We support DEFCON Kids – do we support DEFCON women?

Girls at computers

By Lorena Ceron CC BY-SA-3.0

We’re thrilled about the DEFCON Kids program, a track at the world’s largest hacker conference to encourage young people to become hackers (in the positive sense). But we’re also angry that once the girls in this program become women, they face aggressive sexual harassment and even assault at DEFCON and other hacker conferences.

If we support and encourage girls under 18 to become hackers, shouldn’t we also support women over 18, who currently have to put up with groping and requests to “show their tits” if they want to be hackers?

Unfortunately, hundreds of hackers argue that that sexual assault and harassment are a required part of hacker culture, that women deserve to be harassed if they wear the wrong clothes, that groping doesn’t “hurt anyone”, and that women shouldn’t go to hacker conferences if they don’t want to be groped and insulted. And that’s leaving out the comments from Reddit and Slashdot.

With help of our supporters, the Ada Initiative made a real difference for women in the hacker community. We wrote an editorial describing why sexual harassment and assault at hacker conferences hurts women and how to end it. Within days, two hacker conferences, BruCON and DeepSec, immediately adopted conference anti-harassment policies, with several more discussing it for next year! The article had nearly 50,000 page views and reached hundreds of thousands more people on Schneier on Security, Hacker News, CNET, Linux Weekly News, and Slashdot.

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