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Does excluding men from Q&A’s feminism panel legitimise the debate?

For the first time in Q&A‘s seven-year history, the panel will be made up of only female guests and will include Annabel Crabb stepping in as host for the night.

“Celebrate 40 years of International Women’s Day with guest host Annabel Crabb,” it was announced on the program’s webpage.

The panellists include non-feminist foreign minister, Julie Bishop, author Roxane Gay, feminism icon Germaine Greer, founder of Youth Without Borders, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and Best & Less CEO, Holly Kramer.

It’s thought that the all-female lineup, and the boot given to Tony Jones for the night, was in response to the backlash the show received following its discussion on domestic violence, namely violence against women.

The consensus was that it seemed odd the panel was dominated by men. And it raised the question of whether we need men on a panel to legitimise a debate about women.

I’d have to say yes.

Having men on a panel discussion about men acting violently towards women is necessary in order to add both sides to the conversation. But not only for that reason. After a catch-up with a girlfriend last week, who told me how her six-foot-something brother was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of his five-foot-nothing girlfriend, it really painted a different picture about what domestic violence is all about.

Women are more often the victims of domestic violence, but the issue is a social one, one which needs to be discussed, understood and picked apart by all people. The same goes for feminism, which Monday’s all-female panel is set to discuss.

Feminism might very well need a makeover, with many still thinking it’s a dirty word that alienates men, but modern takes on feminism aside, the word means equality among the sexes. Equality.

And equality, to me at least, is explored through difference. It’s not about being the same, being just as strong or just as smart or just as capable of doing the same tasks. Equality means recognising that there is difference, there are situations that each sex performs differently in and the equality lies in acknowledging those differences and saying, despite them, we are equal. Equal doesn’t mean the same.

While it is wonderful to see women dominating the Q&A panel, I worry that it just portrays an “us versus them” mentality. Feminism and gender quality is a social issue, not a women’s issue, after all.

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