The idea that someone is using this this blog as a guide for developing safe space policies:
This blog is a blog. That means it’s all my own, personal opinion. I’m just speculating here.
Don’t be a lazy arse. Get your shit to someone who knows what they’re talking about, and develop some solid policy and some well-planned strategies.
Note: sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination, which means that it is against the law in Australia.
So that time your teaching partner felt up your arse in class? Broke the law. That time your teacher ogled your body and made a suggestive comment after class? Broke the law.
So you have legal responsibilities, peeps.
There have been various discussions on Jive Junction about who should do what, and what role organisers (of weekend events or of regular classes and venues) should play in preventing sexual harassment and assault. I have a vested interest in figuring this stuff out, as a business woman in the scene, but also as a human being in the scene.
Who’s responsible for what?
I’m going to respond to a few issues raised by the Yehoodi Event organisers forum, but only a few. This forum unfortunately reinforces very traditional ideas of power and responsibility in the lindy hop world, ideas that have ultimately resulted in misuse of power, and in powerlessness. But I don’t have time to engage with those broader issues here. Instead, let me comment directly on a couple of things, as they relate to the responsibilities of businesses in the lindy hop world, and to sexual harassment.
I found this Yehoodi forum in turn exciting and enraging. People said things that I wanted to shout at them for, and people said things that I wanted to send them fan mail for. I’m finding this whole issue immensely unsettling and upsetting. Partly because I’m a woman, and most of the discussion is reminding me of the bullshit that happens to me every day, as a woman in a patriarchal culture. Fuck. I am taking this personally, because it is personal.
Here is my opinion RE ‘scene leaders’ and who should do what.
1. If you are running a business (in Australia) you have a legal obligation to your employees, at least, to actively prevent sexual harassment.
2. Not all ‘scene leaders’ are business owners, nor are all business owners ‘scene leaders’. The two should not necessarily be conflated. Scott Cupit uses the expression ‘scene leader’ rather than business owner and employer. I think this is seriously misleading, because it confuses the legal responsibilities of people who run dance schools or dance events.
You may be a ‘scene leader’, but run no businesses; you might commit your energy to… I dunno. Being a very good competitor or teacher. But be an employee rather than an employer.
Can you operate a business in the lindy hop world and not be a ‘scene leader’ (god I hate that expression)? Hmmm. I think so.
I do not like the way ‘leadership’ is equated to economic power.
3. You may be an important person in your scene but focus your effort on things like good working conditions for volunteers, taking care of children at events, or making friends with musicians. You can be a ‘scene leader’ without being a business owner or institutionally powerful person.
This is important, because of the way labour and economic power work in the lindy hop and broader world. Women are over-represented in unpaid labour in lindy hop. Women earn less than men in the broader community. It is a fact that patriarchy is based on the greater economic power of men. So if we determine ‘scene leaders’ by their economic power, we are doing bad gender work. We are privileging men, and disadvantaging women. You can see where this goes, when we then talk about ‘scene leaders” responsibility in issues of sexual harassment and gender. In the clumsiest terms, women become the victims, men become the saviours. As a woman, I say no no no no NO, I am NOT happy with that!
So let’s not just look to business owners in lindy hop when we’re looking for leadership, or for responsibility.
4. A business does not necessarily equate to ‘community’. Again, Cupit conflates his business (Swing Patrol London) with the whole London swing dance community. This is not something I’d do, because a) weirdo power stuff there; b) I’m not responsible for everything that happens in my local dance community. Legally or personally, c), London (and Sydney) are far bigger than my projects, which is good because DIVERSITY, and d) It’s important to distribute power more evenly throughout a community, if that community is to be healthy and prevent sexual harassment.
It’s important to make that distinction as a business owner and employer, but also in terms of community power and activism. If you are the ‘scene leader’ of ‘your community’, then you take power away from the other people in that local scene.
Part of this whole discussion relies on the importance of undoing systems of power and exploitation. So get undoing, and set aside that idea that you are ‘the’ scene leader, or even ‘a’ scene leader. You are a person in a community, working with other people.
I’d sum up my comments on that Yehoodi panel by saying that I think Michael Gamble is doing and saying some very interesting things. Lindy Focus may include things like this which scare the pants off me, but in this Yehoodi discussion, Gamble is bringing the goods.
So, anyway, if you want to actually build good policy, use good resources.
Here are some actually informed and knowledgeable resources you could use. They are all Australian, because that is where I am:
- The Australian Human Right Commission have some resources to help you understand what sexual harassment is. I recommend clicking around, and finding all the useful guides to identifying, responding to, and preventing sexual harassment. The bits on s.h. in the workplace and in education are most relevant to our discussions in lindy hop.
- Do a search on your local workcover website (I use http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/ because I’m in NSW) for resources on sexual harassment and workplace bullying. Note: if you are hiring teachers, DJs, bands, etc, you have certain legal responsibilities to provide your workers with a safe environment.
- Sexual harassment in the workplaces is the no.1 cause of complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Board NSW (reference here. So addressing this issue is one of your MOST important responsibilities as an employer.
- A decent research project looking at media coverage of sexual harassment in Australia http://www.sexualharassmentinaustralia.org/
- The Gov of Sth Australia’s Dept of Education and Children’s Services Sexual Harassment policy
- The NSW govt’s Resource page for survivors of sexual assault (adult and child)
- Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia have a simple page explaining what sexual harassment is, and what to do about it.
- Sexual harassment as an OH&S issue.