Two days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on Twitter (a rarity, to be sure) when The Ada Initiative tweeted the following:
— The Ada Initiative (@adainitiative) August 22, 2013
— The Ada Initiative (@adainitiative) August 22, 2013
— The Ada Initiative (@adainitiative) August 23, 2013
Until then, I had no idea The Ada Initiative knew this parallel fight was happening in the skeptical and secular movements, where I’ve only seen them talk about the problems in technology, the open source world and geek culture.
To be sure, there’s a good deal of overlap between the sorts of geeks who get together on the internet and share in their love of technology and nerd culture, as there is in the sorts of geeks who get together on the internet to share their love of philosophy and science and rationality. I’m almost certainly in that nexus, personally. So I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re paying attention.
The Ada Initiative is run by the same folks who run the Geek Feminism Wiki and built that famous harassment policy that our organizations have been using as a template for their conventions. They have an impressive list of accomplishments:
Since our founding in early 2011, we’ve worked with the community on practical, high-impact programs that directly recruit and retain women in open tech/culture. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far:
- Created AdaCamp conference: AdaCamp is an unconference for women in open tech/culture and their allies thatmeasurably increases women’s commitment to open tech/culture. The first three were held in Melbourne, Australia, Washington DC, and San Francisco.
- Made conferences safer for women: Wrote and encouraged adoption of policies preventing harassment of women, now used by hundreds of conferences and organizations in open tech/culture as well as science fiction, fan, gaming, and skeptic/atheist conventions.
- Created the Allies Workshop training program: Wrote and taught the popular Allies Workshop, teaching men practical skills for helping women and trans people in open/tech culture.
- Designed Impostor Syndrome training: Created videos and online exercises to fight Impostor Syndrome, a significant factor holding back women in open tech/culture.
- Spread our message through writing and speaking:Wrote editorials read by hundreds of thousands of people and spoke about increasing diversity and welcoming women, including keynote speeches at large conferences.
- Advised organizations on supporting women: Providedfree consulting to several organizations on high-profile incidents of sexism, improving recruitment and retention of women in open tech/culture jobs, and creating a friendlier environment for women.
- Conducted surveys and research: We ran several surveys, including a survey of over 2800 people about attitudes towards women in open tech/culture.
In one of their most recent blog posts, they surprised me again, having detailed three major anti-harassment campaigns in order to show that they do, indeed, work — and ours was one of them.
History of the skepticism and atheism campaign
The big picture: In 2010, few or no conferences have policies. Serial sexual assaulters and outright rapists are common enough that women speakers have an informal network to warn each other about them. Victims are too afraid to name or report their attackers. In 2013, most conventions have anti-harassment policies, many leaders vocally oppose harassment, and at least three high-profile serial harassers and assaulters have been publicly identified. However, many victims and advocates are still stalked, harassed, and threatened, and need continuing support from the community. Several accused harassers and assaulters have threatened legal action against those reporting them. In terms of stages of anti-harassment campaigns, skepticism/atheism is somewhere around Stage 6, despite the on-going efforts of abusers to hang on to their positions and privileges in the community.
Having been watching closely a number of campaigns similar to ours, they’ve set up a seven stage timeline for fixing rampant harassment in communities earlier in the post, and the text for stage six is as follows:
Stage 6: Most conferences have anti-harassment policies, and most enforce them. Emboldened, victims talk more freely about their experiences and begin to notice patterns. At this point, even very powerful harassers begin to be publicly named. Some harassers lose their jobs, are banned from conferences, or lose their influence in the community. But harassers also fight back, with take-down notices, threats of legal action, or direct intimidation and threats.
The rest of the stages are extremely relevant. They’re almost certainly useful as generalizations, insofar as I’ve seen the conversion happen exactly like this in the sci-fi authorship and fandom community second-hand through Stephanie Zvan, and I’m seeing it right now in the secular and skeptical communities and have been fighting this battle for as long as people have taken to calling me a bully and a feminazi and a mangina. (This is a relatively new development in my life, to be sure — it’s only in the last four or so years that people have ever expressed outright hatred and malice for me over my philosophical positions.)
Stage 2 contains some relevant points about the counter-argumentation against harassment policies:
Typical arguments in favor of condoning harassment involve women’s known love of compliments on their body parts from strangers, concerns about the extinction of the human species through banning “flirting,” comparisons to the Taliban, “freedom of speech,” and predictions that the quality of code/novels/articles/etc. will take a nose dive if harassment is banned.
You mean other communities have the same bullshit happen too? I thought it was just us RATIONALISTS who compared harassment policies to the Taliban!
When they tweeted at me a few days ago, it reminded me that I’d intended to give them some money this year. I can’t afford the $128 it costs to be able to ask for an Ada Lovelace pendant, but in solidarity with their numbering scheme, I donated $64 earlier today. If you have some spare scratch, this isn’t a bad way to spend it.
Their fundraiser ends on August 30th, so go donate now if you’re so inclined.