Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Hostile Environment

My wife has had her life threatened on the internet. (trigger warning on that link)

Yes, really. It happened Friday, while she was away at Grace Hopper.

I haven't really said much about it yet because it has upset me so much. Perhaps more so because I was alone, on the opposite coast, and feeling especially helpless. However, she's been home for a day now and I'm still really very upset over it.

This has been a hell of a year for CK at her new job. She's tried to exceed expectations despite all the stuff happening with my Mom, not to mention the stress that has put on me, making me less available to help her out. She's succeeded too despite a hostile work environment.

I want to call attention to the hostile work environment expressly. This death threat starts back in March with CK logging into work and as part of her everyday job activities, coming across a blog post from a community member, a contract employee* at her company, asking for support to keep "traditional marriage" safe from people like us.

To restate, in case anyone missed it: CK started a day at her job by viewing, on a web site hosted by her company, which is part of her job to keep current on, a post stating that very nature of our desire for marriage equality makes us a threat to this man's way of life and expression of his faith.

Her company didn't act on this in a timely fashion and didn't already have in place a code of conduct for community members. Clearly time was being given to think through the response the company would make, but there was a very long stretch without updates from leadership. CK drew attention to her company's lack of response to her having to face a hostile work environment on her blog, following up a post she'd written about the start of the situation.

Bringing attention to this lack of action garnered a threatening comment from another co-worker letting her know that she and another queer co-worker weren't welcome at the company.

Her company eventually responded, again taking rather a long time, and the person has been reprimanded, but without being revealed publicly. I've seen the person's apology email and I feel the person spent far too much time excusing threatening behavior than actually owning the gravity of their actions and making amends for it.

In response to the whole situation CK wrote a post about the importance of accountability in communities and for this post she's received a death threat via the comments to her blog.

I really don't have a lot to contribute other than to draw attention to the fact that my wife has had to face a hostile work environment. Because she's refused to ignore it and because she's taken steps to document the broken community and processes at her company she's had her life threatened.

Think about my wife, and think about the rights we're denied because we're queer. Think about the violence we're threatened with if we speak out.

Next time you say that the open source community is free of sexism** and homophobia, is filled with people of such good standing there's no need for codes of conduct, and that fostering a culture based upon respect is unnecessary because everyone is just so awesome and smart... take a moment reflect upon the fact my wife, a recognized leader in the open source community, has received a death threat for refusing to just keep quiet over the hostile environment in her workplace, an open source company.


*This man has actually been made a full-time employee since this all started.

**Not to mention a whole lot of other -isms against other under-represented minorities.