I am likely one of a very few people who has nosebleed seats to the goings on in three different communities right now. I say nosebleed because I’m not closely involved in any one of these controversies, but because of my spiritual, avocational, and professional histories, I remain connected to these communities.
So in no particular order, here we go:
Drupal is an open source CMS that I used to build websites with. It has a large vibrant community of developers (of which I used to be a part) who contribute to it, and advance it, and just basically make it run well, and build cool stuff with it. Like many open-source communities, it has a “Benevolent Dictator for Life,” generally the person who started the whole thing in the first place. Over the past few weeks, a very long-time contributor to the project, named Larry Garfield (also known as crell) was asked to leave his leadership position by Dries Buytaert, Drupal’s BDFL. In the beginning, it seemed that the issue had to do with Larry’s particular BDSM lifestyle, but later, after the unveiling of DrupalConfessions, it has appeared that there may well be more to it than that. Again, I can’t really say, because, nosebleed. But it has left the Drupal community in disarray.
A few weeks ago, the UUA President, Peter Morales, resigned just ahead of the end of his term, because of a controversy relating to the hiring of yet another white guy to lead the Southern District, when there was (at least) one woman of color who was eminently qualified for the post. There has been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth, as well as three amazing people stepping up to lead the UUA at this time, and, of course, some backlash about the co-presidents (and some wonderful responses to the backlash.)
OdysseyCon and the science fiction writing community.
One of the guests of honor to OdysseyCon emailed the organizers to express that the guest liaison is someone who is a known sexual harasser, and she didn’t feel safe. And the OdysseyCon concom (convention committee) poured salt on the wound by not listening, then she, and finally all of the guests of honor pulled out. And now everyone is talking about it. I would not say that the SF community is roiling in the same way.
What’s interesting to me in my nosebleed perspective is how similar these are to each other, even though they are completely different. They certainly are eliciting similar emotions on both sides of the controversies. There are definitely conversations about safety, who feels safe, who is safe. One could say that all of these are just about white men acting badly. But, on top there are issues of who has power and why. It’s more dimensional than that, of course, but power, whether it be the power to hire and fire, the power to make big decisions for a community, or the power to allow certain voices and disallow others is something few want to give up when they have it, and, predominantly, white men have it.
We’re in for a rough patch, I think. We are “led” by a group of basically unabashed white male heterosexual supremacists, and having to deal with that and then deal with it in the communities we might be involved with is a double whammy. And the problem is, this is not likely to get better. Because of the current administration, some people now believe that they don’t have to worry about their behavior. They can complain about people who are being “PC.” Be careful out there.