I'm not really sure where to start on this one, so I'll just jump right in. This is a photo of our office door in Portland -- on which someone scrawled "Hustlers Bitches." The reason? We sponsored an event called Tease-O-Rama -- which bills itself as "The best of the best in new burlesque" -- of which Hustler magazine was also a sponsor.
We've heard from a number of folks who are angry, and we'd like to open up a space for people's thoughts about our decision to sponsor the event, but we also want to clarify a few things before the conversation begins:
- A couple of people have accused us of sponsoring a "Huster magazine event." This isn't true. Hustler was another sponsor, but it was not a Hustler event.
- We don't have a policy of checking to see what other organizations/businesses are sponsoring an event when we agree to sponsor. This isn't to say we shouldn't, but that up until now, we've trusted that folks seeking Bitch sponsorship will let us know of any conflicts of interest. In this case, we didn't know until we started receiving emails that Hustler was also a sponsor.
- For the most part (and true in this case) Bitch folks don't attend the events we sponsor. We simply don't have the time or people power to do so. I'm clarifying this upfront so that if -- when all is said and done -- people conclude that we made a mistake, it's understood that the mistake lies in hasty decision-making and not active involvement in something mis-aligned with our mission.
- Related to the above: A couple people have also expressed anger/disappointment at the idea of us giving away our money away when we were in a time of crisis. When we sponsor events, it is never ever a cash sponsorship, and as such, it wasn't in this case. We've never had the financial means to do this. Sponsorship simply means we donate magazines and allow our name to be used in promotion.
Where I think the crux of the matter lies -- and possible accountability on our part -- is the event itself. Did we help promote an event that reflects -- rather than rejects -- oppressive values about things like sex, sexuality, and gender? Should we have said "no" to the request that we lend our name and donate magazines to it?
The truth is, up until now, we've made sponsorship decisions on a case-by-case basis, relatively quickly, and without any objective criteria to check our decisions against. I'm not suggesting this should shield us from criticism (quite the contrary -- perhaps this situation proves we need to be much more thoughtful and selective about who we align ourselves with), but I just want to be clear about what's happening internally.
And please... I think we've proven ourselves to be open to criticism, and we'll remain so... but can it be a constructive, productive conversation, and not a fight with permanent markers?