D.J. Grothe threatening legal action against WTinc
Earlier this year, I reluctantly resigned from my position as the president of Women Thinking, inc (formerly the Women Thinking Free Foundation, an organization focused on science and critical thinking outreach for women and women’s issues) for health and personal reasons. This weekend, and all of yesterday and into today, I’ve been back in touch with the board, offering support and advice, as they struggled to find a solution to a problem: D.J. Grothe is shitty at jokes.
A few weeks ago, Sasha Pixlee wrote a blog post at More Than Men, a diversity education project he and I launched together as part of WTinc, about a time he was at a party with D.J. and D.J. made a terrible joke about date rape (emphasis mine):
(the full story is cached here in case WTinc is forced to or chooses to remove it from the More Than Men blog.)
I’m embarrassed to say that at the time I was still a bit fame-struck and too shocked to really process it. I didn’t do what I should have done, and told him how rude, insulting, and unprofessional it was to say something like that, even while drunk. Even in a casual social setting. But then it got more bizarre and incredible. I’m a tall guy, chubby (fat, honestly) and bearded. If I were gay I would definitely be a bear. This was discussed and DJ then made an
hilarioushorrendous “joke” about how I should pay him a visit down in Los Angeles so that he could drug me and let some of his friends have some fun with me. You know, in other words so that I could be gang raped.
I never felt like he was serious when he made that joke about having me raped. I never felt like I was in actual danger. I am a straight cis man. I’m not as likely to have to worry about those things as someone else.
The Women Thinking partnered up with the JREF in December of 2010 to do a vaccine outreach research survey as part of the Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated campaign. Since we were and are a small organization without the resources to take on such a project, we asked the JREF to fund it. They agreed, and gave us ~$5,000 to travel and conduct surveys around the country and for that, they would publish and promote the research for us. Now, almost three years later the survey is finished. The report is complete thanks to a tireless effort by the WTinc board, especially Jamie Bernstein. The report has been delivered to the JREF and reviewed by experts. Today, it is essentially ready to be published, and has been for over a year. But right now, Grothe is using a blog post about being bad at jokes as a reason to hold up publishing this work that we were planning on using to save lives.
From an email sent to the WTinc board (edit: A commenter was unclear where this email originated. It was sent to the WTinc board by now-former WTinc board member Matt Lowry and was drafted by both Lowry and Grothe together):
DJ’s concern, beyond his public reputation related to these blogged allegations that he flatly denies, is that he may receive pushback from various people supportive of JREF if he tries to work with us in good faith to finish up the vaccine project given what he sees as the harmful nature of Sasha’s allegations. He also mentioned various discussions about possibly taking action (legal or otherwise) against Sasha or WT, Inc. for defamation. (He said that his longtime partner Thomas was at the party, and that other disinterested parties were there too, and are willing to witness that such threats or comments were never made, and that there is concern that such potentially “actionable” and “defamatory” blog posts on one of our websites could be demonstrably harmful to DJ and Thomas during their adoption process that they are beginning. He also believes there is a demonstrable history of Sasha showing ill will towards him, which would show a “pattern of malice”).
Grothe doesn’t like that someone said something bad about him on the internet. And he’s shaking down a small organization that he knows cannot afford to defend themselves against a baseless lawsuit thrown at them by a man who thinks that being bad at jokes is going to stop him from ever becoming a parent and will stand in the way of him running the world renowned nonprofit organization that he’s already in charge of.
Because of Grothe’s threats, the past few days have been emotionally wrought for everyone. They’re scared. They’re angry. And they want this project they’ve been working on for almost three years to be published. They also want to stand firm to their commitment to feminism and the More Than Men Project. And right now, thanks to Grothe’s bullying, two of the four board members have resigned. The More Than Men Project has offered to leave WTinc to save them the hassle, but are worried about it looking like a less than amicable split.
It’s a mess. And I’m heartbroken to watch this happen to the organization I founded and resigned from out of love. I’m tired of higher ups in this movement using heavy hands and legal threats to shut down conversations about harassment and assault. I’m tired of being told that if I don’t like how things are happening in the movement to step up and change them, then getting shut down because I’m trying to change them. I’m tired of people being tired of “the drama.” “The drama” is tearing apart small organizations because your Big Deal Vatican of Skepticism organization doesn’t like everything the smaller organizations are doing.
And right now, the remaining board members are terrified of this going public because of what Grothe might do.
He can do 2 things:
1. Publish the research and stop threatening WTinc with legal action because he doesn’t like that someone said he’s bad at jokes.
2. Don’t publish the research and explain to JREF donors why he paid us $5,000 for a project that was completed but never delivered because he’s bad at jokes.
Or, you know, just get better at rape jokes.
(Edit: some of the language I originally used in this article gave the impression that this was a rigorous scientific study. This was inadvertent and I’ve edited it to reflect that this is market research, not scientific research.)