Saturday, August 10, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: Cat Fights and Feminism

Feminism is important for many, many reasons and this blog only touches on one of them.  I recently about someone I know being fired from her job.  While I don't take joy in someone else's misfortune, in this instance it was very personal to me.  

Two years ago I had the misfortune to get involved in a toxic situation with a start-up nonprofit.  The person leading the group had some serious shortcomings - immaturity, despite her 40+ years; lack of fiscal responsibility; inability to effectively organize and produce quality work; insufficient understanding of corporate organization; inexperience in a management role; and a disastrous personal life.  Several women who were involved in this organization as volunteers were also friends of mine.  We all concluded that having this person in a leadership role was dangerous.  We spoke up at meetings.  We met with her supervisor.  As a result, we were treated as pariahs.  The reason?  We were women.  The unspoken consensus was that it was a "cat fight."  I felt like I was in a no-win situation.  I knew that if I continued to work with the group my health would suffer, I wouldn't accomplish what needed to be accomplished, and my reputation would be damaged.  On the other hand, if I resigned it would be perceived as my throwing a tantrum because I didn't get my way.  I didn't see a clear way out of it.  

One of the few men actively involved with the group was on a committee with two of us.  He was a professional and he also recognized the problems.   Out of frustration, he emailed his resignation to our committee and to the leaders involved in this fiasco.  The only male leader emailed back saying he understood, etc., etc.  He wrote that "the work you have extraordinary."  And I saw my way out.  I, too, emailed my resignation.  I think I was gracious in it, explaining how I was asked to be on the committee because of my professional background and that, now that we had completed the project, they no longer needed my services.  But the response I received was vastly different.  I was told that "Organization and systems building does not happen without bumps, disagreements, and tough work. And it never happens through resignation."  He chastised me like a child.  No thanks for the many hours of work I put in.  A large chunk of the "extraordinary" work done by my co-worker was essentially done by me because I was the only one on the committee who fully understood the issue.  But I was not thanked.  The very same work my associate was thanked for was what I had been demonized over. 

Fast forward two years.  The rumor mill tells me that the woman in charge has been fired because she used extremely poor judgment related to her job and put it on facebook!  This was typical behavior for her.  We had tried to warn everyone, but because we were women, they discounted it.  Now the good work that we were supposed to do has failed.  Our community will not receive a vital service because it has been thrice burned (another story).   I don't see the issue getting any support in the near - or even distant - future.  This story could have turned out better.  But we were women and, because we disagreed, we were marginalized.  

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