Please sir, can I be on your manel?

How much twitter is too much twitter? It’s a question I ask every day as I’m having my morning coffee, scrolling lethargically through my timeline deciding there’s nothing interesting happening and closing the tab only to reopen it 10 seconds later and close it again 20 seconds later. A process I repeat maybe 25 million times a day. That’s unless someone does something Bad. Then suddenly twitter requires my captive attention because it’s no longer a place for boring internecine ideological conflict where everyone is trying to be funny, suddenly it’s a place where news happens. It’s an actual event, a Shakespearean play in three acts: the Bad Thing is said, an Apology is demanded, the Bad Thing is apologised for. There are sometimes more acts if the audience is keen for an encore, sometimes the apology ISN’T ENOUGH, more genuflection is required, maybe a job lost, a livelihood ruined, it depends. It’s a bit more of the same tbh but it fulfils the purpose which is to remind you that you have no life and nobody loves you. It also does the work of ensuring conformity with the dominant logic – dissent is quashed, the offender is dealt with, we’re all good people.

The assailant in question this time was Nadeem Haque, I don’t know who he is but he probably has a famous last name because nobody called for him to be sacked – only for an apology. He tweeted: “so people ask me to gender balance my panel. Ok how? Should I put in the poor lady who knows nothing or the well dressed one with English who knows nothing?”

he’s deleted this tweet now lol

I read it then read it again because I’ve forgotten how to read. Wait he’s not being PC. He’s actually REALLY not being PC, he’s actually being a bit of a dick but it’s funny (cmon). Ah there we go: the ratio, the moral taxi cab meter of our times and I can see the replies come as it dials up. This is ASMR for my chickensoup soul. Only one retweet and 5 likes, damn son you fucked up! Ah here they come the women talking about how qualified they are (not they themselves but other women who belong from birth on one of these unknown panels, like bitch we know you mean this about yourself. I check her other tweets, ah there we go right on cue one about imposter syndrome). I go to his tweets. He has another one and oh my giddy aunt he is doubling down (must be more famous than I thought) it says “There is new trend among the trendy that any learning event should be gender balanced. But it’s ok if it is gender balanced and white or elite. As of the only issue is gender”. Some uncle is calling him an uncle but I think he’s actually making a valid point.

this is the first thing that comes up in google images when you type in manel

Omg the lists are here, the women are angry: here’s a list of women who should be on a panel, the women mentioned are grateful: thank you so much I have imposter syndrome and this helps it really helps. What a beta response. I need another coffee. I clear my schedule. Jokes on you there’s nothing to clear. I need to say something. I think about it for maybe 2 hours because it’s lunch already and quote tweet,  ‘looooooooooooool’. It doesn’t feel like enough. I DM it to an also always online friend, he says OMG. I say right????? He doesn’t reply, must be busy, not with work but pretending to work. What now. I send it to a never online friend, she replies ‘I don’t get it do you know this person?’ Wow. I worry about her sometimes.

The thing is, I think, talking in my head to my invisible podcast audience, he’s not wrong. Diversity of gender rather than thought is just liberal feminist identity politics which we know now doesn’t work. Having more women on panels or in leadership does not meaningfully change the lives of ordinary women. But doesn’t their perspective matter? I can hear someone from the crowd say. Well yes, but given the way women interact in a patriarchy you’re likely just to hear them ventriloquising what the men say. There really isn’t that much difference if the person you’re hearing is an upper class Lahori, whichever gender, unless they’re talking about something gender specific. This policy benefits me and I’m saying it – I’m the one most likely to be on a panel as a bougie English speaking woman and everyone will say you’re here because of your credentials and it helps that you’re a woman. No mofo even if I was a man I’d be here; on your shitty metric I come out on top.

the women are all just out of frame, laughing too

The truth is I don’t care about hearing women on panels or hearing about how qualified women are that they should be on panels. We’ve come back with the same degrees and experience as men demanding they take us as seriously as they do each other, when really we should have been fighting for them to take us seriously anyway, without all this. We should have changed the epicentre of the debate entirely – who cares what people say on these manels? Let’s make them irrelevant. Let’s make men try and claw their way in to our committee parties or our book clubs. What was discussed at your committee party he begs to know, she taps her nose knowingly, you know I can’t tell you. Please, he pleads, that’s where policies are made I have a piece coming out tomorrow I need to know!

The crowd in my head cheers, some boos but that’s good, you’re a contrarian. I start typing a tweet: ‘the only alpha response to this is to say ‘why don’t you want women on your panels are you gay or something lol’. I delete it. It’s too much.

Oh it’s 5:30, time to go home.

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