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

Russell Coker russell at coker.com.au
Mon Jan 31 20:42:02 EST 2011

On Mon, 31 Jan 2011, Russell Stuart <russell-linuxaus at stuart.id.au> wrote:
> Nonetheless after it was pointed out that Mark talk had violated the
> policy, I was one of those saying we must apologise.  We had made a
> promise, we had broken it and so an apology was in order.  In fact had
> we had our wits about us that morning, there were would have been no
> need for an apology.  We had developed internal procedures for enforcing
> the policy which naturally flowed from it.  Those procedures said Mark's
> talk should have stopped when it became evident it violated the policy.
> Given we had adopted the policy, I fully endorsed those procedures and
> their implementation.  I don't know why they weren't followed for Mark's
> talk.  Perhaps it was because it was at the end of a long week.  But had
> it occurred there would no doubt have been a hue and cry that makes the
> current one pale into insignificance, and I would found myself in the
> unenviable position of having to defend the person who taken an action
> that I personal find intensely distasteful.

I expect that when there are slides which are border-line then some women who 
are associated with the Geek Feminist movement would be happy to review them 
and offer suggestions as to how to get the idea across without offending 

Will Mark's talk be provided in video form?  I would like to see it to 
determine whether the same points could have been made with slides that aren't 
controversial.  My expectation is that the points could have been made in a 
manner that's at least as effective (if not more so) with slides that don't 
make people unhappy.

> So what is wrong with the Geek Feminism Anti-Harassment policy?
> Firstly it is poorly targeted.  Mark's talk wasn't harassing anybody.

When I saw a blog post about the talk my first thought was that it wasn't 
harassment.  So I checked my dictionary ("dict harass" on Debian/Squeeze with 
all dict packages installed) and found some definitions like the following:

# To fatigue; to tire with repeated and exhausting efforts;

# annoy continually or chronically

It seems to me that having images of such an undesired nature occur at 
multiple conferences (along with all the other places) is most likely to cause 
"fatigue" and "continual annoyance" to women who see them.  So by my 
dictionary it does seem that the word "harassment" matches.

> Don't like someone in photocomp doing portrait
> studies at rego?  Claim it is "harassing photography" (circular
> definition?).

I think it's reasonable that people should ask permission before doing 
"portrait studies".  In general it's really not uncommon for people to get 
very upset when their children are photographed, I've seen people photograph 
young children at LCA events without getting permission from their parents.  
It also doesn't seem unreasonable to me that women would want to attend 
conferences without being photographed should have their wishes respected.

Why not have a call for volunteers for portrait studies?  I'm quite happy to 
have people take my photo if they wish.  If the desire is to create works of 
art then male models should do as well as female.

> The issue I have with that is the society I happen to live
> in already defines that in a way that is seemingly acceptable to the
> vast majority of people who live within it.  And obviously it is better
> written, as authored by lawyers and whatnot who do it as a day job, and
> it is better vetted as it has been through the political treadmill we
> subject most of our  Australian laws to.  I am not sure why as a
> conference organiser I am asked to use a different definition.

Laws evolve.  There have been ongoing changes to Australian laws regarding the 
treatment of women, some of the stuff that was legal when I was young is quite 
shocking by today's standards.  I don't think it's unreasonable for our 
community to make changes before they are coded in law.
> I happen
> to be a current member of the EFA (a sister organisation to the EFF) of
> some years standing, I took a small role in the EFA's campaign against
> Australian internet filter, and so I recognise the arguments in favour
> of censorship.  This is one of them.

The Internet filter would be a hidden way of censoring what we do in our own 
homes.  The code for LCA is open and only restricts what is done that relates 
to the conference.

I agree that this is something to be concerned about, but I don't think that 
we have evidence of problems here.  As there is nothing secret about this 
things will be discussed and problems can be fixed.

russell at coker.com.au
http://etbe.coker.com.au/          My Main Blog
http://doc.coker.com.au/           My Documents Blog

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