food for thought: being safe(r) spaces

This week I have a handful of links related to making our workplaces for comfortable and safe for everyone.

First up, if you have it in your budget, please consider donating to support two librarians — on Canadian, one in the U.S. — who are being sued for defamation after speaking up about being sexually harassed by a prominent male colleague. As Barbara Fister @ Library Babel Fish explains:

A Canadian librarian, along with one who lives in the American Midwest, are being sued in Canada for $1.25 million by an American librarian named Joe Murphy, who I have never met but who is fairly well known as a conference speaker. He’s also well known because he’s one of those conference speakers who women warn one another about. This kind of thing surprises some people who can’t imagine that a female-dominated profession like mine has a harassment problem, but it does, and a lot of us got an education about how widespread it is when the American Library Association passed a code of conduct, which I support whole-heartedly. Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus are women who write publicly and speak their minds fearlessly. They put in writing (in a Tweet and in a blog post) stuff I’ve been hearing for quite some time. Now they are facing a massive lawsuit which they are handling bravely. I can’t imagine how stressful this is for them. What I can imagine all too well is that the chilling effect of this lawsuit. It’s never easy to confront men who harass women. It’s never easy to share such information, except perhaps in whispers. But we need to stand up for the right to do so without fear of being sued for a ridiculous amount of money.

I don’t know Joe Murphy and all I knew about him was his reputation, which the lawsuit claims has been damaged by Rabey and de jesus, even though that damage actually happened long before they put anything in writing. (And if you think we shouldn’t talk about this because he’s innocent until proven guilty, remember this is not a criminal case and he is not a defendant, as de jesus has so lucidly explained.) It could be that he has been unfairly maligned for the past few years. But in a profession that’s all about the value of sharing information and protecting access to multiple perspectives, this isn’t how you defend your reputation. You engage. You discuss. You listen. You try to figure stuff out. You don’t attempt to silence people with punitive legal actions. If you do, you are doing it wrong.

Related to this case (hashtag #teamharpy), Andrew Day shared the Radical Librarians Collective safe space policy, which I have added to my growing collection of code of conduct / comment policy / safe space policy / civility policy frameworks:

The basic tenet is respect – respect each other (our backgrounds, identities, ideas and bodies) – and respect the space we’ve created together. Here it goes…

  • Everyone has an equal right to be heard and an equal responsibility to listen (people who are used to talking may feel the benefit of listening more, and vice versa).
  • Respect and look after the building as a physical space and a resource for all.
  • However strongly you feel about a particular topic, resist abusive discussions.
  • Any behaviour – physical or verbal – that demeans, marginalises or dominates others, or perpetuates hierarchies, is not welcome.
  • Identify your own privileges – the things that sometimes give you an easier ride than others – and actively challenge them.
  • Be aware of the range of different identities (gender, race, class) that people may identify with, and avoid making generalisations, or assumptions about people.
  • Be aware that anyone in the space could be a survivor of a particular form of oppression, for example, violence or racism.
  • If someone is feeling uncomfortable, do not hesitate to raise this.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge prejudice & oppression, and if we ignore it we are complicit in it.

This list is not exhaustive and it is up to all of us to help create a space where everyone feels safe and included.

And two pieces on the importance of being mindful about human gender and sexual diversity at work:

Jessica Lachenal @ The Bold Italic on her experience of working while trans* in the tech industry:

I wish I’d stood up for myself and my community against these microaggressions that are so pervasive in tech. They exist everywhere, like getting thrown on a mailing list where the engineering lead opens every email with “gents,” even though he knows I identify as a woman, or being greeted with downturned eyes and quickly hushed conversations when I pass. Or overhearing people casually use the word “tranny” and then observing their resistance when someone else explains to them why that’s inappropriate. There was also the time an engineer was telling some not-so-female-friendly jokes, and he followed up his remarks with a “What? There’s no women here … oh, sorry, Jessica.”

And Stonewall (UK) @ The Biscuit on workplace biphobia:

While lesbians, gay and bisexual people share some experiences there are also tensions, sometimes because gay men and lesbians are outright hostile towards bisexual people. While some gay people are quick to highlight and challenge homophobia they apply a different set of standards to biphobia, with comments like “You’re not bi, you’re just too scared to say you’re gay” and “Bisexuals are just greedy” going unchallenged – or actually being said – by them. Unsurprisingly this attitude deters bisexual people from accessing their own network, leaving them isolated. YouGov polling for Stonewall found that 60 per cent of bi men and 37 per cent of bi women were not out to any of their colleagues, compared to 15 per cent of gay men and six per cent of lesbians. Given that people perform better when they can be themselves, the personal impact on bisexual people is enormous, not to mention on the toll it takes on their productivity, as people focus on avoiding being identified as bisexual rather than straight or gay.

ICYMI, I also wanted to give a shout-out for one of my other current projects, Queer!NEA — the official blog of New England Archivists’ LGBTQ Issues Roundtable. You can also find us on Twitter @queernea. We’re currently providing a steady stream (2 posts per day) of LGBTQ-related links, with a particular focus on New England and/or archives and history; in the works are longer-format Q&A with archivists and scholars working in queer history and with queer collections. You’re welcome to follow us passively or get involved if it sounds like your cup of tea.

Relatedly, I’d love to have Amiable volunteers to curate a weekly links list! If you would be willing to spend a week collecting links from your RSS feeds related to marginalization and inclusion in the workplace, I’d love to bring a little more diversity to this series. Drop me a line at

One thought on “food for thought: being safe(r) spaces

  1. Wade says:

    I really like the phrasing of, “Identify your own privileges – the things that sometimes give you an easier ride than others – and actively challenge them.” I greatly prefer this to the more common colloquial, “check your privilege.” The reason being is that it’s pretty difficult for one to just leave their privilege at the door before engaging others. I think that it’s rather bound up in identity for a great many people. I much prefer the idea of identifying and challenging, because instead of trying to ignore or leave out part of one’s background in a discussion, engagement, or space, this encourages people to question what privilege may or may not mean to their identity, which I would argue can lead to both professional and personal growth. Just my two cents.


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