Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
Posted Feb 1, 2011 12:10 UTC (Tue) by emk
In reply to: Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
Parent article: Debugging conference anti-harassment policies
[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.
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