Are gender experts really practicing gender equality?

Sliding into an auditorium chair a few rows from the stage, I tilted my gaze upward for the wrap-up meeting to a 3 day gender conference. Writers/researchers/academics streamed in from all sorts of international backgrounds looking to the conference organisers for a few final words and reflections of the past few days.

With a bit of excitement, a head organiser admitted that no formal agenda had been created for the closing session. Improvising, she asked for individuals from our now socialised group to share their experiences and reflections on the past 3 days.

Fairly calling on one of the Keynote speaker (a well established caucasian male scholar from the global West) to join what would be a spontaneously made 7-person panel. “Choose another,” she instructed, and he pointed to a young woman from Turkey to join him on stage. Nervously she then too picked someone out of the audience – another well established caucasian male scholar. He, eyeing the crowd called on a newly made relation – another confident Caucasian male from the crowd. And finally, a young male student from Turkey joined that of which the two men prior were fond of after socialising for the previous days.

… A last voice yelled out from the audience as a woman from the US justified her presence on stage, mentioning she had some comments from a previous conversation with colleagues to share.

So there we have it, a 7-person panel to reflect, share, represent an overall voice for this gender conference.

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Gazing upward at the panel, I saw the majority, causation male scholars, speaking and leading the conversation that of which were actually a minority at the conference. While delivering [fruitful] reflections, we as a community reconstructed the same unequal representation that we spent the past 3 days deconstructing, criticising, understanding, offering solutions to, and challenging.

Was the final image, interaction, message of this gender conference, despite all our brainpower, thoughts, energy, really a recreation of this again dull hierarchal image… and what does this mean… shit still hasn’t changed (maybe a bit of an overstatement but still)?

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Disappointed, I wonder why amongst all these gender experts no one said anything? Why didn’t I say anything? Was it that we just didn’t notice…. we should probably question why not? For those that were too nervous or might have found it socially inappropriate (I fall into this category), we should also question why. And for those that were just too tired from the packed weekend, I we realise that academics are all about your coffee and there was a lack of expresso…. so you are off the hook this time.

But seriously, to these communities, we are all good at thinking, contemplating, critiquing and even pointing fingers, but we can’t forget to be agents of changes as well in our everyday environments!

* This blog post was in honour of Blog Action Day 2014.

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