How To Handle Komen, Bullies, And People Who Suck
The virtual world of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is officially on fire today, fueled by the not-so-shocking announcement that they are withdrawing support for Planned Parenthood.
I’m not going to write about what’s wrong with this move because I know that I don’t know enough about it to be useful here. If you want the finer details or to follow the evolution of this story, I recommend you Google it. (And if you oppose this move, go ahead and tell Komen here.)
What I do know is that people are freaking out. And when people are freaking out, I get excited because there is something we can all learn, something that we can use to make our own lives better. Yes, public relations nightmares are the sandbox in my playground.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. - Maya Angelou
If it is true that Komen made the decision to distance themselves from Planned Parenthood because of the abortion services provided there, then what’s happening here is simple. They are showing us who they are. If Komen wants to preserve their integrity as a conservative organization by withdrawing funding for breast cancer screenings from an organization that primarily serves poor women, then so be it.
There are some of us who never supported Planned Parenthood because the services offered aren’t aligned with our beliefs. There are some of us who never supported Komen because of concerns about how many of the oodles of dollars raised actually make it to “the cure” (as opposed to administration and brand management).
And there are some of us who’ve supported both organizations now feel outraged, betrayed, or perhaps abandoned by their sacred pink mafia. They are certainly experiencing a surge of emotion around this decision. Let us remember that we need to take a moment to recognize what we are feeling. Being still for a moment to experience that anger, sadness, grief, or whatever it is that’s flowing through us at this time, will allow to take more intentional action.
Just be still for a moment… and feel. (It always comes back to that with me, doesn’t it?)
Next, we must be willing to believe them. If the way Komen is showing up in the world is not in alignment with our own beliefs, then we can stop doing business with them. We can stop walking, running, and donating. We can stop wearing the t-shirts and hats. We can unsubscribe from their email lists and unlike their assorted Facebook pages.
We can put some space between ourselves and those with whom the relationship no longer serves us. We have the power to say, “Thanks for showing me who you are, Komen. Go now, in peace, and serve the community that you have declared yourself dedicated to.”
A fabulous example of this very healthy space–something my family refers to as the “Be nice or leave” policy–happened recently in Knoxville, Tennessee (of all of the incredibly unlikely places).Last week, Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield made an international spectacle of himself (and Tennessee politics) with yet another woefully ill-informed, hate-filled, anti-gay outburst. In fact, it was a series of outbursts that we may more accurately label as a woefully ill-informed, hate-filled, anti-gay dialogue that when combined with the tragic suicides of children who were bullied because they were gay, cultivated a great deal of shock, awe, and action from people around the world.
On Sunday morning, he tried to have brunch at a the Bistro at the Bijou and was sent away by the owner, Martha Boggs. Yes, you read that right. She declined his business. She simply put space between herself and a man that she felt had, “gone from being stupid to dangerous.” I’m sure she also won’t be contributing to his campaign, giving him her vote, or distributing campaign materials on his behalf.
She took a stand and gave him some space.
This is the essence of “Be nice or leave.” It was basically an invitation to not bring his hate speech into the nice, safe, inclusive, respectful environment that she’s created in the community. She refused to serve him because it would compromise her integrity to do business with someone who has gone to such great lengths to do harm to the lbgt community which she respects, accepts, and supports.
The same thing applies if someone who claims to love you is showing up in your relationship in a way that no longer serves you. It’s the sibling who wishes to “pray the gay away.” It’s the in-laws who think you must have done something to make their baby boy beat the shit out of you. It’s the father who tells a woman in a size two dress that she needs to get that extra ten pounds off.
Be nice or leave. It’s not always easy but it is that simple.
There is no reasonable “call for compromise” which requires us to accept being treated unfairly, to share our resources with a cause which is misaligned with our values, or to feel we need to be someone or something that we simply cannot be.
Give these people and organizations the space their actions show that they desire and then, let us cultivate the community (non-profits, companies, public servants, professionals, family, friends, teachers, etc.) we desire and deserve.
Release. Release. Release. And then, rebuild. We’re all worth it.
“Release. Release. Release.” is one of the themes for my Sick of Being Stuck Program. Click here for more information.