This is a fantastic response. There actually was a male participant in the workshop, and he was wonderful to have. He was just like any other participant. I think he took the “Women Learn to Code” part as “Learning to Code in a non-competitive environment”. I didn’t ask him specifically, but that’s my assumption.
There’s a group called Ladies Learn to Code and their approach to this dynamic is that men are more than welcome to participate but are encouraged to bring a woman or gender-non-conforming friend to the event in order to stay true to the mission which is spreading knowledge to under-represented people.
I think the result of this sort of awkward encounter in this workshop was due to a lack of planning. Half of the executive of the student group that organized the event is male. They were there to support the event, but then never thought of how best to do that, and so ended up standing around, not participating or facilitating, just kinda there. I don’t think the feeling in the room would’ve been in the same if they were participating. Knowing this group now, I would make sure there was something in place for this particular situation in future events.
For your situation specifically — so events where you’re not a participant, don’t want to hover, don’t want to leave — off the top of my head I think a really explicit t-shirt could work wonders. It’s a bit like wearing a sandwich board but it’s a great way to communicate support to everyone in the room. If we’re talking in the specifics of a “Women Learn to Code” event. I’m trying to think of what would really resonate with me in that scenario and the two that come to mind are the “This is what a feminist looks like” or the “Steminist” shirts. If you’re concerned about bringing ‘politics’ into it and want to be more specific to your situation might read something like “Emotional Support Ally”.
If there’s another man in the same situation, I’m not sure that talking with him would produce the same response I described in my original piece, I think part of the issue in this scenario was that the men at the back of the room were unknown to the participants. If you’re ever really unsure of what to do I’d say making contact with the organizers could never hurt your situation. Let them know your position and tell them to feel free to make an announcement about who you are if they notice people giving you the side-eye.
But honestly, I think just the fact that you’re present and aware and looking to make people around you feel more comfortable is so fantastic. There isn’t really a blanket answer, just keep communicating with the people around you, listening and engaging. You’re doing everything right.