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FORGING JUSTICE: NOMAS RESPONDS

For the past eight years, NOMAS has identified either a feminist or otherwise compatible organization that is already planning a conference to which the NOMAS conference could be attached, or an organization that is willing to produce their own conference and would allow NOMAS to partner with them. NOMAS supports the host organization with $5000 in seed money, and advertises the conference to NOMAS members nationwide. The optimistic expectation is that the conference will not cost the host organization anything, since they will make money on registrations and any other funding ideas they implement; the conference should fund itself from projected revenue. In the event that the host organization makes back their expenditures, NOMAS is repaid their $5000 seed money before a profit is declared.  If the producing organization does NOT break even, they know that none of the $5000 needs to be repaid to NOMAS.

In return for our financial participation/risk, we ask of the host agency:

1) that they attach to the title of the conference copy that indicates that this is also a “NOMAS Men & Masculinity Conference” and that they specify NOMAS as a co-sponsor

2) NOMAS gets a plenary session at the conference and a track of workshops

3) NOMAS is included as part of the welcome and closing of the conference

4) NOMAS and the host organization share veto power over presentations not in keeping with the ideologies of either of our organizations

This is the pattern we have followed successfully over the past eight years, with Men Stopping Violence in Georgia, The Women’s Center at Ramapo College in New Jersey, the Indiana University School of Social Work in Indiana, the South Valley Sanctuary in Utah, the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force in Oregon, Men Advocating Responsible Conduct (a feminist student activism group) at Florida State University, and twice with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in California and Colorado.

This is the model we presented to Cristy Cardinal and HAVEN in January 2013. They accepted, and began planning a conference. NOMAS issued a check for $5000 in March 2013.

Ms. Cardinal invited Emi Koyama to speak on intersectionality at the August conference.  Ms. Cardinal then informed us on a conference call in April that the list of scheduled speakers had been posted and that we should check out anyone we didn’t know. At which point, if we had exercised our mutual veto power over speakers, NOMAS would have had concerns about a presenter whose bio mentioned “sex worker politics”.

NOMAS failed. NOMAS failed because we did not perform our due diligence; and for that we are sorry. We didn’t look at that bio. For months, we didn’t look–and that was an utter failure on our part. And for that, we are truly sorry.

The conference was scheduled to begin Thursday evening at 6:30pm EDT. Ms. Koyama’s pamphlets, which were on display, clearly contained material in opposition to NOMAS positions on prostitution–a feminist analysis developed by women to whom we have long been accountable. At that point, NOMAS co-chairs, Allen Corben and Moshe Rozdzial approached Cristy Cardinal, as the conference organizer, regarding our concerns about Ms. Koyama presenting at a NOMAS conference. This was at 6:30pm on Thursday, August 8, 2013, minutes before the conference, as a whole, was to start. This was wrong. NOMAS needed to have had this conversation four months prior to the start of the conference.

Cristy Cardinal has stated, “When I was approached by Moshe and Allen to not broadcast Emi’s portion of the panel, I co-signed their white supremacy by agreeing to cut off the livestream. I also told them that Emi had expressed concerns about having her words shared in that way on the event Facebook page, giving them fuel to manufacture Emi’s consent. I could have said no, and I didn’t. Regardless of the situation, environment or my own socialization, I could’ve said no and I didn’t.” (http://www.shakesville.com/2013/08/list-of-demands-to-nomas-national.html)

The NOMAS co-chairs’ faulty assumption of mutual consent was further complicated by Ms. Cardinal’s faulty assumption that NOMAS held financial power over her. We were not informed until the morning after the conference ended, that the conference expenditures had exceeded the NOMAS seed money and the conference revenues by many thousands of dollars.  She has stated, “I entered into the conference with the understanding that NOMAS was going to cover any expenses not met by conference registrations. The NOMAS Council entered the conference with the understanding that when they produced the seed money at the beginning of the planning, the bulk of their financial obligation had been met. This is the place we were in when the co-chairs of the NOMAS Council approached me on Thursday to cut off the livestream when Emi spoke on the panel. I believed that they did, in fact, have financial leverage over me and the conference. They had no such assumption of leverage beyond partnership for the conference.”  (http://havenuproot.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/accountability-is-a-process-and-i-am-in-it-the-finances-of-forging-justice/)

Moshe Rozdzial and Allen Corben had sought Cristy Cardinal’s consent, not to veto or censor Emi Koyama’s presentation, but to ask that it not be promoted to the Internet. Although it soon became apparent that they were mistaken, the NOMAS co-chairs left the conversation thinking that Ms. Cardinal and NOMAS had reached consensus. When, two hours later, Haven did cut the livestream, NOMAS still thought it had been a decision reached together by Ms. Cardinal and NOMAS. We were wrong.

Emi Koyama gave her talk to the assembled registrants at the conference. The presentation was recorded, but not broadcast via livestream on the Internet.

NOMAS realizes that we should not have asked Ms. Cardinal to cut the live stream at all, and we apologize to Ms. Cardinal and Ms. Koyama for doing that. We should have listened respectfully, allowed others to listen online, and then expressed our principled, respectful disagreement in the Q&A after the presentation.

Given the concerns by many at the conference about NOMAS’s request to cut the live stream on Thursday, the NOMAS plenary panel on Friday should have attended to those concerns and addressed that topic. We did not. This was wrong. Few could hear our presentation, because of what else was in the room.

Part of that panel included Robert Brannon’s presentation. The panel was not an appropriate venue to speak in the harsh and angry tone that he did, nor to refer to Emi Koyama’s work. We regret that we did not stop Mr. Brannon’s statement in the moment. Following the panel, Mr. Brannon sought to speak to Lauren Chief Elk about her earlier presentation. It is clear now that his intent differed greatly from his impact. Once again we regret that we did not intervene.

At the end of the NOMAS panel, when asked to be accountable, the NOMAS co-chairs failed, in that moment, to adequately articulate an apology. We did not deeply understand at that point how wrong we were. Utilizing the feedback the NOMAS council received, a somewhat more appropriate apology was written, read, and distributed to conference attendees at the conference closing event, followed by a session, which attempted to center the voices of marginalized groups. The NOMAS council wanted to hear what anyone had to say about how our actions impacted the group. This session continued until HAVEN-UpRoot personnel ended the conference.

We hope that this apology imparts how deeply sorry we are. We also hope that we have learned from these events and will continue to do so as we review our behaviors, our policies and our accountability.

We will strive to make every significant disagreement known in a principled and civil manner, so that no speaker feels unsafe. We have instituted practices in every NOMAS council meeting to ensure that time is given to address these issues on an ongoing basis, as well as committing again to intervening in the moment. Because of this, we will ensure that any future co-sponsors of a NOMAS conference are aware of what happened this year. We will strongly suggest that any future co-sponsor of a NOMAS conference allow a panel to discuss the issue of prostitution, allowing that both organizations will continue to have veto power, and NOMAS is not in a position to guarantee such a panel.

We regret the unfortunate series of lapses, failures and miscommunications. For this, we apologize.  We owe an apology to Emi Koyama, Cristy Cardinal, and other women present at the conference whom we offended.

We welcome the contributions of anyone who would like to discuss this further and help our evolving analysis. We feel that this situation provides an opportunity to review and grow, and we hope that we can work together in an ongoing discussion to help provide clarity to this issue and the many other ways that pro-feminist men engage with women in an ever-changing cultural landscape.

The NOMAS Council

 



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