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