Why I support the Ada Initiative. (You, too?)

I need to talk to you about emotion
I need to talk to you about emotion. From a brilliant Code4Lib lightning talk by Mark Matienzo.

I got involved with codes of conduct by accident. People were saying on Twitter that ALA should have one, and I didn’t want it to be one of those good ideas full of tweety energy that go nowhere, and called their bluff and set up a google doc, and everyone else realized this made me a leader before I did.

One of the things that happens when people see you as a leader on this topic is you start to be a keeper of stories. People come to you, out of nowhere, and tell you about that time when someone was creepy. Or someone was drunk. Or someone didn’t keep their hands, or lips, to themselves. Or someone made them feel violated, blindsided, and maybe they smiled and kept the peace because that’s what women are taught to do, and maybe they didn’t understand until later what they should have said, how they should have said it. And maybe no one watching even understood how serious the problem was. Because we’re all taught, all of us, that women are not the protagonists of the story — we’re the love interest, the sassy sidekick, the prop there to raise someone else’s stakes. It’s easy not to see how hurt someone has been if you think the story is about someone else.

Stories change when you identify with a new protagonist. To me, a subtext of discussions about codes of conduct, and so many other issues that arise in social justice discourse communities, is this: we make new statements about who is the protagonist. Whose stakes matter. Whose perspective observers should take. With whom to empathize. We claim our own positions as protagonists in our stories, and demand that others do as well.

I find my work on the Ada Initiative advisory board compelling in large part because there are so many stories, so many emotions — people who have been treated in ways no one should be treated, people who have to waste energy on issues many of their colleagues don’t before they even get to the work they all share, people walking around with these raw and gaping and secret wounds. I want us all to be protagonists. I want us all to be able to spend our energy on love and intellect and creativity, not on responding to harassment, or to the threat of harassment, or even the implicit fear of it.

So that’s why I support the work of the Ada Initiative: because codes of conduct legitimize marginalized people’s own understandings of their (our) own experiences, and give them (us) concrete ways to push back when their (our) lines are crossed. Because AdaCamps give us environments where we don’t have to be the only woman in the room, and therefore space to be all the other things we are, too. Because Ally Skills workshops give men a framework for seeing the ways women’s lives can be entirely, invisibly, surprisingly different, right in front of them, and strategies for enacting their values.

And that’s why, along with Bess Sadler, Chris Bourg, and Mark Matienzo, am providing a $5120 matching grant for donations from libraryland toward the Ada Initiative’s yearly fund drive. From today through the 15th, we’ll match every dollar pledged through the Ada Initiative’s library-specific campaign page, up to $5120.

If you’re happy that your favorite library association (e.g. ALA, DLF, Code4Lib, SAA, Access, In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Evergreen, Open Repositories, and OLA) has adopted a Code of Conduct, the Ada Initiative deserves part of the credit. If you liked Valerie Aurora’s keynote at Code4Lib 2014, or you’re looking forward to her Ally Skills Workshop at DLF Forum, or you think it’s cool that several library technologists have been to AdaCamp, please consider donating to the Ada Initiative, so that it can keep doing all those things (and hey, maybe more!).

Or if you just like feminist stickers. We can set you up with those, too.

Thank you.

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