So I went to the AGM of our allotment association for the first time in the four years we've had allotments there.
To be fair there has been two years where lockdown prevented this particular flavour of democracy from meeting in great numbers, and I have been burned by my previous experience with the neurotypical way of running democracy.
The meeting met quorum (the number of people needed to make it a legit and legally binding) at ~30 people out of ~100.
Several things struck me straight away (apart from individuals whom I liked being present).
One was that women were severely under-represented.
There were roughly 3 men for every woman.
The second thing I noticed was that only one of the people of ethnic minorities
(for Lancashire, UK) made it to the meeting (even though I know there are at least 7 more)
The third thing I noticed was that, with the exception of me and two other people, everyone was over 60 years of age.
The fourth thing I only realised after being home discussing it with my husbear,
(who was working and couldn't make it)
Was that, of the roughly 9 neurodivergent people on site (that I'm aware of) only I made it.
Now onto the actual events.
The treasurer, chair and secretarial reports were given.
The secretary will not enter the site, so his speech was delivered by the chair.
Two of the previous committee stepped down, and a third was going to train up a replacement.
(that's two fewer women and one less neurodivergent person on the council)
There was a ratification (democratically legalising with a vote) of the seven current council members who had been coopted at an EGM. (five white men, mostly 50 and older, two white ladies).
There was pressure/encouragement for me to put my own name forward
(me being the youngest in the room).
I responded by asking if the current chair would put her own name forward, knowing that she did a wonderful job, and was harassed and talked over by the other councilmen (and I do mean men).
She declined, so I asked what the role entailed, and I was treated to some more jargon (apparently "the chair chairs")
She explained that "there was not much paperwork only..." then she proceeded to describe the vast amounts of admin, far beyond my capability (I'm a slow reader)
I responded with a firm "I'm a people person, not a paperwork person"
Several other subjects were brought up, discussed and voted on.
Each one more detailed and jargon-filled than the last
(me, remembering my previous experience of democracy kept my questions brief)
When the subject of the website/social media/email was brought up, the fact that the previous Secretary was harassed out of his job put me off the idea (he not only stepped down, but refuses to even enter the allotment)
After I laughed aloud at their
suggestion that this would be difficult, it was suggested by a council
member that they needed a Communications Officer and he pointed at me when I asked him "who would do that?"
I responded to his suggestion by saying that I would be Communications Officer if none of the messages were longer than 20 words.
Many laughed at this (I think they thought I was joking) but I am a slow reader, and a much quicker typer and speaker, so people do not realise how long it takes for me to do admin.
Even though I was strongly encouraged to join the committee, I said that I would talk to the prev. secretary/webmaster (poor man) and help transfer the website to council control, so he can let go and heal.
TBH I do not want to be driven out of the allotment due to my neuroqueer status, I am a fourfold minority even though I can pass as a white man by using the unhealthy skill of masking.
It was clear that my impatient questions and severe confusion at a lot of the jargon and wording were not very welcome, though I assume many put it down to my age and not my neuroqueerness.
I made a point of making sure that the quieter points made by the womenfolk were not drowned out by scoffing interruptions of some of the older men.
I have mentioned race, gender, age and neuroqueerness lacking variety.
There was also a lack of parents and workers (they were probably home with their kids!)
There was a lack of non-white and foreign nationals too (two Turkish men left the site recently, two other afro-caribbean men did not attend, and at least three of our five eastern/oriental people walked past the meeting but did not join it)
I'm beginning to see why british politics is dominated by tory thinking, as most people who turn up to such things seem to be anglo-saxon cis NT straight middle class men over 60, or people masking as such.
Another revelation was why: two or three men's voices kept drowning out and overriding the scant few women's voices. I made a point on at least six occasions to interrupt that man and bring the discussion back to the woman who originally spoke.
Being someone who was raised by three women (mother and two sisters, dad worked long hours) I was seething at this behaviour by men who should know better.
Let's be honest here, let's not demonise these guys, when me and/or my husband talk to them away from meetings they are funny, intelligent and helpful.
However they see me as a man (I have a beard and tattoos) and my husbear is relatively masculine too and "passes for straight" (he often jokes that he's a straight man with a gay dick).
So these are not ignorant mansplainers, but they have been raised to think that their behaviours are to be expected of them. Society is to blame? We still need to run meetings where men have the majority of the membership and women and queers and BAME people need to be made to feel welcome. (Black and ethnic minority)
One thing that was pointedly NOT discussed was the fact that one set of plotholders
(a father and son team who keep hundreds of birds in cruel inhumane conditions that somehow passed RSPCA, DEFRA and LCC inspection)
What *was* mentioned was that the entire site could not get liability insurance if the numbers of poultry was over 49 (50 being considered a shorthold farm)
It was wondered aloud if separate extra insurance just for the poultry keepers could be acquired and those that wish to keep birds could just pay more for the privilege.
It was interesting that one man referred to the yearly epidemic as "chicken flu" I asked him if he meant "bird flu" and should we not count all the pigeons on site too?
I asked if the virus knew how to discriminate.
This was put aside for now as the subject was mostly insurance.
[[[ side note: the family in question were the primary men behind the harassment of the previous exec who are stepping down, and also drove off many plotholders, especially women, queers and ethnic minorities.
There has already been a court order, and they have no legal right to be on the allotment and are basically squatters..]]]
(I'm not judging squatters, but they treat their birds like art exhibits and not as poultry)
Democracy (or what passes for it in Britain) is structurally biased towards men, anglo-saxons, the middle class, cishet, NT and able bodied/minded people.
This is why queers, BAME, women, the poor, ND and disabled are largely under-represented.
My own experience reminded me why I struggle with such scenarios, I barely understand what is going on and I lack cognitive empathy for the NT mindset, and they lack empathy for mine.
Anyway I'm exhausted by my second retelling, the first was a report to my husband, so i'm signing off.