Worse yet, IMHO, they are hardly the only ones who forget. Many never have actually seen the worth of women to begin with — a truth being perversely celebrated by the gender devolution occurring before our very eyes. The destruction of much of the progress made and tried in the past, and something that women neither men or women, nor boys or girls ought sit by quietly and accept. My advice is that we ally once again and be heard about the value of gender at work yet again.
The culture is being MANipulated, emphasis on the MAN parts, and that means the time is right to reconstitute efforts to right such wrongs once more. A “short” story, if I might, with a caveat. This presentation is from my perspective and thus subject to lots of bias and much narrow vision. Still, it is what some good men saw and did.
Some years ago, I was hired to be the first executive director for a small NGO located in the San Francisco area called the Oakland Men’s Project (OMP). The mission of the agency was essentially to teach men and boys how to be allies to women and girls in the struggle to overcome gender and racial injustices. The common denominator to the “isms” is power, particularly with regards to who has it and who doesn’t. Having it gives one side access to the ways and means of abuse, exploitation and devaluation against those who don’t.
It was a challenging job for me. I came from a grants and contracts role and from rather vocal efforts at advocacy and troublemaking. But it was a fascinating offer. I soon discovered, however, that funders weren’t so gungho about offering resources for the betterment of men. Which presented an issue. I barely had funding for payroll on the day I walked in the door. Not only that, this was in or around the year 1992, before the time when online types of crowdfunding were doable for a techno-deficient team.
Still, we tried, and were extravagantly excited when we were approached by the staff of Ms. Magazine and Ms. Foundation, aka the shining stars enterprises of Gloria Steinem, et al. (likely through OMP board member Robert Allen, a noted racial academician). It turned out that they were starting a national initiative to draw attention to the economic plight of women and girls. The objective of what was then called the Take Your Daughters To Work Day was to bring attention to the role of workplace gender devaluation in the spaces where it occurred. In spending the day on the job with mothers, grandmothers, sisters, or other female role models, younger girls could see an affirmation of the very worth discussed in the Anonymous poem.
[For an overview, see Wikipedia pages for a somewhat official description. Notice, however, that these pages do a poor job of reflecting the role of OMP and the early efforts to incorporate boys and men as allies. These records suggest is was a secondary take, which is not true, as discussed below. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Our_Daughters_and_Sons_to_Work_Day ]
What is often forgotten about this initiative, however, was the role of OMP and our staff. The Men’s Project used its facilitation and educational talents to turn our published and new tools (authored mostly by Paul Kivel and Allan Creighton) towards the other side of the proposed day’s agenda. While women and girls were communing on the job, the men and boys were to be elsewhere huddling in a supportive setting where they could learn why it was important for women and girls to have a day to themselves. Power has a way of infecting the air of every room and location, and men … well … do something to the air they displace; even to working air.
From the beginning, there were disputes about the Daughters Day design. In a nutshell, the most vocal voices of opposition (primarily once it became evident that the effort was going to be successful) were those of men who saw it as a case of “reverse discrimination,” of sexism in the other direction. It became very evident then, as is all the more true now that our society seems to be leaping and bounding backwards, that advocates for the interest group that is male oriented (in the company of high-priced lawyers) fear the notion of publicly pushed equality. They are more than willing to forcibly reconstitute the definition of sexism as an excuse for not passing on their power even for the day to those who might undertake the job of remaking it into an empowering force.
This being said, the initial year was a great unfolding. There are lots of interesting stories about it still worth sharing. A recent recollection of some of them can be seen here. Another year is coming in April 2018.
As regarding the operational details — more along the line of what I was involved with — the sights were not all so pretty. The pressure to fix the issue of boys and men being “excluded” was enormous. Corporations confronted the Ms’es (magazine and foundation), Gloria Steinem, and levels of supporters. They directly lambasted and browbeat us. In the end, I had to turn away corporate checks that would have paid the payrolls I was charged to work about — payrolls that allowed us to develop incredible anti-violence initiatives in Washington DC, Oakland, and across the nation.
During a moment of weakness of sorts — I still agree with my intentions — I went against the better advice of agency and program leaders and penned a letter suggesting a shift in the title of the campaign to Take Your Daughters To Work, Bring Your Sons Home. I was making the case that this might settle disputes and refocus attention on the fact that men and boys were an intimate part of the activism. Not only that, I argued, the lack of worth appreciated towards homemakers could be challenged too, only in this way using men and boys as the avenue of progress. I thought it still kept women and girls and their roles and value out front. I didn’t believe it would detract from the original intentions of the organizers.
The event was massively successful. Since it’s inception, the records suggest over 40 million people have participated. Not bad on any scale. However, it needs to be noted that the event changed its name at some point wherein its glory was fading. It is now called the Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work, where April 2018 is the target for visibility — the perfect time, it seems to me, to give the original intention of the effort a new burst of alliance-building energy.
When I see thoughts like this poem expressed in today’s disheartening environment, I contemplate whether it might be worth it to re-empower basic Take Your Daughters intentions. Version 2.0 (or 3.0 counting the son addition) could make use of more modern organizing, noise-making, and storytelling tactics to create a movement that makes visible a better workplace. Gender worries and inequalities are going to become even more the center of attention in the universe of techno connectivity, and since we’ve learned something from the past, it might be worth getting ready ahead of the next set of storms.
The workplace of the future is taking shape. No reason it should do so without going through the steps of gender improvement. I’m one who believes disruptive efforts might be a good bet and one that would set a magnificent example of cashing in on the worth of women.
Look Back. @2017