I’m feeling really frustrated tonight. I wanted to go to an event being hosted by an organization whose cause I support. So I went. Made it all the way to the door of the hipster bar at which the event was supposed to take place. Saw the crowd of mostly young, mostly white, mostly (apparently) upper middle class, mostly males…and I just couldn’t deal with it. Not only did the venue drive me away, but it really pissed me off.

Stop. I know what you are about to say “But there were SOME wimminandminorities there! I don’t know what your problem is. You are just being too picky.” That might be the case…but you can bet that if I felt uncomfortable enough after going to the venue and actually walking in the doors to turn around and leave…I’m certain there are people who did not even go at all. I’m not trying to knock your cause. I still believe very strongly in your cause, in fact. But I do think you need some guidance here…if you care what I think. Which you might not. I mean, I’m having a difficult time believing that such smart people haven’t thought of this shit already, but…you know…it’s sometimes startling how unaware people are of their own privilege.

So, all that said, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for organizations that would like to be as inclusive as possible.

1. Be mindful of the location of the venue: think about things like parking (for those who might have disabilities), bus lines, and the socioeconomic region in which the venue is located.

2. Be mindful of the cost of the venue: Seriously…do I need to elaborate?

3. Uh, if you want women to participate in your event. Seriously. Don’t hold your event in a venue that is known for its hot chicks in knee socks waitstaff: Yes, I am sure there are women who don’t mind the hot chicks in knee socks. In certain contexts, I’m actually a huge fan. I also happen to know a guy who likes to have his balls twisted…that doesn’t mean all men (or all women) are up for it all of the time or in all contexts. Chances are you are excluding more than you are attracting.

4. Check the music: If you want to hold an inclusive event, mix it up. Don’t play only one artist or one style. This actually reminds me of a group of well-meaning parents at a local school I’m involved with who put on an old-school dance with soul music in hopes of getting more parents to the campus. The only problem is that the majority of parents at the school are Mexican. Not to say that there aren’t Mexicans who enjoy old-school soul, but, you know…mix it up!

5. Put up signage at the venue to illustrate where the event is being held, or at least ask if the staff at the venue will direct people to the proper location: Especially if one or many of the above are unavoidable – being welcomed and directed when you walk in can circumvent awkward frustration for someone who already feels out of place.

Look, I know it’s tempting, if you are a nerd, to want your organization to be associated with hip cool places where hip cool people hang out. I don’t mean to impose a “tyranny of the minority” on you or anything, and I don’t mean to be a chicks-in-knee-socks buzzkill…but if you are associated with a group of people who have a notoriously difficult time including wimminandminorities – if you don’t at least consider the comfort of wimminandminorities and, instead, choose venues that potentially make wimminandminorities uncomfortable – it’s going to look like you are INTENTIONALLY excluding wimminandminorities. In fact, if you don’t intentionally INCLUDE wimminandminorities, you will most likely end up excluding us.

Thanks.

P.S. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. 🙂

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