On June 4th, TCDSA members proposed a change to the Chapter Bylaws regarding who may hold the co-chairs positions. The language changes from requiring no two people to be of the same gender identity, to instead specifically stating that no more than one co-chair may be a cisgender male. Much of the goal in this I can agree upon: increasing leadership opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups being a key one. However, this amendment gets to positive changes through negative changes, and comes with plenty of unintentional consequences.
- Antithesis to the purpose of co-chairs: The key reason to having two co-chairs is to ensure a diversity of representatives speaking on behalf of the membership body. Changing the bylaws to allow various groups to occupy both seats while calling out one specific group as prohibited does not ensure that diversity of representation.
- Using negative, punitive language: I understand to some it doesn’t sound lile a big deal to use negative language, but bylaws for an organization like TCDSA should promote positive ideals instead of punishing the members of a group for historical wrongs.
- The language presents identifying as cisgender male a liability or a negative. Expanding on item 2, the unintended consequence of the language of this amendment is that it sends a message that being a cisgendered male is bad, or a liability. It presents that gender identity in a negative light. Ultimately it suggests that cisgendered males are not overly welcome in the organization as they are the only gender identity singled out with in the bylaws.
- Creates a disturbing precedence. I think I can say without any disagreement that if the wording of this amendment focused on any other gender identity, the membership would flip out. We would find the language incredibly demeaning, divisive, and completely against our worldview. We should never allow ourselves to take action against one group that we wouldn’t allow if the roles were reversed. Affirmative action and other tactics are tools in a tool box meant to advance under-represented groups, and must always be done in a manner of positively uplifting versus negatively impacting. If we are to envision a society in which people are equal, then we have to act like it as much as possible. By calling out a specific group in a negative light we move away from that ideal and show that it is okay to discriminate, provided it is a group that is commonly seen as an acceptable rhetorical punching bag.
The issues with the proposed amendment are fairly easy to resolve while still preserving the goals that were intended.
- Creating two assistant co-chair position to increase leadership development opportunities and allowing for mentoring.
- Requiring no two identical gender identities from holding both co-chairs or assistant co-chairs roles.
- Allowing exemptions for non-gender related diversity considerations, such as race, ethnicity, ability, or orientation provided a motion for exemptions carries a supermajority of the quorum (60%). This means you can have two cisgender women if an exemption is requested and granted for a non-gender diversity consideration.
Yes I understand the revised version would need to be significantly longer. However in avoiding over simplifying it and using positive, uplifting language that supports promoting diversity rather than language that is unnecessarily punitive and divisive, we can achieve the same goals and even better goals. We either avoid potentially alienating cisgendered males who lately have been the progressive world’s rhetorical punching bag, consistently responsible for all of the world’s ills. Many of us already acknowledged our identities role in World situations and lack of diversity from a historical perspective. It makes no sense to alienate people working for that better future by putting their identity in a negative light.
UPDATE: I had temporarily removed this post due to some spelling issues and featured image issues that occurred due to using the WordPress app for Android.
I would also like to address some concerns of individuals who have spoken to me about this amendment directly.
- In neither the original or updated version, I had never indicated or illuded to two people of the same gender identity having “the same opinions”. Such a notion would be ludicrous to begin with. However, it is worth noting that our identities do shape the lenses in which we view the world, and many of those identities have experiences that cannot be experienced by anyone else: we can empathize but we cannot sympathize. A man will never experience the pervasive sexism, catcalling, sexual violence, or politicians attempting to restrict their freedom of access to medical care as women do. A white man will never know what it is like to be stopped ‘driving while black’. An individual without a disability will never know what it is like to have people treat their blindness or deafness as if they were also without the ability to think for themselves. Diversity of people means a diversity of experience, of world lenses, and points-of-view.
- I would also object to any group-specific negative language, including that of race, etc. Again as stated in the original post, the language should be positive-oriented and supporting an egalitarian future through utilizing the tools necessary to achieve equality (I’ve spoken on this issue in previous posts, here and here). As socialists, we should be working toward a future of equality, and not setting a precedent that targeting a group, regardless of the ends, is an acceptable practice. Comrades, the ends do not justify the means. We have to be our better selves in order to build the world in which we envision.