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Museum Conference speech code: ‘reverse racism’ ‘reverse sexism’ and ‘cisphobia’ NOT prohibited

Museum Conference speech code: ‘reverse racism’ ‘reverse sexism’ and ‘cisphobia’ NOT prohibited

Identity politics: But don’t you dare “minimize” the “lived experiences” of “minority and oppressed group” members.

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM), with an annual budget of some $10 million, serves as an advocacy group for museums, including setting core standards.

AAM is having its 2018 Annual Meeting in Phoenix on May 6-9, 2018. A reader forwarded me an announcement from AAM with regard to a new Code of Conduct applicable to attendees at the Annual Meeting. That Code of Conduct amounts to a speech code restricting acceptable speech in ways that reflect how deeply identity politics has permeated even the museum industry.

A reader called my attention to an April 30, 2018, announcement by AAM’s Member Services Manager regarding AAM’s new Code of Conduct applicable to the 2018 Annual Meeting, Encouraging Respectful, Productive Dialogues: Introducing AAM’s New Code of Conduct, which starts:

… As a member of the Membership department here at the Alliance, I was excited to have the opportunity to join the Inclusion team and to collaborate on some great projects with some amazing staff. I believe that the work of diversity and inclusion should be an institution-wide effort, especially in outward-facing departments such as my own. Most recently in Membership, we’ve made a change to the prefix options available when signing up for a profile on our website. We’ve added the gender-neutral Mx. in addition to Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc., making it easier for our members to pick a title that best fits them. Please let us know if there is another option that you would like to see represented!

Last year, AAM’s Inclusion Team introduced a number of new offerings at the AAM Annual Meeting designed to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all attendees. This year, the Inclusion Team has led the effort to create a Code of Conduct for AAM events….

The announcement then goes on to discuss the implications of the new Code of Conduct on speech. It does so with a linguistic sleight of hand, by professing to preserve “free and open dialogue,” but defining dialogue it doesn’t like as “actions and behaviors.” The Code of Conduct is as much a speech code as it is a conduct code:

Having a code of conduct creates a mutual sense of accountability at the Annual Meeting–both from our attendees and from us here at AAM. The code provides an easy-to-reference guide on what are expected behaviors. It also gives a reporting structure for any incidents that may occur. We’ve also clearly stated what consequences for violating the Code of Conduct look like.

In creating a code of conduct, our goal was to provide our participants with a “brave space,” a concept introduced to us by Sage Morgan-Hubbard, our own Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Education. “Brave spaces” are places to freely discuss ideas, with a few guidelines in place to keep our interactions respectful and productive. We would never want to stifle discussions or infringe on free speech, but we had to find a way to protect the most vulnerable populations among us. In our Code of Conduct, we chose to focus on limiting behaviors that impact the freedom and safety of marginalized populations, rather than telling participants what opinions they are allowed to hold…

Our Code of Conduct is not intended to limit free and open dialogue. It does place limits on what actions are acceptable at our meeting and events….

In short, our Code of Conduct describes and limits the types of actions and behaviors that affect the safety of all participants at our annual meeting and other events….


When one looks at the Code of Conduct, however, the standards of what is and what is not acceptable speech follow clear identity politics lines.

The Code of Conduct, by its terms applies to all AAM events, not just the annual meeting:

This Code of Conduct applies to all AAM events, including all conference venues and conference-related social activities at the AAM Annual Meeting.

“Discrimination” and “harassment” are prohibited. Most of the specific categories are not surprising and you would expect to find in many organizational conduct codes. Of note, though, is the heavy emphasis on protecting individual versions of “lived experience,” a term defined to only apply to members of a “minority or oppressed” group. So minimizing the lived experience of a non-minority or non-oppressed group member is okay (underscoring added):

Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of others based on human difference.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Comments or actions that minimize a person’s lived experiences[i], identity, or safety
  • Deliberate misgendering or use of “dead”[ii] or rejected names[iii]
  • Deliberate “outing” of any person’s lived experiences or identity without their consent
  • Sustained disruption of talks or other events
  • Physical contact without consent or after a request to stop
  • Unwelcome sexual attention
  • Deliberate intimidation or stalking of any kind – in person or online
  • Collection or distribution of harassing photography or recordings
  • Threats or acts of violence
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior

[i] “lived experiences” means the first-hand accounts and impressions of living as a member of a minority or oppressed group.

[ii] “deadnaming” means to use someones old name. It specifically refers to the practice of deliberately referring to a trans person by their pre-transition name. Not only is it disrespectful, it can be considered an act of violence, especially when a person is not publicly out as trans.

[iii] “rejected name” can also include persons who have changed their names for non-transition related reasons such as relationships, political statements, etc. Malcolm X changed his name for very specific reasons related to his identity; it is disrespectful to refer to him as anything besides Malcolm X

More interesting than what is prohibited is the explanation of what is NOT considered prohibited discrimination or harassment (underscoring added):

Discrimination/Harassment is not:

  • Feeling persecuted for your social privilege
  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’
  • Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you.”
  • Refusal to explain or debate social justice issues when the person being asked is put in a defensive position based on their lived experience, personal identity, or safety
  • Communication in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
  • Discussion of sensitive topics
  • Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

That first bullet point seems to be making clear that the obsession with white privilege and other supposed privileges cannot be claimed to be discriminatory. So too, the reversal of prohibited conduct (racism, sexism, gender identity discrimination) is okay.

The fourth bullet point, combined with the explanation as to lived experience, creates an interesting situation. Reliance on empirical data and statistics could be a violation of the code if the effect is to “minimize” the anecdotal “lived experiences” of members of certain identity groups.

This certainly seems to skew “free and open dialogue” field based on identities. Whether speech rises to the level of prohibited conduct depends on the identities who is saying it and to whom it is said, or by whom and to whom conduct is directed. Some personal lived experiences are protected, while others are not. It’s all about identities and who can claim them.

Don’t think AAM’s speech regulation is an aberration. AAM notes it used a model provided by other group:

Attribution: This Code of Conduct is based on the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki and uses language with permission from the Nonprofit Technology Conference’s Code of Conduct.

These identity-based speech codes masquerading as conduct codes are coming to an organization near you.



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We need to stop talking about how insane the left is, they seem to take it as a challenge to go further into insanity mode.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to oldgoat36. | May 7, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    Can we sue them all now? Because the left off the most important and relevant one!

    “_______Check here if you identify as “Shmoo.”

    Make that MX SHMOO.

Not exactly sure, but I’d be willing to bet that white males constitute less than 50% of the population. So that would make us by definition pat of a minority. Unless math is white and therefore, of course, racist.

    hrhdhd in reply to ray. | May 7, 2018 at 2:59 am

    Well, we use Arabic numbers, so maybe it’s not?

    elle in reply to ray. | May 7, 2018 at 9:21 am

    But isn’t that is the whole point of this lecture. While males can NEVER be an oppressed group. There could be only 1000 while males remaining who live in concentration-camp style luxury and they would still have their “white privilege” and not be allowed to speak.

    This also will include Jews and Christians as we go forth.

The Friendly Grizzly | May 6, 2018 at 8:36 pm

This is all so tiresome.

“Reliance on empirical data and statistics could be a violation of the code if the effect is to ‘minimize’ the anecdotal ‘lived experiences’ of members of certain identity groups.”

IOW, don’t dare refer to any actual verifiable facts that contradict somebody’s delusions about their precious, all-important “victim” status. We’re educators! We don’t deal in facts!!!!

What a bunch of idiots.

More soros-funded leftist b.s.

Continue to vote with your pockeybook.

BrokeGopher | May 6, 2018 at 9:58 pm

I would LOVE to go to this thing. Tell everyone I’m a non-transitioning transgender lesbian, make everyone call me Your Majesty (my preferred prefix), use the ladies’ room and excoriate anyone who gives me a sideways glance as a bigot.

Did I miss something I’d have thought a BDS statement would also be in there..

I really despise AAM’s politics but unfortunately, without their accreditation, it’s extremely difficult to obtain loans from other museums. They have strict requirements for temperature, humidity, UV protection and the security of museum collections. Without that accreditation, smaller, regional museums can find themselves unable to meet the terms of a loan and if loans are approved, they are far more costly.

Gees … this is just so F’d up …

I’m positive that the creators of these rules can’t have a discussion with you’re average white guy,or a minority, or an oppressed group, or their family … without violating several of these rules.

I’m also positive that they won’t own up to it … they’ll find some excuse just like they always do.

That conference that would genuinely benefit from a visit from ISIS. Who, after all, is more oppressed than they?

Museums, libraries, and archives tend to be either government run or affiliated with educational institutions. As such, the people in those jobs seldom live in the real working world, where delivery is valued. They therefore have lots of time to participate on committees and in “professional” organizations, where real work never happens. Those fields have long been dominated by LGBT activists, so this sort of thing is hardly surprising.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to p1cunnin. | May 7, 2018 at 8:18 pm


    Remember, museums were originally all private – owned by the individuals who started them.


Net, It means that whoever is holding the hammer is always right, you’ll note that the rules can be interpreted to favor or accuse pretty much whomever they want.

I don’t understand the terms “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism”. To me they sound like being especially nice to people because of their race or sex. Discriminating against white people or men is not reverse anything; it’s plain old racism and sexism.

    Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | May 7, 2018 at 7:41 am

    I don’t understand the terms “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism”.”

    Prima Facie evidence of a deep-seated and incorrigible Racism. (according to AAM standards)

As I have been saying for years, academia – not just schools and universities – is fundamentally broken. Unfortunately, I don’t see any way to fix it. Sorry, Professor, but that’s the way I see it.

Anytime there’s a “but” in a statement about free speech, it’s not a statement about free speech.

blah deblah | May 7, 2018 at 5:42 am

The donors of yesteryear are dying off. The money-siphon museums realized this and made a decision to market to their children and grandchildren. Just another naked scheme to be “relevant.” Not unlike churches, I guess. In fact, some people think museums are cathedrals of a sort.

Yawn. Beam me up, please.

    elle in reply to blah deblah. | May 7, 2018 at 10:36 am

    upvoted your main thought but take issue with “not unlike the churches”. That’s true for the main protestant churches that were overrun in the 70’s (much the same way that they are now co-opting the museums, press and other institutions), but your generalization about “churches” being irrelevant is just packaged to you along with all of the other progressive garbage.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to elle. | May 7, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      Could that be why so many turned to “evangelism” and it is growing while the old-line denominations are declining in membership?

Jonathan Cohen | May 7, 2018 at 5:46 am

It is time time recognize that the so called social justice warriors and progressives are neither liberals or leftists. They are totalitarians and their movement would be more accurately described as RAINBOW FASCISM. It is a monstrosity that is threatening almost all institutions of American democracy.

This code is not the work of snowflakes. It is the work of bullies whose purpose is to establish minorities as preferred human human beings. Intersectionalism is simply a hierarchy for dealing out the goodies obtained from extortion.

What is incredible is the depth of human behaviors that this insanity seek to regulate. There is no ending this nonsense without standing up and opposing it. And unless it is opposed vigorously it can only get worse. The more “victim” groups depend on special preferences, the more horrible and petty will be their claims of victimization.

This will not end well!!!

Pretty much everybody hates violence, right? The American Alliance of Museums is using the favorite, but increasingly tiresome trick of the progressive Leftist social justice warriors: identify as ‘violence’ any type of speech with which you disagree. If a person says “I believe that marriage should only apply to a man and a woman”, then somehow he is committing an “act of violence” against LGBT supporters.

    elle in reply to Redneck Law. | May 7, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Redneck Law “identify as ‘violence’ any type of speech with which you disagree. If a person says ‘I believe that marriage should only apply to a man and a woman”, then somehow he is committing an “act of violence’.”

    Doing that while setting up a situation where those without “white privilege” (Islam) are allowed to remain outside those rules.

    PODKen in reply to Redneck Law. | May 7, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    I’ve always wondered … if speech can be labeled is “violence” … what do they call it if I punched one of ’em in the nose for acting like an entitled idiot? Personally I’d call it “good judgement” … but they’d prolly see it differently … I suppose …

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Redneck Law. | May 7, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Now the truth is revealed. Sigh.

    “The American Alliance of Museums” is a Nazi, Hate Group.

Maybe they should work out why whites seem to be privileged and emulate that behavior.

    PODKen in reply to Anchovy. | May 7, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Obama already told ’em how whites got their stuff … “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

    These people would answer that whites were given it rather than worked for it.

civil truth | May 7, 2018 at 12:16 pm

It’s a textbook example of how the Orwellian left redefines words (e.g. “free speech”, “discrimination”, etc.)in order to coerce behavior, while maintaining the facade to the outside world that they still stand for the original meaning. It’s a variant of doublethink, and a mid-point to thoughtcrime.

This leads to the classic “begging the question” shown here. On the one hand, the claim to be regulating behavior (to evade the PC label) but then they redefine the behaviors to reflect mandated systems of belief (i.e. intersectionalism) by their various redefinitions.

Particularly noxious is to define certain speech as unacceptable behavior by fiat.

The niceness behind this letter reminds me of the tyrants and executioners in that dytopian novel “The Giver”. Or the button pushers in that infamous video “No Pressure”.

hopp singg | May 7, 2018 at 5:55 pm

“It specifically refers to the practice of deliberately referring to a trans person by their pre-transition name. Not only is it disrespectful, it can be considered an act of violence, especially when a person is not publicly out as trans.”

This says that if Joe is secretly Joanna, I just NOT call him Joe, I must now call him Joanna, even though it’s a secret.

They have crossed the line from personality disorder to psychosis.