Make the after-parties safer

January 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

I was surprised to hear that some segment of the WordPress community is making efforts to combating harassment at events. This isn’t the point of this post, but I’ve observed that the so-called WordPress community is often out-of-sync with the broader so-called FLOSS community. There are things that the WordPress project has done that other projects can learn from, but we’ve been discussing women being harassed for at least a few years elsewhere, and I sure efforts were in motion before I was engaged. This isn’t a criticism, just this disconnect that I feel personally between WordPress and the larger FLOSS movement.

Anyhow, I read an account of a horrible experience Sarah Gooding had at a WordCamp. I’ve been thinking about it for a day and here are some thoughts:

  • Let people get fired. This isn’t about shaming the harassed for being considerate, it is just that we should collectively allow for people to get fired for their actions. No decent workplace is going to fire someone without investigating it, so we should be okay with folks being held accountable for their actions. Even if the worry that it wasn’t as bad as the harassed thought, it is obvious that if the same incident happened to someone else, we would suggest they report them. So let’s change that up. The worst that happens is that folks’ think before they talk, and that is good!
  • People who host the after-parties, have an anti-harassment policy, or lose all your party goers to the parties that do. Well, you’ll probably still get the drunk assholes. There’s some cognitive diversity for ya.
  • Enforcers of the anti-harassment policies at after-parties, throw people out when they have been reported. You should have training, but you shouldn’t be surgical; err on the side of the harassed. Worried that someone is just a little too drunk? First of all, that isn’t an excuse because we are all consenting adults. But more importantly, the worse case scenario is someone retires early and misses one party. They can follow up with the party host or event organizer in the morning, and the rest of the procedure can be followed (such as restricting them from being near their target). This is a good course of action, because inaction allows one (or more) of your attendees to be traumatized.

Folks that throw events or parties shouldn’t have to deal with this, obviously. Just as anyone seeing someone being violated shouldn’t have their day interrupted. But we all have to deal with this, and we all know who is causing this. So deal with it. Being harassed is frightening and isolating, and that is the antithesis of why we have events in the first place.

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