Yesterday, I had the misfortune of entering a discussion with Asher Wolf right before she quit CryptoParty. Here’s the backstory that I was operating with when I checked in on something on Twitter.
A few days ago, Asher was tweeting about how she was unable to attend #29c3 because her talk was rejected. I heard claims that the CCC was sexist, and having known people who are female, feminists, and parents who have talked at past congresses and camps, I knew that this couldn’t be the case unless things went way off the rails. I posted an open tweet because this just seemed bizzare, and I got some feedback. I came to the conclusion that there was something else wrong with the submission, and that things were lost in translation and forgot about it. I’m fiercely loyal to the CCC, since they flew me to Camp back in 2011 and allowed me to talk about the RCMP and State Surveillance, and since they have a history of doing extremely important work.
Then, earlier today, I saw yet another tweet by Asher about CCC being sexist. She shared a link to the popcccorn.de blog, which seems to be documentation of the sexism that happens at CCC. I feel that this is disingenuous since it just shows that sexism happened. Even though I’m a white male, I still believe that sexism happens everywhere, and that the world and even the CCC isn’t a vacuum. The question should be how does the CCC handle the sexism, namely how is the policy enforced. The CCC has an Anti-Harassment Policy, and this Anti-Harassment Policy can also extend to the web by sending an e-mail to CCC. This isn’t the be all and end all, but given that people have fought for that Anti-Harassment Policy, it’s important to actually give the conference a fighting chance to enforce this policy to see if it’s not just bullshit, otherwise what is the point of having this policy to begin with.
At any rate, I suggested these solutions, and of course I was then told by Asher that it wasn’t her problem. I personally believe that it’s everyone’s department to deal with harassment, especially if you’re the party that is offended. I’m irritated that some of the attendees of #29c3 sunk to the level that DEFCON. However, to just throw mud at the CCC instead of actually sending a e-mail that takes a minute so that the administrators could lock a wiki article is stupid. If they do nothing, than by all means.
Of course, since I didn’t know the massive backstory about how shitty the CryptoParty organizers were to Asher, and how bullying and bullshit were what really caused Asher to not make it to #29c3, not the strength of the presentation. The thing is that if I knew this earlier, I wouldn’t have called Asher petty for what I thought was just someone smearing the CCC because their talk wasn’t accepted. It’s very easy for something to sound like sour grapes without knowing all of the facts, and I apologize for calling that out when that wasn’t the case. However, I still stand behind my statement that harassment should be reported.
Now, as for my thoughts on Asher Wolf leaving Cryptoparty, I think it’s a good thing. The reason I believe it’s a good thing is because it’s a wake up call as to who is being served by having these CryptoParties. I’ve been at two CryptoParties so far, and it so often feels like preaching to the converted. I don’t like teaching GPG/PGP because it sucks and is hard for people to use, and often the talks diverge to non-practical solutions, such as BitCoin.
My main motivation to host CryptoParty comes from the what got me spied on by the RCMP, which is teaching activists cryptographic tools to allow them to resist the state. These activists recently do things like participate in #IdleNoMore, fight the Enbridge Pipeline, or engage in other actions that directly confront the state. However, I personally don’t think that I’ve helped anyone in these causes by sitting in the Vancouver Hack Space and talking about Wikileaks or Anonymous or BitCoin. The fact is that there are real people on the ground who need these tools, and they don’t have them, and based on this, I consider CryptoParty a failed model for these people to get these tools, because they have to want to go to CryptoParty and have to deal with people who care more about Silk Road than about what happens when the cops come knocking on the door. I may be wrong and the next CryptoParty may be better, but so far from my experience this isn’t the case.
But the reason I think it’s good that Asher is leaving is that she’s finally standing up to all the bullies. While I disagree with her being in control of something decentralized, I still think that it’s shitty that she was bullied out of going to #29c3 by people who helped write a talk and that people don’t think that she is qualified to talk about CryptoParty, since they seemed to have missed the point as to what CryptoParty was supposed to be about in the first place. I just wish I knew who more of these people were, but I can understand the reluctance to name names.
tldr; everyone needs to step up and say that this behaviour isn’t acceptable. We’re adults, and we should all act like it.