Making a Group Safe for Anonymous Walk-Ins
June 15, 2018 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning on starting a quirky meetup group for a theme that traditionally attracts lots of poorly socialized dudes, and I would ideally want people to be able to just show up without being screened. Are there ways that I can signal it's a good/safe space for women and also make it actually safe?

I'm a dude. So, basically, I don't want a woman to show up and then, say, three people ask her for her phone number, or a creepy dude follows her outside when a group meeting is over, etc. I can't imagine all the more subtle things that would be gross, and I can't imagine the full list of worst-case scenarios.

I ideally want anyone to be able to show up off the street, but, then, how do I make it safe or safer? Can I post a code of conduct on the website and also read a code of conduct before each meeting? Are there ways that I can overtly collect people's personal information (to curtail anonymous shitty behaviors) without myself being able to abuse it? Right now it's just me, but I eventually want to get some club officers, one or two of whom will hopefully fortuitously be not cis, white, and male.

Where can I find code of conduct examples? What am I missing?
posted by zeek321 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
A code of conduct is a good place to start, but I think you need some dedicated greeters / arbiters of culture who are committed to the CoC and are trained to say We Don't Do That Here.

(Actually, that article might help you out)
posted by batter_my_heart at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2018 [19 favorites]


I came across this article by one of MeFi's own when it was posted to the blue in 2015. In addition to giving you some more food for thought as you proceed, there are some great resources linked throughout and collected at the end. While the music scene may not be that similar to the space you are envisioning, I think a lot of the information is worth considering, with strategies that could be appropriately adapted.
posted by juliplease at 4:18 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I personally would not go to a meetup like that for any reason unless:

- at least one of the organizers was a woman
- the meetup was in an area that is still populated when the meeting gets out (so I'm not walking back to my car on an empty street with a weird dude following me)
- preferably ended during daylight hours
posted by ananci at 5:08 PM on June 15, 2018 [26 favorites]


Are there ways that I can signal it's a good/safe space for women and also make it actually safe?

Sure, don’t signal, explicitly state it is a positive safe space, state what the code of conduct is and what the consequence of violating it are. “Poorly socialized” dudes don’t pick up on signals. That is the problem - they need to be told they are not welcome if they cannot proactively agree to the Code of Conduct before even showing up to the meeting. So much less work than waiting for a violation to be reported (if it ever is).
posted by saucysault at 5:35 PM on June 15, 2018 [50 favorites]


A code of conduct would be good, as long as it's written to support those who might be uncomfortable, rather than to soothe the feelings of abusers.

"We do not allow harassment" has been used to silence women who complain about creeps.

"We support consent culture and encourage attendees to set their own personal boundaries; staff will help enforce those if necessary; people who refuse to accept those boundaries may be escorted off the premises," is better. You can also say things like, "While we can't guarantee a safe space, we want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome. No one should feel attacked because of who or what they are."

Use words like "consent" and "feminist values" and "personal identity" and "community" - the entitled-men crowd hates those terms; anyone who stops attending because of the TOS phrasing was a problem you don't have to deal with.

Write the TOS with the concept, "what kind of behavior do I want to encourage" rather than "what do I want to forbid?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [40 favorites]


don't make promises you can't keep.

In your place, I would define whatever the interest is as non-sexist/feminist. you're setting the initial terms of what constitutes the shared interest so you can do that. in whatever language seems natural and clear to you. you can shape the description of the group to be appealing to the kind of people you want to welcome and try to put off those you want to be put off by it.

you can also state expectations for behavior. however, as a woman, overly detailed etiquette instructions make me think the organizer is expecting rude and unpleasant people to attend, so I would stay away. likewise, language about "consent culture" would suggest to me that this is a sex-related interest or that at the very least, other attendees are expected to see it that way. if that is not the case, be careful.

you can certainly say something about diversity, tolerance and respect. and possibly ask new joiners to read a paragraph about that and sign to indicate agreement & intent to abide by it.

but if you have a formal code of conduct, you must have a clear set of consequences worked out for violating it. If the consequence of reportedly violating the code is "you will be asked to leave," that is something you can enforce. But that does not mean that the person actually will leave, and it does not mean they will have done something you feel comfortable calling the police over. you may find yourself in a situation where the code of conduct has been violated and you don't know what to do about it. this would not be good. Suppose some guy does something unambiguously bad, you see it, you know his name, and he doesn't care what you think. What happens?

guaranteeing other people's safety from harassment, assault, and offensive remarks from an unknown group of strangers is not within your power unless you also have the power to ban/expel people on the spot and enforce it. for that reason alone, do not offer this as a safe space. you could maybe say that you want it to be one. but be ready to say safe for what, and safe for whom.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [17 favorites]


I think folks are on the right track here but a specific reference to "consent culture" would make me think "Oh, this is a pickup spot." Like, maybe a good pickup spot, but I'd be assuming that people were going there at least partly to find dating and hookup opportunities. The rest is good though: brand yourself as being explicitly feminist/anti-misogynist. Make that nice and clear up front.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:45 PM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


guaranteeing other people's safety from harassment, assault, and offensive remarks from an unknown group of strangers is not within your power unless you also have the power to ban/expel people on the spot and enforce it. for that reason alone, do not offer this as a safe space. you could maybe say that you want it to be one. but be ready to say safe for what, and safe for whom.

Seconded. You can't guarantee their safety. My best guess is that you make it a safer space by saying to everyone, "If you are having a problem with someone, please let me know and I swear something WILL BE DONE ABOUT IT," I'm not going to just let creepers be creeping here. A guy who ran a school I was attending (where another school of the same ilk had made the media for harassment issues) was all, "I WILL SHUT THAT DOWN IF ANYONE DOES THAT." I believe him. Let everyone know that you will listen to concerns and you aren't afraid to oh noes, make a creeper leave the group. You might also want to take care with ladies' personal information and try to make sure the creepers can't somehow get it from you as well.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:51 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


And honestly, the best way to signal that it's safe for women is to have women there as active and respected participants -- i.e. hie thee to a woman co-founder. There are some intrepid / pathologically heterosocial ones of us, but I think we're rare, and if people are gross, we leave too.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:49 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Another way is to make the meetup group women-only and/or men permitted on an invite-only basis by existing female participants in the group.
posted by desuetude at 9:54 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Decide what the consequences for inappropriate behavior will be before a complaint is made, and make them known. If women perceive that you would hate to, for example, ban an awkward man from the group nearly as much as you would hate for a woman to be harassed, any expressions of support upfront will ring really hollow.
posted by telegraph at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Another way is to make the meetup group women-only and/or men permitted on an invite-only basis by existing female participants in the group

by a male group founder? the latter option would come across as some cult leader wannabe business.

even if it were a female founder, making women individually responsible for the quality of individual male attendees would bother me a lot and would shift accountability in an uncomfortable direction. a women-only group would be fine, but then the OP wouldn't be allowed to come.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:52 PM on June 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


> a women-only group would be fine, but then the OP wouldn't be allowed to come.

Oh, yeah, that is actually what I meant. I should have said explicitly "women-only group, but OP would need to step back and not lead it."
posted by desuetude at 7:54 AM on June 18, 2018


A code of conduct can also use plain, blunt language:

Rule 1: Don't act like creep.
Rule 2: If you really need to ask what a creep acts like, you may not be welcome here.
Short explanation: A creep is someone who doesn't respect someone else's boundaries, especially women's boundaries.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:57 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


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