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Jeremy Dunck's emails and direct messages to women in tech

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Here are the anonymized emails and DMs from Jeremy Dunck to three
recipients. Anything within square brackets is either a redaction to
protect anonymity or an addition to provide context. If you would like
to add any email or other documented interaction you have had with
Jeremy to this document, contact board@lists.doubleunion.org.
 
Email and direct messages on Twitter #1:
 
[Context: Jeremy and the recipient of these emails and DMs have had brief
online interactions prior to these DMs.]
 
DM from Jeremy Dunck:11:04 PM - 01 Oct 13 I talked today w/
[redacted], former [redacted] board member, about anarchy, context,
ideology, inability to solve problems.
 
DM from Jeremy Dunck: 11:04 PM - 01 Oct 13 I suspect [redacted] is
irredeemable, and hope that DU can be the thing [redacted] should have
been. And I look forward to helping you in any way I can.
 
[Recipient does not reply. 6 days later:]
 
from: Jeremy Dunck <[redacted]>
to: [same recipient as the unanswered DMs]
date: Mon, Oct 7, 2013 at 10:09 PM
subject: dataviz for causes
 
Hey [redacted], I was looking at your [redacted] post (linked from the
taskforce mailing list post), and noticed "dataviz for causes".
 
This is a thing I want to do as well. As an example, when Sandy
Hook happened, I was maddened that it took such an event to focus
debate on gun control. So many people die from gun, but we only talk
about it when there's a newsworthy crisis. Every day is a quiet
crisis, but it isn't newsworthy. It felt to me that a good explainer
dataviz might help.
 
I've studied dataviz a good bit, am passable with d3, and would love
to collaborate on this stuff.
 
Let me know if you'd like to follow up?
 
----
 
from: [redacted]
to: Jeremy Dunck <[redacted]>
date: Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 6:49 AM
subject: Re: dataviz for causes
 
I don't have the bandwidth right now for any new projects, but thanks
for thinking of the idea.
 
I realize I still owe you a follow up on supporting Double Union!
 
The biggest way to help right now is just donating money. Our big
project as we build out the space (that we have to get done before we
can have any public events) is getting the allergy-rific carpet
removed and the underlying cement floor sanded and sealed/stained. We
will probably do some fundraising around that soon, since it will be a
couple thousand dollars. If you were thinking of donating to support
Double Union, doing it early on (and announcing it publicly!) would be
a huge help.
 
Obviously, since it is a space for women and you wouldn't get to hang
out in it, I have no idea if donating is even something you'd be
interested in. But also it doesn't seem as transactional as that,
right? Looking at the projects we have on tap makes me so excited!
They are going to be internet-changing... and hilarious, and
useful. The amazing things that are going to come out of Double Union
are going to be good for everyone.
 
Somehow, I suspect you totally already get that though. That while you
won't be directly involved in being there / making projects, you'll be
a big part of the voice that shares and speaks about them, and vocally
supports women. And if that's the case and you do totally get that,
and still want to support us, heck yeah!
 
Do it!
 
[No reply until weeks later, just before an event Jeremy will be
attending and the recipient will be speaking at. This will be the
first time they have met in person.]
 
from: Jeremy Dunck <[redacted]>
to: [redacted]
date: Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 11:48 AM
subject: Re: dataviz for causes
 
Hey [redacted], sorry I was slow replying to this - the tone of the
email is a bit odd. Yep, I know this is a space for women. I'm for
it. It seemed a bit hard-sell. Did I do something to make you feel I
didn't get it? :-/
 
Anyway, I'm unsure if I'm too late to help w/ the carpet removal, but
I've just paypal'd $200 to paypal@doubleunion.org.
 
[At the event, Jeremy sought out the recipient and had a long
conversation with the recipient during which she felt he stood too
close, dominated her time, and ignored her social cues to end the
conversation.]
 
Email #2:
 
[Context: No prior relationship beyond one-sided Twitter
"conversations." Recipient is a mailing list administrator for an
email list Jeremy is on.]
 
From: Jeremy Dunck <[redacted]>
Date: Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 11:13 PM
Subject: Maybe take me off the [redacted] list?
To: [redacted]
Cc: [recipient's MANAGER at her place of employment]
 
 
Hey [redacted],
 
I'm not sure if you're aware, but Double Union has banned me from
events. They haven't told me why, but I gather they've heard
complaints about me from enough members to be skeptical of my
trustworthiness. Without hearing the criticism, I can't speak to it.
 
Even so, I imagine you'll be active with DU, and in particular with
[Double Union board member]. I was booted off the DU list (I was on
it because I am an enthusiastic supporter). After reflecting on that
for a bit, I thought I should point out I'm still on the [another
feminist mailing] list, and if you think it's appropriate, you should
take me off the list. [This mailing list has an unsubscribe link in
the footer of every email.]
 
I plan to continue to being a supporter of diversity in tech, but I
realize that despite my efforts, I'm probably on a Bad Guy list now.
Boundaries are super-weird when they are invisible (at least to me?)
and so it's hard for me to know how to proceed with being helpful
here. In particular, if I stay involved, I'm obviously going to cross
paths with people who secretly distrust me.
 
There's no need to reply to this if you'd prefer not to. I'm CC'ing
[recipient's MANAGER... yes, her MANAGER] because he's a friend that
knows me well and is active with [this other feminist organization].
I wanted him to be aware that this is happening, because I want him to
be informed about dealing with me in this community.
 
Thanks, Jeremy
 
Email #3:
 
[Context: Met recipient at a meetup, no significant prior
relationship.]
 
On Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 5:21 PM, Jeremy Dunck <[redacted]> wrote:
 
At the [event], I made a comment about you being young, and I
think I made you uncomfortable. I don't actually remember what it
was in reference to - I think it was a pop culture reference.
 
I think that might have come across as dismissive or not taking
you seriously or singling you out. I'm not sure how it affected
you, but I could tell that I'd unintentionally done harm.
 
I'm sorry.

I'd just like to state that I support Jeremy Dunck unequivocally here. I have always found him to be a fantastic ally to feminists, as can be clearly seen in this gist. As a lifelong feminist, I am completely mystified as to what is so horribly wrong about apologizing for causing any offense, and offering to support feminist causes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this reeks of public shaming and makes me extremely upset.

I'm conflicted about how to respond to this except in seconding rebeccastandig in my support for Jeremy Dunck and in expressing confusion about what the issue is. I don't know what else you can ask from someone except sensitivity and willingness to do right by others. Dunno about y'all but I'm gonna get back to coding.

I'm reading through these emails, and I honestly am not quite sure what the issue may be. I did not find them particularly offensive or in any way creepy. They seem to be normal emails from someone trying to reach out and connect with other members of a community over a common cause. If the purpose of this post is to show how his emails or messages were deemed inappropriate, I'm not sure that this post is quite supporting that notion.

I have first-hand experience working with Jeremy Dunck on a number of women's initiatives. I worked with him on the PyLadies/DjangoCon grant program for women in 2011.

I have been a sprint organizer with him, and I have seen how he goes out of his way to encourage new contributors. If it wasn't for his encouragement when I was new to contributing to Django, I don't know if I would have ever co-authored Two Scoops of Django.

I have seen him volunteer through PyLadies, and I have only witnessed women get encouraged and motivated by his help. I know he can get very enthusiastic and excited about being a feminist ally, and I've seen him take encouragement farther than most by continuing to mentor and encourage after an event. He cares a lot. His encouragement is like that of a sensitive, caring older brother, not a creepy man trying to make advances.

I don't know what exactly happened other than the above interactions, which don't seem creepy enough to justify the public shaming. I feel terribly sad seeing this happen to such a good friend and ally.

If something worse than the above happened, I am willing to retract my support, but I really don't see anything here that deserves such an embarrassing public outing of him.

As a friend of Jeremy's I feel compelled to leave a comment. I want it to be known that Jeremy is a profoundly good person. I admire his work and dedication to support both new contributors in the open-source world and diversity in the tech community.

I'm very much aware that I'm myself part of a privileged demographic group and thus I appreciate that my words may not weigh much in this debate. Yet I still want to say that I do feel sympathetic with, and I do respect and understand the position of, the members of Double Union that have expressed concerns about him. Jeremy himself does too and he has unambiguously and publicly apologized for it.

I may well be missing some information, but in regards to all that I've read so far (here and on DU's blog), I find this approach of publicly disclosing Jeremy's name excessive and disproportionate.

I want to reiterate my sympathy with the members of DU and the feminist movements at large. But I am also extremely saddened to see a friend publicly thrown out in this situation, where I trust his intentions have always been genuinely good.

I have not met Jeremy and I am certain I am missing information all around. That said:

Reading these documents and his supporters' comments here gives me the impression that Jeremy wants immensely to be helpful and supportive and to interact with people who are doing things he thinks are neat. It also seems that he either does not understand or will not accept a soft "no" and when he receives one he will keep trying to interact until he is told "no" explicitly.

I would expect that this doesn't cause a problem when people or organizations do want the help he offers. The posters above me have had no problems working with him, and I'm sincerely glad to hear that.

But to address the questions about why the above interactions might be creepy: If you keep tweeting @someone and they don't answer you while they do answer others, they are probably not interested in interacting with you. If you DM someone and they don't answer, you should keep "they don't want to talk to me" in your mental list of reasons they might have done that. If you ask "how can I contribute to this community" and the answer is basically "please do be aware this community is not for you, but if you are interested in contributing, money is great", that is not an invitation to continue involving yourself in said community! If you are trying to figure out where you've screwed up and what the boundaries are, do not, for the love of all that is holy, cc: the recipient's manager! Regardless of your intentions, it resembles a subtle professional threat. If you want your friend to be aware of what's going on with you, send a separate email. Finally, if someone has indicated that contact with you is not welcome, further contacting them to apologize may not be the best call; you should be aware this can be used as an abusive tactic as well.

These emails, especially the third, could be more acceptable in different contexts. Context, and the repeated attempts to figure out his standing in this community and repeated refusal to accept anything less than a flat "no", makes them creepy.

Does this hit the top of the creep-o-meter? Not for me, but assuming "yes" until you are told "no" is still creepy. If the problem is simply not understanding a soft no, I would recommend learning about this common social interaction and speaking with someone who understands it better. If the problem is ignoring the possibility that the help offered might not be desired, that's another thing. If the problem is willfully ignoring repeated signals of disinterest in the name of "helping diversity?" That does ping my creep-o-meter, big time.

Obligatory caveat: I've met Jeremy at tech and diversity events, we've talked about Hackbright and the junior dev job market and so forth. I don't know him especially well, though for the record I have not been creeped out by my interactions with him thus far.

It doesn't trouble me that he's banned from DU events. DU can ban who they want to ban. If enough members find someone annoying for whatever reason, cool, you're in your rights to ban them.

Calling out someone by name and calling them creepy, as DU did in the last post, goes beyond that. That's the tactic one uses when one wants to alert the community at large to a danger in their midst. That bar is not met by any of the evidence presented thus far. There's no evidence that I have seen* that suggests Jeremy is a danger to anyone. There's not even any evidence that I have seen for the blog post's suggestion that Jeremy's here to mack on women in tech. In the other column, there's quite a lot of evidence that his intentions were the best anyone involved in outreach and diversity work can be expected to have. He's eager to help, and, yes, it's understandable why some people reacted to that badly. Hell, as far as I've seen, he seems to recognize that now.**

But is it appropriate that being eager to help gets you plastered on a public blog, with your real name, as a creepy predator? The same level of response we normally use for, like, certain Ruby predators who have actually committed assault?

I think it's fair to say that the implicit message of this blog post for the rest of us who run diversity initiatives and/or tech communities is that if we don't shun Jeremy too, we don't care about women's safety and comfort. And what the fuck are we supposed to do with that?

DU claims to not want to speak for feminists as a group, but the post text and the decision to release it exercise normative judgment to a point I find contrary to that intention. That is what troubles me.

  • I'm not privy to the larger body of evidence that DU has, just the contents of this gist. If there's something still private that's seriously egregious, though--save the name-and-shame blog post until you have clearance to release it! Releasing weaksauce raw evidence that doesn't bear out your assertions just looks bad.

** Honestly, certain people taking Jeremy's apologies as further evidence of his guilt is seriously effed up.

@fhocutt, that's helpful. Thanks for the explanation. I agree that it could feel creepy.

@aldeka I agree 100% with all your points.

Banning him from DU is fine. DU, you should not hesitate to ban anyone who bothers your members. That is critically important for creating a safe, welcoming environment for members. In fact, I commend you for being strong and decisive about this and think other groups should be more pro-active about banning people who make members uncomfortable.

DU, would you be willing to consider removing his name from the blog post? His apologies seem very sincere, and I really think he just didn't realize how creepy he was coming across.

It's just excessive to publicly shame him and ruin his future, his career, his relationships, his family, etc. I would not have a problem with it if he did something more severe, but here it just seems like too much.

Here are some more explanations of why this behavior is a problem.

On soft "no"s

"No" is a marked answer in our culture and requires more justification; a flat "no" or "stop" is generally considered rude. When a person does not listen to or act on indirect refusals, they force the other person to escalate to an explicit refusal. This puts the person who said "no" or "stop" or "I want to stop talking with you" at a conversational and social disadvantage, however slight.

Soft "no" is used in a wide vairety of interactions. Imagine the exchange, "Want to get lunch tomorrow?" "Hm, I'm busy." Imagine one person monopolizing the conversation, suddenly noticing that the other party looks agitated and impatient, and shortly after, excusing themselves and leaving. Most people would understand these refusals if they came from their boss! If they recognize this type of communication from authority figures and not from people with less authority than them, the problem isn't with their ability to understand. It's about where they choose to act on that understanding or who they expect to hear it from.

Why not understanding/responding to soft "no"s is such a red flag

Abusive behavior generally involves a series of escalating boundary violations. Ignoring soft "no"s is often the first signal we usually get that the person we're interacting with doesn't think that our desires are relevant to their actions. That is scary--"creepy", even. We wonder--at what point will this person care what we want to happen between the two of us? Will they ever? And the red flag starts waving. More red flags go up when the person ignores harder and harder "no"s or does this repeatedly or to many people.

I want to be very clear here. None of this requires intent to abuse or to harm. It may truly not occur to the person behaving this way that their input/presence/help might not be welcome, and as a result they may truly not notice subtle refusals. They may think of abusive behavior as something the "bad guys" do and so not connect the dots between what they've read and what they're doing. But the people on the receiving end of this behavior can't tell and the fact that this behavior may have come from clueless entitlement rather than calculated disregard does not make it less harmful.

I've been trying not to comment here until I had a full statement together, but in response to @audreyr's request that my name be removed: I think it's fine that they are criticizing me, even publicly. I am uncomfortable with the implication that I'm dangerous or predatory, but I understand that the cost of trusting often falls unfairly on the marginalized group, and I am less concerned about my reputation than I am about people being hurt. I do wish this could have been a private discussion, but again, understand why making it public both protects the people who would perhaps not feel safe giving me feedback, and also potentially warns people about me as a threat.

I hope to address this later, but this has been a tough week:
http://twitter.com/jdunck/status/439474751329673217 (and forward the next few tweets).

Again, thank you @fhocutt for taking the time to give me this feedback.

Thanks, @jdunck. I'm glad to hear that's where your priorities are; I find that reassuring. I hope that you are able to work this out in a way that is constructive both for you and the communities you are involved with.

My sympathies for your loss.

These might be useful:

  • Contacting your boss is understandably a threat, regardless of intent. To anyone precarious or doing risky activism. In this case, Dunck apparently linked patriarchal and capitalist oppression. (Particularly since that boss is a "him.") Right after getting banned from a feminist hackerspace -- which many people would kinda interpret as a time to re-contemplate their actions.

  • Double Union's interventions weren't lightly made. As of Jan 21, "exactly one person" was banned. And even then, they hid his identity. Despite a total of 10-20 reports of inappropriate behavior. Apparently now they perceived the need to escalate further, even at risk to "the anonymity and safety of the people who complained about" him, due to "continued inappropriate behavior towards women in the Bay Area tech community".

  • Glowing testimonials don't outweigh the complaints. To take extreme examples (I am not comparing Dunck to them, just illustrating common sense), even really awful historical figures had glowing testimonials. No one is saying that he's awful to everyone he sees; that would be unusual even in far more extreme cases.

  • When Dunck mentions "dangerous or predatory", that seems misleading. Someone can be dangerous and "blunder-y". Mental state is mostly hidden; what concerns us is actions. Particularly patterns of them. (In fact, it's a sign of privilege to blunder about and not worry about danger; like how rich whites apparently can even freely confess to crimes which get so many others imprisoned. Especially when these blunders impact others.)

Now Dunck has the option of learning and improving. (As do we all. I have blundered in life, and in fact take care daily to maintain solidarity with others.)

And to those enablers who read Double Union's evidence, and nevertheless announced they'd defend him -- ignoring others who voiced legitimate concerns: now you know how easy it is to take a shady ethical stance.

I hope to address the "CC'ing the manager" point, but it is somewhat hard to do without outing people -- which I will not do. For now, I will say that there are relevant, long-standing relationships that caused me to CC that particular person, and it did not occur to me that he was her manager -- she had, in fact, only very recently announced that she would join his organization, and I did not put that together when I was addressing what was, to me, an entirely unrelated issue.

EDIT: In retrospect, I agree that that was a mistake - I do understand how it could be taken as a threat, and I'm sorry I did that. If I had been aware that he was her manager, I would not have CC'd him.

EDIT2: I agree w/ all the other points obviously-anon made -- except perhaps the last one (that it is unethical to be a character witness for someone).

EDIT2: I agree w/ all the other points obviously-anon made -- except perhaps the last one (that it is unethical to be a character witness for someone).

He misrepresents my words. I didn't mention character witnesses. I referred to those enablers who explicitly announced their agenda to "defend" someone more privileged than those they ignore.

No need to "address" anything. That email should never have been written. No one should ever have been cc'ed.

(If I were the single person banned from a given feminist space, then hopefully I'd just briefly and unconditionally apologize; make clear I'll quietly contemplate/research/fix; and move on. But of course it's never so easy, because the internal forces compelling me to get banned also preclude me from simple solutions. Couldn't write a brief solidarity-preserving statement and stop talking; couldn't quietly listen/follow.)

sinak commented

I'm most curious about DU's decision-making process around the act of publicly naming jdunck, and I wish more information about the nuances of making such a decision had been included in the original post.

Public naming seems like a relatively severe action, and one that I assume must have been considered carefully by DU. A better post might have weighed the positives and negatives of naming, given a background on attempts by DU to reach out to people outside their own community and adjacent ones to learn about jdunck's behavior and history. It seems like getting a thorough sense of someone before taking such an action seems wise.

An obvious and less-severe alternative would have been to give jdunck feedback privately (or publicly, but without naming him) on why DU had decided on the ban. DU could also have offered resources to help correct the behaviors that had led to it. Had he continued the actions that caused the problem, a public naming would still be an option.

I'm not saying that the less-severe option is necessarily the right one, but it'd be valuable to read an explanation as to why it wasn't taken.

@sinak: You are making the unfounded assumption that less severe alternatives have not been tried (and how would you even know about private feedback unless you were told?). Usually, both individuals and organizations try to find solutions that will be effective and not bring them the level of criticism that naming names and releasing documents inevitably will. @jdunck was banned from DU some time ago and I know that some people had previously told him that his behavior was not welcome. Those are less severe alternatives.

There is an ongoing discussion happening in the larger community on the ethics and effectiveness of public call-outs. If you aren't aware of it, you might go looking for it and do some background reading.

Disclaimer: I am not involved with DU; I do know some of the members. I don't know the details of how those decisions were made. I have watched a fair handful of community conflicts that center on harmful behavior play out, and have observed that very few start with the nuclear option.

Recipient of email #2 here. Jeremy replied to the tweet where I announced my new job; the linked blog post indicated that the person he CC'ed was in my management chain. My manager is the only person in the same field as me at the organization; there is literally no-one else that I would report to. Jeremy was also present at a dinner where I was being recruited to work on my manager's team.

I understand that some people might not see that email as threatening, but in this case, it is extremely clear to me that Jeremy is either completely insensitive to power dynamics in the workplace and should probably not be mentoring marginalized people, or he is socially aware enough to mentor marginalized people, in which case he would be aware of how threatening this email sounded.

Whatever the explanation, you can't send this email, and be a mentor to women in tech.

Thank you for taking the time to reply. Since we have only shared one meal, I can say with confidence that I did not know you were being recruited at that dinner. I think your tweet announcing was before my email asking to be taken off the other list, but again, I did not CC your manager intentionally - I CC'd a mutual friend who is also associated with that group.

This, taken from an email sent Feb 10 to the manager after he pointed out my mistake:

"
On Jan 14, after I saw that [recipient2] was moving down and joining DU, I was reminded of my membership of on the [other
feminist mailing] list. I don't know who, other than her, manages that list. I did not think about the fact that you are [her] new boss. I fucked up in not realizing that CC'ing you could be taken as leverage or a threat. Leverage for what, even? I was not asking for anything but to be taken off the list if she felt it appropriate. In particular, I was not (and am not) asking to be believed over anybody. I do not even know what the issue is. I do not deny anything -- it's totally possible I screwed up in ways I'm unaware of.

My thinking was that [recipient2] and I have only met once (at [a meeting]). I thought of you because you know me and are involved with [the other org]. I was not trying to use our friendship as leverage - I was trying to do a courtesy to you both in alerting you to criticism of me. I did not mean to imply any favoritism, opposition, or threat. I think it's perfectly fine to remove me from an allies list. That should be an inner circle of trust, and doubt about a person is enough to remove them.
"

The remainder of your argument stands. I screwed up bigtime there. Even if he wasn't your manager, it's sketchy to ask a mutual friend to weigh in -- as others have noted, wronging some does not mean wronging all, and as complement, people singing my praises do not discredit an apparent pattern of behavior.

Someone up thread suggested it would have been better to not but rather email him separately. That is, to me, much worse than being transparent about sending.

So: please know that I am taking this issue seriously, and I am considering withdrawing from mentoring at Hackbright, despite broad support from the staff and students to continue.

From the date and context, I think I can fill in the [redacted] blanks for some of the emails since they're about me:

DM from Jeremy Dunck:11:04 PM - 01 Oct 13 I talked today w/
Al Sweigart, former Noisebridge board member, about anarchy, context,
ideology, inability to solve problems.

DM from Jeremy Dunck: 11:04 PM - 01 Oct 13 I suspect Noisebridge is
irredeemable, and hope that DU can be the thing Noisebridge should have
been. And I look forward to helping you in any way I can.

From the conversation we had at this meeting (our first and only, except for some quick hellos at a few events we were both at), I had very little positive things to say about Noisebridge. I consider it incredibly dysfunctional and a poisonous environment, and publicly and bluntly say so. I'd be surprised if Jeremy came away from that conversation with any idea except that it is irredeemable. And I also do hope Double Union can be the thing Noisebridge should have been.

@jdunck, you are coming across to me as likely more clueless than not. In the spirit of cluing you in: your decision to continue engaging with people who've made it clear they no longer want to engage with you reads as yet another example of the creepy behavior this post's calling out. I strongly encourage you to withdraw from further public discussion of this until you've had more chance to consider, process, and internalize the critiques people are making of your behavior. Otherwise, you run a good chance of furthering the harm that you've already done.

I just wanted to follow up, apologize, and retract part of my comment. "Shaming is bad" is a silencing tactic often used to quiet voices speaking out against someone of privilege.

I have witnessed a lot of harm that came from silencing criticism from people in non-privileged positions against someone with privilege. I should have known better. I'm sorry.

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