Female voices

Online or offline, the world is an echo chamber of male opinion.

Our cultures are largely built around male interaction, desires, and expectations. Our default – and prioritised – gender is masculine. Our terms of praise are those associated with men, and our ridicules are those associated with women.

I very much fell into the trap of only being exposed to the voices of men. My blog subscriptions were all to male writers. Those I followed on Twitter were almost all male. I spoke at many conferences, and in every case, the speaker line-up was either almost completely or exclusively male. Those men then amplified other male voices, perpetuating the effect.

It’s vital, for all our sakes, that we make an effort to change that.

We should be hearing women at least as often as we hear men, but that’s not what happens for most of us. Regardless of our gender, we probably hear men far more often. That’s a skewed, artificial version of reality, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve made an effort to redress the balance during the last eighteen months. I’ve shifted towards the writing community, which might even be predominantly female, and I’ve changed my social media habits.

I’m listening to the voices of women more, and it’s been illustrative and rewarding. I feel like the landscape of my daily experiences is more representative of the world around me, and is more nuanced, personal, affirmative, and supportive. It can also be harrowing – every day, I see examples of both individual and institutional sexism and misogyny – but that’s part of what we need to be seeing. It’s part of the mix; part of what is. It’s why we, as men, should be listening.

The body of words I read each day has become less adversarial, more focused on the interpersonal narrative, and often more thoughtful – in the sense of considered, though usually also considerate. Having come from the technology industry, it’s been an antidote to what I saw as the relentlessly, helplessly myopic, mechanistic, and mean-spirited basic currency of online communication. It’s been a balm to what I used to think was all we had.

Yes, there’s absolutely going to be heartbreak to be found; as many causes for tears as for joy. Such is the nature of this world we’ve built. But this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt I’m seeing something true, and complete. The experience has rounded-off some of my own rough edges, and made me reassess what’s actually important during this brief window of time that we’re alive. Trivialities have become alternative interests. Weaknesses have been shown to be strengths. This is a world I’m a great deal happier to be part of.

I invite you to bring some balance back to your perception of the world around you, and to push past the historically male-centric gathering of voices. I started by simply following more women on Twitter, and making a conscious effort to amplify those women when the opportunity arose. The list of people I follow now has more female faces than male, and I can’t adequately tell you how much of a relief that is. You should find out for yourself, and maybe use that list as a starting point.

I subscribe to women’s blogs (usually from amongst those I follow on social media), and I’ve been delighted and fascinated to subscribe to women-focused and women-written news sites. I can very highly recommend Femsplain to you (the writing is raw and striking, often from very young authors), and I’ve been enjoying the recently launched The Pool too.

If we’re to finish our barely-begun transition to a society of gender equality, we can’t continue to exist in a comforting, self-reinforcing vacuum of implicitly masculine opinion. It can be as simple as seeing that there’s another viewpoint, and it’s an easy thing to do. It also makes for a much more pleasant existence.

And if you’re already at saturation point, with too much to read each day, and too many unread tweets scrolling by? Well, you just read this – and maybe mine is another male voice you don’t particularly need to hear.

Try unsubscribing from, or unfollowing, me – and listen to someone from the other half of our world instead.

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