Lost in the Shuffle

With all the sexist derailment on the harassment policy topic thanks to folks like Thunderf00t, I think there’s a detail being lost in the shuffle. A lot of attention has been given to the notion that publicized harassment policies and clearly-stated rules will help to curb harassment by contributing to a culture that does not tolerate it. Critics usually seize on this part of the process, committing a perfectionist fallacy when they claim that such a policy won’t stop all harassment, so why try; being dismissive of real concerns by saying that publicizing this policy will cause others to fall victim to the availability heuristic1 and think the problem is bigger than it is; and saying that policies don’t need to be publicized, and we should just expect people to know and follow the rules (not sure how that one works, honestly).

The thing about harassment policies is that (properly implemented), they’re not just for the attendees, they’re also for the staff. A good harassment policy includes procedures for staff and volunteers to follow when taking reports of harassment. A good policy would leave no ambiguity in terms of what constitutes a report or how many reports were made at a given event. A good policy would have any investigation done at the time of the report, and not a year or more later.

You’ll note a theme here, as those are all points where TAM in particular is known to have failed with regard to their harassment policy. It’s great that they had one, but there appears to have been too little training or standardization of the policy and its procedures among the staff. It was good that they had a policy, but the policy needs to improve, so the mistakes that have plagued previous years are not repeated.

This is an important and undeniable point that has, I think, been somewhat overlooked. And given what we know for a fact about at least one conference and how it handled harassment reports, I can hardly see how any critic can, in good faith, oppose this point.

But I haven’t seen much good faith from any of the critics, so I suppose it’s a moot point.

1. I realize Carrier isn’t criticizing the notion of having good, well-publicized harassment policies, but others, like Thunderf00t and DJ Grothe have used this heuristic problem as a critique of the process.

One Response to Lost in the Shuffle

  1. Don says:

    You know, there was a while when I honestly believed “Surely nobody disagrees with the need for a anti-harassment policies at conventions and conferences. They just disagree on the details of content and implementation.”

    I stand corrected. And, unlike if they were to find bigfoot, I am not happy to be proven wrong.

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