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Politics and the desire for community

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

Editor’s note: This is a decidedly U.S.-centric post, so, global friends, please forgive me, but I also hope you feel compelled to share your experiences as well. :)

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When I was younger, I didn’t care about politics.

I didn’t understand how important voting was, couldn’t comprehend the lasting impact it can have on future generations. I didn’t ask questions, and I didn’t try to educate myself. When my family members would talk about it, albeit briefly, the conclusion was always a version of, “there are very bad people on both sides.” I did not feel empowered to effect change.

Over time, that mentality started to shift. I moved to New York, met an entirely new group of people who celebrated culture, diverse experiences and who were driven by a desire to embrace, rather than fear, differences. I started voting regularly, reading more and donating to causes that best represented my values. My political awakening was solidified in the months leading up to the 2016 election, when it was becoming increasingly apparent that we as a nation were going to elect the reality TV star. I mourned the results, as many others did, and found some solace in writing about my mom’s decision to vote for Hillary Clinton. I marched in Washington, D.C., and in New York.

Last week, I watched with bated breath as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recounted an alleged sexual assault at the hands of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Listened to her describe the terror that accompanies sharing something so traumatizing, so raw on a global stage, all the while maintaining her poise and unfathomable grace under fire. Truly one of the bravest things I’ve ever witnessed.

Despite her powerful testimony, a Kavanaugh confirmation still feels imminent, a sobering reminder that power is enjoyed and wielded by the privileged, and women are still not believed.

During the times I’ve felt most overwhelmed, I’ve sought refuge within my strong community of women, whether it be in the dedicated chat channel we have at work, through my network of friends or at The Wing, or simply by reading pieces by female authors (a recent fave was Samantha Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.”) I recognize that I still have a lot to learn and a lot of work left to do.

I’d love to hear from the women in this community: Where do you turn for strength in uncertain times? It could be a person, a particular organization, a hobby or volunteer work that brings you a sense of peace. Share it in the comments.

13 comments

lauren Atlassian Team Oct 01, 2018

❤️ "...a sobering reminder that power is enjoyed and wielded by the privileged, and women are still not believed." This.

Thank you for your words, and thank you for sharing your journey. The irony of political activism is that it often requires observing injustices around us and empathizing with the outrage of others for us to stand up and do something about it. For that, I guess I am thankful for adversity, but mostly for our right to stand up and say something about it (for now...). 

For strength in uncertain times, I always turn to other women. The women with whom I surround myself are strong, informed, realistic, and empathetic, and they keep me going when I can't do it on my own. I find myself only growing closer to them as the years go on.  

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

@lauren Really appreciate you weighing in here. ❤️ You are, of course, one of the strong ones I mentioned in my post. I have learned so much through our friendship — of empathy, of inclusion and so much more.

Jack Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

@Erica Moss, while certainly not a women in the Community I wanted to comment after reading such a well written personnel perspective on the importance of voting and being heard. 

I really enjoyed reading your story and there is so much here that hits home for me. While I hope for many changes in the current political environment if I could have but one thing actually realized it would be that voting turnout increases dramatically across the board.

Thank you for sharing your personnel story and encouraging others to share.

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

Thank you, @Jack! And I certainly echo the idea that our silver lining will hopefully be historic voter turnout. Appreciate you always being a strong ally and voice of positivity here in the community.

@Erica Moss, I love this post, a lot. You're amazing and thank you so much for sharing.

I posted about this topic on instagram this past Friday, and I was immediately lambasted by some very aggressive people. I tried to take some time to reflect on what they said and engage them constructively, but internet trolls are gonna troll and I eventually deleted and blocked those users. Scary enough, one of these people also tracked down my phone number and left me threatening messages. When we're in a political climate where expressing contrary views may trigger threats against you and your family, it's no surprise that women DO NOT speak out. 

I had a really rough time with some of the things these people were saying, and it was important to me to take some time away from social media that day and reconnect with my family. 

I spoke to some friends about the whole experience and kind of processed my feelings. As of today though, that post received almost 9k views and 400+ likes - so in the grand scheme of things, there is so much more love than hate in this world. Hate tends to be loud - so I encourage everyone to speak more loudly in the name of love and drown out all the bullshit. 

Jack Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

hats off to you Meg for having the fortitude to speak up and sorry that you had to deal w/ the inevitable negative backlash that is ever-present. As you conveyed the positives are there and have the numbers but the hate is hard to ignore at times.

Fadoua Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

@Meg HolbrookI hear you 😔 Did you ever think about the reason behind not putting my real picture? With my headscarf I can be stereotyped and not given any chance to help (some people will refuse to communicate with me). It is sad but the real truth.

@Meg Holbrook I very much appreciate you sharing your story! I'm sorry to hear that your post was greeted with such vitriol, and like you said, it serves as a reminder that this is exactly what prevents others from speaking up. You are a thoughtful, generous and strong member of this community, and we are very glad you're here!

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

@Fadoua That makes my heart hurt, and I think anyone with a pulse could understand why it might difficult for you to share your entire self with us. But I hope you know you will always have a place here in this Community, and that your helpfulness, kindness and positivity outshine any attempts by those who are small-minded to tear you down.

Fadoua Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

@Erica MossI don't have a slight doubt about it. I feel home within Atlassian Community and Atlassian.

Meg Holbrook Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

@Fadoua - I love your face. You are important and wonderful and honestly I want to throat-punch anyone who treats you badly. 

Sigh. This gives me so much joy to read another woman I respect sharing their journey, their passion, and their drive to educate and empower others. You are a force, Erica. Thank you! 

As I've gotten older, I recognize I gain strength from my loved ones and from other women who are living with intention and transparency. There's something so empowering about surrounding yourself with people who truly know you, who call you out on your sh**, and encourage you to own your story.

I find strength in knowing that I have a responsibility to my daughters and their future. Knowing that I am establishing their foundation all while being their daily example of what women are capable of doing. I want them to understand the importance of voicing their opinion, advocating for others and causes they are passionate about, and surrounding themselves with other women who continue to show them that if you truly believe you can, you will. 

Reading your post and seeing other women sharing their story is what I want my daughters to see and understand. That when we don't agree with something or when we feel certain injustices directed at us or others, that WE stand together to CHANGE it. Showing up is where it starts. Showing up for one another and for ourselves...in our every day practices to showing up at the polls. 

Thank you again for sharing this, @Erica Moss ! 

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

@Celina Zamora Thank you, Celina! It's such a pleasure to work alongside someone like you, someone who brings their entire self to both their work life and their home life. Your girls are very lucky, and so are we!

Definitely I admire your courage @Erica Moss to share your thoughts and political choices. I don't think I am that brave.

So many thoughts. I feel you. I am angry, and I am livid. Even if they believed Dr. Ford, it's about whether they care enough. I overheard an older woman at the dog park say that if she was interviewing Kavanaugh to be her assistant he wouldn't have gotten the job with his temper, so she don't understand how he could even be up interviewing for the position of supreme court, and she made me feel good about my IRL community. 

To answer your question specifically, I listen to music. This whole weekend was filled with anarcho-punk music, giving the seething rage inside me an outlet to be released while I walked the beach with my dog, reminding me that I am still ok, and that I can and will help those around me. 

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

@BiancaE Music. Yes. Cannot overstate how much of my sanity I owe to my favorite artists as well. Thanks for sharing. 🙌🏼

This really inspires me as I've always been one of those people that thinks "oh what does it matter what i even think because i can't do anything about it". Especially the "there's bad people on both sides" argument.

You inspire me to be better, Erica.  To educate myself more, and to learn and have thoughts, and not be afraid to share them. Thanks for sharing this. I answer to your question about where I turn to for strength, it's definitely my people. And sometimes it's work. There's something about just getting sh*t done that reminds me that we can all make progress and things can get better. :) 

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

@Brittany Joiner I've definitely heard that voice inside my own head as well, and I can confirm that it's wildly freeing when you're finally able to silence it — or at least muffle it. 😄 I appreciate your kind words, and I hope you know that you're already fighting the good fight with your boundless energy and desire to help others — you're you, and that's enough.

cassieACE Community Manager Oct 01, 2018

Thank you for sharing this, Erica! I share your same frustrations about the case, our leader, and wanting to make a positive difference.

Who do I turn to? I turn to my family and my coworkers. Living in Austin, I'm lucky to find a lot of people that I can share my feelings with and (most of the time) they share my same feelings, but even if they don't, I'm met with empathy and understanding. I find it hard to be open and honest about something so close to me without people I have a trusted foundation with. 

With that being said, I think it's so important to talk to people about these issues even if you don't agree with them. We can all learn something from one another and you never know who's eyes you could be opening with your opinion and understanding.

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 02, 2018

@cassieACE It certainly takes a healthy level of patience to have a civilized discussion around opposing views, but like you said, it can help to promote better understanding! Thanks for sharing. 😄

Thomas Schlegel Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

@Erica Moss, I don‘t think that your post is US-centric at all. In most countries all over the world, women still have to fight to be treated with respect. 

I’m not a woman, apparently, but I can totally understand what happened to you in New York. Something similar happened to me, when I left the very small village where I grew up and moved to a bigger town, got to know new friends and finally myself.

Uncertain times - they are here in Europe also. I often can‘t understand  people and their motivations at all, but I still believe, that the majority of people are not the one who shout the loudest. I try not to be shy if I hear someone saying bullshit, I try to argue, knowing of course, that probably it doesn‘t change anything. But I‘m feeling better. 

Of course, my behavior depends on the people, I’m confronted with. I‘m not foolish, if I think, this can get dangerous in some way, I can also be shy and hide myself. Luckily, I never experienced anything worse than insults. 

@Fadoua - it makes me sad, but I can understand your descision not to show yourself here. I hope, you feel safe and comfortable here in our community and will never experience anything bad. 

I get strength from my friends. Friends who gained similar experiences, who can understand my thoughts and fears, friends, I feel comfortable with. 

Fadoua Community Leader Oct 01, 2018

@Thomas Schlegel You are among people I have so much respect for. I enjoy interacting with you for who you are not for your choices. When we get to the point of loving, respecting,.... people for really who they are we will have less hate in this world but I think I am being a dreamer.

Answering your question: no one ever made me feel uncomfortable in Atlassian Community, however if it happens I am learning how to dismiss people who treats me poorly. Some days I am great at it and on others I fail but I am getting there. Honestly it will be hard to judge because I don’t have my real picture as my avatar. 

It is really hard to educate ignorants. I am finding my happiness hiding behind thinker bell. So far it is working :)

Also there is no room for self pity, I assume my choice in life nobody is forcing me.

Cheers to all

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 02, 2018

@Thomas Schlegel The U.S.-centric comment was mostly related to the Supreme Court process, but you are most definitely correct: Everyone still has a long way to go. I'm also working on being more vocal!

Thomas Schlegel Community Leader Oct 02, 2018

You‘re right, @Erica Moss - the situation in your country is ... special - I’m watching from abroad and wish you all the best.

Everything in life is only for now!

Devon_Henderson Community Leader Oct 02, 2018

This resonates with me so strongly. I grew up in - and moved back to - my hometown, which has a decent population (25k) but is decidedly... conservative, to say the least. We were actually featured a couple of times in national news sources after the election, when some of our factory jobs moved to Mexico. It's a town that's full of struggling people, whose families have worked the same jobs for generations and then suddenly, those jobs are no longer relevant. They're looking to understand why things have changed so quickly - not realizing that the writing was on the wall for quite some time and they just didn't want to see it - and have settled on a solution that blames the wrong people. Instead of changing with the times, they're mad the times are changing and are taking it out on those who don't fit the mold of times past. It's so sad to be surrounded by this daily.

I take refuge in my coworkers and my job. I work at the public library, and we are a team of mostly women (and some vastly outnumbered but outstanding men) who work every day to help fix the problems our community is facing. We're educating, teaching technology, and helping with job applications. Every day we have a visible impact on people's lives, and it's really, really rewarding. And I'm incredibly fortunate that every single coworker is either a woman or a man who supports strong women. It's nice to get off the internet and walk into a room full of support, encouragement, and bravery every day.

Meg Holbrook Community Leader Oct 02, 2018

I love your post so, so, so much. 

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 03, 2018

@Devon_Henderson "Have settled on a solution that blames the wrong people" — way too true. Thank you for sharing your experiences — you are a superstar. ⭐️

Joe Tong Atlassian Team Oct 02, 2018

Thanks for the post.  The entire story/process sickens me… what Dr Ford experienced (and having to relive decades later), the nominee that digs in, political parties that use this as fodder to drive some an unspoken agenda for division rather than unity… I think back to one of the strongest, most courageous women I know - my grandmother that reflecting on political fighting years ago said “...what’s happened to the statesmen (and women) that used to govern our country?” 

I hope that this doesn’t just lead to a change in direction but to a change in discussion.  The fact that we as people can’t sit down and have a relevant, civil, and intelligent conversation about the problems and solutions is most sad to me.  

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 03, 2018

@Joe Tong Thank you for sharing, Joe! We continue to find new lows (i.e. the rally last night), and most days, it feels insurmountable.

Power is often in the hands often in a smaller group of which ignore the voice of others. Inheritance has played a big role in minimising the diversity of the "1%". Many people are unfairly grouped with the "1%" based on visual cues.

I find it unsettling how divisive the world seems to be getting and often with a combination of "recognise this separate group" and "treat people in this groups the same as everyone" with blurry lines between these two statements.

I grew up in time when gender pretty much limited what bathroom you used and very little else. I would get frustrated at depictions of men as logical and women as care-givers by nature and enjoyed seeing this melt away. In the last few years there seems a resurgence of associating many things with a gender which I find baffling.

This is a bit of a ramble so I'll stop for now.

TLDR: I don't find grouping myself with "women" empowering. I feel weakened by third wave feminists.

Meg Holbrook Community Leader Oct 03, 2018

I think you can recognize the differences between groups of people and still treat them equally. These concepts are not isolated from one another. 

Part of this is recognizing that the experiences that I have and the ones that you had could vary vastly, but one experience does not discount or invalidate the other. They exist together and separately, which is why generalizations are so harmful. 

I'm very grateful that you have seen a cultural shift towards women and their roles, but this shift is not being experienced by all.

I choose feminism because my belief is that there is more work to be done. If I've benefited from any cultural shifts, it's my job to advocate and make sure that all are benefiting. 

I identify with second wave feminists. Looking at the needs in my community I am increasingly concerned about boys and men. Some 'gains' have been at the expense of others. There is frustration not denial in #NotAllMen.

Meg Holbrook Community Leader Oct 04, 2018

Frustration is understandable, but what actionable steps can be taken by these same people instead of shrugging their shoulders and proclaiming that they didn't do it? Just being 'not part of the problem' isn't enough anymore, so the bar has been raised to value advocacy and using that privilege to do some good for the world. 

Not all men is akin to saying all lives matter. Yes, it is understood that every single man is not an abuser. It is understood that all lives matter. Is solving all murders the top of our agenda right now or decreasing the highly disproportional rates of violence against POC. I've seen this example used to illustrate this point, and I largely agree with it:

You go to the doctor because you have a cold and a broken arm. You take care of the broken arm first because it is the most critical injury. This doesn't mean you are not sick. It doesn't mean that the cold shouldn't be treated. It simply means that there is a more urgent and pressing medical problem to be solved first.

I have two young sons and three brothers. Do I worry that they could be unjustly targeted? Yes. However, what really worries me is that some day they may be capable of the dark and terrible things that many men have been capable of. 

This has been a very tricky time. I'm not based in the US, but I'm feeling the effects keenly. In some ways this is exacerbated by my social circles. We share our pain, but it's also easy to start accidentally feeling that this understanding is shared by everyone. It's then even more shocking to me when someone says something like "oh but we have total gender equality these days" and I'm not even sure how to start unpacking that as it's so far from the understanding of many people around me. I'm having to limit my time on social media as it's so full of pain at the moment.

Whilst I don't tend to resonate with the social construct of 'woman', I have found these recent US proceedings to really highlight the different experience I have had growing up in a world that identifies me as such, compared to someone coded as male (I am by necessity using broad terms here.. I appreciate that not everyone of a particular gender expression has had the same lived experience).

One thing that really highlighted that is this post doing the rounds at the moment about a professor who asked the men in the class what they've ever done to avoid to avoid sexual assault, and apart from a joking "don't go to prison" they ended up shrugging and saying it's not something they think about. When he asked the women, they came up with this list.  Looking at the list, this is really striking to me, how this is the 'background noise' of life as a female identified person.

 

IMG_0464.jpg

Erica Moss Community Manager Oct 03, 2018

@Linette Really appreciate your thoughtful response, Linette! Your reference to "background noise" is spot on, and has been so ingrained in me since a young age that I never stopped to question it. We must continue to keep these types of things at the forefront in order to start making meaningful cultural changes.

Interesting table @Linette. I know many of my male friends would have been able to add things to this table though it would mostly be about protecting themselves from false accusations.

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