Harassment, Safety and Respect
The issue of taking direct action against
sexual harassment should not be viewed with suspicion, bemusement,
or even quiet resentment - the individuals who have been subjected
to it deserve more consideration and respect.
This is not an instance of nagging bitches trying
to stir up trouble or unnecessary conflict. On the contrary, discussing
how to resolve the problem of harassment is an opportunity to educate
and empower the individual members of Food Not Bombs. Some may feel
that associating this discussion with "women's issues" is
counterproductive, as this connection may prove to be an exclusionary
act. No one is stating that men are exempt from harassment - the policies
established by Food Not Bombs to combat harassment will be applicable
to all members, regardless of gender.
However, it cannot be overlooked that women are
more susceptible to attacks of this nature - we are confronted with
it whenever we walk down the streets, whenever we turn on the television,
whenever we examine our societal status.
So why is it that, when we attempt to draw attention
to this fact, our voices are drowned out and our experiences minimized?
Why does the responsibility fall on our shoulders to prove that we're
not Iying or overreacting? What exactly is so threatening about resolving
a problem that can be defined as a "women's issue?"
If any individual believes that she is being
harassed or violated, that individual has the right to address this
problem to the larger group so that immediate action can be taken.
Every member of Food Not Bombs has the right to feel safe and supported
while working with others. Measures need to be taken so that each
individual in question does not have to alter his/her behavior in
order to feel comfortable. Rather, the problematic personality should
be made to undergo behavior modification.
This involves being informed of inappropriate
conduct, not being allowed to work with the individual who has been
harassed, and being made aware that Food Not Bombs (as a collective
organization) will not tolerate such aggressive and potentially destructive
behavior. Emphasis needs to be placed on the problematic personality
and that person's willingness to cooperate with Food Not Bombs as
a whole. Any individual who repeatedly harasses others should be asked
to leave the organization or to work only with members who do not
feel threatened by that individual's presence."
-East Bay FNB Women's Group, 1992
We would like to think that there isn't sexism, harassment
and other such bullshit going on in a community of people fighting for
radical social change.
Wrong, of course. The societal baggage everyone carries
almost always manifests itself in one way or another, whether overtly
or otherwise. Oftentimes the people that think they're the most "radical"
are the ones that have so internalized sexist/racist/homophobic behavior
that they can speak in revolutionary terms, but rarely act so.
We try to educate each other as we go along in our work,
calling people on their shit and helping each other evolve.
Also, each one of us has to be willing to hear others
when they speak up about something we did or said, even if it's uncomfortable
and we disagree.
Sometimes a line has to be drawn. You've got to figure
out where to draw it as a collective.
Dealing with Sexual Harassment
These are some suggested guidelines on dealing with
1. Guidelines apply to both the men and women of Food
2. Guidelines come into play when all communication has failed or harassee
feels too threatened to communicate to the person doing the harassing.
3. Person comes forward with complaint to the group.
4. Person need not explain details to the larger group (her/his privacy
5. Person bringing the complaint will choose two (2) or more willing individuals
to represent her/his needs.
6. Willing individuals will speak to harasser before next meeting.
7. If warranted, harassee may request not to work with harasser, leaving
the harassee free to work when she pleases. Consequently, harasser loses
some of her/his privileges.
8. If harasser does not change her/his negative behavior and extreme circumstances
are present, the harassee has the right to ask that the harasser not be
present at meetings.
9. AII of the harasser's requests will be discussed in the larger group
to ensure that harassee's requests are warranted and to ensure that prejudice
does not occur against said harasser.
10. AII complaints, individuals and situations are unique, and will be