Throughout Monday afternoon, a number of delegates, visitors and viewers from home sent us messages, concerned that the gender balance of speakers was weighted in favor of men. They asked us if GCSRW was monitoring. One asked if ANYONE was monitoring? Indeed, we were, and yes, the balance was off. Males made up 75% of the speakers on Monday afternoon, while women were only 25%. The Bishops were able to hear our report of concerns this morning before the day began, and things got better. When Bishop Greg Palmer took the chair for the Tuesday morning session, women made up 39% of the speakers, which is just over their representation on the floor which is 36% women. During Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey’s session, women made up 37% of the speakers. Thank you Bishops!
So yes, your GCSRW monitors are counting, but we don’t have a voice during the sessions. We cannot come to the mic and ask the presider if women are being called. We cannot come to the mic and say that women (and some men as well) have been in the queue for a long time, being told that some in the queue will NEVER be called, while other delegates return to the mic two and three times. None of us can see the electronic queue so it cannot be monitored. We don’t know who is NOT being called on – we can only see what you all see – who IS being called on. And yes, Monday afternoon was not a good session for women. Tuesday morning got better, but delegates – call it out when you see it! When the presider says s/he is going to call names in a way to provide a diversity of voices, hold him/her to it. Only YOU know if you’re NOT being called on.
It was also reported to us that a few young women were bothered by the behavior of some fellow delegates from outside the U.S. They described men who hugged them uncomfortably, and in one case, asked one to marry him. On the one hand, this is a cultural difference, and we are clearly struggling to learn to live with one another as a diverse church. For some, close hugging and marriage proposals are normal, everyday life. We’re not saying it’s acceptable there either, but it’s certainly more common. For others though, hugs are shared only between close friends and family members, and only with permission with strangers, and marriage is proposed similarly – with persons VERY well known. As we continue to struggle to be one church, it will be important to continue to talk about these gender norms upon which we do not yet agree. In the meantime, at the General Conference, if women do not want to be touched, do not touch them and no one here wants a marriage proposal from a virtual stranger. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and that’s as far as it goes. Sin may be a matter for God to decide, but sexual misconduct is defined by the recipients, and these recipients are saying “No,” and many women here would say, “Me too.”
One piece of advice for the next General Conference, which is just over a year away – ELECT MORE WOMEN. Encourage your Annual Conferences to send delegations with equal numbers of men and women. That’s the best way to change the balance of speakers. As we’ve watched our women Bishops increase in number, ALL of whom we celebrate, we can’t say the same for the delegates. We can do better.