Geek Feminism Has you Covered at Conferences

Following a great expose (“The Dark side of Open Source Conferences”) by Valerie Aurora on harassment and sexism in Open Source (technology that is horizontally integrated, anyone can collaborate on it, and its nuts and bolts are all transparent) conferences and communities, which has been making its rounds on feminist as well as tech sites, the blog Geek Feminism has posted a great conference anti-harassment policy template on their wiki. Aurora interviewed her female peers in the industry about the good and the bad of conferences, and compiled their answers, revealing a familiar “double-bind” insult women face in technology of being both sexualized as well as considered not as tech-savvy as their male peers:

For Selena, as for many women, it’s a double-bind: “I have to be very aggressive when initiating conversation to get people to talk with me about technical subjects,” but then her behavior is “incorrectly interpreted as flirting.” Beth Lynn had the same experience: “I was at a conference where a man mistook my friendliness and technical interest as sexual attraction to him.” Mackenzie says, “At one conference, it was implied that another engineer was only agreeing with me on a technical matter because I would pay him back with a sexual favor later.”

The new easily-adaptable template for anti-harassment policy, co-authored Aurora, is a big step towards making technology and Open Source–by definition democratic–the more inclusive environment in strives to be. Terri from Geek Feminism posted an update today about why it’s important to implement policies regardless of whether your conference has had harassment issues. (“Think of it like a seatbelt…Wearing [it] isn’t an admission that you’re a bad driver, it’s just an admission that you can’t control the behaviour of other people, so you might as well do your best to stay safe.”) For more on diversity at conferences and within the open-source community, Neville Park also just transcribed a great interview from May with Jack Aponte, aka AngryBrownButch, who identifies as genderqueer person of color and is a Drupal developer (a type of Open Source software. Bitch’s website, for example, is run with it!). In a podcast with Lullabot (listen here) Aponte talks diversity at conferences, recognizing privilege, and the social justice potential of Open Source software. Let’s hear it for safer spaces, online and off! [Geek Feminism]

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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