- As a long-time co-organizer of the *C3 events, part of this year’s A-Team, and feminist pushing towards adoption of an anti-harassment policy at our events, I object to your insinuation that our response procedure wouldn’t work or that our policy wasn’t enforced. I also object to the notion that our events are a place where physical sexual assault of women is common or tolerated.
- In fact, in the last 15 years, we had two documented cases of physical assault in total (not just counting sexually motivated assault against women, but all of them). One of those two cases didn’t even involve attendees, a woman walked into our venue seeking refuge from her husband who attempted to beat her, and we helped her. No older statistics are available, because before that, the con was just too small to have a dedicated security team.
- This year, we implemented the A-Team for the first time as a dedicated team to handle all complaints about sexism. This of course has a broader scope that the security team’s work, because it addresses not just cases of physical violence, but also e.g. cases of sexism on stage, which are clearly out of scope of security, but within the scope of our policy.
- The A-Team handled a total of 20 indicents. Zero of them related to any form of physical violence (same number for the security team), confirming that C3 is generally a pretty safe place to begin with. One of them was a report about a person with generally creepy behaviour: talked about child porn at a BDSM workshop (first warning issued), getting uncomfortably close to women, obviously trying to steal a feel (person evicted from the conference as a repeat offender).
- Most complaints to the team actually revolved around the Hacker Jeopardy game show. I need to review the show in detail to point you at the exact offending sentences, but it seems that quite some people understood a comment the moderator made to be sexist. He was handed a “red card” from the familiar creeper card project by a person from the audience, then proceeded to mock the creeper cards, which in turn generated more people handing him cards in all colours.
- We talked to the moderators afterwards for quite a while. They were shocked to learn that their moderation has been perceived to be sexist. Obviously, the escalation happened because they were not aware that the creeper cards were meant as a serious project, they only heard about “that trading card game” and misunderstood the whole project to be a trolling performance. We explained to them that even in a game show that makes fun of all the projects on the C3, and even if they believe that the whole creeper card thing won’t improve anything at all, a nod of acknowledgement to the underlying problem of latent sexism in the scene would have been well-received. I’m quite confident that they are not sexists and just didn’t find the right words on stage.
- All other reported incidents were minor, but all were handled, usually by talking to the parties involved and explaining to them why a certain behaviour was considered offensive. All incidents have been documented for later review.
- Considering all that, I consider the policy enforcement process to be working and active. I’m proud that the actual number of incidents is small, and that it is much safer for a woman to attend C3 than it is to ride public transport or go to a soccer game. However, any number other than zero shows that there is room for improvement, and we are committed to keep delivering the safest possible experience to all participants, regardless of gender, genetic makeup, sexual preferences or planet of birth.
- Also, I see that a much bigger problem than physical assault is the latent sexism, as in the classic “are you here with your boyfriend” line. Fixing that isn’t an issue of distributing cards or having and enforcing policies, it rather is an issue of reaching into and changing the minds of people. But we’re working on that too, by making sure that capable female hackers are visible at our conference. That woman you’re talking to at C3, she might break RSA keys, write programs for quantum computers, run the switches at the world’s largest Internet exchange, represent your country in the SQL standards consortium, abuse linker relocation to produce turing-complete machines. And none of these examples is made up!
- tl;dr: yes, we have problems with sexism. But not in the way you think, and we’re working on them.
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