Quick disclaimer: this post is not an official statement of the Awareness Team.
Also, I am not claiming that the work of the Awareness Team was perfect. There is a lot of room of improvement, we are busy staring into our own bellybuttons right now, and I will discuss this in a future post.
my name is Daniela, and I was a member of the Awareness Team at the 29c3, and I’d like to talk about my personal theories why the Creeper Card project went bad.
The tl;dr is: it was a communications fuck-up on several levels.
I myself had heard of the Creeper Cards and generally I consider them a helpful tool. But, since the 29C3 was only my second congress, I simply didn’t know a) whether sexism was a large enough problem at the C3s to warrant the usage of the Creeper Cards and b) whether the Creeper Cards were an appropriate tool to solve any sexism problems within the biotope of a C3.
Issue 1: The Cards’ Origin
The cards were more or less dumped onto the congress with next to no further information.
There was no URL on the cards themselves, there were no flyers, no posters, nothing.
Apparently this is exactly the same material that was used at the openmind, but there the cards were flanked by an educational programme. They apparently were announced and explained at the opening event, so people already knew about them when they encountered them for the first time.
At the 29C3, the project members claim that they spoke to the Orga, and that the Orga didn’t help by officially announcing them in the Opening Event, by briefing the Angels etc etc etc.
So some of the project’s fans claim that the Creeper Cards were doomed because the Orga refused to give them official support.
I strongly disagree.
Once it became obvious that no support would come from the Orga, it was the project members’ duty to run the educational programme on their own, IMHO. They should have posted informational flyers, and they should have organised their own workshops explaining them.
The Awareness Team knew the Creeper Cards at the 29C3 were the brainchild of @sofakissen and @madmalik, who could be found at the Flauscheria right across from the ball pool, and we told people who asked.
But there was no easy way for people to trace the cards back to their originators without help.
Issue 2: The Creeper Cards and the Awareness Team
The Creeper Cards and the Awareness Team were two different, independent projects.
And yet, many people approached the Awareness Team with their questions about the Creeper Cards.
They thought the cards were part of the Awareness Team project.
An easy mistake to make, seeing how no one else seemed to claim ownership of the cards.
Issue 3: Filter Bubbles
As I said, I knew about the cards before the congress.
But then, I am a woman, and as a female member of the German Pirate Party I am somewhat connected to the feminist world.
So, yes, the Creeper Cards showed up in my filter bubbles.
And now one of the arguments of the Creeper Card fans is an indignant “But how could people NOT know???”
They claim that *everybody* and their pony *had* to know about the cards – how could you not – and so people were obviously choosing to make fun of the cards by pretending they didn’t know.
Believe me, people didn’t know.
Many people I talked to had no fucking clue what the cards were about. And the members of the Awareness Team spent a whole lot of time explaining the cards to people, both on duty and off (which should have been the project members’ job, not ours, BTW).
I met people who looked me in the eye and told me they had never heard of them before.
Many people sincerely thought the Creeper Cards were a satire project!
So, the next time: please check whether you assumption of how well-informed your target audience is, is actually biased by what you find in your filter bubble.
Issue 4: Hacking the Cards
So, as we have seen, the situation was this: on Day 1 several hundred hackers found the material for a project that was not documented and that seemed to belong to no one.
Unsurprisingly enough, they did what hackers so: they hacked it.
One person arranged them in the form of a headless naked woman.
That is a clear violation of the CCC’s Anti-Harassment Policy (yes, we’ve actually got one!), so that person received an official warning.
But quite frankly, I consider Minecraft Creepers and Space Invaders made from Creeper Cards an expression of hackish silliness, especially since the project was ill-documented.
Issue 5: Dealing with Criticism
From the very beginning, the shitstorm on Twitter conflated criticism of the cards with criticism of feminism itself.
A lot of the criticism of the Creeper Card project was met with howls of “SEXISM!11!!ELEVENTY!!!!”
Let me say it again: criticism of the Creeper Cards != sexism
I’ve spent the past hour dissecting the Creeper Card project as it was implemented on the 29C3, and yet I consider myself a feminist.
Just because I think that the Creeper Card project as implemented on the 29C3 sucked, I don’t think everything is hunky-dory at the congress and no work needs to be done on anti-harassment awareness.
Dude, I worked my ass off as a member of the Awareness Team.
I clearly think that awareness work is important.
So, please don’t call people sexist just because they dared to criticise this particular project.
Because it is possible to reject the Creeper Card project as implemented on the 29C3, and still think that feminism is important, and that awareness work needs to be done – even on a C3.
Heck, it is even possible to reject the Creeper Cards in their 29C3 incarnation and still be … a fan of the Creeper Card concept.
Issue 6: The Creeper Card Evangelists
I’ve said it before: to install the Creeper Cards as a tool at the 29C3 and future congresses, the cards should have been presented to the audience in a calm, informative manner, so that people could familiarize themselves with the cards and learn to trust them.
For this process it would have been necessary to have the cards presented by people who are in a mindset to calmly explain them again, and again, and again.
For five days.
Preferably without losing their temper.
Even when facing people who made fun of the project or asked “this isn’t serious, is it?”
And these Creeper Card Evangelists should have been prepared to explain the cards to people who are not well-educated in matters of feminism.
I regret to say that this may have been the greatest failure of the Creeper Card team.
From Day 1 they reacted defensively, they insulted people and created an atmosphere that did not encourage people to drop by at the Flauscheria with a cup of coffee and say “okay, tell me about this project of yours”.
They also implied that unless people had a certain level of knowledge about feminism theory, they wouldn’t discuss with these people, which is a no-go in my opinion.
In the end some of the Creeper Card people had to withdraw from discussions because they couldn’t bear it any more, or they didn’t even show up for them.
On the other hand, I tip my hat to Rya and sofakissen and the gentleman who led the #policccy workshop (sorry, forgot your name).
They were clearly overwhelmed by the reaction, but they tried to handle things with friendliness and grace.
So the next time you bring a potentially controversial project to a congress, make sure to bring evangelists who’ll happily explain it to people for hours on end.
Issue 7: Reception of Awareness Work at the 29C3
There have been some critical statements by CCC officials and congress celebrities about the Creeper Cards.
This has been interpreted as proof that the CCC and the congress is a morass of chauvinism and that no one is interested in providing a safe space for anyone but white males.
As I’ve mentioned above, criticism of the cards does not mean the speaker questions the necessity of anti-harassment work.
What I found during my work for the Awareness Team makes me very hopeful for the future of women and other minorities at the congress.
The news of our existence spread quickly, and many Orga people and Angels approached us and gave us the thumbs-up. They seemed happy that a team was willing to take on this part of the work and they actually called the 113. Sometimes with real problems, sometimes just asking for a bit of advice.
Even the Projektleitung took us and our work serious. At one point four of them spent about 15 minutes discussing an issue with me, even though they were clearly running on too much Mate and too little sleep. And still they took the time to listen the Awareness Team.
The fact that there seemed to be little official support for the Creeper Card project does not mean that there is no support for the effort to make the congress more enjoyable and safe for *everyone*.
I myself am quite pessimistic about the future of the Creeper Cards at the congress.
I fear that the project team’s handling of the concept may have damaged it severely.
Straight after the congress I feared that the rifts caused by this conflict were so bad they’d never to heal again.
But by now everyone has caught up on sleep, and I see people discussing things in a more calm manner.
I am hopeful.
And, as some of you maybe heard at the #policccy workshop: I volunteered for next year’s Awareness Team.
It was one hell of a job this year, but I felt the support of just about everyone, and so I know we will tackle the problems that still exist. Maybe not with the help of the Creeper Cards, but certainly with other tools.
If any of you feel the need to discuss this, I am available both in the comments and as @danielaKayB on Twitter.
I don’t know what to make of “whether sexism was a large enough problem at the C3s to warrant the usage of the Creeper Cards” – when is sexism a “large enough” problem? If there were people groped or worse, cards would be way too little. If there were no sexism at all, the cards wouldn’t be needed. But where exactly is this line in the middle? How many incidents warrant the usage? I don’t think there is a line. There is no number of incidents that would be acceptable and only if there were more, creeper cards could be justified.
Regarding issue 1: Some people actually talked to the cards’ creators (during and after the 29C3) and they have acknowledged the criticism, announcing several changes.
I have not heard a single person say this. Nor seen it written somewhere.
Issue 4 and 5: I have also not heard anyone claim that criticising the cards equals sexism. But then quite a few people did not criticise the cards but just stated “we have no problem with sexism so the cards are superfluous”. Also, claiming that the cards were made by feminazis, wanna-be-hackers who don’t belong at the congress or “people who want to spoil our fun”. Just as making a sexist picture out of the cards is not hacking but just proving the point of the cards’ creators. That there is sexism that needs to be addressed.
Issue 6: So, some people gave up and didn’t want to face endless abuse (yes, with valid criticism there is also lots of abuse shouted at feminist activists and this was the case here, too). I don’t think anyone is obliged to be an activist until they crack. Re: the Violet Blue talk. This notion of “if you start something you have to be in there until the end, no matter how ugly” is keeping a lot of people from doing anything out of fear what might happen. Especially a lot of women and I can’t blame them.
Still I have probably never seen anyone so calm as Joke and sofakissen even when physically threatened.
So in the end I am pessimistic, too, about the future of the cards at the congress. I actually don’t care much about them specifically. The key is in the policy and its implementation, as I have said and written before. I care about the arguments that were brought up. “Having a policy will signal women they should be worried about abuse” is worrying me. Having a policy (and enforcing it) signals victims of abuse they will be taken seriously. “Talking openly about incidents will give us a bad reputation” is worrying me. Talking openly about incidents (while not minimising them) signals victims of abuse they will be taken seriously. I know that these arguments are not the CCC, no official statements. But they are arguments brought up repeatedly and I am curious, yet slightly pessimistic, where this discussion is heading.