On the “Talibanesque”-ness of harassment policies

The trollitariat have been out in full force recently about the real progress we’ve made recently in finally putting into place structures that will protect women from unwanted sexual advances at atheist/skeptic conventions. They’re getting some help from prominent skeptics like Russell Blackford, who evidently created the meme of the Talibanesquery of this initiative according to some commenters, resulting in wave after wave of sockpuppeting trolls repeating the meme despite being debunked repeatedly.

The trolls are even getting some help from local FtB bloggers who apparently bought that line of argumentation without looking at the policy itself, when actually looking at the policy in question is all it takes to turn the whole issue on its head.

The repeated comparison of this harassment policy to Taliban-like laws, is entirely about the “sexualized clothing” bit. Apparently all the rest of the proposed policy is perfectly fine to these people, and anyone pushing back against the meme is just strawmanning. Never mind all the myriad other ways the comparison to the Taliban doesn’t fit — like the actual protection of women, rather than slut-shaming and stoning them to death; like allowing them autonomy and self-direction instead of subjugating them to man’s will.

The actual part of the proposed template policy, as expressed in the Geek Feminism wiki entry, is pretty specific though. Much more specific than the trolls are letting on.

Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

The trolls are interpreting this to mean that there’s a dress code for all con-goers. This is, of course, patently wrong. The code applies to conference employees, speakers and vendors. It is pretty much expressly designed to end the “booth babe” phenomenon, where vendors put scantily-clad women in front of their wares to sell to the apparently-predominantly-hetero-males who attend.

That practice has a chilling effect — multiple, actually — on the participation of women in a conference. The use of booth babes a) suggests that only men are interested in buying things, or that the vendors are only interested in selling to men; b) adds an officially-sanctioned bit of sexualized imagery and sexploitation to the convention itself; c) probably helps give those socially-awkward folks that everyone’s always bawwwing about the impression that women (especially the women at that conference) are pieces of meat.

There’s nothing really objectionable about con-goers dressing up as their favorite anime or Street Fighter characters if they want, even if those characters are scantily-clad. Those folks even deserve protection, and conferences that enact anti-harassment policies understand this, as evidenced by CONvergence’s “costumes are not consent” posters. And the policy stating that the convention handlers and vendors on-site won’t wear anything overtly sexual does not affect the participants in any way. Excepting, of course, for those mandudes that really just want to defend their right to have pieces of woman-meat on display at their favorite vendors.

The other thing the trolls are questioning in this template — note, carefully, that this policy is a TEMPLATE and should be adjusted as appropriate — is that there’s a clause saying that speakers shouldn’t use overtly sexualized language. The intent here is to prevent people like Dell’s blatantly sexist speaker, not to prevent people like Dan Savage from talking about sex. Since this is just a template, and we can reasonably assume that convention handlers really want to invite people who do talk about sex now and again (e.g. Stephanie, Jen, Greta, etc.), I think it’s safe to assume that any con adopting these policies will tailor them to the specific speakers in question, and that everyone going into these cons will understand that sex speakers talk about sex, while still preventing random other speakers from talking about how much they’d like to fuck everyone in the audience or what have you. And hell, this’ll even prevent sex speakers from making those same kinds of odious personal sexual attacks on others.

And yet, nobody’s speech is restricted, nobody’s rights are curtailed, and the framework for reporting issues is in place so that real issues can be really heard and worked on, to everyone’s benefit. Harassment and the chilly climate are our targets, and they’ll be dealt with privately and with appropriate hearings on the evidence, without the name-and-shame that the trolls so relish because it gives them an opportunity to further victimize the victims.

The name-and-shame policy is appropriate when you’re making vague “down with this sort of thing” statements like Phil Plait’s “Don’t be a Dick”, without naming the sort of behaviour that’s inappropriate or showing that it’s even happening at all. Name-and-shame is not any more valid with harassment, which we know to be happening and understand what it’s about, than it would be to have rape victims have to make their accusations in the local newspaper instead of in the court of law. Or like the Taliban where the rape victim would probably get stoned to death for not screaming loud enough to stop the rape. There’s probably a damn good reason the trolls find this so hard to swallow — they don’t want to be put into a position where trolling == harassment and they might get in trouble for it. Either that, or they’re actually interested in BEING pick-up artists and misogynist asses themselves. I can never tell how deep the anti-woman streak runs with any particular troll.

Putting into place a framework to deal with the harassers, and bullies, and pick-up artists who hide behind the clueless, in a fair and private and even-handed manner is anything but Talibanesque. Anyone who thinks otherwise can screw off is welcome to tell me why in the comments.


  1. jamessweet says

    Two small points:

    First, when and where did Russell say that? All I can find is the one comment from Melody. It seems bizarre that Melody would simply make such a thing up out of whole cloth, but I don’t want to impugn Blackford of saying such a thing without a) evidence and b) context.

    Second, while it looks like Chris was badly wrong, and that his wrongness is helping to feed the trolls, it’s important to point out that he did also say “regardless of the actual extent of the problem, some of the proposed remedies would be sensible in any case…some kind of anti-harassment policies would be sensible.” I think it’s important to draw a distinction between those who are pushing back against the very idea of having an anti-harassment policy (something which I think is a complete no-brainer, and I am frankly stunned that there is so much opposition) vs. those who agree with the idea of adopting such a policy but differ over details. The latter group are still, IMO, basically on the right side, even though they may be badly wrong about particular details.

    (Full disclosure: I accepted Chris’ characterization of those policies uncritically, and tentatively agreed that they needed revision. I have retracted that now that the context has been explained. Attendees should be able to dress however they choose, but obviously I am in favor of preventing the “booth babes” phenomenon.)

    Hopefully Chris will respond gracefully now that the context has been explained. We shall see.

  2. says

    James: my guess is on Facebook somewhere, though I can’t see it myself since I’m disinclined to friend him to look. Which is why I’ve been careful to say “evidently” and “according to some commenters”.

    Chris is pretty much only guilty of jumping the gun. At least, that’s all I can say he’s guilty of in this instance, based only on public stuff.

  3. jamessweet says

    Do you have the link to Russell Blackford’s FB page? I wouldn’t mind friending him anyway, as I generally appreciate his writing. I tried simply searching and, heh, it’s not the right guy :)

  4. says

    Good luck with that. Let me know what you find.

    For the record, Blackford has often fallen in with the ERV hoggleites when it comes to feminism in skepticism.

    Also, on Google Plus, I got this golden comment.

    John Poteet 4:53 PM
    Well, now I know why I will never, ever attend an atheist convention despite being more or less a solid atheist. That crap is crap. Keep this up and you’ll get lumped in with the capital “F” feminists as impossible to deal with.

    Stick to “we can’t find proof of your deity.”

  5. says

    Also not on Facebook, but my understanding is that it was a discussion not on Russell’s page. I rather hope he was commenting on the policy based on someone else’s interpretation of it. Later people coming along telling Ophelia that she’s not welcome at conferences because she’s part of the Taliban, however, are saying this outright even after having been confronted with reality.

  6. eric says

    Nice post.

    I’ve not been to any skeptical or atheist-themed convention. Has booth-babe-ism been a problem? I keep thinking of these meetings being more like scientific conferences. The scientific conferences I’ve been to, conference-goers are most likely to seek out the vendors who give out propeller caps and personalized lab coats.* The idea of scantily-clad women hawking textbooks or glassware at such conferences is not titillating, its just weird. I figured skeptics conventions would be similar.

    In any event, as you say, TEMPLATE. Organizers are free to fine tune the rules and regs. I see nothing wrong with having a staff-and-vendor clothing policy in like the one offered…but I also see nothing wrong in leaving it out, if the organizers think, based on experience with past meetings, that this is a solution in search of a problem.

    *And free ice cream. No matter what the subject of the meeting, you can always attract people to your stand with free ice cream.

  7. John Horstman says

    The other thing the trolls are questioning in this template — note, carefully, that this policy is a TEMPLATE and should be adjusted as appropriate — is that there’s a clause saying that speakers shouldn’t use overtly sexualized language. The intent here is to prevent people like Dell’s blatantly sexist speaker, not to prevent people like Dan Savage from talking about sex.

    What if it read “sexualizing” – that is, language that sexualizes attendees – instead of “sexualized” – that is, language that is considered in common connotative or denotative use to be sexual in nature. This draws a distinction that allows presenters to discuss sexuality while still not allowing them to verbally harass attendees, no? “Sexualizing” denotes a transitive property: the language is performing the sexualization, which is not okay, as opposed to language that has been culturally sexualized because it’s being used to discuss the topic of sexuality.

    Also, re: comment #5, what is a “capital ‘F’ feminist”? Dear commenter on other blog, we don’t all speak in encoded misogynist phrases; please explain yourself using American Standard Received English (or Canadian SRE out of deference to Jason, if you somehow run across this discussion thread and respond here).

  8. J. J. Ramsey says

    Also, re: comment #5, what is a “capital ‘F’ feminist”?

    I suspect that a capital “F” feminist is more often than not a feminist with a capital “S,” as in “straw feminist“. You know, the kind of man-hating harpy who may be lesbian, anti-sex, or both, and is ugly to boot? The kind who is largely a construct of dittoheads and MRAs?

  9. Pteryxx says


    I’ve not been to any skeptical or atheist-themed convention. Has booth-babe-ism been a problem? I keep thinking of these meetings being more like scientific conferences.

    It hasn’t. The model harassment policy, which some organizations have adopted intact as a quick response, was designed for geek cons such as gaming and comic conventions which often DO have explicitly barely-clothed booth babes.

  10. Severos says

    I also think it was probably on one of those sites that he said it, or possibly probably said it.
    It’s disgusting. The guy is a sister-punisher if ever there was one [if he was a girl of course, which he’s not, but the point stands, right?] Right?
    It’s a shame, because I liked him until he said something (possibly) that you all didn’t like.

  11. says

    Severos, you’re a disingenuous asshole. He said it verbatim at the link posted by cafeeine. And the comment was even Liked by Scented Nectar and Miranda Hale, so go ask them whether the comment exists if you can’t be bothered to click the damned link.

    Like I’ve said from the beginning. Nobody’s saying Blackford doesn’t have the right to say the things he’s said. He’s just being rightly judged for them. If he loses fans because they realize he’s blatantly making shit up, so be it.

  12. jamessweet says

    Thank you to cafeeine for the link. The context is vague enough that it’s hard to say exactly what he was referring to, but it sure does seem that Brother Blackford is equating anti-harassment policies with the Taliban, which is pretty shitty.

    @eric, Pterryx: It also occurred to me that the booth babe phenomenon is not really a problem at atheist conferences, and so one could argue that it is just as well to leave the provision out. I could go either way on that. There’s both arguments in favor of preemptive action, as well as in favor of ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-ism.

    Like Pterryx says, though, it was a model policy adopted in a hurry. Nobody is asserting it is perfect. Reasoned debate about the cost/benefit of having such a policy to address a particular problem that this movement doesn’t have (at least not yet) is fine; this inflamed rhetoric comparing it to the Taliban is not that cool.

  13. Severos says

    That’s a bit harsh Jason! Especially with the swear words for no reason. ;(
    I’m just saying. I don’t know who said what… but I’m saying that I don’t like it. I’m on your side! He’s a sister-punisher and needs to be told.
    I defriended him on facebook because of this. [but then re-friended so that i could read what he said and make blog posts out of it and how much he should be punished and shit, for thinking wrong.]
    [[sorry about the swear (shit) above!]]

  14. John Morales says


    Severos, what I see when I read your comments is someone ostensibly pretending to pretend to be an uncritical follower (one of us!) of a consensus supposedly formed purely via speculative hearsay whilst simultaneously criticising the consensus.

    Odd that what is undistinguishable from trolling gets treated as trolling, no?

    (Your faux-niceness is no perfume that hides the reek of your fatuous snideness)

  15. says

    Ophelia, I just wanted to add that your comments in the FB thread linked to by Cafeeine were incisively brilliant, which is why you are one of my favourite bloggers here on FTB. What was Russell thinking? Policies that protect people ≠ Talibanism.

  16. says

    The “booth babe” thing is a holdover from this being a template for geeky conventions, not for atheist/skeptic conventions specifically. If you’ve ever been to one of the former, you should be well aware of just how bad a practice that is. Having it grandfathered into the atheist community to head off someone hawking The God Delusion wearing nothing but a G-string is probably not going to have all that chilling an effect on our conventions, quite frankly, so leaving it in place seems fine to me.

  17. says


    I did read the policy, but I hadn’t been aware of the “booth bunny” context. Its presence in the Geek Feminism Wiki article makes sense now, though I’m still not sure cut and pasting it into atheist conference policies makes any sense.

    But I’m still dubious of the “this rule will only be applied to bad people” rationale for the “sexualized language” rule. It seems to me that such things have a history of not going as planned.

    In fact, if the worry is sexist comments, wouldn’t it just be better to have a rule against sexist comments?

    Finally, you talk as if it’s just trolls who’ve questioned this. I’d object, but I’m not sure what “troll” even means here. It used to mean someone who comes into an online community just to pick a fight, but it long seems to have become a general-purpose insult for anyone you strongly disagree with.

  18. says

    I mean a coordinated attack by a set of sockpuppet accounts at a number of sites who morph as they’re banned to say ridiculous bullshit about people like Ophelia and Greta and Jen and Stephanie as though somehow they’re endorsing Taliban-like behaviour. That’s what I mean by “troll”. What do you take it to mean?

  19. julian says

    In fact, if the worry is sexist comments, wouldn’t it just be better to have a rule against sexist comments?

    No. The worry isn’t limited to sexist commentary. It extends to verbal sexual harassment (cat-calls, propositions, lewd comments) which is likely why the policy is worded the way it is.

  20. says


    on one of the recent threads (I don’t exactly remember where… Jen’s?) a poster claimed that there were statistics from Finland (and then didn’t bother to cite them… very frustrating) which said that between 2% and 8% of sexual harassment claims that had been investigated had turned out to be false accusations; therefore we should be very skeptical of instituting anti-harassment policies…

    Wut? Surely the fact that false accusations are just a single digit percentage, might say something about the remaining 90+% possibly having a kernel of truth to them (at the very least), and therefore being worthy of attention? If so, then having a complaints mechanism to deal with the 90% (while remaining fully aware of the possibility of a false accusation/misunderstanding) is not really a grievous, Taliban-like imposition.

    Another way of looking at it: we don’t ignore all claims of theft (or other offences that might fall under the law) because, perhaps, a small proportion might be false accusations.

  21. says

    To Xanthe’s point, the pushback is essentially suggesting that we should treat the 92-98% of claims that are real harassment like it is made up, and unworthy of pursuing.

  22. says

    Another precious comment at my Google+ feed:

    Allen Hildebrandt Yesterday 6:29 PM
    It seems internally contradictory to do away with “Booth Babes”, who are legitimately hired and often sell their services because they are attractive and willing to dress up in ridiculous costumes and being against Slut Shaming.

    Putting them out of work because you don’t want to put forward a victimization mentality is, in a sense, a form of slut shaming. Dressing provocatively should be an empowering act, not a statement that women are being treated like objects. Otherwise you’re arguing that clothing does in fact make a difference while in the same breath claiming that it doesn’t.

    I’m probably not articulating this as well as I could, as my mind is on other things at this time… but I felt compelled to comment.

    So my points about objectification of women are nullified by the fact that I don’t think that women who personally feel empowered by self-objectification should be slut-shamed? Huh.

  23. says

    @Jason: Okay, thanks for clearing up what you mean by “troll.” But under that definition I’m not a troll. Russell is to the best of my knowledge not a troll (to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t engaged in sock puppetry or morphing). And my guess is there are other non-trolls who’ve questioned the policy, though obviously I can’t know just by looking at a comment whether the person who wrote has engaged in sock puppetry or morphing. So then why frame the post in terms of trolls?

    @Xanthe: But I am not that poster, so I don’t understand why your comment is directed at me.

    The only thing I can think of is to clarify that I never criticized anti-harassment policies in general, just one particular one.

  24. says

    Jason @30

    Yes, and if you are for some reason opposed to having a wet t-shirt contest on the conference agenda, you are implicitly shaming those attendees who might decide to show up wearing damp and/or clingy clothing. ;-)

  25. eric says

    @12, @15, @24 – thanks for the info.

    The Hildebrant comment quoted in @30 is idiotic, on multiple levels. One, in my experience the vast majority of vendor booths are not peopled by costumes-for-hire, but by workers for that corporation. Because the point is to be able to answer questions and sell product. I very much doubt the rule is going to put any roving bikini-for-hire women out of business. If he could cite even just one example, I might be inclined to think about this problem a bit more, but as a speculation, its worthless. Second, no one is arguing that clothing doesn’t make a difference. They are arguing that the freedom to advertise via clothing choice at an event put on by skeptics should adhere to the time, place, and manner limits those skeptics want. This is no different than any place of employment putting limits or what their employees can wear to work. Lastly, if you think regular clothes can’t be provocative (to both sexes) or used effectively to bring in business, you must be living in a cave. Every day, in every town, in every country, high-end businesses do that. Implying that ‘provocative’ requires ‘slutty costume’ says much more about your own tastes than it does about what humans in general find attractive.

  26. says

    So then why frame the post in terms of trolls?

    Because the trolls are the ones out bothering and smearing the people trying to get the work done. They’re the ones taking up time and adding to stress.

    I think the question you actually want an answer to is “Why mention me and Russell and trolls in the same post?” That would be because, while the trolls are the ones running around bothering people, you two are creating and supporting their narratives. That’s happening because you’re sharing opinions outside your areas of expertise without framing it as something you don’t know much about or asking what you, as a non-expert, might be missing.

  27. says

    I must admit I’ve been under the impression that booth babes are often hired models rather than internal staff for vendors at conventions.

    That said, conventions aren’t meant to be jobs programs for models willing to wear skimpy outfits, so IMO the ‘think of the booth babes’ argument is a weak argument against vendor dress codes.

  28. says

    This “booth babe” thing seems to have become a massive derailer to the larger discussion of sexual harassment at atheist/skeptic conventions. I’ve only been to two atheist conventions, so maybe my sample isn’t valid, but I didn’t see anything that could remotely be described as “booth babes” (ethics aside, there didn’t seem to be enough money involved to make it worth anyone’s while trying that hard to sell a few books, T-shirts, or atheist-themed jewelry/ornaments/bumper-stickers/what-have-you). I gather that this rule was created for sci-fi/gaming cons, where some combination of ethics and culture does make it an issue (wouldn’t know personally; I’ve been to exactly one Star Trek con).

    So the rule gets imported from over there as part of a draft code. And it’s addressing a specific problem that doesn’t appear to exist in our context (not that there’s anything wrong with being proactive). But suddenly a whole bunch of people are crying that this rule that discourages a behaviour that no one is engaging in anyway constitutes a massive attack on….something.

    Which looks damned disingenuous to me.

  29. says

    Damn, correction needed to @36:

    I gather that this rule was created for sci-fi/gaming cons, where some combination of economics and culture does make it an issue

  30. says

    I’m laughing at the idea of “booth babes” at any of the cons I’ve been to (which is a very small number).

    The closest thing I’ve seen was the Dalek at QED. Not very close…

  31. jamessweet says

    @Ophelia, I had a similar reaction to Jason’s reference “head[ing] off someone hawking The God Delusion wearing nothing but a G-string”. Yeah, um….

    Eamon Knight is right on the money: The booth babes thing is a complete derail. It probably doesn’t matter that much whether or not it gets included in the policy for any given atheist/skeptic conference. As I commented on another thread, I consider the odds of someone “hawking The God Delusion wearing nothing but a G-string”, and the odds of somebody getting unfairly targeted by this policy for just trying to express themselves, are both essentially nil.

  32. says

    Of COURSE the whole topic of booth-babes is a derail. It’s the willful misinterpretation of that clause that has allowed these trolls to derail the whole conversation. My point is, it does us no harm to copy/paste that Geek Feminism policy exactly as-is and modify as necessary at our conventions. And the fact that six (seven?) conferences have already adopted it in response to this very real problem of harassment at conventions is probably WHY they’re engaging in this derail — they’re losing the battle on its face.

    Josh: just a few nights ago I was chatting on twitter with a friend who (probably jokingly) wants to make a geek sex toy line. I suggested a robotic Dalek dildo that screams MASTURBATE.

  33. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I suggested a robotic Dalek dildo that screams MASTURBATE.

    I would buy each and every one ever made and give them out as gifts to everyone for the rest of my life!

  34. leftwingfox says

    I suggested a robotic Dalek dildo that screams MASTURBATE.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to touch myself again…

  35. says

    The “booth babe” thing is not only off-putting to women, for obvious reasons, but I imagine it’s also probably somewhat othering to gay men as well. It’s not just assuming that everyone attending the conference is male, it’s assuming everyone attending the conference is a straight male*.

    * We can probably safely assume that people using booth babes are probably not targeting lesbians.

  36. says

    @Stephanie’s 34: That’s… partially helpful. On the one hand, in the future, I’ll try to look out for pieces of context I may be missing like the “booth babes” thing. On the other hand, I suspect we’d have some rather large disagreements on who the people with expertise I should be consulting are.

  37. eric says

    @46 – the conferences I’ve been to, vendors typically try to have a man and a woman at the booth in order to appeal to as many people as possible.

    What a silly objection (the original objection to the code, that is). There is no need to find the 100% solution before acting. The community seems to be dissatisfied with the status quo of no code. So try a code. If one or more bits of it turn out not to your liking, change it after a meeting or two. Heck, you could implement different variations and different meetings and see which one works best, if you wanted to.

    Yeah, some code might end up being worse than the problem its trying to solve. Try it and find out. I suspect its like Chris said: they’re objecting to this particular clause because the sky didn’t fall when all the other clauses were adopted by others, leaving people who object to such codes on general principle little room left in which to complain.

  38. says

    Chris, as a rule of thumb, I suggest asking the person who recommended that particular template in the first place. As you may have noticed in the ensuing discussion, I knew exactly why that phrasing was there.

  39. says

    I think this rule was necessary at geek cons to a large degree, but I don’t see how the concerns apply to atheist cons, which don’t typically have vendors in the same sense. These things always involve some compromise and need to be tailored to their specific purpose. So far, the problem at atheists cons has been the things that people do or say. Policies need to be aimed at that. If we develop an issue with clothes alter, we can make a policy about that that addresses the specific issue.

    I don’t think arguing that it probably won’t cause other issues is a very good justification for setting policies to combat problems that don’t actually exist. Why risk it?

  40. says

    My main concern here is that rules which are unnecessary, but don’t hurt anything, tend to eventually end up being selectively enforced on people who annoy those in power. On the other hand, it may be harder to atop the booth-babing practice once it’s entrenched than keep it from forming. PAX took a lot of flak for their anti-booth babe policies. E3 ended up like this (and attempts to change have gone nowhere), though, so I can see why they wanted to avoid it.


    I really don’t want to see any news story about Skepticon than even vaguely resembles this.

  41. Hibernia86 says

    Stepping aside from the topic for a moment, I’ve noticed that many people on the various blogs like to declare that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a troll. A troll is actually someone who says something they don’t really agree with just to get an emotional response out of people. If a blogger disagrees with someone, then say why rather than just calling them trolls.

  42. Cara says

    My main concern here is that rules which are unnecessary, but don’t hurt anything, tend to eventually end up being selectively enforced on people who annoy those in power.

    This isn’t the KGB we’re talking about. It’s a convention, where those *in power* want to keep everyone as happy as possible, not eject paying attendees at random. I doubt a person who’s not harassing anyone would have anything to worry about.

  43. julian says


    It’s still a potential issue down the road. It’s one reason I’m fairly conservative in my approach to creating new rules. An ignored but still very much on the books rule could (I’m not saying by the current people in charge) be used as a gotcha clause if all other attempts to bar the person fail.

  44. says

    It’s still a potential issue down the road. It’s one reason I’m fairly conservative in my approach to creating new rules. An ignored but still very much on the books rule could (I’m not saying by the current people in charge) be used as a gotcha clause if all other attempts to bar the person fail.

    julian: the clause in question affects the convention staff and employees and vendors, not the participants. It is a vow that the convention won’t endorse ridiculously sexist behaviours like booth babes or (say) wet t-shirt contests. I don’t see a problem with that in any way, even if it’s not something the conventions in question ever do *presently*. In fact, I see it as heartening that these conventions would say “we also won’t do it in the future”. That’s a good thing.

  45. says

    One one hand, I agree with the idea that “non-Talibanesque” anti-harassment policies are very much possible and desirable, I think the Geek Feminism boilerplate is, in fact, quite “Talibanesque” and does not rise to the level of a well-balanced policy. It’s highly politicized anti-“sexualization” clauses is very much prudish and sex-negative, sounding uncannily like the Dworkin/MacKinnon model antipornography ordinaince in places. I do not think such a policy is appropriate to any space that is has a non-captive audience, is at all politically and ideologically pluralistic (and a space where the only common thread is skepticism most certainly is), and committed to the open exchange of ideas.

    There is a lot of talk that such policies can be modified as needed, but if so, why is the “geek feminist” “model” policy pushed so hard, rather than a more specifically focused, less ideological version?

  46. says

    I agree with you on points A and C of the chilling effects, but voluntarily working for fun and profit at a booth while wearing a tank top is not exploitation.

  47. says

    I think you desperately miss the point of B), Skepgineer. It’s not that sexploitation (the manipulation of people’s sex drives to sell a product) is necessarily a bad thing or exploitation of the person willing to participate (e.g. women who feel self-empowered by self-objectifying), but that it becomes an OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED piece of sexual imagery and objectification.

    It’s the difference between hosting a wet t-shirt contest and someone coming in soaked from the rain and they happen to be wearing a white t-shirt and no bra. The former is officially sanctioned objectification, the latter is someone who needs to be protected from predations by a strong harassment policy in case someone gets the big idea that her wet t-shirt implies consent.


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