Discussion: Safe and welcoming events in the WordPress community

Recently there’s been some discussion about how inclusive spaces are affected when someone wears a hat featuring “MAGA,” an acronym for the US political slogan “Make America Great Again,” to a WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more.. Aaron Jorbin posted about this first, and it seems time to hold a courteous and respectful discussion on the topic inside our team.

The WordPress global community teamGlobal Community Team A group of community organizers and contributors who collaborate on local events about WordPress — monthly WordPress meetups and/or annual conferences called WordCamps. asks community organizers to create events that are safe and welcoming for all attendees. We do this because WordCamps and meetupsMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. exist to connect WordPress enthusiasts and inspire people to do more with WordPress — and it’s difficult for people to connect or get inspired if they don’t feel safe. 

Our methods for creating welcoming events include:

  1. Setting clear behavioral expectations with participants, by sharing our code of conduct online, in the event registration flow and in opening remarks
  2. Addressing behavior that doesn’t meet expectations promptly, using a “calling in” approach
  3. Refraining from hosting events at religiously- or politically-affiliated venues.

Our program has very clear guidelines about what kind of behavior we expect but rarely sets expectations around what attendees might choose to wear to a WordPress event, or what iconography is allowed on belongings. For example, while we do not hold events in houses of worship, we do not ask attendees to refrain from wearing religious symbols or clothing to WordCamp. This line of reasoning falls apart when it comes to widely-recognized symbols of hate, like Nazi iconography. I think we definitely would ask someone to remove a Nazi icon from our event spaces if they brought one in, on their clothes or laptop.

That said, I think all event organizers would like to avoid attendees being surprised, either by a reaction to what they’re wearing/displaying on their belongings, or by what someone else is wearing or displaying on their belongings. 

Over the years, this program has had better results by defining what we would like to happen than by defining all the things we don’t want to happen. We have found that creating more rules tends to require us to make even more rules, to close loopholes and clarify. The fact that this is a global program, with events held in over 100 countries around the world, further complicates the creation of effective and prescriptive rules. 

Join the Discussion

WordPress community organizers, please help discuss this question: How can we keep the inclusive and collaborative nature of our events, without specifying what can and can’t be worn to WordCamps and meetups?

This may be a difficult issue to discuss with calm and courtesy. Please do your best to express yourself kindly and assume good intent among those who are sharing their perspectives on this sensitive topic. I’ll leave comments open until March 16, or until we need a cooling-down period.