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Y'all can I discuss a #microaggression that occurred last week at an #AWP19 after-party? Because, as I told my co-workers this morning, it is indicative of a continual issue in forward momentum in the industry and in the country.
I also want to note that I was not the only person to witness this event. Another women of color and a friend who identifies as nonbinary and is queer (white) were also right there to witness this.
For those who saw me on Thursday I was wearing the #AccessIsLove t-shirt that @SFdirewolf discussed online. I would highly suggest folks buy one as it's super comfy and really great quality: teespring.com/stores/access-…
My friend and I go to this after-party. I see #CoolPeeps and a slightly older white cis man, approaches us offering drink tickets. But, the *first* thing he says to me after offering a drink ticket is: What is that shirt? I don't know what that means.
No introduction. And it's not a question borne of curiosity so much as a question of "Why would you even wear that?" And he continues after I explain that, as an abled person, I'm wearing this shirt in solidarity with the need/call for more Access. Welp, he has OPINIONS.
So he goes on. "I don't like this. This is bad branding. Someone like me doesn't understand this." Essentially saying this shirt needs to cater to HIS needs. And he's adamant. When I say I didn't make the shirt and that what he's saying is ableist he asks me to explain ableism.
When I do to the best of my ability he digs in his heels. He doesn't like the shirt. His job, as a literary agent, is branding. He's from DC so "Access is Love" can mean *anything* so why not target it more. Mind you the rest of us are visibly uncomfortable/aggravated.
I push back saying that maybe this shirt isn't FOR him. And he says, "Well I don't think that's fair." I take a moment to check my privilege and say, "You know what, you're right. I don't know that you're not disabled. So that's my bad." He pauses but not for long.
And he goes back to the "bad branding" of the t-shirt. And it seems that *he's* now uncomfortable because he's being perceived a certain way. My white friend asks him, "So what do you want it to say?" Me and the other WOC glance at her all...
Because NOW he has *permission* to go in even more! Mind you, this encounter lasted a few minutes and felt like a lifetime and left a sour taste in our mouths. My white friend said he mumbled to them "Now I feel like a d***" but even after saying that he kept pushing his views.
And so he feels comfortable with a white person to say this even though he's being aggressive towards me, a Black woman, and another WOC in this space. The WOC says "I got what the t-shirt means as it seems to extend to ALL marginalized people." But he doesn't agree!
In the end, another friend comes by and thankfully our attention goes to her and he fades away. I overhear his name and that he owns/runs the lit agency co-sponsoring the event we're at. And there goes those power dynamics because he has carte blanche to act HOWEVER he likes.
Now, in regards to the overall event there's SO much to unpack here as to how it could've gone and how it spiraled and how folks tripped up. Myself included. And I do NOT know that he is not disabled. The discourse between us leads me to know, regardless, he's highly unaware.
So (a) he should not have approached us that way. And perhaps he felt he could because he's the co-sponsor, he's a white cis man, he's him. I dunno. But the immediate dynamics of him being a white man, business owner and me being a PoC guest already puts him at an advantage.
(b) He never even introduced himself to US before going in on my t-shirt. And he should have asked "Oh, I don't quite get what Access is love means." or "Oh interesting shirt. I'm not familiar with the term. What does it mean?" That encourages a discussion.
(c) When I clearly said: "I bought this t-shirt to support disabled voices because Access is love is about wide accessibility." He should have listened and left it at that instead of pushing his point home and aggressively doing so.
(d) My friend who is marginalized and white should not have opened the door for him to ask his opinion when they saw we were uncomfortable. My friend and I discussed this afterward and they admitted they're used to wanting to make men feel more comfortable and they erred.
(d cont'd) And they said they HATE disagreements or any friction so it seemed easier to try and sway him even though he was the aggressor. Understandable. What I have learned (thus far) is when there's an aggressor one of the best things to do is gain distance.
(e) Again, do not know that he is/is not disabled and I should NEVER make this assumption as an abled person. So I should not have said what I said about the shirt not being for him and I made sure to say as much, BUT it was with some attitude.
(f) Read body language. Pause. LISTEN! If you have opinions listen before sharing them. If you don't KNOW someone do not inflict your opinions & say that this is your job/you know BRANDING, yet convey in the same breath you don't even know the roots of where this term comes from
This is not my first NOR will it be the last time I deal with #microaggressions. Be it in this industry or in my everyday life. But this stood out because while we were in what so many keep proclaiming is a WHITE state, this man is not from Portland. He's from the Northeast too.
This is someone in publishing who visibly made three marginalized people uncomfortable and never even asked our names nor shared his. This is someone in an industry touting a desire to be inclusive. Imagine if I worked in his office if this is how I'm treated at a party.
This is becoming an essay level thread so I'll stop there. But just saying these things that seem minor have impact and showcase power ALWAYS. Don't think a small gesture doesn't say a whole lot about your beliefs about who you are and what you think you're owed.
*woman of color
Correction: *Me and the other WOC glance at them like...
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