DSA is a growing and dynamic organization that has attracted an unprecedented increase in membership. While we know DSA membership skews white and male, it is imperative that DSA promotes people who identify as women into visible leadership roles at the local level to cultivate and grow talent and ensure women’s voices are heard throughout the organization.
This year there are lots of exciting talented people who identify as women running for National Political Committee from all across the country, and that shows we are building support with women nationally. Women’s voices are indispensable to winning the fight we have ahead. Because of the centrality to women in our struggle, national DSA has proportional representation for the elected members of NPC. I think all elected bodies in DSA at the local chapter steering committees should have proportionally allocated slots for people who identify as women as well. This will help to ensure we cultivate talent and preserve a diversity of perspectives at the local level where our daily struggles are playing out.
But a major factor that has been discouraging some of our comrades from fully participating in DSA has been harassing, bullying behavior from other members. In nursing we call this “Lateral Violence”, where someone attacks, bullies, or harasses a colleague. Because of the rapidly growing nature of DSA and the small size of some of our newest chapters, some members have used this situation to attack or harass people they think they can intimidate, especially some of our female comrades. There have been reports of sexual harassment as well, with some people attempting to turn DSA into their own personal dating pool.
DSA needs to be a safe and welcoming space to everyone who wants to build socialism, not just a boys club. People who do not understand this are harming our organization and the movement for socialism generally. When I found out there was no national harassment policy I was frankly upset. DSA needs to get it’s house in order so that no-one feels like they cannot safely organize with us or feels like they are being victimized by someone’s predatory behavior. DSA needs to pass a harassment policy that allows victims to escalate complaints outside of their local when they don’t feel safe from retaliation from their own steering committee. There should be a process where claims are addressed and predatory individuals are disciplined or expelled. Mediation between individuals should be provided by national DSA to ensure the safety of all involved. Beyond the fact that this is right thing to do, it is also the only way we can build a grass roots organization that lifts all of our voices and concerns.