On Friday, SXSW celebrated International Women’s Day by announcing its first-ever all-male panel (or, as some call it – a manel) to discuss the gender gap. Stephen Engelberg, Bryan Monroe, and Norman Pearlstine will all get together to mansplain the barriers and the solutions to getting more women in leadership roles, which will probably include advice for women to “lean in,” “play by the rules” and “look pretty.”
Yes, that’s right – they’ve asked three men to explain “why women aren’t adequately represented in newsroom leadership.” And they’ve done it “on purpose.” Their rationale? Hosting panels with women is “kind of like asking the cow why people eat steak.”
Beyond the obvious problem of associating women with “cows”and “meat,” this panel suggests that women can't really understand the issue that affects them. No – it's men who are in fact the best people to discuss the gender gap – because only they can understand their motives (to own and exploit everyone and everything to their benefit, right? Silly women – men know better). And by completely excluding women from a conversation about their rights, SXSW is asking men to not only speak on behalf of women, but to tell us what the problem is.
Contrary to what SXSW thinks, men telling women why they’re not in leadership positions isn’t new – it has been happening for ages. And, as we all know – that isn't really working. Unlike most women, men in leadership roles already have a platform to speak – their voices are already being heard, and they’re on the majority of all panels (70% according to one 2018 study). SXSW is amplifying them further, and keeping women’s voices invisible and unheard.
If we really want to create change, men need to be following women's lead – not taking over our movement and mansplaining the problem to us. Not telling us how to lead our movements. And certainly not organizing their own "ally" panels to further elevate themselves without hearing our voices. Because while they are on stage, there are millions of us, just waiting to be heard.