After the Women’s March: How businesses should & can get political

It’s time for businesses to get political.

It’s intimidating, we know. When your business supports your family, you don’t want to offend any potential client or customer. Taking care of the planet and our own communities is important, but our first responsibilities are to ourselves and our children, after all. You cannot give what you don’t have.

But, 1. you don’t need to have everything in order before you can give something, and 2. hopefully, you don’t live in a disproportionately liberal or conservative community such that making your politics known could cause you to lose most of your clientele. The idea of getting political where it matters is that any customers you lose, you can gain back by attracting more of your natural tribe to you. It’s like niche marketing. The reality is that if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’re already not overly appealing to anyone.

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You need to find your tribe. How? You get on social media and search hashtags relevant to your cause and you visit the social media pages of local businesses and engage with them. Talk to friends, and ask around to find out where your community is at when it comes to climate change and gay and trans rights and race relations. Or maybe your cause is religious freedom. Whatever it is, find your tribe.

If you cannot find them, if they are not saying a peep, build your tribe. Go to local business owners and sniff about to see if they’d want to join you. Be the leader who puts together a community meeting, a campaign, calling likeminded humans together. Because that’s all any of our businesses and companies are: Humans making a living.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-2-36-02-pmscreen-shot-2017-01-22-at-2-38-17-pmSo great to see Discovery Coffee and Empire Donuts, genuinely my favourite coffee place and favourite donuts, being so actively engaged.

Our ability to make a living is under threat by economic havoc, potential war, a climate crisis barrelling down upon us at a rate even the scientists didn’t expect, and just your run-of-the-mill everyday oppression, NBD. If you don’t get on board now to protect others, no one will be able to help your business when your buyers are in crisis.

If this is news to you, or sounds like exaggeration, you aren’t paying close enough attention.

Yesterday was the Women’s March, in response to Trump’s inauguration. More than 670 marches took place around the world. An estimated 4,814,000 people. [Source.] Here in Victoria the expected showing of around 1000 was closer to 8000 people in our small city.

We are not incidental. We are in good company. These are passionate people who believe in supporting the vulnerable among us. They will support your business, if you join their numbers and create a tribe with them. I believe this.

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Photo by @nicolesleeth, just a small portion of the protestors who showed up.

I was one of these protestors, along with my son (Lynne had to stay at home to finish some rush layout work for a client):

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The cheekiness of my sign made me a bit nervous. But as I stood to the side of the crowd, looking for my friends, hundreds of people cheered at my sign, laughed, nodded their heads, winked, smiled, gave me a thumbs up, and took photos. At least 150 people took photos. (There are some seriously awful photos of me out there on Instagram.) Gay people, straight people, people of all colours, young and old. I have a tribe and their warmth and good humour felt like a hug.

Risk Creative is LGBTQ-owned and -operated and we have queer kids. Initially, when we created our website, we vacillated between making it clear that we were a couple vs. being ambiguous. We have four kids; we just want to do good work for good people to support ourselves. Would we be accepted by our clients or potential clients?

Everywhere we turn, we’re faced with political decisions to make. Take for example, something as seemingly simple as stating that we operate out of Victoria. “Victoria” is a white settler name for this area. White settlers who stole land and committed genocide. It’s customary now in Victoria’s political and public settings to acknowledge that we’re gathering on unceded (i.e. stolen) land belonging to the Coast Salish people, yet many businesses don’t acknowledge this on their websites.

So much of being  aware and “woke” is scary. We worry about losing friends, jobs, or clients. That’s normal. It’s okay to be afraid, to not feel ready.

We are asking anyone reading this to take these steps, as you are ready, keeping in mind that we never fully want to leave places where we’re comfortable and feel safe:

1. Learn about why these people marched yesterday. They came for various reasons. They share some common vocabulary. Some words and concepts they use that you may want to Google are:

  • systemic oppression
  • white supremacy
  • transmisogyny
  • misogynoir
  • cisgender
  • microaggressions
  • gender binary
  • white privilege
  • ableism
  • tone policing

2. Watch some documentaries about and made by people of colour, feminists, queer people. Some possibilities are:

3. Or, if you can’t or don’t want to make time for documentaries, there are just a few incredible TED talks and a very useful YouTube video:

4. Do some reading about how language impacts other people and work to change your language. Treat people the way they want to be treated. Use the pronouns they want you to use. Learn about their unique cultures, and their experiences. Believe them when they speak about their experiences with sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination. Realize that we’re all racist and sexist and all kinds of phobic—it’s how we’re raised to be and we internalize it before we even know what it is. So, if someone points out that you’re being racist or sexist, instead of getting defensive, get curious, humble and apologetic. We’re all still learning.

5. Start making changes in how you run your business and engage with the world.

  • Is your web design overly masculine, when your service is meant for everyone?
  • Are you hiring men when you could be hiring women?
  • Are you hiring white people when you could be hiring people of colour?
  • Do you only quote male leaders in your business presentations? Do you only read business books by men? Only listen to podcasts run by men, with male perspectives and male jokes? Whether you’re male or female, this creates deficits in understanding and respect of women. It can trick you into believing gender biases are truth, and that will show up in your behaviour, even you don’t intend it.
  • If you’re a man, do you talk a lot more than the women in the room? Are you aware that it’s a pervasive problem that men talk more in meetings and interrupt more? Here’s a handy tool you can use to keep track in your meetings. (And you can read more about it here and tens of other reputable media sites.)
  • Does your website stock photography only depict white people? White skinny people? Could you show interracial families in your materials, gay families? Are you aware of Getty Images’ Lean In photo collection?
  • Are you a company of white people appropriating black slang, or pieces from other people’s cultures, particularly aspects that are sacred to them like their totem or spirit animals?
  • Are you doing business with a non-white community or company without learning about what symbols mean in their culture, what their customs are, and are you trying to impose your culture’s behaviours and styles upon them?
  • Do you make your place of business accessible to people of different abilities?
  • Are your bathrooms gender neutral so that trans people are not required to out themselves and thus endanger themselves every time they go to the bathroom?
  • Is fat-shaming verboten in your work space?
  • Are you careful to never make comments about another person’s body, about their weight loss or gain?

These are just a handful of ways that we can be more mindful, to show kindness, gentleness, and consideration for other people, because WHY NOT? Particularly if you’re Christian or if your religion upholds values of kindness, love and charity as being central to morality.

But since there’s so much more to do and learn and since we are not the experts, we invite comments from others with more ideas on what needs to change in our companies and work places, and how we can make those changes when we’re afraid of losing the profit we need to take care of our employees and ourselves.

P.S. This is true and so important to absorb and act on. I hope these same activists will show up when Ferguson happens again… and again.

Natasha Clark, Partner at Risk Creative. Republication is welcome only with attribution and a direct link to http://www.riskcreative.com. Thank you in advance for good behaviour. 🙂

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