Uncomfortable Attention at WordCamps

I wanted to follow up on what I talked about yesterday. I think the Women in WordPress topic is important and I'd like to continue to roll out my thoughts as I process them. While reading Sarah Pressler's post about WordCamps for Women I get the impression that some people don't like being offended and mean to create environments where it's impossible to be offended.

Being Uncomfortable

Before anything can be comfortable it has to be uncomfortable. It's a part of life. There isn't anything wrong feeling uncomfortable. Just about anything you say will make someone else uncomfortable. It could be a particular word you say, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the exercise you do (or don't do), the people you hang out with, your favorite color, your faith, your sexual orientation, your hygiene, or just about anything really.

Minimizing Uncomfortableness

By definition feeling uncomfortable isn't pleasant and so we take steps to minimize this feeling. This isn't a gender issue it's an every day issue with every action we take. And it actually reminds me of my favorite (sarcasm) Megyn Kelly quote:

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it has to change.”
Megyn Kelly

Now I obviously disagree with this quote. We should make efforts to make sure that people feel comfortable but when this involves two or more people you have to balance one persons' liberties against another. This get's incredibly complex really fast.

  • How bad do you have to smell before getting kicked out?
  • How many f-bombs are allowed per conference?
  • Are you going to ban the topic of hunting because of the PETA member in the audience?

All of these are silly examples but they're all ways someone could easily get offended or feel uncomfortable.

Add Rules

One solution is to litigate the crap out of everything. We could come up with an f-bombs per WordCamp limit and enforce it. But what good does that do us? Do we have this much of a problem with being offended?

I don't believe we're there yet. We should strive to create an environment for everyone knowing that no matter how hard we try some number of people will be offended.

Evaluate on a Case by Case Basis

What I'd prefer is to have everyone evaluate each other on a case by case basis. When you realize you're not going to enjoy this persons company then either let them know their attitude has to change or leave them and find someone else to talk to.

This gives people the most liberty. They can talk about whatever you want with whoever you want assuming they want to stand in the same room as you. Great. If people want to talk about politics, religion, or sex great! I don't think any of that should be banned. Most people are pretty smart about sending and receiving signals and can figure out when to continue down a certain path and when to stop. Of course alcohol does make this a bit trickier.

I actually like what Sarah said at the end of her article that she wants to have her husband around. That's another great solution – it's a non-verbal way to let people know that you're already taken.

And if you still don't feel comfortable at a WordCamp then I encourage you to create your own or to help organize an existing one. Create a WordCamp for women or a WordCamp for people who aren't interested in hookups. That's the great thing about WordPress and this community that you're allowed to create whatever you want. You don't need my permission to make yourself feel comfortable.

3 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Attention at WordCamps

  1. I don’t agree with liking the part about her husband. It’s great if she wants her husband around because she wants her husband around, but there is no reason she should feel she has to have him around to “let people know” or for any type of protection. Women shouldn’t need to feel reliant on a male in any way. I hope this wouldn’t deter her from coming to a WordCamp if her husband couldn’t make it in the future. Yes, uncomfortability is inevitable at times but not to that level, in my opinion.

    • Thanks for chiming in Dustin! I certainly don’t think anyone should have to have a partner around just to show they’re taken. But it is an elegant solution to prevent people from hitting on you. I can’t think of a more tactful way of doing it.

      • I figured you weren’t saying the should have to. I don’t like thinking people may feel that way though. Perhaps others should step up if they notice this happening. It’s a hard problem to address.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.