Conventions are workplaces for some people: how to move this conversation forward

Speakers, staff, and even people looking to increase their credibility in a particular field by networking and socializing all have very good reason to consider a convention to be a “workplace environment”. Even if they’re volunteering, even if they’re there only semi-professionally or as a hobbyist, the existence of a solid harassment policy that includes reporting mechanisms and collection of data for future improvement can be nothing but a good thing for their ability to carry out their work.

Conventions are not unique among workplaces — very many workplaces involve the dissemination of ideas, social components where “customers” can interact with one another and with the “employees” alike, and might even have an “overtime” component where people who are otherwise co-workers can fraternize outside of the purview of the actual “workplace environment”, often with those aforementioned “customers”. Most workplaces already have very solid harassment policies, and HR departments to enforce those policies. So why all the pushback against these policies when presented in context of trying to improve the situation for women who have apparently increasingly abandoning certain skeptical events despite leaders’ efforts to improve the situation?

My best guess is, because the people pushing back against these policies are the first ones who will be impacted by them.

Let’s never mind for a moment that some folks in this conversation have unwittingly bought into the framings that this would turn our community puritanical or “Talibanesque” (though those are ridiculously different accusations). Let’s consider only the following facts that we know about the community as a whole. In blockquotes to offset these, though the points are mine.

1. Our community presently underrepresents a few demographics in the background society. This much is obvious, or leaders wouldn’t be asking “why are so few women registering for our conference” in the first place. Some of these demographics include women, just about any non-white race, and the LGBTQ community(ies).

2. There is a drive to improve this representation in our communities, by intentionally increasing diversity, to “get the ball rolling” toward true equality.

3. In the background population, certain bigotries happen as a matter of course for some of these demographics, and we happen to be talking about women primarily right now, though this is absolutely not limited to improving the situation for them alone.

4. When some of these demographics encounter bigotry against them in general day-to-day life, it is so commonplace that they might not report the issue even if there was a harassment policy in place at a convention. So there exists a problem of underreporting.

5. There exists a meme in greater society that when someone reports harassment, often in the absence of physical evidence (because what physical evidence can you present that someone cornered you and propositioned you repeatedly for sex if they didn’t further rape you?), that report will not be taken seriously. Once reported, often the instances of the report disappear down the memory hole if there is no aggregation of reports from all employees and a requirement that the employees take every report seriously.

6. The goal of making an event a “safe place” for a demographic involves making it better than the background levels of bigotry. It does not involve ensuring that harassment won’t happen, because we are putting a bunch of people of different sexes and genders together and often allowing them to drink a good deal. That is a pipe dream, so let’s not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The goal here is to make sure everyone knows and is on board with the fact that harassment will have consequences, ensure that it DOES have consequences and let the harassment fade away organically.

I will switch to letters for the next part for easier discussion in the comments. Please note that I am not saying that any specific convention does or does not do these things already. Some may implement some or all of these, which is laudable.

Given all these points, the path forward as far as I can tell is to:

A. Build a strong anti-harassment policy like the template that’s been suggested many times over at GeekFeminism

B. Implement this policy in such a way that conventions make it plain to all participants that this policy is in place. For instance, requiring that people read it while registering for the convention online (a la “Terms of Service” you often see on web forms), providing printed copies to at-the-door registration when you get your ticket or lanyard or what-have-you. Ideally, the printed copies can be included in other high-value handouts like site maps or schedules to save paper and make sure they’re well-disseminated.

C. Have speakers and employees of the convention sign this policy. Employees will also have to sign a “how to deal with complaints” corollary policy. Ideally, this would happen at a staff session where staffers are given an overview of the policy that’s previously been distributed to them, and have a chance to ask questions about the policy (perhaps role-playing some scenarios they might face would help here). They also must sign that policy before they’re allowed to act as a staff member.

D. Improve data collection. Ensure that every incident or report handled by every employee is recorded in some form of database. Ensure that there is a strong confidentiality scheme in place for the data, such that while nobody could theoretically violate anyone’s confidentiality, the data is aggregated in such a way that staff can spot repeat troublemakers and take steps to bar them from future participation. Include pointed questions about harassment in the exit surveys, and understand that only a subset of people will take those exit surveys. That subset may not include people who were harassed, and the problem of underreporting is still going to be a big one here.

E. Explicitly call attention to the harassment policy during the opening remarks, which are often used to orient convention-goers to the grounds and policies anyway. Make it clear that harassment won’t be tolerated, explain what official employees look like in the event you need to report something, and that employees are obligated to take reports seriously and that these reports will be included in the data that’s collected.

As long as people understand that the drive is to make a “safe space”, e.g. a better-than-average place where bigotry and harassment are rare, both reported and taken seriously, and efforts are made to curtail it when it DOES happen, the space will become safe practically on its own when these actions are implemented. Sure, it won’t be magic, and sure, it will take time and real effort by all participants to ensure that this happens, but I can only see good things resulting from implementing this path forward.

I will further state my intentions to not speak at any conference where policies like these are not in place. Stephanie and others have in the past suggested creating a speakers’ union, where speakers pledge not to speak at conventions that do not have harassment policies in place. I would sign that pledge in a heartbeat, and will do whatever I can to make that union a reality.

Conventions are workplaces for some people: how to move this conversation forward
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55 thoughts on “Conventions are workplaces for some people: how to move this conversation forward

  1. 1

    Pretty much agree with all that. Two comments:

    First, I don’t think it’s necessary to go completely overboard with (B). More like the Terms of Service thing than handing out at the door. Although maybe the first time, handing out at the door is a good idea, just to establish that, no, we don’t actually tolerate this sort of thing anymore. Once that’s established, I think it’s less important that every single person is aware of all the specifics.


    My best guess is, because the people pushing back against these policies are the first ones who will be impacted by them.

    I wouldn’t guess that at all. I think a lot of the people objecting are just being petulant. I also wonder if a lot of them have never worked anywhere that had a sexual harassment policy, and therefore they are suspicious of them, concerned about things getting too draconian, etc. The reality of working somewhere with a strong anti-harassment policy is pretty mild. Hell, you can even get away with telling sexist jokes here and there. Nobody is living in fear, except maybe people who ought to be.

    I could be wrong, and you could be right, though.

  2. 2

    Well, that part is, of course, just a guess, even if it’s my best one.

    I see no reason not to hand out the harassment policy at every event. Newcomers at each subsequent event need to know just as much as the old-guard who are there every year.

  3. 3

    Hey Jason, thank you for laying all this out. I know I keep nitpicking/brainstorming (matter of interpretation there…)

    Another way to bring attention to a harassment policy is as a mention in opening remarks. Bathrooms there, vending there, introduce your core people and say “We’re committed to ensuring everyone’s safety; our policy can be found here, and if anyone is acting inappropriately, come to one of us or any of our volunteers (the people in the weird shirts).” Or words to that effect.

  4. 5

    *blush* thankee!

    Oh duh – also, staff/volunteer training, as in the links I gave before? How we did it at conventions I’ve worked was: email the material to everyone beforehand as required reading, then follow up with a mention of the high points, and any questions, at the STAFF meeting.

  5. 7

    *aaand I’m still at it: what the staff signs should have a section about confidentiality. Also, confidentiality of the database. This can get complicated fast, so here’s where I’d suggest getting advice from an experienced organization or the AAUW.

    Short version for con volunteers: for the purposes of data collection, code the identity of anyone in incident reports by badge number or registration number, possibly initials also. DURING THE EVENT, if names are known, use names in strict confidentiality, perhaps known to only the few event officers in charge of security. This is so anonymizing coding doesn’t interfere with pattern recognition during the event, in case of several reports of bad behavior from the same person, you don’t want them coded as #55426.

  6. 8

    Tried to take those into account in some amendments, though without prescribing a specific confidentiality scheme. I could come up with a few ways — like hashing the registration name and checking against previous events’ databases. This could be circumvented of course, by registering under false names. Hmm.

  7. 9

    Well, I’m tossing out ideas, I haven’t tried to frame them properly. My experience has mostly been at fan cons where everyone’s using badge pseudonyms anyway. But I have zero experience from the database side, I’m just very concerned about confidentiality where sexual harassment allegations (or sexual assault, or rape) are concerned.

    Also, I’d suggest that *initially* only the aggregated, anonymized information should be shared between conventions *as a whole*. Every convention going forward from here is an unknown as far as how seriously their staff will take this very new requirement. Information about confirmed problem individuals or specific incidents should be shared, somehow, in the interests of prevention. For instance Elyse’s sex card incident – without naming the individuals, *everyone* is going to know who to follow up with if that happens again.

  8. 10

    bah, sorry I keep multiposting. The database, or at least the shared “safed” data in aggregate, has to be accessible across conventions, often with volunteer staff who might not have access to the same tech or expertise that you do. Assume that anyone who gets hold of the *shared* information might accidentally email it to the universe.

  9. 11

    The easiest way to hand out the harassment policy (and ensure a number of people keep it with them) is to stick it on the back of a site map if there is one. If the site map is part of a booklet, stick the policy on the back cover.

  10. 13

    I plan conferences and conventions for my employer and I think it’s amazing in this day that your suggestions even need to be made. Of course there should be an anti-harassment policy in place and of course the policy should be read at the opening plenary for all events. The reading of the policy should include identifying harassment complaint coordinators so that participants know who to approach.

    That sort of stuff has been standard practice at union and other social justice events for decades.

  11. 14

    sambarge: I’ve mostly got experience with volunteer events. Can you provide any suggestions or examples of what a policy from a social justice event looks like?

  12. 15

    These all sound completely reasonable to me. I can’t wait to hear how this makes you a Taliban Nazi vampire facist who hates men. 😉

  13. 17

    I tweeted jref asking about their policy for tam because I legitimately didn’t know they had one. They linked it to me, a blog post from last year. Great! Could that maybe go on the event bite so people like me who are interested can find it? *crickets*

    Cut to a few days later in twitter discussions with some other people: tam does have a polichistidine was covered in this or that blog post from last year. See? It was widely publicized.

    Um, ok, well I didn’t go to tam last year and that goes for maybe a lot of people.

    Well *I* knew about it so your wrong that people don’t know about it.

    Ok well, again, that’s great that you knew where to find that information, but wouldn’t the event page be the most logical place to find that information rather than a number of in-community blogs that not all event goers would have followed a year ago and still remember today?


    I honestly am confused by this response. It takes less than 5 seconds to copy/paste something.

  14. 19

    (off topic) “polychistidine”

    I don’t know about y’all, but my comment-reading life has been made so vastly more hilarious because Autocorrect is a thing in the world.

  15. 24

    Since the possibility always exists that I could volunteer at some sort of conventions or events in the future, I’m watching this and other conversations very closely. Thanks, Jason for hosting this discussion.

    Your fellow vampire feminazi Taliban officer,

  16. 28

    I think your ideas are a great jumping off point but I need to take exception with 2 of the issues you raise…
    > point #5 is extremely cynical and grossly inaccurate. I have worked in many organizations and network all over the country and this is not what happens. These reports are taken extremely seriously because the companies can be held liable for harrassment, no differently than I believe the organizations running the events may have a level of liability as well as the organization the person represents and there is also personal liability.
    > good luck with that data base idea…talk about liability. There is an answer for that but the aggregated data base you describe in my view isn’t it.
    In the end, the policy will be as effective as the people that enforce it and I would hope there are professionals involved and not the organizations trying to do it themselves unless they have significant background in this. HR folks spend years learning how to investigate and interview these cases.

  17. 29

    eliott1: by disagreeing with 5., by saying it’s grossly inaccurate, are you saying there is NOT a problem of underreporting with regard to harassment, sexual or otherwise, in the greater society (e.g. society-at-large, not the subset secular communities)? Because that meme exists, whether people try their damnedest to make sure their organizations do take those claims seriously. It’s pretty well WHY there’s an underreporting problem.

    The database thing is certainly a problematic one. However, I happen to work in IT and have some ideas to that end. I’m certain I’m not the only skeptic to work in that field and to have new and novel solutions to that problem that protect privacy while allowing conventions to determine who’s a repeat offender.

    As for the HR thing, well, yes. We need to look to people in the HR business for guidance when it comes to investigating and interviewing on these cases. That’s no reason not to stop with the rest of this though, is it?

  18. 31

    […] The Skeptics Movement, kicking and screaming, being dragged into the late 20th century. (Photo: Forest Runner)And now, Jason Thibeault, the Lousy Canuck (which I can never say out loud because where I grew up “Canuck” was the C-word) has a post linking many of these things together, concepts and actions and throwing in some data-like observations, urging that we figure out how to move this conversation forward. […]

  19. 33

    Jason, thanks for taking the time to respond.
    Point 5 doesn’t talk about under reporting, it talks to what happens to reports after they are completed without findings which does in fact happen very often. Saying they fall into a memory hole has not been my experience. As to under reporting, absolutely. That’s why I think this move by so many groups to address it is significant. Regardless, if if’s done incorrectly, the liability is going to be dramatic.
    An IT solution is not the issue. It’s who will have access and as the number of participants to access grow, so does the chance of exposure. You can password protect it and put in other safeguards but this really should be limited to an outside group to police this situation. If it’s managed by one group with expertise, we limit liability and enhance chances of success and ultimately stopping this behavior. I’m not sure we have the expertise to manage this.
    HR has reported to me in organizations I have been associated with and I have offered some thoughts to some folks. I don’t know what they’ll do with it.
    This is a ticking bomb.

  20. 35

    Excellent stuff, Jason!

    I hope what I say next is helpful – certainly not meant to be criticism.

    1. Definitely have – if there is any sort of programme, map, info pack – a copy of the anti-harrassment policy in it so that each person has his (?) own private copy and cannot claim amnesia or failure to appreciate the significance!

    2. Draw on the advice of people with relevant experience – HR people, equal ops campaigners, anti-rape activists, etc. – in drawing up the plans, policy and possibly training volunteers. They’ll get you off to a better start.

    3. Don’t bother relying upon an exit survey unless you are prepared to ask very specific questions AND to give people time to fill it in before they start dashing for taxis.

    4. If you want a useful report of any incident then don’t just wave a piece of blank paper at the victim. Again – specific questions, someone able to help (interviewing experience?) and really quiet space to work in. As you know, that’s not the stock room and not the corner of a bar. In the end it’s how well your staff / volunteers handle this that will determine the success of the policy.

    I’ve been comparing the seems-like-millions of conferences I’ve been at / helped at / organised and I’ve realised something just this minute. The ones where, as delegates arrive, they see women and minority people visibly in charge go better, much better. That’s not booth babes on display or nodding dolls on reception but women etc clearly engaged in directing operations and greeting the key speakers. The effect of that may be subliminal but it exists!

  21. 36

    5 most certainly does talk about underreporting. It discusses exclusively the fact that there is a perception, whether right or wrong, that when reported, the case will either not be taken seriously or will disappear. Therefore, the women who experience harassment will be less likely to report, as a direct result of that meme.

    Additionally, in the case of situations where there is no harassment policy, or where there is lip-service paid to a harassment policy, there’s good reason to believe it falls into a memory hole. Ashley Miller wrote about an incident at TAM 9 that DJ himself should absolutely have known about, but when he reported at Stephanie’s that there were zero reported instances of harassment, and this was offered as evidence that he was wrong, he has not since corrected the record on that point. This effectively shows an instance of a reported incident that has been forgotten by the people being taken to task. You therefore cannot say that there is no memory hole.

    As for the IT side of things, your statement “password protect it and put in other safeguards” underscores your lack of technical expertise when earlier in this very thread we were talking about creating one-way hashes from identifying information so we could develop trending information without risking ANYONE’S exposure. Seriously, tell me who 78a76b476e68032ebab8a182bbf850b3 is. I dare you.

  22. 37

    Reasonable policies like the discussed are a good thing to have when a lot of people come together. As long as everybody knows and understands the rules, fine. That’s how it should be.

    A funny anecdote to the sentence

    “My best guess is, because the people pushing back against these policies are the first ones who will be impacted by them.”

    I remember the german feminist movement using this sentence often back in the late 1980s when it came to necessary changes of policy and the like. Everyone who questioned what was said, was silenced or ridiculed with above sentence. Even people who were ultimately *for* policy changes or establishing better, equality-reflecting ones, but questioned the *details* or had concerns about *how* to implement those changes, were included.

    The movement later abandoned this “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” stance, as it got more and more damaging to the cause to question people’s motives instead of their arguments and facts. It’s not very constructive to say “If you don’t believe that longer prison sentences will decrease thefts, you must be a thief”.

    I still get this an awful lot today in discussions about “deviant” sexuality.
    “Oh, you don’t think that if someone has pedophile tendencies, he will automatically abuse and kill children?”

    “Oh, you don’t think that male gays are a lot more likely to rape people than heterosexuals?”

    “Oh, you don’t think that transgerended people, with the hormone-changes raging inside of them, are more likely to use violence in conflicts?”

    “Then you must be a (pedophile, gay rapist, violent person) yourself. Otherwise you wouldn’t question that.”

    I support anti-harassment and pro-equality policies and think they are a good and important thing to have and to enforce.

    But it gives me a bad feeling when I will be easily considered a “harasser” myself, only because I maybe question some details.

  23. 38

    There’s a thing I’ve been growing curious about with these discussions.

    What is the convention security situation like at the average skeptic/atheism convention? Not just security for bigger named guests, but general security for the attendees. I’ve worked in volunteer convention security, both walking the floor and coordinating, for several years, and I’ve noticed that just the presence of con security tends to be enough to keep people following the rules in the con’s handbook without disrupting the fun environment. Granted that security needs to remain professional and approachable.

    I’ve also noticed that having them around makes for an easy place to report breaches of convention policy. They are there to make sure that people are following the rules, so they give a very unambiguous place to report things like harassment. At one convention we actually have lists of people to look out for because we’ve had them reported to us in previous years, and some that have been out right black listed from registration or attendance because of how far over the line they got.

  24. 39

    Jason, once again I thank you for your response.
    It has become my observation that for some reason replys on the blogs with opposing points of view get contentious and personal as your response to me has. So I’m just going to bow out here and wish us all luck that something positive comes of this and everyone is protected and treated appropriately.

  25. 40

    Eliott: When you say the memory hole doesn’t happen (in your experience?) you’re describing, specifically, a WELL IMPLEMENTED
    harassment reporting policy. With all due respect, that’s not what skeptic/atheist conventions have. (Yet.) There is no professional training or HR department or legal department, only scattered small groups with informal connections trying to adopt new policies on a volunteer basis. Yes, there could be legal repercussions if an organization screws this up. There could also be legal repercussions if they refuse to implement a harassment policy in the first place, so that’s no excuse.

    I should also point out that not all *workplaces* implement their harassment policies properly, either. See the appalling rate of sneering dismissal and silencing via psychiatric diagnosis in the US military, for instance; and the Southern Poverty Law Center says that 30% of sexual harassment claims also involve claims of retaliation against the filing employee.

    Seconding HumanisticJones:

    At one convention we actually have lists of people to look out for because we’ve had them reported to us in previous years, and some that have been out right black listed from registration or attendance because of how far over the line they got.

    I’ve worked almost entirely small volunteer conventions, and we’ve had persistent troublemakers get on our watch lists, too. I’ve only worked on the ground, not on an organizing committee, so I don’t have firsthand knowledge of how it’s handled at that level; but I’ve been on duty when the word went out that person X had had their privileges revoked and to report them on sight. In a couple of cases, I’ve been the one reporting bad behavior that resulted in sanctions, though not for sexual harassment.

  26. 41

    Pteryxx…thank you for your feedback. Yes, in my experience of having HR reporting or dotted line to me and having been involved in way to many harrassment or hostile work environment cases. I’m not guessing about this issue. I was specifically responding to a point Jason made and have a different perspective.
    I am in complete agreement that this is a significant issue that absolutely demands resolution but I also believe that a significant portion of the conversations going on are inflamatory, personal and generally not helpful. I have observed on the threads when someone expresses a different perspective the rhetoric gets real inflamatory real fast., rightly or wrongly. It detracts from the issue. This is my perspective.
    People, all people, need protection. We are attempting to go down that path but there are very specific remedies for this issue and done incorrectly or I appropriately, could get very expensive in a variety of ways.
    interestingly, I have given feedback and volunteered to take on this project with one of the major organizations and been essentially told if we need your advice we’ll get back to you.
    Probably my fault for the reaction I got because I am not shy about offering advice but again I can only try to do what I think is the right thing, I can’t make others take advantage of it.

  27. 42

    Eliott: Jason Thibeault’s specifically asking for advice on his proposed recommendations up there in the OP. Keeping in mind the decentralized and voluntary nature of skeptic conventions, what DO you suggest should be done?

  28. 43

    Pteryxx, thanks for your thoughts and I think that’s a fair response.
    This is my own opinion and I’ll add some color afterwards but the community as a whole needs to job this out and pay either a consultant or put someone in the job to oversee it for everyone.
    I did in fact recommend this solution.
    The atheist,skeptic, humanist, agnostic, etc. organizations themselves as far as I can tell, and maybe I’m wrong are ill equipped to manage this type of process. It takes specific training and my guess is we don’t have that at the organizational level. It takes more than a document and database to manage this, a lot more. Additionally, there needs to be a consistent and predictable response to this type of issue which can only be achieved if the response is aggregated to one authority. And, if you give this to an autonomous authority, the fear of someone being bigger than the issue evaporates. The authority has one charge, protect all our people from bad behavior, period. With the teeth to address any issues with anyone causing that bahavior with remedial results.
    There will be a cost attached to this and in a fund raising environment that is a sensitive issue but to enhance safety I’m not sure it’s not an investment worth making. Easy for me to say, it’s not my fundraising money.
    But, it will be a lot cheaper than if someone gets hurt or the defense is a lawsuit.
    Anyway, as I said earlier, just my opinion.

  29. 44

    Eliott: okay, so, your suggestion is to outsource/centralize… what, oversight of the database? (I hope you don’t mean outsourcing/centralizing *enforcement of policies* because that just seems massively unworkable for a small informal network.)

    I will say, from what I know of small volunteer-run FAN conventions, there is no central authority yet harassment policies have been enacted and enforcement improved over several years; also see the GeekFeminism wiki project summarized here:

    But we knew that conference organizers are very busy people, and very few of them had the time to write something like this. We figured that if we wrote an example policy that could be easily adapted to their needs, we could save them a lot of time and energy, and reduce harassment at conferences at the same time.

    One year later, it looks like we had the right idea! Now it’s almost easier to attend a open tech/culture conference with a policy than one without. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, from attendees of all genders to speakers to organizers, and especially conference sponsors. Sponsors like any way to reduce the chance that their name will be associated with bad press.

    However, as far as I know, the skeptic/etc community’s the only one discussing *data collection* on harassment along with implementing policies to protect participants. I think this is important, because this community knows and cares about data collection, and whatever aggregate data we produce would be valuable knowledge about sexual harassment in general.

  30. 45

    Yes I am advocating that.
    The outsourced authority manages the database. If you hire the right person/organization it’s a non issue. They sign a confidentiality agreement.
    The anonymity of the database protects everyone. Again, huge liability issues. The more folks with access to the database the greater the liability and quite frankly, there is no need for anyone to have access except the authority.
    If they have the ability to investigate autonomously and level sanctions, they will impartially and consistently execute their mission in which case there is no need for anyone else to have access.
    Anyone found to have commited an offense will have their sanction shared with the head of the organizations so they can execute that sanction. Those that have allegations but no findings remain in the data base for scrutiny of future findings but remain anonymous as they should.
    It’s more complicated but this is the 35,000 foot view.

  31. 46

    Eliott: Okay, that’s out of my realm of experience but I think it’s a valid (if problematic) suggestion.

    I suggest that having such an authority managing *complaints*, in real time, at worldwide scattered events, is probably almost impossible. It’d produce a reporting bottleneck, slow down enforcement (“enforcement” in this case meaning security at the scene intervening to stop the harassment), and lose a great deal of situational information available to witnesses on the spot.

    However, IF there were to be an aggregate database THAT IDENTIFIED INDIVIDUALS, which I am not at all confident should exist, then I would agree with your concerns. So far, I’m pushing for the aggregating of *anonymous* information, with the possible exception of problem individuals identified by substantial complaints.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve sent contact requests out to some HR folks hoping for advice on data collection.

  32. 47

    These sound solid to me.

    @Andre the Ungodly Fossil (#35): That’s a false equivalency. The policy isn’t suggesting that we ban misogynists or suggesting a universalized characterization of a particular group, it’s suggesting banning problematic behaviors. To use one of your analogies, it’s not claiming that all pedophiles will rape and murder children, it’s suggesting that raping and murdering children should be illegal. I’m suspicious of people claiming that rape/murder aren’t harmful, or that although they’re harmful they shouldn’t be banned, and I think reasonably so; I’m not suspicious of people who claim that not everyone in a given population not defined by the characteristic/behavior in question exhibit said characteristic behavior (e.g. all rapists, by definition, rape people, but not all pedophiles are rapists – only the ones who act on their desires are).

    Anyway, this is in danger of derailing onto a discussion of pedophilia, but I see comments like yours popping up a lot in these discussions, and they’re in some sense a strawman – they’re misrepresenting what’s actually being suggested, which derails the discussion. I’m hoping that yours was an honest misunderstanding, and you wish to discuss the actual policies in question, not just comment about silencing tactics that aren’t actually being deployed here.

  33. 48


    As promised, the body of my employers harassment statement:

    “Our [organization] is made strong by Sisters and Brothers working together to improve our working lives and to preserve the rights that we have struggled to achieve. Mutual respect is the cornerstone of this cooperation. [Our organization’s] Constitution states that every member is entitled to be free from discrimination and harassment, both in the union and at the workplace, on the basis of age, sex, colour, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, marital status, criminal record, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, class or political belief. Members are also entitled to be free from personal harassment.

    If you experience harassment at this event, contact the identified Harassment Complaint Coordinator to discuss the situation and possible responses. Our initial approach is to encourage early and informal resolution and to facilitate our members speaking directly with one another to resolve the matter. If this is not successful or possible, the Constitutional and policy mandates on the issue of harassment will be fully and quickly enforced.

    Harassment in all its forms detracts from our common purpose and weakens our union. Let each one of us, as we work together on the important task at hand; treat each other with dignity and respect.”

    There you go – a statement on harassment, procedures for reporting harassing behaviour and a nice little summation.

  34. 49

    @John Horstman (#45)

    The policy isn’t suggesting that we ban misogynists or suggesting a universalized characterization of a particular group, it’s suggesting banning problematic behaviors. To use one of your analogies, it’s not claiming that all pedophiles will rape and murder children, it’s suggesting that raping and murdering children should be illegal.

    I am not against any reasonable harassment policy, I never said that the policy was suggesting to ban misogynists or a universalized characterization or a particular group.

    And, by all means, I never said that rape or murder aren’t harmful.

    The pedophilia, homosexual and transgender analogies also aren’t mine, but something that *other* people say to *me*, when I ask about, or question, certain details of things than could be understood as “painting everyone with the same brush”.

    What I said was, that in germany, I encounter the problem that the sentence in question, the only thing of the whole article that bugged me a little, is used *over here* as something to silence dissent or to put up strawmen.
    And I voiced my concern about that, as harassment policies are a too important to let a misunderstanding of a sentence get in the way of a discussion.

    I hope I made myself clear that I am *not* against harassment policies and that I am *not* condoning rape/abuse or murder.

    I did not try to put up a straw man, I told the anecdote to show that the sentence is *used* a lot over here to put up straw men.

    I still think the sentence in question is not a good thing to use in a discussion about such a serious topic, but that may just be a perception issue. If it can’t be misunderstood in the USA, then everything is fine and people should disregard everything I wrote about this.

    I will not revisit this discussion, as I was shown by your comment that my english is by far not good enough to be understood the way I want to be understood.
    So I will, for my own and the greater good, not partake in this discussion anymore, as getting derailed is the last thing I want to see happening to it.

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    I will not revisit this discussion, as I was shown by your comment that my english is by far not good enough to be understood the way I want to be understood.

    Not to be overly critical of you, but have you considered that your English might also be insufficient to get what I was saying, and about whom, in that sentence you’ve questioned? There’s a good deal of context you’re missing on that, in fact. You should probably click on the “pushback against these policies” link in the original post to get that context — it’s talking about trolls explicitly lying about people’s motivations for making the harassment policy, and about how Taliban-like the policies are (e.g. would enforce strict dress codes on all participants) despite the fact that even the proposed template policy would do no such thing.

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