No More All-Male Panels: a pledge in solidarity with #kidlitwomen

We’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ literature community. Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. #kidlitwomen

The pledge:
My panels will not be all-male.

We define a panel as a group of three or more people, not including the moderator. If only one woman is included, she must be a panelist, although we also support inclusion of more women as moderators. We will show preference to panels that include intersectional representation.

Addendum: “panels” is how this pledge is framed, but it applies equally to lineups for conferences and book festivals.

It’s not hard to come up reasons to refrain from making this pledge. Anyone who’s not an event organizer can legitimately say that they’re not the ones issuing faculty invitations. Event fees are how many of us make a living, and voluntarily giving them up is a palpable sacrifice. Chris Barton has some very helpful thoughts on that. Constructively handling social media criticism requires fortitude, delicacy, and vast amounts of mental energy. There will very likely be objections to me claiming airtime in a dialogue that is rightfully centered on those of us who aren’t cisgender men, and those objections will have merit. Making this pledge more than a mouthful of empty words means acting in ways that will make me feel uncomfortable and exposed, sometimes intensely so.

But speaking as a cisgender man, what kind of ally am I if I prioritize my own comfort over the gender-driven inequities faced by my colleagues every single day? What kind of ally am I if I silently cheer on people working to fight gender bias at their own risk without doing any of the work or assuming any of the risk myself? Not much of an ally, really. Maybe not any kind of an ally.

Fortunately,there are very concrete, straightforward ways I can be an ally. For example, I don’t organize events myself, but I can pro-actively communicate with event organizers who extend their invitations to me. I can ask who the other presenters/panelists are, and if it’s an exclusively male lineup, I can voice my concern, and suggest names of people who aren’t men that could be added. In the worst-case scenario, I can respectfully decline the invitation while clearly articulating why.

I can also pro-actively inform the people I regularly work with on events about this pledge, and have them build it into our working process. This includes publicists, school visit coordinators, booking agents, and sometimes our agents and editors. Some of those people and organizations – the Author Village, for example – already do this; consider working with them if you can. We should obviously hold ourselves to the same standard when pitching our own panel ideas to event organizers, and we mustn’t forget that intersectionality is essential. As author Tracey Baptiste says, without intersectionality, the movement will fail.

There are resources with much more information than I’m providing here. Kate Messner’s March 9 post for #kidlitwomen provides a very thorough breakdown of concerns and action items. Feminist Philosophers’ Gendered Conference Campaign is rooted in the world of academia, but their FAQ page is very useful for us too. And developmental economist Owen Barder’s pledge for men in the business world provided a helpful antecedent.

This pledge won’t bring an end to mistakes, oversights, and moments of personal frailty. It will not protect me or anyone else who pledges with me from criticism, and rightfully so. However, I believe our declared intentions have importance, limited and perishable though that importance may be.

There will always be moments along the way when we ask “what else can I do?” There’s an answer that’s always right, of course: try harder. I hope anyone who identifies as male will take this pledge with me by leaving a comment to that effect. The invitation is a standing one.

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115 thoughts on “No More All-Male Panels: a pledge in solidarity with #kidlitwomen

  1. I’m not someone who would be asked on a panel (yet), but I sign this pledge to support of no more all-male panels now and in the future.

  2. Well-spoken and much-needed. I’m in, Mike, as both a person who is invited to speak at conferences and also one who organizes conferences.

  3. Signed. Though to be up front, I had long ago committed to a conference and recently learned that a wordless picture book panel of four authors (all male though not all white) has been organized with me as one of the participants. I feel it’s a bit late for me to back out. Of course, this could have been prevented if I’d had the foresight of others who’ve always practiced this, but this is why we have movements. I’ve discussed with my publisher, the panel moderator, and they are aware that this is my deal moving forward for any future conference. Thanks for your work on this, Mike, as well as Grace and others at #kidlitwomen who were instrumental in putting this together. Looking forward to signing the diversity pledge as well.

  4. I’m not an author, but I have had the opportunity to work on author panels as a moderator and organizer in the past. Consider this pledge signed by me in any regard I may be associated with the kidlit world (or any other world, for that matter).

    1. And as long as we’re addressing all male panels, can we also think about what kind of message agreeing to be on all-white panels sends to the POC in this industry? Thanks

    1. Sadly, there is no kidlit author named Chauncey Millington (though I wish there were!). You can delete this comment. This was an ancient WordPress login I didn’t realize was still linked to my email address. – Aaron

  5. I’ve read this post three times looking for the link to pledge and sign. I’m totally in! If there is a link, someone hook me up. If this is it, well, then I’m in some good company *waves*

  6. Cosigned, for sure. And I arrived from Laurel Snyder’s also-important pledge to refuse to be on all-white panels: http://laurelsnyder.com/?p=2806

    As I said over there, so far, I’ve not been invited to be on any panels, but I will honor this pledge when I am offered the a seat at that proverbial table.

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