We Are the Shit Givers


I had an incredible conversation recently about women in fundraising. Namely, why women dominate the profession, but do not dominate the direction, the strategy, and the pay.

And my first thought is this: it is, like many jobs filled by women, simply not valued by management (ie, men.)

This is a harsh assessment, but tell me it isn’t true.

This conversation was fed by women that I have deep respect for, including my spirit animal Jen Love, who so poignantly made another very important point: generally, women just care more than men, and so it becomes their role. The caregiver.

This got me thinking about the broader traditionally female role of caregiver. In the home, of children, of the aging, of the sick, of most relationships, and of the world.

The term caregiver has always made me cringe a bit. Not because I don’t value it, but because it seemingly stems from a long history of the idea that caring is somehow not only a soft skill, but a soft approach to the world around us.

Care. Old English carian, cearian, “to be anxious, grieve, feel concern or interest, burden of the mind.” From Proto-Germanic karo, “lament, grief, sorrow.” Old High German chara, “wail, cry out, scream.”

Sounds hysterical. As in the Latin hystericus, meaning “of the womb.”

(Never doubt the impact that words, their meanings and their roots have.)

Men hunt and kill. Women tend and care.

Men dominate. Women are submissive, dominated, and doting.

To say I am a caregiver – to my children, my aging family members, my community, my sector, my world – so quickly discounts the work I do.

If you don’t think so, look at caregiving roles in our society. Mothers, nurses, teachers, social workers, fundraisers, to name a few. We’re not paid as much (or nothing at all.) We have less say into how things are run, how decisions are made.

And also look at what a disservice this does to men in traditional care-giving roles. I need not look any further than my own husband, who was a single dad of three for a decade – he was (and is!) an incredible caregiver to my three surprise children, and now to my own son, but the world assumed he was receiving some kind of extra help. He wasn’t. He just had his shit together.

You can see why I don’t want to be called a caregiver any more.

Instead, call me a shit giver.

The one who gives a shit. About all the things.

I give a shit and I don’t give a fuck.

Yes, I give a shit about my children, and my parents, and my family. I give a shit about my community, the environment, the state of society. I give a shit about people with lived experiences very different than my own. I give a shit about equity, racism, sexism. I give a shit about people who work in this sector. I give a shit that leadership positions are still predominantly held by those who are “pale, male and stale” (thanks again, Jen Love for that gem.) I am blessed to work alongside other shit givers, too (of every gender, colour and background), and I give a shit about their voices, their experience, their wisdom.

I am a shit giver.

And I don’t give a fuck who knows it.

My guess is that you’re a shit giver, too.

If you weren’t, you would have been immediately put off by my use of language. Nice women don’t talk like that. You would have been offended by my suggestion that it’s time to oust the pale, male and stale dominant voices. That’s a double standard, isn’t it? You clearly just hate men. You would have felt queasy by my suggestion to rock the boat. Those who rock the boat have no time to actually row. (An actual comment I received, inspiration for this piece

And herein lies the biggest problem with trying to shush and shame the shit givers: in a broken world that only works for a small number of people, we’d be fucked without them.

It’s time the shit givers were heard.

So what the fuck are we going to do about it?


For more on the challenges of our sector, please read Simone Joyaux’s paper: Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma