Skip to content

Why yes, I am hopping mad. Here’s why. #teamharpy

Ok, I wasn’t going to write more about this. I felt like other people were doing a much better job, and I don’t have much of substance to add. And besides, writing about this kind of thing is apparently risky business and I’m kind of risk averse. But here’s the thing: I’m mad. So here I am again.

I’m mad because I myself am reluctant to put names into the sentence “So-and-so created a hostile environment for me and other women at such-and-such conference” in a public and googleable place. I’m mad because women like Amanda, who experienced blatant and totally illegal sexual harassment at conferences, are afraid to name their harassers. I’m mad because the sentence “But he continues to be famous and I’m just a small fish in libraryland” is such a ridiculously common theme in these conversations, and such a silencing force in our profession (the quote is from Amanda’s post).

The only men who have created hostile environments in gatherings of librarians that I’ve been part of (online and off) have been big name librarians who are on the keynote speaking circuit. I have seen pictures of their naked crotches. I have seen pictures of their daughters in bustiers. I have heard them use their keynote microphones to talk about tea bagging. And I have heard of them doing even more things of this nature that I didn’t witness directly, like using the phrase “you ignorant slut” towards fellow panelists.

And yet they continue to rise through the ranks of librarians and become more and more powerful. These kinds of things are apparently “all in good fun” and hilarious jokes.

Here’s news for you powerful men and the conference organizers who keep you in business: These things are not funny. I no longer attend your sessions for a reason. And no, I am not a super sensitive little girl who just needs to grow up and realize that you’re joking. I have a pretty good sense of humor, actually. Cut it out.

Looking for a way to help out? Consider supporting #teamharpy with words or money or both, and let conference organizers know when this kind of thing happens to you.

[Edited to add: for those of you who don’t know about #teamharpy, conversations about sexual harassment in libraryland were recently sparked off by one prominent male librarian suing two women for 1.25 million dollars. He’s claiming defamation because they spoke out about his harassment. Libraryland is in heated conversation, now, about power dynamics, the silencing affect that lawsuits like this cause, and exactly how much of a problem this is, and how prevalent. Right now the message is clear, speaking out is more dangerous than harassing.]

Published inRandom Thoughts


  1. Martha Hardy Martha Hardy

    You are mighty, Iris, and so right on here. I too have witnessed some of this behavior from near and far, none of it directed at me, but still so creepy and intimidating. Harassing behavior is so normalized that any who reports or even discusses it runs a huge risk of being discredited herself, in addition to being deemed No Fun. So much wrong with this picture. I’m mad, too.

  2. cindiann cindiann

    You go, Iris! I pretty much don’t attend certain conferences anymore because of this behavior and because of other things that have happened directly at them. (which means I haven’t seen you in forever, and that also makes me sad).

  3. Yep. I think we’re thinking of the same conferences, actually.

  4. cindiann cindiann

    sigh… and if had proofread, I would have said “because of other things that have happened directly *to me* at them.”

  5. Steve Lawson Steve Lawson

    So glad to see you speaking your mind on this.

  6. anita life anita life

    Hi Iris, I’m glad you wrote this but I’m not sure I saw anything illegal described in Amanda’s post….

  7. Meg Meg

    Because if it’s not technically illegal, the whole post is meaningless. I get your drift ;)

  8. Kelly Kelly

    Wasn’t it filmmaker John Waters who talked about tea bagging in a keynote? What librarian did this?

  9. He may very well have, but I’m thinking of a librarian giving a plenary speech at Computers in Libraries in 2006 or 2007.

  10. anita life anita life

    No Meg, but it’s irresponsible for librarians without a legal background to pontificate about what is or isn’t legal. What Amanda’s harasser did was reprehensible, but a lot of this kind of stuff is covered under the first amendment. I imagine that it’s probably even more slippery given that first amendment protections differ from state to state. There is a difference between “morally wrong” and “illegal” and it’s not productive to conflate the two given the subject matter here.

  11. But it is productive to be pedantic. Got it. Here’s how I meant the word: In a court of law, I could bring civil suit against someone who did these things and at the very least get a restraining order. If these things are done in a workplace setting, suddenly you’re in federal court. Depending on the state you’re in, penalties and wording will vary.

    Also, you don’t know my background, and I think you’re just spoiling for a fight. So I’m not going to respond beyond what I’ve said here.

  12. anita life anita life

    Thanks for the clarification. I wish it were that easy to get a restraining order, and I wish people were protected at conferences by the same workplace protections you’re referencing here. I’ve seen a lot of librarians describing Amanda’s harasser’s actions as illegal, and you’re right that I don’t know your background, so I’m sorry for questioning that line of commentary here – it didn’t seem right to do it on Amanda’s initial post and you seem to have a lively comments section going here.

Comments are closed.