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A celebrated feminist Facebook group just went down in flames
The Binders started as a place for women, trans, and nonbinary writers to share opportunities. Then Binders Full Of Writing Jobs went rogue.
When I went through my first media layoff in 2015, one of the ways fellow writers reached out to help was by adding me to a slew of secret Facebook groups for opportunities for women, trans, and non-binary writers. The groups have been written about publicly in the years since, and not always positively, so I’m comfortable saying it’s the group pretty much any writer reading this is familiar with: The Binders.
Born in 2014 out of Mitt Romney’s 2012 comment about having “binders full of women” to have on his potential cabinet—back when that was the worst thing a presidential candidate could say—the group spawned countless spinoff groups you could join depending on where you were from and what kind of writing opportunities you were interested in. While I disagree that something meant to increase opportunities for a marginalized group has any business being kept “secret,” I’ll only be naming one of them, because on April 20, Binders Full Of Writing Jobs decided to go rogue: What started with a job posting for a position at Fox News devolved into chaos over several days. On Tuesday, an administrator announced that they’ll be changing the group’s name and allowing all genders to join. Then, last night, she shut it all down.
Having consumed the group passively in its past five years, I know this isn’t the first time a Fox News position has caused pushback. Of the 30,000 members, some argue the group should prioritize writing jobs, no matter where they are, while others say the inherently political inspiration behind the group means Fox News positions are off-limits. But on April 12, when this latest Fox News opportunity was posted, the world was watching the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was later found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, despite prominent Fox News voices vilifying Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement along the way. For the BIPOC writers in the group, the approval of a Fox News post was a slap in the face.
The clear answer was to listen to the feedback from members and add a rule that forbade posting opportunities from outlets that openly advocate against the livelihood and safety of those in the group. Instead, the moderators dug in their heels. They turned off comments on the post. When the discussion moved, they turned off comments on that one. One moderator stepped down, and on Tuesday, another, who is white, returned with this:
“This particular space, which was meant to be focused solely on sharing work opportunities when I had launched it, does not properly reflect the original, more political values of the original BINDERS group,” the administrator wrote, before announcing that on May 20 the group would become open to “people from all genders, races, and walks-of-life who are pursuing writing as a career.”
Everything exploded. Due to the administrator’s proclivity for turning off comments, discussion about the decision was cropping up on unrelated posts all over the group. It didn’t take long for the job opportunities to be fully usurped by valid questions about this decision: Why not just start your own group rather than hijack a group of 30,000 members? What about the five years’ worth of candid discussion, cover letters, resumes, and not to mention, contact information, that would become available to the incoming new members of the group? Why not just step down?
Then, late last night, the administrator returned one last time to announce that she would in fact be starting a new group for a more “inclusive” list of writers—but not before fully archiving Binders Full Of Writing Jobs on her way out. While current members can still access all old posts, they can no longer comment on any of them, and no new members can be added.
I attempted to reach out to this administrator on Facebook and Twitter to see if she could provide any insight into this decision or characterize it in any way other than a tantrum. I didn’t hear back, and now 30,000 members are left to rebuild years of community on a whole new page without being able to post anything in the original, no doubt losing a huge chunk of members and all their history in the process.
A “women-only” Facebook group felt radical at the time, but as our understanding of gender progressed and we endured a Donald Trump presidency, it’s now painfully obvious that a “safe space for women,” generally, is a safe space for cis white women only—and is actively dangerous to its POC members when a white woman would rather burn it all down than admit when she’s wrong. —Kate Lindsay