Tag Archives: anti-harassment

That’s not a Linkspam. THIS is a Linkspam (15 April 2014)

  • So You’ve Got Yourself a Policy. Now What? | Stephanie Zvan at Freethough Blogs (April 10): “We know from situations in which they’ve failed that “zero-tolerance” policies, policies in which any act that is deemed to be unacceptable results in expulsion and exclusion, don’t work well. They fail in three main ways. People who are against harassment policies in general are quick to point out that they leave no room for honest mistakes. They are correct when talking about zero-tolerance policies, even if they make the same criticism about all policies.”
  • What’s Missing from Journalists’ Tactic of Snagging Stories from Twitter? Respect. | Tina Vasquez at bitchmedia (March 21): “Christine Fox does not consider herself a social justice advocate. On March 12, Fox’s timeline took a decidedly different turn. That night, to illustrate that there is no correlation between clothing and sexual assault, Fox asked her more than 12,000 followers to share what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. It was the first time Fox facilitated a conversation on this scale and it was also the first time she publicly shared her story as an assault survivor. She walked away from her computer that night feeling positive about what took place—and many tweeted to thank her, saying that through the tears, the discussion felt healing. But the next morning, Fox felt her hands go shaky. She felt nauseous and sweaty. She’d later learn from followers on Twitter that after reading through hundreds of tweets about assault, she had likely “triggered” herself, a term she was relatively unfamiliar with. Still, she knew something powerful had happened and she was proud to have sparked it. And then BuzzFeed came along and fucked everything up.”
  • My Cane is Not A Costume – Convention Exclusions and Ways to Think About Oppression at Cons | Derek Newman-Stille at Speculating Canada (April 7): “On a regular basis at speculative and other fan conventions, I get knocked around, shoved, pushed out of the way. People assume that because I am using a cane, I am taking up more than my fair space, after all, I have THREE whole legs on the ground (two legs and a cane). I hope this is because they assume that my cane is the equivalent to their lightsaber, a performative piece, a part of a costume… That is my hope. However, I have seen issues of systemic ableism at cons.”
  • Why are People Perennially Surprised By Internet Misogyny? | s.e. smith at meloukhia.net (April 14): “I have a confession: I was tempted to cut and paste this piece, since I’m pretty sure I’ve written it before. I realized that my desire to cut and paste was kind of an indicator of how endlessly circular this topic is, though. [...] I really don’t know how many times people need to say this before the message will sink through: the internet is a dangerous place for women. It’s especially dangerous for women living at the intersections of multiple marginalisations.”
  • Collecting Inspiration with Supersisters | Liz Zanis at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (April 3): “Published in 1979, the Supersisters trading cards were a playful, informative, and accessible way to spread feminism to younger audiences. The series was inspired by Lois Rich’s daughter, an eight-year-old baseball-card collector, who asked why there weren’t any pictures of girls on the cards. With a grant from the New York State Education Department, Lois Rich and her sister, Barbara Egerman, contacted five hundred women of achievement and created cards of the first seventy-two to respond.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on PinboardDelicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

How is linkspam formed? (9 July 2013)

Special issue on conference harassment!

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Photo of a single pink ribbon tied around a wire, shot against the sky by tanakawho

Signal boost: Dragon*Con, backup ribbons, and wolves in sheep’s clothing

As noted in Linkspam comments, there’s a dispute at the moment between the organisers of Dragon*Con and the Backup Ribbon Project. The Backup Ribbon Project is an off-shoot of the Backup Project and distributes badge ribbons for con attendees to attach to their badge, reading “Backup” in large letters, showing that the person wearing the ribbon is committed to backing up someone experiencing harassment.

On August 20, Dragon*Con released a statement, reading in part [my emphasis]:

At times, good intentions can lead to bad situations. Dragon*Con has become aware of a potentially dangerous situation involving a self-started project that provides ribbons for fans identifying themselves as people who are able and willing to help another fan in the event assistance of any sort is needed in a difficult situation. While we absolutely believe that the creation of this movement was done with the best intentions to protect fans, we feel that it presents a possibility for a person coming in as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” perhaps luring someone in distress to an even more dangerous situation. Providing a ribbon for someone to wear to give them any type of “official” sanction when no screening has taken place is quite frankly, scary to us. To that end, we have asked the individual to stop providing ribbons for Dragon*Con attendees. We think a lot of our fans and believe strongly in the message that if you see someone in trouble, you should always be willing to help out or get someone who can. We expect no less and you all have never disappointed.

The Ribbon Project responded on August 21:

Please know that, as of this time, Dragon*Con has informed us that it will NOT be sanctioning people wearing or distributing Backup Ribbons at the con, nor will it be confiscating ribbons. We regret this was not included in their official statement…

We stand by our conviction that the benefits of making the Backup Ribbon Project accessible to as many people as possible far outweighs the risk of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Yes, there will be a risk of some Bad!Person taking advantage of the situation, but we believe that risk is minimal.

What do you think? Which has the greater risk, false allies, or difficulty finding any allies?

The word LINKS spelt out in clips (safety pins)

This Linkspam is not the Enemy (17th August, 2012)

  • Your Nasty, Nerdy Sexism Isn’t Cute: Gizmodo’s female writers take on their sexist detractors: “Some of you seem to be under the misguided impression that sexual favors are the only way a woman could possibly end up writing for a tech blog—wrong. And you know what? It’s not just wrong, it’s rude.”
  • Jim C. Hines – My Sexual Harassment Policy: As the Readercon discussion cools down, Hines outlines how he’ll hold himself accountable in the future – via his own sexual harassment policy.
  • How to Criticize Women in Technology: “This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to criticize women in technology without being sexist. But it is a bit harder. The tool you have to give up when criticizing women who have been talked down to all their lives, if you want to avoid performing and therefore reinforcing sexism, is talking down to them.”
  • Vote for Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of 2012: Limor Fried (ladyada), CEO of Adafruit Industries, is a contender for Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
  • Geek Love: A self-professed “not a true geek” attends the second annual Geek Girl Con, and finds plenty to love: “So what about attending Geek Girl Con this past weekend made me start to wish I had caught up on old Doctor Who, played Assassins Creed, or flipped through a C++ coding manual just once?”
  • Should game developers avoid triggering players’ PTSD?: “Is this fair or right? If a game developer makes the decision to include triggering content, knowing that it will cause a portion of the audience significant distress and pain, can that ever be an ethical decision?”
  • Philosophy gender war erupts after call for larger role for women: Two philosophers construct a “Modest Proposal on how to Change the Status Quo,” refusing to attend philosophy conferences with an all-male speaker lineup – and a familiar debate emerges.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Ready Player Linkspam (14th August, 2012)

  • Straw Feminists in the Closet: “God, what a nightmare! To wake up to Straw Feminists in the closet, one of the greatest bogeymen of all time!” Amazing drawings.
  • Philosophy gender war erupts after call for larger role for women: “‘I think many of the senior men in the field believe philosophy would be better if there was more gender equity, and I think [a boycott] gives them an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is,’ she said, adding that she applauds Mr. Collodel and his co-organizer, Eric Oberheim, for adding women to their program, albeit at the last-minute. ‘People worry about tokenism, but as far as I’m concerned the important thing now is to improve the profile of women in philosophy.’”
  • The Women Who’ve Transformed A Mars Rover Into A Sassy Social Superstar: “‘It’s easier to anthropomorphize rovers,’ added Smith. ‘The cameras make it look like she has eyes. So it’s tempting to think of the rover as a bodacious chick on the surface of another planet with a rock vaporizing laser on her head.’”
  • The Better Name for Girlfriend Mode Is Probably Co-Star Mode: “The word ‘co-star’ elevates the status of the second, presumably less-skilled player. It clearly labels them as something other than the best player. They are not the ‘star’, but they are the guest, the visiting celebrity, the fellow great. They’re the celebrity walk-on in a sitcom or the other actor who isn’t being interviewed at the moment. They may be a mere supporting actor, but ‘co-star’ makes them sound so much important. It’s better than ‘girlfriend mode’ or any other construction that would label the second player as inferior to the first (see: ‘casual mode,’ ‘person-who-sucks-at-games mode’).”
  • [Trigger Warning: Harassment]What It’s Like For a Girl Gamer: “This story of harassment is, inside the industry, considered old hat—no one wants to hear your tale of woe. When I talk about this kind of thing at industry or academic panels, there are people eager to wave off 90 percent of what I just wrote because they are, allegedly, already busy looking for the solution. Then there are the others who dismiss me because I’m not addressing feminist concerns in the ‘real world.’ But this is my real world, and I would argue that for most of us, gamers or just Facebook users, these online social interactions are very real, with very serious consequences.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Harassment]Without My Consent: Paths to justice for survivors of online harassment: “This website is intended to empower individuals harmed by online privacy violations to stand up for their rights. The site will focus on the specific problem of the publication of private images online. We are currently in the beta phase of launching the site, which means that content is being added and edited regularly. Our long-term hope is that the site will also inspire meaningful debate about the internet, accountability, free speech, and the serious problem of online invasions of privacy.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Angry woman covered in dark paint, wearing a shirt reading 'freedom'

Wiki help: anti-harassment policies

I’ve been sketching out an expansion to the Conference anti-harassment pages over on the wiki, but I could use a lot of help. Get your wiki editing game on, or alternatively leave info and ideas in comments here and someone will pull them into the wiki. If you are new to wiki editing, please see Wikia’s introduction to wiki editing.

Gather posts about anti-harassment policies

Several communities have had extensive online discussion of adopting anti-harassment policies now, most recently was the campaign to get skeptical and secular events to adopt policies. We’d like to gather the links together on one page, the Conference anti-harassment reading page. If you’d like to help out, please seek out links discussing anti-harassment policies and add them to the appropriate section:

  1. Adoption of policies, for pages about drafting policies, or announcing their adoption or similar
  2. Support of policies, for pages in support of adopting policies
  3. Opposition to policies, for pages opposing adopting policies

Suggest actions in support of anti-harassment policies

Many people would like to support anti-harassment policy adoption, and I’ve created a short list of actions that support policy adoption. Please expand this with effective actions you know of!

Design buttons and ribbons

One of the ways people have shown support of policies is by distributing buttons, ribbons, stickers and so on for supporters to wear at conferences. Please share your designs so that others can use them!

The word LINKS spelt out in clips (safety pins)

Linkspam Of Unusual Size (22nd June, 2012)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

A woman holds a sign with Rebecca West's 'differentiate me from a doormat' quote

Example conference anti-harassment policy turns one year old

This is a cross-post from the Ada Initiative’s blog. The Ada Initiative has put a lot of effort into helping conferences understand and adopt some form of anti-harassment policy. Your donations will help us continue to promote the policy and do similar work. Thanks!

November 29 was the one year anniversary of the publication of the example conference anti-harassment policy! Inspired by multiple reports of groping, sexual assault, and pornography at open tech/culture conferences, the Ada Initiative co-founders helped write and publish an example conference anti-harassment policy for modification and reuse by conference organizers. This example was the collaborative effort of many different conference organizers and community members, who all deserve thanks and credit.

One year later, over 30 conferences have adopted an anti-harassment policy of one kind or another. “More than 30″ is a rough lower bound; several organizations have adopted a policy for all their events and run a dozen or more events per year. Some of the organizations that have announced that all their conferences will have a policy include Linux Foundation, ACM SIGPLAN, and O’Reilly (pledged). Here’s why some conferences have adopted a policy, in the organizers’ own words:

Tim O’Reilly: “[...] It’s become clear that this is a real, long-standing issue in the technical community. And we do know this: we don’t condone harassment or offensive behavior, at our conferences or anywhere. It’s counter to our company values. More importantly, it’s counter to our values as human beings.”

Jacob Kaplan-Moss, co-organizer of PyCon US, speaking for himself in this post: “A published code of conduct tells me that the conference staff cares about these issues, takes them seriously, and is waiting and willing to listen if an incident happens. It’s by no means a solution to the depressing homogeneity of technical communities, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

ACM SIGPLAN: “This policy has been in the works at the ACM SIGPLAN for several months; SPLASH 2011 is proud to be both the driver for that effort and the first ACM conference with such policy in place. This policy is not a symbolic gesture, delivered to satisfy a perceived need for political correctness, but instead goes to the core of both our personal beliefs and the beliefs of the community as a whole.”

Like any good open source project, the policy has been forked, adapted, and rewritten from scratch several times. Conference organizers looking to adopt a policy now can choose from several different policies. Many policies are linked to from this list of conferences with a policy; if you know a conference that is missing, please add it!

Some history

Why write an example anti-harassment policy? What we discovered after a little research (aided by the timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities) was the following:

  • Often, the person doing the groping, harassing, or showing of pornography honestly believed that their behavior was acceptable for the venue. Just as often, many other people went on record agreeing with them.
  • People who saw these incidents didn’t know how to respond to these incidents or weren’t sure who to report them to.
  • Conference organizers sometimes didn’t learn about an incident until long after it happened. When they did find out in time to take action, they often didn’t know how to respond to the incident.

We looked at these facts and figured it might help if conference organizers had an easy way to:

  • Educate attendees in advance that specific behaviors commonly believed to be okay (like groping, pornography in slides, etc.) are not acceptable at this conference.
  • Tell attendees how to report these behaviors if they see them, and assure them they will be treated respectfully if they do so.
  • Have established, documented procedures for how the conference staff will respond to these reports.

But we knew that conference organizers are very busy people, and very few of them had the time to write something like this. We figured that if we wrote an example policy that could be easily adapted to their needs, we could save them a lot of time and energy, and reduce harassment at conferences at the same time.

One year later, it looks like we had the right idea! Now it’s almost easier to attend a open tech/culture conference with a policy than one without. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, from attendees of all genders to speakers to organizers, and especially conference sponsors. Sponsors like any way to reduce the chance that their name will be associated with bad press.

You can help encourage adoption

Our goal is to make policies like this obsolete because everyone knows how to go to a conference without ruining it for the people around them. But we’re clearly not there yet, as this incident from October 2011 shows. One way you can help change the culture of open technology and culture is by encouraging the adoption of a similar policy by the conferences you attend.

Here are some of the common arguments against adopting a policy that addresses the three points we describe above.

This has/will never happen at my conference!

Congratulations! Some conferences are small enough or exclusive enough that it’s easy to end up with a group of people who all agree about appropriate conference behavior. Generally speaking though, as a conference gets larger or easier to attend, the mathematical probability of someone with significantly different ideas attending the conference increases until it is a near-certainty.

Next, if you believe there’s never been harassment at your conference, you might want to do a little asking around. If you don’t have a well-publicized method to contact the organizers about harassment at the conference, you’re unlikely to hear about it. When this policy was first posted, many organizers went back and asked attendees if they’d ever heard of harassment at previous conferences they had run and found the answer to be yes surprisingly often.

Finally, a great way to keep up a perfect record of no harassment is to adopt a policy that tells attendees you expect them not to harass each other.

Listing specific behaviors is unnecessary/insulting/ineffective/negative/etc.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming evidence from previous incidents shows that many of the people involved had absolutely no idea that what they were doing was unacceptable – and in fact were quite angry to discover that there were some unspoken rules that no one told them about. You may not enjoy telling people the rules specifically, but people hate breaking rules unknowingly even more.

To be blunt, a non-trivial percentage of speakers at open tech/culture conferences view pornography in their slides as simply good speaking technique. Telling them, e.g., to only include material suitable for a diverse audience won’t change their behavior because they believe everyone enjoys a little pornography in their technical talk. The only way they are going to stop including pornography in their slides is if you tell them not to, in so many words. Another non-trivial percentage believe it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to touch a woman on any part of her body without her consent if either the man or the woman is drinking alcohol. They believe this is appropriate behavior, so asking them to, e.g., “Be respectful of other people” is not specific enough to change their behavior.

This policy will hamper free speech and ruin my talk!

Conferences and their topics vary, but we have yet to attend a conference in open technology and culture in which a talk required the harassment of attendees in order to get information across. We’re not sure, but we suspect you can, e.g., teach people about file system semantics and keep the audience’s attention without employing sexist jokes. (I’ve done it more than once!)

Conferences in which talks about sexuality, racism, etc. are on-topic are encouraged to add exceptions for these talks and give guidelines on talking about the subject while respecting the attendees. We encourage them to send us their modifications so we can add them to the options in the example policy. Here is one example of the policy as applied to a talk about sexuality by Cindy Gallop at the Open Video Conference 2011.

In the end, you can always vote with your feet – you can preferentially attend, speak at, and help organize conferences with policies against harassment.

A note: We want to explicitly acknowledge the fact that harassment at conferences is not just a problem for women; in fact, we’ve heard many reports of men being the target of harassment, or being disgusted or creeped out by other attendees’ behavior. In this as in many cases, the changes that make open technology and culture more welcoming (and safer) for women are the same ones that make it more welcoming for everyone.

Cindy Gallop stands in front of a presentation slide reading "Make Love Not Porn" by nextconf CC BY

Quick hit: policy around a sexual talk at the Open Video Conference

The Open Video Conference has adopted a harassment policy, and is also featuring a talk by Cindy Gallop. Here’s an excerpt of the abstract.

Links from this abstract may contain frank discussion of sex and sexual imagery.

Cindy Gallop stands in front of a presentation slide reading "Make Love Not Porn" by nextconf CC BY
Cindy Gallop delivered one of the most talked about TEDTalks in history at TED 2009.

Speaking very frankly, and from direct experience, she argued that hardcore pornography has distorted the way a generation of young men think about sex.

At TED 2009, Cindy shared with attendees her plan to fight back, with the launch of a website to educate people about the nuances in human sexuality. At OVC, she’ll start to share the next part of her project: MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, which launches in early 2012…

This talk will be frank. This talk will be honest. It will be graphic. But we think Cindy speaks to a hugely under-recognized issue, and does so in a funny and thought-provoking way.

The abstract contains a highlighted note:

This talk will contain explicit sexual discussion and imagery. This may be offensive, triggering, or uninteresting to attendees. As such, attendees are welcome to leave at any point and for any reason — even an important (or not) phone call. Please keep this discussion inside the auditorium, and refrain from discussing the content of this talk with other attendees outside of the session unless you have obtained explicit permission from them. We all have different levels of comfort around these topics and OVC works hard to maintain a safe environment for all attendees. Please note that the conference has a strict policy against harassment of any kind. Visit http://openvideoconference.org/harassment to learn more.

This hits some important points. Particularly important to me is making it clear that leaving this talk is OK, because this is something that many people are strongly socialised not to do. (Some speakers and chairs in some circumstances will even yell at you for it.)

How does this work for you? Useful? Not useful? Is it the kind of approach you’d like to see more of around sexual material? When else would you use it? Would it bug you in some situations or around some topics?

O'Reilly OSCON open source convention

Getting ready for OSCON, code of conduct and cultural change

This is a guest post by Selena. It is cross-posted from her blog.

I totally should be working on my talks right now, but instead I’ve been talking with people about the lack of a code of conduct for OSCON.

I’ve written before about cultural resistance, and how I think it fits in with changes that must happen in technical communities when we invite more women in.

One of those changes is making it clear that women (and other minorities) are not just tolerated in public spaces, but that they are explicitly wanted there.

O'Reilly OSCON open source convention

I think OSCON has made great strides in that direction by changing their marketing materials to include the faces of women. Sarah Novotny, co-chair of OSCON, travelled extensively to invite women face-to-face to submit talks. There are many women speaking at OSCON this year.

OSCON put the time and energy into creating a sense that women were already attending (which they are), and that they wanted more.

So, why all the fuss about having a code of conduct? Well, this community is changing.

What people think of as “summer camp for geeks” is this year a gathering that by definition includes people who haven’t previously been part of the OSCON community. When a community (which OSCON definitely is) sets out to change the gender percentages, it needs to be clear that the women are being invited to join and shape the culture, not just show up to be tourists of the existing culture.

The leadership of the conference needs to establish with existing attendees that the cultural change is wanted. The fact is, OSCON is a for-profit enterprise, with a business driving the event. Grassroots activism is helpful in encouraging change, but ultimately, the owners of the brand need to make a statement in addition to the marketing.

I applaud Jono Bacon for his creation of an anti-harassment policy for the Community Leadership Summit. I also am heartened at O’Reilly’s recent tweet that they are following this conversation.

I don’t think that codes of conduct are the perfect solution. But how else do we communicate to everyone participating that the change is happening, and that they need to accommodate new members *who are very different from them* during a period of cultural adjustment? That’s not a rhetorical question — I am genuinely interested in answers to this question.

I’ve updated my profile to state that I am pro-code-of-conduct, and included a link to anti-harassment resources, which I think should be part of an overall code of conduct. Donna put up a wikipage with easy to cut-n-paste additions for OSCON speaker profiles. If you agree that a code of conduct is a positive direction, please join us!

Editor’s note: Since Selena’s post was written, OSCON has agreed that a code of conduct is important. You can read Tim O’Reilly’s post on the subject here: Sexual Harassment at Technical Conferences: A Big No-No. However, I thought Selena’s temporary work-around for the problem is something others might like to have in mind for future events.