I do not know Lisa Rabey or nina de jesus. I don’t know Joe Murphy, either, although I was on an elevator with him at the Computers in Libraries conference in 2009, but we did not speak. I am therefore, I suppose, utterly qualified (as a relative outsider) or not remotely qualified (being out of the loop as I am) to talk about Team Harpy. But I’m going to talk about it anyway, because it’s important.
Meredith already wrote up a nice summation of the reasons one might want to support Team Harpy and the reasons one might feel a bit edgy doing so. I’ve had some online conversations — or listened to some, to be more accurate — about that edginess. That feeling that while it was dumb for Murphy to sue these women, it was also ill-advised for them to make accusations that seem based not on first-hand experience. I’ve heard people wonder if Rabey and de jesus are the best witnesses, or the most reliable, or, you know, even good.
I don’t know them, and, until this started going down, I’d never read either of their blogs or followed them on Twitter or really even heard of them (as I said, I’m a bit out of the loop these days). But here’s what I do know: to quote another person I never thought I’d quote, you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want.
We know that harassment at conferences is a problem. We know that. Sarah Houghton has written about it at length. We’ve got codes of conduct for conferences (and, rather astoundingly, controversies around them, as you can see in the comments here). We know this. What we have to do is fight it.
Before I became a librarian, I spent a long, long time being an activist. If you’ve spent any time trying to change the world, you know that trying to change the world is a lot like living in the world. Some people are brilliant, most of us are ordinary, and some people are kind of odd ducks. I got arrested with one guy who later got a Fulbright and one guy who dropped out of college shortly thereafter. Some of the people who fought the Vietnam War went on to win elected office. Some of them tried to levitate the Pentagon. Some of them went nuts. Some of the people who fought for universal suffrage were against abortion rights. Some of the women who fought for women’s rights were worried about having lesbians in the movement. These aren’t admirable qualities, but they’re true, because the people who fought these fights were human. Some people decided they’d rather not fight with humans, only with saints. Saints are in short supply, so they sat the fights out.
I am not putting Lisa Rabey or nina de jesus in any of these categories — as I said at the beginning of this, I don’t know them. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter. They are the ones who stepped up to fight this thing. We who care about it owe them our support. And if I go down, that’s the side I want to go down on — the side of the people who did things, human, foibled, flawed — but the ones who fought.