Creative inclusive discussion spaces

1 01 2011

In my previous post, I ended by mentionning the problems involved in mixed gender spaces such as conferences or discussion groups. This was in response to Tarald‘s post in which he described:

a pre-meeting where the women had a brief seminar in taking up space, being vocal and proud, while the men sat down to discuss how we could leave some space for the women, how not to use our male privilege etc.

Last year, during and after a seminar on feminism at which many queer and trans women and men were present, we had this
sort of discussion.  An idea that came up and is apparently in use at woman-centered conferences, is a seperate mic for women and men to respond to a conference presentation or in a group discussion.

I have mixed feelings about this. Having been socialised as female, I know damn well that it is part of female socialisation to shut up and wait to be spoken to, to not take up too much space, etc. And having been to many mixed events where no effort was made to parry this inequality, I also know damn well that it tends to be men who monopolise the discussion. However, I’m a bit wary of
such a cut and dry method. For one thing, it maintains the idea that all women are the same and that all men are the same. It does little to encourage the shyer women from taking space relative to the more vocal women. And it also doesn’t really, I think, encourage men to actually think about their privilege.

So I spent some time thinking about other ways to foster inclusion and to encourage more people to speak up. Here are some of the tools I thought could be useful.

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