A Video Chat Roundtable, and Rambling about Harassment

A Video Chat Roundtable, and Rambling about Harassment

I’ve been remiss in posting this because Skepchick has been heavy on the anti-harassment talk lately. Hey, it’s not that anti-harassment stuff isn’t super important and it’s not that there isn’t a whole lot going on with the topic of late, it’s just that it’s now been straight-up 14 months now of me finding new and interesting ways to convey really obvious, basic concepts of feminism and how to create a welcoming environment and I’ll be honest, it gets a little tiring because sometimes I want to talk about other stuff like Limbo or this new terrible tattoo show (I love terrible tattoos), but whatever. Here’s what’s new in people getting harassed.

A few days ago the Freethought Bloggers kindly asked me to join them for a chat about DJ Grothe and TAM and stuff. I guess it was a response to another video done by assholes. I don’t know much about it besides that PZ called me and said, “Have you seen this [name of video done by assholes] video?” And I said, “No. What?” And he said, “Okay, well maybe don’t because all they do is talk about how awful you are for a few hours. But anyway, let’s do a video where we talk about the topic like well-adjusted adults.” I’m paraphrasing, here, but you get the idea. So I said, “Okay.”

The result was good. Google Hangouts now lets you add a lower third banner, and I expressed a desire to have one but someone on the chat told me that only menfolk were allowed to have one, so that’s why when I eventually figured out how to get one mine says something about owning a banner penis. I apologize. I am not a well-adjusted adult.

Over on the Crommunist Manifesto, Ian mentioned that he managed to get an elevator joke in, to which I responded that that isn’t really something worth bragging about. He was cool about it in the comments, so I’m only mentioning it here so that maybe some other people will see it and get the point: if you’re going to make an elevator joke in my presence, it had better be the funniest god damn joke that ever fell out of your mouth, because I’ve had about a year of dudebros basically yelling “ELEVATOR HAAAAAAAAAAA” at me and it’s a little grating for a few reasons. First of all, they don’t understand how jokes work. People telling unfunny jokes is nothing new but when the joke is on this topic, I’m expected to laugh at it because otherwise I’m a humorless feminazi, you know? So I have to laugh whether it’s funny or not. And it’s pretty much never really funny, so I most definitely have to fake laugh, which I usually do anyway when someone I like makes a joke that isn’t funny, because I’m a bit awkward and I don’t like seeing people tell jokes that bomb. But anyway, I have to fake laugh which makes my face hurt so it’s probably best to find other things to make jokes about.

The other thing I’ll mention here is that in the video I make a joke about us disagreeing about something at the very end of the discussion. The topic is whether or not speakers should be asked to refrain from sexing up conference attendees. Greg Laden is right – we don’t really disagree much. If anything, we disagree on what the analogous situation is. I don’t think speaker/attendee is analogous to teacher/student (I assume adult student), as mentioned on the show, simply because a teacher (like an employer) can potentially control you using grades, scholarships, workload, and I guess even pay in the case of grad students. A speaker doesn’t actually have any authority over an attendee, particularly once the conference is done for the day and everyone is at the bar, so a speaker’s potential blackmail is really only social in nature, and that’s a much trickier thing to quantify.

Anyway, all I think is that barring anyone from having sex with anyone else isn’t the problem. Sex with enthusiastic consent is great so long as all the participants are adults capable of giving consent. And so the people who seek out enthusiastic consent aren’t the problem, even if those people are speakers. This is maybe going to skew a little too close to the “gun laws are useless because criminals won’t follow them,” but I’ll go with it anyway – the problem is the people who don’t care about consent in all their interactions. A good policy will protect the people who are their targets, or if it can’t fully protect them then at least it can offer them some recourse and backup when needed.

And a good organization will demonstrate their willingness to apply their policy as strongly to a speaker as to anyone else. A good organization will make it blindingly obvious that they will not ignore shitty behavior just because it’s being done by someone who is capable of selling tickets.

Anyway.

In other news, Ophelia Benson has dropped out of TAM because of threats. A few people are asking her and have asked me to please come to TAM after all because we’re setting our “cause” back by not attending. It’s really bizarre that I’m expected to line the pockets of an organization that is directly opposed to the values I hold. Let’s all keep some perspective, here – we’re talking about one organization’s fundraising event that I’ve supported for seven years. There are other events, and there are other places to make a stand.

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

113 Comments

  1. If TAM wants to consign themselves to the trash can of history, fine by me. Good riddance. Don’t let the screen door hit ya where developmental processes shaped by billions of years of natural selection split ya.

  2. “But anyway, I have to fake laugh which makes my face hurt so it’s probably best to find other things to make jokes about.”

    Really. Fake laughing hurts like fuck.

  3. For anyone unable/disinclined to watch the video, I’m finishing up a transcript. Part I is here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/18/the-ftb-conversation-about-tam-transcript-pt-1/

  4. This video was a LOT easier to watch than that other video. You should all make a regular thing about it “Rebecca and the FtBers” or something. Every week cover another heady topic, like which pony is best* or something.

    It was also my first time seeing a lot of the bloggers “in action” instead of just their profile photos and written work.

    I think we’re seeing a real divergence in the skeptical community, and while it may look bleak sometimes now (frankly, I -don’t- think the “bullies are winning”) in 5 years we will see a vibrant, growing atheist/skeptical movement populated with diverse and compassionate leaders and will all be wondering what happened to all those boys’ club losers who used to take up so much of our time.

    Being accepting of difference and protecting vulnerable peoples’ rights isn’t a frill, it’s a survival strategy and the organizations that understand that are going to see their numbers grow while those who can’t will struggle for a long time.

    *I’m not “into” the ponies, but I’d still watch it.

    • “You should all make a regular thing about it “Rebecca and the FtBers” or something.”

      Yes!

      • Wait. Instead can it be like Family Feud with FtB vs Skepchicks each week?

        Survey says… awesome!

        • Oh SHIT. I may need to do this.

        • I would pay to watch this. It’s too bad Richard Dawson died so recently. Who would be a good host? Maybe Phil Plait?

          • Phil Plait would be awesome, but I’d LOVE to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson, even though I know that’s unlikely hahahaa.

          • George Hrab would work wonderfully.

        • I would pay serious fake internet money to read that!

    • How many times do I have to point this out? PONIES AREN’T REAL! Sheesh, for a bunch of skeptics you have this one huge blind spot!

  5. Wait, you’ve been conveying really obvious, basic concepts of feminism?

    and with one fell swoop, there goes my theory that I was a feminist genius.

  6. I first heard of TAM when my first kid was still a toddler.. I’ve been saying every year since that as soon as the kids are all a bit older I’ll make my way to TAM. This would have been the year, but now I can’t imagine going.

    All the great people I’d see are people I can see at other events. This has all been handled so so poorly and unprofessionally. I am truly surprised because I’ve met DJ socially and know a lot of people who are good friends with him and his partner and this seems so out of character.

    • “This would have been the year, but now I can’t imagine going.”

      Every day now I hear someone saying this. I’m starting to wonder if anyone will actually show up this year.

      “I am truly surprised because I’ve met DJ socially and know a lot of people who are good friends with him and his partner and this seems so out of character.”

      So true. I am puzzled by this.

  7. I think the bit on jokes is helpful. It’s only occurred to me recently that sometimes the jokes that I think will help break the awkwardness could actually be imposing on other people who don’t have the luxury of viewing the issue from a distance.

  8. Rebecca, I am so sorry you have to go through all this, but I’d like you to know that you are handling this extremely difficult situation admirably!

    It was so refreshing to see this calm, friendly and reasonable debate after the angry shoutfest that was the other video. (The only person who came across am sympathetic in that video was Wendell. I like him.)

  9. I remember when everything started last year. I saw your post and short video on the initial incident and just thought, “whoa, that was creepy.” Then the shitstorm blew in. I was stunned. I still am.

    I simply cannot fathom how so many otherwise decent, intelligent, educated, skeptical people (overwhelmingly privileged men) can be so horrifically clueless and actively cruel in response to all of this. (The trolls and louts and creeps I can understand. On an intellectual level, anyway.)

    Even in your occasional frustration (usually kept at bay in your writing and on SGU), you have never been less than civil, engaging and above all rational. I raise my cup to you (it’s coffee, but it’s a symbolic gesture no matter the contents).

  10. We may all one day look back at this period in time as that when our movement grew up.

    • Oops, that was supposed to be in response to quietmarc, who said:

      “I think we’re seeing a real divergence in the skeptical community, and while it may look bleak sometimes now (frankly, I -don’t- think the “bullies are winning”) in 5 years we will see a vibrant, growing atheist/skeptical movement populated with diverse and compassionate leaders and will all be wondering what happened to all those boys’ club losers who used to take up so much of our time.”

      • It’s basic math. They can have all the creepy straight white dudes, and we’ll get the non-creepy straight white dudes and every body else.

        • I’m looking forward to this.

  11. “It’s really bizarre that I’m expected to line the pockets of an organization that is directly opposed to the values I hold.”

    I’m just waiting for all the whining about how JREF has great and awesome values and you’re being dishonest and bullying JREF and all those harassment cases that never really happened are actually all isolated incidents. Then some about how Ophelia Benson is lying about the threats she’s received…

    I’m sure everyone besides the misogynists at JREF have missed the irony that so much of their defenses of TAM and attacks on Skepchick.org and FtB bloggers actually confirms all the criticism they’ve been receiving.

  12. I absolutely agree that what you are doing is important, and I admire your fortitude for keeping it up. But can we also have limbo and tattoo posts?

  13. the problem is the people who don’t care about consent in all their interactions. A good policy will protect the people who are their targets, or if it can’t fully protect them then at least it can offer them some recourse and backup when needed

    word

    For anyone unable/disinclined to watch the video, I’m finishing up a transcript. Part I is here:

    Kate, you are like a saint or something. Saint Kate.

    This video was a LOT easier to watch than that other video. You should all make a regular thing about it “Rebecca and the FtBers” or something. Every week cover another heady topic, like which pony is best* or something.

    We want to do more, and will do more. Several of the FTB bloggers have been talking about making some sort of Google Hangout production a regular event. I would love to see Skepchick and FTB bloggers doing this together on a regular basis as well as others.

    Rebecca: Suddenly all these times when I’ve mentioned elevators or coffee to you are flashing back and I’m worried; None of those comments were jokes. They were actual comments about actual elevators or actual coffee. But now I have an explanation for all that insincere laughter!

    • Next you’ll be saying that you never even heard of coffee or elevators, but if you had you would have taken them seriously….

    • I don’t know any elevator jokes, but I have a story. I work in a building with 4 floors. One day when I came to work, the elevator said it was on the 10th floor.

      I took the stairs that day.

      • Rebecca: I regret saying this. I would never have considered making an elevator joke in your presence, and I thought I’d tell a funny story about an elevator instead. But that’s the same thing, isn’t it? Sorry! :(

  14. This is getting dumber and dumber with every day that passes. The solution is SO SIMPLE. In two steps:

    1) JREF apologizes, acknowledges is in everyone’s interest to make TAM a safe environment.
    2) A clear harassment policy is adopted (choose any of probably a thousand viable existing plans).

    Even if JREF thinks Rebecca Watson and her elite team of organization assassins are sabotaging TAM, they should probably just adopt a decent policy to cover their asses.

    I just don’t understand any of this from TAM and JREF.

    • You’re assuming that they want to fix this. I don’t completely believe that they see it as a real problem.

      • They don’t. That’s why they keep calling women liars.

      • I was tying to make the following point: even if they don’t care, what the hell are they doing?

        I don’t think every CEO or athletic department director or partner in a law firm gives a rip about sexual harassment. They might think it doesn’t exist or, worse, feel like they should have the right to their staff Mad Men style, but all of those places have harassment policies. Obviously they are more likely to be sued if they don’t, but that’s the “cover your ass” part.

        Whether successful or not, if something serious happens at TAM and a civil suit follows, all of this discussion about their lack of a policy (or lack of a sufficient policy) would be pretty useful in a courtroom to establish that TAM was on notice about potential problems. Why deal with that, regardless of how you feel about the substance of the issue?

        • And let me also add that from a business perspective it’s equally baffling.

          Before this blew up, there were X number of women that did not want to attend TAM because of the harassment policy. Again, prior to the conflagration, my guess is that there close to zero people who would refuse to attend TAM because it adopted said policy (maybe just the guy with the up-skirt camera).

          Why would they fail to take a step that could result in more attendees with almost no chance of turning anyone away?

          It’s baffling, and I don’t buy the theories that JREF is intentionally trying to keep women away. They’ve spent too many years trying to increase attendance, and as misguided as the statements were, the criticism of “certain feminists” was intended to cause a return to higher numbers of women (fucked that up nicely).

          It’s incompetence of Bush Administration proportions.

        • …unless the strategy is to drive away the women who are most likely to file harassment complaints, as well as destroy whatever support system those women might have. And if you don’t buy that, you should at least understand that they part of what JREF and Grothe have been complaining about is accusations targeting speakers. Speakers draw butts to seats, and some of the wealthier speakers probably also donate cash. If they have to choose between alienating regular women and alienating powerful and famous men with cash, especially if encouraging women to stay home makes their harassment prevention job easier, which do you think they are currently and rather actively choosing?

          • Look, I’m willing to be convinced on the evil (in the evil vs. stupid dichotomy), but I haven’t seen the evidence for it yet. The defense of the speakers is pretty compelling, that’s the best argument I’ve seen so far.

            But again, even if you’re totally correct and I’m totally wrong about the reasons for this, it would STILL be a good idea to adopt a harassment policy. Surely JREF and TAM are wise enough to understand that neglecting a harassment policy to allow Greasy Old Speaker X to be inappropriate with women would be monumentally stupid. The amount of money any given speaker brings in would be dwarfed by the money that goes out in the event of a lawsuit–even an unsuccessful one (and, to be fair, I haven’t studied the law on this–I don’t know what kind of duties a conference has towards attendees and what responsibilities they have over speakers).

          • IDK, it’s pretty evil to say, “These women are just regretting their sexual exploits.”

            Please remember that DJ Grothe actually said this (or very close to it).

            Sexual exploits.

            That’s why he thinks women are making sexual harassment complaints.

  15. I’m thinking Bigfoot is channeling his inappropriate gender stereotyping directly through Sylvia Brown’s ass into JREF headquarters. I anticipate they will see through the fog at some point, but until then the aroma is quite noticeable.

  16. Someone remind me again how it is that Atheists are morally superior to everyone else please? Because I’m a little confused how that works.

    • It isn’t that atheists are morally superior.

      It’s that we don’t try to justify our actions by saying “That’s how God wants it to be!”

      When something wonderful happens, we don’t claim that God did it.

      And when something aweful happens, we don’t blame Satan or say that it was God’s will.

      Other than that, atheists are just as fucked up as theists.

      “After all Number One, we’re only mortal.”

      • “It’s that we don’t try to justify our actions by saying “That’s how God wants it to be!””

        Yes, I know the strawman well. He gets knocked down *so* many times it’s a wonder you can hold him together. Still, the argument really does seem to be a moral one. That whatever god or sacred text is believed in is immoral therefore the bible or koran or allah or god are not to be believed.

        But, there is an obvious corollary, if people believe in an immoral god or sacred text then they must be immoral or at least unable to make even elementary moral distinctions and those who point this out must be in some way better than those who rape and murder in the name of god.

        It is incidents like this one and the others before it, remember the implosion of the Dawkins forums, that I think give the lie to that narrative. If you’re just as messed up as everyone else then you have no place judging others on their moral failings.

        As an agnostic I have argued both sides in this and in my experience your opponents are far better behaved than you are. I think that’s telling. I think that religion is adaptive, it did evolve along with our other capacities, and it is what binds societies together. If you remove that and replace it with literally nothing, no higher purpose for which people suppress their own desires for a greater good. Then it’s hardly a surprise when it fails.

        I mean, I’ve seen Rebbecca’s first YouTube video and the comments on her channel. My god, you people *do* realize that other people can see what unbelievable dicks (the least explicit word I could come up with) you appear to others don’t you? And yo do understand that others judge you by the public face you present whether you like it or not right?

        Has it not occurred to you to clean up your shit just a little? And if you *can’t* well then, that says a lot doesn’t it. After all, the purpose of religion isn’t to hold a True Belief. It’s so that you will strive to be a better man and if atheism can’t do that what good is it even if it is right?

        • That whatever god or sacred text is believed in is immoral therefore the bible or koran or allah or god are not to be believed.

          Uh, what? No.

          The definition of atheism is simply: “God does not exist.” Or “I do not believe god exists.”

          It is not “God is not to be believed because he is immoral”.

          “is not to be”. That right there is you implying that god actually does exist but we just refuse to believe in it because we think it’s immoral.

          Man, no. That’s really not it.

        • My god, you people *do* realize that other people can see what unbelievable dicks (the least explicit word I could come up with) you appear to others don’t you?

          AND WOW. Just fucking wow. I actually thought you were on our side. But I guess not.

          “you people”? Really? And we’re unbelievable dicks? And it’s the least explicit word you could call us (a largely female-identified group)??? Because we are speaking out against harassment and the denial of harassment?! Really?

          We are SO TERRIBLE for speaking out against sexual harassment in a public forum that you couldn’t come up with anything nicer than “dicks”.

          And we are the assholes?!

          You have got to be shittin’ me.

          Also, after this little rant of yours, I now understand your original comment better.

          Do you realize that not everyone here may not identify as an Atheist?

          Also, lol at thinking we believe god is immoral. What a bunch of crap.

          • “Because we are speaking out against harassment and the denial of harassment?! Really?”

            Oh sorry, I wasn’t clear who I was talking about. I did NOT mean to imply that those complaining of harassment were being dicks. I meant those who you are complaining about. I was referring to Rebbecca’s video on this issue from last year and the abusive comments she got from other atheists in her channel. And I suppose the abusive response she is getting all over again.

            It looks pretty bad. Especially for a community that browbeats Christians on how evil they are. That IS the main argument against religion; that it or it’s followers have done bad things or that their sacred texts promote immoral acts. Well, if one is going to make that argument then one had damn well be sure you don’t turn around and behave just as badly.

            “Do you realize that not everyone here may not identify as an Atheist?”

            I have been told repeatedly that I am not an agnostic, I’m really an atheist because I “lack belief” so therefore anyone who does not affirm that god exists is by definition an atheist. They would say the same for you. For that reason I use third person pronouns when talking about the atheist/skeptical community because I do not wish to be associated with you. Even though technically I’m a member.

            I don’t see this as an isolated incident. I see it as but one of a series of violent, abusive conflicts that only serve to reinforce my neutrality, my agnosticism, and my overall sense that for a great many their atheism exists only to rationalize their emotional bias against religion, or maybe daddy, and is not a rational, intellectually honest belief.

          • Because it’s taking place in the atheist community

            Uuuuh, except Skeptic community =/= atheist community. While many Skeptics do indeed identify as atheists, some do not — many identify as agnostic as you do, and some even believe in god.

            Do you have any idea where you’re at right now?

          • “Especially for a community that browbeats Christians on how evil they are. That IS the main argument against religion; that it or it’s followers have done bad things or that their sacred texts promote immoral acts.”

            Really? I thought the main argument against religion is that there’s no evidence for a god…?

        • After all, the purpose of religion isn’t to hold a True Belief.

          And what the flying monkey does this YouTube video have to do with religion? I thought it was about sexual harassment.

          Are you drunk?

          • “And what the flying monkey does this YouTube video have to do with religion?”

            Because it’s taking place in the atheist community so it will be perceived as reflecting on you. It doesn’t matter if that’s fair, people will make that association whether you like it or not.

            I predict this will only escalate and that TAM will cease to exist eventually. Good riddance. I think the New Atheist movement needs to fail so that something better can take it’s place.

        • Answer one question if you expect to be taken at all seriously:

          You really think the religious community has less of a problem with sexism, sexual harassment, rape threats, and apologetics for all of the above?

        • Religon’s purpose isn’t to hold a True Belief?
          Then why do so many claim to be the One True Faith and claim that others are false or misled?

          Striving to be a better person (man or woman) does not equate with having a religion.

          As far as I’ve seen, religion is about control over people to uphold traditions or beliefs that people latch onto to make sense of the world around them.
          It’s a power struggle.

          If it was about striving to be better, then how do you account for the questionable acts committed by the clergy, including the cases of sexual abuse? How do you account for their acts against women (and by this, I include ALL faiths)?

          I say you need to do a bit more thinking on this issue.

      • Right. But a lot of atheists pride themselves in their “rationality”. And then they pull this shit. It’s just maddening.

      • Who ever blamed Satan for bad things? Sex, drugs, music, that stuff is all awesome.

        If somebody dropkicks a baby into lava, then it’s part of God’s plan. AIDS, dead people and natural disasters are all God’s doing.

        Between that crap and the horrors of the Bible I couldn’t help but feel like King Solomon just asked me to cut a baby in half to get eternal paradise. Pretty sure the correct answer to that moral quandary is no.

        • People like my aunt appearently blame Satan for bad things; dyed in the wool Catholics. And probably others as well.

          They look at Mel Gibson’s behavior and say that it’s Satan’s influence. They look at the crap people do, and say that people aren’t inheritly bad, it’s Satan(or Evil, whatever THAT is supposed to mean) that makes them act like that.

          It’s as if they want to remove accountability for humanity’s own actions and blame it all on supernatural occurances.

          Gee, where in history have this happened before?

  17. I must commend you, Rebecca. You have come up with an amazing number of ways of saying “Treat everyone like humans, not fleshlights” and “Don’t be an asshole”.

    Since I have no imagination, I would have been stumped after the first paragraph.

  18. We want to do more, and will do more. Several of the FTB bloggers have been talking about making some sort of Google Hangout production a regular event.

    Very cool idea, but Ian may need to stop shuffling his feet while broadcasting.

    /end silly

  19. Watched the video live. It was great, and you should do more G+ hangouts. The folks from Astronomy Cast do them all the time and they’re a lot of fun.

    Limbo is freaking awesome, isn’t it?

  20. I was going to post something here, but I had too much to say to fit into a comment, so I started a blog and posted it there instead:

    http://rutefrosk.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/we-all-need-a-vacation/

    I’m off on my vacation.

    • No, I can’t do this.

      Immediately after posting my article, I got cold feet. Reality set in. I can’t get involved at this level. I’m not strong enough to deal with what may come my way.

      I have retracted my article. I must to what I can do to protect myself.

      • I hope you’ll reconsider posting your thoughts someday, as I’ve greatly enjoyed your comments thus far. But by all means, do what you need to feel safe. As Rebecca has shown, it doesn’t take much to unleash the insanity lurking on the Internet.

        • You have no idea how much your comment means to me. :)

        • Hooray! I’ve rescued the post from deletion! A recent version was hiding in NOTES~ on my desktop.

          I will run it by some friends before I consider posting it again. If anyone of you would like to read it privately and give me some feedback I would greatly appreciate it, but I don’t know how to arrange this while staying relatively anonymous.

        • I hope I haven’t gotten in too dep, but this is just too important for me not to speak up.

          I have spent a few hours rethinking and rephrasing my argument, and posted it here. I am reasonably sure that I have now put things as clearly as I possibly can.

          It’s not just that I am afraid for my own safety, but I am afraid of getting bogged down in arguments I can’t handle. I hope I haven’t gotten myself in too deep, and that I have expressed myself in a way that can’t possibly trigger anger.

          If I get caught up in the backlash, Rutefrosk is history, and I will come back under a different name, and stay away from this conflict altogether.

          • Oops, that first paragraph shouldn’t be there.

        • I need to avoid debating controversial topics in public, and my threshold for controversial is somewhere around what kind of music I like. I mean, someone could disagree with me!

          What gives me some hope is that despite throwing myself head first into various debates here and on FtB this week, I have yet to have anyone call me names or behave in a bad way toward me. There was one guy who disagreed with me on Lousy Canuck, but even he came across as reasonable. He was just confused about the term “rape culture”, and I did my best to help him understand it. I didn’t hear back, so I don’t know if I got through, though.

          I’m constantly afraid of that what I write will hurting people’s feelings, waste their time and or in any other way bother them. I can be crippling and stressful. That’s why it’s so good to get comments such as yours. :)

          • Correction: *It* can be crippling and stressful. I certainly hope I am not crippling and stressful. :)

  21. I can imagine that this is indeed a draining topic to speak of, Rebecca.
    And the frustrain of dealing with stupid jokes can’t help, whatsoever.

    Standing out is another loss at TAM.
    It makes me wonder if the JREF want TAM to just be a “sausage fest”?

    A question Rebecca; have you contacted the big names that show up at TAM concerning these issues?
    Like Phil Plait?
    I think if people like him present your point (even though he’s not going to be present at TAM 2012 either), it can have an impact.

    Just a thought.

  22. I think that those who feel they’ve been sexually harassed and who feel the organizers have not done enough to ensure their safety or responded to their concerns they should file a lawsuit. That is how it is done everywhere else and is to be preferred over confrontation. Legal mechanisms exist for a reason. They are very good at settling just these types of thorny issues.

    Haul their ass into court, deliver an attitude adjustment. That’s what the courts are there for.

    • At this point, I’m afraid a lawsuit would just deepen the conflict further.

    • What? That is your answer? Filing a lawsuit?

      Yeah, because we can all afford lawyers!

      That is not how it’s done everywhere else.

      In my world, it is expected that people respect one another AND NOT HARASS TO BEGIN WITH.

      And, no, brenda, the courts are not there to deliver attitude adjustments. That’s not what they are there for.

      You boil this all down to some people just needing an “attitude adjustment”? What the hell? Do you have a basic understanding of this topic at all?

      Are you SURE you’re not drunk? You’re making not a lick of sense.

      • “In my world, it is expected that people respect one another”

        And when they refuse? The courts are the proper and appropriate means of settling disputes. You really should *not* get into extended conflicts with your neighbor over whether his fence is on your property or not. You should settle disputes the proper and civil way through the courts because personal disputes can easily escalate into a violent confrontation. They exist to settle these things non-violently.

        “Do you have a basic understanding of this topic at all?”

        Yes, I have been subject to discrimination and to sexual harassment. I did not solve those problems by confronting the individual involved. I resolved the dispute by going to a higher authority, to management, the courts, anyone in charge, and settling it there. That is just how you do it in any civilized society.

        That does seem to be what people did at first, they took it to those in charge of TAM. But, just like if your boss won’t resolve your problem with your co-worker you kick it upstairs to his boss. So also since those responsible for making a conference safe will not address people’s concerns the proper next step is to speak to a lawyer and perhaps initiate legal proceedings (it’s highly unlikely you’d actually go to court). Or, if the person decides it isn’t that important then they should let it go.

        Yes, it is an “attitude adjustment”. All that means is that there is someone with the power to enforce compliance with the law. It is just human nature that people wish that their will, their desires, should rule. When that comes into conflict with the law you need someone in authority to “convince” them that they really don’t want to ignore it.

        The law is the proper and civil means of settling disputes. Use it.

        • Okay. Care to donate to the cause, then? Lawsuits are not free, you know. What a privileged way to look at fixing this issue: Just sue! If you’re broke, then tough shit!

          Also, who do we sue? The entire community? This just isn’t a problem with one person.

          • “Lawsuits are not free”

            Many lawyers will take a case pro bono if it’s for a good cause. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

            “What a privileged way to look at fixing this issue”

            I’ve been homeless a couple times and am quite poor and on a fixed income myself.

            “Also, who do we sue?”

            The organizers of the conference are legally responsible and if you have a good case I’d start there. Or you can always call the police. You have that right. There is always a way.

        • Most people who take rapes to court have their rapists walk free and end up taking a lot of shit for it themselves. Why do you think instances of harassment would be any better?

  23. I still have a glimmer of hope that DJ has realized his mistakes, and is trying to work out a way deal with this that will not blow up in his face again, but if the JREF doesn’t make a prominent public statement on randi.org very soon, then they have no chance of saving TAM. The silence from the JREF is what is killing TAM.

    What is so sad is that everyone one both sides of the conflict wanted TAM to succeed, yet here we are.

    It’s all so sad and unneccesary.

    • Our movement is now so much more than TAM that that it will not hurt the movement if TAM goes down. It will only hurt the JREF. I don’t want this to happen, but regardless of what happens to TAM, the conflict is a threat to our entire movement.

      That’s why we need to move the focus away from TAM and on to resolving the conflict. Despite all our heated arguments, I am convinced that the we have an incredibly amount of common ground. We’re just too caught up in all of this to see it, and we all keep talking past each other.

      I don’t blame any of you for being angry. You have all have reason to be. Some of you feel like you’re accused of being creeps, while you know that you are really nice people. Some of you feel threatened that the new immigrants in our community will impose new and ridiculous rules on all of us, and nobody will get to have sex any more. Some of you are blamed for causing problems, while all you want to do is to make our community a safer place for everyone.

      Over the past year, I’ve been angry about all of these things. I’ve been on both sides of the conflict, and and I know what it feels like, but I’ve had the good fortune of being too shy and nervous to get involved. Instead, I’ve seen it all from the outside, and had time read and consider everyone’s views, without getting mired down in heated arguments.

      I’ve been through a lot over the last year. I still haven’t made up my mind about a lot of things, but I don’t feel any anger any more. I don’t hate anyone. I just want to understand, and to help us get back together.

      I implore you all to consider why you are angry and what you are really fighting for.

      I call for a timeout. Let’s all take a week off from this. Let’s give the the JREF one last chance to respond. They should have all the information they need by now. Let’s take time off to clear our heads of all the noise. Let’s spend some time learning about the other side’s view, and to try to imagine ourselves in their situation. When anger starts to rise, let’s resist the urge to argue.

      Let’s spend the rest of the time we would otherwise use on this with playing with our kids and our pets, riding our bikes, listening to music, tending our gardens and generally doing things that make us happy.

      What do we do when we come back? I don’t know. Hopefully some of us will have thought of something.

      • You’re being utterly ridiculous. There is NOTHING WRONG with discussing the sexism that exists in our community.

        I don’t even understand half the (probably drunk) drivel you are spewing, so you know what? I’m done with you.

        • Marilove, I don’t blame you! I mean, I did say “everyone calm down, let stop talking about this for a week and we’ll all be friends again and go off to lala-land”.

          WTF was I thinking!?!?! This will never work!

          Let me state the opinion I hold now as clearly as I possibly can:

          1. We MUST talk about sexism in our community!
          It is imperative.

          2. I am squarely on the side of the feminists.

          3. I am probably not thinking clearly enough about
          this to participate right now!

          4. It would be nice if TAM get their act together,
          but I really don’t give a damn anymore! We have other
          conferences.

          Feel free to pick my comment to pieces, everyone. It was mindbogglingly bad advice.

          Fortunately we have people like Greta who can think more clearly about this than me:

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/21/why-i-have-hope/

          Thank you for shaking me up Marilove.

          Am I making sense now? Anyone?

          • Nooo I responded to the wrong person!

            AAAAH!!!!

            That was supposed to go to Brenda. Perhaps in a totally different post.

            I fail.

            You’re great.

            Ignore my dumb self!

          • Ah, the commenting system strikes again! :)

            I was wondering how you would so suddenly be done with me after one (albeit ridiculous) comment.

            Well, it caused me to reread the comment, and take a clear stand on the issue instead of trying to please everyone.

            Now I need some sleep. I’ve spent enough time here on this for a while.

        • No only are you done with me, I am done with me.

          Rutefrosk is history.

          • Or maybe not?

          • Definitely not!

        • “There is NOTHING WRONG with discussing the sexism that exists in our community.”

          I never said there was and cannot imagine how you got such an idea. What I think is wrong is the rank hypocrisy of those who would lecture religious people on how wrong and down right evil they and their beliefs are and yet cannot even rise to the level of common decency.

          “I don’t even understand half the (probably drunk) drivel you are spewing”

          You can always ask, nicely. That usually works.

      • I have re-read my comment again now that I’m not in panic mode, and I’m happy to say that I still agree with everything down to (but not including) “I call for a timeout!”

        No, I don’t call for a timeout! At least not for all of us at the same time. That would allow the trolls to take over.

    • As for me, I’m just going to take time away from this issue entirely. I have said all I have to say about it by now, and if you try to argue with me, question my motives or anything like that, I will simply ignore you. Don’t take this personally, I just can’t afford to get involved any more. I am not strong enough to deal with this conflict.

  24. …it’s just that it’s now been straight-up 14 months now of me finding new and interesting ways to convey really obvious, basic concepts of feminism and how to create a welcoming environment and I’ll be honest, it gets a little tiring because sometimes I want to talk about other stuff…

    I can well imagine that it’s been like a 14-month-long stomach virus. I don’t know if it makes you feel any better, but I think that the end result of yours and (other people’s) unwillingness to just shut up and slink away has been that a lot of people’s consciousness(es?) have been raised. I’ve read a number of comments along the lines of, “at first I thought RW was just being hysterical, but then I saw the shit tsunami that was getting thrown at her and now I see what she’s talking about.”

    While it’s true that the shit-throwers and misogynists and people like DJ Grothe are the ones actually making your point for you (by their bad behavior), they would never have outed themselves so thoroughly and publicly if you’d just put on a lady-like smile and said nothing like they wanted.

    • You may be right. I mean, when has “can’t we all just be friends” ever worked?

      I still hope at least some people will take up my challenge. I have no illusions that it will solve the whole problem, of course, but understanding the other side is always good, though, and dog knows we all need a little time off from this.

      Maybe we should just encourage the rift that is tearing through our community, instead of trying to bring people together. But I’m willing to give it one last try. For one week. Then I’m giving up.

      • I am officially out of here. I can’t deal with this anymore.

        See you on another topic! :)

  25. I am officially out of here. I can’t deal with this anymore.

    See you on another topic! :)

    • Thanks for contributing to the extent you felt able.. It’s obvious that it was a significant personal challenge to put your thoughts out there, especially given the volatility of this subject. That was brave of you. Well done!

      Looking forward to hearing from you again, even if we may not know it’s you!

      • Thank you for your encouraging words!

        As you may have noticed, I’ve been back here to write a few comments in
        order to elaborate on my points and tie to a few loose ends ends. I kept
        my promise not to go into any arguments, and I am very happy with that.

        This has been an extremely challenging for me, but ultimately also very
        rewarding. I hope that I have also made at least a small contribution to
        our cause. I will go back to lurking until I’m ready to contribute again.

        With Greta’s hopeful remarks fresh in my mind, I’m ending the week on
        a very positive note.

        See you all at some time in the future!

        Rutefrosk out.

  26. Hey, Brenda? This is a SKEPTIC community. Not the atheist community. Just thought I’d put this here so you’ll see it.

    Also, “clean up your shit a little”? Really?

    Let me ask: Do you go over to PZ Myer’s blog and demand that he be nicer? No? Is it because he has a penis?

    • That and the Pharygulites would eat her asshole as an amuse-bouche.

      • I am sure they would mrmisconception. Because that is how rational adults behave isn’t it?

    • “This is a SKEPTIC community. Not the atheist community.”

      I have been assured by a great many atheists online that atheism is the lack of belief. If that is true (it isn’t) then yes you are all atheists.

      “Do you go over to PZ Myer’s blog and demand that he be nicer?”

      I would never demand such a thing. I would simply point out that his boorish behavior and that of his followers is counter productive to his stated aims. Which I’m certain would be met with respectful, thoughtful enlightened debate and not at all with open hostility and violent, sexist homophobic attacks. Because as we all know, religion is the source of all that is evil in this world.

      • I have been assured by a great many atheists online that atheism is the lack of belief. If that is true (it isn’t) then yes you are all atheists.

        This proves just how rational your argument is, you are not entitled to your own definitions, language doesn’t work that way.

        • I assure you that language does indeed work that way. Words refer to things. If they fail to adequately describe the world then we change them to reflect that. Words can also be political or even manipulate perceptions. However words cannot make something into what it is not and atheism is *not* the set of all things that are not theists. Which atheism as a lack implies. Atheism is in fact all those who deny that god exists. It has always meant that and it always will.

          • Nope, atheism is the lack of a belief in God (s). The belief that there is no God is only a subset, not the whole.

      • I … you are making no sense. I can’t even respond to you anymore. Seriously. I have no fucking idea how you make these loose connections. None of this fits. None of it.

      • Also, way to fucking go. Malasa makes a post specifically for positivity. And you come in and continue your lecturing in that very post.

        And we’re the assholes who are making all of Skepticsm and Atheism look bad???? When you can’t even handle a simple, “This is for positive stories only!” request? Are you fucking kidding me?

        I am getting the DISTINCT feeling that you just like to hear yourself talk.

  27. Can I just say that I’m still really pissed off at the Marty Klein thing? Appropriately enough, I couldn’t stop thinking about the word Douchebag after I read that post. I hope both this and the Klein posts get follow ups. So-called professionals in this world are getting away with sexism and misogyny on an unbelieveable level.

    • That Marty Klein thing pisses me off, too. I JUST started back at school to get a degree in psychology, and the first psychology-related thing I read was that.

      First I was angry and disappointed, but then I decided I’m even more resolved to pursue this career choice so that I can be a different and (hopefully) less damaging voice in the world of mental health.

      • Quietmarc good for you that you’re taking a stand there. Mind Hacks, Bad science and Stephen Pinker are all pretty respectable in their field if you want to check those out and the reason I like them is because they talk evidence instead of opinion.

        I HOPE they weren’t using Klein in your school!

  28. Words refer to things. If they fail to adequately describe the world then we change them to reflect that.

    Atheism is in fact all those who deny that god exists. It has always meant that and it always will.

    So, which is it? Do words change or is atheist just some special exception that is frozen in time? Your definition is not the most common today, which would mean it changed? That can’t be, must be a mistake.

    • LOL

      and this is when I call troll.

      • I called troll as soon as she said she was agnostic but started on her religious tirade.

        If you are religious, that’s fine but own it don’t pretend you are something you are not because you think it will make you seem more rational, epecially if you are going throw that away by continuing to talk shit.

  29. You guys might find this helpful:

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

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