I haven’t had a real opportunity to introduce myself: I am Marie-Alice
Mathis, 32, a now ex-member of the Board of Wikimédia France.
The transition with the newly elected members of the Board is now complete
and I gladly step down to get away from the violence, exhaustion and
frustration of these past few months.
I was a Board candidate because after completing my PhD I finally had more
time to contribute to the projects and serve the community through the
French chapter: after watching my husband Rémi Mathis do it for years I had
a pretty good idea of what it meant. I did not know our ED Nathalie Martin
or our chair Émeric Vallespi before working with them, and now that I have
I can vouch for their hard work and attachment to the movement’s values.
Today, I have lost friends or people I thought were friends because I
defended Nathalie and Émeric in good faith during the smear campaign based
on the community’s assumption that they were the source and cause of all
the chapter’s problems, real or perceived. Although I have worked with them
closely for a year, I have been repeatedly informed that I’ve been
manipulated by Nathalie from the start and should not have blindly believed
everything Émeric was saying. I’ve been personally attacked on WMF sites,
email lists, and social media for weeks, my every word scrutinised,
questioned and mocked assuming I was either ignorant or lying. I’ve been
told by so-called feminists who were endorsing a particularly sexist rant
against me to “stop making inflammatory comments”. I’ve been called a
conspiracy theorist because I questioned the role of our former chair
Christophe Henner, now chair of the Board at the WMF, in the threats to
withdraw our chapter agreement and the cutting of half our FDC funding.
People close to Christophe who have resigned from the WMFR Board early in
the crisis rather than take responsibility for their mistakes now call
themselves victims and whistleblowers. The WMF, who is perfectly aware of
the charges of sexual harassment filed by Nathalie against Christophe for
facts dating back to when he was her boss at Wikimédia France, is
pretending WMFR leadership has used the threat of legal action to
intimidate chapter members and silence opposition.
Some unfounded allegations have been made on this very list by prominent
members of the community (and what is a newbie’s word worth in that case,
right?): from extremely serious accusations of misuse of chapter funds for
personal gain (that strangely enough never made it to the French justice
system despite a so-called “rather convincing rationale”), to gratuitous
ones that Nathalie was making the Board’s decisions for us and dictating
our communication (I am old enough to write my own emails, thank you very
much), to ever vague ones of “quite generous expenses reimbursement“. None
of this has been supported by proof or tangible facts, but the goal of
spreading distrust and dissent in the chapter and the wider community has
clearly been reached. Even now that Nathalie has left her position and the
Board has resigned, some are still defaming her in the French media in the
hopes of winning the stupid argument of who were the bad guys in the crisis.
I am also extremely disappointed that no one from this list asked us (the
Board) what was happening when these allegations were made, with only a
handful of people suggesting to wait before all the facts were known.
Instead, you took for granted the very short and extremely biased English
summaries of the Board’s communications (which were instantly circulated on
this list without our consent and in violation of our chapter’s bylaws),
and joined in the chorus of outrage, condemnation and verbal abuse.
But worse to me than all this, I am actually terrified at how easily the
Wikimedia community can turn on a person, with no regard whatsoever for
decency or legality, when it has made up its mind about who has no place
there. I have personally experienced what it means to disagree with this
angry mob: questioning the dominant opinion or calling out individuals’
toxic behaviour makes you in turn acceptable collateral damage and a “fair
game” target for harassment.
Speaking of this, the movement as a whole needs to address the issue of
staff-volunteers relations exemplified by the rapid turnover of executive
staff across chapters. Nathalie stayed at WMFR an almost record breaking 4
years, but at what cost? I’m being extremely serious in adding that this
conversation needs to take place before something irreversible happens as a
result of harmful group behaviour within the community.
Marie-Alice Mathis // AlienSpoon
PS: for your information about my position regarding the WMF’s role in this
crisis and their recent unilaterally added conditions [
for payment of our FDC-attributed grant, I attach my email to Katy Love
from Sept 20.
Katy, (Cc WMFr Board and Rémi)
In the WMF "Grant expectations" document sent to the Board of WMFr, you
mention as a condition for APG funds payment that I do not resign from my
position on the Board until the governance review is complete, and that any
Board member planning to resign must report and justify it to WMF.
You also mention that you retain the right to cease funding WMFr if you
consider that legal threats are being used inappropriately to stifle civil
and appropriate participation in the chapter. Moreover, you condition
payment to being informed if the chapter leadership feels that legal action
is appropriate to take against current or former board members or staff.
Let me be clear: these conditions are outrageous and unacceptable.
First of all, my legitimacy as a Board member of WMFr does not come from
any commitment to WMF but from being democratically elected by French
chapter members. WMF has no say in who stays or not on the Board, and
trying to intervene on such governance issues is, again, putting both
organisations at risk of being legally recognised as co-employers.
Second, as a (volunteer) Board member I have been subjected to harassment,
sexist abuse, and unjustified allegations of misconduct by community
members, that have impacted my health and mental well being to the point
where I was no longer able to do my (paid) job in cancer patient care and
my GP put me on medical leave. A large volume of this abuse took place on
WMF property (fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipédia:Le_Bistro
<http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikip%C3%A9dia:Le_Bistro> and the WMF-hosted,
publicly archived mailing lists wikimedia-l and wikimediafr).
You personally and on behalf of WMF encouraged French community members to
challenge chapter leadership citing governance issues, without a word
mentioning the violence suffered by the Board and executive staff at the
hands of some French members during this crisis. Worse, you presented the
Board's email condemning the harassment as inaccurate and problematic,
which made the community feel all the more legitimate in their harmful
When I reported the abuse in person to WMF employees during the site visit
you personally empathised with my distress at the time, and thanked me for
being honest about how your email to the wikimediafr list had made our
already precarious situation untenable. And then you did nothing.
My husband Rémi, who witnessed first hand the effects of the harassment on
my health, called on you to release the site visit report so the misconduct
allegations would stop. You didn't, until 3 days before our General
Assembly (where the allegations were repeated), on the same day you asked
that I stay on as a Board member. Even your choice of words in the "Grant
expectations" document is telling: "egregious incivility" is not what we
are talking about here. We are talking about unacceptable and illegal
defamation and harassment with serious real life consequences.
Rémi also called on the wikimedia-l list to stop the unfounded allegations,
and was attacked in turn because of "his conflict of interest as the
husband of a Board member". He also reported the abuse to the WMF
governance committee, to the Suport and Safety team and mentioned it to
Christophe Henner and Katherine Maher on Twitter, to no avail. To this day
we haven't received any support or acknowledgement whatsoever. All the
while the sexist abuse continues, and French editor MrButler was moderated
on the wikimediafr maling list for his continued personal attacks against
me. This is exactly the kind of behaviour the Board's email to the members
was calling out, yet you continue to deliberately ignore it and refuse to
do anything about it.
Finally, your asking to be informed of any legal action against chapter
members or staff is yet another example of the WMF taking sides while
posing as a neutral arbitrator. Calling someone out on their toxic
behaviour or actually filing a complaint are no legal threats or
intimidation, but by claiming they are you are trying to silence victims by
denying them their basic rights to legal protection. At least two
complaints have been filed against community members and more may be
coming, including on my behalf. You will not be informed because it is not
for WMF to decide whether they are justified or frivolous.
For all these reasons I am deeply shocked and hurt by your payment
conditions and will not abide by the terms of your grant expectations. With
most of WMFr funding hanging in the balance your unilaterally revised
conditions amount to blackmail but I will not stay in harm's way at the
request of the organisation who has failed me in every aspect when I came
in good faith to work for the community. I will resign when I see fit to
protect my health, and continue to speak honestly and publicly about your
actions and empty words of safety and inclusivity.
Marie-Alice Mathis, vice chair of WMFr