I went to canvas for a campaign for the first time on Saturday. As a new campaign volunteer, I expect to face some steep learning curves along the way. In fact, I welcome them. I want to be learning. Talking with people, both over the phone and at their doors, is intimidating, especially when you have never done it before.
I won’t speak specifically about what happened Saturday, and I know that in no way does my experience or my feelings reflect or represent the campaign. I do believe what happened was unintentional. What I will say though, is that I felt like I was treated differently simply because I am a woman.
It hurt, deeply.
Not that long ago, the type of treatment I felt I received would have dissuaded me from ever participating with that organization again. If I feel that way, it’s not a leap to say others treated similarly would feel the same. This is not okay. The barriers to participation are already high enough without adding disrespect to women, intentional or not.
After gathering the canvassing material, I went to the neighborhood with my partner (also referred to as my fiancé, for those wondering). It took me a while to gather myself, and yes, I even cried. I told my partner I wasn’t sure if I had thick enough skin for this. I told him I didn’t know if I could really handle this type of treatment. I told him I didn’t know if I could even knock on doors at that point.
But I did. I shook it off to focus on the task at hand.
We went to about 50 houses, and had some great conversations along the way. Were there people who didn’t want to talk to us? Absolutely. But there were more who thanked us for doing what we were doing, and for that, I am eternally grateful. It was the experience of shaking hands with voters, looking them in the eye, and hearing what they had to say that turned the experience around.
The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of energy for me to put myself in front of others. I’m not pushy or aggressive, and often I’d rather stand to the side and listen rather than wave my hands for attention. I was fortunate to have a job the last five years that required me to be more outgoing, and so I’ve learned how to be better at it in many ways. But it doesn’t take a lot to derail me, and Saturday could have easily been a derailment.
And so, I want to learn how to navigate these disheartening experiences better so that I can address them in the moment, in hopes of bringing this, most likely, unintentional treatment to light so that it doesn’t happen to others. The barriers to participation are too high and I want to work on lowering them as much as I can.
If you’ve had an experience like this, or worry about an experience like this, what advice do you have to those of us trying to overcome them? It’s not an easy question to answer, but let’s start the conversation so that we can.