When the Loon was a fledgling, she partook of a hobby involving get-togethers with lots of strangers—not conferences, but not entirely unlike conferences either. She traveled to one such get-together with a trusted adult couple, one of whom gave her a lengthy and rather fierce warning about sexual conduct—she wasn’t the Loon-chick’s guardian and knew it, so she couldn’t stop the Loon-chick doing as she pleased, but if anyone made the Loon-chick nervous or would not back off, the Loon-chick could and should come straight to her for help. The Loon-chick nodded and mumbled thanks, rather taken aback at the vehemence on display, not in the least understanding it. (Yes, the Loon-chick was blessedly naïve, having had sufficient privilege and luck to live her life largely free of specifically sexual threats up to that time.)
In point of fact, nothing of a nervous-making nature happened and the Loon-chick had a lovely time, but in hindsight, the Loon appreciates both warning and promise much more now than she did then. Something very well could have happened, from uncomfortable to outright terrifyingly criminal. (At one other get-together of the same type, the Loon recalls being the target of one rather sketchy occurrence. Fortunately, it was immediately called out by others present, and had no sequelae. The Loon-chick was undoubtedly a lucky and well-looked-after Loon-chick.) If the Loon-chick had been targeted, given her utter lack of experience in such matters she would not have had the least idea what to do—except that she’d been told, explicitly, that she had recourse.
It strikes the Loon as a very good and worthwhile thing to tell people at risk of harassment or worse that they have recourse. Even if they are too inexperienced, and not wired enough into whisper networks surrounding untrustworthy individuals (which the Loon has seen in action within librarianship; whisper networks are not by any means limited to tech or geek environs), to believe anything bad could happen. Especially if they are. Bad things happen—well, no, they don’t just happen, people do bad things to other people. At least some of these bad things are sufficiently clearly patterned to call out specifically, and forbid, and offer recourse and ideally redress for.
For that reason alone—telling people who may be or have been hurt that they have recourse—the Loon would be pleased to see anti-harassment codes of conduct at library conferences. For that reason alone, she endorses their enactment.
Now that the Loon is rather older, she identifies ruefully with the woman who gave her fledgling-self that warning, so long ago. She has younger folk to worry about among her students, all of whom she encourages (as she must) to attend library conferences. And worry about her conference-going students—even warn, on one specific occasion—the Loon absolutely does. Not a few of the Loon’s younger students are as inexperienced and rose-colored-glasses-wearing as the erstwhile Loon-chick was; they haven’t any idea anything could go wrong, much less anything targeted at them specifically. No one they know may have shared experiences of harassment with them; even if someone has (and the Loon occasionally tells them her own stories, though obliquely), they more often than not dismiss it as an anomaly or an easily-shrugged-off bagatelle, certainly nothing that would ever seriously concern or harm them, not now, today.
Bluntly: the Loon is part of the whisper network, because there are a very few librarians and library technologists whose behavior in the Loon’s presence does not incline the Loon to trust them to treat a young, conventionally-attractive female professional like a human being rather than an object of either aggressive sexual interest or airy dismissive scorn. There are a few more the Loon would not trust to treat a queer person like a human being. And just because the Loon cannot presently think of any professional acquaintances capable of consciously racist acts hardly means that there are none. The thought of one of these people hurting one of her students is enough to set every last one of the Loon’s feathers on end. And it damned well could happen; the Loon can’t go to every conference her students do, and even if she could, she couldn’t carry them on her back like new hatchlings.
The Loon has enough worries about her students and then some. She would dearly love this worry to go away. There is encouraging early evidence that codes of conduct reduce harassing activity (beak-tip to Coral Sheldon-Hess) in addition to providing clear recourse for the harassed.
For her students’ sake, then, the Loon endorses anti-harassment codes of conduct, and applauds library conferences that have them, as well as the people who work to enact them.
- Anticipating 2014
- Why ALA?