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/.)
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
> P Please consider the environment before you print this email.
> "The contents of this e-mail (including any attachments) may be
> confidential and/or subject to copyright. Any unauthorised use,
> distribution, or copying of the contents is expressly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please advise the sender by return e-mail or telephone and then delete this e-mail together with all attachments from your system."
Gary McGath, Professional Software Developer http://www.garymcgath.com
"The contents of this e-mail (including any attachments) may be confidential and/or subject to copyright. Any unauthorised use,
distribution, or copying of the contents is expressly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please advise the sender
by return e-mail or telephone and then delete this e-mail together with all attachments from your system."