[Breakingthesilence] Re: PGA gender group questionnaire

George Marshall george at risingtide.org.uk
Jeu 15 Avr 16:59:29 CEST 2004

> Dear EYFA,

I found the questionnaire difficult to navigate and a bit frustrating.
So I hope you don't mind if I just give some of my personal views for
your process.

I welcome all attempts to address internal inequalities in our
movements. In my experience, the most serious inequalities are a lack of
diversity of race/ethnicity and class. You mention this, but I think
this is more important to address. Environmental groups in particular
are almost entirely (99%+) white, and, in my guess, 75% middle class. In
numbers terms men and women are about equal in numbers- the problems
come in terms of a disproportionate number of men as the main
spokespeople and dominant individuals.

This is indeed a problem. I have sat in many many meetings where women
scarcely spoke. I have also often organised events where it has been
virtually impossible to get a woman speaker. Some women who in all other
ways are extremely active confident and great activists will back off
when it comes to presenting themselves publicly.

The important thing to note is that these were open spaces with
opportunity for engagement by anyone- very rarely were they situations
where there was any active (or passive) repression of women. Women, in
my observation, are very often more nervous about speaking out and fear
judgement of others more than men. Men tend to be keener to promote
themselves and their personal views and less fearful of people judging
them as arrogant. This is, of course, a generalisation. There are many
men who are quiet and cautious, and there are a few women who break
through this barrier, In my experience, those few can sometimes be
extremely dominating themselves. Indeed when I think of the real problem
people I have encountered in groups and meetings in terms of agressive
behaviour, loudness, lack of consideration for others, attention
seeking, and poor process they are equally split between men and women.
In the three worst cases of group breakdown I have experienced  the main
problem was a single agressive dominating woman (I'm happy to provide
more information).The problem women benefit from an environment which is
sensitive to sexism and happily use accusationso patriarchy when it
suits them.

My view is that the primary solution lies in encouraging and supporting
women to become more confident and engaged- in this sense, even though I
am wary of dividing people by gender, I strongly support creating women
only spaces and groups if they encourage and support greater

In meetings, rationing how often and for how long people can speak is
useful. Good facilitation should be wary of gender balance and encourage
people who have not spoken to speak.  Keeping a gender tally is always

All attempts should be made to ensure maximum possible presence of women
as speakers, on panels, and in video materials. Male only panels or
speaker lists should be avoided and men should refuse to participate in
them. I do believe in countering bias by positive descrimination- not in
a condescending way, but just ensuring that an active effort is made to
obtain women's voices. Videos in particular should be at least equal in
participation. I have made several videos myself in which all the main
speakers were women, mainly because they were the best people to do it-
but they needed encouragement. In my experience women are very fast to
judge their performance harshly and put themselves down. SOlutions start
from inside.

Hope this helps



> >  Questionnaire :
> >
> >  1?) are you male, female or other ?
> Male>

> >  2?) what is your age ?
> >40
> >  3?) where are you located ?
> >UK
> >  4?) what groups are you affiliated with ?
> >RIsing Tide, Earth First! NGOs including FoE and Greenpeace

> >  5?) have you or do you experience differences in
> > personal power between men

> > and women in your working groups, communities, job

> > or family (for example; in discussions, writing,
> > taking decisions, handling
> > infrastructure, direct actions, daily tasks, taking
> > care of people... ? who
> > does what and how ?

> Yes often

> >
> >  6?) is the anti-patriarchal struggle explicitly
> > addressed in your working
> > groups, communities, job or family ? If so how?
> >

> attempts to ensure equal participation
> >
> >  7?) has your group/community experienced incidences
> > of sexual harassment,
> > assault or gender domination through physical
> > behaviour and rhetoric? If so
> > how did you deal with it personally and how did your
> > group deal with it?
> >

> No

> >  8?) would like to tell  about any personal
> > experiences of gender
> >  inequality ?
> >
> >  9)
> >  a) what do you think/feel about
> > people/groups/classes taking the time to
> > meet specifically amongst themselves as a tool to
> > fight against domination
> > or oppression by others. (for example, as “women
> > only”
> > discussions/working/support groups/spaces but also
> > in the context of
> > immigrants/”ethnic” minorities in racist
> > society/working class people in a
> > capitalist society/disabled people/ gays and
> > lesbians etc.) ?
> >

I strongly support the self empowerment of groups that are marginalised.
The main

> >  b) what do you think about men taking the time to
> > meet amongst themselves
> > as a way of stimulating reflection and action about
> > the way that men can
> > (consciously or unconsciously) dominate or oppress
> > women and try to develop
> > constructive strategies in working against
> > oppressive masculine behaviours
> > and the restrictive nature of socially imposed
> > gender constructions?
> >
> > --
> > *****************************************
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> > please update your addressbook accordingly, innit
> >
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George Marshall,
Rising Tide,
16B Cherwell St.,
Oxford OX4 1BG
Office Tel. 01865 241 097
E-mail: george at risingtide.org.uk
Website:  http://www.risingtide.org.uk

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