Last week I went to a panel discussion chaired by Green London Assembly member Jenny Jones. When it came to taking questions from the audience she made clear that she was an ardent feminist (her words) and that the questions would go 'woman man woman man' - even to the point where, when it was a woman's turn to ask a question and none in the room wanted to ask anything, she wouldn't move onto a man despite a number of them having their hands up.
Now, my question is this. I don't notice the gender of the person who asks a question at an unrelated event such as that (it was about the green economy in London), just as I don't notice their race etc. It doesn't really cross my mind and I only listen the quality of the question. So, does this make me a 'post-feminist' who has reached enlightenment, or so deep in the patriarchy that I don't see the structural oppression in front of me?
As I was chatting to Jenny Jones afterwards a number of women came up to her and said they welcomed her approach and felt it was a positive thing. She replied that she knows women can feel a little intimidated (I think that's the word she used) to ask questions at event like that, which I didn't necessarily find odd, but I had thought the event was pretty neutral both in terms of the gender balance of the audience (and the panel) and the topic being discussed. I would have thought at that kind of 'professional' event anyone could be a little intimated for fear of asking a 'stupid' question in front a knowledgeable audience.
This got me thinking, is not noticing a person's gender the end point that we're after? Does trying too hard to constantly notice these things lead to over-compensation and/or having the opposite effect of becoming patronising?
(P.S. as per the title of this thread, this is meant as a sensible, grown up discussion. If the usual trolls - marckee, DarwinDude, georgiabeth etc - could please avoid posting it would be appreciated)