Taking my seat: Let's talk about the table in the room

How to make room and take your seat

Supplied by Carolyn Thompson

I’ve been writing this column for two months now and I realized I hadn’t taken the time to explain my thought process behind the column name ‘Taking my Seat”. 

The idea of taking one’s seat and being a part of a conversation while still making room for others is so important. We need to understand that these hypothetical tables we’re each sitting at affect ourselves and those around us everyday.

If you’re at a table and talking about an issue like women’s rights but you notice your friend, a woman, isn’t getting their chance to speak, give them a seat at the table. Make space for their voice and consider their experience. 

We need to think about it through a political lens. Two weeks ago, Quebec announced Bill 62, a law that bans women from wearing veils and niqabs at public services.

Since the announcement, the bill has been argued as being repressive to women who choose to wear veils for their own religious choices.

As it relates to taking a seat at the table, we need consider whether Muslim people, specifically Muslim women, were consulted before the bill was passed. Were Muslim women given the opportunity to explain why wearing a veil or niqab is important or empowering for them? 

It’s almost as if the Quebec government made an assumption, like many people do, about Muslim women wearing veils. They assumed by being forced to cover your face you’re all of a sudden ‘less than’ someone else.

If I learned anything from Paul Hennessy in 8 Simple Rules, “When you assume, you make an ass out of [you] and me.”

Well Paul, I think your quote hits the nail on the head with the government’s passing of this Bill.  

Our hypothetical table is an everyday, every person issue and I think it’s an important symbol for people to be constantly thinking about how to challenge 

themselves to do better. We need to start calling in the experts more often.

And what makes someone an expert? 

Lived experience.

You’re not going to have a panel to talk about gender equality in the workplace without women present, right? 

Oh wait, wrong. 

Just last year, Paypal planned an event focused on, “how men and women can work together to achieve a better workplace.” That seems like an important time to make sure you invite women to the literal table and yet, they forgot to invite the female panelists. 

We see this a lot at Queen’s too — we miss strong, important voices in our education system when we don’t hire diverse faculty.

I use these examples to show you how pervasive this problem is. It’s not a women’s issue or an issue for people of colour, it’s a human issue. It’s an issue in our classrooms, boardrooms and governments. We need to work together, call each other in and hold each other accountable at this table.

Be conscious of your table and every one you sit at. If you notice speaking time is given substantially more to men or to white people or to loud people, make room. 

We’re a community for a reason and all it takes is for one person to shuffle over, make some room and invite someone else in.

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