Saturday, May 10, 2014

Open Letter To Organizations That Want Me To Speak For Free

Dear organizations that want me to speak for free,

In the past few months I have received several emails from organizations that would like me to speak at an event they are hosting in the upcoming months, particularly for Women’s History Month. Mostly I am invited to speak on issues related to sexism in the workplace, STEM outreach, and transnational/Latina feminism; topics that I feel very comfortable speaking about as I live these experiences in my daily life. It took me forever to feel comfortable saying this but I am expert in these topics and I have years of first hand experience that I can share and use to train other organizations in how to make their workspace welcoming and less hostile to women. I can also speak on what it feels like to be a transnational feminist living at the intersection of two cultures.

But I won’t do this for free.

Why would you send me an email requesting that I speak on microaggressions, feminist issues in the workplace, and how women’s work is devalued and the first thing you do is devalue my work? Do you not see the irony in having me speak about issues that keep women behind - particularly women of color, and do exactly the same things that companies do to ensure we never break the glass ceiling?

You must know that we all struggle with a gender pay gap that is acutely biased against women of color. So why would you pay a White feminist thousands of dollars to come speak at your organization and offer me $0? Is my time less valuable, is my experience not important, or do you just not care?

And I know, I am quite privileged. I live in NYC, I have a primary source of income, and I don’t rely on honorariums and freelance writing to survive - thank goodness because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to survive on my own. That means that if your event is local and is scheduled to occur after working hours I might be able to attend. Otherwise, do you really think I can afford to take days off work, pay for a flight to California, Indiana, or Iowa, pay for a hotel and meals, and also prepare a 3-4 hour presentation FOR NO PAY?

This is a huge problem! Feminist and progressive organizations are notoriously underfunded, if at all. You don’t need to tell me that there is not enough money for STEM outreach programs, and other girl and women specific campaigns. I know this. But this is so much bigger than that, because when your organization doesn’t even attempt to try you are perpetuating systems of oppression.

You need to pay me because you bank on me. When you put my face and my name on your poster and you get to tell people “hey, look! we got a Latina to speak about these issues” it makes you look good. I check off boxes that make you seem like you truly care about a diverse workplace and listening to women of color. That means that you now become an organization that seems to be progressive, when in reality you are gaining knowledge on the backs of women of color.
If you can’t afford to pay an honorarium or transportation, get creative!

I am more than willing to help you find a local speaker that is willing to participate and will not encounter expenses beyond their means. We could also have a phone/skype interview, or I can answer questions via email.

I care deeply about my work and if I had the means to do it for free every single time, I would. In fact, I have never charged to speak at a local event because the cost is minimal to me. I already do as much as I can free of charge, anything extra is above and beyond what I could ever afford to do.

Please, think about what you are asking of us when you request us as speakers to your out-of-town event and offer no compensation. Just, THINK about it.

In love and revolution,
Patricia Valoy

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