Harassment Policies – The Backlash

I’m seeing one or two depressing things about anti-harassment policies recently. A few days ago Twitter was aflame with discussion of a story that a convention broke off its contract with a hotel in part because some of the staff objected to the con having an anti-harassment policy. I’m now sure where that was has gone, but it was very odd thing for a hotel to say.

A much more comprehensive example of the way that backlash works has been provided by this post from Michael Kelley on Publishers Weekly. It is attacking the introduction of an anti-harassment policy at conferences run by the American Library Association. If you want to fill a bingo card of concern-trolling over anti-harassment policies, you can do so with that one very easily. It has all the necessary ingredients. There’s the “it might be necessary for other conventions, but we are civilized people”. There’s the “we can’t have a policy unless we can define harassment in such a watertight manner that no one can possibly come up with a way it might go wrong”. And of course there is the underlying assumption that the whole point of anti-harassment policies is for secret cabals of feminazis to falsely accuse and persecute innocent men who are just having a “bit of fun”. All of which makes me rather glad that I’m unlikely to ever attend a convention that Mr. Kelley is likely to be at.

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7 Responses to Harassment Policies – The Backlash

  1. Brian Nisbet says:

    Sad but depressingly predictable. I’m having a lot of success convincing technical communities that they need these and I’ve actually been surprised by how positive people are being. There have been some questions raised and a slight bemoaning of the fact that such things are needed, but not much of either.

  2. Heather says:

    I work at a big publishers, and we have a blanket policy of ‘no racist/sexist language, etc, etc’ which is right up front on all the guidelines for submitting articles to all our journals (which covers pretty much every possible subject under the sun). We just did the yearly policy and submissions guidelines updates, including a few tweaks to this bit. We then chuck this at the editors to see if there’s anything they want to change in the rest of it (number of figures, word count limit, etc).

    Except one editor. Who complained that having the mandatory ‘no racist/sexist language’ paragraph was treating his authors like children and was demeaning and people would be offended by having this in the guidelines.

    Now. Guess which journal has some of the most racist and sexist articles, biased research and theories bandied about in it?

  3. That con was Chi-Fi. The latest is that the Westin has issued a statement (included in that article) saying that “it became clear that mutual needs could not be met”, and allegations are being circulated by other Chicago conrunners that the real reason was Chi-Fi was not meeting its room-night requirements. Someone has asked the chair directly about that on Facebook. (Can’t work out how to get a link to that specific spot, but it’s in the first sub-thread under “Hello, this is the convention chair.”)

  4. Debbie Moorhouse says:

    I imagine the convention has a procedure for evacuation in case of fire. Even though there’s never been a fire. And the attendees are the sort of careful, civilised people who would never start a fire, either deliberately or inadvertently. How unnecessary that procedure must be….

  5. Andrew Trembley says:

    Ah, the old “but that doesn’t happen here, we’re better than that” chestnut.

    When, invariably, something disproves that, it’s a media feeding frenzy. At work we’re weathering a racially-motivated harassment and battery incident (really, a series of incidents involving the same people). National news and all, because we’re a large and diverse campus in enlightened Silicon Valley, where everything engineering-related is a true meritocracy and this kind of thing just doesn’t happen.

    Right…

  6. Twilight2000 says:

    OTOH, my husband (a librarian) might well be a con with him – more’s the pity for Mr. Kelley ;>

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