Thursday, July 17, 2014

It is time for DEF CON to grow up

I've been putting this blog post off for a while and I've read a few others like it while I've been putting it off so I almost didn't bother. But I think I have something slightly different to say so I decided it was worth it. Let me start from the beginning. DEF CON is special to me. DEF CON 8 was pure magic in my life, that was my first one and it changed my life. I've been to every one since except for one due to the birth of my child which was poor planing on my part. So what I say is with love and real feedback.

At DEF CON 8 it was also my first trip to Vegas. All the half dressed women walking around some handing out floppy disk with nude pics of themselves on them was part of the Vegas experience to me. I loved it. But that was a long time ago. I recently had to explain to a good female friend of mine that was wanting to go to DEF CON that it was probably a bad idea. I did it by explaining in detail how Hacker Jeopardy worked. Oh..she said. Then I had to explain that a good number of con goers have limited social skills and it would be highly likely for her to get stared at and inappropriately propositioned during the con and the Goons would almost certainly ignore any complaints about it. She decided not to go, which I thought was wise.

That conversation got me wondering, do I want my daughter to go when she is old enough? I've always wanted that since I had kids but the more I think of it, the more the answer is no, unless the con grows up. It will be a world she will be unfamiliar with and I don't want to expose it to her in that way. In short, DEF CON's attitude about women is roughly based on a young white male's attitude was roughly 20 years ago.

So, it is past time for DEF CON to grow up. It is no more appropriate for DEF CON to still have 20 year old attitudes about women then it would be for say a southern country club to still have 50 year old attitudes about race. There should be no objectifying women in any official event, which would include no striping in Hacker Jeopardy. Women and men not wearing enough cloths should be asked to leave until fully dressed. Goon's should be trained to not only deal with inappropriate and unwanted advances and comments properly but should look for them and act upon them even if the victim doesn't complain since the problem is already well known. That should hopefully set the tone and change the culture and after a year or two the Goon's could back off a bit.

I don't think any of this will happen. That said my plan this year is to skip Black Hat and go to B-Sides Vegas instead. I plan to go to DEF CON but I don't plan to spend a dime on anything but a badge. Not a huge protest I know, but it is a start and like I said, DEF CON is special to me. I'll see how things go. If nothing changes this year and there is nothing to make me thing it will be different next year, I probably won't be going back to DEF CON after this year until I hear they have changed. There is no reason to put up with it anymore. B-Sides in many cities are great and DerbyCon is great.

I recommend everyone else that goes think about this as well and if it matters to you start making your voices heard and stop going if they don't listen. Times are different, we can skip DEF CON without missing out and I'm starting to think we should.

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