Author Archives: vaurora

Get your conference anti-harassment policy here!

It’s official: The example conference anti-harassment policy is out of beta and ready for prime time.

This is a example anti-harassment policy suitable for most open source, computing, or technology-related conferences. It may be adopted unchanged or tweaked to suit your conference.

Why have an official anti-harassment policy for your conference? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at conferences is incredibly common – for example, see this timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities. Second, it sets expectations for behavior at the conference. Simply having an anti-harassment policy can prevent harassment all by itself. Third, it encourages people to attend who have had bad experiences at other conferences. Finally, it gives conference staff instructions on how to handle harassment quickly, with the minimum amount of disruption or bad press for your conference.

OSDC 2010 wins the prize for first adoption of an anti-harassment policy based on this version. Thanks to Donna Benjamin for her hard work and editorial talent!

Which conference will be next? Email the organizers of your favorite conference and ask about their policy for dealing with harassment:

If your favorite conference isn’t listed above, leave a comment with its web site and contact email address, and we will move it into the list above.

If you or someone you know has been affected by harassment at a conference, please blog about it and link back to this post. Thanks!

RFC: Draft conference anti-harassment policy

Recent events show that not everyone has the same expectations for behavior at open source conferences. If you are a conference organizer, having an explicit anti-harassment policy can help prevent unpleasant and embarrassing incidents. But writing (and advocating for) an anti-harassment policy is, frankly, a lot of work.

Over the last couple of weeks, a group of veteran conference organizers put together a customizable anti-harassment policy suitable for most open source conferences. We are now asking for public comments on the draft policy, especially from conference organizers who are speaking from hard-won experience.

Draft conference anti-harassment policy

From the introduction:

An anti-harassment policy can help your conference in several ways. It can set expectations for participant behavior, publicly state the organizers’ principles, and give conference staff instructions on how to handle harassment. Part of the benefit of an anti-harassment policy comes from publicizing it before the conference, thereby setting expectations and preventing problems from occurring in the first place. It may also increase conference attendance, especially if competing conferences have less savory reputations for participant behavior.

We are also collecting resources for organizers considering adoption of an anti-harassment policy, including speaker guidelines, legal issues, and advice on customizing the policy.

To give feedback on the draft policy, comment on this post or send email to: valerie dot aurora at gmail dot com . We will integrate comments during the next week and release a “final” draft when the comments die down.

Street harassment reporting app now available for iPhone and Android

Last time we talked about Hollaback, the organization to fight street harassment, they were raising money to fund development of an mobile phone app to make reporting street harassment fast and easy. Well, it’s ready! Hollaback just released its street harassment reporting app for iPhone and Android, called “Hollaback.” Several news media outlets have picked up the story; you can read The New York Times story here:

Phone Apps Aim to Fight Harassment

Yes, that’s right, now when some creep starts muttering about your ass on the bus, you can whip out your phone, take a photo of him and get it published on a web site along with your story – and it only takes seconds. The photo is optional, of course. Instructions on how to download the app, text message your report, or report by web form are here.

Reporting street harassment this way is less about identifying and prosecuting individual men than raising awareness and giving women a feeling of power and the confidence to fight back. Before the Hollaback app was available, I started taking photos of my harassers in San Francisco (and noting the time and place and even interviewing them). I never even bothered sending them to Hollaback because simply taking the photos made me feel so powerful and in-control that I didn’t need to do more.

Comments of the “What about the poor mens?” variety that don’t add anything new to the discussion won’t be approved (problem-solving ideas welcome, of course!). Please feel free to share your street harassment story here but consider also submitting it to the Hollaback web site too.

Grace Hopper 2010 keynote update: Now “Cross-boundary Collaboration”

Yesterday, I wrote about the talk description for one of the Grace Hopper 2010 keynotes. The talk description began with an anecdote in which Le is told by a male colleague that he never thought of her as a woman, and she responds with “That is one of the best compliments I have ever received in my professional life!” The rest of the description is in a similar vein.

I saw the talk this morning and I’m pleased to report that it did not have much if anything in common with the published talk description. Originally entitled “Camaraderie & Cross Gender Collaboration,” the talk Duy-Loan Le gave today was entited “Camaraderie & Cross Boundary Collaboration,” with definitions of three specific boundaries that were not directly related to gender. It was what you’d describe as an inspirational talk – positive, not heavy on specifics, and anecdotal – and focused more on cultural and racial challenges than gender.

I am thrilled that the actual talk given by Duy-Loan Le did not resemble the talk description I found in the GHC 2010 program. I am still shocked and surprised to find that talk description in the conference materials for a women in computing conference. This kind of opinion – that women should not be women in order to succeed, and that women are responsible for becoming more like men to make them comfortable – was doubly surprising because the organizers of a women in computing conference should know better.

I do think the organizers of Grace Hopper failed their audience by allowing this talk description in the official conference program. By doing so, they gave these opinions added weight from association with “the” conference on women in computing. I would like to see some response from the organizers counteracting the effect of this publication – or, if all else fails, from the women in computing community at large.

Grace Hopper keynote “Camaraderie & Cross Gender Collaboration”

Dear Lazyweb,

How many sexist fallacies can you list in one comment on this talk description? You may link to Feminism 101 to save on typing.

Background: Tomorrow morning is the first keynote speech of the Grace Hopper 2010 conference, “Camaraderie & Cross Gender Collaboration“, by Duy-Loan T. Le, a senior fellow at Texas Instruments.


My male colleagues laughed a good laugh with me. Then one gentleman, let’s just call him Mr. Jones, said rather matter-of-factly, “I have never thought of you as a woman!” I laughed and replied, “That is one of the best compliments I have ever received in my professional life!”


What played out in that room that day demonstrates, in my opinion, an ultimate requirement one must have in order to be part of a group: camaraderie! If we women can appreciate how important camaraderie is when working with men – and our part in fostering it – the good old boys’ network becomes a lot less exclusive and less of a barrier.

Read the full text of the keynote description here: Full text | one page PDF | full program PDF [large]

Update: The actual talk had very little to do with the talk description (whew!).

I want an Elena Kagan t-shirt

(Cross-posted from my personal blog.)

It should be no surprise that I am thrilled – nay, bubbling over with effervescent happiness – that Elena Kagan was confirmed today to the U.S. Supreme Court. As of her swearing in on Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court will, for the first time, consist of 33% women (well, technically, 33.3%).

As a rule, I wear very few shirts with words or logos on them, but I gleefully make an exception for Elena Kagan and/or the womaniest Supreme Court in history. What’s your suggestion for a t-shirt, hoody, bag, or other declaration of support for Elena Kagan and our shiny new Supreme Court? “Elena Kagan Rules” in stark white caps on a black babydoll is a good start. And can I get one in time for the Linux Storage and File Systems workshop on Sunday?

You can do something about street harassment

When I sold my car and started walking and using public transit, I discovered a whole new wonderful world of sexual harassment. In general, I can’t travel more than a mile without at least one incident of a guy pinching his nipples while shouting at me to “Take it off!” or the like. The worst part is that you feel absolutely powerless to do anything about it. Men who enjoy harassing women also enjoy any kind of attention whatsoever, and getting angry, yelling at them, or shaming them only makes them happier.

A couple of years ago, I kept a Google map of location, time, and description of each incident of sexual harassment, simply because so many people refused to believe me when I told them about the kind of harassment I got. Then I just got used to it – sort of, if you can call feeling fear, shame, and rage for a couple of hours “used to it.”

But now! Hollaback is raising money (via Kickstarter) for an iPhone app that will let you take a photo and post it to an online map and database. You can already post to the Stop Street Harassment Global map. Street harassment depends on anonymity – most of these guys only do it when there are not many people around, or so quietly that no one else can hear. The more men get their photos up on the Internet when they harass women, the less harassment there will be.

The way Kickstarter works is that they have to raise a certain amount of money before they get any of the money. The deadline for this fundraiser is May 28, 2010, and they currently have $5,705 out of a goal of $12,500.

I gave them $25. Yay! I can do something! If you’ve ever been harassed on the street, or know someone who has, or just think that women should be able to go out in public without fear, please donate. You can give as little as $5. I’d love to see someone donate $1000.

The Thank-You Meme: The coreboot project

Recently, I was at a bar with 4 or 5 other women I knew through women in Linux advocacy. The striking thing was that, out of all of us, only one (Kirrily Robert) was still actively working on women in open source projects. The rest of us had burned out – and even Kirrily had burned out once before. This not atypical.

One of the reasons we burn out is the huge imbalance between positive and negative feedback. For every supportive email or blog comment, you get a hundred obnoxious ones. I have a theory: Most people in open source support what we are trying to do, it just doesn’t feel that way. On the Internet, no one can see you nod.

Here on the Geek Feminism blog, we’re going to try an experiment: The Thank-You meme. If you get a really positive, well-written thank-you for your work in women in open source, we’d love it if you shared it with the rest of us. Here are the rules:

1. The thank-you can’t be written specifically for this blog. It has to be a genuine, spontaneous thank-you. No astroturfing.

2. Along the same lines, you can’t post a thank-you that you wrote yourself. Feel free to send someone a thank-you, though!

3. Ask permission of the sender to post it. Offer to anonymize it.

4. If you haven’t heard back from the sender after a week, go ahead and post it, carefully anonymized.

And here is the inaugural Thank-You, from Carl-Daniel Hailfinger, a member of the