I don’t know if you’ve heard of Allison Braun. She’s a “life coach” who specializes in sexuality.
She recently created a series of education and discussion events on Facebook which she called “Pussy Pow Wow.” As a (light skinned, but still) First Nations woman, I was deeply disgusted by this, but wasn’t sure how to go about calling out Ms. Braun. I was personally acquainted with her, having met her through a shared former employer in 2011. Rather than take the somewhat frightening step of calling her out alone, I shared the event information on my Facebook page and asked for help and advice from my friends and colleagues.
The disgust and disappointment was picked up by several people. One of my friends (another Indigenous woman) made a post on the event wall detailing the reasons why she found this offensive, and several other people (including myself) made comments on that post elaborating on our personal reasons for disagreeing with the naming of the event. The end result was the post generating a very articulate comment thread, explaining firmly and honestly why people were upset.
Ms. Braun commented on this post, saying among other things that she “knew the name would hit buttons for some people.” She then almost immediately deleted the entire thread, and sent the following message to my friend who had posted it:
I just wanted to let you know I am deleting your post on the event page only because I feel the further comments on the post had very negative energy. I hope you know I meant no disrespect. Sending you light and love. Thanks!
My friend responded with the following (somewhat sarcastic) message:
Yes, generally when talking about appropriation of cultures and the exclusion of women of color from modern feminist movements, people get upset. But since I had almost 20 likes on my post the last time I checked, I’m not sure why you felt obligated to delete the entire thread. Well, yes, I do know why, actually.
Sorry that I infiltrated your positive, racially exclusive feminist event with a different perspective.
Sending you love, light, and hipster headdresses,
The friend and I joked about the exchanges in posts on my wall, which I assumed would be read by Ms. Braun since I had her as a friend on her personal account. By this point, I had reached a place where I didn’t have any energy left to devote to caring if I hurt her feelings. I was disgusted on behalf of every Indigenous woman, but especially all those who have been abused or gone missing or been murdered, especially in the Vancouver area, and had their value dismissed by police because they are nothing more than people with pussies, who may go to pow wows.
At some point today, the amazing network of Indigenous women and their allies that I am blessed to be connected with managed to spread word of this event far and wide. Evidently, Ms. Braun received complaints from upwards of 1500 people. There are, as of this writing, multiple posts on Facebook in which she is tagged, sharing message exchanges in which she claimed complete ignorance of the inappropriateness of the term she chose or that it would offend people.
This is clearly a lie. Allison posted on the original thread that she knew the name would be upsetting.
What’s more, she sent me the following in a private message:
I just wanted to let you know that even though it seems some of your actions are for shits and giggles they can be hurtful. If you were truly offended by the name of my event, all it would have taken was a private email to explain to me why - I am ignorant in many areas of life and clearly not as educated as you. It would have saved a lot of time.
All the best.
She must have blocked me immediately upon hitting send, because I have tried repeatedly to reply to her message and have been denied access on multiple computers.
What I wanted to send was this:
I’m not sure what part you thought was “for shits and giggles,” or why you, as a white woman, feel you have the right to question the legitimacy of my hurt over your appropriation of First Nations culture. Despite my light skin, I am an Indigenous woman: my father was Cree and Dakota, making me almost fully half Aboriginal. This is my heritage you are mocking, and my sisters who have suffered and died for the same flippancy you have displayed.
Please share this post. Ms. Braun is now claiming ignorance and being praised by those with whom she has corresponded, and to whom she has lied. In a city where so many Indigenous women and their loved ones have suffered, is this the kind of “female empowerment” that is needed?
Edit to add:
Ms. Braun is claiming to have changed the name of the event effective several hours ago. I just took this screen shot:
Edit again: As of this morning (November 7) the Facebook event was still private, the event name had been changed on her website, and I have received more harassment over this post than over damn near anything in my entire life.
Remember to take screen shots when publicly confronting people electronically.