On conferences and anti-harassment [Updated!]
UPDATE: PASS, the organization in question, has posted an excellent reply to the concerns I wrote about here. Well done, PASS; I like an org who will answer concerns promptly, and publicly.
I’m gonna say the major problem with any halfway decent anti harassment policy (AHP) is how it gets interpreted. This is currently an issue because the major professional organization I’m in has expanded their AHP: “…now it also covers event attendees at all times and places during the duration of the conference/event, including offsite vendor activities.” Well, hellfire.
I’m personally in very much in favor of making conferences safer, making options more clear for people who are victims of harassment. Sean and I were talking about this topic TODAY at lunch (we’re working on a grassroots program to help the issue).
But you can’t tell me that this scenario is impossible:
- Someone overhears me say “shit”.
- Folks are offended at the word, complaint ensues.
- I’m banned forever.
You can’t tell me that this scenario is impossible, because this actually has happened to me.
What’s worse: I was an attendee at conferences, then a speaker. Now I’m both, plus a sponsor. I pay money (sometimes, quite a lot of money) to set up my booth and tell people about the product I’m selling. I have even more of a vested interest in being allowed to come to conferences, give them my money, and hang out and talk to people.
@MidnightDBA Important subject to have a policy on but also easily exploitable. Double-edged sword.
— Jeff Rush (@jeffrush) April 26, 2016
So yeah. VERY mixed feelings about the updated AHP, especially the expansion.
P.S. I didn’t feel quite right about posting this on my branded blog. I’m not sure if I’m being overly sensitive. But then, I do have reason to be paranoid, no?
Update: Lots of discussion on Twitter about this, which is good. I apparently haven’t stressed a few things enough, so to recap:
- Harassment is a very serious problem.
- I am firmly in favor of an anti-harassment policy.
- I do not object to the newly expanded PASS anti-harassment policy.
- But I’m concerned that there’s a good potential for it to be misused.
- The policy should still exist.
I also do not think that details of incident reports should be made public. I know I for one would find it a lot harder to report the details of, say, a physical attack if I knew that the details of WHERE they touched me, and WHEN and for HOW LONG, and WHAT I SAID, etc etc were all going to be posted and scrutinized. In fact, this suggestion (hinted at in another conversation) is a terrible idea, and couldn’t be put in place for that reason, and for legal issues.
Conference organizers are in a tough position. I want them to do what’s right. I support them putting AHPs in place. I hope that PASS in particular finds a way to address the concerns of average, everyday, non-creeper citizens who like to use naughty language among friends.