Listening to Women

I want to be better at listening to women. I don’t mean having conversations with women, hearing what they’re saying so I can offer a thought, a book suggestion, a new possibility. I mean truly listening — looking to learn — with an open mind and no agenda.

I should listen better to everyone, men and women. But I need to put in extra effort with women. I come from a culture that doesn’t value women’s intellectual contributions. It’s not that they aren’t acknowledged at all, but that they’re treated as exceptions to the norm. Whether I like it or not, this alters my perceptions of what women say. This is detrimental to my female interlocutors, and to me too. It needs to change.

Women and men have much in common. We share the experience of being human. In theory, it shouldn’t matter who ideas come from. But in practice it does. We have important biological and social differences that influence how we see the world. As a man, I’m insular in ways I can’t perceive. I can only grow in my humanity by understanding perspectives different than mine.

This is not to say I will grade the merit of ideas on a curve. Again, that would be a disservice to the other person and to me. Instead, it means I need to:

  1. proactively seek out more women’s voices in books, online, and in person,
  2. make an extra effort to suspend my inner monologue and truly listen to what they’re saying, and
  3. use my position of privilege as a man in our society to amplify their voices.

I start today. If you’ve ever felt unacknowledged or under-appreciated by me — felt not listened to — I offer deep apologies. I will do better.