Making the party more inclusive

While nobody in progressive movements such as the Greens ever means to be exclusive or sexist, like most organisations we still have a way to go.

By Robyn Lewis, Co-Convenor, Australian Young Greens
Monday, March 6, 2017

We’ve got a lot of things right, like affirmative action for office-bearer positions, and strong internal and external policies to ensure women and Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) people are treated equitably, have their voices heard and their contributions valued. But there's still a way to go.

This is unsurprising, considering a lot of sexist behaviours or mindsets are things that may seem fine on the surface, especially to people who haven't thought a lot about the challenges in modern life that women and TGD individuals face.

Sociological research tells us that women are more likely to volunteer their time, and money, for a cause, but less likely to participate in the political process itself. Just the other day I attended a meeting where despite men making up only half of the room, they spoke for over three quarters of the meeting. In the Greens, we need to ensure the contribution of women to the party is recognised, and every member is empowered to participate fully in internal political processes.

So what can you do?

Here are some ideas for branch meetings and other events:

  1. Use inclusive language (avoid mankind, spokesman and male/female dichotomies). Where applicable, include preferred pronouns in your name round.
  2. Use a progressive speakers list. Ensure women and TGD individuals are prioritised. Imposter syndrome (falsely feeling inadequate or not smart enough to be included in a discussion) is real, and it particularly affects women, so taking proactive steps to ensure that womens' voices are heard in discussion is crucial.
  3. Listen more. Studies have found that women are interrupted over twice as much as men, while my own personal experience says that spaces within the party are no exception. Sit on your burning idea a bit longer, until, in fact, the speaker is finished. This is just good manners, but everybody needs a reminder now and again.
  4. Educate yourself. If you don’t know what terms like cis, non-binary, affirmative action, or feminism mean, or you don’t understand policy around issues that predominantly affect women, trans or non-binary people, such as abortion or domestic violence, or access to bathrooms, try a quick google search before you ask the whole room, and maybe approach a trusted friend if you’re still not sure. It’s frustrating to have to re-hash the basics, which is a regular feature of the lives of women and TGD people.
  5. Check your ingrained attitudes. All of us carry the burden of being brought up in a patriarchal society. Whilst things have undoubtedly improved over the last few decades, all genders carry a degree of ingrained misogyny. Think carefully before you make comments around how someone dresses, or their tone in a discussion (unless you’d say the same thing to a man).
  6. Don’t expect women to carry the emotional labour of the organisation. If there are hard conversations that need to be had, personality disagreements, issues that require "soft skills" like tact and empathy, ensure that men have the opportunity to do this work as much as women. When women always doing the emotional labour, they have less capacity to participate in other work in the organisation, and men miss out on the opportunity to develop or demonstrate their skills in this area.
  7. Think before you take credit. Who has done most of the work? Who has contributed significantly? Women are brought up being taught not to be 'bossy' (aka assertive), and thus often end up being left out of receiving the gratitude for completing a project if men don't reflect on the division of work before claiming something as their own doing.

Finally, seek to improve the way you conduct yourself in Green spaces, and become aware of the structural disadvantages women and TGD people face. We all have a responsibility to acknowledge our privilege and work towards a truly inclusive party environment for all genders.

Robyn Lewis is co-convenor of the Australian Young Greens.