Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Why I Quit Tango Survey by Clay Nelson and Beth Anne :: Quitting versus Retention Theory

Wow. Name Tags. Forgot about that. Good idea. Tango class in Aspen, Colorado. My original teacher, Heather Morrow.

I've always felt that in the realm of building tango communities, that understanding why people leave tango/communities, will give insight into how to better retain dancers - for both teachers and community "leadership".

To that end, I've compiled Clay and Beth Anne's survey into a pdf, complete with all of the comments (which is the gist, imho) and published on Scribd. You can read or download below.

For what it's worth, I don't think teachers nor communities do near enough to "capture" new dancers. The dancers that show up to take the "free intro" classes, or the dancers that "cold show" (I made that up) in regular month class series'. At the free intro classes, we don't even bother to get them to sign a page in a legal pad or on a clipboard - giving their name and email address for follow-up. At least here in Austin, Texas. Imaging following up with a community email (MailChimp) detailing all the activities, milongas, classes, different teachers, videos, resources, the community GoogleCalendar, the community website/portal.

There's a novel concept! A teacher doing a free intro class, but acknowledging that he/she may not be the "best" teacher for a particular student, and instead of only self-promoting, they promote the community at large and all of the other teachers, too. Or worse, doing essentially zero promotion of learning opportunities. Only giving someone a glossy postcard and calling that good just doesn't cut it, if you ask me.

"Rising seas float all boats" type shit. Or whatever. You get my drift. Or if you don't, the concept of a new competing milonga (potentially) bringing new dancers into the community. The concept of a new dancer coming into the community and trying all the teachers until they find the one that they learn from most effectively.

Here in Austin we have two "free intro" classes. Monday, and Tuesday nights, both followed by milongas. I would say each one averages 5 people. Sometimes 15-20, sometimes 2-3 or none, mostly 5 or 8. Let's say 5. Times x 2 nights x 50 weeks. That's 500 people per year coming through those classes. Cut that down to 200. Then we know that very few people "stick" to tango. "You don't choose tango, tango chooses you" as they say. So in a year, 10%? 5%? Go with 5%. 10 new people per year "sticking" and coming into the community. Say only 2 really stick for the long term.

2 out of 200? 5 out of 500?

1% "stickage" rate? Why so low? What is happening here? Are potential new dancers getting turned off/turned away?

I don't know that anyone from these classes has stuck around for the longer term.

We will never know, I suppose. Unless we endeavor to know.

Here's the link to Clay's Surveys:

Why I Quit Tango Survey Co... by on Scribd

Why I Quit Tango Survey Complete Results + Comments :: Clay Nelson & Beth Anne 51 Pages Very useful (or at least illuminating) information on the subject of "why people quit tango", useful in that it might help provide insight into retaining more people in both classes and local tango communities. #WhyIQuitTango #tangocommunitybuilding #tangosocialstudies #socialstudies #socialdance #socialdancecommunitybuilding #sociology #quittingtango #quittango #claynelson #claynelsonsurveys #bethanne #tangosurveys #tangosurvey

Gustavo Santaolalla - De Ushuaia a la Quiaca

Gustavo Santaolalla is the force behind Bajofondo Tango Club aka Bajofondo. He won two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Original Score for the films Brokeback Mountain and Babel in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Writing a Code of Conduct and other good stuff (Safer Spaces Resources)

Where you might begin in developing a code of conduct or safety policy
Ok, so I’ve been looking at how we might develop a ‘how to develop a safe space policy’ guide.
I’ve only got a sample size of two, but I wonder if this is a useful approach:
You need to know your local laws regarding sexual harassment and assault. So a google search will help. I begin with these sorts of search terms “Australia” “Sexual harassment” “laws” .
From here you can often find a link to the specific law or act referring to harassment, equity, human rights, etc etc. Each country will address this issue in a different way. And each legal system is different – eg we don’t have a bill of rights in Australia.
BUT it’s hard to figure your way through an act if you’re not used to the language.
Luckily there are good community education bodies to help you make sense of it. They often come up in the first page of your google search.
I use the country’s human rights commission or similar body as a source to help me untangle this language. They often have simple language versions of the law, and specific examples of harassment.
I’ve noticed (in my two examples  ) that sexual harassment is grouped with other types of harassment and discrimination as infringing human rights. This is useful for us as dancers in the current ideological climate, because the relevant act may refer specifically to discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, sex, etc etc. This gives us a starting point for addressing issues like the black roots of lindy hop _and_ sexual assault in the same policy.Here, the link between discrimination and harassment is key.
At this point, it really helps if your organisation has a statement of intent, or a mandate or manifesto or something. eg the Melbourne Jazz Dance Association (which runs Melbourne Lindy Exchange (MLX)) has this one, which was a legal requirement for setting up a nonprofit business structure:
The Melbourne Jazz Dance Association is a non-profit organisation devoted to the preservation and promotion of vernacular jazz dance and music in Melbourne, Australia. Our goal is to produce affordable dance events for Melbourne and visiting dancers, promoting the history of the dance as well as the current dance community.
From here, this sort of statement helps us rough out a general policy or way of making our code of conduct fit in with our existing statements. If I was to rewrite this mjda statement, I’d add ‘accessible’ before the word ‘affordable’, which would cover us for talking about harassment and discrimination.
From this point, you have some very useful tools.
A legal definition of sexual harassment and sexual assault (note this isn’t legally binding or even legally accurate – you’ll need to consult a lawyer for this stuff)
It’s culturally specific. ie it reflects your country’s legal and social understanding of sexual assault and harassment. This is important because your event, and your actions, are governed by your country’s laws.
You have specific examples of sexual harassment and assault. This is important for helping the targets of harassment (women and girls, for the most part) put a name and a limit to their ‘bad feeling’ about an interaction. It validates their experience. It also gives you language tools for explaining to offenders why they are banned from your event – they did X, Y, or Z. And of course it helps you feel more confident in your actions. You’re not just acting on ‘a feeling’. You’re acting on facts.
You can connect sexual harassment and assault up with discrimination. This is important because it lets us talk about racism, ageism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in one conversation. Our code of conduct can group these different types of discrimination together and let us address a number of issues at once.
This is the ‘missing link’ for addressing the way sexism dovetails with racism and class in the modern lindy hop scene. It gives us a way of talking about how come male teachers are paid more, there are more male DJs at high level events, or why women are overrepresented as volunteers. It’s about power. Sexual harassment is about power more than it is about sex. And racism is about power and privilege. About who gets to tell the stories, in their words.
Now you can start writing up a very rough draft of your code of conduct.
What are your values?
What do you want your event to be about? Good live music? Great social dancing? Innovative class structures? Huge crowds? Small crowds? What?
What are your rules?
What do you not want to happen at events (in general terms, but also specifically)?
What are the consequences for breaking rules?
How can people report harassment or assault?
How do you respond to reports, document reports, and then store your reports safely?
At this point you’ll see that you have a very dry, often very long list that’s both really depressing and really exciting. You aren’t ready to publish this yet. It’s definitely not something that’ll work as a public document, let alone a intra-organisational document.
From here, you need to do some testing.
Develop a few scenarios, and role-play the process. Horribly, we have a fair few real life examples in the modern lindy world to work with.
Some examples:
A big name international teacher is publicly reported for sexual assault in a blog post. He has previously taught in your country. You scroll down your facebook feed and see he’s just been announced as teaching in your city. What will you do?
You receive an email from a person acting as an agent on a reporter’s behalf. This agent is a reliable source – someone you know and trust. The reporting woman is terrified of repercussions and wants to remain anonymous. Her report outlines in detail how a male teacher assaulted her at an event in the previous year. You have just booked this teacher for your event in 9 months time. The reporting woman discovers this booking as you’ve just announced it publicly. What will you do?
You see a guy in his 20s physically lifting a new female dancer into a pop jump on the dance floor at your monthly party. She clearly doesn’t know what she’s doing. You can’t tell if she’s actually enjoying this, or just faking it. What do you do?
Two young Asian women come to you at the party you run fortnightly, and tell you that an older Anglo man has been making sexual suggestions to them during class, holding them in too tight an embrace, and sending them facebook messages. He is at the party. What do you do?
And so on. Scenarios like this are very useful for testing your own values and process. And an important part of this process is to flesh out your imaginary people:
Give your ‘big name international teacher’ an age, gender, ethnicity, teaching speciality, comp wins, teaching experience, etc.
Flesh out your agent working for the reporting woman – are they male, female, trans, older, younger, white, black, a teacher, a DJ, tall, short, what?
Do the same for the staff responding to each situation – make them real people. And try to make them people representative of the members of your local area. Not your local dance scene, but the real, live people who live in your city. Census data is very useful here.
Now swap around some of the identity markers. What if the Two young Asian women are also trans? What if they’re anglo and their person hassling them is Asian?
Document your scenarios.
Ok, now go back and rewrite your code. And your rules.
What would have helped in the scenarios? Would it have been useful to have a small printed copy of your rules to give to that guy when you tell him off for hassling those women at the party? Then make one.
If you needed to call the police at one point, would you have called the emergency number, or your local police station? Do you have both numbers? Do you need a little sign with this info on it for volunteers? Make one. How big does the font need to be? Can you read it in a dimly lit dance room?
How do your door staff know what to do? How would you train them?
Where do you keep written reports? Where do you write the reports? Who has access to them?
And so on.
Yep, it’s a fair bit of work. But some of it is actually pretty fun.
You’ll never be done with this work. Each time you encounter a new incident, you’ll get new skills, you’ll revise your processes, and you’ll revisit your values. Maybe ‘good music’ is less important than ‘don’t hire DJs who’ve raped someone’. Maybe ‘good music’ means telling your band leader explicitly that the musicians cannot arrive drunk or play drunk. And then perhaps you need to be specific about defining ‘drunk’.
For me, there are some overarching ‘rules’ in this work:
– the reporter’s safety is paramount. That means anonymity, confidentiality.
– the safety of the staff handling the report is paramount. This may also mean anonymity and confidentiality. It can also mean training for staff, having access to a quiet, safe room with a lockable door, knowing when and how to call the police (or if it’s safe to call the police), etc etc etc.
– ask the reporter what they need to feel safe. You don’t have to do these things, but it’ll be helpful to know.
– limits and boundaries are key. Knowing when to stop working is essential.
– I need to know when I will stop working on this issue. What is my limit?
My own, personal rule – the reason why I do this – is this:
I am responsible for my fellow humans. I choose to care about what happens to them. I choose to do what I can, whenever I can. Not just because it feels like the morally right thing to do. But because caring, and doing right makes me a better person. A stronger, braver, better person.
I could quote you long passages from my favourite feminists (Nancy Fraser, anyone?) about why being a feminist means being a pragmatic feminist. Being an activist. I simply define feminism as being about thinking and doing. It’s about social justice, but it’s about actively choosing to get involved. To do something. This is an act of power and resistance for a woman in my culture. We are trained to not act, to not get involved, not to agitate, educate, or organise. So the very act of speaking up, standing up, and acting is an act of feminism. It is liberatory. But that’s not the whole thing.
I guess it’s really about my believing, very strongly, that I have a responsibility to do what I can for other people. I choose not to be a bystander. I choose to be an agent. Because I find sitting by while other people need me untenable. I just can’t do it. If I can do something, I do it. Not because I want to be a ‘troublemaker’ or an ‘agitator’, but because I feel it is the right thing to do. To care about other people. To care for them, and about more than just myself.
Posted on
26th September, 2018
Dealing with men who use classes to pick up
Men propositioning women in class, touching too much, touching inappropriately, and all that other gross harassment stuff sucks. But you can totally resolve this!
We always begin the ‘touching’ part of class (ie after warm ups, etc) by saying, ‘this is a partner dance. I’m the follow, x is the lead.’ Then we demo some lindy hop, and explain that the lead is suggesting a move/rhythm and the follow is deciding whether or not they’ll get on board and do it.
Then we say, “Now you need to choose: do you want to lead or follow. Make that choice. Next, we need to find a partner. Watch us do this thing”
And then we do the little ‘asking someone to dance role play’:
eg I approach pete, and say
S: “Hello, I’m Sam. Would you like to dance?”
P: “Hi. I’m Pete” (we offer each other hands and shake hands). “Yeah, sure. Do you prefer to lead or follow?”
S: “Following, ,please”
And then we move to join the circle.
Then we say, “Please find a partner and have that conversation.”
Then they do it. We let them take a bit of time to do this.
Things they learn here:
Don’t touch someone without knowing their name and asking them to dance (we repeat this MANY TIMES in class, verbally, and we teachers always ask permission before touching students in class).
Don’t assume someone leads or follows, ask instead.
All this stuff may scare off your Difficult Men. If not, there’s more!
Then we teachers get into the middle of the circle, gather them all reeeeeally close, and say something like “Now, we’re going to touch our partner.” And they all giggle. But we get into closed and say, “This is how we’d like you to hold your partner” (it helps if the follow says it). “Please observe us, then have a go.”
We don’t tell them to do anything, or say anything, we just demo it.
Ramona says: “The museum is open. Please come and have a good look.” If they don’t have it, you can say, “The museum is still open. Please come and look at the display again.”
They get into closed position
Then we say, “Because we’re all different sizes and shapes, we need to see if we have this comfortable for our partner.”
Then we do the ‘am I touching you right’ role play:
S:”Pete, is my left hand too far around your shoulder?” And Pete visibly thinks, then takes my hand and moves it, saying “I think it’s a bit too far around for me.” And I say “Cool, ta.”
Then Pete does the same.
Then, and this is KEY: You say “Please have this conversation with your partner.” And you leave them to talk about it and try it until you see them move into non-touching related talk. This is THE MOST important part – they really need to actually practice verbalising asking someone to change how they touch their bodies, and practicing responding to this. So don’t rush them. Intermediates will try to brush off their partner with ‘it’s fine’. Don’t allow them to do this; ask for real conversations.
After the first two or three times they rotate, we say, “Remember, each human is a different size and shape, so you need to figure out if the fit is right. Please check in with your partner.” And they have that conversation.
Anyway, all this skills up your students to:
ask permission to touch,
ask for feedback on how they’re touching someone,
actually practice giving that feedback (they are told explicitly that they can’t just say ‘yeah fine’. They have to stop, think, feel, then articulate their feels).
practice responding to feedback,
Think about the way their _whole bodies_ touch someone, not just their hands (we often drop this in when we’re talking about how follows are touching the leads with their backs).
This will skill up your women to deal with the too-touchy men, and it’ll train the men in how to touch respectfully.
You won’t need to police the students all the time. You can step in when they’re all dancing and experimenting for extra one-on-one comments, but mostly they police themselves and each other.
Best of all, the truly dodgy bros will get the shits and stop coming to class, because they can’t get away with any bullshit.
We do other follow up stuff in class to compound these skills:
eg when they finish practicing to music we say (Because we always see it): “I really liked it when one person in a couple got in a mess, said, ‘hey, can we start again?’ and both people stopped and grooved before starting again.”This emphasises what we _like_ and how they can handle these issues.
We might also say, “I saw some really nice, relaxed bodies. I could see people holding each other comfortably, and asking their partner if what they are doing is ok.”
I often say, “If you’re not sure if you’ve got it right, ask your partner – they’re a specialist in how their body works.”
The teachers often ask each other things like, “How did you know I wanted you to stop there?” as a way of modelling how to talk to each other, how to avoid ‘leader first’ language (so we ask the follow how they knew, which requires follows think actively about what they’re doing, not ‘just following’, etc etc).
I think using positive language (telling them what you liked) is better than ranting at them about what not to do. Because you’re just repeating the bad stuff and that’s all they’ll remember. So just repeat the good stuff. We also add in ways follows can eject from dances or moves if they don’t like it, and how leads should respond (let the follow gooo, let her gooooo).
Posted on
24th September, 2018
From practical cultural change to broader ideological change and back again
I’m just rewriting a draft teachers’ agreement and editing my teachers’ agreement template for dance events. This is my new favourite bit:
Teachers’ expectations of organisers:
– Provision of safe, clean teaching environments without unnecessary crowding, and including head mics (where necessary), sound gear, venue coordinator to manage the workshops.
– Will teach workshops of no more than 80 participants.
– Will teach classes of no more than 30 participants.
– Will teach for no longer than 1.5 hours without a 15 minute break, and a minimum 1 hour break after 3 hours of teaching.
– Flexible workshop hours to allow for nursing and care of infants.
I’m not there yet, but it’s looking pretty good.
The nice thing about working with teachers who are nursing mothers (this is my second time), is that their needs (eg breaks for nursing, being flexible in class start times, asking students to work independently, or while teachers are nursing/caring for infants) translate to good conditions for everyone.
If we make nursing mothers’ requirements our ‘norm’ for teachers’ requirements, we end up with much better working conditions for everyone – students and teachers!
I’ve found the same when managing DJs’ working conditions, when working on safe space policies, and band’s conditions.
The invisible straight white able bodied cisman norm doesn’t really benefit anyone. Not even straight white able bodied cismen without dependents.
I’ve also found that asking teachers to prioritise self-care (eating real food at regular intervals, taking rests, taking time out, drinking water, having at least 3 hours between classes and parties, going home when they feel like it, only dancing at parties when they feel like it, etc etc) models good stuff for students.
This is especially important for women, where we’re seeing a bit of body dysmorphia coming into play: young women who don’t eat enough for their high-impact lindy hop and solo jazz dancing. When we see women teachers eat well, with enthusiasm, and with great pleasure and none of this ‘I’m being naughty’ talk, we see that eating well and self-care are part of being a professional dancer. Something we owe ourselves, and our bodies.
It’s also important for young men to see men practicing self-care, and to see women practicing self-care, and prioritising self-care above the interests of others.
You can see how this all feeds into a safe space policy, right? And how I build safe space stuff into an OH&S policy?
And of course, it all comes under our statement of intent at Swing Dance Sydney: Take Care of yourself, take care of your partner, take care of the music.
If you tip this list of points upside down, you’ll see that a way to get to safe space policies is to begin with:
A value statement (or statement of intent).
Then to see how this translates to general policies like ‘good working conditions for teachers’.
And finally to practical, real-life actions like ‘teach for no longer than an hour without a break’ or ‘we all sit down together for a meal’ or ‘if you don’t want to dance when someone asks you, just say no thank you.’
I think that this last practical level is where we do cultural practice (ie actual practical cultural change), whereas the two higher levels is where we do ideological change.
The real challenge then comes in keeping track of all these policies and processes. I can remember most of them, but the person who comes after me might not know why we instituted a ‘classes are no longer than one hour’ rule. So we need to document.
And of course, to be really good at this, we need flexibility. Iterative design. So after this Jazz with Ramona 5-7 Oct 2018 weekend, I’ll get some comments and feedback from Ramona, her partner John, peeps in the classes, etc, and I’ll rewrite these guidelines again.
Posted on
13th September, 2018
Responding to comments: how do you deal with an offender who’s not committed an offence at your event?
Stalking: online and face to face harassment
Responding to comments about my post ‘Stalking: online and face to face harassment’
Responding to comments: is gendering offenders a mistake?
Responding to comments: can’t we just ask people to be decent to each other?
Responding to comments: how do you deal with an offender who’s not committed an offence at your event?
Responding to comments on my post Stalking: online and face to face harassment:
how would you address eg a DV or restraining order in your creation of safer spaces?
This is a bit like responding to a report about an offender, where said person was offending/had offended in another city. This actually comes up quite regularly, and is the follow up issue to ‘how do we report someone’: ‘what do we do with someone who’s been reported?’
I personally have a zero tolerance policy. If you have committed an offence in my class/event/city, and I have a report, then you are banned from all my classes and events forever.
I know that other people work with offenders to rehabilitate them, but I personally figure I only have a limited about of time and energy, and I’d much rather put that energy and time into supporting the people who don’t harass or rape people, and into my own work (eg if I’m working on s.h. stuff, I don’t have time to DJ, social dance, work on scripting performance, etc etc). In shorter Sam talk, “Fuck that shit. I ain’t got time for that.”
So when someone is reported to me for an offence in another city/country, I take I take it very seriously:
I find out as much as I can (though I never ask for the name of the reporting person. I’m totally ok with anonymous reports, because I prioritise the safety of reporters above all else);
If I get the heads-up from someone who isn’t in my trusted network, I find someone who is in that network and ask questions;
I am very careful to maintain confidentiality, and that means I don’t name the reported offender unless absolutely necessary;
Once I’ve got confirmation, I send that person an email telling them that they’re not welcome at my events (I list the events specifically), and that they will be asked to leave if they do attend. If they refuse to leave, the police will then be called. This email is an important part of developing a defence against an accusation of defamation in the future. I send an official email and ask them to reply. I don’t need to respond or follow up on that reply.
By the timee I get a report about a person in another scene or city or country, they’ve already committed a number of offences and have assaulted/harassed a number of people.
Note: if you do send someone an email/message/text/letter naming an offender, you may be liable for a defamation case, as it constitutes publication of defamatory comments. So a phone call is better (though it’s still not a ‘safe’ option). I take a calculated risk on this: I am prepared to pursue this to preserve the safety of my myself, my friends, my students, my peers, my teachers, my musicians, everyone. I have clearly set out my own limits, and I stick to them.
I also have a lawyer who specialises in defamation law in NSW, and is very helpful for developing strategies. I speak to her about twice every six months, and this costs me $$, which I’m prepared to spend.
If someone is notifying an organiser in another city/country, they need to be very sure that person will also be working to keep the reporter safe, and won’t tell the offender all the details. They also need to be willing to keep the person notifying them safe (offenders are often aggressive, bullying types who will threaten people who band them or report them).
So I prioritise:
Keeping myself safe
keeping the reporter safe
keeping the person working as an agent/intermediary for the reporter safe
Keeping other people in the community safe.
I figure, as with a restraining order, the reported person/offender has proved themselves a demonstrable risk, so I notify them officially that they are not to attend my events/classes, and that the consequences for attending will be X, Y, Z.
I find they often don’t try to attend anyway, because they’ve figured out that I will jump on that phone and call the police immediately.
I will not be bullied or pushed around. And I definitely will not let them threaten other people. Hell no. That’s the stuff that makes me super white-cold-furious.

When will I call the police?
I don’t notify the police about reports of sexual assault. Reporting to the police is a harrowing process for women, and we rarely come out of this well. After the past year of negotiating legal options, my opinion is that the Australian/NSW legal system is not able to protect women reporting sexual assault. So I leave that decision to the woman reporting the incident.
I will hop on the phone and call the police immediately if a known and banned offender turns up at my event, whether it’s at a public venue or a private venue. I have the local police stations’ phone numbers, and I’m more than willing to call 000.
I also have a procedure for responding to these people in person:
They turn up at the door and try to pay/enter
a volunteer lets me know (they don’t try to confront the person)
I tell them that they need to leave: “You are not welcome at this event. You will leave now, or I will call the police and have you removed.” (I practice this little script)
Then they either leave, or I call the police. They must leave _immediately_, or I call the police. If they have paid, I hand them their money (to save hassle, though I’m not required to).
I do not confront them, I do not touch them, I do not allow anyone else to touch them or engage with them. I make sure they see me watching them. I say nothing more than the script.
While we’re waiting for the police, I observe them, and I make sure no one engages with them. By this stage, most of the staff will have noticed them, and are avoiding them, and making sure other people avoid them. If they interact with anyone, I ask that person to come with me for a drink. I have noticed that other people will intervene to ask that person for a dance/talk, whatever.
After all this, we write a report, and I notify other organisers.
Note: thinking about all this and working on a real-time script is really distressing and tiring. So I am very careful about when I do this work, and I make sure to debrief afterwards. I speak to a psychologist about this stuff, as it’s highly distressing to deal with in real time, and across a lot of incidents.
Posted on
13th September, 2018
Responding to comments: can’t we just ask people to be decent to each other?
Stalking: online and face to face harassment
Responding to comments about my post ‘Stalking: online and face to face harassment’
Responding to comments: is gendering offenders a mistake?
Responding to comments: can’t we just ask people to be decent to each other?
Responding to comments: how do you deal with an offender who’s not committed an offence at your event?
Responding to comments on my post Stalking: online and face to face harassment:
How about setting the expectation that men, women and everyone else in between simply behave like decent human beings?
On this particular topic, I can think of two examples of huge events that have a ‘just respect each other’ code of conduct. That’s all very well in theory (I mean, we all do just want people to treat each other decently), but it’s useless when someone comes to you at a dance in tears to tell you about Person X who’s just grabbed them in the parking lot.
Both of these events have since proved to be covering up for and enabling serious offenders.
To my mind, a code of coduct needs a few parts:
1) an overall statement of values.
What do you really value and want in your event/project? Good music? Kindness? Zero waste? Live music only? Ambidancetrousness? Historical accuracy? Welcoming all folks regardless of sexuality, ethnicity, age?
-> This value statement helps you make decisions about what you want and don’t want at your event. eg Zero waste isn’t a huge priority for me, but it might be for the Green Dancers of Sydney*
2) A definition of s.h./assault or racism, or whatevs it is you want to target in your code.
This should be based on the legal definitions of your city/state/country, but also expand to include other things you value.
-> eg the Green Dancers of Sydney literally want zero waste, so no pooping on site.
3) A process for making a report.
Including how to make the report, and what happens afterwards.
4) A list of consequences for offenders/offences.
What will happen, and who will enforce them.
Most organisers and teachers and so one have a code of conduct and that’s it.
The better organisers (eg MLX is the total best and leader for most of the world) has all four parts, and is on to THE THIRD OR FOURTH ITERATION.
Once you have to start addressing these issues, you realise you need a process for taking and sorting reports, a policy for how long someone should be banned for, some legit research into the local laws.
And THEN you figure out you need a way to script and train people for these interactions (what do you say when you kick someone out?), you need a way to keep training up to date, and you need some way of sharing information about this stuff (eg a database or resource kit).
Once you’ve done this for a while, you realise…
And you need support for your safety workers, debriefing, etc etc etc.
Incidentally, most Australian and NSW businesses are legally required to address all these issues in their business plans. This is one of the reasons why going legit, rather than ‘just being friends who run a party’ is a good idea – you have access to help in putting together this sort of material.
Ongoing issues:
– this is a top-down response to incidents, which doesn’t change any of the power dynamics in our community. It just means we’ll get a steady stream of offenders we get really good at dealing with.
– most scenes have found that there’s a sudden rush of reports once a safety policy is set up, as the ‘backlog’ gets dealt with, and then the reports slow.
Things I want:
Someone to put together a ‘kit’ for safety champ processes, so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Eg the Dace Safe Korea people have BRILLIANT research on offences in their city. How did they collect this data? How does it compare with Sydney?
A shift towards the local ‘safety champ’ peer network instead of the ‘scene leaders solving problem’ top-down process. I want to see local peeps powered up to care for each other, not people just shifting responsibility onto a few powerful people.
I think we are all responsible for each other. That’s why I teach lindy hop the way I do: we’re in love for three minutes. So make it happy, safe, consensual love where we all get out happy. :D
*not actually a thing.
Posted on
13th September, 2018
Responding to comments: is gendering offenders a mistake?
Stalking: online and face to face harassment
Responding to comments about my post ‘Stalking: online and face to face harassment’
Responding to comments: is gendering offenders a mistake?
Responding to comments: can’t we just ask people to be decent to each other?
Responding to comments: how do you deal with an offender who’s not committed an offence at your event?
Responding to comments on my post Stalking: online and face to face harassment:
How about setting the expectation that men, women and everyone else in between simply behave like decent human beings?
…Over-Genderising the issue is arguably perpetuating the inequality that causes these things to occur in the first place. The tone is set that we expect less from men.
I have just wanted to shout “JUST STOP BEING POOS!” so many times. It just wastes so much time and energy for us to have to come up with a bunch of processes and guidelines for preventing and responding to sh/a, time and energy we could better spend on DANCING.
But it just keeps happening. WHAT is wrong with these people?!
So far as gendering goes:
I think this is a very good point. At this stage, internationally, the vast bulk of offenders identify as cismen, and the vast bulk of targets/reporters identify as women (including non ciswomen).
This is representative of figures outside the dance community – it is a definite fact that most assaults and harassment are perpetrated by cismen, and women and girls are the majority of targets. The follow up fact is that men and boys are also targets for offenders, but that they under-report.
We also know that boys are probably as likely to be assaulted and harassed as girls (and I’m talking children and young teens here), but are far less likely to report than girls.
So we can say that sexual harassment and assault in the dance world reflect patterns in the wider community.
Offenders are prevalently cismen.
This aligns with what we know about how power works in our communities. I find it more useful to think of sexual assault and harassment as acts of power and abuse first. Acts of power that have sexualised settings.
What I will say, is that the dance world has been spectacularly quick and effective in its response to this issue. Within a year of Steven Mitchell being reported, we had codes of conduct and working response processes around the world. That is INCREDIBLE. And SO fast!
This is partly our challenge: we’ve gotten onto these issues so quickly, we can’t keep up with ourselves!
Australia is certainly in the lead for safety prevention and response. We are just bloody GREAT at this. It also means we’re inventing stuff as we go, rather than getting to learn from other scene’s efforts. TIRING.
I actually think Sydney is doing a truly fabulous job. Teachers across the city can speak calmly and reasonably together on this topic, they share information and resources and collaborate on efforts. That is truly crazily good work for a city with ~10 different teaching bodies and events.
I give a bunch of credit to the fact that Sydney started getting serious about lgbqt inclusiveness ages ago (still not 100% good yet though!), has leads and follows of all gender variations (still not 100% there either!), and is relatively multicultural.
I’m also really excited about the fact that Sydney has stopped relying on a top-down approach to safety (where business owners make and enforce decisions) to a flatter approach to safety (where individuals take care of each other and tell offenders to get lost).
I’m really really proud of everything people do to look after each other in Sydney. It’s really really wonderful.
But one night a week dancing struggles against a whole culture.
Posted on
13th September, 2018
Responding to comments about my post ‘Stalking: online and face to face harassment’
Stalking: online and face to face harassment
>Responding to comments about my post ‘Stalking: online and face to face harassment’
Responding to comments: is gendering offenders a mistake?
Responding to comments: can’t we just ask people to be decent to each other?
Responding to comments: how do you deal with an offender who’s not committed an offence at your event?
I address some issues raised in response to my previous post, Stalking: online and face to face harassment.
– Every man will feel like they’re being watched.
I hope this is true. Because they need to realise that they will be held accountable for their actions. I like to think of it more as men will feel as though they are being held to account for their actions. As Teena says, women’s behaviour is constantly observed and assessed.
– The men reading this who are harassing won’t listen and consider changing.
I agree with this in part. Some men, for sure. But I’ve seen a few reports lately where it’s not clear whether the men realise what they’re doing is not ok. I’m kind of flabberghasted by how few men realise that a woman saying “Please stop touching me,” or asking their friend to ask him to stop touching them
– New dancers will see this and feel threatened and not come back.
…I’m not sure about that one. Most of the women targeted by these men _are_ those newer dancers. So hopefully, it might help them realise that this behaviour isn’t ok, no matter what these men say. Some of the newer dancers I’ve spoken to or have reported stuff to their friends, etc, have said that they didn’t know what was normal or not….
But I think this is a good point.
– This harassment happens to men as well as women.
I think this is an important point, but in my post I’m talking specifically about behaviour men’s behaviour towards women. It’s a deliberately gendered discussion. Not all of these men are actually straight or sexually interested in women. And by ‘women’ I’m including girls and anyone who presents femme (and I specifically include trans women _as women_ here). But this topic needs much more attention.
I’m certain men are also harassed and assaulted _by men_ (because these behaviours in the dance scene reflect what’s happening in the broader community), but I’m also certain these harassers use different strategies. I haven’t been dealing with any of these reports, and I haven’t heard any reports from friends overseas. This doesn’t mean it’s not happening, it just means we haven’t found a way to make it possible for these men to report.
Women do harass and assault, but in this post, I’m specifically speaking to _men_. Again, we will see different behaviours by women harassing other women and harassing men.
Posted on
13th September, 2018
Stalking: online and face to face harassment
NB this post is part of a series:
Stalking: online and face to face harassment
Responding to comments about my post ‘Stalking: online and face to face harassment’
Responding to comments: is gendering offenders a mistake?
Responding to comments: can’t we just ask people to be decent to each other?
Responding to comments: how do you deal with an offender who’s not committed an offence at your event?
This year I’ve received, on average, about a report per month of men harassing or assaulting women in the lindy/blues/bal scenes. Which puts us at about 9 for the year so far.
Most of these reports have been about Australians, and most of them have been about men in Sydney. Yes, including who are part of this facebook group. Yes, if you are harassing women, we have seen you, and we have written reports. Even if you are hassling women interstate.
Most of these reports have been about harassment. So I thought I’d write a quick bit of info for the men in this group who’ve been harassing women.
The most common report is about a combination of face to face and online harassment. So, here bros, stop doing this stuff (especially to brand new dancers or young dancers):
Asking a woman for her phone number so you can ‘Help her find out about dancing’ the first time you meet her at her first dance. This is creepy. STOP IT.
Immediately facebook friending a woman you’ve just met at a dance and then sending her HEAPS of messages, commenting on all her posts, tagging her a lot, asking for her phone number, address, dates. This is creepy. STOP IT.
Taking photos of her and then posting them online and tagging her. This is epic creepy. STOP IT.
Sending lots (ie more than 2) facebook messages within an hour or two, or a day or two. If she doesn’t reply, or doesn’t send the first message, she’s not interested. STOP IT.
Sending lots of texts. If she doesn’t reply, doesn’t send the first message, or responds only with emojis, she’s not interested. STOP IT.
Demanding a woman reply to messages and texts, and getting angry or upset/saying how sad you feel if she doesn’t answer your messages IMMEDIATELY.
This is crap. STOP IT.
Driving her home after a dance the first night you meet her, then ‘dropping in’ at her house randomly afterwards. This is hella creepy. STOP IT.
Asking her about her relationships (boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends), sex life, or intimate history. This is CREEPY. STOP IT.
While dancing: holding her too close and then passing it off as ‘a blues hold’ or an ‘experienced move’; touching her inappropriately (on her breasts, buttocks, groin, upper legs – you know what we’re talking about). This is really gross. And other people in the room see you and will do something about it. SO STOP IT.
While dancing: Physically lifting or pulling a woman into a dip, lift, or jump, even if it seems ‘small’. This is not respectful or safe. STOP IT.
At dances: touching too much. Unwanted cuddles or hugs, massages or ‘dance lessons’, constant ‘platonic’ touches, hand holding, ‘accidental’ touches. If you haven’t asked for and received permission for this stuff, STOP IT.
Continuing to do any of these things if she’s asked you to stop, or said something like “It’s a bit full on to get so many messages.”
NOTE: We SEE YOU. Other people in the room see you doing stuff that isn’t ok. And they will do something about it. So STOP IT.
If you’re doing this stuff, you’re going to get busted. What usually happens:
you get warned,
you get banned from local events,
you get banned from interstate and international events.
bans are enforced by security at events, and all event organisers are very willing to call the police if offenders try to turn up anyway.
yes, organisers and teachers do talk to each other about this stuff, both within Sydney, and between states and countries.
The woman/women you’re targeting speaks to their friend who then speaks to someone like me who organises events, to a teacher, or to a dancer who’s been around for years.
This person then tells you/the harasser to stop that shit, or they tell a person who can do something about it (eg an event organiser).
You get an in-person warning, or an emailed warning. If it’s from me, you will get an immediate ban from all my events and parties.
The organiser/friend will tell other people, including other organisers and DJs in other cities and countries, who will then ‘watch’ you or warn you when you visit their town.
It is common for offenders to threaten the woman/women they’re harassing if they ‘tell someone’ about this.
Most organisers have a process in place to keep the reporting women safe: a friend or agent does the reporting, and the woman stays anonymous.
NB: most offenders harass more than one woman, and we are finding more women are reporting now.
Most offenders are seen by _other people_ who then report them. Yes, other men will report your behaviour.
“Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.”
This can be online or face to face.
Face to face harassment can include (and this includes examples of stuff I’ve read in reports this year):
Staring or leering eg Staring at a woman while she’s dancing or talking;
Deliberately brushing up against you or unwelcome touching eg Squeezing past someone to get to the water dispenser, touching her while she’s talking to her friends, holding her too close and in a sexual way during dances;
sexy or sexualised comments or jokes eg asking a woman about her sex life, or how often she has sex, or about her sexual preferences;
insults or teasing of a sexual nature eg making jokes like “X likes it a bit risky don’t you?”
intrusive questions or statements about your private life eg “Who is your boyfriend? Do you have a boyfriend? Why isn’t he here?”
displaying posters, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature eg Showing women explicit vintage ‘cheesecake’ pictures and photos on his phone at a dance;
4. Online harassment can include (and this includes examples of stuff I’ve read in reports this year):
displaying posters, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature eg Sending women explicit vintage ‘cheesecake’ pictures and photos of sexualised vintage wear to women via facebook, suggesting she wear this outfit or would ‘look good in this’;
sending sexually explicit emails or text messages
inappropriate advances on social networking sites eg lots and lots of messages on facebook, or text messages, asking for dates, or asking invasive questions about her private life;
accessing sexually explicit internet sites
requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates eg Asking a woman to come for coffee after dancing, or to go for dinner before dancing.
behaviour that may also be considered to be an offence under criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications. eg groping a woman’s groin, buttocks, or breasts while dancing, forcing kisses and ‘cuddles’ at the end of a dance or at the end of a night of dancing.
Posted on
16th August, 2018
If you are resisting addressing sexual assault at your event, you are actively enabling it.
The thing is, the only possible reason for aggressively resisting addressing sexual assault at your event is that you’re an offender. I’d add ‘or you’re actively concealing offenders’, but that’s pretty much par for the course. Aggressively resisting addressing sexual assault prevention and response processes conceals and enables offenders.
If you don’t develop policies for prevention and response, you leave the actual work up to your people on the ground – your volunteers, your door staff, your ‘middle managers’. And because they don’t have a clear policy guiding their decisions, they’ll be forced to either develop their own policy, or respond in an ad hoc way. You’ll also be making _them_ entirely responsible for OH&S at your event. Which is fine if that’s their job – OH&S officer. But if they’re the Registration coordinator or the head chef in the kitchen, then that’s not appropriate.
None of us are just naturally born knowing how to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment. In fact, many of us are trained by our families and home cultures to _avoid_ addressing these issues. And women are even further trained to be _afraid_ of addressing these issues, trained to perceive themselves as the ‘natural’ victims of assault and harassment. But despite this training – this socialisation – women in the lindy hop world have started figuring out how to respond to and prevent assault and harassment. And done a pretty darn good job. Our time line has been relatively short, from the public reports about Steven Mitchell to this moment. It’s been less than ten years. We’re pretty bloody good at this.
So if you want to run an event well, just as with decisions about what food to serve, and what to charge for tickets, you train your staff, or hire staff trained in these particular areas.
In the lindy hop world, we now have a fairly large body of first hand experience with dealing with s.a/h specifically in dance communities, _as well as_ a whole range of literature and training from other social spaces and bodies. And we are very, very good at learning and working in collaboration. It’s the one defining feature of the modern lindy hop world: we specialise in learning how to touch each other.
So why not offer your staff support and direction with a clear policy? If you’ve hired the right people, they can then go on and develop specific processes, training, and support for your event and your staff.
As I said above, the only reason to _not_ actively address these issues is that you are an offender attempting to conceal and enable your offences. The other implicit or explicit consequence of your inaction or resistance is to conceal and enable _other_ offenders.
But as a final point, I’ll also add:
Even if _you_ discourage work on these topics, your staff will be working on preventing and responding to sexual assault and harassment. Because dancers are reporting offences and expecting your event to be safe. And that is a reasonable expectation: that we will be safe at your events. So your staff are already acting on these issues.
The key issue then becomes: will you support their work, and provide them with the resources to do this well, or will you get in their way and fuck shit up?
Posted on
22nd February, 2018
Class ‘content’
We’ve just finished a six week long beginner lindy hop block. This whole block could be summarised in one hour (as we did tonight) with the below points. If I had time, I’d also list the specific class plans we had for each individual class.
Specific dance stuff:
– gliding (dancing in closed with no particular rhythm), aka floor craft, partnering, leading and following, comfortable closed position, finding 1, stopping and starting independently;
– circles, aka a specific rhythm (which someone pointed out tonight is 2 x 4 counts) with a specific direction and shape – leads leading and follows following, efficient and deliberate movement through space, being able to choose a smaller step size, etc;
– swinging out from closed position, aka knowing where ‘halfway’ is in a circle (on count 5 or after the triple step), continuing rhythm, leading with your body and the physics of rotation, understanding how far to go away from your partner;
– jazzing in open, then re-starting again, aka keeping time and changing between a single time rhythm and a step step triple step rhythm, leading in from open using your body, following in from open;
– using rotation again to ‘catch’ the follow, making contact with your body to follow the lead;
– combining the two to make an open to open swing out, with or without time jazzing in open, aka hearing 8s, phrases, keeping time, swinging time, etc, improvising, changing rhythms;
– charleston on your own (and using the groove to transition between the two);
– moving from a circle into side by side charleston then out again (using the groove to keep time, knowing when to change, using your body to change direction and suggest a change in rhythm, recognising changes in your lead’s body movement, maintaining a rhythm until it changes);
– the kick through in side by side charleston (how to lead by moving your own body – kicking in and out, pivoting on one foot, pivoting on one foot and turning, a new charleston rhythm, etc etc)
– leading the whole group in a big apple, in turn (hearing the phrase, knowing how to prepare for, then pass the turn to your neighbour, knowing how to pass without stressing, understanding how to lead a move successfully for a group, etc)!
– moving through space (rotating partners!)
– swivels, boogie back and forward, itches, push it, push it out, etc, rocking, and many other jazz steps.
Learning skills:
– learning-by-watching;
– working with a partner;
– dealing with not getting it right first time (aka patience and perseverance);
– i-go you-go learning style in pairs and in groups;
– sticking with a task (no matter how ‘simple’) and refining it;
– working with a range of partners of different abilities, and finding the fun;
– knowing how to stop, chillax and find the groove, then restart and start dancing again with many different partners (esp after ‘making a mess’);
– working on a problem or challenge before asking for help (independent and team problem solving);
Social skills:
– how to ask for a dance, how to accept one, how to introduce yourself;
– how to ask a partner how to change how they’re touching you, how to accept that comment from a partner;
– stopping, then chillaxing, then restarting with a partner to manage stress or making mistakes;
– staying calm and cheery under pressure, and accepting challenges and obstacles as a useful part of learning, without getting angry or anti-social;
– respecting partners’ bodies, and when they ask to stop, change, or adjust a physical contact;
Musical skills:
– finding the beat;
– swinging the beat;
– finding the 1;
– finding the 8;
– accenting 2, 4, 6, 8 (as in boogie back);
– difference between 20s and 40s jazz and how it affects charleston emphasis;
– finding a phrase (consciously and also implicitly);
– recognising a 12 bar blues and 32 bar chorus format;
– finding the right place to start in the music, then getting started and dancing;
– moving between different rhythms (single time, half time, step step triple step, charleston, a range of other rhythms) in partners and alone as solo dancers, and also as solo dancers with a partner;
– being able to recognise, retain, then repeat a given rhythm (as in I-go, you-go);
– being able to transfer a rhythm from clapping to different parts of the foot, to stepping, to physical movement through space.
They learnt so much!
I’m also happy that I’ve learnt how to rethink a class and course structure. I used to teaching thinking ‘ok, what moves will we teach’, and now I can think ‘ok, what skills do we want’, then develop a class that fosters these skills implicitly (rather than through lots of talking). But still uses and shares historic vocabulary and musical knowledge.

Taking A Safety Report (Safer Spaces Resources)

Jeff Kaufman :: Posts :: RSS :: ◂◂RSS :: Contact

Taking a Safety Report
December 14th, 2018

safety, contra [html]

(This is written with the contra dance community in mind, but is reasonably general.)

Let's say you're an organizer or on a safety committee, and someone comes to you with a problem. How should you handle it?

The first thing is to figure out urgency: is someone actively causing harm right now? Like, is it "that dancer over there in the red shirt just twisted my arm" or more "can we talk about my abusive ex"? It's generally pretty clear which sort of report someone's giving, but it's worth asking if you're unclear.

I'm only going to cover the second category here, because there are a lot of subtle aspects and its easy to screw up. (I certainly have made mistakes here.)

When someone comes to you with a serious problem, listening well is the most important thing. Be there for them, let them tell you what they're comfortable telling you. Even if there's something they want, they are doing you a favor by letting you know about a problem in your community. Be receptive, and let the conversation run on their terms. If you make this at all hard for reporters people will just silently not let you know about things.

The first time you hear about an issue, you probably don't happen to be in an ideal situation for sharing something heavy. Instead they maybe sent you an email, or found you at a dance. These initial conversations typically work best as a way to get a shallow summary, and to set up for some in-person time.

One question is how many people you'd like to have hear the report. In BIDA's case we like to have 2-3 people from our safety team, because different people on the team have different perspectives. Other places might instead have one contact person and handle things one-on-one. Who should be there is something the reporter needs to have full say over, though, so don't push them to have anyone present they don't want there.

A good setting to hear a serious report is generally somewhere quiet where you can talk for as long as needed. For example, an evening meeting in a living room. If you have housemates or children and are hosting, figure out a way where they won't be around. [1] You want an environment where the reporter will feel as relaxed as they can be under the circumstances, on comfortable seating, away from noise. If you're setting up space ahead of time, put a box of tissues within reach.

Once you're settled, let them talk. They probably have a lot to tell you. You might be used to conversations where you talk a lot, but this should not be one of them. If there are bits where you're confused about details, it's generally ok to clarify at the time (though don't pry or push them to share what they're not ok sharing) but if you notice they don't respond well to the interruption then leave clarifications to the end. Be supportive: while at some point your role generally involves comparing different people's views of the same situation and thinking about what people could have done differently, this is not the time for that. Your role is to be non-judgmental, sympathetic, open, caring. Try to take their perspective as your own. If they say something where you think they were in the wrong, don't push back. If they use words you don't think fit the situation ("they gaslit me" when it sounds like it wasn't gaslighting) don't challenge them: people have a wide range of ways of processing and conceptualizing things, and what matters is what they experienced and not the label they're using.

In this, you have more or less two goals. The first is that you want them to feel respected. They need to know you take their report seriously, that you support them, and that their experience matters. The second is that you want to get their view of what happened with as much detail as they're up for sharing.

After they've shared what they want to, it's generally good to ask what they're looking for. ("What would you like to see from us?") One thing you really want to avoid is leaving the reporter any worse off for having come to talk to you than if they had just kept things to themselves. For example, if they don't want you to take an action, perhaps because they're afraid of retaliation, definitely respect that.

Find out who you can share this with. For example, if you're on a three person committee and two of you were in the conversation with the reporter, can you bring what they've told you back to the third person? If yes, are there bits you need to not share? If no, are there high level summaries you can share? Can you share information with other dance organizers?

Also find out who they're ok with you talking to. If someone harmed them, can you talk to that person? What can you share with them? Are there other people who would have context and can you talk to them?

It might be tempting to end the conversation by discussing potential outcomes, but I don't recommend this. You're still at the stage of collecting information, you probably have more people to talk to, and you need to talk among yourselves without the reporter present. Instead find out how much they want to be kept updated as you continue looking into this: people range from wanting as much progress information as possible to finding this really unpleasant to think about and wanting the process to be entirely on you. Do set expectations about how long this will take, especially if you're a group of volunteers fitting this in around other commitments.

This is only the first step in a pretty large process, but it's really important to do well: if reporters don't trust you nothing else will work.

[1] For example, when I was hosting a meeting while Julia was away on a trip I set the kids up upstairs with a video. They get this rarely enough (the general rule is "airplanes and long car trips", though also things like "your parents brought you to a boring grown-up party") that it's a super helpful option to have available at times when we need it.

Taking Someone Aside - By Jeff Kaufman (Safer Spaces Resources)

Taking someone aside - by Jeff Kaufman
December 7th, 2018
safety, contra [html]

(This is written with the contra dance community in mind, but is reasonably general.)

Let's say you're on a safety committee at a dance, or an organizer or something, and someone's causing a problem. Maybe you've gotten reports that they're hurting people, dancing too close, or not taking no for an answer. You've talked as a organizing group, their behavior doesn't justify an immediate ban, and now it's time to talk to the person in question to get them to stop. How do you go about that?

When I go into one of these conversations, at a surface level my goal is for them to stop doing the thing. The deeper goal, though, is that we can end the conversation with them understanding and accepting the reasoning behind why they need to not do it, as opposed to just feeling capriciously limited. Not only is that more likely to stick, they're also more likely to stop doing other more subtle things we didn't directly discuss.

Now, there are cases where I really think a good outcome is unlikely. Maybe they've been doing this thing for a long time, and seem very set in their ways. Maybe they're really solidly convinced this is an ok thing to be doing. Still, a general principle of giving people a chance to improve has a lot going for it. One aspect is that you may not have as good a read on them as you think you do, and perhaps they'll change. Another is that it's really important to have a fair process you consistently follow: banning someone without warning isn't going to feel fair to the banned person or your other dancers, however sure you are that a warning won't change anything.

So I find it's useful to approach all of these conversations as if the person is going to understand and stop. That way I'm leaving things open, with the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised.
The first consideration in talking to them is deciding who should be the one to do it. Ideally you have someone who can be calm, patient, and firm. It helps if they're demographically similar (men talking to men, older people talking to older people). I also think one on one conversations tend to work better, because the person feels less set upon, but if none of the organizers are up for that then talking to them as a pair is still worth doing.

Another consideration is picking a good place to talk. Ideally there's somewhere out of the way a bit, where you won't be overheard and where it won't be embarrassing to the person to be seen getting a talking to. You don't want them to be feeling defensive or humiliated. On the other hand, especially if you're worried about physical violence, you don't want to be fully secluded. A good place can be somewhere where if you raised your voice you would immediately be heard, and where the other person won't be between you and an exit.

Then you want to think about a good time to talk. At dances the break is generally good, though if it's more urgent you can come up to someone immediately as a dance is ending. I'll tell them I need to speak with them, motioning in the direction I'd like to move. If they don't want to, I'll tell them I need to talk to them before they can do any more dancing. I don't try to get into things while walking over to where I wanted to talk, though I'll do some small talk if that feels like it will work.

Once we're in a good place, I briefly summarize the concern ("several people have come up to us to say that you keep asking them to dance after they told you to stop asking them") and then ask them what's going on. My experience is they'll usually have a lot to say. Maybe they feel like they've been wronged, maybe they think it's unfair that you're talking to them about this, maybe they're confused why things keep going poorly. I let them talk, trying to understand their perspective as well as I can. People like to be listened to and get their side out, and they're going to be most receptive to guidance on improving if they feel like they've been heard out.

Listening is also useful for figuring out what you can say that is most likely to get them to stop doing the thing you need them to stop. Maybe there's something they don't understand about how their actions are perceived by others. Maybe they have one set of preferences on something and don't know what it's like to have different ones. When you're lucky this gives you what you need to help them improve.
(Another reason listening can be good is that occasionally people will talk at length in a way that just makes it really clear they shouldn't be at your dance. Giving people plenty of rope can go that way.)

After they start to wind down, I'll try to give a memorable summary of what they need to not do ("When someone asks you to stop asking them, I need you to stop asking them"). As much as I can, I'll follow up by connecting this to what they've said and addressing their concerns. They often want to talk more, and I try to still give space for that, but I keep bringing us back to the change we need them to make and the reasoning behind it.

These conversations can be awkward, and aren't especially fun for anyone, but you really need to have them in your range of responses. If your only options are "do nothing" and "full ban" then you often end up implicitly allowing behavior you shouldn't let continue.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Free Book :: How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports

How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner by Alex Tango Fuego on Scribd

How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports

You can now download a free book detailing how to enforce a code of conduct, “How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports,” written by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner and edited by Annalee Flower Horne. This comprehensive guide includes:
Basic code of conduct theory
How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct
Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report
In-depth discussion of relevant topics
Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports
Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 7 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits. For more information on code of conduct training and consulting, click here.
The book is available under the CC BY-SA license, allowing free reuse and modification of the materials as long as you credit the authors.
Download here (Kindle, EPUB, PDF)
“Valerie helped us write and adopt a code of conduct that could be a model for our industry as well as a guide for our firm. She is deeply experienced and gave nuanced, direct advice and we look forward to using her book to train our staff.” —Samantha Wong, partner at Blackbird Ventures
“Val was a trusted adviser to us as we planned and practiced responses to Code of Conduct incidents that might arise at conferences or in our open source communities. Her advice was practical and paired with a diverse set of potential scenarios to build confidence, and with it we felt prepared to act in a responsible and orderly way.” —Brandon Philips, co-founder and CTO of CoreOS
“Valerie advised us when creating the code of conduct in Wikimedia’s technical spaces. Her input was invaluable in navigating the challenge of creating a code of conduct that was co-created by our community. Her advice was practical, flexible, and informative, and empowered us to produce a code that represents our communities’ values, has a framework for updates and improvements, and continues to improve the experience of our technical contributors all over the world.” —Moriel Schottlender, Senior Software Engineer, Wikimedia Foundation
Press kit

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Anonymous Stories of Inappropriate Behavior In Tango

Here's the link to share your story, or share with a friend who has a story. Spread the word:

I have a theory that if people can remain anonymous, they are much more inclined to share their stories of inappropriate behavior in tango communities around the U.S. And around the world I suppose. With the goal of everyone hearing the stories, informing themselves, and hopefully informing and driving change in tango communities everywhere. And bearing witness. Supporting this growing number of victims. Someone said, "it's not an epidemic, but one is too many" - it is a known issue in every tango community - there is no doubt about that.

Well, I take that back, it appears there is substantial doubt that it is a problem. Or people just don't give a shit. Or that it's enough of a problem for the community to organize and do anything/something about. This aberrant thinking, group-thinking, which can paralyze a community into inaction. Inaction over many years because they believe it's not the community's place to put in an organizational or policy "structure". They believe the community has no authority to force some policy on teachers and organizers, when they want to be free and independent and autonomous operators under the greater community umbrella, selling their tango "products" to the consumers aka dancers. And making their own policies. Or the community believes that the teachers and organizers have no authority to implement a community-wide safe space policy. Nobody believes anybody has the authority.

A no-win situation. Lose-lose for everyone, especially the victims. Lose-lose for tango. Lose-lose for our souls. For our morality. For our ethics.

No one wants to stand up out of fear. Women don't want to come forward with their stories, justifiably, because they will be attacked, or scorned, or shunned, or not believed. The perpetrators will often be supported over their victims. We've all witnessed this in the news over the past two years. We've witnessed it in our tango communities.

Only one or two, or three or a half-dozen leaders who are chronic/serial offenders can cause a strong undercurrent of long-term discord in a tango community, cause followers to leave the community, cause new dancers not to engage, not to "stick", cause people to boycott milongas and practicas, venues, teachers, and yes, even festivals. If one of those chronic/serial offenders is in a position of authority in the community, and a group within that community continues to protect that individual, with community-level DARVO, it can do real damage to the health and growth of a tango community.

Tango communities fracture over this. Splinter groups form. Private, invitation-only milongas spring forth. The Tango Underground. It's even within the realm of possibility that an entire parallel community could spring up in a small town or large metropolitan area. A parallel universe of tango where safe spaces and codes of conduct are held as paramount principles for all to be mindful of, for teachers to interweave into their classes, and for all to adhere to and talk about. Without fear of reprisals. Without fears of being judged.

A Tango Universe of the dancers, by the dancers, for the dancers.

Note that I say "leaders" to keep it simple, ascribing to the historical male/leader - female/follower in tango. But obviously this works in all directions and all gender identities. Most commonly these incidents are male upon female.

I'm thinking something like the Standing Up For Safer Spaces Tumblr blog, only without the photos.

Here's the link to share your story, or share with a friend who has a story. Spread the word:

I'll be creating a new blog to publish these (with any identifying details redacted), along with resources for creating a safe space / code of conduct / behavioral guidelines policy for your tango community.

The actual stories will be posted over here:

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Queer Tango Article in the Washington Post

Photographer: Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post

Inter/National/Day of Tango

Today, 11th of December, is the National day of Tango in Argentina: during this day, Buenos Aires stops walking and starts dancing.

Every year, hundreds of dancers gather on the famed Avenida de Mayo to put their best foot forward. Traffic comes to a standstill as more than 10 bands perform on stages erected along the avenue to provide a musical backdrop for the Gran Milonga Nacional (the Big National Milonga).

Learn how the dream and determination of one man made this day a reality.

Why December 11 for the National Day of Tango?

The national Day of Tango is a big event in Buenos Aires: people take it to the streets and dance on Avenida de Mayo until the wee hours, milongas are crowded like no other day, TV stations broadcast documentaries about the history of tango, and even the Argentine president visits a milonga and trys a few risque moves (OK, I made this one up). But what’s the story behind this special day?
The national day of tango commemorates the birth of two legends of tango: the immortal legend Carlos Gardel, perhaps the most famous tango singer of all times, and genius orchestra conductor Julio de Caro: both born on Dec. 11th.

The national day of tango is the result of the dream of one Argentine, Ben Molar. In 1965, as he realised Dec. 11 was the birthday of Julio de Caro and Carlos Gardel, he approached the Secretary of Culture of Buenos Aires with a proposal to make this day the ‘day of tango’. Unfortunately, his proposal did not interest anyone, but he continued to push for his idea …. for 11 years!
After 11 years, he threatened the Secretary of Culture of the City to do it by himself and started to plan a massive festival in “Luna Park”, the famous Buenos Aires stadium. He approached Tito Lectoure, Luna Park’s owner, and had the radio, TV and various tango artists lined up for the event. At 2PM on the day of the ultimatum, the decree was finally enacted and the day officially became the Day of Tango in Buenos Aires.
On the first day of tango ever, the festival was attended by about 15,000 spectators, along with famous musicians, journalists and personalities.
The Day of Tango becomes national

Ben Molar decided to build on this momentum to make the Day of Tango a national event, so when the Secretary of Culture asked to organise a “farewell to 1977″ tango party, he bargained that, in return, the Day of Tango would become national. It was accepted on December 23rd of that year. Since then, Dec. 11 is the NATIONAL DAY OF TANGO.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Four Psychological Traits of Sexual Harassers

While most incidents of inappropriate behavior in tango fall into the inadvertent/accidental/unconscious realm, with some in the stupid/creepy unwanted sexual attention realm, fewer in the conscious serial repetitive offenses with multiple women over months or years, and then the more rare, but very serious bona fide sexual harassment.

From Psychology Today -

Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.
How to Be Yourself
Four Psychological Traits of Sexual Harassers
What traits make someone prone to sexually harassing others?
Posted Nov 09, 2017

Sexual harassment is as rife as it is revolting. In recent weeks, revelations about sexual harassment and its devastating effects have flooded news and social media feeds. From Kevin Spacey to Harvey Weinstein and many others (and let’s not even get started on Uber), it’s clear and unfortunate that sexual harassment is common. But aside from a few legal-team-filtered statements, we don’t have an insight into the mentality of the accused harassers. What are they thinking when they commit these vile acts?

But before we get into the psychology of sexual harassment, let’s define exactly what we’re talking about. What exactly is sexual harassment?

A common myth is that sexual harassment is just a few notches down from sexual assault but it’s not that simple.

Sexual harassment is uniquely tied to power structures, often in employment and career advancement situations. The perpetrator holds the key to moving onwards and upwards, creating a dilemma for the victim: submit and be exploited or resist and be punished. The victim is placed in an intimidating lose-lose situation without any power or control.

Therefore, sexual harassment can and does run the gamut from demeaning comments to requests for sexual favors to unwanted sexual advances. In addition, it doesn’t always but certainly can include sexual assault, which is any non-consensual or coerced sexual act, including sexual touching.

Harassment is also different than unwanted sexual attention, which consists of unwelcome come-ons and comments that are not primarily designed to demean and intimidate. Think terrible pick-up lines: “I lost my teddy bear, will you sleep with me instead?” from a guy at the bar is unwanted sexual attention, but from your boss, it’s sexual harassment.

To be clear, it’s not only women as victims and men as perpetrators, even though that setup is the vast majority of cases. Of the 13,000 charges of sexual assault logged in 2016 by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (believed to be just the tip of the iceberg), 83 percent of them were filed by women.

And the women who face sexual harassment by bosses and supervisors aren’t just rising Hollywood starlets or, like Anita Hill, Yale-educated lawyers. They’re everyday people—restaurant workers, clerks, flight attendants, students, health care workers, programmers—whose bosses control scheduling, raises, future promotions, and references.

So who sexually harasses? I dug through the research and found four common characteristics of the (mostly) men who sexually harass (mostly) women.

The Four Characteristics of Sexual Harassers

The Dark Triad
Moral disengagement
Employment in a male-dominated field
Hostile attitudes towards women

Let's explore each a little further.

Characteristic #1: The Dark Triad

With a name like “the Dark Triad,” you can bet this is a doozy of a personality trait. Actually, it’s three in one: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
The first two are probably familiar to you: narcissism is an inflated view of one’s own talents coupled with a lack of empathy and a deep urgency for approval. Narcissists don’t care if you like them, but they do need you to think they’re powerful and worthy of admiration.

Narcissists find a way to justify sexual harassment if they think they’ve been deprived of a sexual experience they “deserve.” They just can’t fathom that someone wouldn’t be interested in the opportunity to get attention from them.

Next, psychopathy revolves around two things: fearless dominance and aggressive impulsivity. In other words, psychopaths are audacious, manipulative exploiters. They too have no empathy but excel at mimicking the correct emotions to exploit their victims.

Psychopaths sexually harass for one reason—because they want to. If the opportunity presents itself (or they create the opportunity), they’ll take full advantage.
Finally, there’s Machiavellianism, named for the Italian Renaissance politician Niccolo Machiavelli. His masterwork, The Prince, describes an unscrupulous, deceitful political philosophy with an eye on long-term goals at any cost.

Combine these three traits and you’re met with a gleeful enthusiasm for exploitation, deception, and manipulation coupled with an indifferent blindness to the feelings of others, all wrapped up nicely with a bow of grandiosity. In other words, a perfect recipe for sexual harassment. Indeed, in a study of almost 2,000 everyday community members, researchers found, unsurprisingly, that each of the Dark Triad characteristics added to a tendency to sexually harass others.

Characteristic #2: Moral disengagement

This is another whopper of a characteristic. Moral disengagement is a slippery slope; a cognitive process by which individuals justify their own corruption and create their own version of reality where moral principles don’t apply to them.
Moral disengagement was first proposed by the psychologist Albert Bandura, who is often referred to as the greatest living psychologist. His theory, as applied to sexual harassment, has several parts:

1. First comes moral justification, or portraying harassment as an acceptable action. Think of Harvey Weinstein’s line, “I came of age in the '60s and '70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.”

2. Next is euphemistic labeling: Using sanitized terms for naming their behavior, like Bill Cosby’s characterization of his sexual assaults as “rendezvous.”

3. Third is displacement of responsibility, attributing the harassment to outside forces beyond their control, like Weinstein’s “that was the culture then.”

4. There's also advantageous comparison which is the insistence that their behavior could have been worse, and distortion of consequences, where individuals minimize the harm wrought by their actions on the victims.

5. And finally, there are dehumanization and attribution of blame, which respectively eliminate concern for the victim and blame her for the incident. Bill O’Reilly did both of these when he commented that a woman who was raped and killed was “moronic” because she was wearing a miniskirt and a halter top, and that “every predator in the world is gonna pick that up.”

The end result? Harassers have no trouble sleeping at night because, through moral disengagement, they rest assured they did nothing wrong, that their actions were normal and deserved, and that they didn’t cause any harm.

The mind is a tricky thing: we often choose behaviors that match our values, but sometimes, through moral disengagement, we change those values to justify our behavior. This is how sexual harassers can maintain their view of themselves as decent, even morally upstanding people.

Characteristic #3: Employment in a male-dominated field

Sexual harassment is well-documented to be more prevalent in traditionally masculine fields, such as the military, the police force, surgery, finance, and more recently, high tech and the upper echelons of the entertainment industry.

This revelation is nothing new: an old 1989 study of 100 female factory workers found that women who worked as machinists—a male-dominated position—reported being harassed significantly more often than women who worked on the assembly line, which was more gender-equal.

Characteristic #4: Hostile attitudes towards women

Even though psychology is a science, it’s not a totally objective field, in most part because research is done by people, and people respond to and draw conclusions from their culture and the biases of a given place and time. Interestingly, while researching this episode, I found a study on sexual harassment from the early 1980s—almost a decade prior to Anita Hill’s testimony at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings—that stated that most male sexual harassers had no idea that their advances were unwanted or inappropriate. The conclusion was that people who engaged in sexual harassment were simply clueless and infatuated, but now we know better.

The University of Bielefeld in Germany conducted a study in 2012 testing whether harassment was driven by what researchers called a “short term mating orientation,” basically an academic euphemism for love ‘em and leave ‘em—or was driven by something called hostile sexism, and therefore served less as a way to just get sex and more as a way to intimidate and coerce women.

The researchers asked 100 heterosexual male college students to chat online with “Julia,” an attractive 23-year-old woman. With each chat exchange, participants were asked to choose among three different pre-written messages to send to Julia.

The men were also told that this was a memory test and that Julia would later be tested on memory recall. To create an air of competition, they were told that previous studies had found gender differences in the ability to remember.

For each message, the men chose among a joke, a comment, and a neutral statement. Now, some of the exchanges were carefully calibrated to include opportunities to harass. For example, in one combination, the joke was a sexist joke about women in general: “What’s the difference between a woman having her period and a terrorist? With a terrorist, you can negotiate.” It also included a terrible pickup line: “You’re a sweet chocolate and I’ve got the filling for you.” Thankfully, there was also a simple neutral statement: “You seem like a cheerful person.” Participants chose one of the messages to send and then repeated this over 20 different trials.

The results found that the men who were more likely to send the bad pickup lines were also more likely to agree with statements like “sex without love is okay,” or “I would consider having sex with a stranger if it was safe and she was attractive.” Their attitudes mapped onto the “short-term mating orientation.”

Now, those who chose to send the sexist jokes also scored highly on the short-term sexual attitudes questionnaire. But there was more: they scored highly on a questionnaire of hostile sexism, endorsing items like, “Women are too easily offended,” and “The world would be a better place if women supported men more and criticized them less.”

In other words, purely sexual motives predicted unwanted sexual attention but belligerent motives anticipated both unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. Choosing to send the hostile joke wasn’t about sex at all; it was about creating a disparaging, inhospitable climate for Julia in the context of a competitive atmosphere.

A good litmus test for whether comments are sexist or just a joke is to ask, “Would I say this to a man?” It’s a way to highlight statements that might get defended by a harasser as “harmless fun,” or “What, I can’t even give a compliment?” For instance, a male supervisor wouldn’t tell a man he should smile more, make a pass about the attractiveness of his body, or say, “You don’t have to get all emotional about it.”

To sum it all up, harassment indicates a willingness to exploit and manipulate as a way to maintain or gain power. It demonstrates carelessness toward the victims and aims to “keep them in their place.”

There will likely always be psychopaths and moral disengagement, but hopefully, with all the recent attention given to sexual harassment, more victims and observers will speak up and speak out and sexual harassment will go the way of Harvey Weinstein’s career.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Standing Up For Safer Spaces :: Inappropriate Behavior in Tango

Tumblr blog I ran across in searching for information on developing a safe space policy for tango communities...

Obviously not tango-community specific...but other social dances...

This one strikes a chord:

“I support standing up for safer dance spaces because I have seen people bullied and ostracized by abusers who had more social clout in the community.”

First Post
From arguing when someone says “no” to a dance, to touching someone without their consent, we believe every incident that makes someone uncomfortable deserves to be addressed. We believe that (cis-)sexism, harassment, abuse, and assault are not just an individual problem but a community issue. Many of us have quit attending events or being in spaces that have failed to hear our concerns. We have come together to share our stories with the hope that our communities, including event organizers, will take serious measures to reform the status quo.

We suggest a variety of strategies including:
-listening to and believing survivors
-publicizing and implementing clear and rigorous codes of conduct
-reaching out to people who have expressed concerns
-re-evaluating whether current leadership is adequate or appropriate for addressing safety problems
-establishing a well-trained designated and visible event safety team
-continuing to work to create safer spaces for everyone

Stay tuned for the photos from our first Standing Up For Safer Spaces event!

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