Completion of dues paid for intellectual property theft from Oiselle, Sally and Michael.
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My name is Maria Rodriguez and I am the founder of Fear Her Fight Athletics. Through FHF, our work has amplified communities that are underestimated, dismissed and underrepresented to be seen in the strength space and beyond. With our intersectional lens, we have organized workshops, summits, ran meets and been able to sponsor multiple events over the last 3 years of existing.
Recently Sally Bergesen, the CEO of Oiselle, (a Seattle based athletic wear company) posted a picture of their sibling, Michael (they/them), wearing our shirt that they purchased from us (order #101496 or #101147 since they bought 3 shirts) claiming that Michael made it. In the comments of her post, a plethora of people complimented and championed this shirt. This was before a handful of our followers reached out to share this disappointment. This post was posted on October 18th, Sunday and the original text reads: "My sibling @mmvolz designed this shirt and I need, want, must have for @oiselle. #AllAthletes"
Graciously, we commented on Sally's post on October 19th, Monday afternoon with: "Hey! We would love to see an edit made on giving credit where it's due since this is our shirt, thank you!"
I wrote out Sally's email as a caption after she demanded my time via email 2 days after she was bombarded with people holding her accountable. I have several of her emails questioning my actions and putting her curiosity over my well being and integrity. I denied a phone call, I was very short in all of my responses and I sent this email out on October 23rd:
Here's what I need you to do.
First, Michael needs to publicly admit they lied to us, to you and to whomever else they told that they made this shirt. Claiming ownership of intellectual property from a queer, latina owned small business is highly concerning.
Second, you should let people know the truth on your page and Oiselle's page as a separate post. The original post should stay up because in the comments, there are several resources of education and action steps from our supporters and other WOC literally telling you how to rectify this theft-- the last thing you need to be doing is erasing our free labor. I also saw that you took our shop's link down from your company's bio-- you should put that back up to redirect people to our actual store for at least a week after you publish your new post sharing the white supremacy Michael's lie carries.
I also see you've been operating for a decade and have talked a lot about wanting "to do the work". What anti-racism courses have you taken recently? It might be a good idea to take a couple more; this work is crucial if you're going to be advertising yourself as "an aspiring inclusional feminist". On April 12, 2017 I saw a publication by Jen A Miller on racked.com where you said "even though I considered myself a woke feminist prior to the election, my eyes have been open to my own white privilege in new ways since then" and [that your company has] "made strides and is improving, but we're not there yet."
Sally, how are you improving here, right now, in my inbox? Do you actually see how violent it was for you to come at me requesting a phone conversation in "getting to the bottom of things" when the truth appeared the second me/we gracefully requested you edit your caption in crediting us accordingly 4 days ago.
You have continued to put your confusion above my health and well-being. Michael and your conversation is not my issue or concern. I cannot expend anymore free labor for your "truth quest". I shouldn't have to defend myself anymore; our work speaks for itself and if it hasn't been clear, that's always been our shirt.
If you are really "here and listening", I can trust that you can financially reimburse Fear Her Fight Athletics, LLC for all the time my team, supporters, friends and family have tried to help you for free. If you really love and respect all womxn, the bare minimum to take care of the stress from this theft should be no less than $5k. I have two other jobs, so making time right now to walk through your discomfort with your sibling does not belong on my agenda. Respect that, please.
I can also believe that you will remember the copious amounts of mentions, posts, stories, comments from people who actually understand just how frequently white people get away with stealing the work and energy from BIPOC and to never question a WOC again. It's hard enough right now defending and protecting our own peace when we're days away from the biggest election of our lives-- it should never come down to the pain, abuse and exhaustion of Black and Brown people for white people to learn.
I hope you can commit to doing more work around anti-Blackness, white violence and restorative justice, to just name a couple, to avoid violating other BIPOC's environment, health, and communities. I look forward to your actions as apologies and reparations for Fear Her Fight Athletics, LLC.
Our Venmo is @MariaRodriguezFHF and PayPal is firstname.lastname@example.org since that's instant. Thank you.
It should also be said that Michael emailed/ direct messaged me via instagram Friday October 23rd, still not making this apology public:
I would like to start by expressing my apology for the misattribution of your art. I take full responsibility for the impact and the role I have played in this misattribution. I understand (especially as an artist myself) that attribution matters, particularly when it comes to making sure that Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color are given the credit and respect that they deserve.
What I did was wrong and harmful on many levels and in ways I am sure I will never fully understand. It is my job to learn the harms done, understand the importance of taking responsibility, and work to do better. I have absolutely no expectation of forgiveness, as it is my responsibility to do the learning of how misattribution like this is harmful and an act of violence. Further, if I hear of anyone else misattributing your work, I will immediately and directly correct them, explain my own responsibility in this matter, and work with them so that this does not continue.
For the sake of full transparency, I have purchased three shirts, one some time ago for myself and two last week to give as gifts.
I would also like to acknowledge the delay in my response to you. I had a major surgery on Monday and was unable to reply in a meaningful manner until today.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email. If a phone call or follow-up conversation would be helpful, I am absolutely available. But of course, you are under no obligation to do so.
It has been a week and a half since this damage, violence, and branch of white supremacy has been made. She, nor Oiselle has followed the explicit direction I set out for them to make this injustice of stealing from a queer latina athlete right. Instead, they have limited comments on all of their recent posts and deleted specific comments of folks seeking justice. Silencing women at this day and age is not the type of person/company/leadership we want standing with us as we move into the 2020 election.
I have the emails, I have the screenshots, the stories, countless customers from Oiselle giving me proof of Sally's repetitive performative allyship. I have the literal receipts of this harm and though we are at a moment of urgency in this political landscape, my conscious and I cannot rest knowing that another white woman is sweeping her hostile behaviors and actions under the rug. Sally is hurting and re-traumatizing hundreds of women of color, especially when her entire company is claiming to be inclusional, especially when uses POC for her own profit, and especially when Sally's bio states that she is an "aspiring inclusive feminist with love and respect for all womxn."
Her members pay $100 to join and there is about 4k of them. Asking for $5k is the very least she can do if you do that math. This post is a call out for Sally Bergeson on exhausting, gaslighting and abusing women of color. I am asking for your support putting justice at the forefront of this disaster, I am asking for us to not back down on making sure Sally, Michael and the entire team of Oiselle knows just how disturbing their lack of accountability is and to pay me and Fear Her Fight Athletics at the very minimum $5,000 by November 1st, 5pm PST. Make this right.
More details are on my instagram @mariarodriguez_fhf
Muchisimas gracias a todos.
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