How Not To Write a Code of Conduct

CN: Discussion of harassment and hate speech, transphobia, racism.

In previous years, the more feminist factions of the atheist and skeptic movements pushed events to deal with problems of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in various ways. One of those ways, and perhaps the most successful one, was encouraging events and groups to have an anti-harassment policy or code of conduct that would spell out what types of behavior were acceptable and how unacceptable behavior would be handled. At the same time, science fiction and fantasy conventions, tech conferences, and other events dealt with the same issues and also responded with a push towards robust codes of conduct. As more and more writers, speakers, and leaders refused to speak at events without good codes of conduct, these policies became common, with almost every relevant event having one displayed on their website.

However, having a harassment policy, code of conduct, or other similar document for your event is not enough. It actually has to be a good one, with clear definitions of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and consequences for those who do not follow it. Those who experience an incident of discrimination, hate speech, sexual harassment, or similar problems need to know how to report these things and how they will be handled. “Don’t be a dick” isn’t sufficient as a definition of what behavior is and is not welcome at your event.

Just one example of a terrible code of conduct came to my attention recently. The event Gateway to Reason will take place in St Louis in late July and does have a code of conduct on their website. While Gateway to Reason is not alone in having a poorly considered conduct policy, theirs is particularly problematic and I’d like to discuss some of the ways it could be improved.
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How Not To Write a Code of Conduct

Blog Startup Housekeeping

I’m going to need to spend a few minutes today doing some basic blog housekeeping. I hope you’ll bear with me, and I intend to keep this quick.


My incredibly adorable mascot was made for me by Jodi Thiebault. I really love her art! His name is Scrappy (because mascot) and anywhere you see him on the net say hi!

On Content Notes/Trigger Warnings:

I intend to use content notes at the start of most, if not all, blog posts. They will be in bold text and start “CN:” followed by anything I think people will want to be forewarned about.

I want to do this on most or all posts for a few reasons. One is that it will help me remember to do them, if I’m doing them on a regular basis. I’d hate to forget to warn of something really important. Another reason is that I’d like to see a normalization of content notices on lots of media – blog posts, books, TV shows, podcasts, articles I have to read for class, etc. We have some level of content notice already for movies (included in the rating system) but I think that needs to improve. Public radio tends to be good about certain kinds of warnings, and I like that too. But in general media could be better, and I want to be better.

If I have missed something in a content note that you think should be there, please let me know and I will add it.

On commenting:

Comment moderation is currently turned on for your first post on this blog. After I approve your first comment, you should be able to comment here without moderation after that. I intend to keep this setting indefinitely.

Abusive comments will not be approved, and those that come up on the blog will be deleted. I define abusive the way I want, since this is my home, but some examples would include flagrant use of slurs and advocating for violence against any person. Egregious or repeated abusive comments will get you banned.

I will very quickly get bored of arguments about 101 level atheism and 101 level social justice issues. Repeatedly arguing about these things, such as arguing that the word “cisgender” is oppressive, will get you put on moderation, and will get you banned if you keep it up. Don’t be boring.

Why Scrappy Deviation?

Scrappy because I’m ready and willing to get down to work on the issues important to me, and I can be surprisingly feisty when roused. Also, I’m short, round, and adorable, and the word brings those images to mind for me.

Deviation for two reasons. First, it’s a science/math related word, and I wanted my title to have a nod towards the science I intend to keep present on this blog. Second, because as a teenager as I was coming out about being queer and non-traditional in other ways my mother, in absolute horror, said “You don’t want to be like that. People like that are deviant!” and it has stuck with me every since. So “deviation” here is both as in “standard deviation” and “deviation from typical social norms.”

Blog Startup Housekeeping