[The full and required-to-read comic here]
This is the third installment of responses to a survey I created concerning Code of Conduct violations at ALA conferences. The first post consisted of numerical findings, while the second shared the stories of respondents. But even all this is not the full story, as I received a good number of troll comments, many of which were clearly made to get a rise out of me (or anyone who read them). My first instinct was to delete or ignore them (Don’t feed the trolls! Don’t read the comments! Etc.). These, though, weren’t the standard “STFU, go make me a sandwich”-style trolls. This was something else altogether. Sometimes the comments were just plain rude. To be fair, some of the responses weren’t even troll-y, just dismissive or totally clueless. So, I decided to post them. It seemed important to respond and make their comments visible. These are, after all, our colleagues (or they’re pretending to be!). We must attend conferences with them. We must interact with them. It’s good to know what’s out there. Even if some of these comments were meant in jest, we have to think about why our fellow professionals find harassment funny.
In the previous CoC posts, I tried to refrain from adding my personal comments to the mix. Now, you’ll say that I have quite a bit to say.
Comment #1: “I have also acknowledged simple compliments for what they are and do not consider them to be harassment.” I think it’s important to note that sexual harassment (or general harassment) is quite different than a compliment. Note some of these “compliments” respondents talked about in the previous CoC post: “An inappropriate comment from two colleagues about the size of my breasts” and “comment about a male’s sexual organs, veiled as being a joke/compliment” and “he complimented my clothing and body and said it was nice to see a young, attractive woman at the conference.” An example of a compliment appropriate for a work conference would be, “That’s a nice hat” or “I enjoyed your poster session.” Anything that sexualizes the person, mentions intimate anatomy, or that would be inappropriate in your place of work is in bad form and generally unwelcome. I did not receive a single response that included someone complaining about a standard compliment, nor would I start a CoC survey because someone told me I had pretty hair. When you hear about a person’s experience with harassment, try not to go out of your way to insist that it was appropriate. Believe your colleagues.
Comment #2: “Try not to hypercontrol human behavior. Encourage respect, but don’t discourage free speech, humor, or art.” I can sort of see where this person is coming from, but making the leap from the anti-harassment sentiments of the CoC to worries about art and freedom of speech is a little excessive. If your art is harassing people and making them feel unsafe at work, your art sucks.
Comment #3: “Start be [sic] DEFINING it better. (Hand-kissing is not harassment, although it may well be a cultural clash.)” To be honest, I don’t know if better defining harassment will help. I defined harassment exactly as the CoC did. I’m concerned that over-defining it will result in excluding a variety experiences. However, I’m not in the business of writing CoCs, so I couldn’t tell you the best way to approach defining such things. I believe the hand-kissing comment is directed at me, as I described that incident in a number of posts (most in detail here). I will respond to it by saying that anything that leaves a stranger’s saliva on me is an unwanted experience. I will say that it made me uncomfortable, along with what the gentleman said, the open-mouthed nature of the kiss, and the way he kept turning around to look at me after the incident. I will say that it was so unnerving that it made me want to create the CoC survey. I think what bothers me, more than anything, more than being touched and slobbered on, is a stranger telling me that my experience isn’t as I said it was. That someone I’ve never met before found my story so offensive and/or unbelievable that they had to make a point to let me know that my understanding of the situation isn’t valid (even though I was there and the respondent wasn’t). Does it help the matter that two other individuals came up to me to let me know they witnessed the incident and it wasn’t OK? That they gave me some antibacterial soap to get the spit off my hands? Does any of this make my story more worthy of belief in your eyes? If someone gets harassed and you weren’t there to see it, what compels you to tell one of your colleagues that they are wrong? What do you think we have to gain by lying?
Comment #4: “Encourage less drunken revelries and more focus on why we’re there. Then again you angry feminist types are always looking for crap to stir.” If a woman is drinking, that doesn’t give someone the right to harass them. The presence of cocktails doesn’t make anything spelled-out by the CoC acceptable. The previous post explored the fact that CoC violations happen on the exhibits floor, in meetings, in the hallways of the convention center, in cabs, and coming out of hotels.
Yes, yes I am angry. I’m glad I’ve made that clear.
Comment #5: “Calm down and get a grip? Sometimes people are just friendly? Humans tend to touch – it’s fine if it is an arm or a back. This is not harassment. Perhaps define harassment.”
There’s too much here to even tackle. I’m just going to leave this one as it is.
The next post will be my last one on the CoC survey, at least for now. There, I will be discussing logical next steps for ALA Conferences, the CoC, and conference attendees.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid