What’s in a Verb?!?
For example, sometimes I talk about “surrendering” or “laying down” male privilege. For me, this captures my conviction that men must relinquish their culturally-afforded power in a way that empowers the women around them.
Other times, I’ve used the verb “plundering.” I like this one. It’s as if male privilege is a treasure chest waiting to be looted and repurposed. I suppose there can be a Robin Hood like quality to how I think about male privilege, sort of a “steal from the powerful to uplift the disempowered” kind of idea.
More often, I’ve gone with “leveraging” male privilege. This is straight up power language, where male privilege is a commodity that can be utilized to raise up women.
Whatever the verb, Andrew Grill just did it.
I came across this article the other day. It tells the story of Grill’s spontaneous, in-the-moment decision to (insert verb here) his male privilege.
It turns out that Grill, Global Managing Partner with IBM Consulting, was invited to sit on an “Online Influence” panel in Cardiff, Wales. As he took his seat, he realized that the panel was all-male. Though two women had been invited to be on the panel, they had declined, leaving the audience to hear a presentation on the future of social media and online influence from six (counting the panel chair) middle-aged men.
At one point, a (gutsy) woman named Miranda asked the panel this question:
“Where are the women?”
Which prompted this turn of events, in Grill’s words:
What happened next changed the whole dynamic of the panel, and the discussion, and it lit up Twitter.
I offered to give up my seat on the panel and invited Miranda Bishop onto the stage. As I heard discussed after the panel, there was some encouragement from those sitting around Miranda, and she came forward to sit on the panel for the rest of the session. In fact as Miranda tells it on her blog post about the experience:
As I made my way down from right at the back of the hall I think my whole body turned red from blushing. Also it’s actually quite lucky that this was a conference about something I am pretty well-informed on in hindsight…
After the event, I heard that the organizers literally were looking through their hands wondering what this crazy Australian had done, and fearful of what might happen next.
As it was, Miranda brought an amazing perspective to the panel as a 26-year-old small business owner. She explained that when she left school she found it hard to get a job so she started her own social media training agency, “Talking Social Media”.
The response to our new panelist was extremely positive, as I had expected.
Let’s recap. It’s the middle of the capstone panel at a significant tech conference. Perceiving that the panel was poorer for being mono-gender, one of the expert panelists, a man who earlier in the conference had given a keynote address, chooses to get up from his seat and invites a woman from the audience to come take his chair. She seizes the opportunity and conference attendees benefit from her perspective.
So what’s the right verb to describe what Andrew Grill did with his privilege? Surrender? Lay down? Plunder? Leverage?
How about “all of the above.”