On International Women's Day I attended a conference organized by, for, and about women in the anti-fraud industry. Earlier this week I almost decided to skip it because it's a busy time for me at work and the event itself was on East Coast time (which means it started in the middle of the night according to my usual sleeping and waking rhythm). I'm glad I got up before dawn to attend virtually from my home office in my pj's, robe, and slippers because it was terrific. Just the wind I needed in my professional sails.
I don't totally identify as a woman, but it is a title I claim because it was assigned to me by society, which means I was also assigned all the baggage that comes with it. I don't need to feel like a woman all the time to have a lifetime of experiences and traumas and frustrations shared with most women in modern society. It was relieving to hear other highly competent humans describe their experience being discounted due to their gender. It's nice to confirm I am not alone.
It was also refreshing to listen to the amazing, accomplished presenters talk about the impact gender has on their investigative work. It's nice to say the quiet parts out loud sometimes. One of the reasons women tend to be such effective investigators is the collection of micro skills we develop in order to survive the patriarchal world. Women are frequently dismissed as non-threatening, and because of our position in society we are well practiced at not asserting that we are "in charge" even when we are the authority. Consequently, an interview subject will tell us just about anything if we play into their bias and act like we just don't understand long enough for them to explain themselves into a guilty corner.
There was a lot of solidarity at that conference. So much that I could feel it coming through the magical internet lines of the virtual stream. The in-person attendees were not on camera so I don't know how they were interacting with each other, but the group chat on the livestream was bursting with shared experience and empathy. Presenters and attendees were more willing to call out injustice in its various forms than I ever see at a co-ed conference. And there was not one single instance of mansplaining. Just a whole day of outstanding professionals sharing their craft and their experience. The way all continuing education should be.
Keynote speaker Kelly Donovan shared her struggle as a whistleblower in the Waterloo Regional Police Service in Ontario, Canada. After calling out corruption and trying to effect change from the inside, she was forced to resign and work on fixing the system as a disgraced outsider. Kelly's story is harrowing and unfortunately typical of most whistleblowers. It is also touched by the impact of her gender. The times she has appeared before a judge who is also a woman have been the most successful for her case. Once the corruption is resolved she will be a hero, but in the meantime she will be dismissed and attacked.
One thing Kelly said about ethics landed with me in a particularly powerful way. She opened her talk describing the current state of corruption and lack of accountability having moved the collective understanding of where the line in the sand is. We've been living with things the way they are for long enough, we have all forgotten it doesn't have to be this way. Kelly closed her talk by saying: if you have to change who you are to fit in to your environment then it's time for an ethical self-check-in. Otherwise you lose sight of where the line in the sand is supposed to be.
If you can't see the line, or if you allow the influence of others to move it when it should stay fixed, then it's pretty hard to recognize when you or anyone else crosses it. This not only applies to corruption in policing and the justice system, it also applies to politics, private sector workplaces, and many other parts of life. The republican party is a prime example of gradually normalizing completely unacceptable behavior to the point of absurdity where politicians just make up their entire resume and face no consequences.
The way we regulate (or don't regulate) speech on the internet is also a chilling example. In 1995 the Communications Decency Act became law and included Section 230 which basically prevented internet platforms from being held liable for the content users post on their site. It also gave the internet platforms the prerogative to regulate speech as they saw fit. Fast forward almost three decades and you get the internet in its present iteration.
Section 230 has been in the spotlight as politicians call for changes and two prominent cases challenging the law were recently presented before the Supreme Court. It makes perfect sense not to blame the YouTubes or Twitters for the many utterances of every human on the internet. But it does not make sense to grant them complete control over what content should be removed to protect and ensure the safety of people using the platform.
In the US we have a right to free speech. It's enshrined in our constitution and it's fundamental to the continued existence of our democracy. But it isn't absolute. We have collectively agreed that one person's right to say whatever they want stops at the point that speech harms someone else. Maybe cops should stop wasting their time hassling people who don't have a place to live and redirect that energy toward removing hate speech from internet forums. It would be the responsible thing to do.
Unfortunately that doesn't seem a likely reapplication of that particular public resource. Especially with examples abound like Portland City Councilor Rene Gonzalez ordering the Street Response team to stop giving out tents to people who need shelter. Gonzalez said he gave the order because of recent tent fires. So instead of doing the work to identify and address the cause of the fires, he made the lives of a bunch of people who are already suffering just that much more miserable.
The same sentiment infuses Britain's brand new approach to immigrants crossing the English Channel in small boats. The current Prime Minister wants to deprive the trafficking gangs of an income stream. So his plan is to deport the people who are desperate enough to risk their lives crossing the Channel in the hopes of asylum. Apparently Britain will take everything from other countries except people in need. The Empire had no qualms colonizing food, fashion, art, ideas, and valuable resources, but it won't absorb the people from those places who need help.
It seems to me that we're all taking responsibility for the wrong things and not taking responsibility for the wrong things. We're failing to take responsibility for each other in the ways that matter and interfering with other people's lives where we have no business meddling. Women are socially conditioned to take responsibility for emotional labor. Men are socially conditioned to take responsibility for denying all their own emotions. Anyone who doesn't fit one of those categories must take responsibility for everyone else's discomfort at their existence.
And it isn't working. We've made tremendous strides in some areas, like technology, but we're squandering our advancements. Capitalism was supposed to give us all 15 hour work weeks and freedom from the constant labor of survival. But all we've done with our outstanding economic progress is allow a small few to hoard the majority of wealth when it could be used instead to feed, house, and heal everyone. We've amassed an incredible amount of collective knowledge, but we haven't made sure everyone can access it.
We have so many healing modalities, and we can address all kinds of suffering, but we continue to traumatize each other again and again in the same ways. I saw a tweet this week that said "how u gonna be on the wrong side of history while it's repeating itself, like bro ur failing an open note test." Thousands of years on the planet together but we’re just still failing to take care of each other. We need to figure that out. It's the responsible thing. And it's also the only way we're gonna make it.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.