I have a friend who is notorious for arriving late to gatherings.
Frequently 2-3 hours late. And if there’s acknowledgement and an apology, it’s usually quite superficial.
This frustrates me greatly, but I know calling him out about it only sours the gathering.
Noone enjoys themselves.
Instead, I choose to be thankful that he’s there.
There are obviously reasons why he arrives when he does, and so I choose not to judge and hope that one day he will sort out these reasons. Maybe even one day understand how it feels for the host who has put in the effort.
Men are arriving late to the gender equality conversation.
Some of us are showing up with a ‘champion’ status, expecting the people who are already there to be so appreciative that they have popped by, amongst other important things in our schedule.
Some of us have awkwardly arrived, and don’t know what to say, how to interact, not really clear on whether we should be here.
Some of us feel like we have arrived in a courtroom, awaiting trial. We are deciding how we are going to plead, and preparing our defence.
Some of us are still circling the neighbourhood, checking if we have the correct address.
Some of us have declined the invitation – perhaps opting to stay home as a mark of respect to those who are attending. “It’s not about me.”
For the people who have been in the conversation for a while, these newcomers are met with mixed emotions.
For some ‘hosts’, they have been regularly extending the invitation to the men, but perhaps weren’t prepared for when and, more crucially HOW, men would show up.
For some, the arrival of others has changed the vibe of the conversation, and where so much work has been put into ensuring this has been a safe space, now it doesn’t feel as safe.
For some, there is resentment there. And some are looking for the male attendees to make a mistake so that they can unleash the frustration that has been building.
It’s an awkward place to be for everyone. Everyone is feeling uncomfortable.
The truth is that we all need to feel uncomfortable in order to learn and to develop ourselves.
We are all going to say awkward things, feel a full spectrum of emotions, and behave in ways that we may regret afterwards.
But it’s a good thing that we are here.
It’s a good thing that we are arriving, however, and whenever that is.
The more time men spend in the conversation, the more opportunities we have to listen and understand, and the better we will get at participating.
For the other genders, this may require some more patience. Some of you have been in this conversation for a long time, and so your tolerance is wearing thin. I get it.
Let’s choose to see it as a positive that we are here.
Meanwhile, I’m sorry I’ve arrived late.
Are you showing up? How did you arrive? Or how are you planning to arrive?