Thursday, October 3, 2013

Name Calling

What did you just call me?

There's another kerfuffle on the SAQA internet group.  Along with changes to the website and membership category benefits, the SAQA Board changed the name of one of the membership levels to "supporting member".

By the nature of their emails, I could envision angry members yelling at their computers and standing in protest over the new title.   Complaints flew fast and furious.  The new title was "demeaning" and "insulting".


I read about the changes, I read the new title, and I didn't even pause.  I was more interested in seeing how the restructuring might affect my membership.  Even after the name change was really called to my attention, I still couldn't muster up an objection to it.

I really don't care what I'm called as a member. Well, that's not entirely true.  I would feel demeaned if I was put in the "poop group", relegated there because someone felt my artwork was crap.  Yep, that would trigger on my sensitivity meter.  "Supporting member" .... nope, not a blip.

I didn't join SAQA so that I could feel better about whatever title the organization gave me according to my donation status.  I don't understand how "supporting member" is more demeaning than the old title, "active member".  I can understand how some members believe "artist" should be somewhere in the name but since it wasn't there before, I really can't get too excited.

Perhaps I have a thick skin and it takes a lot more than being called "supporting" to get my ire up.  My family was the first immigrant family in the neighborhood when I was growing up.  My parents had accents and I came to school with funny food.  My clothes were clearly hand-me-downs.  The names flung at me then were cruel and hurtful.  I know in my bones what's insulting and demeaning and there's always malicious intent behind it.  "Supporting member" doesn't make the cut for me.

I understand that folks want recognition for their accomplishments.  I know folks want credit for their hard work.  However, I don't think that being called a "supporting member" diminishes any of that.  Why is it so important?

I welcome feedback to help me understand why this change is so much worse than the old name, "active member".  I just don't get it.  I know insulting and demeaning, and this time doesn't qualify in my mind.


jane dávila said...

I think the problem with the word "supporting" is two-fold. One is in the context of its definition - to help, aid, or assist - which implies a sidelined and not participatory role.

The second problem is the role of the word in other arts organizations, which is used to classify patrons or donors who provide money for the artists, actors, or performers to create their work, again not as participants. In my experience with this word in other scenarios - as a supporting member of a local performing arts theater, or a national arts club - "supporting" is never used to define members who are active and participating, only those who are happily contributing money and standing back to see what the artists do with it. As a supporting member of our local theater, I certainly wouldn't expect to get up on stage but to support the performers who do.

I found the change in the SAQA category from active to supporting to be fairly insulting and if I hadn't just re-joined after a long absence, I would not have joined. Words are important, both in definition and in context.

Vivien Zepf said...

Thanks for sharing your explanation and thought process, Jane; I appreciate it. I guess I look at "supporting" differently: as a member, I am supporting SAQA's mission to create art and educate the public's appreciation of quilt art through my textile art. In that regard, I think "supporting" is appropriate.

I, too, feel strongly about words, but "supporting" didn't trigger the same visceral response in me as it did for you. We certainly feel differently about the same thing.... and I respect your thoughts and thank you for sharing them.