CoC diversity list concerns, suggestions

Aaron Wolf Public Seen by 244

I want to reiterate and discuss some points about the list of acknowledged diverse identities.

The current CoC draft has 2 duplicate listings of:

> regardless of gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neuro(a)typicality, physical appearance, body size, age, race, nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, family structure, spirituality, religion (or lack thereof), education, or other inherent qualities.

Drop duplication

At the very least, there should be only one case of this list. Any other place can simply refer back to the "list above" or similar.

Stop trying to be complete?

But I'm still concerned that any list of entries larger than around 5-7 items (i.e. the number of things people can hold in working memory) inherently comes across as an attempt at being a complete list even with the acknowledgement of "…or other".

So, for example, consider if we removed "neuro(a)typicality" from the current list but left everything else the same. That would seem clearly to be omitting that class and be a signal to people that this issue was not considered and may not be recognized.

However, I think everything would be better if we made the list much shorter and emphasized the incompleteness, such as: "…regardless of personal qualities such as gender, age, race, socioeconomic status, or other diverse traits".

That short sentence, easily readable, makes it clear that these really are just examples and in no way feels like neuro(a)typicality is specifically omitted.

Even if we keep the attempted-exhaustive list, add "qualities such as" to the front of the list in addition to the "other" at the end helps ENORMOUSLY in my view. So, let's please do that at least.

Still, the huge list seemingly trying to be exhaustive always makes me feel an obligation to expand the list for any trait I see missing. A short list feels like not only are we simply imperfect at exhausting all possibilities but we actually know that more than this are covered and so there's no doubt about privileging certain traits per se. If we keep the long list, I have other traits I think should be added. I can't get over having both a long list and omitting traits that we surely do want included… if it's long, it needs to be thorough.

Diversity in other areas aligned with our values

We should not tolerate intolerance. So, we should not support the expression of prejudiced discriminatory views, particularly against marginalized people. Adding Nazis isn't the form of diversity we want.

I think we can simply acknowledge that we don't tolerate views in conflict with our celebration of diversity and the rest of the co-op values. When there's no such conflict, we want to support diversity of opinions, professions, etc.

If we keep a shorter list (as I suggest above), then it's easier to just skip the idea of listing "professions" etc. because it's acknowledged that unreasonable discrimination on that basis is not okay along with lots of other unlisted traits. But if we keep the long list, then we need to have this debate about that and other things to continue the expanding list…


Gil Scott Fitzgerald Thu 2 Aug 2018

At first glance that seems reasonable and aligned with my instinct not to over-specify.
Have we considered hiring a consultant to advise us though? It'd be nice to support someone who's a professional at this type of thing.


Aaron Wolf Thu 2 Aug 2018

Additional twist / nuance: I mentioned "profession" as an example above. This is a good edge-case for the complexity here.

  • I want to be able to say critical things of certain professions generally (e.g. capitalist finance) without worry of violating the CoC
  • I don't think I should post inappropriately aggressive things to specific individuals who happen to have professions I criticize — even as I still want some flexibility to discuss with them my criticisms of their profession if done respectfully and non-harassingly.
  • I do think having a diversity of professions included here is super valuable (particularly among the whole range of professions aligned with our core values)

So, how do we deal with this? Tough edge cases are easy to come across. I had an exchange with someone online arguing (in contrast to the Geek Feminism position) that criticism of the institution of booth babes at conferences is itself sexist or otherwise unjust. My opinion relates to not only the feminist concerns about booth babes (though I share them) but further to my general hostility toward commercializing (especially around advertising) human relationships. Within feminism, there's major conflicts around the issue of sex workers of all sorts.

So, how does that fit with the CoC?

From my view, I want a CoC that stops things that would make a sex worker feel condescended to, harassed, or otherwise unwelcome or unsafe. But I don't want a CoC that would censor gracious, nuanced criticism of sex work. Obviously, one can criticize pornography in a way that is sexist and demeaning of actors (actresses particularly) or even just prejudiced in less aggressive ways (like asserting with compassion that actresses all have pathologies or all come from abusive backgrounds) or one can criticize pornography from a feminist perspective and really complain in a non-prejudiced way about the trends and problems in it.

And from my view, the issues in this edge case can be intellectually fairly applied to almost any other category. There's certainly a range of views of transgender issues outside the truly prejudiced ones. There's lots of controversy around religion and whether it's okay to discuss religious ideas at all, given lots of conflicts. And so on for about every category.

If we can come to consensus on broad principles opposed to prejudice etc. then what purpose does the overly-specified listing of traits serve? Perhaps others can provide examples where the specific listings would matter and would lead to a more positive outcome compared to not having the long list…?


Manuela Bosch Thu 2 Aug 2018

Rather than discussing this even more in depth, I would rather like to see an improved proposal made. In the end it matters what those words mean to us and how we live it. I am very interested in working on the topic of inclusion. But regarding CoC terms, I really just hope we get it done soon, so we can focus on creating a digital environment that feels natural and welcoming and that fetches people from minoritiy groups where they are standing. Those terms are the foundation for that. So thank you for your digging into this Aaron and thank you for helping closing the discussion on a satisfying point soon.


emi do Thu 2 Aug 2018

@wolftune : wow these are a lot of thoughts and I'm feeling that they are probably informed by experience where such thoughts were not considered. I think we threw Jake's edited version out pretty quickly, because of its lack of headings but some of the edits I think helped us avoid some of these extemporaneous explanations.

For example. for this section I believe Jake's version eliminates the need to go into list-making:

Social.coop members agree to adhere to the International Cooperative Alliance's Statement on Co-operative Values.

Member's behaviour in [social.coop spaces] is expected to be in alignment with the Statement:

*"Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others." *


Aaron Wolf Thu 2 Aug 2018

@emido I do have some experience (one example was mentioned in the post), but a lot also comes from observing conflicts in various communities, which I guess is experience but was more my reflecting on how I see others having issues.

(sorry for the length below, wow, that's a lot I just wrote)

Unfortunately, it will probably take years to grapple with this, and we need a working CoC now.

I think it was with Jake where [EDIT: no, it was someone else] I had an exchange on Google Docs where I was making this overall point. It started out with his objecting to my suggestion of "No bigotry" as the framing. It was actually in that context that I initially suggested we reference the co-op values as a key guiding factor.

But here's some perspectives on why the list-making comes about (from my understanding):

The way some people today use terms like "racism", it strictly refers to discrimination against marginalized / oppressed classes (races in this case). So, by that definition, racism against white folks is impossible (and sexism against men is impossible etc). But "bigotry" is more general and suggests prejudicial intolerance of any group. While to some that means emphasizing bigotry is more general and fair to everyone, it can be read by others as specifically an attempt to avoid focusing on marginalized groups and thus to reinforce the status quo by making bigotry against privileged groups just as wrong as bigotry against oppressed groups (when the latter are the ones most in need of extra support and deference).

So, there are cases where reactionary (generally right-wing-leaning) folks push back on CoC's and similar that treat privileged groups differently. In the case of GitHub, there was controversy over a policy they proposed that said explicitly that there was no such thing as "reverse racism". I happen to agree with what GitHub was trying to say, but the practical matter is that some people saw the policy as giving a pass to basically any form of bigotry or aggression against privileged classes, so there was a right-wing (not all hardcore folks though) uproar about it.

So, there exists this tension. Marginalized folks by their very status are more vulnerable to feeling unwelcome, unsafe etc. And the worry is that a neutral policy could favor privileged folks. Given that the style of language from privileged folks is more often to be considered normal or interpreted graciously, their voices will get extra weight unless we specifically emphasize support of the marginalized voices. So, I think that means giving extra grace when a person of color expresses an angry sentiment about white privilege compared to less grace for a white person expressing any critique of people of color.

Overall, I'm trying to steel-man this concern. I think it's somewhat valid. And the co-op values on their own don't directly address this without some extra reference.

I still strongly prefer to replace an over-specified list of which traits we recognize as marginalized with a more generalized statement, such as "extra grace and support for the inclusion of those with marginalized traits"… … although as I write that I realize it's possible for someone to say "Nazi voices are marginalized" and we need to be clear that isn't what we mean to include.

This is wicked hard stuff, of course. I've not yet seen a great solution.

I've hesitated to even mention the following example because it's not an area of my own expertise or personal experience, but to me a most clear case where this is super hard: I see transwomen asking for full inclusion in women's spaces while some women see this as a way for particular men (being a transwoman requires only the claim to be one, there are certainly differences between trans and cis women etc.) to further impose themselves and eliminate safe spaces for women (thus following the patriarchal pattern of men having the privilege to impose themselves on women, even, in this case arguably, by claiming to be women). So, there's transwomen (undeniably marginalized overall) who say that the women who don't fully accept them are bigots (and should be censored). Then there's the women who themselves claim to feel unsafe around aggressive, angry transwomen who insist that they be fully included in women's spaces.

How do we deal with this? Surely we don't want a CoC that takes sides in this debate between different marginalized groups and simply censors one or the other. Better that we insist on a level of grace and respect in any discussions of this issue, right?

From my view, no CoC is capable of guaranteeing that everyone feel safe, welcome, and fully accepted in a situation where there are such strong tensions. A CoC can only go so far, and people may feel uncomfortable with any idea that challenges them — and that is not enough reason to censor an idea. So, I think the best a CoC could and should do is to require that everyone on all sides treat one another with respect and communicate constructively.

I don't then know what to do about the concern that in some of these conflicts, one side may happen to be more practiced and capable of constructive communication styles. So, if there's a marginalized group that happens to commonly use communication styles that others interpret as aggressive and unconstructive… the best I can think of is that our goal is to help those voices be heard but in a constructive way.

Finally, because it's so common for certain groups to experience prejudice etc., it's possible that they may simply have less trust in any community that doesn't explicitly invite them. So, a CoC that doesn't explicitly say that we recognize transgender rights etc. could end up failing to get as much participation from transgender folks. There's a trend where marginalized groups want to see their concerns explicitly referenced. Similar in a way to the "say her name" emphasis on facing the discrimination head-on rather than just obliquely referencing it. I'm skeptical of putting all this in the CoC, but at this point my goal is to encourage this conversation around the issue.

One possibility: keep the list out of the CoC but maintain some sort of list in a separate annotated CoC (a doc I suggested in another topic)


Jake Beamish Thu 2 Aug 2018

I didn't object to no bigotry, at least don't remember doing so, I think that was someone called Jon :)! Though I don't have any experience with this sort of thing, my gut reactions to your suggestions have been positive. My short version was an attempt to prune/reconsolidate the material rather than to alter its meaning, or to weigh in on the specific issue of the lists – though I do think that the final doc should be easy to read and understand.

As far as your concerns around marginalized/censored go, I suppose the docs currently put the decision in the hands of whoever is in the ops team & or jury/referee group at the time, and allows for a range of responses without placing restrictions on which response to use when. The onus is on them to act appropriately and with consideration for things like what you've shared here – so, as far as decision-making goes IMO, resources and more guidance docs will be needed as and when we face new problems.


Aaron Wolf Thu 2 Aug 2018

Thanks and sorry for misremembering the name there.

The concerns about marginalized/censorship etc. go beyond how enforcement happens to go and to the signaling issues to tell vulnerable / concerned folks that we do in fact have an adequate process to help them feel comfortable.

I think it's a mistake to go too far in focusing on meeting every signaling demand, but I think this is another case where some deference to those marginalized folks who want such signals is at least warranted. I do want a result where marginalized voices do indeed see that this is as safe and welcoming a place as they could expect any such community to be. But I'm sure there are some people who might already find offense in seeing me (someone with relatively few marginalized traits) proposing the elimination or reduction in lists of protected classes… I just hope it's clear in my examples in posts here that I'm not just dismissing concerns, I'm bringing up issues that relate to how such lists are handled in general.


Jake Beamish Thu 2 Aug 2018

No worries. Your posts are clear to me, though as another person with relatively few marginalized traits, I don't know how helpful that is. :) Do you think your suggestions should be edited in now, before it's proposed to the CWG formally? I'd like to hear from other participants on this too.


Aaron Wolf Thu 2 Aug 2018

Refer to ICA for solution!

The ICA already publishes a complete annotation of the Principles and Values!


the 1st Principle’s prohibition against discrimination is absolute. the inclusion of the words “gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination” to illustrate the categories of people who may be unjustly treated does not limit the principle of granting membership rights without discrimination. Listing examples of categories of people who may be discriminated against in an unequivocal statement is an ancient rhetorical way of illustrating the 1st Principle’s broad scope and extent. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of human rights and 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political rights take a similar form.

So, we really should just take their annotation and reference it.

Their core term is "without discrimination based on personal characteristics".

Their annotations go on to describe disabilities, educational differences, age, gender equality, more about race…

I really think the best thing is to link directly to the ICA documents and just have a statement of our emphasis of these things.

That said, I'm okay with our own annotations about extra points if we really feel that's necessary (but I still oppose over-specification in the short version of the CoC).

I don't see anything in the ICA docs that warrants discrimination against bigots, i.e. discrimination against Nazis etc. and maybe that should be spelled out. Something about not tolerating intolerance or better wording of the same idea… otherwise, the ICA stuff seems great. And then we avoid wheel-reinvention.


Aaron Wolf Thu 2 Aug 2018

I see @emido replied in etherpad with a simple version suggested with no listing.
But I can't get my browser to let my cursor enter the field to reply there! Arg!

Anyway, I like the version except it's missing reference to the principles part of https://www.ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/co-operative-identity-values-principles which includes the reference to discrimination etc. so I think we need to explicitly reference the principles, perhaps list those out as well.


emi do Thu 2 Aug 2018

I was just in the process of replying to your message @wolftune ! I seem to have the same issue. Sometimes ing through fields in the comment box works better than trying to click through with your mouse.

From what I understand from your comments above, you'd be comfortable with an edit like this:
Social.coop members agree to adhere to the [International Cooperative Alliance's Statement of Co-operative Principles Values.]

Member's behaviour in [social.coop spaces] is expected to be in alignment with the Statement:

"Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others."

Where [International Cooperative Alliance's Statement of Co-operative Principles Values.] would link to https://www.ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/co-operative-identity-values-principles


Aaron Wolf Thu 2 Aug 2018

Though longer, I'm leaning toward adapting their wording like this:

As a cooperative, Social.coop is based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Our members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. We also follow the rest of the ICA co-op principles.

For our Code of Conduct in particular, we emphasize the principle of Voluntary and Open Membership. We welcome all persons able to use our services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, with no discrimination based on personal characteristics such as gender, class, race, age, or other traits.

And I'd like to see something added in there explicitly emphasizing these two issues:

  • general celebration of diversity in all forms
  • no support of prejudice/intolerance/bigotry (in other words: it's a violation of the CoC to express views in opposition to our core values)

All that said, I still want to make sure that there aren't people out there who worry that we're not doing enough to emphasize deference to marginalized voices.

I'm concerned that there are people who just won't accept a short list because they insist on seeing explicit reference to disabilities, neuro(a)typicality, or other things… I'm not convinced we can avoid a long list, I'm just pointing out the problems with it. My own ideal is to have no list in the core CoC and only reference it in an annotated version.


emi do Fri 3 Aug 2018

@wolftune how about something like this?

As a cooperative, social.coop is based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Our members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. We also follow the rest of the ICA co-op principles.

*For our Code of Conduct in particular, we emphasize the principle of Voluntary and Open Membership. We welcome all persons able to use our services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, with an openness to celebrating diversity in all forms and with no discrimination, prejudice, intolerance of bigotry based on personal characteristics. *


Aaron Wolf Fri 3 Aug 2018

I like that overall. Some minor edits:

  • "with an openness to celebrating" could be just "with celebration of"
  • add comma after "equity" in first paragraph
  • "intolerance of bigotry" — I assume you meant "or" there (and need an extra comma), but I think the list of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, or bigotry — that's a bit redundant and long. Or maybe you meant "intolerance of bigotry" as something we DO (we don't tolerate bigotry), but then it doesn't go in a list of things we don't accept (that would be a double negative).

"diversity in all forms" doesn't handle the issue of "we don't mean diversity where Nazis add political diversity". I think what we want includes an extra statement that says effectively that we don't accept political views that conflict with these values.

Maybe: "We welcome all persons able to use our services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership. We particularly celebrate diversity, and do not tolerate discrimination or prejudice based on personal traits such as gender, race, class, or other such characteristics. Diverse opinions on politics, religion, and other matters are welcome as long as they align with our core values."

Something like that. So the idea is: the one thing we will censor are views that conflict with our core values. And if inclusion of diverse members is a core value, then views that go against that are included in the things we don't tolerate.

I hope this idea is clear. I'm not quite satisfied with an exact wording yet.


emi do Fri 3 Aug 2018

Hmmm, I really don't see the benefit of the short list but I like the rest of it. So perhaps :

We welcome all persons able to use our services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership. We particularly celebrate diversity, and do not tolerate discrimination or prejudice. Diverse opinions on politics, religion, and other matters are welcome as long as they align with our core values.


Aaron Wolf Tue 7 Aug 2018

I love how clear that is.

Picky thoughts:

Maybe somehow capture better clarity that we do discriminate against ideas that are in opposition to our values. So perhaps "do not tolerate discrimination or prejudice based on inherent personal traits"? That makes it clear that it's the more fixed, inherent traits where discrimination is unwelcome, and the next sentence you wrote does a good job of qualifying discrimination on less inherent views etc.

I think those who had concerns on this issue in the past should be consulted rather than be surprised about changes later. Is that @meltheadorable maybe…? And Jon Pinkus who doesn't seem to be registered at Loomio…

My vote is for your general wording probably with my "based on inherent personal traits" addition (or similar) while adding more discussion and examples in a separate annotated document.