Disappointing linux.conf.au keynote

The linux.conf.au anti-harassment policy states:

Harassment includes:

  • sexual images in public spaces

Yet Friday morning’s keynote, Mark Pesce, progressively violated this policy, starting with comic sexual images and culminating with a soft-core, lesbian bondage photograph.

Sorry, a “PG-13” rating does not excuse this behaviour. Yes they were wearing lingerie, it’s still pornographic. And for those who are going to continue to insist it wasn’t: the porny presso bingo card (via Skud).

Update: the chief linux.conf.au organiser made an apology for this morning’s keynote during the closing ceremony.

Author: Danielle

Danielle is an Australian software engineer, computer scientist and feminist. She doesn't really work on GNOME any more (sadly). Opinions and writing are solely her own and so not represent her employer, the GNOME Foundation, or anyone else but herself.

12 thoughts on “Disappointing linux.conf.au keynote”

  1. It has been raised with the organisers, but so far the response has been disappointing and the problem deflected. As many people as possible should raise this issue so that the organisers unequivocally know that it’s unacceptable.

  2. You’re right. A policy was broken and an apology was given.

    Does it really warrant an outraged blog post, smearing LCA as sexist? I don’t think that’s an appropriate response.

    If I was offended by a talk I would talk first to the speaker, and if I was uncomfortable doing that, I would have a quiet word with the organisers. I think it’s unhelpful to punish LCA and tech conferences for something which is ultimately out of their direct control by heaping moral outrage onto the internets.

  3. This issue has to be raised again and again until the people responsible for these events learn to apologise. People who apologize for their own conduct (and not for “unintended offence”) rarely repeat.

    There was a useful article in Linux Magazine by Bruce Byfield at http://www.linux-magazine.com/Online/Blogs/Off-the-Beat-Bruce-Byfield-s-Blog/Documenting-and-challenging-community-misogyny

    The (broken) link to the Timeline of Incidents at the Geek Feminism Wiki is a pointer to an excellent and growing resource http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents – in fact you could complete the Bingo right now.

  4. @Tom: I don’t believe I called l.c.a anything. I only said this took place at l.c.a.

    Via a representative, we did talk to the organisers, and to Linux Australia. However you propose to then sweep the issue under the carpet, but by doing this other people won’t realise what an incipient problem this is. People need to realise that these things still happens at technical conferences, and that it is completely unacceptable.

    You might like to read Why We Document on the GeekFeminism blog.

  5. Thank you so much for having the guts to take a public stand against this sort of thing. Individuals and organizations that take part in such behavior deserve shame at least as public as their behavior was. Talking to the presenter or having a “quiet word with the organisers” will do little to solve the real problem, which is recurrent harassment and misogyny in these communities. Without a *public* outcry, incontrovertibly inappropriate behavior like this sends the message that bad behavior will be tolerated.

    Feminism isn’t the only movement that opposes this sort of stuff. I believe most people would agree that Pesce’s actions were inappropriate. Unfortunately, these people are typically silent because so many in the opposition publicly and loudly intimidate and abuse anyone who disagrees with them.

    The use of such images is degrading to everyone involved (I’m assuming genders here, but the same could apply if the genders were switched): (1) The depicted individuals are devalued and objectified—their immeasurable and innate worth as a human individual completely ignored; (2) The presenter broadcasts his low self-esteem, telling the audience that he does not believe he can give a worthwhile presentation and that he needs to use titillation to make up for it; (3) The female audience endures the false assertion that their only value is in their ability to sexually arouse others and in their willingness to do so; (4) The male audience receives another blow against the proper way to regard females and the proper way to behave in public, and they also experience damaging PHYSICAL ALTERATION to several areas of the brain, including those that control pleasure, empathy, morals, and behavior.

  6. Thanks for bringing this out. Hopefully, the person will realize his responsibility as a speaker of taking care about the sentiments of each and every listener before doing any such thing again.
    I personally would have thought twice before attending a conference if there was a possibility of facing such embarrassing situation.

  7. Atleast one article says he made it clear the talk will use profanity. It would have been a good time for you to walk out.

  8. @Simon: I have no issue with profanity. I do not have delicate ears. There are a few pejoratives used to oppress minorities that I strongly believe people outside those minorities don’t get to use, but that’s it.

    However, warning that you’re going to show images “not suitable for children” does not make it ok to show sexual images. The harassment policy does not have a caveat “as long as everyone’s ok with it”. And had he done a show of hands, he would have learned not everyone was going to be ok with it. Had every person (note it was not just the woman who found the image inappropriate) left, would you believe then that the keynote was a demonstratively hostile environment?

  9. Danielle – I didn’t get to attend linux.conf.au but I was disappointed to read about what you experienced. The imagery used seems absolutely inappropriate for any conference.

    I’m glad the organisers made an apology but it seems their response may have been later than you would think reasonable.

    Goon on you for raising the issue!

  10. @Simon, “It would have been a good time for you to walk out” explains exactly why this kind of discrimination is so unacceptable. Yes, I or anyone else can follow your advice and walk out – accepting exclusion, denial of opportunity, minimization of influence, etc, etc, etc.

    Walking out is the most effective acceptance of discrimination and oppression.

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Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Australia
This work by Danielle Madeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Australia.