My father once told me, “Mi’jita, business is made on the greens, not in the boardroom. Remember that. Business is made on the greens.” That was my father’s way of telling me at the ripe old age of eight that business was made on the golf course. In other words, I needed to network and cultivate relationships to be successful in any field. It was also his way of telling me that I should be at the table. From my father, who could be misogynistic in other ways, there was never any mention of what I could not do because of my gender. I was raised in an environment where gender was not, and should not, be a barrier. I was told to be on the greens.
Fast forward about 20 years and I am at an out-of-town arts gathering with a handful of other artists from my area. Social hour begins and a group of whom I would consider to be peers and colleagues walk down to the area of the late night art happening to socialize. It was a small gathering of fellow performing artists and/or artistic directors, most of us working with the same populations or themes in our work in the same geographic area. Did I mention all of these colleagues/peers are male?
Later on into the evening, the alcohol and the testosterone begins to flow. I see my colleagues demonstrating more and more aggressive, almost college “Bro”-like behaviors: bumping their chests together, headlocks, the occasional punch here and there. I grew up with two brothers, I can recognize male bonding when I see it. Soon, this group of men and I, along with two female colleagues, an arts administrator from a neighboring state and a dancer from a nearby city, are all walking back in the dark to the area where we are staying. I had just met the female colleagues that night; I had known the male colleagues for years; and worked with most of them. Together, we walk back and as we walk, the men being to pull away from the pack and start walking faster and faster until they leave the three women behind. It isn’t subtle. It isn’t on accident. They don’t stop or slow down. In fact, the look over their shoulders as they hurry on to make sure we are falling behind. It is obvious they wanted to ditch us.
And there’s the thing: there went Tucson’s Chicano (emphasis on the “O”) performing arts scene. There they went to the arts version of the “green.” And I was not invited. Excluded. I am almost certain the primary reason I was excluded at moment was because of my gender. My dad didn’t teach me about gender exclusions on the green!
The next day, I sit next to one of these male colleagues and I am very vocal about my displeasure about how male dominated the Chicano performing arts scene is in Tucson and the events that happened the night before. Perhaps he feels bad or knows that there is validity to my observations because he and one of the other male colleague invite me out for a consolatory beer that afternoon. I go. Maybe they felt bad. Consolation prize.
Deals are made on the greens. Collaborations and projects are born out of those moments. The greens my father talked about were not going to exclude me because of gender.
What happens at that time when I am excluded from the greens, not invited to the greens, experience barriers – like lack of childcare – that may prevent me from being on the greens? Do I look for other greens? Do I create my own greens? Well, I tried that with my dance company and it is hard. There are so many barriers and people who don’t “understand.” Too much patriarchy still exists in the Chicano communities in Tucson and this patriarchy is consciously and unconsciously reinforced every single day. What do I do when my generation of the good ole boys club does not see me because of my gender?