If you repeatedly behave around women in ways that cause you to contact them privately to discuss whether they were inappropriate, you are not supporting women in tech by continuing to place yourself in situations where this occurs.
Jeremy Dunck is active in several women in tech communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. In discussion among women in tech, we discovered that he has sent inappropriate private emails and direct messages to several different women active in these communities. Each of these emails by itself was perceived by the recipient anywhere from merely odd to creepy and somewhat threatening (and in one case was cc’d to the recipient’s manager). Jeremy demonstrated his awareness of the inappropriate nature of his communications by saying that he thought it might be inappropriate, asking for feedback, and/or apologizing.
Taken as a group, the emails form a clear pattern of repeated inappropriate behavior presented as accidents, apologies, or even ally work. We already banned Jeremy Dunck from Double Union, but his continued inappropriate behavior towards women in the Bay Area tech community after this ban convinced us that we should share the written correspondence we have gathered outside of Double Union. The emails and direct messages via Twitter are anonymized to protect the recipients as best as we can and quoted in full at: https://gist.github.com/doubleunionboard/9222410
If you are the target of creepy behavior in women in tech communities
If you have had a creepy experience with a person involved in women in tech communities, you are not alone. If you ask around in your community, you will likely find other people with similar experiences with the same person. There is nothing magical about communities for women in tech that prevents creepy or abusive people of any gender from joining them.
In fact, any situation that allows people to be in a position of power over women and/or marginalized people (such as mentorship or volunteer coding workshops) is likely to attract creepy or abusive people. If your organization serves women in tech and/or marginalized people, we argue that your organization has a specific responsibility to screen for, detect, and eject creepy or abusive people. We highly recommend reading “The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities”.
If you are a man worried that you may be unintentionally creepy to women in the tech community
We understand that it is likely that some men who support women in tech may read this post and feel concerned that they may be unintentionally making women in tech uncomfortable too (and as a result may be ejected from some women in tech community). We believe that Jeremy was aware of the inappropriate nature of his behavior based on the emails and direct messages collected at: https://gist.github.com/doubleunionboard/9222410
However, if you are concerned about your own behavior, here are some suggestions on how to avoid unintentionally making women in tech feel uncomfortable:
- Do not mentor or volunteer to work with women in tech until you have confidence you are able to act appropriately most of the time.
- Do not make unsolicited offers to help, advise, or collaborate with women in tech.
- Do not contact women in tech privately without establishing a reciprocal relationship with them in a public forum first.
- Do not make sexual advances to women you learn of through women in tech communities.
Instead, support women in tech in ways that do not require personal interaction with women in tech until you have the confidence that you can behave appropriately around them.
If you want to support women in tech by personally interacting with them as a mentor or volunteer, first make a concerted effort to acquire the skills necessary to avoid unintentionally making the people you are trying to help uncomfortable. Do this by reading books, taking training classes, finding online resources, or paying for professional counseling - but not by asking women in tech to counsel, train, or teach you for free. A good place to start is the Geek Feminism Wiki: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com
“Feminist hackerspaces are not finishing schools.” -Anonymous Feminist
- Double Union board members