I am often asked, sometimes jokingly and sometimes critically, why our meet-ups are woman/gender non-conforming only. The short answer is “let babes have a safe space”.
Here’s the long answer:
Our primary focus of the meet-up is to create a safe space for women and gender non-conforming folks (further referenced as “babes”). Gathering in a communal space, where babes can be comfortable and vulnerable is magic. We champion for each other, we support each other, we share, we listen, we network. At our meet-ups, babes show up for themselves and for each other. We are paving the way, because doing it ourselves is the only option.
Babes have fought for centuries for autonomy and something to call our own. In our space, we don’t have to pamper to anyone or matter due to relativity; we are free to be our entire selves. We aren’t under surveillance.
Our goal is to foster an environment where women can unequivocally grow and become more confident independently, so we can all work together in a more powerful chorus. So when we are working towards policy change and actionable items, we are self-assured and steadfast.
On a more existential note, space as a notion is male-centric and given to women. Public spaces are still male-dominated spaces. Just about all of them. The ones that are designated as “female” spaces are for breeding, health, or feeding, and are all seen as lesser than in a societal model. How archaic is that? Women claiming space in the form of a two hour bi-monthly meeting is the absolute least we can be doing.
At our last meet up, two men were there. They both talked to me, and they talked to each other. I overheard them speaking and one of them said “wow this is really powerful stuff”. Are we going to kick out men if they show up? Nah (Unless the situation calls for it). At our very first meet-up, a man showed up, spoke during community announcements and offered the women there jobs with Apple. Despite these lovely anecdotes, babes need a space to chill and be vulnerable.
“Not all men”
Right. Not all men are bad. There are a lot of great allies and the greatest of them understand that we need these communities. Equally important, there are a LOT of men who need to awaken to the true meaning of equality and women’s empowerment. Creating a safe space for babes DOES NOT NEGATE THAT. Please spend some of the other 1460 hours every two months talking to men about equality. Our meet-up is not a place for men to get woke.
What to say to men who want to come or question if this model is sexist:
Tell them we have earned the right to private spaces. Question frat houses, and mens fraternity groups, because whats the difference? We want autonomy too. Tell them to stop undermining our efforts at advancement and empowerment. Tell them that they may not understand because when you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. (not my quote, but damn it’s good). Tell them their male fragility is showing.