18 January 2015

Hacker cons and speech codes

A woman who uses the Twitter handle @avriette ("jane, the destroyer") had a problem with a talk at Shmoocon. @avirette tweeted
@avirette: So there was a talk at #shmoocon that was unnecessarily sexist (& gross really). I spoke out about it. People thanked me for doing so.
She followed up:
@avirette: People told me in person, in DM. The speaker(s) denied it was sexist rather than owning it and apologising.
@avirette: This is the reason people don't speak up. Nobody believes anything will be done, that anyone will change. This is why we need rules.
(bold is my emphasis)

Someone using the Twitter handle @ZeroFox (I am told that this acount is run by a woman who does marketing for ZeroFox) responded to one of her tweets and offered for the speakers to meet her in the hotel lobby to discuss the talk. She refused:
@ZeroFox: are you at the conference? We're in the hotel lobby and happy to grab a coffee and get your feedback
@avirette: you could have presented that talk very differently Try, next time, imagining there are women in the room.
I responded to her tweet:
@theprez98: Didn't see it, not taking sides...but the speaker offered to meet you to discuss. Doesn't seem unreasonable.
I recognize that everyone is not going to like everything. Some people are going to disagree over whether something is "sexist" or not. And to repeat what I said in my tweet, I didn't see the talk. I'm not taking a position on whether the talk was sexist or not. But there's a larger issue here. What I don't want is "rules." I assume she means speech codes (see this blog post on the evil of speech codes by Rob Graham), but I can't really ask her because she blocked me (and by the way, if by "rules" she doesn't mean "speech codes," then I'm happy make a change to this blog post). Here is a screenshot of her tweets:

Does @avriette think that she is doing her cause any good by branding a speaker's talk as sexist and then refusing her apparently good-faith effort to meet with her to discuss the issue she had? I certainly don't.

Dear @avriette, if you happen to read this: if you believe that the talk you saw was sexist, I'm in no position to question your sincerity. But I don't think you did yourself (or other women with similar concerns) any favors today. That's my $0.02.

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