[Linux-aus] Some Anti-Harassment Policies considered harmful

Sarah Stokely sarah at foxforcefive.com
Tue Feb 1 10:58:02 EST 2011

Hi everyone,
First up, I'm glad to see a discussion of the anti-harrassment policy.
Thanks to everyone who's contributed so far, and those who have blogged
about it.
I was not at LCA this year, but I have been helping to organise the WordCamp
which is happening in Melbourne later this month, which is being run as an
LA subcommittee event. I recommended (and the WordCamp organisers agreed) to
adopt the Geek Feminism anti-harrassment policy for WordCamp this year.
So, clearly, I'm in favour of it.

Turning to the events at this year's LCA. One - Mark Pesce's keynote and
some of the sexual images in his slides. Two - people being harrassed by
photographers (definition of harrassment here: continued attention or
invitations which have been rebuffed by the receiver and persist anyway).
It's not clear to me why people think Mark's slides weren't the kind of
thing the policy is intended to stop. The anti-harrassment policy is trying
to do two things - one is an attempt to prevent direct harrassment, the
other is an attempt to ensure that LCA doesn't have an environment which is
perceived as sexist, unwelcoming or threatening to women (or anyone, for
that matter). I don't believe Mark was harrassing anyone directly, but I do
believe those kinds of images help create a sub-optimal environment for a
conference, and if left unchecked, could open the door to more people
feeling it's ok behaviour.

If someone in my workplace had wallpaper on their computer which showed a
nude person in bondage, or a picture of bestiality - damn straight that's
inappropriate for the workplace. Displaying images like that have been used
in workplaces, both deliberately and I assume less consciously, to
intimidate or keep people out.

So, most people would have no qualms about saying that the images from
Mark's talk wouldn't be appropriate as their work computer wallpaper. And
it's for the same reason that they're not appropriate in a talk at LCA. It
was appropriate that this was communicated to Mark, and I'm glad to see he
apologised. This further sends a message reinforcing what is and isn't
appropriate at LCA.

I also wanted to add one point to the discussion. It's completely irrelevant
whether I am or am not personally offended by the images in Mark's talk. I
might hate the images, I might totally love the images, but still think
they're inappropriate for LCA. What Mark (or I) chose to look at when we
*choose* to look at sexual images is a different discussion altogether from
the discussion which is relevant here - which is whether or not it's
appropriate to show sexual images at a conference like LCA. LA and LCA
adopted the anti-harrassment policy because it's the view of the organisers
that sexual imagery isn't appropriate in this context. If you still don't
agree with this, imagine how stupid and racist you would look if you
defended someone for telling Aboriginal/muslim/jewish jokes in an LCA
keynote, because *you* didn't find the jokes offensive.

I'm also interested to know if anyone spoke to the rogue
photographer/photographers who didn't seem to understand that no means no.


Sarah Stokely
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