I remarked on the earlier event and she said that street safety had come up for discussion at work. A young chap, a co-worker, had said with the idiotic bravado of a boy who has led a sheltered existence that he wasn't the least concerned about being mugged in the street: he would turn over his habitually empty wallet to the perp and walk away . . . what's the problem? Dau.I and another young woman tried to explain s l o w l y that for women it was about more than the money and eventually he got it. Actually, he was only able to acknowledge the truth of what they said with his head, he might go through his entire life without ever getting how different a dark street is for men and for women.
I was reminded of this because of a piece last week by Rachel Nabors, a famous cartoonist and graphic novelist, about Codes of Conduct. Nabors scrabbles a living from her pen but also as to be an invited speaker at events and conferences in the digital world: UX [user experience], Animation, Java. I won't suggest that she is invited because she is a woman as I'm sure she's at least as good at her work and as an inspiring speaker as any three chaps in the field. But computers is a man's world, dominated by young, often absurdly young, males . . . who have the emotional and experiential maturity of my daughter's 'unmuggable' co-worker. Nabors has been to enough conferences to know that, while away from home in Vegas or Seattle, young fellers can get down a feed of pints and start to act like
A CoC is "a set of rules outlining the social norms and rules and responsibilities of, or proper practices for, an individual, party or organization." and it should includes a list of behaviours unacceptable to the organizers and by implication unacceptable to the vast majority of participants. It should also include details of how and where to contact a designated person when something goes wrong . . . and that contact point should be live 24hrs. A code of conduct becomes more important if there are young women in a minority at the event or in the organisation. I've written about how, regardless of stated policy, men will continue to behave badly and their [male] co-workers will find it hard to prevent it, even in Ireland's premier university. ANNyway, Rachel Nabors now makes it her stated policy that she will not attend or speak at any event which doesn't have a stated and explicit and broadcast Code of Conduct. Partly this is because she won't have on her conscience the dismal fate of a young woman who came to an event to hear Nabors and got assaulted or groped or demeaned in the process. Her Code of Conduct piece is largely a dialogue between the organiser and herself as his arguments against a CoC are remorselessly demolished. Asserting that shit never happens on your watch is no antidote to shit happening.
In amongst that, which you must read especially if you have daughters, she makes this point "For instance, a room full of strangers may agree that rape is bad, but when asked to define what rape is, they will give wildly varying answers." I think that's telling, because it shows that these issues are not easy or black&white. As I said yesterday, ethics is hard! Cultural norms are different in different countries and someone from Delhi or Dundee may well be in San Diego and not know how to behave á l'americain. We all think plagiarism is 'bad' too but I found that defining it was not so easy. Shucks, it's a head-wrecker to even define who the first-born is. But the bottom line on Code of Conduct is a) that we should have them and b) we should make them happen.
Making it easy for people to do the right thing makes it harder for them not to.