I’m scared to go to OSCON or the Community Leadership Summit this year.
After I was assaulted last year, an awful lot of people pointed out that if I go into dangerous situations, I should expect bad things to happen, and that if I don’t want bad things to happen, I shouldn’t go into dangerous situations.
I was harassed at OSCON & CLS last year. I got a lot of grief after I wrote about my experience at ApacheCon. And I fully expect that some of the people responsible for both of those things will be at OSCON & CLS this year.
I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that I’ll be able to get through this year’s conference without being harassed again, and O’Reilly don’t seem to be willing to assure me that I’m wrong. But worse, I genuinely get the impression that if anything does go wrong, if I do get harassed, that O’Reilly don’t want to know, they don’t care, and they won’t do anything to help me, to help prevent it happening again, to help prevent it happening to someone else.
A very smart friend of mine reminded me that fear is not a good driver, and suggested that I consider whether OSCON is valuable and whether I can send a positive message by attending.
I’ve been looking forward to speaking. My slides have been rewritten from a previous version of this talk that was very well received, and I think they’re a really good deck. It’s a topic I care about, and I love being able to share my knowledge. Plus, I’m expecting a couple of potential employers to be there, as well as many friends.
And aside from that, there are so many talks I want to see, often several at once! There are people I want to catch up with, and parties I’m looking forward to. So yeah, OSCON is valuable to me.
Can I send a positive message? I’m not sure. I’ve seen the research, and I know from my own experience, that open source events and projects need more role models, and need more women as role models. And frankly, I don’t want people who’ve gone through things like I did at ApacheCon to think that it’s “ok, game over, I can’t go to industry events any more”. That’s not true; I’ve been to and enjoyed many conferences since then. But OSCON is a big event, and it’s a big message to send.
On the other hand, I really don’t want my attendance to be taken as a message of “everything is fine here”. I don’t want to be held up as a statistic, as an example of “plenty of women speaking at OSCON”.
So, on that front, I don’t know if I can send a positive message. I’m just not sure.
I don’t feel safe going to OSCON, and I want your advice.
Is this a dark alley that I should stay out of? Or is there some reason you think I’m wrong, and that I’ll be safe at OSCON?
And to those of you who’ve offered to join my posse, I’m grateful, but I was assaulted at ApacheCon in a bar with dozens of my friends, so I don’t assume that even the best posse will keep me safe.