It’s important to talk about feminism and sexism in comfortable settings. Generally, and rightfully so, people are more comfortable talking about these ideas within their gender groups.
There is a certain kind of solidarity to being able to speak about what bothers you or concerns you to those who go through similar experiences. You do not have to explain yourself as much and empathy is easier to come by.
When the other group is present, it is easier to be defensive about actions for which you or your group feels blamed. This makes for less productive conversations and allows more resentment to build up.
In both instances, there is not a direct link to the other group, and therefore there are gaps in the conversation, the solutions and the conclusions.
Speaking only to those with similar experiences is not the most productive way to have these conversations. What do we miss out on when we have separate conversations about these issues? We need to be able to discuss how we’re affected and hear how “the other” is affected, and to truly understand both sides we need both sides present.
If women are not present for a conversation about feminism, privilege overshadows some of the deeper, more ingrained issues that women deal with in society. If men are not present for these conversations, women can easily forget about the allies that do not always know the right actions to take but who are interested in being supportive.
We lose resources and understanding if we separate these conversations. This need has been answered, at least in one way, this coming week. A group of students have decided to hold mixed gender conversations about gender, sex, privilege, power, oppression and so on.
Perhaps you are woman who has not heard from a male ally or has not been able to bring awareness to a man. You should go.
Perhaps you are a man who does not know what actions to take to be an ally or you have not been able to truly reflect on the privilege present for you in society. You should go.
Perhaps you feel like you know all of this and you have had mixed gender conversations already. You should go, because we need you to help us all take steps toward understanding and appreciating each other and our experiences.
You should all go, because feminism and sexism and all of their dynamics need to be addressed outside of our comfort zones and outside of our gender spheres.
You should go.