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I particular I thought replacing the test of whether it would be acceptable on broadcast TV with whether it would be acceptable in the workplace was an excellent suggestion.
Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
Posted Feb 1, 2011 2:37 UTC (Tue) by ewan (subscriber, #5533)
I did indeed only address the single point about the "The only justification for introducing the phrase "a small minority" can be to argue that the majority should always get to do what they want" because it's specially problematic - it implies bad faith on the part of anyone that disagrees by saying that there can be no legitimate reason for doing so, and that sort of thing gets us nowhere.
There's a case to be made that conferences should have a workplace style 'professional' atmosphere, and there's a contrary case to be made that they should have a more relaxed and social feel. Both points of view are respectable; trying to shut down discussion by painting some people as purely selfish would-be oppressors of minorities is not.
Posted Feb 1, 2011 12:10 UTC (Tue) by emk (subscriber, #1128)
[T]here's a contrary case to be made that they should have a more relaxed and social feel.
Of course, this is tricky, because what one person finds relaxed and social (porn stars in a CouchDB presentation, for example), other people find downright icky. The nice thing about workplace social norms is that they tend to translate well across cultures, and that they're well-adapted to mixed groups of men and women.
I'm particularly concerned about behavior that makes a conference feel "relaxed and social" for particular 20- and 30-something male geeks, but makes it feel slimy to key technical contributors like Valerie Aurora. Now, there's no empirical link between the use of crass, sexualized metaphors in technical presentations and the all-to-frequent groping of female hackers. But I do know that some women perceive the sexualized metaphors as creepy, and part of a larger pattern. And if we are, in fact, trying to optimize for a "relaxed and social" environment, that very perception is a useful data point.
Now, I might feel differently about the BDSM imagery if it conveyed useful technical or political information, or if it were the actual subject of the talk. But when the sexualized metaphors are being used purely for "marketing" or rhetorical reasons, I'm already strongly biased against their use, just as I am biased against the use of "booth babes" to influence software purchasing decisions.
Posted Feb 1, 2011 15:29 UTC (Tue) by ewan (subscriber, #5533)
That's not to say I'm necessarily all for BDSM imagery in keynotes, but any policy needs to be limited enough to deal with real problems, without causing direct collateral damage, or having a generally chilling effect.
Posted Feb 1, 2011 19:12 UTC (Tue) by donwaugaman (subscriber, #4214)
One is the content of talks, which does not seem to have much to do with the "relaxed, social, going-to-the-pub parts of conferences" and, it seems to me, should be slanted to emphasize a workplace or professional atmosphere rather than a casual or social atmosphere. In a one-to-many presentation, there's not a whole lot of socializing going on or friendly relationships being established. What's more, the lack of one-to-one contact and highly public forum makes quick apologies more difficult if you metaphorically trod on another's toes due to the content of the presentation, so keeping things professional is the right thing to do.
Conference events in the more social milieu can run on less formality than the workplace - these are smaller groups or one-on-one occasions - but I do think that participants really ought to consider it like a "workplace social event" - an office party or offsite, where you can let your hair down some, but don't go get plastered and act like a boor, which is something that keeps other people from being relaxed and social. You don't want to keep people from sharing a little of themselves or their outrageous opinions in a smaller group or social setting, but some basic politeness and mutual respect can go a long way here, and isn't going to have a chilling effect on communication or social lubrication.
Posted Feb 1, 2011 19:16 UTC (Tue) by roc (subscriber, #30627)
For the rest, well, they can actually go to a pub outside the conference sessions :-).
Posted Feb 3, 2011 17:21 UTC (Thu) by Seegras (subscriber, #20463)
Most people with the exception of most US-citizens can use and hear the word "fuck" in any social context (from bars to university lectures) without a) sexual connotations b) getting ashamed c) finding it "offensive".
Posted Feb 3, 2011 17:44 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
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