[Noisebridge-discuss] How is the anti-harassment policy holding up?

Jen Kotila jen.kotila01 at gmail.com
Mon Jul 14 06:40:18 UTC 2014


Dear Hannah,

Thank you so much for your response. Please see mine inline and forgive me
the inordinately long time it took me to write you back-- I have been
overwhelmed with this crisis, by attending the ESOF conference/Science in
the City Festival, the Roskilde Festival and an illness in the family. I
sent this letter precisely when that was all starting to coalesce and my
response got lost in the fray.


On 20 June 2014 19:52, Hannah Grimm <dharlette at gmail.com> wrote:

> Jen,
> First off, I am so sorry that you had to go through this.  I've been on
> the receiving end of similar things at Noisebridge, but I was fortunate
> enough to have a handful of friends within the community who were very
> involved and high-status, which made it possible for us to pass an
> anti-harassment policy at the space.
>
 Thank you for your empathy and kind words. In turn, I am sorry that you
too went through this. It is a terrible thing to endure. Sadly, my
situation here in Copenhagen is the opposite of yours. The men who are
harassing me are a very popular chairman (now former as of April 10 for
unrelated reasons), his best friend and board member of Biologigaragen and
his uncle who is also on the board of Biologigaragen. They are also
supported by another former chairman and my sense is that the current
chairman is less on my side than theirs as he refuses to speak with me
about this, yet weighs in negatively in public and at meetings about it.
 My few supporters are weak in terms of their status within the community
and their energy levels. I've had to do most of the fighting and organizing
on my own and it has taken a serious toll on my health and well being.

That said, I have been aware of your struggle for some time and you are a
huge inspiration to me! I often cite the fact that Noisebridge is
structured just like Labitat and now has an anti-harassment policy because
of the mistreatment you suffered as a prime reason for why we need to have
one at home.

In fact, I cite what you went through it as a reason for why I created
openinclusivity,org, which is an organization geared to preventing what
happened to you and me from ever happening within hacking again by
encouraging all spaces to adopt codes of conduct. There is no reason for
anyone to suffer and for this particular wheel to be reinvented each time
is a ridiculous waste of time and energy that we could all spend doing
better things. "Even anarchists need rules" (as that article in
MissionLocal leads with
<http://missionlocal.org/2013/12/combating-sexual-harassment-in-tech/>),
indeed.

While I never sought justice against the people who groped and harassed me
> (one was a stranger, the other already on his way to jail for unrelated
> reasons), I did manage to get a policy in place, which has been used a
> handful of times.  I wrote about my experiences with harassment and
> getting a policy in place
> <https://plus.google.com/+HannahGrimm/posts/5517czLTefa> here.
>
Well, sometimes we have to take justice where we can find it, but it is
unfortunate that you were unable to seek justice.

I love that post of yours and, again, am incredibly inspired by the fact
that you managed to get a policy in place. That is a kind of justice. I am
hoping, frankly, that Labitat will simply adopt your anti-harassment
policy. Would Noisebridge be ok with that? Who would I ask about that?
Also, could I post it on openinclusivity.org? Could I also post your write
up there as a case in point so that others can learn from what you went
through?


> Shortly after we added it, it came to light that one of the members of our
> space had a criminal history of battering women and sexually assaulting
> minors.  One of the ladies at the space came forward with an overwhelming
> amount of evidence, and he was very quickly banned.  We very quickly banned
> one person who had been looking up the skirt of another woman in the place,
> and it's also been brought to bear (in non-sexual harassment) against an
> individual who was engaging in a creepy campaign of harassment via email
> and phone (this one is currently going through mediation).  I wouldn't say
> that it's solved all of our problems, but it's definitely made a difference
> for the better.  We used a variant of the Double Union anti-harassment
> policy. <http://www.doubleunion.org/policies>
>
I am glad that it had real, positive effects. I'm sorry that other women
have also suffered. Those guys sound pretty horrifying and it's great that
you banned two and that a third is in mediation. Thanks for altering me to
Double Union's policy, I should get in touch with them, too.

>
> There are a couple of things I'd recommend moving forwards.  The first is,
> do the women at your hackerspace have private backchannels set up for them
> to talk, share stories, warn eachother, etc?  A lot of the organizing,
> support, etc. that makes it possible to deal with harassment here has been
> done via the anarcho-feminist hackerhive mailing list (not to mention
> networking, job opportunities, etc.).  Having other women around you that
> you can rally to your cause is so very, very important, and these
> backchannels matter because when the system fails and you can't get things
> done officially, you can at least warn the others in your community.
>
Uh, I am the ONLY active woman in the space besides a woman whose username
is Jokskitty. Her boyfriend is a board member whose name is Jok. She is
clearly spoken for. She wants to stay out of this conflict. I think this
says a *lot *about the organization. It's incredibly unwelcoming to women
and is, in fact, an old boy's club as I found out the very hard way. In
fact, it is so notoriously sexist that I was warned by my supporters that
if I came forward with this, I would be mobbed out of the organization.
Which is precisely what is happening right now. It's disgraceful and I wish
I had listened to them as I went ahead, citing faith in humanity, and have
suffered immensely for it.

The second is to get an anti-harassment policy in place.  I suspect that
> the Ada initiative
> <https://adainitiative.org/what-we-do/conference-policies/> can help you
> there, they have carefully documented a ton of work on policies.  It has to
> be part of the culture that these kinds of behaviors aren't okay. A policy
> won't magically solve the issue, but it will at least give the community a
> starting point moving forward.
>
Despite the fact that my supporters are very weak and the opposition loud,
strong and aggressive there is some work being done on an anti-harassment
policy. The status is unknown to me.


>  Lastly, have you considered joining (or founding) your own, explicitly
> feminist, hackerspace? Model View Culture
> <http://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-rise-of-feminist-hackerspaces-and-how-to-make-your-own>
> has a great write-up on it, and San Francisco's Double Union
> <http://www.doubleunion.org/> is an excellent example of it done right.
> Sometimes communities are broken and it's easier to build a new one than to
> fix it.
>
Yes, we are certainly at and well past that point. There's been a lot of
talk of doing this, but there is also talk of expelling me from Labitat for
speaking out about this matter and until that matter is settled, I have
shelved plans to start a new space. I also feel like although it's great
that such spaces create safe alternatives for women, it's deeply sad that
they are necessary. I was and still am hoping against hope to get some
justice here at home and to help repair the culture. But if you read
through the responses on the most current thread
<http://lists.labitat.dk/pipermail/discuss/2014-July/014004.html> on this
subject, I am really paddling up a waterfall and would need more support
than what my exhausted supporters can provide to get justice. I may have to
go to the courts with this one, which really sucks for everyone involved
and I would rather not, especially since Denmark has a very strong culture
of solving these issues outside of court. The men who have been harassing
me are quite politically savvy and have been attempting to dodge
accountability at every turn. They have lately withdrawn from Labitat
requested mediation, for instance. This should be enough to get them
expelled in any normal organization, but they're hiding behind the tyranny
of structurelessness <http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm> and the
tyranny of the majority
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority>quite effectively.

In fact, I created openinclusivity.org to also act as a platform where
women can speak out and get support from outside of their communities if
they find themselves in my situation, which is to be mobbed out of the home
organization. It's nascent, but I guess I'll just ask if anyone here wants
to take the time to review the case
<http://openinclusivity.org/?page_id=100>and then write a letter to the
Labitat board, anarchistic hackerspace to anarchistic hackerspace, and
request that the men who have been harassing me be expelled. We shouldn't
tolerate behavior like this in our movement (or anywhere really). If
they're allowed to stay in active roles it'll send a strong signal that
harassment is ok, that it's no big deal when it clearly is extremely
damaging to the individuals who suffer it and the organizations it occurs
in.


> I wish you the best of luck in dealing with this, and I am so very, very
> sorry that you went through it.
>
Thank you again for your kind wishes and for all of the information. I'm
very sorry that you went through what you went through as well. No one
should ever have to endure what we have.

If you have the time and inclination, it would be great if you had any
further thoughts on openinclusivity and any other insight into this current
situation and the systemic problem of harassment in hacking. I came from an
arts and humanitarian background into this and was totally broadsided by
the high levels of misogyny in tech and especially in hacking. I really
care for the movement, though, and I want to help resolve this negative
aspect of it. Any help you or other individuals or Noisebridge as an
association can offer is much appreciated.

Best Regards,

Jen


>
> On Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 5:47 AM, Jen Kotila <jen.kotila01 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>> Hello fellow anarchistic, the-users-decide-policy, do'ocracy hackerspace
>> members! I am a member of Labitat.dk and biologigaragen.org who has been
>> severely sexually harassed for many months. You can read an account here.
>> <https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-DPJhdE71IyXx_Du9TlV5b2UvVvwkLhgOnVO-06pBCY/edit>
>>
>>
>> Labitat and Biologigargen didn't have any structures in place to deal
>> with this so the proposed solution of dealing with this sensitive issue was
>> worse than the cure as I ended up getting mobbed and having a nervous
>> breakdown in a meeting on May 22.
>> <https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UBXIbR9BY9BTmaSe7dDenBkKCIyAuHySsgtwKFMVQck/edit>
>>
>> After that I became somewhat desperate to seek justice within an
>> anarchistic, DIY framework and reached out to the DIYbio community. Some
>> were supportive some weren't.
>> <https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/diybio/oLgYmZ26Wco> Oh, also,
>> amusingly I did that in part because I was silenced on the Labitat and
>> Biologigargen.org mailing lists arond that time. In fact, I was stripped of
>> my moderator privileges on the Biologigaragen list by someone, probably one
>> of guys who harassed me. felt like that meant I would not be heard and felt
>> somewhat desperate. Also, I was moderated on that list and ONLY me. I was
>> not informed that I was unable to post, it just happened.
>>
>> Late, I reached out to the local anarchist community in Copenhagen (which
>> is VERY active but to which I am not that connected as I am new in DK--
>> someone else should have handled this I think) and finally found a well
>> regarded mediator from within that milieu (the other side was suggesting
>> business mediators, lawyers who knew one of the guys involved in bullying
>> me, and a guy I had been in active conflict with).
>>
>> On the day before mediation, June 16, they finally posted their response
>> <http://lists.labitat.dk/pipermail/discuss/2014-June/013794.html>to my
>> allegations
>> <http://lists.labitat.dk/pipermail/discuss/2014-May/013537.html> which
>> were publicly stated on May 17.
>>
>> I was hoping that through mediation, I would be able to get the opposing
>> side to stop the Kopenlab Festival. You see, I was originally on the
>> organizing group for this Festival and a lot of the harassment took place
>> in that group. I'm also firmly of the position that unrepentant harassers
>> who, instead of listening to the person coming forward instead react with
>> increasing hostility that leads to very dangerous mobbing behavior and
>> baseless threats of libel and slander (see the most recent post on our
>> Discuss list here for that gem)
>> <http://lists.labitat.dk/pipermail/discuss/2014-June/013828.html> instead
>> do not deserve to be in charge of anything.
>>
>> So I come to you now asking for a few things.
>>
>> 1, I have been posting about Noisebridge's case and talking about it
>> without knowing the details. Are they somewhere in narrative form?
>>
>> 2. Is anyone here willing to work with Labitat to help sort this out? If
>> so, you can try posting on our Space mailing list to offer help:
>> http://lists.labitat.dk/listinfo or write to the board
>> bestyrelse at lists.labitat.dk
>>
>> 3. I created a site called opendiscriminaiton.org to help deal with this
>> incredibly serious and systemic problem in hacking. If you guys want to add
>> to it (threre's a brand-spakin' new wikia with nothing on it because my
>> collaborators and I are too busy with Occupy Kopenlab
>> <http://opendiscrimination.org/?cat=3> to do any work on it), please
>> knock yourself out. Eventually I would like it to expand, become more
>> general and maybe grow to the point where it functions as a movement wide
>> "staff handbook" or "hr" of sorts so that every new anarchistically
>> organized male-dominated hackerspace doesn't have to reinvent the wheel
>> every time harassment happens.
>>
>> 4. Speaking of Occupy Kopenlab <http://opendiscrimination.org/?cat=3>,
>> the group behind opendiscrimination.org is organizing action against the
>> Kopenlab Festival. Basically, the idea is that since it's supposed to be a
>> non-hierarchical open knowledge festival they should welcome any and all
>> opposition, well, openly. Of course, you are all in the States but there's
>> ways to take action online if you want to.
>>
>> You know, I really miss the States right now. This whole ordeal has made
>> damned homesick. DK has the highest rate of sexual harassment in the EU, 37%
>> of all women in DK
>> <http://www.b.dk/nationalt/vold-chikane-og-stalking-mod-kvinder-i-danmark-overstiger-eu-gennemsnit>
>> have been harassed compared to only 25% in the States
>> <http://www.b.dk/nationalt/vold-chikane-og-stalking-mod-kvinder-i-danmark-overstiger-eu-gennemsnit>.
>> I was warned by others in Labitat that the general community would probably
>> believe me but would be PISSED at -me- for stirring up conflict as Danes
>> are conflict averse. Yep. That is by and large what has happened (although
>> I get a lot of doubt and misogynistic abuse as well).
>>
>> Maybe you can help Labitat solve this. Or maybe Labitat is in its death
>> throes over this and it'll just be interesting for other spaces in the
>> movement to watch. Let's see what happens.
>>
>> Thanks for your time,
>>
>> Jen
>>
>>
>> _______________________________________________
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>> Noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net
>> https://www.noisebridge.net/mailman/listinfo/noisebridge-discuss
>>
>>
>
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