Unsolved problems

I saw a lot of pain yesterday. I will see more pain today.

Pain from women saying that it’s back to the whisper network for them. Pain from women acknowledging the many faults of whisper networks.

Pain from women who do not want to be chilled — and who yet find themselves in the far north, with the wolves circling.

Pain from women who have seen their colleagues fail them before, and before, and before — and who have less hope now that the future of libraries will be any better.

Pain from women who fear that licenses were issued yesterday — licenses to maintain the status quo, licenses to grind away the hopes and dreams of those women in libraries who want to change the world (or who simply want to catalog books in peace and go home at the end of the day).

Above all, pain from women whose words are now constrained by the full force of the law — and who are now the target of every passerby who has much time and little empathy.

I will speak plainly: Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus did a brave thing, a thing that could never have rebounded to their personal advantage no matter the outcome of the lawsuit. I respect them, and I wish them whatever peace they can find after this.

I will speak bluntly to men in the library profession: regardless of what you think of the case that ended yesterday — regardless of what you think of Joe Murphy’s actions or of the actions of Team Harpy — sexual harassment in our profession is real; the pain our colleagues experience due to it is real.

It remains an unsolved problem.

It remains our unsolved problem.

We must do our part to fix it.

Not sure how? Neither am I. But at least as librarians and library workers, we have access to plenty of tools to learn, to listen.

Time to roll up our sleeves.

CC BY-NC 4.0 Unsolved problems by Galen Charlton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

6 thoughts on “Unsolved problems

  1. [Comment from an IP address in a netblock belonging to Euro RSCG Healthview, Inc. removed. Your humble blog operator notes that Euro RSCG Healthview is a marketing firm and a member of a conglomerate, Havas Worldwide, that includes “reputation management” among its services. I didn’t realize I needed the scent of astroturf this morning… and come to think of it, I still don’t need it. I regretfully must decline your invitation to perform anatomically difficult acts on myself, but I am nonetheless hanging onto it for the sake of posterity.]

  2. Well said. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this all day and these are the best comments I’ve read thus far.

  3. [Your message of 100% faux agreement, I see through it! Also, I’m pretty sure that reclaiming homophobic slurs doesn’t in fact work that way. Props for using Tor, though!]

  4. One thing I didn’t really see discussed during the whole thing was useful tools for action in the moment. Perhaps concrete discussion of how to respond to unwanted advances or touching would be useful. “No, I’m not interested.” “Please stop touching me.”

    I understand the issues in focusing on the target rather than the perpetrator, but with skeeviness like the stories being told in this case, the perpetrator thrives on the unwillingness of so many women to just speak directly to what he’s doing. (I’ve been one of those women.)

    1. One good resource I’ve found for tools and policies for addressing harassment at conferences is the Geek Feminism wiki. The Ada Initiative runs Ally Skills Workshops that look useful (I’m hoping to attend one in due course). Andromeda Yelton’s blog post about the American Librarian Association code of conduct is also useful.

      I can’t speak to what women should be doing in the moment when they get harassed — all I know is that more men need to know what to look for and how to respectfully and usefully intervene.

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