Fired for speaking out
So, I wasn’t sure I would ever read, let alone link to something on Jezebel, ever again. But then I read this story(and I can’t believe I’m linking to them) on a woman who was fired for complaining publicly about sexism at a tech conference. Sexist comments that were made while a speaker was discussing how important it is to make women feel welcome in tech, btw.
And now I feel like I have to comment. From the perspective of a manager, and from the perspective of a business owner (even without employees), but if I’m paying someone to attend a conference on my company’s behalf, and if my company is sponsoring an event, AND I find out that my employees were making sexist jokes at the event with my name attached to their body, you can bet I would dole out punishment. If they were making these jokes at a bar, after hours, without their badge on, I’d probably have a discussion and make sure my expectations were clear. But if they’re sitting in the audience within earshot of anyone who is attuned to the issues of sexism in the tech biz making sexist jokes and not caring about who is connecting MY business to their comments, I think I would fire them. At the very least, there would be severe punishment. But if after a discussion and they didn’t understand why their actions were wrong, I would have no qualms about getting rid of them. Especially in this economy where it isn’t hard to find someone else who can fill their shoes. So, yes, I do think these dudes deserved to be fired.
I would also say, that if she were working for me, I would prefer that she handle this situation privately. I don’t mean confront these guys (that isn’t her responsibility), but a DM to the conference organizers would have been better than a public calling out. That said, I think firing her was a bad move on SendGrid’s part. Now their name is brought into the story. Which is probably not what they expected. OR it is what they were hoping for and now they’re reveling in the publicity and the attention of all the dudes who are happy that she’s gotten fired. Either way, I would not work with their company. That said, Adria will be answering questions about this in every interview she gets for the next several years. But it shows how calling out sexism gets you punished in our society. And that’s the bigger problem here, eh?
Roe vs. Wade at 40
This piece was written as part of NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day.
40 years ago the right of a woman to receive a medical abortion administered in a safe, secure, and clean environment was granted by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Since then, only the women who have been able to afford to exercise this right have been able to have abortions.
Shortly after abortion became legal, a group of mostly African American women gathered to talk about how the right to Choice was a limiting discussion because it only covered the legal right to obtain an abortion. The discussion wasn’t involving the stories of all the women who were told they could get an abortion, but only if they agreed to tubal ligation or hysterectomy. The discussion wasn’t involving the stories of women who wanted to keep their child but couldn’t because they couldn’t afford to. The discussion wasn’t involving the women who wanted an abortion but couldn’t afford one, women who became mothers against their will and if they were women of color weren’t able to find adoption centers willing to find homes for those unwanted children.
This is a very loose explanation of what reproductive justice was all about. This Wikipedia entry explains it all in much greater detail and in a national framework. I suggest reading it if you didn’t realize there was a difference between the Reproductive Rights movement and the Reproductive Justice movement.
Many people, myself included, criticize many of the national organizations that work toward reproductive rights because they exclude the (I believe) very important aspects of the reproductive justice movement. And because the reproductive justice movement is seen as a movement for women of color, this means that the stories, the needs, the involvement of women of color is missing at a national level.
But being a feminist and criticizing the reproductive rights movement is dangerous territory. It puts you into a position of defending your right to criticize the organizations and the movement you believe in. I believe that reproductive rights are important. Without the work of these women, the lives of millions of women would be very different today. However, these goals are not the only goals we should be fighting for. I think focusing on only rights is limiting. I feel that it treats women like a womb (which is what we criticize the anti-choice groups of doing) instead of as a whole being. And I firmly believe that the Reproductive Justice movement treats women as a whole.
This great article by Dani McClain for Ebony.com not only explains why women of color are so rarely seen telling their stories, but it talks about the Chicago Abortion Fund and describes how the Executive Director Gaylon Alcaraz works tirelessly to not only provide the much-needed funds to women in Chicago who are unable to afford an abortion on their own. But it also describes some of the ways that she has taken this small organization and raised their activity to support the lives of their clients, not just a single need they may possess. I’ve had the honor (and I do believe it is an honor) to meet a few of the women working on their Advisory Board and these women have impressed me. Not only are they passionate about what they share, not only are they wise about the needs of their community, but they are warm and genuine and open to sharing their personal story with the hope that it makes others feel welcome. That isn’t an easy thing to do. For anyone. The Chicago Abortion Fund may be a non-profit organization. And technically they may offer a form of charity to the women who come seeking their help. But the main thing they offer is acceptance, love, understanding, and hope. Not just hope to get through their current struggle, but the struggle of everything in their lives to provide them the tools to take control of their reproductive health. Their overall health. Their future health. The ability to provide better reproductive health information to their friends, families, children. They leave CAF’s organization stronger, smarter, and healthier than when they first placed a call for help.
This is what we should be striving for. It is important that we maintain the right to an abortion. It is important that we have doctors who are able and willing to perform this often life-changing procedure (not always life changing). We need clinics that can perform these needed abortions. But we also need people to be provided the tools to help themselves and others be in a better position to control their reproduction. We should all be fighting the fight to eliminate the need for an abortion through education, support, better financial opportunities. I’m grateful that the Chicago Abortion Fund exists to do just that. I challenge every other abortion rights and abortion fund organization to join in this battle for true control of our lives. All of our lives.
Blog for Choice
January 22nd is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade stating that women have the right to decide when they become a parent. I’ll be writing more about my thoughts for choice on that day as part of the Blog for Choice Day activities.
New Year's Resolution: Express ALL the Rage
I’m generally not a very angry person. I get angry. I express it in my own muted and reserved way, but I’m not all THAT angry. I’m generally happy about that, in no small part because of the “angry feminist” stereotype that gets projected onto me and I like dispelling that.
But I’m kinda angry. This year hasn’t started off well for women. There is the story of the woman and her friend who got onto what looked like a city bus but where her friend was knocked unconscious and she was raped for hours while the bus drove around town. The rape happened in India, but she died in a hospital in Singapore.
Then there is the story, uncovered by Anonymous (a group of online hackers), about a teenager who was raped repeatedly by several members of a Steubenville, Ohio high school. Her attacks were filmed, posted online, talked about in online videos, tweeted about, bragged about, and more. I honestly can’t stomach reading all there is to read about the story. I’ve BEEN there. I’ve got family that LIVED there. And the police are covering it up. The Prosecutor is the mother of one of the young men who is being accused of being involved. The coach of the football team sure seems to know more than he’s sharing. But despite all the evidence the story is being investigated by online geeks and seemingly not by the local police, or the semi-local police
Then there is the Violence Against Women Act. You’d think people would be able to say “Violence against women is wrong, I’m okay with their being an act that helps women get out of abusive relationships and provides funds for investigation and prosecution of people who abuse women.” But several members of the GOP decided they had problems with the rights being extended to immigrant women (cause we don’t want immigrant women, legal or non-legal, to be able to press charges against non-immigrant men)*, with the rights being extended to LGBT women (because if we say that their relationships are equal when it comes to abuse then they’ll want to get married legally and stuff)*, and to Native American women on reservations (because it should be okay for men who don’t live on reservations to abuse women who do live on reservations)*.
And then today, someone posts a pledge to ask tech-dudes to agree to not join a panel if there are no women on the panel. And the tech-dudes I know and respect are all “Hey, sure. I can do this.” And then some jag-off who has written books with horrible cover art says that he doesn’t even want to look at anyone who would do something so “stupid” as to not join a panel because it’s all-dude. Seriously? And to state that publicly? Well, not that I’m planning a tech-conference anytime soon, but if I did he wouldn’t get invited, let alone allowed to speak.
So, I’m angry. And I’ve done no justice to any of the serious issues I’ve raised above. Not a drop. But they’ve all made me angry. Like sick to my stomach and unable to take deep breaths angry. Like get up from the computer and storm away to make another cup of tea angry. Screw up and sew all my fabric together backwards angry. Rage—I haz it!
So watch out. Seriously. Cause if I’m angry enough to read a 19-page Congressional Research Service report, then you know I’m fired up.**
*Oversimplified, snarky, and not-entirely-true. But I’m proving anger here. If you don’t like what I’m saying then go read stuff somewhere else.
**Being angry never feels good to me. I don’t like the physical effects it has on me. But I’m angered and I gotta let it out. That’s why people blog, right?
Racism, Feminsim, and the Art of Discounting the Dissenting Voices
Problem Chylde writes about the top 5 ways that white feminists continue to discredit women of color. And I have to say that I have seen instances of these happening by white and male bloggers. And while I can’t say I’ve never done any of the things she writes about, I can say that I try not to do any of these and I’m aware that they’re all traps white feminists fall into that often created by anger and defensiveness.
It’s hard to be white and talk about racism. It’s scary, and it makes you feel vulnerable. But it needs to be done.
2012 Nonprofit Selection: CARE
One of the organizations I’ll be donating a portion of all sales to is CARE. Their tagline is “Defending Dignity, Fighting Poverty”, and much like the Chicago Abortion Fund, they don’t just use a bunch of experts to figure out what people need and what people need to do to improve their lives, they talk to the people whose lives need improving and then they work with them to get them the resources, and the training, and the contacts they need to improve their own lives. It’s not just about teaching a woman to fish, but setting her up to be a fisherwoman.
I’ve been donating money to CARE for years and a few years ago even designed a custom bag for CARE. The sales weren’t as high as I would have hoped, but the experience working with several women at the local CARE office was a great experience and truly helped me become a better designer and a better business person and I was happy to create several bags and donate them for various fundraisers and to thank many donors at the organization.
The last time I did much with the organization was when the flooding overtook the country of Haiti. The people still haven’t bounced back, but one could say that they still haven’t bounced back from the slave trade and rum production of 150 years ago. It’s a country that has not a lot of turmoil and want. But that didn’t prevent CARE from being on the ground providing emergency support and long-term support. And this is what I adore most about the organization. They’re embedded all over the world, within a wide variety of cultures, and they operate the best way that the culture can permit them to operate. Whether it is providing education to the children of prostitutes, or water-cleaning kits to families, or training on how to turn animal dung into safe and free cooking fuel, they’re doing it. They’re great at using what is available and helping people become self-sufficient.
And that’s what I love that any donation I make to the organization has the ability to do, to help people become self-sufficient. Being able to accept temporary charity is one thing, but making it possible so people don’t need it for long and so that they’re in a position where they can help others follow in their footsteps is what will eventually help end poverty, all while helping people maintain their dignity. For without dignity, we are shells of ourselves. Everyone has the right to dignity. CARE recognizes that and works toward that. And I adore them all for doing so.
2012 Nonprofit Selection: Chicago Abortion Fund
One of the organizations that I’ll be raising funds for this year is the Chicago Abortion Fund.
In 2004 there was something called the March for Women’s Lives. It was an amazing experience and was the true beginning of my business. I started making bags with a portion of the funds being donated to organizations that funded reproductive rights of all varieties. It was an eye-opening and heart-opening experience. After the march ended and my donations were no longer being sent to raise scholarships for women to go to the march, I decided to look for a local organization to donate funds to.
I’d heard about the Chicago Abortion Fund and tried to contact it to determine how best to make a donation. My letter was never answered so I assumed the organization had died out and began donating to Planned Parenthood and other national reproductive rights organizations.
Because the world works in glorious ways, many months after the march a friend invited me to come join her at a fundraiser and launch party for CAF. Within a minute of walking in the door I met Gaylon Alcaraz (the new Executive Director at the time, she’s still there going strong) and I was invigorated. Gaylon is a force to be reckoned with, which is an important trait for someone who works in such a dangerous profession. But she’s fearless and she encourages that fearlessness.
So I was delighted and thrilled to see the focus of the organization change from being just a place that would raise funds for women to have abortions who couldn’t afford them. But an organization who would do that while teaching women how to prevent future pregnancy, how to care for themselves mentally, physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve been lucky to meet a few women who have been helped by the organization and their stories continue to make me cry. CAF is not the heartless “baby-killing” organization that the anti-choice organizations would like you to believe it is. It is an organization that supports and cares for the women who need their services in whatever way they need.
In whatever way they need. Gaylon and her team don’t go up to any woman and tell her what she needs to do. They ask her what she needs and then they provide and guide her through the steps to get there. And then, once they’ve gotten there, once they are stable and healthy and safe, Gaylon and her team are able to convince many of these women who have received funds and services to reach out to other women who are just like them and offer that same support.
And it is this step that so many direct-action non-profits are missing. And it is the step that is going to not only save this organization for a long time to come, but it is the step that is going to save an exponential number of women who go on to then save an exponential number of women. She’s teaching them to fish, to use a biblical analogy. And oh how they fish.
Paula Deen, Classism, Sizeism, and Diabetes
Paula Deen is diabetic. The occasionally rumored story has since come out as fact and she’s teemed up with a major pharmaceutical company who creates medication to help patients with diabetes manage their condition. There are many points I’ve seen expressed online in regard to this news.
One thing I’ve heard many times and by several people I didn’t expect to hear it from is, “Paula Deen got diabetes because she cooks horribly and is fat.”
We don’t know her medical history. As far as I know, we’ve not seen her medical report, and unless you’re a doctor with a specialization in diabetes, I probably wouldn’t listen to what you have to say about it anyway. But here is what I know about size and diabetes. Being overweight can make it harder to manage your condition, but becoming overweight will not make you get Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a medical condition that has some times to genetic markers. It is incredibly possible that there are environmental factors that increase your chances of getting diabetes, but I don’t know what they all are and I can be sure the folks saying Paula got diabetes because she cooks with butter aren’t either. I can also be sure that while many of Paula’s recipes are not those a dietician would tell a patient with diabetes to eat on a regular basis. I suspect that most doctors would tell their patient they could eat Piggy Pudding in moderation as part of an otherwise balanced diet.
However, while cruising through Twitter tonight I came across two tweets side-by-side each other which solidified and explained the discomfort I felt. One was from an acquaintance I’ll keep anonymous who said “Paula deserves diabetes for giving every one of her fans diabetes.” [WHOA! Really? Someone deserves diabetes?]
The next tweet was from a local foodie acquaintance who said “The Joe Beef Double Down can’t be a real thing. Bacon, mayo, cheese btwn 2 battered & deep fried foie gras slices, drizzled with maple syrup.”
Now it is possible that because Joe Beef is not battling a public outing as a diabetes patient, he wasn’t criticized for even suggesting such a thing, let alone serving it as his restaurant and possibly publicizing it in his new cookbook that lotsa foodies are all agog over online. Or is something else at stake?
I mean, many of the famous foodie folks and they’re a touch on the overweight side. Emeril Lagasse? fat. Mario Batali? fat. Ina Garten? fat. Alton Brown isn’t fat, but he’s lost weight and he’s had heart trouble. Emeril Lagasse damned near creating Food Network single-handedly with his Bam! and his “more can’t hurt” philosophy. Each one of Mario Batali’s sausages are 30% fat, same as Paula’s. Ina Garten doesn’t shy away from butter use.
But none of them sound Southern. None of them were on welfare as single parents with children. The other guys are a bit snobby for most of the folks living in the diabetes belt. Paula’s not. She’s comforting. She sounds like yer mom, or somebody’s mom. She laughs, she has fun, she uses a lot of butter. But she also creates recipes like this one for White Bean Chili which sound pretty danged tasty and healthy. (And it has been online for more than 2 years, if you’re going to go all “of course she put up healthy recipes now!”)
Every cook on Food Network Television has made a ton of unhealthy dishes and made them look great and appetizing. But Paula’s son joked about how she ate “deep-fried butter” so a fan created a recipe for it and came on the show to help her make it for a special episode. And foodies freaked out. Since then, Paula has become the queen of food that is really, really bad for you, the Queen of Deep-Fried Butter.
But is it her food we dislike so much? Is it her tendency to take tons of “bad for you food” and make it on our TV? If so, then why aren’t we up in arms about Mario Batali’s Mozzarela Carozza? Is it because we know what “deep fried butter” is, but Mario’s recipe sounds fancy. Know what it is? 1/2 pound of fresh cheese put between 2 slices of Wonder bread and pan-fried in butter. Or is it because Mario didn’t have to get famous by becoming a joke of himself? Is it because we couldn’t dare to take Paula seriously as a cook, so she took the road to success that let her raise her kids and pay her bills, and turned herself into a joke at her own expense?
I find it hard to believe that if Mario Batali told the world he was diabetic that the reaction would be the same. No one would say he was a fat cow who deserved diabetes because he gave others diabetes. But Paula, being female, Southern, and of a different “class” (even though she’s rich now, she’s still no Ina Garten, right?) she’s treated differently. I think all of these factors weigh into the public approach to her diagnosis.
I’m glad she’s talking about it publicly 3 years after she found out. I am glad she had time to deal privately with this. I’m glad that she is finally talking about. Because I’m hopeful that others will hear her symptoms, they’ll see themselves in her, and they’ll get treatment of their own illness. They may even end up taking the same medicine she does to regulate their illness, just like she does. And in the end, more people are likely to get treatment, to begin getting well (or at least better, because no one gets over diabetes), to begin understanding their bodies better. If this public announcement had happened right after she found out, I’m not sure she’d have the ability to be the voice of her people now. I think we should be proud of her now. Reading her brief letter to her fans about facing diabetes head-on is nice. But I disobeyed my general rule of not reading comments and read some of hers on this post. The commiseration of people who see themselves reflected in her is uplifting and fulfilling. And that is what Paula’s message has always been for those who watched her show and saw their mother in her smile.
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