Anti-Oppression & Liberatory Practice
Gender and inclusion in DEI
IOW what do I mean when I say woman?
Gender is no less a DEI issue than any other.
In previous iterations of my work I have used gender-related terms that I have been told were harmful, and did not serve the intention of inclusion.
After reflecting on the feedback I was given, it became clear to me that as a cisgender woman, I can’t hold myself out as qualified to facilitate “safe” space for anyone who is not a cisgender woman.
Therefore, I am using the term woman (at least for now) in my marketing language, by which I mean people who have lived experience of misogyny.
I haven't got my gender politics down, just like I haven't mastered my internalized White supremacy.
All I can say is I don’t want to “be right.” Rather, I’m committed to “getting it right," as Brené Brown says, by receiving feedback, taking responsibility and repairing harm.
DEI, anti-oppression and liberatory practice in my work
To me, DEI is more than just words. In my experience as an activist, I observed that we were often involved in projects with intended liberatory outcomes, but our internal processes--as groups, communities or movements--for achieving those outcomes reproduced the systems of oppression we were attempting to address. We were aiming for a liberatory "product," so to speak, but without liberatory process.
Liberation, or justice, is what I hope to bring to every relationship, both personal and in business. Part of liberatory process is acknowledging how privilege and oppression show up in my life and work (immediately below). Another part is being transparent about my values (below). And another is to be clear about what my commitment to liberatory process means in practice (see the very top of this page).
I am an uninvited guest on the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Anishnabek that was stolen under the Crawford Purchase of 1783, and on which settler colonialism is still ongoing. In acknowledging the land as part of my DEI work, I am responding to the calls to action of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For more information, please see the land acknowledgement below.
I am Jewish, and a W/white settler on the land colonially known as Canada. I have W/white privilege because I “look W/white.” I have gender privilege because I am cisgender and conforming (femme) in my gender expression. I also benefit from class, educational, language (English is my first language), heterosexual (because, although bisexual, I’m partnered with a man) and socio-economic privileges. In addition, I am old, small fat, bisexual and chronically ill.
I've been an activist and involved in anti-racism work all my adult life. I have espoused and am trained in principled (Kingian) nonviolence, and have been an anarchist most of my adult life. Anarchism to me means mutual aid, free association, anti-authoritarianism, freedom and self-governance. Feminisms, anti-oppression (including anti-Zionism) and anti-capitalism (among other things) are implicit in these principles. (Are you an anarchist? The answer might surprise you.)
The first step on my official DEI journey of dismantling White supremacy began in 2020: acknowledging my W/white privilege.
I learned I had been using my Jewishness as a cover for my W/whiteness. In the past I had let myself off the hook intellectually, because prioritizing my Jewish identity over my W/whiteness and W/white privilege allowed me to believe, “I’m W/white, but not like those W/white people.”
Next, I learned a lesson about centring W/whiteness and myself:
Didi Delgado said anti-racism work is not about the individual.
"Anti-racism work isn't about changing the minds of racists. It's about changing the environments that allow them to practice their racism freely."
Currently, in my DEI work my focus is on
a) as a Canadian, responding to the calls to action, from Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for reconciliation with the original peoples of Turtle Island (colonially known as Canada)
b) challenging and dismantling White supremacy in the environments in which I have influence. (Part of this involves grappling with the fact that I’m a direct descendant of Mayflower “Pilgrims.” I used to be proud of that Mayflower heritage. Now I’m asking what it calls me to today.)
c) active engagement in revitalizing the Bund, an anti-Zionist, secular Jewish socialist organization that focuses on doikayt (lit. hereness, meaning working for social justice on a local level, particularly with and for the working class), Yiddishkeit (lit. Jewishness) and chavershaft (lit. comradeliness, which I interpret to mean open-mindedness to one another and mutual support).
I am an uninvited guest on what has been for 10,000 years, and still is, the traditional home of the Anishnabek, Huron-Wendat, W̱SÁNEĆ, Oneida and Haudenosaunee peoples. The settler colonial project is ongoing to this day, and its harms are fresh and ongoing (not a "dark chapter in Canada's history," as some would have it.)
This land and its peoples, like all of Turtle Island (colonially known as Canada) are to this day harmed under the ongoing project of settler colonialism of which I am a part.
I am grateful to the ancestors and those who care for the land and water today, and to the land that nourishes me and my work.
I am a direct descendant of the White settler colonialists and literal Pilgrims, Mary Warren (from Great Amwell, Hertfordshire) and Robert Bartlett (from Dorset, England). They arrived in the land of the Pauquunaukit (so-called Plymouth Colony in what is colonially known as Massachusetts) on one of Mayflower ships (the Anne), in1623.
The land on which I now live is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation. It was stolen under the Crawford’s Purchase of 1783.*
Before settlers arrived, this territory was subject to the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Nations to peaceably share and care for resources.
My understanding of the purpose of land acknowledgements and of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is that I am called to learn, have conversations about what I learn, make reparations and live in relationship with the land and its original peoples.
This land acknowledgement is fulfilling a part of my responsibility to learn, and have conversations about what I learn.
It also is your call to learn, have conversations, make reparations, and live in relationship with the land and its original peoples.
For learning, I am reading Unsettling the Settler Within by Paulette Regan. For reparations, I am making monthly to donations the Minwaashin Lodge, Legacy of Hope Foundation, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and others. I am still working on learning what it means to live in relationship with the land and its original peoples.
*Crawford Purchase (1783): This land was stolen. The British government did not fulfill its contractual obligations under the terms of the purchase. Thus the agreement is nullified. The land was therefore stolen through deceit.
The British government used the Crawford Purchase as a tool of oppression and colonization. Treaties were not seen by colonizers as nation-to-nation agreements–-although they led the signing nations to believe this was the case-–but as bringing the signatory nations under the jurisdiction of European laws. It was then claimed that the signatories were subject to these laws. Thus sovereign Indigenous peoples became subjects (not citizens), and European law was used to deny them their territory, their traditional ways, and even the benefits promised in the treaty itself. Crawford Purchase was the first of many treaties thus used. The land on which I live and work is stolen land.
I prefer the term JEDI to DEI, because for me, justice is the ultimate purpose. I also prefer belonging over inclusion, because belonging has to do with the experience of the person on the other end of an initiative I take. If they don't have a sense of belonging, it doesn't matter what I'm doing to include them.
Using the processes from Nicole Cardoza’s Anti-Racism Daily resource (Re)commit to your role, I identified the following.
I have influence with friends and family, in communities I “lead," with clients, and in communities of which I’m a member.
Within these areas of influence, my role is:
My growth areas are:
The primary value from which all others flow is love.
Love, both fierce and tender, is a powerful force for change.
I see what I call secondary values as expansions of the principal value of love.
(also known as love)
I aim for my thoughts, words and deeds to be fiercely oriented toward integrating truth, love and courage in action to preserve what serves life and challenge what doesn’t.
“Nonviolence is a way of being and living that orients, in thought, word and deed, towards integrating love, truth, and courage in individual and collective action that is aimed at preserving what serves life and challenging what doesn’t to transform itself so the human family can realign with life.
Even in extreme circumstances, responding nonviolently emerges from inner resolve, systemic and historical awareness, and a vision of a future Beloved Community within the family of life. In practice, such responses rest on the commitment to transmute reaction into the willingness to include all of life in our circle of care; to uncover and speak the fullness of what we witness; to take action based on our vision and values, ranging from dialogue to civil disobedience; and to face the consequences of our choices and engage with impacts on ourselves, others, and life as a whole.” Miki Kashtan
In my life and work, I aim to embody and practice fierce and radical compassion.
“Every action is an attempt to meet a universal human need.” Marshall Rosenberg
“The curious paradox is that, when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers
“Every bad feeling is potential energy toward a more right way of being if you give it space to move toward its rightness.” Gene Gendlin
In my life and work I am aiming for liberation for all from all oppression.
Liberatory process is required for liberatory outcomes.
I am doing what I know how to resist and dismantle oppressive systems that perpetuate harms due to privilege(s), White supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, transphobia, sexism, age-ism, fat phobia and any other -ism/-phobia, and to engage in new, liberatory ways of being.
I am willing to be called into dialogue about harms I have caused and how I can repair them and restore relationship.
In my work and life, I aim to care for all resources (emotional, physical, communal, social, animal, plant, ecosystems, etc.) so that they can be an enduring foundation for my work. I aim to create conditions in my life, in the lives of my clients, and in the world that allow us all to flourish. I have changed this from sustainability because sustain means status quo to me. Rather than simply sustain and not deplete things, I want to create conditions for flourishing.
In my life and work, I aim to walk my talk. I aim to demonstrate my values in thought, word and deed toward myself and others, when it is visible and when it is invisible. I also mean this in the Rogerian sense, in that I aim to be appropriately transparent. Transparent meaning that my outsides match my insides, and I’m clear about it, and appropriately meaning that I share about this congruence in alignment with the relational process in which I’m engaged at any moment.
I am willing to be called into dialogue and accountability when my words and actions appear to be incongruent.