Update: Standing up to Santa

I don’t know how permanent this is or if I will have to fight this fight again, but as of this morning, this:

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changed to this:

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Thank you to those who took the time to write on my behalf. I’m not sure whether the link was taken down by Facebook or the Knights of the Pythias. If it was the latter, it’s sad that the individual was so bent on retaliation against a woman he dated that he’d rather erase any trace of her contributions from a nonprofit organization than credit her and get permission to use photos before posting. 

I am still waiting for the KOP leadership to get back to me with an apology for making a volunteer jump through so many hoops for her own intellectual property, and to confirm what steps will be done to protect others should they be sexually harassed. It’s 2019: historical societies shouldn’t still be treating women like it’s the Dark Ages.

Standing up to Santa

I stopped volunteering with two non-profits this year due to the bad behavior of men that was recognized and pointed out by others, but not appropriately addressed.

With one, I was able to wipe my hands and go. I had dedicated two years to the organization and had already trained others in media matters along the way. I’ll find out in December if the Chair actually figured out how to remove my credit card information from the website provider. (Joy.)

The other is still actively using my intellectual property without proper attribution and permission. I brought this up again about two weeks ago to a few members of the organization, one of whom said they would try to help me. Ironically, their efforts were thwarted by Santa.

 

Literally.

Santa Claus Knights of the Pythians 2018
The Tacoma Knights of the Pythians’ Santa Claus/ Social Media Coordinator. Fun fact: he is also a substitute teacher for my daughter’s school district. Photo by Suzanne Skaar, December 2018. All rights reserved.

 

 

To keep a long story short, here is a copy of the letter I sent to the Tacoma Knights of the Pythians’ Chancellor after I found out my request for assistance was blocked:

 

August 30, 2019

To the Leadership of the Knights of the Pythias Commencement Lodge #7:

 

On December 15, 2018, I helped create signs and took photos of the Pythian Sisters’ Children’s Holiday Party. I had borrowed [redacted]’s camera with the verbal assurance that I could get the files from him after the party.

 

Without permission or credit, [redacted] posted my photos on the Knights of the Pythians Temple’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/TacomaPythians/photos/?tab=album&album_id=948089761981410&ref=page_internal). While the women who put together this event were not credited (despite my request), he made sure to add the following line to the album description: “The lodge got a visit from Santa thanks to the Sisters’ annual holiday party. Gosh, that dude is awesome.” For those unaware, Mr. [redacted] was the one wearing the Santa suit.

 

He asked me in writing via Facebook Messenger on December 18, 2018, if I wanted credit for my photos, to which I responded that I did. He had already posted them on December 17, 2018. As of August 29, 2019, there is no photo credit, and despite asking other Knights and the Chair of the Pythian Sisters [redacted] to fix this on my behalf, he is refusing to correct this. Even more insulting is that the photos shared included my child. As both the photographer (intellectual property holder) and the mother of a minor in the pictures, it is well within my rights to expect that photos be shared within the context I allow. I had encouraged that the photos be shared in the secret Knights of the Pythias group so that the other parents could have pictures of their children. I did not give permission for my photos to be shared on the Knights Facebook page without attribution.

 

As a non-profit, the Knights of the Pythias Lodge is liable under Intellectual Property laws. Per the Washington State Nonprofit Institute: “Intellectual property law grants the creator of intellectual property exclusive rights for exploiting and benefiting from their creation” (https://www.wanonprofitinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/LGL-Kit-Intellectual-Property.pdf). As such, my original request that I be able to retrieve the photos from his camera should have been honored. As far as the Temple is concerned, my work should not have been used for the majority of a year by the organization without attribution.

 

I am asking that the Knights of the Pythias correct this oversight and for a public apology for the misuse of my property and of Temple resources. In addition, I am asking that the organization review appropriate consequences for sexual harassment (retaliation).

 

I am willing to meet with the leadership of the Tacoma Temple and, if necessary, the Grand Lodge to discuss this matter further.

 

Sincerely,

Suzanne Skaar

 

This is literally the dumbest argument to be had ever. With a “secret society.” With Santa no less. There were witnesses (members of the organization and visitors) that I took these photos. He has recognized in writing that he is aware that I might want credit for my work. And yet, here we are.

 

I have been assured by others in the organization that this matter is being taken seriously but that it will take some time to resolve. Personally, it took me less than half an hour to create this post, so I’m not sure why it would take almost a year to either give credit for work as is the norm or remove work for which permission has been rescinded. Considering the social media coordinator worked in journalism for years, he is expected to have an above average knowledge of these issues. Maybe some guys just aren’t as tech savvy as they claim to be. If it’s ineptitude, then the organization should consider why they’re having troubles attracting and keeping volunteers with social media/ website knowledge and non-profit experience. If you would like to support me in this fight for rights to intellectual property (especially images of my minor child), please email a quick message to: chancellorcmdr@tacomapythians.org . A simple “I support Suzanne,” “respect intellectual property rights,” or something civil would be awesome.

Cheers, and thank you for your support. Feel free to share this.

 

Suzanne

Portland!

An unusual opportunity has come across my plate. I have been invited to be a panelist for Portland’s Drunken Discourse regarding my essay on gatekeeping. I’m intrigued, albeit slightly concerned as I am no longer in my 20s and no longer under the impression that my liver is indestructible. I do have a volunteer designated drinker if worse comes to worst. But let’s face it: I never turn down an opportunity to make a PowerPoint presentation.

If you’re 21+ and down for some uncensored feminist analysis (and other topics to be announced shortly), mark your calendars for the evening of October 5, 2019. More details to come.

Women’s Work

On Friday afternoon, I went into the main branch of the Tacoma Public Library to check out some digital media equipment (film camera, tripod, extra cables, mic, etc.) for a no-budget film collaboration. I hadn’t been planning on doing this. I had written the script, worked on graphics, found a last minute location, and was now figuring out the AV equipment we would need to do our shoot. I was anticipating my collaborators on the project would take care of some of this, but as the day wore on, I was feeling more and more like I was back in seventh grade and stuck in a bad group project. [By the end of the day, I decided to move forward on the project solo.]

 

The intake process took two hours: 15 minutes, interrupted by the staff person’s scheduled break, then another 30 minutes. For part of this time, my ex, a media technician at a university, was present because he was going to help carry equipment. He couldn’t stay the full time as he was just trying to help on his lunch break. So, it would be me alone, juggling our daughter, the stack of books she and I wanted to check out, and the equipment. While my ex was present, the staff member asked me some questions about my background, and announced, “Oh, so it sounds like I don’t need to tell you basics like the rule of thirds…” I agreed he did not.

 

The staff member then asked if I had experience teaching: I do. I taught ESL in Japan, was a Teaching Assistant for the University of Washington’s Study Abroad Film program in Athens, Greece, and more. He was excited, because they have a summer film program for kids where they guide kids in translating Newberry Award Winners into minute-long films. Would I be interested in teaching? Of course, I would be interested in being considered for any paid positions they may have.

 

“Great! The number of MAs [Masters of Arts] that come through here can be counted on one hand. I’ll contact you next time we need a volunteer.”

 

My ex heard it, too.

 

He heard me state I was interested in paid work. And the staff member said he would contact me later to ask me to work for free.

 

He did not make the same request of the Media Technician.

 

The male staff member saw a woman with a high degree of education and experience in multiple fields, who was already engaged in unpaid childcare at home, and thought: “Let me add to that.”

 

He’s not alone.

 

I have done my time working for “exposure.” I have put in more hours than I can count volunteering for social justice causes. For unfunded arts organizations.

 

I have been saying no to requests for my unpaid labor since leaving my last job: which in large part was because I was tired of being underpaid and overworked, and seeing my checks go in large part to paying for childcare.

 

In my early twenties, before I had a child, I had a strict diet of a can of corn, a can of beans, and a cup of rice stretched over several meals: repetitively, sometimes with burrito shells and cheese, because that was how I stretched my paycheck from the local community colleges I worked for.

 

It was always with the idea that if I worked my ass off then, someday it would pay off.

 

If I did unpaid or underpaid labor then, someday, I would not be struggling.

 

It was bullshit then. And it’s bullshit now.

 

I have passion projects that I will work on for free. I have collaborated on projects in order to build my skills in areas, or just because it’s fun. I am creative, and I like making things. Like oversized turtle and cardboard robot costumes. Or parties that celebrate women artists. Or logos for a friend trying to help refugees in his home country.

 

But when I have skills that others recognize are valuable, I want those skills to be treated as valuable.

 

I have invested years in learning how to manage a classroom, lead projects, write, edit, explain basic and advanced grammatical concepts, structure stories for a wide variety of audiences, do layout, design, and get projects ready for print.

 

I have skipped concerts and time with family because I was interviewing protesters in Russia, reading books on political science and law in the corners of libraries (and bars, which are sometimes quieter given undergrads can’t go there), writing essays and presentations, dragging the pen tool, cleaning work paths, and squinting at pixels.

 

I have spent years on phones and computers tracking resources for others struggling to make ends meet.

 

I have done the work.

 

I have proven my commitment to others and the community.

 

But a community that keeps asking me to work for free for some fake future reward down the road has not shown any kind of commitment to me. To be honest: if I accepted this opportunity from the library, which would involve a several week commitment, I would have to work for less than free. I actually would have to pay for this volunteer opportunity. It’s not free to park downtown in front of the library. It’s not free to take the bus there. It’s not free if someone else has to watch my 7-year-old so I can volunteer with teens.

 

It’s not right to make demands of women’s time and labor without fair compensation.

 

Especially if you wouldn’t expect a man to do the same.