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Is Sexual Harassment Part of Hacker Culture? 1127

Posted by timothy
from the that-button-sure-is-hot dept.
owenferguson writes "Valerie Aurora, Linux kernel file systems expert, takes DEFCON to task for poor sexual harassment policing. A nice followup piece to the recent Readercon fiasco."
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Is Sexual Harassment Part of Hacker Culture?

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  • by digsbo (1292334) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @05:52PM (#40967435)
    I'm an average geek. I have to say that when I find myself surrounded by really hardcore geeks, I feel put off. It's like they are in a feeding frenzy, looking for a chance to be king of the hill. I am not surprised at all that they'd act in totally horrible ways towards women. Clearly, part of the game there was to do so (to get the hole punched).
    I think in the general area of business software, the stereotype of the hardcore geek is mostly gone. People who write business applications are generally pretty mainstream by geek standards. Perhaps such a concentration of extremely tech-focused geeks like at the conference in question is the last place we see this kind of stereotype, and possibly, for that reason they are all the more poorly behaved.
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @05:52PM (#40967437)

    (Aside from needing to look up that link about all articles that end with question mark)
     
    Sexual harassment is just plain old immature behavior. It isn't a part of Hack Culture .. its a part of immature people who associate with hacker culture .. hmm .. so maybe that should be a yes?

    • by bhcompy (1877290)
      I would say that sexual harassment is a side effect of really awful social skills that most "hackers" have. That is to say they don't really understand what they're doing is sexual harassment, since they're pretty much social retards.
    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:08PM (#40967555) Homepage

      Sexual harassment is just plain old immature behavior. It isn't a part of Hack Culture .. its a part of immature people who associate with hacker culture .. hmm .. so maybe that should be a yes?

      I'd go with correlation, not causation. "Hacker culture" typically comes from young introvert males with weak social antennas. "Sexual harassment" typically come from young introvert males with weak social antennas. That and how like-minded people in a crowd always stretch it further than any one person would individually. So it's a high risk event but I wouldn't say the hacker culture glorifies it in any way.

  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Sunday August 12, 2012 @05:53PM (#40967443)
    This commentary on this article will undoubtedly be similar to that of a troll festival.

    Ooops, *looks above post*, too late.
  • by euxneks (516538) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @05:53PM (#40967449)
    FTFA:

    Or the experience of one of my friends, who prefers to remain anonymous. At a recent DEFCON, while leaning over to get her drink at the bar, someone slid his hand up all the way between her legs and grabbed her crotch.

    I cannot believe someone could even remotely think that doing something like this would be a good idea. Someone else's body is not just an object. Jesus Christ people, get a fucking clue - this sort of attitude makes for a very poor environment all around.

    • by elucido (870205) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:00PM (#40967501)

      FTFA:

      Or the experience of one of my friends, who prefers to remain anonymous. At a recent DEFCON, while leaning over to get her drink at the bar, someone slid his hand up all the way between her legs and grabbed her crotch.

      I cannot believe someone could even remotely think that doing something like this would be a good idea. Someone else's body is not just an object. Jesus Christ people, get a fucking clue - this sort of attitude makes for a very poor environment all around.

      There are many stupid blokes in the world. I'm sure this actually happened. We also have to consider that any time you put a large amount of politically radical individuals in one place, a portion of them will be falsely accused because it's just politically convenient. The next Julian Assange very well could be at Defcon, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if this situation gets exploited by both sides.

      We need to educate both men and women about safety. We need technology in place which is gender neutral, which protects both the accused and the accuser. The last thing we want is for something horrible like a sexual assault to happen but being falsely accused of a sexual assault is as horrible as being sexually assaulted. So we have to consider all potential risks and scenarios in security policy.

  • One incident.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @05:59PM (#40967495)

    One man was apparently out of order, it wasn't a group effort by an entire community. The creep didn't do anything bad enough to get himself arrested and was banned for life for his actions, can't that be an end to it?

    Or are we still running with the assumption that all white males are fundamentally evil and everything they do is sexist and/or racist.

    • Re:One incident.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:28PM (#40967727)
      Grabbing somebody's crotch is sexual assault. You damn well can get arrested and do prison time for it.
    • Re:One incident.. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:33PM (#40967763) Homepage Journal

      Did we read the same article? It wasn't just one incident. Aurora tells how she left one DEFCON after a "barrage" of harassing incidents. The crotch grabbing episode was something she cited as an extreme case.

    • Re:One incident.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by eldepeche (854916) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:40PM (#40967829)

      One man was apparently out of order, it wasn't a group effort by an entire community. The creep didn't do anything bad enough to get himself arrested and was banned for life for his actions, can't that be an end to it?

      No one is blaming everyone for the harassment itself, they're blaming the board for not enforcing their own policy. The lifetime ban came only in response to the outcry (which in turn came because the written policy said that lifetime bans would be issued to harassers, but the board only banned the harasser in question for two years.) There are also larger issues (Was the man given lenience because he holds a position of some minor prominence in the SF community? How can other cons and organizations learn from this and prevent harassment in the future? &c)

      Or are we still running with the assumption that all white males are fundamentally evil and everything they do is sexist and/or racist.

      Fuck you.

  • It's not just DEFCON (Score:5, Interesting)

    by subreality (157447) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:08PM (#40967557)

    ... and it's not "sexual harassment". It's "sexual assault". I've been seeing considerably more of people being inappropriately aggressive, and not just in hacker cons. It's happening in sci fi cons too, and tech business cons, and plenty of other places. Sales conferences have always been bad, but it's new to see so much of this in geek culture.

    I'm pretty sexually liberated (OK, I'm a fucking slut), but that doesn't mean free for all. No matter how much you think they want it, never assume they're interested unless they respond positively to some gentle verbal flirting... And if they don't, they're not interested, so please fuck off.

    I know this sounds obvious to many, but I keep seeing rather horrifying examples of geeks completely failing to follow that basic protocol.

    • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @10:01PM (#40969255)

      I'm pretty sexually liberated (OK, I'm a fucking slut)

      A few things:
      1) It'd make no sense if you were a celibate slut.
      2) Good for you
      3) No, seriously - good for you (and hopefully for the ones you fuck as well)

      I, for one, never quite understood why there's this stigma about women enjoying sex.

      On a side note, I can never really avoid laughing, when some idiot shouts something like "whore" after a woman, who've just turned him down. I mean - he's now loudly informing the world, that not even people who are paid to keep other's company are interested in him. "Look at me - I'm repulsive!"

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:10PM (#40967579) Homepage

    Being an asshole is not part of any culture, and endemic sexism (which clearly exists) is not the same as inherent sexism.

    Working to end sexual harassment is not an attack on hacker culture. (And nor is it necessary or helpful to attack hacker culture in order to end sexual harassment.)

  • by borcharc (56372) * on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:10PM (#40967585)

    I have been going to defcon for many years. In recent years my non tech wife has been coming along. My wife is extremely hot and attracts unwanted attention everywhere we go. Its quite the task to keep creepers at bay most of the time. She has repeatedly made it clear that the attendees at defcon and the parties there have been completely respectful and gentlemanly to her. On the other hand, she has been propositioned for "shopping sprees and condo parties" from creepy Vegas men and attempted to be recruited to be a stripper and prostitute on different occasions at the Rio and Riviera pool by Vegas scum. At one point several random hackers came to her defense as she was trying to get away from Vegas scum at the pool. By the time I got out of my track and to the pool random defconers had "solved" the issue in a ways an angry older brother would. These type of problems are what makes my wife wary of defcon and Vegas in general, Vegas scum, not the defcon attendees.

    If this is all about some drunk kid asking someone to show your tits, well those kids are everywhere there is alcohol. If someone assaults you, sexually or otherwise, charges should be pressed.

  • It's brogrammers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:24PM (#40967699) Homepage
    Your stereotypical geek may be awkward with women and he may even be a misogynist but he's also probably not terribly social and keeps to himself and his group. I don't see anyone who I'd class a proper geek being the sort to grab someone's ass.

    However some ruby on rails rockstar douche bag is almost required to be grabbing ass and treating women like shit in between going to the gym and downing red bull. But brogrammers aren't just a pita to women, real programmers hate them too. They're a cancer on our culture.
    • Re:It's brogrammers (Score:4, Informative)

      by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Monday August 13, 2012 @10:02AM (#40973181)

      However some ruby on rails rockstar douche bag is almost required to be grabbing ass and treating women like shit in between going to the gym and downing red bull. But brogrammers aren't just a pita to women, real programmers hate them too. They're a cancer on our culture.

      A buddy of mine is active in the local Rails community, and I've gone to some Ruby events just for the heck of it (I hate Rails). I have to say that have never seen any inappropriate sexual behavior at all from this group. Nerd warfare? Sure. But mostly over various extreme programming models and Ruby interpreters that I decided not to care about.

  • by ZPO (465615) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:34PM (#40967773)

    Isn't part of the hacker ethos that the code rules? Who cares the age, sex, color, national origin, or creed of the writer? Do any of these factors make for better or worse code? If not, then differentiators based on those factors have no place in the hacker culture.

    Any type of harassment needs to be dealt with rapidly, firmly, and appropriately. At the hacker cons I've attended, I've been fortunate to attend sessions with female presenters. I've also had the opportunity to interact with female attendees and found them to be logical, intelligent, and well spoken. I go to such cons to learn, network, and have some fun. Playing grabass just isn't on the menu. Such things are the province of small minds with no social skills. I'm all for harassers getting a swift kick - or several. I have a feeling though that the goons wouldn't be enamored with that idea.

    I'm old enough to have been in the military before, during, and after the 1991 Tailhook incident. Hopefully the pendulum won't swing so far in the other direction that personnel are tossed and/or banned based on unsubstantiated allegations. There are very real incidents that need to be dealt with firmly. There are also invented incidents that should result in sanctions against the person making the false allegations.

    -ZPO

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:41PM (#40967847)

    The major problem with Valerie's article is that she creates a strawman argument ("all you men say that if women don't feel comfortable, they shouldn't go") which she then leaps off of to claim that women are not made welcome and thus are being denied employment opportunities available at said conference. In prior discussions here on Slashdot, I have not seen a single commenter say anything similar to that. It is at best an extremist viewpoint. Most of the voices in this and prior discussions have been one of collective disapproval and support for women feeling comfortable at conferences.

    The other problem is that Valerie and her cohorts think female-on-male violence is funny:

    "The cards are a hilarious way to raise awareness of the problem of brutal sexual harassment at DEFCON and similar conferences."

    http://singlevoice.net/redyellow-card-project/ [singlevoice.net]
    Text from the red card: "You should be happy you got this card and not a punch in the face."

    This is a perfect example of how culturally it has become completely acceptable for women to beat men in public or media; people stare, freak out, and intervene when a guy gets aggressive with a woman....but she can use his hair to thrash his head around, punch him repeatedly, etc - and nobody says a word or gives it a second glance. In movies, a woman getting hit is the ultimate bad-guy act...but a man getting hit? That's comedy! Funny! Let's not forget that the man is always portrayed in media as being a lecherous slimebag, and thus "deserves" this treatment.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlFAd4YdQks [youtube.com]

  • Best answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredprado (2569351) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:50PM (#40967929)
    One of the best possible answers to this article was in a commentary by a female reader (schachin) in the same page:

    First, I must preface I am not saying these things do not happen and I will not take away from anyone's experience as these situations are inexcusable and horrific, but I do want to chime in and say they do not happen to ALL women.

    I have been attending tech conferences for going on 6 years now. This year was my 2nd BlackHat, 3rd Defcon, I also speak at average 4-5 conferences in an associated industry each year. While I won't say I have never experienced an idiot or two (but wouldn't you in any situation) OVERALL the men have been supportive, giving, generous and career boosting. They are also very protective over me and if anyone treated me this way I know the person would find himself in a very bad way very quickly. That being said.

    I worry when I see posts like this because though I am 1000% positive there are a few bad apples in a conference the size of Defcon (18k) I don't believe wholesale that there are a plethora of bad aggressive idiot men attending.

    Most of the men I meet are respectful and helpful and by othering the men you separate women further and create and atmosphere where men are afraid to speak or befriend as they might offend.

    So again, I do not wish to in any way detract or minimize the horrendous behavior that was mentioned here. I just caution that generalization can cause issues that do not exist, create a negative atmosphere where women are further separated from the goals they seek to achieve. We work in a predominantly male industry.

    Men are not the enemy and I would not be where I am without the ones I know help and guidance. So just remember in a barrel of apples there are always some worm infested ones among the many bright and shiny.

  • Answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0p0 (1841106) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:03PM (#40968019)
    Short Answer: No.
    Long Answer: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:32PM (#40968679)

    The article is a slander attempt to co-op the conference. Simple as that.

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