Edited April 2, 2021 10:35am CT
I have edited this post to apologize for the harm my blog post caused.
I owe these panelists an apology for not being more hands-on with them before the symposium. I should have taken the time to reach out to them individually and get to know them. It is clear I missed some critical information about them and failed to share some. I had a lot of balls in the air, and I’m sorry theirs is the one I dropped. It was not fair to them.
I know it is not the intention but the outcome that matters. I believed I had made a mistake, and owning it publicly was the right thing to do. It is also clear that I did not understand how the post could affect BIPOC and queer presenters. I am genuinely sorry for that. I have a lot of work to do in this area.
I have apologized privately to the panelists. They have asked me to leave the original post up with the added apology.
I spent the last four days processing a lot of what happened at the BLOSSOM symposium. In particular, I have thought a lot about courage when I have it and when I don’t. What constitutes tone policing and what doesn’t. I decided to share these thoughts because I received a lot of praise publicly on Twitter for an incident when I spoke up, but what has stuck with me is the moment that I didn’t. I don’t feel I can accept the accolades for making the right choice without admitting and discussing when I did not.
The purpose of this post is not to call out presenters, so I will talk about the topics and incidents in general terms. I want to focus on opportunities taken and missed.
During a presentation, I was present for the speaker made comments associating weight and weight loss with health. I have written before about the problems with the BMI and discussing weight and weight loss at work; you can read it here. How our society views weight and the weight and worth of people is deeply troubling, biased, prejudice, and often racist. I decided to speak at the end of the presentation and remind attendees that their weight is not an indication of their worth or health. I shared a little about learning to accept myself and my body as it is, to appreciate the highs and lows it has carried me through, the joy and comfort it gives me, and the people I love and who love me. My voice shook while I spoke these words, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt pride when people like Kaetrena praised it because of the deep respect I hold for them.
The other incident involved the use of the F-bomb during a panel presentation. More than one F-bomb, actually. If you’ve had a drink with me at a conference, you have probably heard me swear. If you know me outside of a professional setting, you have definitely heard me swear. Swearing can be an excellent tool for emphasis and shock value to make a point. I am glad the presenters felt like they were in a safe space and could speak freely. But the thing is, I should have said something the second time it happen. It wasn’t used to make a point, it was used because the presenter felt they could. And I should have steered the conversation away. That’s not tone policing. And it’s not about using professionalism as a weapon. Some of it was not necessary. Honestly, I don’t know that I care that much as an attendee. But as the organizer, I care. As a person who took considerable time and effort recruiting new speakers, and underrepresented voices, I care.
It put me on the spot. Instead of logging off my computer at the end of the conference, I had to call my boss. Because complaints roll uphill, and I don’t believe in letting my boss get blindsided. We had a brief chat, made the decision to add a content warning in case someone was watching the recording on a public service desk or a shared work environment without headphones, discussed editing it for the office YouTube channel, he congratulated me, and sent me off to drink my champagne.
This really could have gone a different direction. I have the privilege to feel confident in my employment, comfortable speaking my mind, and the support of my supervisor. Many people do not have that and are held personally responsible for the decisions of presenters. My current supervisor is incredibly supportive and a clear and honest communicator, and very level-headed. That has not always been my experience.
Regardless of how other panelists feel about it, it put them on the spot, especially with the recording. For new presenters, recordings might be a way to highlight their skill and knowledge and lead to future events. Now they have to decide if they feel comfortable sharing those recordings. I owe those panelists an apology.
I am not interested in arguing over whether or not people should be upset by the F-bomb. I am talking about the reality of the situations many of us are in. I am not looking to lecture anyone but to admit publicly where I failed, as much as I accepted praise publicly when I made the correct choice.
The decisions we make often have repercussions, and sometimes those repercussions don’t fall on us.
I had an opportunity to gracefully steer the conversation away, and I did not take it. I will confess part of it was seeing the support for how it was going in the chat. It is clear from the feedback survey that there was an equal number of people uncomfortable. Not outraged, just uncomfortable. I don’t think they are wrong.
Real courage is speaking up when you are not being cheered on by a crowd, and I missed that opportunity.