Magazine Calls Off All-Male Panel On Women's Empowerment & Says It Didn't Intend "To Offend Anyone"
A tweet shared by New York and Huffington Post contributor Yashar Ali spelled a dilemma for some Twitter users on Monday evening. The screenshot posted by Ali depicted a lifestyle publication's proud call-to-action for a series purportedly rooted in what appears to be feminist causes. The publication, known as SJ Magazine, invited readers to an all-male panel on women in business. Naturally, the internet hit back at the lack of female perspective in bouts of outrage and of course a ton of snark. Following the criticism, the panel was ultimately canceled.
"As a woman-owned business, women's empowerment has always been part of our mission. We believe it is helpful when everyone is part of the conversation about women's empowerment and feminism," SJ Magazine emphasized in a media statement provided to Bustle. "It was never our intention to offend anyone. We have canceled the Nov. 6 panel."
SJ Magazine, for those who may not know, is a lifestyle magazine published by a "multi-media company" based in southern New Jersey. It's apparently the region's "[top] source for entertainment and information." The magazine makes sure that this aspect of being from South Jersey is lost on no one:
To put it simply: We're the heart and soul of South Jersey.
To be fair, the magazine's Twitter account issued a short response to the growing criticism regarding the all-male panel on women in business. "This is one of the four panels (the others are all women). Men have a responsibility to step up and support women, and we want to start the discussion," a tweet from SJ Magazine read. "No mansplaining allowed," it confirmed.
Social media users, however, still seemed unhappy with the magazine's explanation. One user tweeted:
That's EXACTLY what this will be! You're not allowing t/men [sic] to even hear a woman's counter-perspective.
Another user used economics to retort to the magazine's tweet.
Women make 75 cents on the dollar so I guess getting 75 percent of the panels about women's empowerment & hearing from men about WOMEN'S experience in business is par for the course.
Others simply wanted no male perspective on the subject of business and gender. "Men have a responsibility to step back and listen to the experiences of their women colleagues. Their 'perspective' on us isn't needed," Twitter user Catherine McParland tweeted.
Perhaps some of the most scathing remarks came from one particular Twitter user who dug up information on some of the panelists. According to SJ Magazine, the four panelists are Sal Paolantonio, Ali Houshmand, Richard Miller, and Lou Greenwald.
Liz Gumbinner, a publisher and podcast creator, tweeted on two of the panelists. She went on to dig an article on Houshmand who, in SJ Magazine, said that more women would become engineers if they were self-assured. It's worth noting that Houshmand points to the lack of institutional encouragement as the main source for this problem. Additionally, Houshmand pointed to the need to provide a "tremendous amount of lifting up" for female students.
In spite of the 21st century becoming much more liberal in its attitude toward women in business, the issues of sexism and inequality remain ripe. Divisions of labor and subsequent compensation are often and unfortunately delineated along the lines of sex, leaving women economically behind their male peers. The Guardian published a critical analysis in April 2017 about how sexism tends to put a lid on funding for women seeking to build their own businesses. Investment and pitching ideas is a key issue for businesswomen, who are frequently left out of the conversation.
SJ Magazine's male-heavy panel would have failed to deliver insight rooted in personal experience from businesswomen who are better equipped to tell their own stories. More significantly, as noted before in one Twitter user's response, the lack of counter-perspective may lead to a biased and inadequate panel. After all, the panel was supposedly meant to discuss women's empowerment.