Saturday, November 6, 2010

Listening to Our Better Angels

I've been most distressed tonight, to hear of my friend Noirin being assaulted at an ApacheCon party, here: http://blog.nerdchic.net/archives/418/. Worse, there are people calling her out for naming the attacker! Seriously, people? (I hear the comments are even worse over at Hacker News. I refuse to get even more disturbed and upset, so I'm not going to be reading them.)

In two separate discussions about this, with people who know and love Noirin, women said that the story makes them reluctant to attend cons and other FLOSS events, since assaults seem to be common. Yes, if you haven't been keeping up with the news, this happens OFTEN.

This doesn't make me fearful, it makes me ANGRY. Of course I'm angry at the perpetrators, but I'm also angry at those who protect them, and those who say 'we want more women to participate,' while not setting the standards of NO ASSAULT, and enforcing those standards. That seems like a very low expectation, don't you think? No ASSAULT!?

I can't help but contrast this assault with my experiences at last week's UDS in Orlando Florida. Ubuntu has a Code of Conduct, and not only enforces it, but has an even higher standard for community leaders. And there is discussion about having the Leadership CoC be formally signed also. I applaud this initiative, and hope that more communities create enforceable standards, and that conventions and other large gatherings will do likewise. There is no reason for any person to fear for their safety at these gatherings! I felt completely safe in Orlando, and I credit the high standards for that feeling of safety. Of course my favorite Kubuntu is covered by the same codes of conduct.

I call on the LinuxFest Northwest to set up and announce No Assault or Harrassment standards, and enforce them. I guarantee that a reputation as a safe space *will* result in more women attending. See the Con Anti-Harassment Project for specifics.

However, I think we need to go beyond a negative, and move toward positive expectations. I love the LinuxChix famous two rules: 1. Be polite, and 2. Be helpful. Indeed! And many projects have a standards. Among them, KDE Community Code of Conduct, GNOME Code Of Conduct, Gentoo Linux's Code of Conduct, the Mandriva Linux Code of Conduct, to name those I could easily find.

In addition, Freenode has an inspiring description of the "catalyst" role and how important it is to the continued use and usefulness of Freenode IRC: http://freenode.net/catalysts.shtml. And today, Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Leader for Canonical, has posted The OpenRespect Declaration: http://openrespect.org/. I think we all owe it to one another as free humans, to respect one another.

PS: In case another reminded is needed: http://www.lovelight.me/2009/11/how-to-prevent-rape.html. Thanks for posting this link just when I needed it, Hypatia.

PPS: Also see The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project