This one is long… full piece is here: https://linaabirafeh.medium.com/stop-asking-me-to-speak-for-free-ac6fa0f39567
It’s the end of March, the end of so-called Women’s History Month, the month when we “celebrate” women’s contributions by exponentially increasing their emotional labor.
Ironic, in a month that was created to recognize and value women’s contributions and women’s work. Why, then, do I have to organize my own celebrations? My own commemorations? My own campaigns?
And why, why, why do I have to speak for free? Not just this month, but every month?
We know that women have a hard time asking for what they’re worth, we hear this time and again. Lean in, ladies! we’re told. Claim your space. Bring your folding chair. Yes, we do those things. But we also need a culture – in our workplaces and in our homeplaces and in everyplace – that recognizes what we bring to the proverbial table.
Asking for women’s contributions is not a favor to women. It is a global non-negotiable. And for that, we deserve to be remunerated, just as anyone else.
And yet, when I announce that I charge for my speaking, people are shocked. If an organization asking me to speak has the resources, then they have an obligation to pay. How is this shocking?
This rant is inspired by conversations I’ve had with so many women who share my frustration with having to pay – of our time and resources and energies – for the privilege of being present. There is a growing understanding of the emotional labor of so-called nonprofit work – and its risk of exploitation. And a growing need to put down our collective feet.
The façade of feminism is fashionable in corporate circles. Companies benefit from projecting a progressive image of gender equality at the expense of female employees who experience little to no advancement.
And we are fed up.
But it’s not just March. Women’s work isn’t valued across the 11 other months as well.
Maybe then we should… value women’s work and pay them properly? It doesn’t take a genius. I’m here like a broken record, restating the painfully obvious. But it appears to be easier to remain oblivious.
Asking women to work for free is a particular problem in my field of work. I’ve howled about my feelings before, but there’s more. And other activists have come out with their experiences of being asked to work for free. Let’s call it what it is: emotional blackmail.
I recognize the value of my knowledge and experience. Shouldn’t you?
When we advocate for ourselves, we are advocating for the cause. For the value of the cause. For the value of our work in supporting the cause. For the value of decades of work dedicated to trying to advance this cause – much of which comes with no pay, no recognition, and even no progress.
Claiming space for ourselves also shines a light on the issues we care about. Value me – if you value women’s rights. Because this is precisely what I value. And I have dedicated my life to increasing the value of this very thing.
We’ve argued time and again about the lack of funding for women’s rights. About the rhetoric that fails to meet reality. We see what happens when we do not fund women’s rights work. Inviting a women’s rights expert to speak is not a tick-box. It is not the same thing as dedicating actual resources to the work.
And we, as women’s rights experts, need to ask for what we deserve. Would an engineer or pharmacist be asked to speak for free? Not likely.
So let’s do this: pay us so we can keep doing the stuff that needs doing. We give more when we make more. Trust me.
Women’s rights work should not be emotional labor. I am not a bottomless pit of good will. We deserve to be remunerated just as any technical skill. I am asked to speak for free on a near-daily basis. Next time, I will point to this piece.
I hope others will do the same.