Kristen L. Rouse Profile picture
Jul 11, 2018 19 tweets 11 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I am humbled to have been nominated to receive an award from @CityAndStateNY for my leadership of @NYCVetsAlliance. But City & State refused to include voices of women veterans in #HonoringVeterans program. I cannot accept this. My letter today:
Last month, @CityAndStateNY asked if I could receive award. I was truly honored & said yes. That was followed up by an email asking @NYCVetsAlliance to partner on their veterans issue and #HonoringVeterans event. This was an even greater honor for us as a grassroots nonprofit.
Next day, @CityAndStateNY said no, what they meant was would we, as a member-funded grassroots org, pay them to advertise in veterans issue & buy a table at #HonoringVeterans event. This floored me. Their event budget is likely larger than our annual budget.
As in, #HonoringVeterans meant soaking @NYCVetsAlliance for $$$ so @CityAndStateNY could turn a profit on their annual veterans issue and awards event. This was the first red flag, but I continued trying to find a way to work with this.
The veterans receiving awards at #HonoringVeterans are truly outstanding individuals. It would've been an honor to stand alongside them. But the $$ wasn't the only problem. I also pointed out to @CityAndStateNY they had no women veterans speaking in "thought leaders" segments.
Sidenote: there's zero shortage of women veterans who are actual thought leaders. @_pamcampos @AshaCastleberry @ElanaDuffy @AN_Goldstein @kwilliams101 @KelsLCampbell @k_voro @JJapgar @mabryant256 @jaslow - just ask @lieutenant_lady, who tweets for us all.
I offered to speak about the legislative work of @NYCVetsAlliance members this year, offer an op-ed, or serve as panelist for #HonoringVeterans event. Was told these were paid opportunities only. As in, my org would need to pay @CityAndStateNY $$$ to talk about our advocacy.
Fast forward to now. @CityAndStateNY has more than a dozen speakers as part of #HonoringVeterans event. Not a single one is a woman veteran.
Here's the thing. Women veterans overwhelmingly share common experiences: Being invisible. Assumptions our service was "less dangerous." @AN_Goldstein wrote this incredible piece about how we're most visible serving, yet invisible as vets:
No veteran should face assumptions our service was second-rate because of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, immigration status, families' immigration status, or otherwise. We all served. And we are authorities on our own experience.
Then there's the other side of the coin. Veterans in general end up as commodities of sorts. One of the unseen burdens of working in the veterans space is the endless "casting calls" from media to feature different types of veterans, sometimes using ghoulish specificity.
Veterans with specific prosthetic configurations. With service dogs. Male. Female. Transgender. Gay. Mothers. Fathers. Even asking for "mutilated" veterans. Typically these requests offer nothing to us as an org or to the veteran for our time--it only serves the media outlet.
I'm a huge believer in the importance of storytelling. Our members have their say on our website: But there's a difference between exploiting people's stories vs. amplifying the story they choose to tell.
I often hear veterans say they feel used as props--to be seen & not heard, used to serve others' purposes. This is felt & experienced even more deeply by less-visible or marginalized veterans.
This can be contentious & difficult even within the veterans' community. Women & minority vets may feel patronized or used as props even by our veteran brothers and sisters. We all have work to do on this.
This underscores for me the importance of an org like @iava leading nationally to elevate voices & needs of women veterans in #shewhobornethebattle, standing up for #LGBTQ troops & vets, and opposing #transban. Commitment to diversity is best reflected in operational priorities.
This also underscores for me the importance of leaders like @_pamcampos who are laying it all on the line to show how America's military & veterans are women, trans, Muslim, immigrant, families-of-undocumented-immigrants, yet unified by common values.
Which brings me back to @CityAndStateNY #HonoringVeterans event. It's not simply that I can't settle for standing silently as the only woman vet to be on stage--seen & not heard. It's that we must demand & model inclusion of women & marginalized veterans as part of our advocacy.
Takeaways: Media wishing to reach out to veterans should a) not see bootstrap veterans orgs as a source of revenue and b) seek to elevate & amplify voices and diverse lived experiences of veterans. Including women is THE EASIEST first step of many needed. #HonoringVeterans

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