Author Archives: Mary Gardiner

T-shirts are here – literally! Donate by Dec. 6 for holiday delivery

F-word Feminism shirts, laid out by sizes

Very feminist. Much shirt.

Back in October, we promised t-shirts with our “Not Afraid to Say the F-word: Feminism” logo. They’ve arrived, hot off the presses, and the first t-shirts have already been shipped!

If you want to get one of your own, just donate $256 (or $20 monthly) or more to support women in open tech/culture before January 1, 2015.

Donate now

We’re so excited about these t-shirts, we’re extending the order deadline to get holiday delivery in the U.S.—you now have until December 6th to donate, and we’ll get you a shirt in time for the holidays!

Someone with pink hair wearing a "Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism!" shirt

A quick selfie in the very first shirt! CC BY-SA Nóirín Plunkett

International donors will get shirts too (at no extra cost), but we can’t make any promises about when they’ll arrive. These t-shirts will only be available until the end of the year, so don’t miss them!

The t-shirts are plain charcoal with white printing and made by District Clothing, who are committed to conducting business in a socially responsible manner. Fitted shirts are available up to a chest measurement of 53″, and straight cut shirts are available up to a chest measurement of 55″.

2014 is winding up as an amazing year for the Ada Initiative, and thanks to your support, we’re looking forward to doing even more next year. We made these fun t-shirts to thank you, so one last time: Thank you!

Donate now

Welcome NetApp and Rackspace as our newest AdaCamp sponsors

Two women smiling

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

The Ada Initiative is pleased to welcome NetApp and Rackspace as the newest Bronze sponsors of AdaCamp, our conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. NetApp and Rackspace join the many sponsors of AdaCamp Berlin and AdaCamp Bangalore, our first AdaCamps in Europe and Asia!

NetAppFounded in 1992, NetApp creates innovative storage and data management solutions that deliver outstanding cost efficiency and accelerate business breakthroughs. NetApp’s commitment to living their core values and consistently being recognized as a great place to work are fundamental to their long-term growth and success, as well as the success of their customers. NetApp is hiring at offices around the world.

Rackspace logo_No 1 Mgd_no tag_colorRackspace is the global leader in hybrid cloud and founder of OpenStack, the open-source operating system for the cloud. Founded in 1998, Rackspace employs over 5,000 people worldwide and is based in San Antonio, Texas. Rackspace is hiring at offices around the world.

About AdaCamp

AdaCampAdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative will hold three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India. AdaCamp Portland occurred in June and was a huge success. AdaCamp Berlin applications are already closed and is slated for October 11-12. Applications are now open for AdaCamp Bangalore, which is scheduled for November 22-23.

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla and Red Hat, and silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.

AdaCamp Bangalore: free for everyone, and applications closing early on September 12

AdaCamp Bangalore is a 50-person unconference for women in open technology and culture, being held on November 22nd-23rd.

A free event for all

We’re pleased to announce that we won’t charge a registration free for AdaCamp Bangalore. Other AdaCamps have had a self-selected tiered registration fee, including a free option, to allow attendees to choose to support the event at whatever level they are able. For our Bangalore event, the Ada Initiative and our sponsors will be covering all our attendees’ registration costs. If you have already paid a registration fee, you’ll be refunded shortly.

New application deadline

AdaCamp Portland models 2We have had so many great applications to AdaCamp Bangalore that we are on track to fill all our spaces and grant all our travel scholarships before the originally planned deadlines. Also, it’s important that our overseas visitors apply and register in time to plan their travel, including visas.

For this reason, we are moving up the deadline for Bangalore applications to Friday, September 12th. Please make sure to apply before that date.

We encourage applications from people who consider themselves “non-technical” or not “technical enough.” We found that many people assume that AdaCamp is only for coders or computer experts, which is definitely not the case! AdaCampers include writers, makers and crafters, researchers & academics, NGO and community workers, activists, and many others. AdaCamp is more interesting and satisfying when we have attendees from a wide range of open technology and culture fields.

About AdaCamp

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative is holding three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla and Red Hat, and silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.

Handling harassment incidents swiftly and safely

As anti-harassment policies become more widespread at open technology and culture events, different ways of handling harassment incidents are emerging. We advocate a swift process in which final decisions are made by a small group of empowered decision makers, whose focus is on the safety of the people attending the event.

Open technology and culture communities, which often make decisions in a very public way, can be tempted to also have a very public and very legalistic harassment handling process, a judicial model, but we advocate against this. It prioritises other values, such as transparency and due process, over that of safety. Alternatively, because many members of such communities find ostracism very hurtful and frightening, sometimes they develop a caretaker model, where they give harassers lots of second chances and lots of social coaching, and focus on the potential for a harasser to redeem themselves and re-join the community.

But neither of these models prioritise safety from harassment.

Consider an alternative model: harassment in the workplace. In a well-organised workplace that ensured your freedom from harassment — a situation which we know is also all too rare, but which we can aspire to, especially since our events are workplaces for many of us — an empowered decision maker such as your manager or an HR representative would make a decision based on your report that harassment had occurred and other relevant information as judged by them, and act as required order to keep your workplace safe for you.

A well-organised workplace would not appoint itself your harasser’s anti-harassment coach, have harassment reports heard by a jury of your peers, publish the details of your report widely, have an appeals process several levels deep, or offer fired staff members the opportunity to have their firing reviewed by management after some time has passed.

Like in a well-organised workplace, we advocate a management model of handling harassment complaints to make events safer: reasonably quick and final decisions made by a small group of empowered decision makers, together with communication not aimed at transparency for its own sake, but at giving people the information they need to keep themselves safe.

The management model of harassment handling is that:

  1. you have a public harassment policy that clearly states that harassment is unacceptable, and gives examples of unacceptable behaviour
  2. you have a clear reporting avenue publicised with the policy
  3. you have an empowered decision maker, or a small group of decision makers, who will act on reports
  4. reports of harassment are conveyed to those decision makers when reported
  5. they consider those reports, gather any additional information they need to make a decision — which could include conduct in other venues and other information that a very legalistic model might not allow — and they decide what action would make the event safer
  6. they communicate with people who need to know the outcome (eg, with the harasser if they need to change their behaviour, avoid any people or places, or leave the event; volunteers or security if they need to enforce any boundaries)
  7. they provide enough information to the victim of the harassment, and when needed to other attendees, to let them make well-informed decisions about their own safety

Further reading

The Ada Initiative founders on funding activism for women in open source

This week, Ada Initiative founders Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora wrote about Funding Activism for Women in Open Source in the Funding issue of Model View Culture, drawing on lessons from their first years raising money for the Ada Initiative:

We founded the Ada Initiative with the principle of paying fair market wages to anyone doing work for us more than a few hours a week. In 2010, this was a moonshot. In 2014, it’s increasingly how things are done. More and more diversity in technology initiatives are becoming paid activities, and a growing proportion of the technology industry recognizes this labour as something worth paying for[…]

[F]ull-time diversity activists who want to do effective, controversial, culture-changing work must often work out how to pay themselves, rather than taking existing jobs at tech companies or diversity in tech non-profits.

What follows is a survey of some of the most popular funding sources: corporate sponsorship, individual donations, and consulting and training.

Read the full article, The Ada Initiative Founders on Funding Activism for Women in Open Source, at Model View Culture to learn more about the rationale for each of these funding sources… and their pitfalls!

Ada Initiative to run Allies Workshop in Canberra, September 21

The Ada Initiative Allies Workshop focuses on what individual people can do to make their workplace or community a better, more positive place for women. The workshop teaches people how to respond to sexism in a productive way, whether online, in the workplace, or in person. Participants in the Allies Workshop will learn:

  • Brief, effective responses to sexism and discrimination
  • What responses don’t work or have a negative effect
  • How to choose their battles wisely
Front of Australian Federal Parliament House, Canberra

© Mark Pegrum, CC BY-SA

An Allies Workshop will be held in Canberra, Australia, Saturday September 21, from 2pm to 4pm, for members of the Make Hack Void hackerspace. Members of other open technology or open culture groups and communities are welcome to attend. The workshop welcomes people of all genders.

Registration is free although a contribution towards travel costs would be appreciated. For more information, and to register, please contact Brenda Moon as per her MHV event announcement. Please register no later than September 14, so that we can confirm the workshop has enough attendees to go ahead.

"Why don't you just hit him?" — the worst possible anti-harassment advice

The example conference anti-harassment policy was announced on the Geek Feminism blog in November 2010 by Ada Initiative co-founder Valerie Aurora. Afterwards, hundreds of people suggested a “better” solution to sexual harassment: Knee him in the groin! This is a repost of what Valerie’s co-founder, Mary Gardiner, wrote about what’s wrong with “Just hit him!” in December 2010.


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You can help stop harassment. Support our work fighting harassment at conferences and online by donating to our 2013 fundraising drive today.

“Why don’t you just hit him?”

A woman smiling in front of a green background

Mary Gardiner

Valerie has had a lot of comments and private email in response to her conference anti-harassment policy post suggesting that a great deal of the problem would be solved if women were encouraged to hit their harassers: usually people suggest an open handed slap, a knee to groin, or even tasers and mace (no suggestions for tear gas or rubber bullets yet). I sent her such a lengthy email about it that we agreed that I clearly at some level wanted to post about it. What can I do but obey my muse?

OK. Folks…

This is not one of those entries I am thrilled in my soul to have to write, but here’s why “Hit him!” is not a solution for everyone and definitely does not replace the need for people with authority to take a stand against harassment.

And I know some people were joking. But not everyone was, you’ll need to trust me on this. Your “Jeez, guys like that are lucky they don’t get a knee in the groin more often… hey wait, maybe you should just have a Knee In Groin Policy!” joke was appearing in inboxes right alongside material seriously saying that all of this policy nonsense wouldn’t be necessary if women were just brave and defended themselves properly, if they’d just for once get it right.

Here are some samples:

  • Duncan on LWN: “What I kept thinking while reading the original article, especially about the physical assaults, is that it was too bad the victims in question weren’t carrying Mace, pepper-spray, etc, and wasn’t afraid to use it. A couple incidents of that and one would think the problem would disappear…”
  • NAR on LWN: “I’ve read the blog about the assault – it’s absolutely [appalling] and in my opinion the guy deserved a knee to his groin and some time behind bars.” (NAR then goes on to note that women should also wear skirts below the knee; which is very much making it about the victim. Dress right! Fight back!)
  • A comment on Geek Feminism that was not published: “…You also need to make it known to women that they need to immediately retaliate (preferably in the form of a slap loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear)… Women -must- stand up for themselves and report the guy, preferably after a loud humiliating slap immediately following the incident.”
  • crusoe on reddit: “You need to end right then and there. Its one thing to make blog posts, its another to call a jerk out for it on the conference floor, including stomping a toe, or poking them hard in the belly… Do not stew about it, do not run home and write a blog post about it. Just call them on it right then and there.” (As long as crusoe doesn’t have to hear about it…)

First up, one key thing about this and many similar responses (“Just ignore him”, “Just spread the word”, “Just yell at him”):

Harassment is not a private matter between harasser and victim, and it’s not the victim’s job to put a stop to it.

The harasser is responsible for their actions. The surrounding culture is responsible for condemning them and making it clear those actions and expressions of attitudes that underlie them are not acceptable. (See Rape Culture 101.) The victim may choose to go to the police, yell, hit, scream, confront, go to a counsellor, tell their mother, tell their father, tell their friends, warn people. They may choose not to. Whether they do or not, we are all responsible for making harassment unacceptable where we are. Harassment, and stopping it, is not the victim’s responsibility. (See But You Have to Report It!)

Am I against hitting a harasser in all situations? No. Am I advocating against it in all situations? No.

However, here’s a lengthy and incomplete list of reasons why victims may not be able or may choose not to hit a harasser and why it is definitely not a general solution for the problem of harassment. I even have a special buzzer on hand that will sound when the reasons are related to gender discrimination. Listen for it, it goes like this: BZZZT! Got it? BZZZT!

Important note on pronouns and gendering: I am largely buying the framing of the “why don’t you just hit him?” advice, that is, men harassers and women victims, for the purposes of this post. However, I acknowledge that people of all gender identities get harassed, and that people of all gender identities may be harassers. At various points in the post I will return to this point.

Conferences are a professional, or public hobby, environment. This is the point that applies to conferences most specifically. We are talking about an activity where people give talks with projected words and pictures, where people discuss and write computer programs or sci-fi or cocktail recipes, where people say things like “Oh wow, you’re Lord Ogre Face! Oh wow, everyone, I’ve known this guy online for years and we just met now for the first time ever! Oh wow!”

This is not, generally speaking, an environment in which physical conflict is considered appropriate. How are slaps and knees to the groin (gender note: not all harassers have testicles as this advice somewhat assumes) supposed to fit in again? Conferences should be places where people learn things and have fun… oh yes and every so often something bad happens to someone and they hit the person that did it?

Of course not. Conferences, in an ideal world, are basically an environment of mutual consent: people go to talks they want to hear, they are in conversations they want to have, they party as much as they want to party and so on. The solution to this underbelly of non-consent that we’re fighting against here is hauling it out into the light and making a public official stand saying “this is not OK”, not adding combat to the list of acceptable activities at conferences.

How, exactly, is this helping build a better, safer world? I’m not personally a pacifist. But the world I’m looking forward to living in is not one in which, in between conference talks, I walk down the corridor to witness any of the following:

  • Harassment
  • Assault
  • Some of the more fantastical suggestions that have come up privately, such as harassers being held down and beaten by multiple people

It’s hard to hit people. It requires training, not just to do it well, but to do it at all. Most people reading this, unless trained in combat, have very strong inhibitions about hitting people. To hit someone after a momentary touch or comment means leaping past “Did he really…?” “Did I deserve…?” “Was it that bad…?” to “YOU JERK” *SMACK*!

Getting angry at a harasser, let alone angry enough to hit them, takes many victims minutes, hours, days or even years. Going from incident to slap in seconds flat takes training or a particular type of self-assurance, and funnily enough women are specifically socialised out of that (BZZZT!)

Here are some Hollaback stories that illustrate the difficulty of summoning outrage responses in the moment:

Oh yeah, and then there’s doing it well. That means, presumably, enough pain to hurt the harasser, not enough to continue causing pain after a few minutes have passed. Get it wrong in the soft direction and you’re the butt of another joke, get it wrong in the hard direction and you’ve helped make a case against yourself. Speaking of which…

Hitting people can result in arrest and criminal charges. In jurisdictions I’ve been able to research, there is no “But he was being really jerky” defence against assault or battery charges. The person who who escalated to physical violence first is the person who is in the most trouble. I don’t think I need to explain in general why this stops some people hitting others.

But some people have reason to especially fear contact with the police. Examples include people who get disproportionately charged and punished (racial minorities, for example), and people who would have a criminal record used against them (eg in a child custody case) or whose career would be over (lawyers).

When you picture a woman righteously hitting her harasser, what are you picturing? A slender white woman of average height or below? What happens when you start changing those things? Consider me, for example. I’m 6’4″ (193cm). I’m relatively weak compared to many men of my height and I don’t train in combat, but does it all look so straightforward when you picture me spinning in outrage and slamming one of my enormous hands into the face of a man who is a foot shorter because he’d called me some slur? Or are you starting to think “Hey, steady on, he just…” What would you think about a tall, fat, muscled woman doing this? Or a big woman who is a military veteran, or a black belt?

Maybe you’d be fine with that, I don’t know. But I know that person has reason to think the police will regard what she did as a serious offence.

Not everyone can physically attack others. People who can’t quickly move over to the harasser; people whose hands need to be on their cane or crutches; people who can’t stand steadily or at all, let alone while reaching to slap someone’s face or while raising a leg to knee someone in the groin. People who are very short relative to their harasser (BZZZT!), who don’t have the reach to get a hand on their face or knee in their groin. People who shake and lose strength under severe stress.

Since it comes up in self-defence arguments: yes, some (not all) of these people can effectively use weapons such as guns or mace. But even in cases of life-threatening attacks, those require being armed with the weapon, being trained with it, and having special regular training on effective use when under stress. But right here, we are talking about harassment broadly, not serious assaults in particular. Attacking harassers with weapons isn’t under consideration.

Which brings me to cutting remarks, as a tangent. I’m hoping everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of thinking of the perfect cutting response… 12 hours later? Well, that affects victims of harassment. And it’s not just that. Speech impediments, for example, get in the way of getting the perfect cutting remark out in the perfect tone of contempt.

Back to hitting harassers.

It might make the victim more of a target. Maybe it was a weak slap and made a weak sound and the harasser smiled through the whole thing. Or the harasser caught the victim’s hand as it came up and is now holding her wrist tightly and grinning at her. Or the harasser pushed at the victim as her knee came up towards his groin, and she fell over.

Hitting does not necessarily make a situation end and it does not necessarily make the physical aggressor look strong and in control.

Hitting hurts. I’m not going to devote a lot of space to being sympathetic towards harassers, and this is a statement of the bleeding obvious but, you’re proposing hurting and possibly injuring people.

Onlookers are not sympathetic to the person who hits out. You might be picturing a conversation, I guess, where someone approaches a woman and is conveniently wired for sound and thus everyone hears him mutter that she’s a so-and-so and he’d like to such-and-such her.

In reality, here’s what you see if women hit their harassers:

  • A man walks near a woman, and she hits him across the face. Did he say something? No one heard.
  • A man is on stage giving a presentation and makes a joke about so-and-so women. It’s definitely an ew joke and you feel uncomfortable. You then watch multiple women run on stage and knee him in the groin one after the other. He falls to the ground in absolute agony, crying out in pain that is in no way lessened by some magic jerky-joke-maker insensitivity gene.
  • A man is standing there talking to you. He’s a moderately well known geek celebrity in local circles. You feel kind of chuffed to make his acquaintance. A woman runs up out of nowhere and hits him in the middle of your conversation, claiming that he assaulted her the previous evening at a party.

You might still be on the side of the women involved in those scenarios, most onlookers aren’t. They’re seeing violence.

We are arguing that you don’t want these men at your conference, especially if they are repeatedly offending at the one conference. We are not arguing or agreeing that you want them physically hurt at your conference.

The harasser might hit back. Or onlookers might step in. I know a lot of men are strongly socialised to believe that they cannot ever under any circumstances hit a woman. This socialisation is not shared by everyone, far from it. And of course, while this piece is gendered, recall that of course the victim might be a man, or might be a person whose gender presentation doesn’t match what the harasser thinks it should be. Those people don’t benefit from any real or perceived social stigma about hitting women.

This situation is another especial danger for people without combat training and with some disabilities. It’s also dangerous for the average woman (BZZZT!) who is smaller and weaker than the average man; thus rendering a solid majority of physical conflicts between men and women more dangerous for the woman. A martial artist I asked about this advised me that people who are at a weight-strength disadvantage need to, and this isn’t surprising, win physical fights extremely decisively and quickly before their disadvantages tell. It takes even more training, mental and physical, to do this.

Let’s get rid of the harassment and assaults that are already occurring, huh?

Women don’t automatically win by hitting someone. Some of this seems, frankly, to be playing into the idea that being hit by a woman is extremely humiliating (BZZZT! BZZZT! BZZZT!) and the harasser will be thus unmanned and shamed by the violence (BZZZT!) and that others will view him as lesser (BZZZT!)

This might be the true effect on some harassers, and if a victim chooses to take advantage of it to gain power in a particular situation good for her. In the geek feminist utopia, being hit by a woman wouldn’t be an especial humiliation; the problem is a dynamic in which men harass women with their humiliating harassment powers and women punish them with allocated women powers (BZZZT!).

In fact a great deal of this “Just hit him!” argument seems to assume that women’s violence is necessarily different from and lesser than men’s violence. Oh, women’s violence isn’t, you know, violence violence. No one will call the cops, or get in an extended fight or get seriously hurt! That’s a man thing. (… BZZZT!)

This is the kind of advice given by people who don’t actually want to help. Or perhaps don’t know how they can. It’s like if you’re a parent of a bullying victim, and you find yourself repeating “ignore it”, “fight back with fists” or whatever fairly useless advice you yourself were once on the receiving end of. It’s expressing at best helplessness, and at worst victim-blaming. It’s personalising a cultural problem.

You are not helpless in the face of harassment. Call for policies, implement policies, call out harassment when you overhear it, or report it. Stand with people who discuss their experiences publicly.

Revenge fantasies feel nice. Yes, they do. And they are cathartic. (This is one reason why Ender’s Game is such a popular geek classic.) But why are we getting hit with so many revenge fantasies from non-victims when we’re trying to build up a real solution? If you are angry that there have been, unbeknownst to you, harassers at conferences and in communities you know and love, indulge a revenge fantasy or two if you like. And then devote your energy to helping, rather than trying to convince women to enact your fantasy.

Here it is again for the road:

Harassment is not a private matter between harasser and victim, and it’s not the victim’s job to put a stop to it.


You can help. Support the Ada Initiative’s work ending harassment at conferences and supporting women in open technology and culture. Join over 100 supporters who donated to our 2013 fundraising campaign. Donate now!