Thursday, May 24, 2012

Conferences having an anti-harassment policy should be a no-brainer

It's sad how much pushback there is against the very simple and reasonable idea that atheist and skeptic conferences ought to have official anti-harassment policies in place, and a basic framework for dealing with harassment, sexual and otherwise. I mean... really?

I haven't written about Elevatorgate on my blog, because that kind of thing is a very difficult issue. I definitely come down on the Rebecca Watson side, but I also have a lot of empathy for Elevator Guy, and I am at a loss as to how best to address issues like that. As Greta points out, the more important issue is creating a safe space for women -- but at the same time, social dynamics strongly incentivize men to be aggressive in their overtures. Even if you make a good argument why individually men should not act that way, as long as the perverse incentives are in place then collectively very little is going to change. Actually fixing these problems is challenging.

But the stuff we are talking about here is not. For crying out loud, one of the problems Jen McCreight has referred to is speakers groping attendees! Do we really have to have a conversation about why that's not okay?

Adoption of anti-harassment policies will not do much of anything to fix the more difficult problems, like Elevator Guy-type stuff, or women being excluded in subtle ways like being interrupted more often, etc. And nor will it create some draconian atmosphere where everybody is afraid of what they might say, as some have feared. It simply means that there's actually some method of recourse when some asshole is doing something waaaaay out of bounds. Who the fuck can be opposed to that?

1 comment:

  1. We're in the process of putting together a CFI conference in Ottawa for December, and so far this wasn't even on our radar. I guess it is now.