[hackerspaces] Safe Space Policies?

Wilco Baan Hofman wilco at baanhofman.nl
Mon Jan 27 14:58:33 CET 2014

On 27/01/14 14:23, Christie Dudley wrote:
> Long thread is long, contentious and a lot of postulation.
> I've been talking with women who aren't part of the hacker/hackerspace
> scene, but could fit in if they wanted to. I'm assuming it's that
> demographic that everyone is talking about here?
> Yeah, the sleazebags will put people off, and you better believe that
> if that's the first impression your space gives a person (male or
> female) they'll probably leave and not tell you because they're so
> creeped out. 
> But that's not why the women I have talked to don't like to hang
> around hackerspaces. They don't like to hang around because they're
> *bored*. People don't talk to us/them or includes us in their
> conversations, even if we seem interested, except in a strange and
> smarmy sort of way where we can't really engage unless
> we're like looking for a date or something, which has nothing to do
> with why women *should* be showing up to hackerspaces, although that's
> about how more than half of women wind up there - ushered in by their SOs.
> I sometimes wonder if I would have ever joined had Audrey not been
> hanging around the day I showed up trying to iron clothes with a
> knife. ("Here, use a pan! It's much flatter!") I look back in fondness
> at all the friends I have made along the way... but still if I go back
> to the first hackerspace I joined, I see it all again. All I can do to
> find someone who's there from before who remembers me and knows I'm
> interesting to talk to.
I agree completely. Though I don't think the engagement-problem is
specific to women. I've seen it anywhere you join in an established
group as an outsider, especially if your interests do not line up with
the people present at that specific time. This is one of the reasons we
have specific open nights at our hackerspace where people will stop with
the project they're working on specifically to talk to people that come
in, regardless of gender obviously.
> If you have the kind of establishment where you are concerned that the
> men there will behave inappropriately around women, then you have two
> problems. Anti-harassment policies might address the first, but tend
> to make the second even worse, as it's been my experience that people
> tend to shy away from things entirely that could get them in trouble
> if they make the wrong move.
> I'd be willing to bet that if you tried to foster a culture of address
> the problem of engagement (especially technical! Find out what they
> know! It might surprise you!) then the harassment problems would fade
> away. It's a symptom of the problem of "othering" women, not the
> problem itself. ("Women are different and separate from us, so it's OK
> to behave badly/unusually around them.") The same could be true for
> the rest of the gender/sexuality spectrum. The problems are not distinct.



Wilco Baan Hofman

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