[hackerspaces] sexual harrasment

Edward L Platt ed at elplatt.com
Tue Nov 11 18:24:54 CET 2014

> How do you deal with sexual harassment at your spaces?
"Not well enough" is sadly the most concrete answer I can give.

While I was at i3 Detroit, we instituted an explicit policy:
The key points were:
* Get consent before touching someone.
* Anyone can set limits on who they are comfortable interacting with.

Unfortunately rules like that don't address offensive comments (like the
issue you asked about), and are really only enforced if community norms are
present to support them. Along those lines, I really like the Hacker School
User Manual's environment section:

Both formally and informally I've heard from people who were harassed but
didn't feel comfortable coming seeking any sort of action,
or wanted to handle it on their own. So often everyone thinks there isn't a
problem, even when there are repeat offenders. I'm convinced that it's
important to allow a place for complaints to be made semi-anonymously, even
if only to inform future decisions and issue warnings. Having a system like
that in place, actually taking people serious when they use it, and
generally being public about taking everyone's safety seriously goes a long
way to help encourage people to come forward when there's a problem, and
encourage everyone to take those norms into consideration before acting.

Another thing I've observed is that when complaints are responded to, the
goal is often to punish the offender. While sometimes fixing the specific
problem, that often doesn't address the underlying cultural norms. I've
started to shift my thinking to focus on harm. What harm was done? How can
it be remedied? How can similar harm best be prevented in the future? The
answers might include consequences like bans or limits for the offender,
but there's probably more to it than that.

So "dealing with" sexual harassment is really hard. It seems like the best
thing we can do is deliberately and explicitly cultivate norms that make it
less common.

Happy hacking,
Edward L. Platt
@elplatt <http://twitter.com/elplatt>

This electronic mail message was sent from my desktop personal computer.
Please forgive any long-winded, overly-prosaic ramblings.
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