Thursday, June 25, 2020

Defund Writing Associations?

CC by 2.0 Fred Merchan

It has long been apparent that Romance Writers of America struggles with issues of diversity leading to the collapse of the board this February. their past mis-steps included a profound failure to respect of include people based on race as well as GLBTQ+... and even more trivial publishing options like e-publishing or erotic content.

Meanwhile, International Thrillers Writers failed to act after a serious harassment issue at a convention, and "all lives matter" themed BLM statement, and yesterday all of their board members resigned except for the two co-presidents.

Did you also notice that in June the Board president and chair of the Poetry Foundation also stepped down after issuing a vague and non-specific BLM statement? Not only as the usual symbol of contrition but because doing so makes space for better representation on the board.

And later in June a similar set of circumstances saw 63% of the board members of the National Book Critics Circle stepped down.

It is a fairly common observation that as non-profit organizations grow they also become more conservative and less likely to make bold ideological statements or take related actions -- or indeed change very much at all.

The ostensible reason is to represent a broad representation, but this representation tends to focus heavily on the paying membership or industry representatives.  And this group tends to be white, affluent, and urban or suburban.  It tends to be the group currently most financially successful in the profession for prevailing and historical reasons.

But will the processes that created the old Boards, somehow now be able to fill those same seats with fundamentally different people who represent fundamentally different goals?  Because if we dig back into the theory large and increasingly archaic organizations are often unable to reinvent themselves so profoundly.  What happens is that new groups form in new ways and gradually grow up to replace them.

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