I thought this point was worth bringing up from the comments: as we talk about tech conferences enforcing standards against use of sexualised imagery, we’re hoping to replace the “ho ho ho, we’re all het men here, what we have in common is coding and finding women attractive, don’t we all feel closer now, boys, for having shared our two great joys?” vibe.
I think I get the thinking around these guidelines â€” and the totally male-dominated conference circuit that needs to hear this sort of guidance â€” but I just am stuck on this:
How do we keep guys (or anyone) from non-sensically using sexual or sexualized imagery and language in their presentations and preserve the right of people to use that information when itâ€™s actually really, really what the presentation concerns?
This might be beyond the scope of these guidelines, but I am thinking back to the first BlogHer, during a â€œBirds of a Featherâ€ session organized by self-identified mommybloggers, who were irritated that when they discussed the biological particulars of childbirth and childrearing, they were told they were being unprofessional, NSFW, or â€œovershare-yâ€ â€” or, obscene.
Itâ€™s hard to address intent in this stuff. And I donâ€™t want to sit through anymore stuffed-shirted dude â€œpresosâ€ on boring web marketing that just have some naked women sprinkled throughout to â€œsex things upâ€ â€” because usually, those are the same dudes who donâ€™t actually want to hear women talk honestly about sex, either.
In the FLOSS community, this may be a more specific concern with a history of problematic presentations, I know, and Iâ€™ve followed some of that through this blog â€” but tech/geek conferences can be pretty influential in establishing norms, and Iâ€™d not want to see a very flattened idea of what â€œsafeâ€ is promoted when those kind of norms can end up used to curtail womenâ€™s speech & expression, too.
I think one of the big problems here is that conferences will be very reluctant for various reasons to use any phrasing of guidelines that itself sounds exclusionary. It’s much easier to say “unprofessional content is banned” or “no naked pictures” than it is to try and draw a line between annoyingly exclusionary and usefully challenging or even just usefully informative, especially if that line may have anything to do with differentiating “men talking about women’s bodies” and “women talking about their own bodies.”