Gary, thanks so much - this is basically what I was hoping for as an
I didn't get the "BACKUP" reference, but found this:
" Our way of doing so was to offer up con badge ribbons that were
printed with the word “Backup” in large letters. It was, in essence, a
way for people to signify that they wanted to help and would do so."
It reminds me of the safety monitors that we had in the anti-war marches
in the 60's -- not a police force, but people who had volunteered to
keep an eye out for trouble and to step in where needed.
What we're talking about here obviously is not a situation where we have
a high probability of fist fights, but I love the idea of knowing that
you can rely on others to back you up. Backing people up, then, is an
important skill that we need to learn and to exercise. It doesn't mean
stopping the proceedings -- as I think I said in a post some eons ago,
it's like the management skill where you pay attention to the
interaction in a meeting and make it your goal to have everyone
participate equally and with respect. If you notice someone trying to
get a word in while others talk over him/her, you can say: "I think X is
trying to speak, let's hear from him/her."
It's often NOT possible to make that difference at the very moment that
something happens. Conversations are fast; words go by quickly; groups
shift focus on a dime. I can't tell you, though, how often my sanity has
been saved by someone coming to me afterward and saying: "I just want
you to know that I didn't think you were treated fairly. I'm sorry it
happened that way, but I didn't think there was anything I could do at
the time." That affirmation alone really, really matters.
What I get so far from this is a set of steps (Deborah, let me know if
this fits what you were looking for):
- back up; pay attention to how those around you are faring
- try to move situations toward greater equality, less inequality,
whether in words or deeds; take care of each other
- if necessary, speak privately and politely to reconcile issues. (Take
a BACKUP volunteer with you if you feel unsafe doing this alone)
- [here's the hard one] if someone appears to be belligerent, or to be
actively harassing, at a conference, go to any of the conference
organizers. It will be their duty to determine whether an action has to
be taken. If it's not at a conference (email, irc) ... then I think we
need to create a small group of "backup" volunteers who will monitor
the situation (not make a snap judgment) and who will have the authority
to remove the person from the channel after a warning.
- if there is an actual threat to someone's safety, do not hesitate to
call police or whatever is the appropriate authority
These steps probably need to be refined, but if they meet most people's
semi-nod, perhaps they should be added to the policy in github?
On 1/29/13 7:21 AM, Gary McGath wrote:
> This sounds like a more constructive approach than creating a sweeping
> harassment policy. Perhaps we're getting somewhere after all.
> I don't think either the assumption that no Code4Lib members would
> intentionally harass people or the assumption that no Code4Lib members
> would spuriously claim to be harassed is safe. Any approach has to
> regard both as possibilities. I'm involved with a non-professional
> convention that has dealt with similar issues; it started out with a
> proposal of a seriously overblown harassment policy before coming up
> with a reasonable one.
> Organizations are generally poor at dealing with issues that are
> separately minor but add up to a concern. Official responses face the
> choice between overreacting and not doing anything. Building individual
> and cultural awareness is a better approach.
> This means building a culture in which people consider it safe and
> legitimate to respond to a perceived insult, and where the result
> hopefully is dialogue rather than official censure or threats (even as
> jokes) to beat people up. It means that when people notice this sort of
> thing by their presumed friends, they should consider it reasonable to
> take them aside and say quietly, "You came across as a bit of a jerk."
> At science fiction conventions I've often seen "BACK UP" buttons to
> encourage this kind of culture. As a computer person, I did a
> double-take on this at first (and it's good advice in both senses), but
> it's a constructive approach to a problem usually best dealt with on a
> person-to-person basis.
> Threats, stalking, and overt aggression are a different matter, of
> course; there it's necessary to step in and take definite action.
> On 1/28/13 10:55 PM, Fitchett, Deborah wrote:
>> Firstly, there seems to be an assumption (explicit by some, implicit by others) that Code4Lib members wouldn't intentionally harass people. This is a perfectly reasonable assumption and I'm more than happy to go along with it.
>> I just want there to be a reciprocal assumption that Code4Lib members wouldn't intentionally make spurious claims of having been harassed. That's fair, right? We're all nice people.
>> So, given that we're all nice people who wouldn't intentionally harass or make spurious claims of harassment against each other, nevertheless sometimes someone will unintentionally say or do something that (especially given the concept of microagressions that Karen and I have alluded to and Kathryn named) really hurts someone else. This is, whatever else you want to call it, a problem because it decreases the feeling of community.
>> So, how as a community should we respond when this happens?
>> That's my question. It's the question I've been asking over and over, and every time I’ve asked it people have derailed the conversation to their own fears of being labelled *ist. This is an absolute straw argument. One thing the code of conduct doesn’t include as a sanction is for admin/helpers to stick a “Kick me, I’m a *ist” label on offenders’ backs.
>> Can we stop worrying about being labelled *ist and start worrying about how we're going to concretely demonstrate that we're not *ist?
>> (Excuse the html format and bolding. But if one more person replies to my email without replying to my actual question I might resort to all-caps. And possibly quote liberally from https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/resources/mirror-derailing-for-dummies/.)
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Gary McGath
>> Sent: Tuesday, 29 January 2013 7:35 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] Group Decision Making (was Zoia)
>> Establishing any principle has consequences beyond the situations people immediately think of. In this case, the principle is that harassment is defined by the emotions of the person claiming to be harassed.
>> Compounding this by declaring that acts which are judged subjectively and are insignificant in themselves constitute harassment because they "add up" creates a situation in which anyone can be charged with harassment and no defense is possible. You've said as much in saying "So excluding types of situations from even being considered as problems is unnecessary." _Any_ type of situation might be considered a harassment situation.
>> Of course, not just any type will be. That would result in a situation where anyone could bring charges and counter-charges on a whim, bringing the whole system down. What happens in practice is that the people with the best connections or the greater skill in manipulating the system will use it to intimidate others.
>> Here's an example: At IUPUI, a janitor was reading a book called "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan." A union official, for reasons I don't know -- maybe he just didn't like the janitor -- brought charges of "racial harassment" against the janitor, because he was "offended" at seeing a book that even mentioned the Klan. The university's affirmative action officer told him: "You used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your black co-workers." It took intervention from the ACLU and FIRE before IUPUI dropped disciplinary proceedings and apologized.
>> If harassment is in the eye of the beholder, then the janitor was "harassing" the union official simply by trying to learn about an "abhorrent subject." The official may have legitimately felt pain just from being reminded of the activities of the Klan in Indiana. Knowing there are lots of historical accounts of it might "add up." But the result, if it weren't for the determined efforts of some people, would have amounted to book-banning. Is that a path that library people should be starting down?
>> On 1/27/13 8:34 PM, Fitchett, Deborah wrote:
>>> I'm not creating any categories. Whether or not "unintentional harassment" is "actual harassment", it's still worth bothering with. Even if it's "a minor thing" it's still worth bothering with. Even if someone only harasses me "a little" because I'm a woman, it still decreases my enjoyment of the community we're participating in simply because I'm a woman and that's still worth bothering with.
>>> Because all the hundreds of "unintentional" and "minor" and "little" bits of harassment add up. They really, really add up, you know? That one time some guy tried to rape me actually wasn't as impactful (for me personally; mileage varies a lot on this kind of thing) as the hundreds of times guys merely honked/whistled/catcalled when I'm walking along the street.
>>> No-one's trying to treat every situation as equivalent, except perhaps you. The code of conduct allows admins/helpers/whoever to take the precise nature of the situation into account and choose an appropriate response. So excluding types of situations from even being considered as problems is unnecessary - and it's *really* counterproductive, because those types of "minor" situations, in the aggregate, are as great a barrier to the inclusion of underrepresented groups as any single "major" event.
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
>>> Of Gary McGath
>>> Sent: Monday, 28 January 2013 1:45 PM
>>> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>>> Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] Group Decision Making (was Zoia)
>>> Miscommunication, error, and harassment are all legitimate concerns.
>>> Sometimes one person says something and another person hears it as offensive where no offense was intended. Sometimes people say things based on assumptions that they should have questioned but didn't.
>>> Sometimes they set out to dominate or hurt another person. These are three different things, and treating them as equivalent is more likely to make the situation worse than to help.
>>> Creating the category of "unintentional harassment" diminishes the nature of actual harassment. If the statement "I was harassed" means only "someone said something with good intent that made me feel bad,"
>>> then harassment is a minor thing, not worth bothering with. When words are stretched, they're stretched in both directions; if harassment has nothing to do with intent, then it's a relatively minor issue, and people who harass in the normal sense of the word can hide behind the dilution of the term. If the stretched meaning of the word becomes normal, they can say, "Hey, what's the big deal? All I did was harass her a little."
>>> Speech that "offends" simply on the basis that someone claims to be offended is a fourth category apart from miscommunication, error, and harassment. If it's a private conversation and someone says "Stop talking to me, hanging around me, etc.," that request should be respected regardless of the reason. But if we're talking about public speech, a requirement to stop amounts to granting anyone's emotions a veto on other people's public statements, and I've already discussed the problem with that.
>>> On 1/27/13 4:27 PM, Fitchett, Deborah wrote:
>>>> There's a reason the code isn't oriented around intent: which is that it's perfectly possibly to think one's an upstanding equitable-minded person but still make offensive comments that do in fact constitute harassment. This is another thing I can say "been there done that" about, in various contexts. I *thought* I was being respectful - but I wasn't. On at least one occasion I was saying something racist; on at least another I was demeaning a friend. Completely unintentionally, but if you accidentally step on someone's foot it's still your responsibility to back off and say sorry the instant you become aware of the fact.
>>>> (There may not be a universal objective consensus as to what is or
>>>> isn't offensive, but nor is there a universal objective consensus as
>>>> to what someone's intent is. People say "I didn't mean to be
>>>> offensive therefore I didn't harass you" all the time, sometimes
>>>> ingenuously, sometimes (as I did) absolutely sincerely, and how are
>>>> we to tell the two apart? Meantime someone still got hurt.)
>>>> So a code of conduct needs to allow for unintentional harassment in a way that protects the person who got hurt without being unduly censorious to the person who hurt. Which this code does: it says ~"If you're asked to stop harassing behaviour you're expected to comply". Because if you didn't intend offense then you'll want to stop as soon as you're aware you've offended. So stop, and everyone moves on. You're not going to be banned for accidentally stepping on someone's foot.
>>>> If you persist or if your actions were really egregious then that's another matter and that's why we need to mention other possible sanctions. But these aren't things you're likely to do accidentally, so there's no need to be stressed.
>>> Gary McGath, Professional Software Developer http://www.garymcgath.com
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