jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
[personal profile] jewelfox
To recap for those who are just now reading Planet GNOME or who don't subscribe at all, today Michael Meeks wrote:
Fair enough getting aggressive against stalking, groping and such horrors; but encouraging censorship of "offensive" verbal comments related to sexual orientation, religion etc. looks like a persecutors charter in the making. What is offensive ? and to whom ? the fear being that -very- quickly such good aspirations slide from "applied common sense" into a militant denial of a basic right to reasonably critique others' world-views.
This was in response to a section of the GUADEC (a GNOME users' and developers' conference) attendees' policy which said:
Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, unauthorized or inappropriate photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
Danielle Madeley has already written about this from the perspective of a woman who has experienced sexual harassment, and linked to the Geek Feminism wiki's conference anti-harassment policy resources.

If I understand Michael Meeks' comment correctly, it sounds like he's on board with rules forbidding sexual harassment. What he seems to be concerned with are rules forbidding "'offensive' verbal comments related to sexual orientation, religion etc." This is consistent with the time in March that he wrote in support of a Planet Mozilla blogger, Gervase Markham, who wrote a post to Planet Mozilla asking people to sign a petition against marriage equality for same-gender couples in the UK. Meeks wrote:
Unamused to see Gerv getting duffed up for being different; apparently 'diversity of opinion' is proving unexpectedly hard to embrace in some parts of Mozilla land.
I'd just like to say that I have some experience with getting duffed up for being different.

A few days ago, the driver of one of the city buses asked me and [personal profile] rev_yurodivy if we were married yet. After they said no, we weren't, the driver told us that if we weren't married we'd go to hell.

I let her know that I didn't personally care where we ended up, and that I was just grateful that we could get married in this state.

On the bus ride back home, we got treated to a fifteen-minute yelling rant about Jesus, and Hell, and salvation, and how the fires of Hell burn seven times hotter than something-or-other. I didn't catch all of it, because I was turning up the volume on my noise-canceling earbuds and waiting for it to be over. Because I'm poor, and I don't have a car, and I need the drivers' help to load our portable shopping cart using the wheelchair lift, and I'm afraid that they'll stop if they decide they don't like us. Because there's noplace else we can go.

"What is offensive ? and to whom ?"

GUADEC has already spelled out its answers to these questions. Michael Meeks objects on the grounds that he has the "basic right" to persecute people for their sexual orientation or religion. And he defends people like Gervais, who make participating in open-source projects like riding my town's buses for LGBT hackers.

Well, I'm an LGBT hacker. And if Michael Meeks attends the same conference as me, I don't expect that he'll beat me, call me a tranny, or yell at me about how I'm going to Hell. But I have no idea when the next time will be that he'll post something like this on Planet GNOME, which reminds me that people like me don't belong here. I have no idea if or when he's going to raise a stink about my using the women's room at a conference, or complain about my being here as part of the Outreach Program for Women, or complain that this post constitutes harrassment of him and have me removed from the Planet. Because I don't know what he or others consider "reasonable" critique of my opinion that I have the right to exist. I just know that they feel they have a "basic right" to express that critique, to the point of being able to mobilize people politically to enforce it. Anywhere, at any time.

That's why I was afraid to even post a hackergotchi head, in case I didn't look feminine enough. Or in case my family, which basically threw me away when I came out to them as transgender, ever recognized it.

That's what being persecuted is like. That's what being afraid of being persecuted is like. That's what it's like when you've had people attack you just for existing, and you've seen people in spaces you frequent attack others just for existing, or defend those who do. You start to hide, because you don't want it to happen to you. You just want to buy groceries or write developer docs, and forget about the politics that people are waging to try to get you to disappear.

But bringing those politics into hacker spaces isn't a "basic right." They are about denying basic rights to others.

Policies like GUADEC's aren't about preventing all criticism of any kind, to the point where we can't even decide what technologies to adopt without worrying about hurting somebody's feelings. They're about respecting diversity of opinion. Instead of making ironic statements about it, that show you don't understand why people are getting mad at and afraid of those who duff them up just for being different.

They're about taking a stand against harassment of any kind, and refusing to play politics when people's lives are at stake.


Date: 2012-06-20 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's good to see someone standing up for people's rights to be different. Harassing others because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and so on, isn't free speech; it's bigotry and hatred. It should be stopped. Three cheers for you.

Re: Cheers

Date: 2012-06-20 06:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Three cheers from here as well!

Very interesting the discussion on Danielle Madley's blog, especially when it involves (comments 1 and 2) disability (case in point: Tourette's).

Of course there is always the option: "If someone tells you something that makes you unconfortable, tell him/her to go to hell" (not in the literal sense). But that is always tiresome, and not always practical, especially in an environment where you might be interacting with potential employers that might see you not as "that hysteric" more than "that self-confident and assertive woman" (they might also see you as the latter rather than the former, of course: it is a gamble).
From: [identity profile]
Michael thinks that "offensive" is unclear about exactly what goes too far and what doesn't. You think that "reasonable critique" is unclear about exactly what goes too far and what doesn't. It therefore seems to me that you both implicitly agree that vaguely worded policies could be harmful. Perhaps that at least introduces some common ground as far as opinions here go?

You also say policies are about "respecting diversity of opinion". Do you consider it a bug if a policy prevents a diverse opinion from being politely expressed, in an appropriate context? (I'm thinking more or less of cases where the opinion might be relevant to the discussion at hand, perhaps primarily in after-hours events and chatting. I will also candidly acknowledge that "appropriate" is another woefully vague term. This is part of why I tend to subscribe to First Amendment-style absolutism on matters like this -- we really can't codify sufficiently precise rules to give fair notice in all situations.) My reading suggests this is the crux of the matter.

(On an entirely unrelated note, I wish this blog software accepted the usual name/email/site triad, rather than requiring an OpenID account I only barely ever think of. :-( Nothing you can do about it while remaining on this host, I'm sure.)
From: [identity profile]
I don't believe the dissenters (thus far at least) have been "objecting to your existence", nor do I think that a policy allowing "reasonable critique" would be (for Michael at least) about ensuring he is never challenged in his beliefs. (Indeed, I think his "your Christian faith seems incomprehensibly stupid to me" would clearly be a challenge to his beliefs.) I guess we'll have to agree to disagree here.

The First-Amendment point (apologies if you consider this "bringing it up", but I was imprecise if I suggested this had anything to do with government censorship, and I would like to at least be clear about what I meant) was more that enforcing distinctions based on the nature of the opinion being expressed requires some fully-accepted moral authority. Given the variety of people that make up GNOME, the variety of cultures they come from, and the variety of morals they hold (religious or not), it seems unlikely such a moral authority exists. Hence a resort to less-predictable decisions (offering less notice) of whomever might make up any panel that might evaluate an issue, should one arise. Which is less predictable than a policy which didn't distinguish based on content, but only upon (perhaps -- these suggestions too are vague) the tone of delivery and the conversational context. And now that I've hopefully clarified what I meant, I'll drop the point now. (And again, apologies for "bringing this up again" if you think that's what I'm doing here.)


Date: 2012-06-20 08:21 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] stepheng
The hypocrisy in this post is just incredible. You're personally attacking somebody, because of a personal difference - only because you're afraid that he'll attack you?

Obviously some people would find this post offensive and want to censor it because it doesn't fit with their views. What I think you don't realise is that Michael is defending your right to have an opinion and write and talk about it, and in return you should respect his right to do the same. The point of freedom of speech is not "you can say whatever you want as long as you agree with me."

Re: Unbelivable

Date: 2012-06-20 06:54 pm (UTC)
rev_yurodivy: My chimera fursona smirking and tapping the brim of her hat. (Default)
From: [personal profile] rev_yurodivy
Also, the conference is (probably) considered a private space, which means that in order to protect the interests of their attendees, they are within their rights to limit some forms of speech. For that matter, I don't think this even intrudes on what is considered fair game in public speech, as others have said. "Free speech" does not mean "I get to say whatever I want and never have to deal with any consequences."

Really though, the policy is a good one and I wish more conventions would adopt more specific rules like this. :/ The guidelines are very specific compared to most wordings I've seen.
Edited Date: 2012-06-20 07:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Unbelivable

Date: 2012-06-20 08:47 am (UTC)
aliaspseudonym: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aliaspseudonym
There is a difference between the right to express yourself in general, which nobody is questioning, and the right to express an opinion which is personally offensive to another person in a public place.

This harassment policy has nothing to do with a blog like this. It's designed to allow everyone to feel safe at a public conference. Does an inability to say something like 'your religion seems idiotic to me' at a conference make you feel unsafe? I very much doubt it.

On the other hand, would you feel safe walking into a convention knowing that probably a number of the other participants held opinions that would essentially be attacks on you if expressed publically (things like 'gay marriage is wrong' or 'women shouldn't do programming') and that those people would be able to voice those opinions freely all they wanted?

This is not about freedom of speech. This is about creating a safe and welcoming environment. If you're going to err, it's much better to err on the side of too many safeguards rather than too few, because too many isn't going to do anything beyond stifle a few conversations at one specific venue at one specific time, and too few could mean somebody gets hurt.

Also, no personal attacks have been made on anyone in this post, no hypocrisy is present, and you've spelled 'unbelievable' wrong.

Re: Unbelivable

Date: 2012-06-20 02:38 pm (UTC)
citrakayah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] citrakayah
1. Actually, he's defending the 'right' of people who hate her to attempt to make her life a living hell.
2. Freedom of speech doesn't protect you from social consequences, either legally or morally. Getting told to shut up or get out is a social consequences.

And creating an environment conductive to LGBT+, non-Christian, non-typically whatever individals to participate in a GNOME conference is arguably more important than allowing fundamentalist Christians and such to hand out pamphlets stating that segments of the populace are going to go to hell.
3. Given the larger implications, I'd say this is a fair bit larger than a mere 'personal difference'.

Date: 2012-06-20 11:03 am (UTC)
danni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] danni
or complain about my being here as part of the Outreach Program for Women

If that ever happens, please let me know, so I can kick their arse with extreme prejudice.

Date: 2012-06-20 11:52 pm (UTC)
danni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] danni
Oh yeah, I keep my personal blog on DW. Two blogs suits me better because it keeps my personal stuff off Planet GNOME and keeps my technical stuff off my personal blog.

Don't worry, you don't come across dismissive.

I've been moderating what comes through, but it's mostly been fine. I moderated two other comments by that guy. I would have moderated that one too, but I wanted to respond to a point.

Date: 2012-06-20 02:40 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Gul Madred from ST:TNG in front of four lights. Text: There is no war in Ba Sing Se. (ba sing se)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Hear HEAR.

Warning: mini-rant ahead.

The best conference I've ever attended had an extremely robust anti-harassment policy, and was one of the safest work-related spaces I have ever been fortunate enough to inhabit. (That was WAT, and WAT2.) Everyone - and I do mean everyone, because there were about a dozen of us - comported themselves in professional and kind manner. We had a very wide range of ages, genders, and topics of interest, and I don't think the inclusive atmosphere was a matter of the demographic present. Anyone can do this if they choose.

Nobody has a basic right to hurt other people, and I am saddened that we need policy to enforce that. Nobody gets to tell other people who they have to be or define the life they may have based upon their appearance.

To make it exceptionally clear: if a person is making remarks implying or directly stating that the listed groups are "less than" or don't belong in the space to which they have been invited, they are making offensive remarks.

And in my personal opinion, they can take a long walk off a short pier.

Edited (Edited for clarity.) Date: 2012-06-20 02:41 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-06-20 08:24 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing

I really, really hate the First Amendment crap. To the point of having rehearsed "I am not a government, this is not a public space, and if you will not abide by the rules of this space you may leave" in my head more times than I can count. I hope that if I ever have to use that in person (as opposed to onscreen) that I will be able to deliver it coldly.

I love the comment over there about policies existing to communicate "these are our standards." Yes, that is exactly what they're for.

Also, for having clearly delineated lines of "this is not OK" so that when someone steps over them, they can be dealt with instead of going endless rounds of "but my freeeeedom of speeeeeeeech" defense.

For what it's worth, I generally come down hard on the side of the 1st Amendment. But it isn't about being able to act like a jerk and not have any consequences.

Date: 2012-06-20 08:25 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Blagh those comments. >.< Because anger, annoyance and offense aren't REAL emotional pain, and everyone should have the thickest of thick skins lest we tread on someone's FREEDOM to make fun of everyone who's not just like them.


Also, Did Not Stick The Flounce. -2 from the Russian judge.


Date: 2012-06-21 01:09 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] inri
I keep thinking but i just can't find anything that you wouldn't consider offensive :| You and Daniele and others that think like you, deserve everithing that is happening to you ... and the more you give importance to stupid behaviour the worse it will become ... and it will feel even worse.

Go ahead.

I feel offended back.
You are just as sad as the bus driver.

Point... counterpoint.

Date: 2012-06-21 10:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sejeff []

I find this post good in that it needs to be said by someone with a voice, but horribly inept in tact. From his response[1] it actually seems like Michael and you agree on much of the same things. He responded to this post in a way that didn't counter attack you as you very directly and unnecessarily imo attacked him. Please do mod this through as I'm not trolling, but think that you over-reacted a bit. I would love to see and "Update" somewhere in this post with your thoughts on his response. Feel free to privately email me with any offline comments you might have that aren't appropriate for this blog.


Re: Point... counterpoint.

Date: 2012-06-21 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sejeff []
I'm not asserting any dominance or privilege towards either. I am impartial to your personal more liberal leanings or michael's more "traditional" (what is that anyways) and conservative viewpoints. I don't think either viewpoint is wrong... merely different.

I was stating that you directly attacked him in this post and in this response. He never once attacked you and in his followup even agreed with you.

Perhaps you and I can also disagree, but taking your resentment towards a bigot who verbally abused you does not make it right to take it out on another who seems to agree with you in principal even if his moral beliefs are different than your own. As the self styled underdog, why not try to be the better women? That being said, since you are aggregated on various planet blogs and you _do_ have a voice, thanks for being a voice for those who don't have one.

While I am not LGBT, I feel sorrowful for anyone who is oppressed by any bigot. I quite literally, loathe bigots of all types yet still feel sorry for them as well. "Become the change you want to be in the world." - paraphrase of a gandi quote

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