and the conferences going back to 2010, which is as far back as I could
    find.

    So, yeah.

    TRiG.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Discus, your formatting of blockquotes sucks.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    And (sure, I’ll go ahead and throw gas on the fire) unlike the “tech”
    industry, where the people who work in it are primarily male (most
    mechanical engineers are male, most IT people are male) and it’s
    somewhat understandable (though not justifiable) for them to think that
    there are no women in “tech” jobs worth putting on a “panel,” the gender
    ratio in most religious denominations is nearly 50/50. I’m guessing in
    some age groups, it is more female than male.

    I can’t speak to the mechanical engineers, but I work for a company with an IT department that’s at least 40 people strong.  The gender divide is pretty close to half and half.  Admittedly that’s anecdotal, but I’d suspect that, depending on where you look, the old, “IT people are mostly male,” saw is thrown around by people who are in places where keeping IT people male is considered a good thing.

    I’d want to see more statistics and breakdowns, rather than anecdotes and, “We all know this is the case, right?”

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Your so-called “apology” included an insult. And now you’re whining about people telling you you’re wrong.

    I have two ideas for you:

    The first is, stop hanging out in places where white, straight males are told their voices are not wanted. It is entirely possible that your voice is not wanted for very legitimate reasons: namely, that white straight males dominate abso-friggin’-everything, and people who are not that want to be able to be heard without some overprivileged douche waltzing in and whining “what about the menz!”

    The second is, check your privilege.

    I have seen bullies use social justice as an excuse to be bullies, certainly. But if you have any measure of perspective at all, you should be able to separate those people from the herd and ignore them. Since you barged in here whining that we have to make oh so sure that people who have dominated for millennia and still dominate our culture to the exclusion of well over half the human race need their feelings taken into account in a discussion of how they still completely dominate things? I think you have not been the victim of bullies. I think you have been the victim of foot-bullets.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    So what if they fill their panels with women with whom I disagree. At least there will be women on the panels. A woman is not required to have a certain level of feminist cred in order to be someone worth listening to. Nor does she have to have a degree. Nor is there anything wrong with her being a homemaker, nor does someone with a bunch of letters after his name necessarily have anything better to say about how to run an organization than someone who has experience living with the consequences of that organization…

    You are making a ton of sexist assumptions, supposedly in the name of feminism, and I do not appreciate it.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Some of these guys will go out of their way to refuse to invite qualified women, instead choosing the ‘tee hee, I’m just a housewife’ types

    You know, for all the stereotyping of this supposed type of woman, I have never in my life known a housewife who was a “tee hee, I’m just a” type of person. Frankly I do not believe they exist. Even if there is an occasional woman like this, perpetuating this stereotype is hurtful and yet another example of us doing the patriarchy’s work of dividing and conquering for them. 

    By the way? I’m a housewife, technically speaking. Except I can’t actually do the *work* being a homemaker entails yet. I hope to be able to within the year.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Also maybe because I haven’t heard any big religious arguments (and this is a religious blog) say we should deny black men health care on the basis of their gender? Or that non-white men exist in order to reproduce, and anything they do in the way of that should be made illegal? Or that non-white men must live in a household in which they are required to offer their bodies to another person within that household, even unto it endangering their lives?

  • Carstonio

    I have never in my life known a housewife who was a “tee hee, I’m just a” type of person.

    Me neither. I had read the term as referring to the type of anti-feminist who pretends to be the “just a housewife” person, like Phyllis Schlafey and Beverly LaHaye. While I disagree with anti-feminists on just about everything, the evangelical ones still have a right to serve on an event panel. My problem would be with organizers who would deliberately exclude any women but the anti-feminists, in an attempt to stifle dissent. My guess is that such organizers do this already with the male panelists, where someone like Fred wouldn’t be invited, but I don’t know this.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    In that case, it is the duty of those men who took the pledge to talk to the organizers again: why didn’t you invite Mrs. Smith from (Fred’s list) who’s more qualified than Mrs. Fredson?

    Yes, that’s exactly what will help. Have this group of men make the determination of what makes a woman worthy to speak rather than that group. That’ll fix it.

  • banancat

     I’m a chemical engineer and I’ve had a similar experience.  “Everyone knows” that engineering is a sausage-fest.  Chemical engineering has the most women, but still very male dominated.  And even in my short career so far, I’ve worked in many industry where I was the only woman or one of only two women.  This was the case in the building products industry, the defense industry, and the analytical instrumentation industry.  I suspect it is that way in the oil industry too, even though I’ve never worked there.  But now I’m in the pharmaceutical industry and it’s pretty much 50/50 at this company, or at least in the ~100 or so engineers/scientists I work with regularly (it’s a gigantic company).  It seems that women tend to get concentrated at the companies/industries that make an effort to not discriminate, and that effect is self-perpetuating.

    I had two tangential thoughts while writing this.  First, it’s interesting that the type of engineering with the most women is also one of the highest-paid.  I don’t know if there’s anything behind that correlation.

    Second, of course there is one guy where I work who views the world through the Smurfette principle.  He “jokingly” complains that women get tons of breaks and they discriminate against men and refuse to hire them.  It’s odd because he was hired, and also because if would just count the people in the department he would see that men still slightly outnumber women.  But having more than a few token women seems like we’re dominating because he’s just so unused to seeing equality.

  • MaryKaye

    An interesting game you can play with yourself:  when you are in a crowd of people of both genders, estimate what proportion are women, and then count them.

    I believe studies have shown that most people will identify a 50/50 group, or even a somewhat male-biased group, as “majority women.”  I tried this with subway cars in CA many years ago and found to my surprise that I did.

    There are not enough black people in Seattle to do a good test of this, at least not in parts of the city I often have occasion to visit, but I should try it with Asian people.  My undergrad classes tend to look like they’re half Asian–I wonder if this is true?  (I counted the last one for gender and found to my surprise that not only did it look quite female-dominated, it actually was.)

  • Turcano

    At least when it comes to housing, Brad Hicks puts the “majority black” ratio at around 5%.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Actually, as a half-feminist, I detest calling any woman in a strong position a bonus for feminists/ women. Thatcher and Angie are pushing policies harmful to women and the feminist cause. The consies and fundies have enough brainwashed women who simply repeat the male party line of dominance, housemakers, complementarianism etc.

    Fred has often criticzed Bev La Haye and her “Women against America” push which harms other women.

    This is about getting different viewpoints, not getting people with XX instead of XY saying the same thing as before.

  • Münchner Kindl

     You never heard of Bev La Haye?

    You never read the many blogs Fred linked to where ex-Fundie women talk about how they fully believed and embraced the “Stay at home, submit to the husband, don’t learn or think for yourself” doctrine?

    There’s a big difference between an educated, emancipated woman in a real partnership deciding to stay home and raise the child, or do 50% of the housework (or stay unemployed and do 100%) and a woman who was brainwashed to believe that all she is qualified to do is housework and child-rearing, who didn’t get a higher education, who is not allowed to think or decide for herself, and who is in a “complementarian” = male-dominated relationship.

    If you belong to the former, that doesn’t mean the latter doesn’t exist.

  • Münchner Kindl

     So do you have any constructive alternative or are just complaining as usual?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=823360136 Eric Sun

     I cannot see why a woman would not be able to speak on “Fatherhood in the Modern World”.  Aren’t some women married to those who are Fathers?  Don’t a lot of women have fathers?

  • Si

     Wow. That is breathtaking. I’m not sure whether to be more impressed with your “concern” that there are just not enough qualified women in the field, or your barely-veiled condescension toward female nonprofessionals. Why didn’t you say “Ms. R Fredson, plumber and certified person with a uterus”? I suppose that would have made your point, but without the opportunity to sneer at homemakers.

  • Si

     I withdraw my comment because I misunderstood what Ross was saying.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I think the “I’m just a housewife” thing is a political pose adopted by some anti-feminist women.  I don’t believe it’s a reflection on actual housewives, many of whom I know are feminist.

    Or, what Carstonio said.

  • http://twitter.com/cdbaca Christopher Baca

    Not that many of my original responders are reading this comment thread anymore, but I would like to apologize for my few posts a couple of days ago. I said some things out of both anger and simple misunderstanding of the issue at hand. (And, not that this is an excuse, but I have been quite sick for the past week, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to cohesive thoughts and/or writing.)

    I absolutely do NOT stand by what I originally wrote. I honestly think I was not thinking clearly, and I have heard the critiques of my fellow commenters and have allowed those critiques to change my thinking on this particular subject. I agree with Fred Clark’s initial post,  and appreciate the pushback I received. I support full equality of women and men, and I think that any efforts that can be made on all sides to support full equality should be taken.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     For what it’s worth, I read your original comment and read this one, and appreciate you taking the time to follow up. I’m sorry you were sick, and hope you’re feeling better now.

  • P J Evans

    I worked at a company that was about 50% female,all the way to the top (the CEO is female). Every so often you run into a guy who doesn’t get it, that women are engineers and planners and field crew leaders. (Story about field crew: A woman I worked with had been a crew leader, and said they made fun of her using hand lotion, but then they tried it and found that it made their hands feel better.)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That’s interesting research; I’ll have to try it out.

    I work in an organisation whose staff are 2/3 female (we’re in the broad science field). When I first started working there, almost everyone in senior management was male. Over the next few years most of them retired and the profile changed so that senior management was about half male, with a female CEO.

    Several men “jokingly” observed that we had become a femocracy–even though senior management is still disproportionately male compared to the rest of the organisation (which has a gender profile that reflects the national graduate profile in our subject area, so we’re not engaged in discriminatory hiring practices).

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    I work in an organisation whose staff are 2/3 female (we’re in the broad science field).

    In an organization with that many women, I’d have thought they’d have told you that it’s not really appropriate to call it “broad science”. I think the preferred term these days is “science for dames”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Nope. Majority of science degree graduates are women, and it’s been that way for over a decade now.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X