“Of Course I Support Women!”
How to be an active ally to women in the paraweird – a few practical tips.
First, women – like anyone else – want to have their work shared and their ideas acknowledged and credited. If you are reading this, you are on the internet and thus have a platform. Even if you don’t have a podcast, blog or YouTube channel, your social media feed is your platform.
If you truly want to support women you will consciously use that platform to boost women’s work. For example, you can like and comment on a blog post a woman has written and shared on social media. Retweet or share it with an enthusiastic little blurb. This gives women and their work visibility in the overall paraweird community.
Now, I can read your mind and you’re thinking, “But I already do that!” Well, here are a couple of ways you can check to see if you really do.
Look at your social media feed, your podcasts, whatever you put out to the world. Count up how many people you shared or hosted as a guest in say a six month or year period, then count up how many were women. This will show you how well you are doing and give you a baseline to check against if you are endeavoring to improve your efforts in this area. A gentle reminder – women are roughly half of the human population. If you are sitting at 15-20% you can easily do better.
I also suggest you take a look at the particular women you are boosting, vs. the men who get endorsements and mentions on your feed. I see a lot of feeds that feature women who get write ups in the New York Times along with the poster’s bro friends. I am all for boosting your friends. But if all of your friends who get the casual cliquey mentions are guys, but the only women who show up on your feed are people like Diana Walsh and Shannon Taggert (Actual Superstars!!!), there is an imbalance there.
What are you doing to support the up and coming women, the next Lynn Picknett or Jenny Randles? If you want to be taken seriously, you need to be serious about your pursuits in this arena.
A few years ago I noticed a particularly ridiculous amount of sexism in a paraweird group, and decided to dedicate myself to trying to rectify the imbalance. I had no idea how to proceed, made a lot of mistakes, and have made some enemies in the process. Like everyone else in this field, I have my own very particular interests which are my utter passion, but I decided that supporting women was more important, so I put those pursuits aside.
Ironically, in the course of this project of supporting women’s voices I’ve met more people with my own precise interests than I imagined existed!
Be Not Afraid.
Group Interactions – Forums, Fan Groups, Zooms
If you are hosting a forum or zoom, that is your house and what goes on there reflects on you. If you allow bullying, sexism, harassment, etc. to go on people will draw their own conclusions. I don’t care if the harasser is your friend, or curates a popular feed, or they’re nice generally but whoops they’re drunk or whatever. If you don’t deal with it, people will notice, women will not want to participate and they will start to not take you and your work seriously. The field will stagnate as it becomes an echo chamber driven by personal relationships rather than ideas.
What to do? Check in with women in your groups to see if they have feedback for you. If harassment happens, check in with the woman. Let her know that you think it’s a problem and what your plan is for preventing harassment going forward.
Speak up publicly to let people know that you don’t tolerate harassment. If you want to make your house a place where women will show up and contribute, you need to communicate with women – tell them you want them to feel welcome, listen to their feedback, cultivate them. If women are harassed in your house WE DO TALK ABOUT IT, we will opt out of your spaces and we will start to insert a mental asterisk after your name.
It’s really a shame but there’s online spaces that host interesting discussions that I do not recommend to young women, or do so with big caveats, as they tolerate harassment and puerile ‘sexy’ images and jokes. You may think you’re encouraging ‘free discussion’ but in reality you’re just signaling that you don’t have the backbone to hold yourself and your friends to a decent standard of human behavior.
There are people with just as interesting of ideas who DO treat people well. Who would you rather associate with?
The Good Guys
None of what I propose here is unobtainable. While I’ve had some very disappointing experiences, I’m delighted to report that there are people out there doing a bang up job of supporting women!
They basically do what I’ve outlined here – they make a conscious effort to promote and cultivate women. If you don’t know of women to boost, just ask around!
Analyze your social media feed and see if you can improve. Reach out to women who seem interesting, who are maybe just starting out even – if you are worried about coming across as being interested in them personally, simply engage them publicly about their ideas.
Because that’s what we all want! To discuss true weirdness with like minded souls is one of life’s sweetest pastimes. Sullying this pursuit with cliquishness, nastiness and prejudice degrades us all.
Happily you, dear reader, have the tools at your disposal to uplift the community. You need only take them to hand.