Opinion: Men need to shut up at public meetings if they can’t behave

Chris Campbell

Thirty years of working for community newspapers have taught me a lot of things.

Like, if you run a horoscope, don’t accidentally leave out a month unless you like getting yelled at by Scorpios.

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Being a journalist has also taught me a lot about human nature – the good and the bad.

One thing I want to share is about how certain men can resist acting like pompous tools when they are at a public meeting. I’ve sat through hundreds of meetings over the years, from councils to committees to hearings to developer info sessions.

Sometimes these meetings are fascinating, but too often they are painful exercises in something I call “Manquestioning.”

What is “Manquestioning”? Well, it’s when you give a man a microphone in order to ask a question, but they can’t bring themselves to just ask a question.

I was reminded of this on Wednesday night when I attended a public safety meeting at Forest Grove Elementary in Burnaby. The main topic was safety issues surrounding the Trans Mountain tank farm.

For nearly two hours, city officials and a deputy fire chief went through these issues in detail. It was long and a little dry, but important to hear.

Then came time for questions from the audience.

I dreaded this part because I’ve seen what happens. As soon as they asked if there were any questions, a bunch of white dudes sprung to their feet like somebody was offering them free power tools.

They headed over to the microphone, ready to wow the audience with their knowledge.

stock photo, microphone
Source: contributed

Except, that wasn’t the point. Instead, the crowd was warned to “just ask your question.”

One by one, these men ignored the warning and proceeded to introduce themselves, explain their knowledge of the tank farm and detail their thoughts on a problem.

And, one by one, a woman in the audience spoke up and said, “What’s your question?”

The men looked perturbed at being interrupted while they were showboating.

I rolled my eyes. Give some men a microphone and they just can’t resist trying to show how smart they are.

One dude finally asked his question and after it was answered, said, “my second question is” before being jeered by the crowd.

It’s so tiring. Some men, I think, love going to public meetings simply on the chance that they’ll get their turn at a microphone.

I’m fine if people have views, but entitled grandstanding when you should just be asking a question is a bad look - so think twice for pontificating.

The crowd will thank you for it.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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