Conference speakers: Support anti-harassment policies in your speaker proposals

This post originally appeared on the Geek Feminism blog and is reposted here for posterity.

The Linux.conf.au 2012 proposal deadline is in a few hours, which gives you plenty of time to cut and paste the following into your speaker proposal:

I believe conferences should provide a safe, harassment-free environment for everyone. I ask $CONFERENCE to officially adopt and enforce a code of conduct or policy for attendee behavior that specifically forbids known problem behaviors such as pornography in public spaces, sexual harassment, and bullying.

If $CONFERENCE does not have a policy in place by the speaker notification deadline, I must regretfully decline any invitation to speak.

For more information, see:

http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Anti-harassment_policy_resources
http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents

Conferences value their speakers’ opinions greatly and listen when they speak. Donna Benjamin showed this when she organized a demonstration of support for a code of conduct at OSCON 2011; at least nine speakers in favor of the proposal edited their official OSCON speaker biographies to include a statement of support.

Friendly conference update

This post originally appeared on the Geek Feminism blog and is reposted here for posterity.

We announced a generic conference anti-harassment policy a couple of weeks ago. Since then several conferences have adopted anti-harassment policies, including Linux.conf.au 2011, FSF’s LibrePlanet 2011, and now all of Linux Foundation’s events have an official anti-harassment / discrimination policy. This includes 8 events in 2011 alone, including LinuxCon North America, LF End User Summit, and Kernel Summit.

Those of us who have attended Linux Foundation events will probably agree that their policy simply puts into writing what they were already doing. Other organizations which already have strong agreement on both standards of behavior and internal decision-making may be interested in adopting Linux Foundation’s simpler, streamlined policy. It is short enough to quote in its entirety here:


Linux Foundation events are working conferences intended for professional networking and collaboration in the Linux community. Attendees are expected to behave according to professional standards and in accordance with their employer’s policies on appropriate workplace behavior.

While at Linux Foundation events or related social networking opportunities, attendees should not engage in discriminatory or offensive speech or actions regarding gender, sexuality, race, or religion. Speakers should be especially aware of these concerns.

The Linux Foundation does not condone any statements by speakers contrary to these standards. The Linux Foundation reserves the right to deny entrance to any individual.

Please bring any concerns to to the immediate attention of Linux Foundation event staff, or contact Amanda McPherson, Vice President of Marketing at amanda (at) linuxfoundation (dot) org. We thank our attendees for their help in keeping Linux Foundation events professional, welcoming, and friendly.


(I helped write this policy as part of my pledge to help conferences adopt anti-harassment policies.)

Conferences that already had official harassment policies at the time of that announcement include OSDC and Ohio LinuxFest (one of the sources for the generic policy). LCA 2010 also deserves credit for including a clause on discrimination in its terms and conditions.

If your conference has an anti-harassment policy, let us know and we’ll blog about it on Geek Feminism! You can also add it to the list of conferences with an anti-harassment policy. If you are going to a conference that does not yet have an anti-harassment policy, and you would like to help change that, check out our list of conference organizer contact info.

Get your conference anti-harassment policy here!

This post originally appeared on the Geek Feminism blog and is reposted here for posterity.

It’s official: The example conference anti-harassment policy is out of beta and ready for prime time.

This is a example anti-harassment policy suitable for most open source, computing, or technology-related conferences. It may be adopted unchanged or tweaked to suit your conference.

Why have an official anti-harassment policy for your conference? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at conferences is incredibly common – for example, see this timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities. Second, it sets expectations for behavior at the conference. Simply having an anti-harassment policy can prevent harassment all by itself. Third, it encourages people to attend who have had bad experiences at other conferences. Finally, it gives conference staff instructions on how to handle harassment quickly, with the minimum amount of disruption or bad press for your conference.

OSDC 2010 wins the prize for first adoption of an anti-harassment policy based on this version. Thanks to Donna Benjamin for her hard work and editorial talent!

Which conference will be next? Email the organizers of your favorite conference and ask about their policy for dealing with harassment:

If your favorite conference isn’t listed above, leave a comment with its web site and contact email address, and we will move it into the list above.

If you or someone you know has been affected by harassment at a conference, please blog about it and link back to this post. Thanks!

RFC: Draft conference anti-harassment policy

This post originally appeared on the Geek Feminism blog and is reposted here for posterity.

Recent events show that not everyone has the same expectations for behavior at open source conferences. If you are a conference organizer, having an explicit anti-harassment policy can help prevent unpleasant and embarrassing incidents. But writing (and advocating for) an anti-harassment policy is, frankly, a lot of work.

Over the last couple of weeks, a group of veteran conference organizers put together a customizable anti-harassment policy suitable for most open source conferences. We are now asking for public comments on the draft policy, especially from conference organizers who are speaking from hard-won experience.

Draft conference anti-harassment policy

From the introduction:

An anti-harassment policy can help your conference in several ways. It can set expectations for participant behavior, publicly state the organizers’ principles, and give conference staff instructions on how to handle harassment. Part of the benefit of an anti-harassment policy comes from publicizing it before the conference, thereby setting expectations and preventing problems from occurring in the first place. It may also increase conference attendance, especially if competing conferences have less savory reputations for participant behavior.

We are also collecting resources for organizers considering adoption of an anti-harassment policy, including speaker guidelines, legal issues, and advice on customizing the policy.

To give feedback on the draft policy, comment on this post or send email to: valerie dot aurora at gmail dot com . We will integrate comments during the next week and release a “final” draft when the comments die down.

Street harassment reporting app now available for iPhone and Android

This post originally appeared on the Geek Feminism blog and is reposted here for posterity.

Last time we talked about Hollaback, the organization to fight street harassment, they were raising money to fund development of an mobile phone app to make reporting street harassment fast and easy. Well, it’s ready! Hollaback just released its street harassment reporting app for iPhone and Android, called “Hollaback.” Several news media outlets have picked up the story; you can read The New York Times story here:

Phone Apps Aim to Fight Harassment

Yes, that’s right, now when some creep starts muttering about your ass on the bus, you can whip out your phone, take a photo of him and get it published on a web site along with your story – and it only takes seconds. The photo is optional, of course. Instructions on how to download the app, text message your report, or report by web form are here.

Reporting street harassment this way is less about identifying and prosecuting individual men than raising awareness and giving women a feeling of power and the confidence to fight back. Before the Hollaback app was available, I started taking photos of my harassers in San Francisco (and noting the time and place and even interviewing them). I never even bothered sending them to Hollaback because simply taking the photos made me feel so powerful and in-control that I didn’t need to do more.

Comments of the “What about the poor mens?” variety that don’t add anything new to the discussion won’t be approved (problem-solving ideas welcome, of course!). Please feel free to share your street harassment story here but consider also submitting it to the Hollaback web site too.

You can do something about street harassment

This post originally appeared on the Geek Feminism blog and is reposted here for posterity.

When I sold my car and started walking and using public transit, I discovered a whole new wonderful world of sexual harassment. In general, I can’t travel more than a mile without at least one incident of a guy pinching his nipples while shouting at me to “Take it off!” or the like. The worst part is that you feel absolutely powerless to do anything about it. Men who enjoy harassing women also enjoy any kind of attention whatsoever, and getting angry, yelling at them, or shaming them only makes them happier.

A couple of years ago, I kept a Google map of location, time, and description of each incident of sexual harassment, simply because so many people refused to believe me when I told them about the kind of harassment I got. Then I just got used to it – sort of, if you can call feeling fear, shame, and rage for a couple of hours “used to it.”

But now! Hollaback is raising money (via Kickstarter) for an iPhone app that will let you take a photo and post it to an online map and database. You can already post to the Stop Street Harassment Global map. Street harassment depends on anonymity – most of these guys only do it when there are not many people around, or so quietly that no one else can hear. The more men get their photos up on the Internet when they harass women, the less harassment there will be.

The way Kickstarter works is that they have to raise a certain amount of money before they get any of the money. The deadline for this fundraiser is May 28, 2010, and they currently have $5,705 out of a goal of $12,500.

I gave them $25. Yay! I can do something! If you’ve ever been harassed on the street, or know someone who has, or just think that women should be able to go out in public without fear, please donate. You can give as little as $5. I’d love to see someone donate $1000.