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Last night, Noisebridge broke tradition and enacted an Anti-Harassment policy.  Here's why that matters.

For the last five years, Noisebridge, one of the oldest hackerspaces in the country, has been run as a consensus-based anarchist collective that had just one rule: "Be excellent to one another."  It's consensus-driven political process means that any major changes to the space that go beyond its typical "doocracy" have to be put up for consensus, a system in which a single member's refusal to agree can shut down an otherwise popular request.  The consensus process is one that is not conducive to much in the way of governance, though this is of course generally viewed as more of a feature than a bug; it ensures that the space remain true to its anarchist roots.

Recently, this has become more and more problematic, as attempts to remove sexual predators from the space have been stymied by the presence of lone, oblivious members of the community who simply refuse to believe that someone they consider a friend might not be a friend to women in the space.  The situation at Noisebridge has gotten so bad (alongside other issues such as dirtiness and homeless people living in the space) that long-time members went so far as to put in a proposal that Noisebridge seek to terminate its lease[1], presumably to then rebirth itself at a new location with tighter access control.  Although it was clear that this proposal would never pass consensus, the decision was made that we would discuss the reasons why it was proposed, in the hopes of fixing the underlying issues in the future.  By sheer luck, the meeting had been scheduled shortly after a feminist hacking event sponsored by Double-Union, a local feminist hackerspace, and as a result a large contingent of woman hackers was present.  Stories pretty quickly came out about why so many were willing to let the space die.

I've been spending time at Noisebridge for the last year, and in that time, I've been harassed by multiple people on many different occasions, almost always with members present.  Never once has a member intervened or spoken up on my behalf: not when Weev called me a cunt or made anti-semitic, anti-mormon, anti-woman, anti-gay jokes loudly in the space, not when someone loudly (and descriptively) told me about the "sluts" they double-penetrated the night before, not when an individual (upon seeing me about to leave the space on my Powerisers) declared "I love your stilts.  I'm going to make you my bride and then those will be mine" before slapping my ass as I was leaving just a few weeks ago.  The closest thing I have felt to supported in the space was when one individual decided to doocratically paint over the bathroom wall, which at the time was covered in images of maimed and broken crying women with enormous tits and waists so thin they would make Barbie jealous.  It has become abundantly clear to most women in the space that "Be Excellent" has failed us.  

Any other night, the telling of these stories would simply have been an explanation of why we were willing to let go of Noisebridge, why we were ready to withdraw from the community, but that night we had just come from a room full of interesting, engaging, awesome feminist hackers, and I had sitting in my email a very clear anti-harassment policy that had been created by the good folks at the +Ada Initiative and the ladies of Double Union.  Once the dust had settled, we made a proposal: to adopt an anti-harassment policy, post it visibly in the space, and empower members to remove the toxic elements from the community, without having to go through the consensus process to do so.  The policy we proposed is as follows:

Noisebridge is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of people at our events or space in any form. Sexual language and imagery should be only be used for positive purposes in accordance with best practices advocated by professional sex educators (if you’re not sure what those are, don’t do it). People violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the space or the event at the discretion of any Noisebridge member.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. People asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately."

The key strength of the policy is that it allows a member to kick someone out, without requiring consensus to do so.  This prevents the situation we've sadly been dealing with in which individuals have blocked attempts to remove predators from the space, but brought some concerns about evidence and the possibility of innocent people being excluded.  The policy did pass (provisionally), but not without objection.  The arguments against it were the standard ones: free speech, false accusations, and straight-up denial of there being a problem at all.  A few people expressed concerns about the possibility of the policy being used in retaliatory ways (the old "false-rape accusations" argument), including Monad, the lone member who threatened to block.  He, of course is responsible for perhaps the best quote of the night: "The first sentence is fine.....the rest of it is just stupid to me."

Monad was demonstrating exactly the problem Noisebridge has had for years.  He was fine with the idea of there being a policy, with saying "Noisebridge is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience," but he balked at the idea of defining what harassment was or creating any system by which it could be dealt with.  In short, he wanted to simply be able to say "be excellent" and have it happen, but wasn't willing to accept that for some things, specifics are needed.

Some arguments, especially those that erupted on twitter after Leif Ryge, a Noisebridge member, tweeted his displeasure about the policy [2], centered on the idea that it was tantamount to censorship, banning "sexual imagery and language."  Of course, Leif's tweet was misleading, as the policy doesn't ban sexual language & imagery entirely, just mandates that "Sexual language and imagery should be only be used for positive purposes."   It's a far cry from the "censorship" that some people are claiming this represents.

In the end, we weren't able to convince Monad from backing down on his threat to block, a position he justified by claiming that the policy might be used alongside false accusations as a way of removing people you don't like from the space, so we settled on a compromise: to pass the measure with an expiration date, so that we could have a few months to tweak the language, perfect it and smooth out any issues, and see whether or not any of these "false accusations" that are so often the favorite arguments of rape apologists actually occurred.  To those of you that believe that the policy is needed, but needs some tweaking, I hope that you will use the time between now and January to iron out the details and come back with an even better policy: one that makes it clear that harassment is not acceptable behavior in the space, that still has teeth, and that can draw clear lines and boundaries that ensure that unwanted sexual attention is unacceptable while perhaps approaching the issue from a slightly more sex-positive standpoint.  The policy has been posted on github [3].  Let's make it better.

[edit] Short announcements and events. Note-taker lost this first part of the notes. :(; Maybe clearing out of the space. Possible discussion item. Sci-fi up the space. There's gonna be a group about that. Week minus 4 of getting an FM radio band.
Kris Kirby's profile photoAmy Stephen's profile photoNessa Guedes's profile photoBen Chirlin's profile photo
wow let women in hacker/anarchist space, next thing you know there is harassment policy in place.... Not that I disagree that people should be treated well but having to police anarchist place sounds like a fucked up idea to me. "Be excellent to each other" - should be more than enough, if it does not work its another issue, but this taking it to far.
+Tim Polt Calling me a cunt and grabbing my ass was pretty fucked up if you ask me, and I was not the only person it happened to.

Also, "let women in"?  Let me put it this way, if this policy makes you not want to come to Noisebridge, I'm not shedding any tears over you.
Lol @ "let women in, next thing ..." Nice job with the self-caricature though.
+Todd Johnson The sad thing is, that is so close to things that were actually said at the meeting that I genuinely cannot tell if it is a serious comment or a troll.
When I hear these stories of unwanted contact I wonder what it would take for these guys to see a problem?
+Hannah Grimm  I did not call you a cunt and did not grabb your ass how is it that I'm a bad guy here? all I'm saying that if you make men think before they say stuff, you will kill fun of any place very fast, but that does not mean that abusing women is ok, all I'm saying.
+Tim Polt Maybe you should go read the full post now, and then that statement will have proper context.
Miriam G
+Tim Polt , be excellent didn't work so that is the issue. What's your counter proposal? What do you think should be done instead of this? Why do you think men can't have fun without rape jokes, slurs, and harassment?
Eric Hill
A request to think before speaking is no kind of oppression.
+Hannah Grimm I just read it again and now I get the feeling that Richard Dawkins would be on your no tears list too.
+Tim Polt dingdingding!  You have successfully played the "guess who Hannah thinks is an asshat game."
+Eric Hill No its no oppression what so ever it just you cant expect everyone to do it because it requires self discipline and self control and those considered "super powers" this days. 
+Miriam G The only thing that comes to mind is education, because policing is not an option really.
+Hannah Grimm Hannah I hate violence/sexual remarks/objectification towards the women in any form period. However our point of views on things are very different I also hate religion in any form, but I understand that I should keep my mouth shut about that or I get in trouble, I also think that policing hacker place is a horrible idea. Best thing is to educate people that its not ok, hackers are not dumb in general so they will get it, that is the only way if you want cultural change rather than police state.
+Hannah Grimm "Or, you know, kicking them out.  That works too" - putting people in prison works too to some extend.... right?
+Tim Polt First of all, I may be an atheist, but I don't "hate religion."  In many ways, I like organized religion a lot.

Kicking someone out of a hackerspace is not the equivalent of throwing them in jail.  It's much less severe, and a lot easier to make actually happen.
Miriam G
+Tim Polt , an anti-harassment policy IS education. If any adults have somehow managed not to figure out what acceptable behavior is for shared spaces, they clearly need it spelled out for them. That's what this policy does. It educates them about what acceptable behavior is and the consequences of not exhibiting it.

Also, earlier you complained that the policy would kill the fun of the place. I was on my phone, so I kept my response short, but I'm at my keyboard now. So now I will also point out that the fun of the place was already killed. Maybe not for the men doing the harassing--I'm sure they've been having an awesome time. But for the people on the receiving end and for any bystanders who are uncomfortable with witnessing the harassment but are too scared or uncertain of how to intervene, that barn door is open and the horse has escaped. The policy is an attempt to create an environment where fun can return. Right now, you're saying it's more important that Hannah's harassers get to have the fun of the space than that Hannah gets to.
+Hannah Grimm Its always easy option that gets preference isn't it? Because educating people and making cultural positive change is difficult task and there for should not be tried. It requires effort and creative thinking and much harder rather than to kick out left and right people who we don't like. 
+Tim Polt LOL that you think doing anything about sexual harassment is easy.
+Tim Polt "if you make men think before they say stuff you will kill fun"? What kind of men are we talking about? Third graders who never grew up? This isn't about thinking before you speak, it's about treating your fellow human beings with respect. Claiming that because you're male you don't have the ability to enjoy yourself without being rude is insulting to every male. I've known people like that; they were bullies and brainless frat-boys, and I hated being in the same room as them. You aren't speaking for males when you say things like that; you're speaking for assholes. Sorry to get so explicit, but comments like that make me ashamed to share a gender with you.
It's not about kicking people out "left and right," but creating a space where everyone feels welcome. I think that's more important than saving the fee-fees of those hackers who, as you appear to agree, are behaving in a way that makes other members feel unwelcome. If people can't control themselves, guess what? They get told why they can't come around. Since, as you say, hackers are not "dumb in general," they should learn the lesson pretty quick, right? There's your education.
I'm not involved with Noisebridge myself, but I have several friends and colleagues who are.  I'm (mildly) surprised and (very) disappointed that they needed to enact this policy, but glad that they did.
TBH, it feels a little repetitive to see NB experiencing a Tragedy of the Commons, but anarchic ideologies tend to have Not Invented Here syndrome. It might be helpful to look at how successful local co-ops like Rainbow Grocery do things.
While such a policy is certainly antithetical to anarchism, there is probably a reason that most anarchist movements are dominated by violent cis-men. Why is NB so attached to the idea of anarchism? Aren't there other, more mature and successful models for consensus based collectives?
So disappointed to hear this was happening at NB. I was in support of them but not so much now unless this gets implemented. Certain comments in this thread are so indicative of the need for the anti-harassment policy, because it is clear that certain men (let's not mince words here, there is zero evidence women at NB are harassing men?) despite their supposed intelligence are very much in need of education. Let me guess:  some of the noxious NB members already "know better" (hence some education works? self-censorship already in place?) than to use racist slurs out loud, but think nothing wrong with using the b or c word to a woman's face.
Hi folks,

I’m an active member of a hackspace (sic) in Germany and I was pointed to this conversation, because I started discussions in our group at several occasions. Though I identify with anarchist ideas, I always tried to make the place anarchic, but never put the label on. I tell people that we are a collective and we make this consensus based and so on, but people from all kinds of traditions are visiting our space. And they should be welcomed to do so. They don’t need to identify with anarchist ideals, let alone referring to themselfs as anarchists.

But: we have agreed upon doing things in a certain way and to feel responsible for other peoples needs. This includes the most simple definition of respect I can think of: to back off. If someone tells you to stop your doing and behavior, you just do. Of course, it should be open for debate. But you have to stop first, and then try to engage the conversation in a communicative and friendly way. Every situation of harassment is a conflict. It marks a line between to people. We should not be ashamed about it but deal with it, solve the conflict and be proud about the peace we have found in it.

Harassment is a very bad thing. It is a violation of one’s dignity and actually stops people from doing their thing, from what they love to do; which is exactly the purpose of a hackspace.

The main issue here – to my view – is the question whether we need rules against harassment. In a place without someone who is clearly responsible for the security, like a host or a guard, everyone should act responsibly. This meens to act, not only to discuss and to call for a consensual debate. Thus, consensus should not be made about who is not tolerated in the space, but what behavior is not tolerable. Given that, anyone can judge from a situation whether someone is acting out of limits and show them the way out.

To be kicked does not meen to be banned. Only if someone repeadetly harasses people and abuses the space, the group should consider to ban someone. There, we need consensus. Because this is a very high escalation and clearly violates the needs of the accused person. So we should see this is as follows: the group decided to ban someone, because they see themselfs as unable to cope with all the conflicts. It‘s just too much. Maybe a larger, more experienced group with people specializing in pyschological issues would be able to stabilize itself. But at this point, it’s over. „Please stay away for the next months. Drop by in a year or so, maybe things got better. But for now, go hack somewhere else.“

I hope my reply was somehow helpful and we can keep up the conversation. I think it’s great that the hacker community tries to implement solutions for this problems – which affect the whole society – and gobally discusses their experiences.

Live long and prosper!
When I was last at Noisebridge, they just moved into their new space and it was "organized chaos". Everyone was very nice to me so I'm sad to hear that it went downhill.

I hope this passes and has the full support of members to speak up when they see/hear harassment. Maybe there should also be a process for the accused to follow (like a timeout) since anyone accused reacts self-defensively and it makes it hard for them to see beyond the accusation to the underlying situation.
I am either lucky, choose the right male friends, or both - but I can't be the the only male in tech who is more shocked/ashamed than anything that these things even happen (the harassment in question) in this day and age? I've always had zero issue with an anti-harrassment policy for any communal space because it has seemed a non-issue for me. It's disturbing that it is actually needed - who are these douchebags? Because I hope I continue to never associate with them. 
+Martin Schneider Honestly?  You probably do have male friends who do this.  This is really, really depressing, but the truth is that most guys are completely oblivious about the crap their friends do.  People like to think that you can tell an abuser by looking at them, that they'll look like someone who spends their days hiding in the bushes, but the truth is most abusers are really good at picking their targets, choosing women who can easily be discredited, and playing innocent.  It sucks, but that's the truth.
Tim Pierce
As +Jef Poskanzer told me many years ago: anarchy doesn't mean "no rules," it means "no rulers."
The Bristol hackspace is considering something similar and someone has pointed discussion to this post.

Obviously I don't know the culture of your hackspace at all, so it might just be my cultural assumptions kicking in, but one thing in particular makes me nervous about your policy: "... sanctioned or expelled from the space or the event at the discretion of any Noisebridge member."  The term 'sanctioned' is not defined and the term 'expelled' is not very clear, either, particularly with regard to duration.  In many contexts it implies permanence - so you are handing every member the ability to permanently end the membership of any other member.

I understand that sometimes false allegations are used as an excuse to block action, but you need to understand that false allegations are also really made.  Just talk to any teacher and they will have horror stories - either their own or colleagues - of perfectly innocent teachers who have been wrongly accused by pupils, sometimes ludicrous allegations and sometimes with devastating consequences.  A teacher from my town had a false allegation made by a girl in his class.  There was no merit in it whatsoever and police immediately decided not to investigate because the allegation just wasn't credible.  It wasn't until several years later when he went to apply for another job that he realised the allegation was on his police file and would be visible to any school he applied to - making it more or less impossible for him to get another job as a teacher in the UK.  People are people, and just as many people couldn't believe that their friends are abusers, so also many people couldn't believe that their friends would make a false allegation just for advantage/revenge.

Actually I think false allegations are being too much focused on by both sides of this argument.  The problem is that you have set up a false dichotomy - either requiring consensus for action or allowing any one member to act.  Why?  There is a big space in between those two positions.  Why not say that a member can be removed from the space for 24 hours on the accusation of one member and the agreement of two (or perhaps one) others?  And that a majority would be required to permanently expel them from the space?

This should at least relax the concerns of people who think the policy could be misused while not suffering the problem that one person can block consensus.
+Tom Cook Noisebridge has long had a policy where any individual (member or not) can ask another to leave the space, at which point that person has to leave and cannot return except to our weekly meeting, at which point the members will decide whether they can return or not.  The only difference in this policy is that instead of it taking consensus to make that ban permanent, it takes consensus to allow them back.  This is what the "expelled" terminology in the policy is referring to.  The "sanctioned" refers to any alternative action that the members might decide upon instead of permanently banning someone, and simply acknowledges that in specific, less extreme cases we might need to deal with a very real problem that doesn't quite merit permanent expulsion.

Being able to remove sexual predators from the space is vital to it continuing to function.
+Hannah Grimm Thanks for the context - if you're already operating that sort of policy then I guess it makes some sort of sense.  It's hard to see how the harassment policy would lead to false accusation problems if the existing system didn't already!

Again, the context is not clear to me, but I think if you're writing down a policy you should spell this sort of thing out, rather than relying on everyone knowing what it means.

And while I'd agree with the statement "Removing sexual predators from the space is vital," I'm not sure that everything you describe qualifies someone as a sexual predator.  I think you actually describe quite a range of behaviour, from off-colour jokes, which are probably welcome to the intended audience but offensive to people who happen to overhear, right through to sexual assault.  One end of this seems to fit very clearly the "sexual predator" image, the other end not so much.  Do you intend to lump all of these into one category?  Do you think it's proportionate to permanently expel someone because someone else overheard a joke?  I'm honestly not sure - maybe the joking itself should be actually unacceptable in any context.  It's not something I'd appreciate hearing myself.  I hope that people would be reasonable and accept a genuine apology & commitment to change if it's offered - but then I'd hope people would be reasonable and the whole thing wouldn't be a problem in the first place, and it obviously is.

I'll stop rambling now :-)
+Tom Cook Ideally, the predators get kicked out, and the harassers/off-color jokesters/casual misogynists get just why their behavior is unacceptable explained to them, along with the policy, and then they either stop doing what's bothering people or continue and get asked to leave.
+Hannah Grimm Sounds good.  Yet again the culture of the space may work against this, but I'd rather write those things down in your policy than leave it to people's good nature to make sure it works that way - you've already proved that people's good nature isn't good enough.
+Tom Cook We've actually posted the policy on Git, so people can work on improving it during the next 3 months of its provisional period.  Hopefully by the time January rolls around we'll have a more perfect version.
Thanks so much for writing this. I'm with a makerspace in IL where I'm happy to say I think such policies are somewhat informally in place, but I like the concept of formalizing them through a written posted policy. In a society where sexism and misogyny are the norm I think the default unspoken policy is that such behavior is acceptable.  So I think it could be a very positive step to proactively challenging that idea with a posted Anti-Harassment policy in our space. Others in our group have shared similar thoughts and we're adding this topic to the agenda for our next business meeting  :-) Thanks for spreading the word!
+Pauline Yu Actually, I've been harassed by women in the space as well.  The story in the original post about someone declaring me their bride and then groping me was instigated by a trans* woman.  I would agree that the vast majority of the abuse is coming from men, however. 

It's also worth noting that people are targeted for many more reasons than their gender.  I write specifically about gender because as a cis, white, well-educated woman, there's not a lot of areas where I'm not privileged.  Sure, I grew up dirt poor, but I'm comfortably middle-class now.  I do know that there are people in the space who are genderqueer and have been made to feel very uncomfortable by others. This post mostly addresses sexual harassment not because it's the only thing that's happening, but because it's where I have the most experience.  I try to be a good ally when I can, but I don't want to speak for others with different life-experiences from me.
I'm not a member (nor have I actually ever been to noisebridge) but what about just making "be excellent" enforceable. If a group of n people agree somebody is being an asshole, it's probably true, and it gives a nice posse to escort them off the premises. Again, just a random guy from the Internet who stumbled in here and admires Noisebridge as an experiment and thought he'd share an outsider's viewpoint. :) great to see this being dealt with at least in some manner. This harassment sounds terrible.
+Peter Lejeck The problem with that approach is that you get mired down in a discussion of whether or not some behavior is "excellent" instead of simply dealing with the issue.  NB has had mechanisms in place for removing people for quite some time, and people have blocked attempts to get rid of them.
"Sexual predators, harassers, off-color jokesters and casual misogynists" are extremely different degrees of offense. A sexual predator should be turned into the police immediately. I hope that was clarified by the group. Sounds like a practice is already in place where a member can ask someone to leave who is creating a problem for others and they must respect that request. To me, that should cover things nicely.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the problem with enumerating offensives is that these definitions are 1) subjective and 2) limiting.

Who gets to decide what is "off-color?" Seems to me answering that question alone could sidetrack a group and break it's peaceful anarchical existence.

"It wasn't a joke, it was just my opinion. There is no rule against that! The rule states no off-color jokes, not off-color opinions." (Before "Be excellent" covered it. Now, off-color jokes limits.)

There are all kinds of people with strongly held conviction of what is and what is not offensive. It is not possible to create an environment where everyone feels "free" and "comfortable." Consider the diversity of political opinion, gender preference, nationality, race, religious conviction, age, socioeconomic status and background, educational history, communication skills, etc., etc., and the calculate the likelihood of satisfying all of these many perspectives and deeply held convictions when it comes to simply defining 'word choice' and 'appropriateness.'

I assume every perspective is equally respected when it comes to defining what is right and wrong and good or bad? Or, does one group have a lock on the collective moral code?

If "be excellent to one another" isn't enough, we stand no chance. If someone is breaking the law, we must reinforce the value and importance of contacting the authorities. Beyond that, learning to express your needs effectively with others, learning to adapt to a diverse world, asking someone to leave temporarily (something already in place) and sometimes, finding a place more suitable to one's needs are all reasonable choices.

Gandhi advised us to "be the change you wish to see in the world" because that is truly the only way to bring change we wish to see. 
It's hilarious (and predictable) how the first comment completely affirms all the points in this post. I've only skimmed the rest of the comments, but I'm guessing they're the usual: "What about fake rape accusations?", "They just need to lighten up, it was just a joke.", "This is censorship and an attack on free speech!", and "You don't understand Noisebridge." tripe.

And since it's Noisebridge, any attempt to have rules will be protested with, "But rule enforcement and interpretation can be arbitrary and subjective!" at which point we go back to no rules at all, ignoring the fact that that necessarily means enforcement is entirely arbitrary and subjective. ("Be excellent!") Hence why abusive people can stay if they are popular members; social rank means everything at Noisebridge.

Noisebridge is dysfunctional, and has been for the past few years. Consensus means that a single individual gets dictatorial powers over the majority, to the point where the small anarchist contingent doesn't even have to actually block anything because most often the threat of blocking will keep things from going through the consensus process. So people circumnavigate it under the label of "do-acracy". It's no wonder that A) the unsolved problems Noisebridge has today are the same ones it had years ago and B) there is a lot of drama due to constant conflict that never has any closure.
It's kind of funny watching anarchists realizing that anarchy isn't really much fun for women.
Update: Tuesday night Noisebridge banned a convicted pedophile with a history of battering women.  Apparently, people had known that he was a registered sex offender for some time, but this issue only came to a head after he punched someone in the neck in the space.
I don't quite understand how this results in being banned from the space.  Why not charged with assault?
+Tom Cook Most NB members are unwilling to call the police, for a variety of reasons.
Do what you have to, but the behaviors detailed
 are unacceptable. If it were my decision, I'd shut the place down. I'm especially disappointed in Weev's actions in the situation.
+Kris Kirby If you're disappointed by Weev's actions here, you have clearly never met Weev.
I think I did once, but it's been a few years since I was out in Vegas.
I agree with +Kris Kirby -- I certainly would not go to such a place myself. Sounds to me like it's just not a good environment for anyone.
my support for you, as a hackerspace member (from Brasil, Garoa Hacker Clube) I know how you are feeling.
Is there anything I can do to help you?
Just went to my first event last night. Sad to hear there's such strife in the space. Hope I can help resolve the issues.
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