A little over a month ago I received a message from Doug French about speaking on a panel at the Dad2.0 Summit in New Orleans. I was at work and found myself slipping on my readers and leaning into the monitor to see the words in the small window.
“…it’s about gender relations going forward, and how men in particular can contribute by listening, etc. You’ve written a lot about it, and Asha and I thought of you when we were discussing it. If this is even a possibility at this point, could we set a time for a call?”
The timing could not have been more perfect or more challenging. I’ve been stuck; not knowing how to channel all that I’ve been feeling, but also so busy at work that it’s been easy to ignore everything but the most pressing demands. I miss writing, but I want more. I want to dig into conversations that go beyond text boxes. I don’t want to accept my anger or my pain as action enough. Hearing Asha’s name piqued my interest. She has been a purpose personified as the events and movements unfolding in our country have moved her to say, “I must act.”
Her posts about calling politicians drove me to pick up the phone, even as my hand and voice shook. Her unwavering kindness also influenced me. We can be strong and maintain soft edges, have opinions and compassion. I went back and forth with Doug about the panel and asked Sean what he thought.
“I mean, can I possibly go? We’re so busy and I don’t know what this would really mean.”
“Amanda, if they invite you, you go. You belong there and need to do this.”
It was the answer I wanted, which made guilt creep in until I remembered how it’s felt to watch the headlines, or to go on twitter, or to walk down the street. Being busy our having writer’s block doesn’t make me stop being a woman or a parent of three daughters in a world that still gives the benefit of doubt to someone other than women.
I booked the flights and hotel room with tickets for Sean. We made our way to New Orleans and met with the other panelists Saturday morning. We all waited a bit anxiously, or maybe just me, as the doors opened for our session. The tables began to fill, but the remarkable thing was that as we kicked off, the guys kept pouring in the door. I saw friendly faces from Mom2.0 in Laurie White and Laura Mayes. We shared the mic and had a frank discussion about privilege, responsibility, and perspective.
I am used to having a supportive partner, but being in a room that was filled with men wanting to participate, made me feel something I’m not even sure that I can articulate. Much of it is a blur, but I remember talking about the idea of knowing that someone is out there trying to do their part in their circles being a comfort. When I begin to think of it in those terms, it doesn’t seem so insurmountable. It feels like we can make a difference, as Karen said, “If we stay true to that, I think we’ll be all right.”
Here is a glimpse inside the room where Karen Walrond, Mike Reynolds, Kimmy Wolf, Joe Spector, and Creed Anthony participated in an unfiltered conversation about what comes after #MeToo . Thanks again to Doug and Asha for presenting this opportunity to me and to Whit Honea for making me feel at home and for helping me see that there are many of us working to change things.