Codes of Conduct

Codes of Conduct

As a proponent of nonviolence, I see a lot of violence being employed in the hope of reducing the frequency and severity of interpersonal violence at e.g. conferences, community events or in team settings. This strikes me as ironic, and ultimately self-defeating.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t dispute for one moment that there’s an issue. Folks do get hurt. Sometimes egregiously. And not doing anything is no option for me. The question in my mind is, what to do?

Codes of conduct seem to be the approach of choice for many in this situation. I reject this, and its implicit violence. Here’s my (nonviolent) contribution:

This is not a code of conduct. That’s to say, it’s not a set of rules or mandated behaviours to which we would like you to conform.

We’ve heard stories of the hurt and pain that some folks have felt in a conference environment. We’d like to do what we can to reduce the chances of that happening at our conference. We’d also like to do what we can to to provide a space – literally and metaphorically – where people can get in touch with what’s alive in each other.

We don’t believe that obliging certain behaviours, and precluding others, contributes much, in a positive way, to the kind of space we wish to provide. And actively undermines getting in touch with what’s alive in us.

An Invitation

We simply invite you to be aware, take care of each other, and to have courage in supporting each other in all things. If you choose not to do that, that’s OK, too. We don’t want to tell anyone how to behave.

Despite our vigilance, fellowship, and active participation in taking care of each other, there may be a time where someone feels hurt. We will pass all potentially criminal acts on to the relevant law enforcement bodies. And medical situations on to local medical specialist. Short of that, we invite you to take care of all parties involved in the situation. And invite you to try to find a peaceful solution which meets everyone’s needs. We have skilled mediators on hot standby to help with that, if and when you choose to call on them.

What to do if you personally feel uncomfortable or hurt

We invite you to seek support. If you’re unsure just who to ask, your conference pack contains a list of folks that you can get in touch with directly for support.

What to do as staff or volunteer

We invite you to be aware, to take care of each other and the attendees, and to have courage in supporting each other in dealing with any conflicts or other issues that may arise. If you choose not to do that, that’s OK, too. We don’t want to tell you how to behave. We also invite you to become familiar with these guidelines, and with the names on the support contact list, in case anyone asks you.

See also
Nonviolent Communication
Restorative Justice
Due Process

Maybe the hardest thing is to empathise with, and, yes, to love, those folks who we see as the cause of hurt. That requires us to change our behaviours, not mandate theirs.

“When we listen for their feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.”

~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

– Bob

  1. I have duals feelings about this.

    I understand that forcing people to behave in certain ways feels violent.
    I think we both agree that certain behaviour is not acceptable.

    That makes me wonder, a law that forbids killing people, is that a violent law?

    It makes me think about conversations I am having with my children.

    Freedom of child 1, stops where the freedom of child 2 begins.
    And when I am protecting a child, by not allowing someone (another child or an adult) to hit the child. is that just protection of aggressive because I stop an arm or a fist in it’s path?

    (To be clear I’m not talking about shouting, or hitting back, I’m talking about stopping a fist from hitting a target.)

    A few months ago, I saw a small child (that I did not know) wondering across a street and a car was arriving at high speed, I ran across the street, took the child in my arms and put it at the other side, right on time to avoid the car.

    Another adult (that did not know the child either) , shouting at me, that I should not have done that, and that it was a violent action on the child.

    I agree on that. yet I would do it again.


    • Marshall Rosenberg writes about this dilemma, and concludes that he would choose to act urgently and unilaterally in what he regarded as the best interests of the child, temporarily setting aside issues of that child’s “rights” etc..

      In the context of conferences, do we wish to regard attendees as more-or-less vulnerable children, or as functioning adults? And does our choice here change our stance on unilateral action?

      – Bob

      • When an adult acts unresponsible at a conference, I will treat him like a child if he (or she) does not respect the other participants. For the same reasons as I will not respect the rights of a child when in danger.

  2. While I don’t think codes of conduct can solve the issue, I think it is a bit flippant to just suggest everyone either “call the police” or “forgive one another” or “just get over it”. I see these suggestions from those with the least invested who aren’t actually experiencing any of the problems.

    First, why am I even talking about this? After years of conferencing with nothing but minor rude comments and other crap everyone puts with up, I started getting relentless spamming on my blog. After trying several technologies to intervene, I finally took it down entirely, as there weren’t other options. I also got threats of violence to my private email including them letting me KNOW that they had my home address (at the time). This isn’t some trackable source that I can call the police about, and no, I didn’t actually think I was going to get attacked in person. But you can’t always be sure. Besides, should I have to actually put up with that just because of presenting at a few conferences? How insane! I can’t imagine if after years of things being pretty decent this started happening to a majority of the male presenters there would be such a disinterested and apathetic response from the males in the community about it.

    Now, I realize there has been some topic drift. We’ve gone from threats of violence and abuse, to opportunity, to the culture overall, and so on. On this one topic of actual threats of violence, we have to do better to protect each other than telling people to “call the police” or “forgive and stop judging”. Yes, there are some very sensitive people. There are also some brazen and violent people causing real harm. What I expect is for the men at the conferences to stop focusing about minor intellectual arguments and actually do something to make the conferences more safe for people. Don’t just blame people for acting like a victim or being judgmental if they were minding their own business, just trying to focus on their profession when they were attacked without any provocation. There really is a problem, and you don’t hear about even 1/8th of it. Very FEW women will ever talk about this because it costs you money and makes you more vulnerable to attack to speak up about it. Luckily, I’ve been saving my money for a long time, so it doesn’t threaten my very survival to speak up about why “just calling the police” isn’t an option.

    Yes, the code of conduct isn’t likely to make a big difference in my opinion. What would? What would you actually do except for complain about what others are trying to make things better?

    Also, I’m upset about all of this unfairness, but I’m not upset at you, so if it comes across that way, please understand that it is just a frustrating situation. I’m not trying to dump my emotions on other people who are trying to be helpful.

    • I hardly know what to say, but I’m really glad you posted your comment.

      I hope my latest post: “What is Nonviolence” might help in some small way to explain where i was coming from with this post.

      – Bob

      • Thanks. I did read it. I hope that you and some of the other men talking about this can understand that it makes some of us feel that you do not care or understand when the only complaints we hear are when something might impact you personally. I don’t think you actually are dismissing the problems or are blaming those it has happened to. It can seem that way initially, without having more insight into why you are against the code of conduct.

        What may not be obvious is that the people who’ve been impacted by this have been dealing with it sometimes up to many years now, and some in ways they have been unable to evade or ignore. If you have not had to personally deal with any of this yet, it is hard to understand how tiring and isolating it is to hear people who it isn’t impacting discuss it like it is some abstract mental debate and not a series of unwelcome and intentionally negative events forced upon real people, who have no choice but to experience it in some way, however they decide to react. The impact of a code of conduct is small compared with the problems that caused them to become common. I don’t even believe the Code of Conduct policies intend to fix the issue, but are made in hope of preventing more negative incidents.

        If I had no stake in this, if it wasn’t something I had to deal with already, I’d never mention it again. The entire topic is upsetting and fraught with peril. As a man to speak up about this risks you looking uncaring and cold with very little benefit to you. Because you have said something in an attempt to help, I respect that you are trying to add positive ideas and solve a problem. Your courage to talk about it is why I tried to explain my perspective. I can’t speak for what it is like to have been physically attacked or to have lost my job/clients due to standing up for myself or trying to address the problems I ran into trying to participate in conferences and blogs.

        Thank you for discussing this with me and for reacting with openness and without being defensive. It does help.

    • >What would?
      For me a big part of the solution, is everyone else stating over and over again that the person is misbehaving. or yes involving police when it’s criminal behaviour.

      Maybe I’m just to privileged and naYves to think that this would help. yet not doing that surely makes the situation worse. and that for me has to stop. (And yes I’m part of the problem, as I did not always react when I should have.)

      • In my case, I can’t involve the police when I get anonymous email threats. It isn’t actually illegal to insult, berate, and threaten someone without action. They can take a report about it? I think a much better solution in that case is I need a way to silently block all of the spam and insults. It wasn’t as simple as just blocking an IP or any one keyword as at the time all of my attempts to block were easily worked around by whomever wanted to insult me. I think it was just trolling.

        We all have bias. It isn’t a gender thing or whatever. We all have to help each other to make things better as it is just wrong that so many people have to deal with this. Somewhere between having no standards and no support, and just ignoring threats and abuse, and the extreme where everyone has to walk on eggshells or be afraid of someone jumping all over them based on perception of a remark there is a reasonable balance. In the past, whatever the majority felt was acceptable was allowed, and if you had a problem with it, don’t go to conference. I think that attitude is still pervasive. That it doesn’t matter if it is unsafe as long as it doesn’t get in the way of doing what we want to do. That is not a good environment for balanced participation.

        +3 points for your awesome pun! I see you there, being amusing with language. 🙂

  3. I had to look up what you ment with my play with language.
    It’s one of my favourite ways of describing me, because I am extremely naive. And usually that is a good thing. On topics like these, it’s less good.

    I agree that with anonymous e-mail threads, the police can’t really do much. yet maybe we should have a place where people like you can report these, to show the who big the problem really is.

    Similar to the tweets recently about DailySexism and DistractinglySexy.

    I’m not sure how to publish them, because I’m sure that the abusers would abuse the system too.

  4. About the comments of you blog, I did not get that. My blog blocks all comments by default. (Just like Bob’s here)
    And I have to approve them, or I select people I trust that are pre-apposed.

    I would still see them, and I can imagine that might be too much, yet at least my blog would not show them and I assumed that would remove these people from keep doing this. I guess that is again to NaYves…

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