Hire him only if he won't take the job
Today, I read Courtney E. Martin’s article in Women’s E-News about Transition House’s gender-blind search for a new ED. I understand the arguments that both sides made. I am not inclined to weigh in on whom I think is right for several reasons. First, I do not think it is about right vs. wrong as much as it is about differing perspectives and priorities. Second, it is debates such as these that men who batter want us to get mired in, so as to take our focus off of their abuse; I do not want to collude with that agenda. Third, and perhaps most important, is the fact that I as a man have no business deciding what is best for women in general, much less for a battered women’s shelter in particular.
Because of these reasons, I cannot say whether any women’s shelter should consider hiring a male ED. What I can say is that as a male, I would neither seek nor accept that position, no matter how qualified I thought I was. Some of my reasons are as follows.
The most important task for men is not to try to gain a foothold in the battered women’s movement by seeking employment as the ED of a shelter. Instead, I think we should gain a foothold in the movement to stop men’s violence against women.
Instead of seeking a position of authority where we men can tell women what to do, we should confront men who thrive on telling women what to do.
Instead of arguing that women’s leadership is merely symbolic, we should acknowledge the importance of that symbolism in our struggle to end sexism.
Instead of arguing that a gender-blind search is fair, we should acknowledge that due to the persistent gender inequality in the workplace with regards to hiring, pay and promotions, a gender-blind search still favors men over women.
Instead of believing that women should be comfortable with men in the room, we should understand why a man’s presence in a group of women can reduce the comfort level dramatically.
Instead of convincing women that some men can be trusted, we should realize that it is men’s violence against, and dominance of, women, that continues to destroy that trust.
Instead of seeking to add more men’s voices, we should stop silencing women’s voices.
Instead of telling women that they are over-reacting to men’s presence in the movement, we need to stop telling women how to react.
Instead of attempting to prove that we men can be effective leaders in the battered women’s movement, we need to "prove" that we can be comfortable not being the leaders, by taking direction from women.
Instead of telling women how we can fix their problems, we should stop assuming that women need men to fix their problems.
Instead of criticizing those opposed to considering a man for the job, we should hear what they need us to hear - that men continue to make homes, workplaces and communities unsafe for women.
Instead of criticizing those in favor of considering a man for the job, we need to encourage qualified women to apply for the position. And perhaps most importantly,
Instead of running a shelter, we men need to stop men’s violence so that women no longer need that shelter.