This is a guest post by Jacinta Richardson. Jacinta runs Perl Training Australia and is a strong supporter of making IT more friendly to everyone.
This is an edited version of a mailing list post.
The apology from the organisers about Mark Pesce’s linux.conf.au keynote caused much discussion on the linux.conf.au attendees’ chat list. The vast number of responders felt the right thing had been done with the apology and were happy, however there were a small number (5 or less) squeaky wheels that insisted that the talk was fine and that no apology was necessary.
This post is an edited response to my reply in a thread discussing whether the anti-harassment policy was too broadly scoped as well as possibly unnecessary.
Warning: this entry discusses sexual assault, rape and real statistics.
The anti-harassment policy that linux.conf.au adopted didn’t set an impossibly high bar for attendees or speakers, despite the complaints of a select few. As far as I know, all of the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 speakers, and all but one of the 2011 speakers managed to adhere to professional standards in their talks
and not use images that did or would have caused the ruckus Mark’s talk did. At about 90 (official) speakers per conference and maybe another 90 mini-conf speakers per conference that’s about 899 talks which all managed this feat, and quite a few of those talks were challenging, hard hitting, world shattering and all the things that Mark’s talk was too.
However Mark’s talk relentlessly employed the language and imagery of sexual assault as a metaphor for the loss of personal freedoms, and this is inappropriate. For all that Mark’s theme was timely and valuable, the talk would have been so much better had it been delivered with respect for those members of our community who have actually been assaulted.