I want to thank all of you who read my recent post and especially those who left a comment, sent a private message mentioning feelings and experiences, or simply shared by retelling, retweeting, or reblogging. I believe sharing my story was the right thing to do and I appreciated the supportive and moving responses.
It seems that each reader found something that she or he needed – some saw a story of harassment and exploitation, others saw it as echos of their experiences, a few saw workplace bullying, several found a new perspective, and a couple of readers used it as a call for better nonprofit workplace policies. Lots of you sent apologies and hugs.
Writing about my experience was deeply personal – I had removed the episode from my career narrative and even my husband didn’t know it had happened until I asked his opinion about posting it. The post had a lot of power because it was born at the nexus of the fear, pain, anger, misogyny, shame and disbelief expressed by #YesAllWomen.
Is there a culture of rape in the US and other countries? (Find a good definition from Marshall University.) Or is it simply abuse of power and privilege with another name? Isn’t it all just oppression by another name?
And if all this is woven into the fabric of our society, what can we do? How do we change a culture, the status quo?
The easiest thing is to do nothing. Inertia is the natural tendency of objects to resist changes in their state of motion. People can be very comfortable with inertia.
But I would argue that fundraisers are not comfortable with inertia; our nature is to fight oppression in any and all of its many forms. We raise awareness, we raise funds so that our nonprofits will eliminate oppression, injustice, destruction, disease, poverty, ignorance, mistreatment, hate and more. We raise a flag, we rally the troops, we fund the fight.
I ended #NotTheUsualPost with what I thought we should do:
But as fundraisers we must continue to strive not only to not harm or act disrespectfully toward men or women but to actively speak up against anything we see, everything we hear. Sitting silent is complicity.
Now let me list some specific actions I think we all can take:
- Speak up. This is the first, the best, the easiest (and sometimes the hardest) thing to do. Be declarative. Stop it at the moment it is uttered. “Please don’t use that language.” or “I don’t find that funny.” Stop conversations where you hear violence, hatred and insults.
- Step in. When you see something that you think might be wrong. Sometimes the object of the unwanted physical advance (or even a comment) is too shocked to say anything. Help him or her speak up.
- Check your language. Are you careful with the language you use that objectifies anyone? If you use that language at home but not in the workplace, why? Kareem Abdul-Jabar wrote a great piece about stamping out misogyny in sports.
- Keep talking. Do you have kids? Step-children? Siblings? Be bold and age-appropriate and talk to them. The Radical Housewife shares how she talked to her son. The change will come as younger generation are no longer trained to accept as normal a culture of violence.
- Be the person to trust. There maybe a colleague in your nonprofit who is harassed or is the object of unwanted attention from a co-worker, client, donor or vendor. If you are a nonprofit leader, let your team know they can come to you in the confidence that they will be believed and not be judged. Shame and fear are so powerful that they keep people silent.
- Create policies and a plan. Ensure that you have policies in place (bigger institutions often do, but smaller charities may neglect important harassment education). For new fundraisers, help them practice how to deflect unwanted attention (it is very disorienting the first time a donor does or says something inappropriate). “You need to get used to it” is not a policy.
- Think critically about media. Is gratuitous violence is fine? Is it OK to use sex to sell? Is this body type or skin color or gender preferred? Is it appropriate to objectify men or women or children? Media feeds you images, sounds and words to ensure they redefine “normal.”
- Check out the Circle of 6 app – do you need it or someone you know?
- Build your empathy skills. Empathy is the basis of social connections and it helps us see things from the point of view of someone else.
- Learn about privilege. As an agent of change (and fundraisers are helping fund change or perceived change) you need to know that privilege is the advantages from which people benefit based solely on social status. That status is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult to see one’s own privilege.
- Change your mind. I attended a 2-day undoing racism workshop by the People’s Institute Northwest. Powerful.
- Get schooled. Do some reading to learn another perspective:
–> Read about Ben Hardwidge’s journey from misogynist to feminist.
–> There are many forms of privilege: Ability, Class, Education, Gender, Gender-Identity, Sexuality, Race, and Religion are some of the big ones.
–> Never heard about White Privilege? Read this important work from 1988 by Peggy McIntosh.
–> In the US there is a particular history due to slavery. A recent article in The Atlantic provides insight into the long tail of this particular oppression.
In case you haven’t been a woman walking on the street experiencing harassment, take a few minutes to watch this great short directed By Nuala Cabral:
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
― Frederick Douglass
If you want to share an action step you think we should take, or suggest a reading or website, please leave you comments below.