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The dark side of open source conferences

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 1, 2010 22:19 UTC (Wed) by storner (subscriber, #119)
Parent article: The dark side of open source conferences

As others have commented, the examples You provide are indeed appalling.

Since I am not in the US (Denmark / Scandinavia), I cannot help but wonder if there is a general difference in culture between the US and here on the other side of the pond. True, I am male and Valerie's experiences are from the female point of view. But I am also openly homosexual, so I have had a couple of "funny" remarks thrown my way occasionally. But never at Open Source conferences - my impression of people in the OSS community here has always been that they are generally more accepting of various minority groups than society in general, something which I've attributed to many of us being younger than the average population.

It's sad that some people haven't got a clue about how to behave themselves.


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The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 1, 2010 22:30 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641) [Link]

I suspect there may be more LGBTQ folks in the FOSS community than women (usually estimated 10% of population are gay, but even if only 5% of men in FOSS were gay/bi, that'd still be twice as many as the estimated number of women). I also think that many of the sorts of things that happen to us (the grabbing, leering, propositioning, etc) are exactly the sorts of things a homophobic straight man would *not* want to do to you--it'd make him look like what he despises.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 1, 2010 23:56 UTC (Wed) by sealne (subscriber, #58884) [Link]

I have lost count of the number of times that the homophobic comments at FLOSS conferences (maybe one day I'll make it through an event without this happening) have forced me to leave a conversation or social event.

The worst part is when it is people you consider friends that nearly have you in tears with their hateful comments and then claim that its all just a joke.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 2, 2010 3:49 UTC (Thu) by vaurora (guest, #38407) [Link]

I agree, homophobic comments and "jokes" are incredibly common at FLOSS events and create a really unpleasant and uncomfortable environment for everyone. One of the joys of writing this policy was the hope that it could be used to discourage gay jokes, and fat jokes, and racist jokes, and all the other crap that makes me furious and angry but happens so often that I can't fight it all by myself.

I strongly encourage conference organizers to explicitly call out sexual orientation as one of the sources of harassment they will not tolerate. It is included as one of the options in the policy.

Thanks for bringing this up.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 2, 2010 4:36 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641) [Link]

To clarify, I don't at all doubt that there are homophobic comments, only that there would be negative events with sexual overtones (such as requesting or forcing a sexual act) by a homophobic person. I strongly *hope* that there are not violently homophobic incidences occurring at conferences, as these are the sort of physical dangers I perceive to be the problem for members of the LGBTQ population.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 1, 2010 23:07 UTC (Wed) by leoc (subscriber, #39773) [Link]

FWIW, the "Ottawa Linux Symposium" is in Ottawa, Canada.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 2, 2010 13:16 UTC (Thu) by willy (subscriber, #9762) [Link]

FWIW, it hasn't been worth going to OLS in about three years. All the good papers are submitted elsewhere these days.

I live in Ottawa, about ten minutes walk from the conference venue, and I couldn't be bothered to go to the free day this year. It genuinely wasn't worth my time. I did appreciate the opportunity to get together with some of the attendees after-hours though :-) [Yes, in a pub. Even though I wasn't drinking. See other comment.]

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 8, 2010 8:35 UTC (Wed) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

I'm a gay man on the fringes of open source in the US. I've been to way too many linuxy/open sourcey conferences (worked for SuSE etc) and I've pretty much never noticed the harassment of attendees. The only unusal topical thing that happened is I actually got picked up -- in a very careful and deferential and polite manner. We went on a pleasant date though it didn't really go anywhere.

Back on topic: I don't see these things happening. Yes, I would see the tasteless sexualized environment thigns from time to time, and I would frown on them, complain about them to co-attendees, and sometimes tell the purveyeors of them that they reflect poorly on the company. But I did not notice any directed harassment, intimidation, or gender demeaning going on.

However, when I talk to women about the topic I find out that they absolutely *are* happening. I get all kinds of stories from subtly awful where women are looked past for opinions from their male colleagues to the overtly bizaree like the conversation about "You're not an engineer. There are no women engineers." Harassment of this sort has a tendency to happen when other parties aren't around or involved. It's easy to miss if people don't speak up about it.


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