Saturday, August 14th, 2021
As a collective, SLLAW would like to make a statement discussing the internal work and group changes we’ve made over the last year. Additionally, we would like to respond to several requests for community accountability, which included our collective. We also want to be transparent about ongoing work and planned future changes.
We are making this statement because we committed to increased transparency as part of community accountability. Additionally, we want to hold ourselves accountable to continuing to work on our internal culture and the way we participate in the greater community.
Since our last public posts on our Facebook page in June 2020, which responded to a public call-out, there have been two additional public letters (one from the spouse of a SLLAW member and one from another SLLAW member). All three of these public letters specifically related to the behavior of Elena Pahl, one of our members. They also pointed to issues with the SLLAW collective in allowing that behavior to occur and not providing a pathway for accountability or repair.
In response to the most recent two letters, SLLAW representatives reached out to the harmed parties to see if they would be open to speaking with us. We wanted to allow space for those individuals to share their experiences, and to help us understand how to make amends and do better.
As part of this work, we created a formal accountability process to be used by our group in situations where a member (or members) have caused harm and need to change their behavior, be held accountable, and make amends.
This process includes both education and harm repair portions and can be run by a peer group of volunteers within the collective. Previously, we had no process (formal or otherwise), and a lot of work went into correcting that issue.
We began that accountability process with Elena, but they ultimately declined to continue engaging. As a collective, we made the decision to revoke their SLLAW membership, specifically due to their violations of the SLLAW code of ethics. Each active member of the collective was required to read and sign this code of ethics, and that document explicitly states that violations can result in consequences including “expulsion from the group and revocation of your SLLAW membership”.
While the current version of the SLLAW code of ethics has been in place since 2019, as a collective we failed to uphold it. We acknowledge this failure and will strive to strengthen and uphold our values and principles going forward.
As part of our internal work we revisited the code of ethics and will be revising it as part of our ongoing work as a collective. Participation in accountability work is also now required for all members as a contingency of membership in the collective in situations where harm is caused and repair is needed.
Now: on to SLLAW the collective.
We admit that it took us a while to get here.
When concerns about the collective were brought to the group in January 2020, we failed to respond appropriately, or honestly, at all. We failed to identify and understand the ways our collective had sheltered bad behavior and upheld toxic patterns of white supremacy. This led us to freeze and hope the issues would resolve themselves without work on our part.
When we received the additional two letters, the collective failed to respond publicly. At the time, we were unsure of the “right” response. Though deep internal work within the collective was happening, we acknowledge that our delay in publicly responding caused additional harm. While we understand that an apology does not undo harm, those of us remaining in the collective want to extend our apologies. We also acknowledge our complicity in the harm that was caused.
We had previously seen ourselves as intersectional feminists who had created a safe space. We were wrong.
These realizations were painful, but those of us who were willing and able decided that it was past time to make real changes to our internal culture and do the work to educate ourselves so we can do better in the future.
We can only strive to be anti-racist and intersectional.
We will continue to do the work, and we acknowledge that this work will never be finished.
In addition to using this time to take a hard look at ourselves and our collective, SLLAW has also been engaging in internal work, including:
An anti-racism course through AROC.
Group participation in a transformative justice process led by outside facilitators.
Creating a template for future accountability work and testing that template through an internal accountability process.
Creating an anonymous survey option so folks can easily let us know about harm in the future.
Transition from “Lady Arm Wrestlers” to “League of Arm Wrestlers” to promote inclusivity.
Internal work around fighting white supremacy within our group - transparency, direct communication, and accountability culture.
Removal of members who are not willing to actively engage in the work we are doing as a collective.
Working on updates to our mission statement, SLLAW Code of Conduct, and member requirements to promote a better and more inclusive culture within the group.
Committing to doing more volunteer work within the community.
We want to do better.
This Transparency Statement has been reviewed and approved by:
Kelly Crismon (she/they)
Sarah Gamblin (she/her)
Allison Harris (she/her)
Kelsey Kelly (she/they)
Emily Kothe (she/they)
Iam Fletcher Lea (they/themme)
Stephanie McFarland (she/her)
Rebekah Outman (she/they)
Sonia Dae Slankard (she/her)
Zoe Sullivan (they/them)
Michele Wolff (she/her)
Thursday, June 11th, 2020
SLLAW : Saint Louis Lady Arm Wrestlers have read recent statements from QTPOC: STL, Flower Boi Support, and the The Trans Queer Flat as well as a personal letter by LadyAshley Gregory. This statement called out problematic behavior from Elena Pahl (DJ R.E. Hola) one of our members. SLLAW was also called out for not actively addressing aspects of white supremacy that some members consciously and unconsciously reinforced. We've included a link to this letter at the end of this post.
First and most important: This group collectively and as individual agents want to apologize to QTPOC:STL, Flower Boi, LadyAshley, and other individuals of the QTBIPOC community who have experienced harm. Our actions have caused this harm, and we take responsibility for that. We understand that an apology is not enough, and subsequent accountability needs to take into account both the actions of individual members, as well as the group as a whole.
We are reviewing and taking this information seriously. As a collective, SLLAW will dedicate time this weekend to meet as a group to create an action plan specifically in response to this situation. A more thorough public statement, including that plan, will be available following that discussion. Before SLLAW can move forward as an organization, we must do this work.
We want to thank LadyAshley for her time with us, for her guidance, and for all the labor that she did to help improve us as individuals and as an organization.
Our group made a public statement on Facebook addressing the basis of some of these concerns recently, and we realize there is much more work to do, to which we hereby commit.
This statement was originally published on SLLAW's Facebook on 6. 27, 2020.