Zero Intolerance

I’m on my way home from CFI’s Women in Secularism conference. It was an intense conference in the best way possible. Speakers I have seen give speeches elsewhere were at their most passionate here. I finally got to see speakers who should be on every atheist convention organizer’s wish list. I’ll be talking more about the conference over the next few days.

Right now, though, I’m going to talk about something that happened almost outside the conference. It had its genesis on stage, when Jen McCreight mentioned that, when she started speaking at conferences, multiple people contacted her behind the scenes to tell her which male speakers she should steer clear of.

This announcement made no noticeable ripple in the room at the time. When I tweeted something to that effect, however, discussion started. One guy I’ve never heard of before thought we should tell him who these speakers were or, well, he’d just be snarky in the future when the topic came up because he couldn’t be responsible for knowing. Another said women should do more naming and shaming. A female speaker said the same happened to her. Someone who arranges speakers for her group expressed concern that this wasn’t common knowledge.

Then the topic started infecting the barcon and hallcon. I had multiple conversations over multiple tables yesterday. It turns out I have a few things to say on the topic.

So did other people, and you’ll find some of what they had to say here. You won’t find their names unless they let me know they want to claim their words. I’ll explain why in more general terms later. Most importantly, though, we didn’t talk about whether individual statements were off the record, but one of the premises of conversations like these is that the whole topic is off the record. If it weren’t, we’d have both less and more to talk about.

Without further ado, presented in the form of a FAQ:

Q: Do famous atheist speakers really act like assholes to women?

A: Yes.

Q: Really?!

A: I said, “Yes.” I’ve experienced some of it, in front of witnesses. I’ve talked to other women who’ve experienced it personally. I’ve talked to conference organizers who have strategies for minimizing the damage when they have to invite one of these men to one of their conferences.

Also, did you just express “skepticism” over this? It’s a completely uncontroversial statement. Unacceptable gendered behavior exists. Our movement is not immune. Men don’t become immune to bad behavior just because people like how they speak or write or organize. Yes, it happens.

Q: But it’s never happened to me!

A: Now we’re getting out of the realm of questions. This will be the last of that. But, to your point, this may sound like a silly question, but are you a guy? If you are, you’re not likely to experience gendered misbehavior from another guy. Let that sink in for a bit.

Not male? Well, there are a couple of things to consider. If you flatter or lightly flirt with these guys, you’ll miss the kind of behavior that happens when they don’t get their way. If you interacted with lots of other people around, you’ve seen their more public faces. Beyond that, not every jerk can or will be a jerk to every person.

Q: But–

A: Shhh. Questions.

Q: So who are these guys?

A: I’m not going to tell you that, at least not here.

Q: I arrange speakers for XYZ. This is important information for me.

A: That is a very good point. I recommend networking behind the scenes. Nobody wants events to go badly. The people to ask are usually female conference organizers and speakers. Those who speak publicly about sexism hear more stories from other people.

Be prepared to give assurances that the confidentiality of your source will be respected. Then respect it, even in internal discussions, unless otherwise agreed beforehand.

Q: No, really. Who are these guys?

A: Ahem. Boundaries. I already told you I wouldn’t tell you. Respect that.

Q: Why aren’t you naming and shaming?

A: Until a year ago, this was harder to explain succinctly. Now, sadly, it’s much easier.

Did you see what happened to Rebecca Watson? Have you seen what’s still happening today? That’s why.

Q: But isn’t naming and shaming how we’re supposed to fix this?

A: Naming and shaming only works in an atmosphere that has some shame itself. This movement does have some, but not enough.

Let me let you in on a little secret, though. When I have heard speaker names attached to this, there have been no surprises. If you pay attention to the people who are named and shamed for public behavior, it isn’t hard to deduce that many (though not all) would have private behavior that was as bad or worse.

If you pay attention to how speakers treat women in public, particularly women who disagree with them, you’re halfway there. Who makes sexist jokes? Who talks as though only men are listening? Who only listens to men or the concerns of men?

Q: How bad can these guys be if they keep getting invited to speak?

A: As bad as they’re allowed to be. As I already pointed out, you’ve probably seen the public behavior of some of these guys already. Has it kept them from getting audiences and invitations? Has it kept them from getting jobs? Has it kept them from being treated as the cool kids?

No. It has not.

Not only are these speakers still allowed to show up, but they’re still in demand. Conferences need to sell tickets and fill seats. When organizers stop inviting some of the people on this list, unless sexism is a primary concern for donors, unless experiences are allowed to be made public, organizers get overruled. If the speaker is a draw, there is a limited amount organizers can do.

There’s a limited amount female speakers can do. Not only do they have less power (of the ticket sales and butts in seats variety), but they face backlash for using it. How *dare* they attack any of the heroes who are supposedly absent from our movement?

Q: Oh, well, if these guys are important to the movement….

A: Then we should encourage the women who are important to the movement to deal with or rearrange their lives to avoid being patronized, disrespected, insulted, leered at, inappropriately propositioned, harassed, assaulted? What are we offering these women that would compensate for that sort of “service” to the movement? What could?

Yeah. I didn’t think so.

Q: So, uh, what do we do about this?

A: Excellent question. I recommend three things. There will probably be other suggestions in the comments.

1. When someone points out sexist behavior in your heroes, start thinking instead of reacting. Listen to the harm being described. Say something when people try to shut down women who are reacting to the behavior; emotion is a *rational* response to attack. Make a place where it’s safe to talk about these problems, and don’t wander away because it makes you uncomfortable. This behavior makes the women complaining uncomfortable. You listening passively is much simpler.

2. Don’t ask to see the same speakers over and over again. Build up the number of popular speakers in the movement by demanding some degree of novelty in faces and topics. The bad apples are already a minority among speakers. Many speakers in the movement, even and sometimes especially the angry ones, are the sweetest people you’ll meet. The more of those we have, the more of those who are in demand, the easier it is to effectively marginalize bad behavior.

3. Don’t let women speakers have only nominal representation. The more of them there are in a venue, the fewer spaces there are for ugly behavior.

Okay, here’s a number 4. If something happens to you with one of these speakers, tell someone if you can. If you’re in a position to do so, scream it to the rafters. If you’re not, try to add your story to the ones traded behind the scenes. More stories = more credibility = more weight.

Q: Not all feminist infractions are huge deals. Where do we draw the line on this? How zero-tolerance should we be? What destroys a career?

A: I don’t know. We tolerate people who are jerks in other ways, but what’s happening here does create a hostile environment. Some things, however, are clearly wrong and should be treated that way.

There are people I respect greatly who have tried or are trying to draw lines in our speaker/representative sand on other issues. Lately, I’ve found that I have no heart for this on any issue while there are no lines on this issue. People can be as idiotic/harmful as they want to be on this. Why not everything else.

Or maybe there’s a better solution. Ya think?

Q: Okay, I think I get all that, but when are you going to tell me who they are?

A: I’ll tell stories when telling them makes life easier for the people whose stories they are. (Mine are minor but irritating.) When it costs their reputation instead of ours, then it will be a simple thing to satisfy your curiosity. Until then, as long as we live with our stories, you can live with your curiosity.

Photo credit: “microphone” by Daehyun Park. Some rights reserved.

Comments

  1. says

    I understand the reasons for not naming and shaming, but it seems like there’s a bit of a circular problem here. The problematic speakers keep getting invited because they’re in demand, because people want to come and see them. But those of us who care about this, if we don’t know who those speakers are, can’t make the decision to boycott them, can’t ask conference organizers not to invite them, and thus can’t reduce the demand that causes them to keep getting invited.

    However, it’s a good point that speakers who are disrespectful to women in public are likely to be even more disrespectful in private. That’s something I’ll have to watch out for.

  2. Mary2 says

    We tolerate jerks amongst our speakers for the same reason we tolerate jerks amongst our sports stars or pop stars.

    They are not invited to speak because they are pleasant people. They are invited to speak because people want to hear what they say on a particular subject. I think anyone who assumes that just because someone is a popular speaker they have to be a nice person is very naive, e.g. Sam Harris has publicly supported racism towards people who look Muslim (whatever that means) – although I do remember how disappointing it was to hear my first spoken interview with a rock star hero from my youth to discover she could barely string two words together.

    The problem of unacceptable attitudes towards women, blacks, gays etc. will not be solved by naming and shaming half a dozen famous people on the internet. These attitudes permeate our whole society and need to be challenged at every level. Starting with your children and your local newspapers and politicians will, I believe, result in more long-term changes of attitude than another ‘elevator-gate’ internet rant.

  3. karmakin says

    Maybe it would help to cut down on the number of meatspace conventions or even mostly eliminating them altogether and moving them online? This would allow for a much broader spectrum of both speakers and convention-goers?

  4. says

    No shocks here — or, at least, there shouldn’t be — but it’s obviously frustrating for all well-intentioned parties involved. I wonder if *not* naming names at this point might be helpful in another way, by forcing us to look for the problem broadly rather than identify it with specific bad apples. The best solution, clearly, is to cultivate a culture in which shaming occurs automatically when hurtful behavior does. In any case, thank you, Stephanie, for sharing what you feel you can.

  5. says

    Mary2, I’m happy you could get all that out of your system. Did you have something to say about this post, which discusses behavior at speaking gigs, not attitudes?

  6. Simon says

    Firstly Stephanie it was great to speak and meet with you in person at the conference.

    As to the matter you write about, what I told some of the other wonderful women at the conference was that IMO the decision on whether to go public with these names should be based simply on whether this is deemed the best way to make it stop.

    If a private behind-the-scenes can be effective then by all means pursue that tactic. But if a public confrontation can’t be avoided then do what you need to do.

    All that being said, the discussion being had right now will also be valuable in itself if the creeps see that more and more people are on to their antics.

  7. furtivezoog says

    I don’t mean to deflect the topic away from the experiences of women at secularist conferences, but I would add, by way of sympathy, an experience of my own. At a science fiction convention, one of my friends (male, and in 7th or 8th grade, as was I), experienced being ‘hit upon’ with some inappropriate attempts at touching in the men’s room by one of the convention’s honorees. (I wasn’t a direct witness, but talked to him immediately after he left the men’s room.) As teenage boys, we mostly just tried to laugh it off and make sure we didn’t have any more encounters with the man. I did mention it to an adult male member of the convention and received a hostile “That’s slander!” as a response—not even a “Really?!”—thus completely ending the conversation, as far as I was concerned. Beyond mentioning it to a few other convention-going friends at the time, I have not mentioned it to anyone in the 30 years since.

  8. says

    karmakin said:

    Maybe it would help to cut down on the number of meatspace conventions or even mostly eliminating them altogether and moving them online?

    While there isn’t much excuse for a major conference / event to not have a live feed in our always on connected world (I’m looking at your Reason Rally!), or put the videos up a few days later for smaller venues, there is something to be said about the visceral reaction one gets from being around like minded individuals.

    That feeling of community one gets from knowing you’re literally surrounded by people who share many of your common goals, beliefs, and interests. Knowing you don’t have to censor what you say about certain topics to avoid boring, or insulting, the people around you. Knowing that you’re not going to be judged for holding an unpopular idea because its likely the people around you hold the same unpopular idea.

    Sure we could do it all online, but we’d miss that connection with real actual people and replace it with the pseudo semi-fake one we get from looking a glowing screen.

  9. Drivebyposter says

    My question is are the people who want “name and shame” to be the way to handle these situations going to be the ones to name and shame? Or are they planning on letting others take the flak for pointing out douchebags?

  10. says

    Stephanie, is there any advice you could give male allies here? I’ve seen things I wasn’t comfortable with and sometimes felt I haven’t been as good an ally as I could have been.

  11. StevoR says

    As a prividledged and sometime signorant / oblivious male, I’m going totenataively suggets if I may that one possible approach would be to let the individuals involved know directly or via their friends /organisers with a quiet word on the side type and a gentle request – ie. saying something like : “Look you’ve apparently been doing X and upset some people – please don’t do that. Or we may have to reconsider inviting you again.”

    Some people (incl. the speakers here?) may just be unaware of how they’re coming across to others – blind to their own priviledge and how they affect others. Let them know and they may well be surprised and once they understand alter their behaviour(s) and rethink accordingly.

    I know that may not work with everyone and some people won’t listen out of personal stubbornness but others may?

    But I guess that’s already been tried has it? Thoughts?

  12. StevoR says

    Sorry about the typos – to clarify that’s :

    “As a priviledged and sometimes ignorant / oblivious male, I’m going to tenatatively suggest .. “

    Naturally.

    Question from me here – are the speakers involved aware of what they’re doing and are doing it deliberately or are they just acting in ignorance not knowing that they’re being hurtful and offensive to others?

    Is raising awareness – having notices somewhere even perhaps ie. ‘Speakers and guests are requested to watch for and avoid sexist conduct and behaviours offputting such as ..’ or suchlike – perhaps a key thing that could be done to reduce this problem?

  13. says

    I think anyone who assumes that just because someone is a popular speaker they have to be a nice person is very naive, e.g. Sam Harris has publicly supported racism towards people who look Muslim (whatever that means)

    This is not about being a nice person who holds the door and gets up and gets you a coffee because you look a bit under the weather. It’s about somebody being a horrible bigot.
    So, what to do?
    Well, people should stop spending money on those speakers.
    If Sam Harris doesn’t fill the halls anymore and people actually make a point of letting organizers know, he’ll get invited less.

    James Croft
    I’d say the first thing would be to mention them.
    Do it casually. Like not laughing, even not in an embarrased way and say “yeah, making fun at women, how witty”, or mentioning that you didn’t think it OK how a speaker adressed only men or ignored the women or spoke down to them.
    Believe me, it helps. It gives the women around ou a feeling of not being alone.
    I can tell you that many women carefully weigh the occasions of speaking up vs. not doing so. Knowing that there’s somebody who’ll stand with you makes it easier to speak up.

  14. Erasmus says

    I have made a habit of doing what Giliel suggested, pointing out to male speakers, organisers etc. of those events I have been involved with (nothing major jsut local stuff) that they shouldn’t be sexist sods.

    This has pulled a mixed response from the women present. Some are happy that they have an ally, some see my arguing against sexism as defending them, in the sense of steppign between them and danger and thus find my very anti-sexist stance itself sexist.

    I was just wondering if anyone (particularly women) had any suggestions for comments a male could make without giving that impression. I’m not much of a wordsmith, so don’t really know what to say apart from

    “Hey, that was really rather sexist, stop it.”

    I’ve got the same response when telling some to quit being racist (I’m white) or ablist (even though I myself have a disability… just not a visible one.) So I figure I must be phrasing things badly, I’ve seen other guys get similar responses so I don’t think it’s just me.

  15. says

    This has pulled a mixed response from the women present. Some are happy that they have an ally, some see my arguing against sexism as defending them, in the sense of steppign between them and danger and thus find my very anti-sexist stance itself sexist.

    I think the problem you have here is “white knighting”
    It can become pretty condescending pretty quickly although you never notice. You can quickly come off as knowing better what women feel than they themselves.
    That’s why I said “casually”.
    But I admit that it’s not easy and I can’t give you a recipe for all situations and contexts. Personally I’d say you’re doing it right if I get the impression that you would back me up if I chose to get into that topic, but I’d be pissed off if came off as fighting the fightfor me.

  16. says

    Oh, some more thoughts on this: this doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
    Men are socialized to fix problems, women are socialized to believe that they can’t fend for themselves.
    Everything in life tells us this again and again and a femisnist woman will be way more aware of this than you will be as an ally man.
    That’s why she may react more strongly to your support than you can understand

  17. John Morales says

    Giliell,

    Believe me, it helps. It gives the women around [you] a feeling of not being alone.

    It probably almost certainly helps even without women around one feeling some support.

    (If a bloke expects acknowledgement or kudos for such, any merit in it is much much less)

  18. says

    This is a problem that has been addressed (if not solved, but still…) in other segments of society, and I think it is worth looking at that.

    If we were speaking of faculty at a university or managers in a large company, so most of the people involved were all under the same institutional framework, there would be someone to call and make a complaint. The problem furtivezoog notes above is not an option with a functioning HR department, and the problem of false accusations and the counter-reaction that fear of false accusations cause (to be seen in these comments in 3…2…1…?) is also dealt with in that setting.

    I am not suggesting that the Skeptics movement gets an HR department. The Skeptics movement is not a corporation or institution. But most of the conferences are put on by large(ish) organizations that do hold responsibility for the events they organize. There have been cases in the past where conference organizers were contacted about concerns over a conference attendee’s possible bad behavior, the one case I’m thinking of being a small scale one different than what you are talking about here in important ways, but it points out the fact that there is a responsible institution involved.

    So, I am suggesting two specific things: 1) Look at how HR policies and departments handle these things for ideas of what to try and what to avoid, even to the extent of an overarching organization such as the SCA contracting a consultant from that field. This avoids reinventing the wheel and making avoidable mistakes and could lead to some very good solutions. 2) Develop (again, the SCA could facilitate this) a convention/conference organizer conference. I’m pretty sure this is not unprecedented. Conference organizers past, present and future, should themselves be organized and have an annual meeting (this could be done every other time in cyberspace, perhaps, to save money) to discuss and deal with this sort of issue.

    A conference should have a hotline and an on-line drop box for complaints and concerns. The very existence of such a thing, well known to attendees and speakers by having a prominent representation in the conference material, could make a huge difference in people’s behaviors.

    That, and blog posts like this one; simply pointing out that there is a) a problem and b) an emerging conversation is very important.

  19. Frogmistress says

    I had a similar discussion with one of the speakers. Why women aren’t naming names make sense.

    If women speak out about something which has no evidence, and it upsets the status quo, the skeptic community tends to lash back hard. (Hell, they lash back when there is evidence.)

    But then, after the conference, I was witnessing a man being teased for hanging out with the young attendees. He eventually said, “Then I would ask, ‘Where is the evidence?’ As there wouldn’t be any.”

    I asked if he really didn’t realize that THAT is a big part of the problem? There isn’t any evidence and the women aren’t believed.

    Those genuine “Oh! I really see!” moments are so rare and so nice to witness. :)

    I could make a few good guesses on some of the men who are probably pretty sexist. The signs, as have been pointed out, are all there. It really is time that men started picking up on them too.

    And, Stephanie, it was wonderful to meet you and speak with you this weekend. So many great women! So many awesome conversations! I really enjoyed it.

  20. Meg says

    An assertiveness script:
    1. When (situation) happens: “When someone tells a joke making fun of women”
    2. I feel/think (feeling or thought): “I feel uncomfortable and put down”
    3. I imagine you feel/think (feeling or thought): “You wanted to share a laugh and didn’t realize it would be offensive”
    4. Optional – Is that what you were feeling?
    5. What I would like is (solution/suggestion): “I’d prefer you not tell that kind of joke around me”

  21. says

    Thanks Giliell, that’s helpful – usually when I decide to speak up about something I do it in a rather forceful way. Next time I’ll try a more casual approach.

    Greg Laden – I think your idea of an organizer’s conference is a great one. I’d certainly learn a lot from something like that.

  22. Erasmus says

    @Giliell

    Thanks. I’ll try to keep that in mind. Bigots really annoy me though, which is my motivation for telling them to stop. I’ll try to avoid looking like I’m coming to the rescue… Not sure how to avoid that though as it isn’t and hasn’t been my motivation. Will think on it a bit.

  23. says

    Meg, assertiveness scripts are great when there isn’t a big power imbalance. Even when there is, they can be helpful, but then there is also a great deal more risk in simply being assertive.

    Greg, I’m looking into a project that will help keep us from reinventing the wheel on this and a number of other conference issues. I’ll probably make you work on it, since you have both suggestions and information. :)

    One ally trick that hasn’t been mentioned here is worrying slightly less about politeness and proprieties when it comes to interrupting. See something happening where a woman looks like she might want to get away from a public figure? Now is a great time to ask said public figure a question, tell them you’ve read their book, thank them for something else they’ve done, and just generally monopolize their attention for a minute. You may feel like an ass for invading a speaker’s privacy, but someone who has been looking for an opportunity to break away can do so. If she’s fine in the conversation, you’ve kept your intervention to a minimum, and you can apologize to her for the interruption.

  24. says

    We tolerate jerks amongst our speakers for the same reason we tolerate jerks amongst our sports stars or pop stars.

    They are not invited to speak because they are pleasant people. They are invited to speak because people want to hear what they say on a particular subject.

    I really don’t think that’s true. If people just want to hear (get, receive, learn, find out) what they say on a particular subject, the simplest way to do that is just to read it.

    I think people are invited to speak because other people want to see (hear, smell, etc) them in person. The talk itself is usually just a kind of reason to be up there on the stage. (I say “usually” because there are exceptions – Wafa Sultan’s passion and emotion are crucial to the impact of what she has to say. In her case it really does make a difference to be in the room with her when she says it.)

    So I think it really does make a difference if they’re assholes, or robotic, or unpleasant, or in love with themselves, or sexist shits.

  25. says

    Accusations of white knighting be damned, I’m sick of hearing about these blow-ups over and over. If I’m present, and I hear something sexist and recognize it in realtime, I’m saying something about it. If someone thinks I’m doing it to get into their pants, they’re wrong. I’m doing it to make an ordinary situation extraordinary, so that the next time someone comes along demanding extraordinary evidence for something otherwise ordinary, I can provide it.

  26. says

    One ally trick that hasn’t been mentioned here is worrying slightly less about politeness and proprieties when it comes to interrupting. See something happening where a woman looks like she might want to get away from a public figure? Now is a great time to ask said public figure a question, tell them you’ve read their book, thank them for something else they’ve done, and just generally monopolize their attention for a minute.

    That one, at least, I have down to a T ;).

  27. karmakin says

    The feeling of community is good, of course, but at the same time it’s clear that some groups are being left far behind because of it. It’s pretty clear that there’s a massive problem with sexism on the skeptic convention circuit.

    One of the big problems with dealing with this, as laid out in the situation in #23, is that irregardless of someone stepping in, the damage is already done. The person is already creeped out, and is feeling uncomfortable and is unlikely to return to future conferences and might very well leave the movement. The creeper is basically unaware that they did anything wrong, and as such will continue to be a creep. (Truth be told, the only thing that will probably work is removing them from the situation)

  28. says

    @Greg — I was actually reading your Science piece when your post came through. Yours is the most recent and appreciated contribution to an uncharacteristic optimism that’s been growing all day. Cheers!

  29. Frogmistress says

    karmakin, I wouldn’t assume that the creeper is unaware that his behavior is inappropriate. But, as long as there are no consequences for his behavior, why should he change?

  30. karmakin says

    Frogmistress:My experience is that people are awfully confident in what they do and they tend to think that what they’re doing is fine even if they deplore it in other people. Humans are really good at double-think

    But yes, that’s the point. Currently there’s no consequences, and quite frankly I don’t think there’s any real clamoring for them either. There’s a desire to fix these problems in a “we’ll know it when we see it” type fashion and that simply isn’t going to work.

  31. says

    Jason

    Accusations of white knighting be damned, I’m sick of hearing about these blow-ups over and over. If I’m present, and I hear something sexist and recognize it in realtime, I’m saying something about it. If someone thinks I’m doing it to get into their pants, they’re wrong.

    That’s completely missing the point. If I were the woman in question I wouldn’t think you were trying to get into my pants, but that you thought that you needed to fix my problem for me because I’m obviously not able to, which is pretty demeaning and sexist in itself.
    Again, this is largely due to the way society works. If I had a dime for every time in my life some guy thought he needed to fix something for me, talk over my head, assumed he knew better what I was feeling, thinking and needing than myself, I’d be at least able to buy that gorgeous digital camera I’ve been eyeing for some time now, plus a set of lenses.
    It’s something you probably haven’t experienced much since you’re out of highschool.
    As I said before, it’s not about “saying something”. It’s about what you say, how you say it and how the situation is like.
    Let’s just assume that we’re in such a situation. We’re in mixed company, chances are good that I’m the only woman, or one of a minority of women.
    Some guy, some popular guy in this group makes a sexist remark.
    Now I have to calculate my options quickly: Do I let it slide because I’m afraid of the backlash? Do I confront him?
    You’ve been faster than me and you remark: “Duh, that’s sexist bullshit.”
    Now my sitution has changed. I know that should I choose to confront him, I’m not going to be attacked by every other person in this group, I know I have an ally. Yeah, warm tickling in my toes. Maybe I’ll still let it slide, because it’s been a long day and I’m exhausted, maybe I’ve been arguing some point or other all day long and actually just want to have a gin tonic and some chatter and after all I’m not the fucking feminist action squad with a purple light on my head who has to turn up each and every time.
    But should you insist to go on, to carry on the fight on my behalf, you’re forcing the topic on me.
    Again, it’s not about “saying something”, but about what you say and how you say it.

  32. says

    Okay, I get that Giliell, my big worry now is not to drag others unnecessarily into defending me when I pick a fight. My tactic has been to point it out and demand that the conversation move on from wherever it just was.

    When I pick my battles — and I often pick them poorly — I don’t expect others to be forced into acting on my behalf, I often expect people to gang up on me instead. Maybe that’s just my privilege talking, that I pick more fights than I should, or would if I was less privileged. But at the same time, if I’m wearing the purple light in a given fight, shouldn’t that free you to sip your gin and tonic and recuse yourself? That’s kind of what I was hoping for.

  33. says

    I mean, at least, that’s my *intent* — my strategy for trying to be a good ally is to keep you from having to carry every fight on your own.

  34. says

    And triple-posting… bad form, sorry.

    The major problem here is that most of the time, the sexism we’re talking about doesn’t have witnesses, as Stephanie pointed out elsewhere. So the idea that someone pointing out sexist behaviour when they notice it will make it more unlikely that it happens in the future, actually just drives it underground. They become more experienced at hiding that sexist behaviour. Think Isaac Asimov pinching bottoms in elevators whether they want to be pinched or not.

  35. says

    karmakin, conventions are amazing, at least the good ones. I unilaterally declare that they may not go away (which is easy to do, as they won’t anyway). As a group, they could use some professionalizing though. Dealing with this is part of that.

    Jason, addressing public sexism doesn’t just drive it underground. It will do some of that, it will lessen the overall amount by reducing opportunity, and it will tell the people on both ends of a sexist transaction that there are people who are willing to do something about it. Also that other people know the fault rests with the person who was on the delivering end of sexism, not the person on the receiving end.

  36. says

    Jason

    When I pick my battles — and I often pick them poorly — I don’t expect others to be forced into acting on my behalf, I often expect people to gang up on me instead.

    Yeah, but it’s inadvertedly going to happen.
    Let’s remain in our little fictional meeting. You’ve made your casual comment and I think “thanks Jason for noticing. Isn’t it exhausting? I should say something but I really, really don’t want to have this conversation again.”
    It can end there. Maybe later when everybody goes home I’ll remember to acknowledge this to you.
    But let’s say that instead of making a casual comment, which has all the positive effects you mention, like me feeling more comfortable and welcome, like showing the dudez that this is not acceptable and so on, and letting me choose to go for confrontation or not, you start a fully fledged attack. Now, since the topic is sexism and misogyny I will of course be drawn into it, being the only woman present. It’s a situation I can’t win. Either I enter the fight, which means that you guys just decided what I have to do and what not with my time and energy, or I back off and have a guy “fix it for me”, sending out all the wrong signals in every direction.

    So the idea that someone pointing out sexist behaviour when they notice it will make it more unlikely that it happens in the future, actually just drives it underground.

    Ehm, no. Actually a lot of it already happens underground, but it also happens because the one delivering it can be sure that he’s got a vast amount of support behind his back while she has none.
    If a woman could be sure that the reaction to shouting out “that creep just pinched my ass” would be “you damn misogynist get out of here” instead of “yeah, as if anybody would pinch your ass”/”hey, admit it you like it”/”yeah, anybody can say that”, do you think she’d shout it out?
    And would he pinch her butt if he knew that she has support?

  37. says

    Now, since the topic is sexism and misogyny I will of course be drawn into it, being the only woman present. It’s a situation I can’t win. Either I enter the fight, which means that you guys just decided what I have to do and what not with my time and energy, or I back off and have a guy “fix it for me”, sending out all the wrong signals in every direction.

    @Giliell, this has happened to me far too many times for comfort. It really can be frustrating.

    Back to the topic of the original post, I completely understand not being able to call out speakers; every time I see demands that women expose themselves to ridicule and attack for naming and shaming, I get so frustrated. It’s not always a good idea, just like it’s not always safe for women to report sexual assault and rape. Why can’t we get past this problem of placing the burden on fixing the problem on victims?

  38. karmakin says

    I feel like this IS putting the burden on the victims.

    Why isn’t a possibility to anonymously pass along the information to convention organizers who can blacklist the offending people from future conventions?

  39. says

    Okay, so, I’m just learning that there’s this whole other definition to “white knight” that DOESN’T come from the anti-feminist crowd, that DOESN’T come from the internet, and therefore my knee-jerk reaction to it was well off.

    So if I’m reading this right, I can register disapproval and try to move on, hoping the other person will deescalate, or let them go crazy first. I’m not big on dragging other people into fights they don’t have the stomach for, but if registering my disapproval is all it takes to escalate the situation, at least then I’m not creating that fight.

    Am I close here? I’m prone to knee-jerking at idiocy, so if I can prevent that from hurting the rest of you, I’d like that very much.

  40. Tim Groc says

    Why isn’t a possibility to anonymously pass along the information to convention organizers who can blacklist the offending people from future conventions?

    A bit like Europe 500 years ago, a snitch goes to the Church and claims they saw an old woman (who owns a black cat) dabbling in black magic.

    What we see above from Svan and other posters is essentially an attempt to accuse people of witchcraft with no evidence, but rather than point fingers, they’d rather the whispering campaign insidiously work its devious magic.

    Imagine if some in the community starting passing around a blacklist (made up from anonymous tip-offs) about bullying other people, especially young students, at conventions.

    When pointing fingers, make sure you’ve got your evidence. You’re skeptics, remember.

  41. Godless Heathen says

    There’s one major situation not being mentioned here when it’s really important for men to call out other men on their sexism:

    All male groups.

    It’s great to confront sexism in men when women are around, but it’s extremely important to confront it in all-male groups. This shows the sexist man that not only is wrong to be sexist in front of women, but that it’s wrong to be sexist at all.

    This way there’s no *wink wink nudge nudge* we’ll talk about that when the women aren’t around. There’s no opportunity for the sexist person to think the man calling him out is just trying to impress the women in the room.

    Most importantly, it shows that sexism is a serious topic that needs to be discussed by men and women alike and that it’s not just something you do to be “politically correct” or “polite” in “mixed company” (I hate that term).

    This isn’t easy. It’s very difficult. But it’s very important, too.

  42. says

    Ah, Tim. Once again, you just put things near each other and call the results what you want them to be.

    You want to posit a whispering campaign about things that are already recorded and widely discussed? The closest you can get to someone who might be innocently injured is someone you think is guilty? Do you work these things through ahead of time? No, you just try to score some cheap points off them. Stop. Think. While you’re at it, pay some attention to the people getting hurt here.

  43. pf says

    #43: What about the menz? They’re so oppressed. It’s unfair for women to be scared of being mistreated, no matter how often the perpetrator is a specific man, unless they can prove it in a court of law.

    Because you should let yourself be mistreated until proven guilty.

  44. says

    Also, it’s really time for you to give Stef McGraw her due. She’s not just some “young student”. She’s a leader in her own right. Stop diminishing that.

  45. says

    Also, it’s really time for you to give Stef McGraw her due.

    Oh, I see. I had no idea what Tim was trying to say. Funny how these trolls are so fixated on Elevatorgate like it was anything but just another example of the rampant problem.

  46. julian says

    This isn’t easy. It’s very difficult.

    Oh boy is it. Asking a group of het (I’d imagine it appies to non hetero men too but don’t know) guys to not be assholes is like asking the tides not to come. Think some guys are jerks to a woman’s face?

    At least those guys are upfront about it. A lot of those quiet ones just wait for women to be out of ear shot before it starts pouring out.

    Stories about screwing girls too drunk to move, stealing nude pics of their exes and posting them everywhere, every possible joke you can think of that ends with ‘I got mine.’

  47. Tim Groc says

    You want to posit a whispering campaign about things that are already recorded and widely discussed?

    You said information was given anonymously. Again, this is the old woman who owned a black cat.

    What about the menz? They’re so oppressed. It’s unfair for women to be scared of being mistreated, no matter how often the perpetrator is a specific man, unless they can prove it in a court of law.

    It could be the womenz, too. If a female speaker acts in a sexist or bullying manner, an anonymous tip-off would mean being blacklisted. I know this to be the case because sexism doesn’t exist at FTB.

    BTW, Svan claims the “events” are recorded and documented. If so, there is no need for a court of law, is there. The person in question can be presented with this recorded and documented evidence and asked to either wise up, or not turn up.

    It is not complicated – unless of course, if your evidence, recorded and documented or not, is simply based on anonymous whispers.

    Funny how these trolls are so fixated on Elevatorgate like it was anything but just another example of the rampant problem.

    Nope, I’m “fixated” on the cognitive dissonance reduction that you and Svan suffer from.

    Also, it’s really time for you to give Stef McGraw her due. She’s not just some “young student”.

    At least I would not refer to her as a gender traitor.

  48. says

    Tim, you don’t know how to take good advice, do you?

    Rebecca’s talk, which you tried to use in your completely fucked up analogy, was recorded.

    The accusations here are not anonymous. They simply aren’t public. There’s a difference. Deal with it honestly in any further comment here. If you don’t, you’re done. You’re only useful in the comments if you provide honest objections.

    Speaking of your honesty, who called Stef a gender traitor?

  49. Tim Groc says

    Rebecca’s talk, which you tried to use in your completely fucked up analogy, was recorded.

    Whataboutery. I already know this, and I heard it.

    The accusations here are not anonymous.

    Yes they are. If they are not, tell me the names involved.

    They simply aren’t public.

    Oh, riiiiiiigggggghhhhhhht.

    There’s a difference.

    The difference does not mitigate the old woman with the black cat. You still have this problem.

    Deal with it honestly in any further comment here. If you don’t, you’re done. You’re only useful in the comments if you provide honest objections.

    Ah. Of course, you are the arbiter of “honest comment”, and are the one with the banhammer. Slavery is freedom, freedom is slavery!

    Speaking of your honesty, who called Stef a gender traitor?

    It originated on one of the FTB-affiliated boards. They were forced to delete the comment, but the usage had already gained traction by then.

  50. says

    Well, Tim is useless, so he’s gone. Perhaps he’ll go tell the intelligence services they shouldn’t rely on all that “anonymous” information. Or maybe he’ll use his time figuring out the different levels of power of a woman with a black cat and a popular speaker. Or just maybe he’ll figure out that Stef wasn’t the person called a gender traitor and go bang his head on a wall for a while over his stupidity.

    He won’t do any of that, of course, but I can dream of a better world.

  51. Simon says

    It does not surprise me that there are those who want there to be public accusations for their viewing pleasure. The more dramatic, the more protracted, and the more demeaning for the women involved the better no doubt.

    Good for Stephanie for not playing their little game. And also good for Stephanie for not tipping her hand to the creeps involved. Let them sweat with the knowledge that with every day that passes, more and more people are on to their creepy behavior.

  52. julian says

    Yes they are. If they are not, tell me the names involved.

    Anonymous, you nit, means the person’s identity is unknown to everyone. Like an anonymous call to the police. There’s no name, appearance or distinguishing characteristics attached to the caller.

    They’re anonymous.

    What you’re thinking of is undisclosed. And why the fuck you need to know is beyond me. So you can harass these people via their email or facebook accounts?

  53. says

    And why the fuck you need to know is beyond me. So you can harass these people via their email or facebook accounts?

    Well, yeah, that’s sort of their game, isn’t it? To make the cost of actually telling about assault so high that it’ll never happen, even if it’s in an undisclosed sort of way? It’s not enough that they’re already cowed into silence in public, but they need to shut up in private too!

  54. Tony says

    Stephanie:

    Q: But isn’t naming and shaming how we’re supposed to fix this?

    A: Naming and shaming only works in an atmosphere that has some shame itself. This movement does have some, but not enough.

    In addition, while ‘naming and shaming’ is one approach that might work on some people, other approaches are likely to work on others (I find it silly that there are some atheists who think in either/or terms when it comes to confrontation vs. diplomacy; as if there’s a single one size fits all approach??).

    If something happens to you with one of these speakers, tell someone if you can.

    Most definitely.
    I think staying silent on issues like this not only enables sexism and misogyny to continue unchallenged, but in some ways it’s like playing by the rules of the very system that treats women like this in the first place. What’s even more ironic is the degree to which religion has so permeated the lives of believer and non believer alike, that many are unable (or unwilling in some cases) to see the deeeeeeeeep impact religion has made on cultures around the world. So much so that the humanist/atheist/freethinking individual who commands a great deal of respect (be it for their intellect, their common sense, their logic, argumentation, etc) can be unaware that the very manner in which they’re treating women possibly has roots in the very religious beliefs they reject (women staying silent and not speaking up? women being made to feel they have to defer to men? gee, where have we heard that before? )

    ____________________________________________________
    Erasmus:

    Thanks. I’ll try to keep that in mind. Bigots really annoy me though, which is my motivation for telling them to stop. I’ll try to avoid looking like I’m coming to the rescue… Not sure how to avoid that though as it isn’t and hasn’t been my motivation. Will think on it a bit.

    I know the feeling. Perhaps Stephanie’s first suggestion could apply to you as well (in a different manner of course). Before reacting, stop and think about the comment made and the harm it can bring…but also (and perhaps just as important) offer support to the woman whom the comment was directed to (or if it’s a speaking engagement, check the crowd to see if any women are visibly bothered by the comments and tactfully offer your support if that’s feasible). From what you’ve said, it seems you jump straight from hearing the sexist/bigoted comment to “dude, that was a really crappy, sexist thing to say”. The following anecdote isn’t related to this specific discussion (though of course deals with much the same male entitlement and privilege):

    I had a situation at work recently involving multiple women being sexually harassed by the General Manager of our restaurant. One of those women is a good friend of mine and she asked my opinion on what to do. *MY* immediate and *highly* emotional reaction was a combination of disgust and unbridled anger (what’s even worse about the situation is that this guy had *just* finished training as our GM less than two weeks prior to the first incident)*. I said she should go to our Regional Director and our Owner and talk to them about this problem (as she was very distraught, I reminded her that she did nothing wrong and that I would back her play whichever way she chose to go forward). She was hesitant at first to even talk to them, largely because she had mixed emotions combined with not knowing how to handle the situation plus not knowing the owner or regional director (nor how they would react to hearing her story). She wound up meeting with our director of operations, on the condition that I go with her (her idea).
    I went with her.
    I sat in a chair off to the side and spoke only when directly addressed.
    All of that is to say that in situations where you know the woman, offering them your support and/or assistance in whatever manner they determine can be an option.

    *When I get tremendously angry, for some reason I begin welling up with tears. No water works, but you can see the watery eyes. So while I’m feeling that, I’m fighting the urge to just walk out (that or punch the dude in the face; yeah, he was working the night she told me and boy did he get the cold shoulder from, well, everyone). I had (and have) no desire to work in any environment where any employee is made to feel uncomfortable, harassed, or mistreated in any way (the creep even tried to shame my friend by shouting/cursing at her because she refused his advances). It took a few minutes for my rational side to take over and remind me that quitting doesn’t resolve my friends’ problem (nor the others that experienced similar harassment), it would make the restaurant suffer (I was the only bartender that night), and I didn’t have a job in line as a replacement. Even though I didn’t walk out that night, I did tell both the owner and the director of operations in no uncertain terms-in private, mind you-that if he continues to be employed here, they were going to lose employees, including myself (it wasn’t meant as blackmail or threat, but just a simple fact). To their credit, within 3 days of meeting with my friend, as well as talking to the other employees whom he harassed, the guy was canned. Everyone was surprised it happened so fast, but very appreciative of the swiftness with which it was handled. Now everything is peachy and we have a GM who is many, many times better.

  55. Silentbob says

    I just wanted to say thanks to Giliell for excellent comments re ally vs. white knight. Lucid and informative. Much appreciated.

  56. Pteryxx says

    tangent: Tony, I remember you mentioning that situation. Kudos for helping out so thoughtfully, and for standing ready to share your experience where it can do some good.

  57. Tony says

    Jason:

    Accusations of white knighting be damned, I’m sick of hearing about these blow-ups over and over. If I’m present, and I hear something sexist and recognize it in realtime, I’m saying something about it. If someone thinks I’m doing it to get into their pants, they’re wrong.

    While that might be an appropriate tactic in some situations, I question whether ‘attack mode’ should be the default setting. Is *immediately* going after the oppressor more important than offering support to their target (which itself is not always necessary or wanted)?
    Maybe some women don’t want to make a big fuss about it (though I hate that, its best to respect their wishes).
    Some women may want some time to think things over before they decide what to do.
    Also, while some might think ‘white knighting’ is a tool to get in a woman’s pants, others might just be offended at the notion that a guy feels like it’s his place to jump in. If you were treated in a similar fashion, would you want someone to leap to your defense, even if they had the best of intentions? Not everyone wants others to fight their battles for them. If one of the goals we’re aiming for is equal treatment for everyone, leaping to defend a woman without even acknowledging her wishes may help to perpetuate the problem. Yes, you’re right to be offended (I’d like to think many people would be), but what other message does that send?
    That you’ve decided to take a stand for women without their input?
    How does that help work toward a world without sexism or misogyny?

  58. Pteryxx says

    If you were treated in a similar fashion, would you want someone to leap to your defense, even if they had the best of intentions?

    Sometimes people do want help or support, yes; sometimes they don’t. Personally I think at some point you’ll just have to do the best you can, as your conscience and cues dictate, and just be more careful next time if you do screw up one way or the other.

    Also, there’s a subtle but important difference between a *general* sexist remark in conversation, and a sexist remark aimed directly at someone who’s standing right there. I don’t see a problem with saying “Don’t be sexist” when someone makes a general remark; you’d do the same thing if there wasn’t a member of the targeted group present, right? But an individual remark sort of implies the person targeted sets the tone for the response, at least while they’re still present.

  59. Tony says

    Giliell:

    Again, this is largely due to the way society works. If I had a dime for every time in my life some guy thought he needed to fix something for me, talk over my head, assumed he knew better what I was feeling, thinking and needing than myself, I’d be at least able to buy that gorgeous digital camera I’ve been eyeing for some time now, plus a set of lenses.

    Since I’ve been coming to FtB, my eyes have been opened to stuff I wasn’t previously aware of (the depth to which misogyny and sexism permeates American society for instance). Now that my eyes are open, I can’t shut them. Working in a restaurant in Florida can get aggravating at times. Whether its the notion that men are *supposed* to open doors for women (I do it for either sex), that women shouldn’t ride motorcycles, that men have to protect women from the elements by holding the umbrella or tossing their jacket over a puddle of water (as opposed to the more sensible walking around) or my personal favorite:
    Couple (woman and man) walk up to bar. I greet them, suggest drinks and food. The guy orders the drinks and the food for the woman. ARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!
    What’s worse is when I look to the woman to tell me what she wants to eat and drink, but she leans over and whispers to her boyfriend/husband! As I have bartender ears, I typically hear what they have to say and usually repeat the order back before the guy has a chance to speak for her.
    I hate that my specific workplace is not the right environment to try combating that mentality.

  60. says

    Here’s my suggestions for ‘calling out’ speakers who make comments that could be considered sexist, uninformed, bigoted, etc. This comment may have overlap with other commenters:

    Write a blog post ‘attacking’ the ideas (rather than the person) presenting ‘evidence’ of the speech/comments that are likely available on Youtube (assuming they are in speeches although, of course, not all comments would be available if they are side-discussions).

    When I heard Lawrence Krauss trash-talking philosophy and philosophers at American Atheists’ 2012 annual convention, I authored a post explaining why I disagreed with his comments and shared the information. Massimo Pigliucci followed when Krauss made similar comments in an interview. After this, and contributions from others, Krauss authored a response and now — as it seems — is unlikely to repeat the behavior.

    The skeptic community really needs to model the behavior it often wants to expect of others — namely attacking ideas and not persons while having the willingness to self-reflect and consider others’ points of views — so criticism of ideas should be a good thing…right?

    Unfortunately — as was noted — ‘career-suicide,’ threats, and other nonsense can follow criticism of ideas even when presented in the most mild manner, so it may be a good idea — as was noted — to email the criticism to someone who is willing the post or author anonymously.

    My two cents.

  61. Tony says

    Giliell:

    But let’s say that instead of making a casual comment, which has all the positive effects you mention, like me feeling more comfortable and welcome, like showing the dudez that this is not acceptable and so on, and letting me choose to go for confrontation or not, you start a fully fledged attack. Now, since the topic is sexism and misogyny I will of course be drawn into it, being the only woman present. It’s a situation I can’t win. Either I enter the fight, which means that you guys just decided what I have to do and what not with my time and energy, or I back off and have a guy “fix it for me”, sending out all the wrong signals in every direction.

    Is there not a third option as well? Combat both. Enter the fight, but take charge of it.
    ‘They’ started it? Fine.
    You’re going to finish it (I know the actual situation probably wouldn’t be as cut and dried as that, but that doesn’t negate the idea that this *could* work).
    Let Jason know you appreciate it, and are glad to have him as an ally, but this is one of the times you prefer to fight your own battles as well as giving the offender a piece of your mind. That could have a net effect on both parties by showing that you can and will assert yourself when you so choose, that you won’t allow any sexist idiot who doesn’t have a brain-to-mouth filter to treat you in such a fashion, and of course the public admonition could have other effects as well (men in the area that might be aware of what’s going on but weren’t as quick as Jason to help could become aware that stepping in for a woman-as admirable as it sounds-isn’t appreciated by every woman; women in the area that might be of a different mindset see you assert yourself, and that could play into any interactions *they* might have in the future; and other sexist males in the area might think twice about how they speak to you and/or other women).
    Actually, I think a fourth would be to roll with Jason and double team Mr Sexist, but afterward inform Jason that you’d prefer to fight your own battles (or whatever it is you feel you need to correct him on).
    _________________________________________________________
    On a completely different note:
    Jason mentioned multiple posting. Is that considered bad form? I tend to read and respond. Is it better to go through all the comments first? Do many bloggers prefer visitors to consolidate their comments if they respond to multiple people?

  62. says

    You’re right, Tony, as Giliell already pointed out to me, going all-out attack mode isn’t the best plan or the best way to react to a situation. I’m aware I have a bit of a hot head. I’m working on biting my tongue and chewing through a situation a little longer before reacting — I’ve already seen two further instances today where I really ought to have stopped and thought about something before going with my gut reaction.

    But you can be sure that if I’m in a situation where I’m “one of the guys”, and someone thinks they’re safe to act like a sexist ass, I’m going nuclear on them. It’s happened before, and it’ll damn well happen again.

  63. Tony says

    Jason:

    You’re right, Tony, as Giliell already pointed out to me, going all-out attack mode isn’t the best plan or the best way to react to a situation.

    I wouldn’t get rid of that ammo though. There may be times when all out attack is the best response.

    But you can be sure that if I’m in a situation where I’m “one of the guys”, and someone thinks they’re safe to act like a sexist ass, I’m going nuclear on them. It’s happened before, and it’ll damn well happen again.

    QFT.
    Another irritating thing I see a lot are men who think “I’m going to buy that girl a bunch of drinks and she’s going to sleep with me”. The latter half of that isn’t always apparent early on, but can quickly manifest as more alcohol is consumed. I’ve told guys before to just walk over to a woman and politely let her know you’re interested in chatting with her. From there the ball is in her court. If she wants to or not is her decision. Attempting to stack the deck by appealing to gifts is pathetic and insulting. Plus, typically there’s one of two responses: yes or no. Be a mature adult. Ask her. Get your answer. Work (again, as a mature adult) from there.
    __________________________________________________

    julian:

    Asking a group of het (I’d imagine it appies to non hetero men too but don’t know) guys to not be assholes is like asking the tides not to come.

    I just wanted to quickly say that I’ve watched it happen in the gay community and had several experiences myself. Sexism, misogyny and male privilege exist across the entire spectrum of sexuality. Any aggravation I’ve felt at having my butt grabbed, or someone deciding they can touch me if my shirt is off is merely an eyedrop in the Pacific compared to what women deal with all the time. However, male privilege needs to be fought wherever it exists.

  64. says

    Stephanie,

    Q: But isn’t naming and shaming how we’re supposed to fix this?

    A: Naming and shaming only works in an atmosphere that has some shame itself. This movement does have some, but not enough.

    Exactly. How nice of ‘Tim Groc’ – whoever the hell he is – to give us a precisely calibrated demonstration, right here in this very thread, of the sort of irrational, shameless and cowardly bullying that has gone on for the last ten months in this movement. Shame, Tim, shame.

  65. says

    Good morning!
    Jason

    So if I’m reading this right, I can register disapproval and try to move on, hoping the other person will deescalate, or let them go crazy first. I’m not big on dragging other people into fights they don’t have the stomach for, but if registering my disapproval is all it takes to escalate the situation, at least then I’m not creating that fight.

    Yes, about that.
    It’s not your fault if the other one then goes “oh it’s just a joke/ fuck political correctness/ but it’s biology/ what do you think, woman?”
    It might well be that at this moment I might discover that my evening will be better somewhere that person isn’t.

    Tony
    Sure that’s an option, but it still means that I’m having to enter a fight I actually didn’t want to have at that point, only that now I’m making it me against the world again.
    And yes, I think that option 4 is there. I would surely let a friend know that afterwards. I do so with my husband, for example (I also talk to him in privacy if he fucks something like that up because I know that this is the way to get to him).
    Still, I don’t appreciate it if guys think they are allowed to decide what I do with my time (like having the feminist 101 fight right now). Believe me, I’m pretty argumentative. I have my own issues, a lovely combination of True Womanly Self-sacrifice™ combined with feminism which means that I’m igonring my own boundaries often enough, joining fights when, for my own wellbeing it would be better if I backed out.
    You say yourself you’ve noticed how common the whole shit is, now I get the added level of threat and attack and denigration together with the noticing. It’s swimming upstream all the time, so sometimes I just. need. a. break. and give in to making pink cupcakes.

  66. Erasmus says

    Jason, Giliell and others responding to the male ally discussion

    You’ve.made and addressed a bunch of good points. I might have to keep my comments for all male venues, although Im rarely in such situations as I don’t get on well with guys.

    The problem with the suggestions for mixed company is they rely on spotting subtle social cues. I have a spectrum disorder so for me that just won’t happen often.

    I guess the problem is that for us allies our motivation, which is obviously internal, means squat so we need to ensure that when we step up to stand against bigots we don’t appear to be stepping in to defend women (as for me at least that’s not the intent as such).

    I suppose it also comes down to practice and I don’t get too much of that. My workplace is run by women, half my colleagues are women and my friends are 3/4 women not and environment conducive to misogyny, at least not overt misogyny.

    Another question: Is it better to talk to someone who was being a sexist ass at a talk/seminar privately or publicly? Talking about general sexism not targeted at a specific woman here, if someone wants to tell the guy to quit it? As I said earlier this is less likely to be me now if there are women present, but seems useful info to have.

  67. RobertL says

    Re: the male ally. As someone who wants to be a male ally, I think that the most important thing to do if some guy says something offensive is to do something! Say something to let him know that it’s not OK.

    To avoid that whole “helping = good” vs “white knighting = bad” grey area what I have found useful is to say something like, “I don’t like jokes like that” or just “stay classy, dude” and then walk away.

    That way I haven’t jumped in to defend Giliell (as an example) when she doesn’t want me to. I’ve just given my opinion, made it clear that I think that the behaviour is unacceptable and moved on. Hopefully leaving an awkward silence which Giliell can fill in whichever way she wishes :-)

  68. embertine says

    I entirely understand the need to be anonymous. I have been sexually harassed by a colleague at work recently, and I am reluctant to go to HR, not because I cannot prove my case, but because I have at least as much chance of losing my job over it as he does.

    I was going to suggest that the accusers provide very specific details of time, place, what was said and done, but the problem with that is that the douchenozzles in question will be able to identify their accusers and make trouble for them.

    And as for those who say that these guys are merely oblivious and need to be given the benefit of the doubt, you may well be right. I gave my harasser the benefit of the doubt, confronted him and accepted his apology when given. He has now escalated to calling me at home.

    Sometimes these men know exactly what they are doing and as women we have to be cautious because their behaviour can get to the point where we are actually in danger. If a guy has already raised red flags by being a sexist creep, the chances of him being merely misguided decreases.

    See: Schroedinger’s Rapist

  69. says

    Erasmus

    Another question: Is it better to talk to someone who was being a sexist ass at a talk/seminar privately or publicly? Talking about general sexism not targeted at a specific woman here, if someone wants to tell the guy to quit it? As I said earlier this is less likely to be me now if there are women present, but seems useful info to have.

    The very unhelpfull answer: It depends.
    As said before, yes, I think the casual remark is usually the right thing to do.
    The rest: What was the situation and who’s the guy?
    I mean, we’re all sexist and especially if you’re privileged it’s hard to even notice. Is this guy somebody you know and do you think that he actually doesn’t want to be sexist but merely fucked up?
    In that case I’d have a private word. Nobody likes to be publicly scrutinized, that’s why naming and shaming works.
    If somebody actually constructed all his points around sexist tropes I’d voice my objection publicly.

    embertine
    I’m sorry this is happening to you now.
    I hope you can somehow resolve the situation.
    I had a creepy caller some time ago, and though I never met him in meatspace he freaked me all out.

  70. Bruce Gorton says

    It is one of those issues that is difficult.

    First of all, I am no more immune to sexism than any other guy.

    Second, I lack sufficient data. As a guy I know the world as a guy, I see it through the male perspective and the simple awareness of my privilege is not enough to entirely see past it.

    Third my instinct, through upbringing and social pressure is when I see a problem I try to fix it. It generally takes a few days for the arguments of those who actually have the problem to fully sink in and for me to realise what a shit I am being about the given topic.

    So when I end up at a conference feeling furious about some jackass making sexist jokes I don’t really know what to do about it. I mean I do not book for that speaker again, but how can I deal with the problem constructively when I know I am part of it?

    The best I can do really is support other people raising the issues, but even there my biases come into play.

  71. Erista (aka Eris) says

    You will, of course, do whatever you want, but I find it very upsetting to be told that, “You should come to our conferences! Of course, some of the people who really have a chunk of power at the conferences (the speakers) are known to treat women badly, and thus might treat you badly. But I won’t tell you who they are, so you’ll just have to hope you don’t encounter them or, if you do encounter them, that they won’t treat you badly. But do come!”

    I’ve been to one secular/atheist/freethinker conference, and I was treated badly by a man (not a speaker). As awful as it was, the one of the things that made it bearable was the thought that no one knew this was going to happen and that if they had, they would have acted to support me. To think that I might go through a similar experience with a speaker while knowing that other people knew what was going to happen but felt no need to warn me makes me very angry, and it makes me feel like I’m not safe to go to conferences.

    It’s all well and good to advise “networking behind the scenes,” but I don’t have a fucking network, and that’s part of the reason I feel like going to conferences might be good for me. But if I have to network behind the scenes to be safe at conferences, then I have to already have what I’m looking for to be safe.

    Maybe I’m being selfish about this. Maybe I’m too angry. But I’ve been abused enough in my life. I am not about to set myself up to be abused again, and it makes my eyes tear up and my throat constrict to think that going to these conferences means going to interact with people who everyone else may know is abusive but won’t warn me because I don’t have connections.

  72. says

    I’ve only been to one atheist event: the Reason Rally. While there one of my main priorities was not to get into any scandalous activites, though I narrowly avoided chairgate as well as nachogate.

  73. Gonch says

    Re: the anonymous comment.

    The FTB policy, much promoted, is to “always name names“.

    Why so shy all of a sudden?

  74. says

    Andrew, you just compared sexual harassment and assault to chairs and nachos. In public. Under your own name. You might want to reconsider commenting before you’ve had your morning caffeine.

    Gonch, there’s a reason this was structured as a FAQ. Your question has already been answered.

  75. eliott1 says

    For purposes of full disclosure I am man and have been a senior executive in several large organizations. One of my core responsibilities either directly or dotted line has been for the Human Resource department and I have investigated way too many sexual harrassment and hostile work environment issues. Organizations attempt to indemnify themselves by giving significant training in preventing these issues from occurring for a variety of reasons but the two most prevalent in my opinion are 1) the creation of a environment of respect and safety and 2) litigating these is extremely expensive and the awards if the organization loses are very costly in dollars and reputation. If in fact harrassment is found in a litigated case, the organization as well as the individual may be held accountable regardless of the training.
    The methodology for investigating these is a process that would look something like this…
    1) either a complaint is filed directly by an idividual on their own behalf or the organization is made aware of an issue by a third party
    2) an extremely detailed investigation is conducted by trained professionals with background in these issues
    3) a finding is determined with an action attached to it
    > there is an extremely high level of sensitivity, confidentiality and privacy attached to the investigation and results
    Many times there is not enough information to come to a definitive finding. There is still a conversation that occurs with all parties regarding the outcome of the investigation and a file is maintained to see if a pattern occurs.
    Based on what I’ve read about this issue on the above thread and PZ’s thread it seems there are significant issues that deserves a deep dive. Here are my thoughts for potential solutions…
    1) these are complicated issues and need investigation
    2) I would think the FFRF or AA may be the best organizations to attack these issues initially because they have attorneys on staff. Be that as it may, these types of investigations would still need someone that specializes in this type of issue. Someone mentioned SCA but I probably wouldn’t use them at this point.
    3) once the process and apparatus to investigate these issues is in place, post it on the blogs or boards with the contact information
    4) investigate the cases with the findings and action plan developed and delivered
    5) this will not be inexpensive or to put it another way, it can get very costly
    There are other things that can be done like a “Speakers Code of Conduct” that can be drafted or other types of behavior documents.
    I would not encourage word of mouth public allegations. I have seen this lead to extremely costly litigation with a bad result for an injured party.
    Sexual harrassment of any sort is unacceptable and an extremely harmful and destructive behavior. It can make emotions run very hot. In my view it needs to be managed and addressed in a specific way. If there is a process put in place and utilized, my sense is this type of bad behavior will be dramatically reduced.

  76. bodach says

    Jason T., thanks for asking the questions I had in my mind. You were much more coherent than I could have been.

  77. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Andrew, you just compared sexual harassment and assault to chairs and nachos.

    See, this is what I’m talking about. Apparently some highly valued speakers in the atheist community, speakers who are likely to be invited over and over and over again to conferences of all stripes, pose a risk to women in the form of sexual harassment and assault. But I’m supposed to live with the “curiosity” of who might sexually harass or assault me.

    I don’t know how to deal with or respond to this. I don’t know how to go to conferences when people tell me that I am at risk but won’t tell me who poses that risk.

    I feel like weeping, but I have to go to work. So I’ll try not to.

  78. anon atheist says

    It is kind of ironic that you title your OP „Zero Intolerance“ while at the same time you exercise nearly the most tolerance one could image. There won’t be any consequences because you don’t name names (which I partly understand because accusing people of sexual harassment is libel and could get you sued). But diluting the speakers list is not going to do much either because we are talking about hot-shots here who pull a lot of people and thus want see a big dip in their speaking engagements.

    So apart from admitting that it is difficult to tell the difference between ordinary assholery and genuine misogyny you tell us that it’s only a minority of the speakers that are the problem. Glad we cleared that up.

  79. says

    That’s not irony. That’s an accurate title. I think you mean to say that it sucks, and I agree. Your last paragraph, however, is 100% wrong.

  80. Godless Heathen says

    Just writing in to second Erista.

    I have no desire to spend my time and money paying for and traveling to conferences when no one is willing to do anything about it.

  81. says

    Speaking of titles, the article backlinked at 86 is actually not as bad as the title might seem.

    Giliell: Good morning! Or afternoon. Because my sleep schedule is skewed that way now.

    It might well be that at this moment I might discover that my evening will be better somewhere that person isn’t.

    I reserve the right to, if you split at that point, either get into it with this guy if my own mood strikes, or leave with you in search of the source of your gin and tonic.

  82. Zab says

    Another place for conference organizers to ask for advice in dealing with sexual harassment is the Professional Convention Management Association.

    An important part of any convention is to have staff members that attendees can approach if anything happens. Even if the staff can’t do anything at that time, they can keep an eye on the offender to make sure it doesn’t happen again (and if it does happen again, revoke the offenders badge and blacklist him from attending). While I’ve not been to any conferences for the skeptic community, it seems this aspect is missing.

  83. jfigdor says

    Great post here. I wanted to add one note to the discussion. Just as our movement currently has a feminism problem, so too do many male-dominated activities, including car racing. Here’s an article about the problems of feminism in motorsport/auto-tuning: http://jalopnik.com/5912305/advice-for-pint+sized-blondes-in-the-racing-world-no-stripteases-please

    Here are two great pull quotes:

    “Drunk male guests ringing my hotel room in the early hours of the morning is another interesting one. Guys who get a little too friendly after a few beers can be tricky to deal with — it’s a fine line between getting physically defensive and a gentle (but firm) rebuff to their unwanted advances — but they’re the ones hiding sheepishly behind their sunglasses the next morning, not me.”

    and

    “Recently, I even had one group of guys encourage me to do a striptease (no, I’m not kidding), when I rather innocently removed my team jacket during a particularly humid journey. Cringe.”

    Reminiscent of Elevator-gate, no? Seriously folks, we need to address the sexism problem seriously and make secularism a safe place for women. God knows religion isn’t a safe place for them…

  84. adsf says

    I think that if you are a guy in a group and someone says something generally misogynist, you can stand up and say that it offends YOU, regardless of whether there are any women in the group or whatever. I often wish guys would do this more, so I don’t always have to be the one to get into it (and I bet it would be more effective if they did it when I wasn’t there, anyway). But, if someone says something misogynist to a particular woman, its more of a gray area – its hard to say what the right thing is to do in general.

  85. eliott1 says

    Adsf@90….i have background in these types of harrassment issues and without overly complicating this process and the tangential liability issues involved the following is what needs to happen in my view…if a person makes a sexually harassing remark or makes inappropriate contact with another person, the person being harassed needs to address it immediately with the person harrassing them demanding they stop the behavior immediately as it is unwelcome, document the conversation identifying anyone that witnessed the event if any and take that information to whomever is in charge of the event or workplace they are in. (Some worlplaces demand anyone that witnesses harrassment must document the issue and bring it to appropriate staff.) It is then up to the staff in charge to investigate and manage this. I believe they are obligated to investigate the alledeged incident. If they aren’t equipped they can hire someone who is. Letting it go without resolution should never be an option. Upon resolution and there are typically a diverse body of resolutions that may occur, the loop is closed with the person that made the complaint.
    Any activity that amplifies an alleged event of bad behavior not validated or substantiated and made public in my view is not a course of action I would endorse and can get expensive.

  86. Otrame says

    I know this is pretty much OT, but this:

    When I get tremendously angry, for some reason I begin welling up with tears. No water works, but you can see the watery eyes.

    This is a big problem for me, as well. I HATE it. How the hell can can your anger be taken seriously when you’re dripping tears? You have no idea how much better it makes me feel to know I am not the only one.

  87. says

    Tony and Otrame: As a ladyperson what cries very easily in response to many emotions, and in particular anger, I get accused of being hysterical or overemotional by dudes who just see a crying woman. I feel you. Incidentally, I don’t think it’s totally OT since it relates to how people marginalize women and men who have “female” responses to situations. “Oh, look, they’re crying. How cute.”

  88. says

    Thank you for writing this. I’ll do my best to follow the suggestions here, and listen when people talk.

  89. echidna says

    I’ve also had some experience with misogyny, from the CEO where I worked no less, so I am well aware of how much can be at stake when a complaint is made.

    The over-privileged speakers in question may be under the impression that whatever they do is ok; that was certainly the case in the situation I am most familiar with. Part of the game is to lay down the rules. Most of the discussion here has been about how to deal with existing situations – but it would be nice to head the situations off before they develop. I think education is key – but not just aimed at the clueless. The education must include the idea that speakers are subject to standards of behaviour that they are obliged to adhere to. In other words, education aimed at reigning rogue speakers in.

    For atheist conferences and such like, does a “Speaker Code of Conduct” exist, addressing these issues? Is there a written process to report incidents? I suspect not.

    How about developing written policies and processes on FTB? I’m suggesting that this as the topic for a blog post, should anyone be interested in doing this. If you are not interested, Steph, do you think one of the other bloggers might be?

    If this community can’t develop a clear, coherent, inclusive document, then I would be surprised.

  90. asdf says

    Amazing to see commenters getting banned for opposition/questioning the OPs position.

  91. says

    Not amazing at all, when you actually read the exchange. Try it, asdf.

    You might find that casting aspersions about “whisper campaigns” and “black cats” rings hollow when it’s really about multiple independent people in aggregate forming a pattern of behaviour for certain individuals, and when the proposed solution is to make a policy at conventions that actually provides a framework for dealing with harassment complaints. You know, not “he’s a witch, burn him”.

  92. Med_stu says

    @Giliell and Jason, regarding white knighting or being an ally.

    I’m sorry to confuse the issue even more for Jason, but I fundamentally disagree with Giliell’s position on this. To imply that for a man to confront another man because of sexism is either doing a)on behalf of the person at the receiving end, or b)on behalf of women generally, is divisive and in fact, part of the problem we are discussing.

    There are many issues with sexist behaviour and remarks, ranging from actual safety issues, to women excluded from important discussion/decision making etc, to actual issues of disparity (eg. pay levels). However, in my mind, one of the most damaging aspects of this behaviour/speech is that it is divisive. It creates a world were there are ‘us’ and ‘them’. Where women are considered fundamentally different from men and put on the other side of a wall. It prevents those of us who feel strongly about these issues from working together.

    In being angry with a man for confronting another man about sexist behaviour because you feel that it is either not allowing you to defend yourself, or because you feel it is forcing you to confront them you are making a very interesting and destructive assumption. That only women care about sexism, or are affected by it, so therefore a man mentioning it must be doing so on your behalf. This assumption prevents men from expressing there OWN distaste for the person’s behaviour.

    I live in Australia where we have a constant argument about asylum seekers, who are locked in detention centres and treated extremely poorly (in my opinion), while the government takes up to 8 years to decide if they can claim asylum. Now, I’m not an asylum seeker, I have no personal experience of the affront and abuse they are exposed to. By your reckoning this then means that I have no right to confront someone for behaving appallingly to an asylum seeker or making disgusting jokes about them. Similarly because I am a white person, I have no right to confront a comedian for making a racist joke, because I am white.

    What you’re missing, is that I’m not complaining about a racist joke to defend black people, or confronting bigots about asylum seekers to protect the asylum seekers. I’m doing it because I live on this planet too, and it makes me sick to live on a planet where people are racist and bigoted and I will exercise my right to tell them so. Similarly, there are plenty of men I know, who are disgusted by the fact that we live in such a sexist world, not because they feel the need to protect women but because it’s their world too, and they don’t want it like that. To not allow them to express this except as it suits us, is to keep feminism to ourselves, as something that’s only important to us and belongs to us, separates us further from men, and causes the loss of a valuable ally.

  93. embertine says

    Med_stu, I actually agree with you although I see Giliell’s position too. A lot of it comes down to subtle body language cues that can’t be explained very well over the internet. The way someone stands or the way something is phrased can make the difference between, “Yeah, not acceptable, please stop saying that,” and, “Stand back little lady, while I rescue you!”

    I personally have the social skills of a concussed weasel but I’m usually able to recognise when somenoe is doing something for me because they expect a cookie and a pat on the head in return, or because they think I’m too stupid to sort it out myself. Genuine outrage is hard to fake, and if I see a guy scowl when he hears a sexist remark, I generally know he’s a good ‘un.

  94. Tony says

    Giliell & Jason:

    Yes, about that.
    It’s not your fault if the other one then goes “oh it’s just a joke/ fuck political correctness/ but it’s biology/ what do you think, woman?”
    It might well be that at this moment I might discover that my evening will be better somewhere that person isn’t.

    That seems like a reasonable position to take. If we take a situation where a particular woman is singled out, instead of a guy ‘defending her honor’ (there must be a lot of psychics out there who are able to read minds to learn what constitutes a violation of the honor of another person), he states-succinctly and firmly-the comment was rude/sexist/idiotic etc and you don’t like it. You’ve expressed your disapproval, but not in a way that forces the woman into any particular position.
    As I think about this subject along with White Knight Syndrome and my above comment about a woman’s ‘honor’, its dawned on me that this desire for men to swoop in to rescue a woman…where does it come from? Given my disdain for religion, I can easily see how that could play a role (or perhaps be the source?), but is there something more? Is it biological? Some combination of the two?

  95. Tony says

    Andrew:

    I’ve only been to one atheist event: the Reason Rally. While there one of my main priorities was not to get into any scandalous activites, though I narrowly avoided chairgate as well as nachogate.

    That was insensitive and condescending.
    At best.
    Go educate yourself on misogyny before you make idiotic comments like that again.
    Oh, and “I was just kidding” won’t make it any better. Perhaps 1000 years from now after misogyny has been dead for generations, making a joke about it won’t be seen as bad. Here, now, for the forseeable future, joking about the very real situations that women have to deal with is not cool

  96. Tony says

    Embertine:
    I’m very sorry for what you’re having to deal with. Do you feel you have any options for getting this resolved?

    Giliell:

    It’s swimming upstream all the time, so sometimes I just. need. a. break. and give in to making pink cupcakes.

    I can’t begin to imagine what you have to deal with. Hopefully the day will come when sexism will be dead and gone and the goals of feminism will have been truly achieved.
    I hope you take all the time you need. Can I have the mixing bowl when you’re done? I’m craving something sweet now.

    Gonch:

    Re: the anonymous comment.

    The FTB policy, much promoted, is to “always name names“.

    Why so shy all of a sudden?

    Did you even read the original post? Here’s a hint: the answer to your question can be found at the end of Stephanie’s post.
    Is that all you wanted to post about? You have nothing of value to add to the discussion at hand?
    Oh, and what is this “much promoted” FTB policy? Can you direct me to somewhere I can read it?

  97. Tony says

    Med_stu:

    In being angry with a man for confronting another man about sexist behaviour because you feel that it is either not allowing you to defend yourself, or because you feel it is forcing you to confront them you are making a very interesting and destructive assumption. That only women care about sexism, or are affected by it, so therefore a man mentioning it must be doing so on your behalf. This assumption prevents men from expressing there OWN distaste for the person’s behaviour.

    It took me a couple of readings of your post to find it, but now I see the mistake I think you’re making. Check out the comment by RobertL @72.

    Eliot1:

    Letting it go without resolution should never be an option. Upon resolution and there are typically a diverse body of resolutions that may occur, the loop is closed with the person that made the complaint.
    Any activity that amplifies an alleged event of bad behavior not validated or substantiated and made public in my view is not a course of action I would endorse and can get expensive.

    That might work in a world where nothing adverse happened to a woman after the situation is resolved. Unfortunately, as seen too often, many women do have significant problems after the resolution of the harassment.
    I have a female friend who quit her job because she was sexually harassed. When she told me, I asked her if she was going to report it and she said no because she was afraid of some kind of retribution. She said she’d seen the guy’s temper, and she knew that he’s well connected in town. She said she didn’t want to worry about walking around somewhere and bumping into him. I hated that she had to deal with the possibility of retaliation on top of the sexual harassment, but I told her I thought the best thing to do would be to report it, and ask that those involved keep her name private. Even then she was still worried that he would be able to piece things together and figure out who she was (she did decide eventually to speak with the appropriate parties).
    I would love it if women felt they could speak up when dealing with harassment…without having to take into consideration any possible retaliation.

    Otrame:

    This is a big problem for me, as well. I HATE it. How the hell can can your anger be taken seriously when you’re dripping tears? You have no idea how much better it makes me feel to know I am not the only one.

    Believe me, I have *some* idea :)
    I thought the exact same thing. I never heard of anyone crying when they get extremely angry. I don’t know why it doesn’t happen when I’m irritated or somewhat angry. I can think of four occasions in the last 2 years when I got this angry (3 involved hearing the stories of several female friends of horrible situations they were going through; the other involved me).
    I don’t know how to even stop it. On top of that, I usually start shaking uncontrollably. So I’m mad, crying and shaking. Trying to talk coherently is difficult.

  98. Tony says

    embertine:

    Genuine outrage is hard to fake, and if I see a guy scowl when he hears a sexist remark, I generally know he’s a good ‘un.

    Your experiences must be different than mine. Having lived in Alabama and Florida, I’ve seen genuine outrage born out of a misplaced sense of “Southern Hospitality”. Sure they’re getting mad and it’s real, but the source of their anger isn’t always the fact that anything sexist was said. Often the source of their anger is found in the view that women are delicate little flowers that need to be protected by the big strong men and that they shouldn’t have to (or just as likely *can’t*) fight this battle.

    Jennifer:
    Now we are three.
    It’s seriously messed up that many people have such a narrow view of human emotions that they think women are the “emotional” ones, yet women shouldn’t get “overly emotional”. How about just stopping with “the human capacity for emotions manifests itself in a variety of ways” instead of creating nicely compact boxes to force people into?

  99. Pteryxx says

    Heck Tony, you’re on fire these days.

    I wanted to add to this:

    I hated that she had to deal with the possibility of retaliation on top of the sexual harassment, but I told her I thought the best thing to do would be to report it, and ask that those involved keep her name private.

    That’s another point that I think needs to be considered AND formally addressed in the conference policies. Whoever is responsible for receiving a report of harassment MUST KEEP IT CONFIDENTIAL. Often the person reporting asks for confidentiality, but the supervisor or trusted friend or whoever doesn’t understand why this is a big deal and mentions the person’s name or details, exposing her to further harassment and retaliation. This is why there needs to be a mechanism for anonymous complainants, such as unsigned written statements or emails, where revealing one’s name or contact information is optional. And, the policy should state that complaints are to be kept confidential by all conference personnel. Breach of confidence should be a reportable and recorded offense under the harassment policy itself.

  100. says

    Med_stu
    I’m not sure if I’m getting your point or whether we’re having a genuine misunderstanding about what I’m saying.
    I never said that men shouldn’t speak out, but that they should take the situation and the underlying processes into account.
    I actually agree that it’s much more men’s task to fix patriarchy than women’s, just the same as white people have to stop racism.
    But I don’t think that a guy who disregards the wishes and needs of the only woman present and takes his need to go on a rant as much more important is doing much good.
    A lot of this depends on the actual situation and the context, that’s why it’s difficult to “write a manual” on the internet.
    The question was “why do women sometimes lash out at me when I’m trying to be an ally”?
    I tried to shed some light at this.

  101. student says

    @106 Med_stu – Thanks for writing that, it clarified what I was thinking more than I could. I can understand the position of someone who doesn’t necessarily want to have to deal with it, but I think that its a bigger problem in the long run to tell men who want to be feminist allies that they can’t confront sexism when they see it.

    As an analogy: I’m straight, but I consider myself an ally in the fight for gay rights. If I’m in a peer group, and someone says something homophobic, should I say something? I think yes. Does that answer change if there is a gay person standing there also? Maybe I wait a beat and see if they want to step in first, but whether they do or not, I think I also have a right to say something. Because even if they don’t care or don’t want to get into it, it offends me to have to listen to people making disgusting prejudiced comments, and I think the world is better off in the long run if people are called out on them when possible.

    The way someone stands or the way something is phrased can make the difference between, “Yeah, not acceptable, please stop saying that,” and, “Stand back little lady, while I rescue you!”

    Except it seemed like people above were saying that even the former is not ok if a woman in the group doesn’t want to deal with it. That’s where they lost me. I agree the differences can be subtle.

    Genuine outrage is hard to fake, and if I see a guy scowl when he hears a sexist remark, I generally know he’s a good ‘un.

    I generally hope he is, and put him provisionally in the plus column. But I also remember that there’s a chance he just didn’t think such remarks should be said in mixed company, not that he actually thinks they’re seriously offensive in general to anyone.

    It’s seriously messed up that many people have such a narrow view of human emotions that they think women are the “emotional” ones, yet women shouldn’t get “overly emotional”.

    I hate this. Whenever anyone says it I try to point out that men are known for losing their temper more and that angry is an emotion too, but no one goes around calling men emotional.

  102. says

    student

    Except it seemed like people above were saying that even the former is not ok if a woman in the group doesn’t want to deal with it. That’s where they lost me. I agree the differences can be subtle.

    Can you please quote where anybody actually said that?
    I’m genuinely asking because I’m wondering how this misconception could have come up, since I’m the person who’s being portrayed as holding that position.

  103. NanceConfer says

    Timid. That’s the word that keeps popping into my mind as I am reading this. I am missing something or am too old or it’s because I’m not trying to make a living in the atheist/skep/con/whatever world. But, damn, naming a repeat asshole is too dangerous?

  104. student says

    @117 – I think it probably is a misunderstanding rather than an argument, but I was talking about for example this paragraph:

    Let’s just assume that we’re in such a situation. We’re in mixed company, chances are good that I’m the only woman, or one of a minority of women.
    Some guy, some popular guy in this group makes a sexist remark.
    Now I have to calculate my options quickly: Do I let it slide because I’m afraid of the backlash? Do I confront him?
    You’ve been faster than me and you remark: “Duh, that’s sexist bullshit.”
    Now my sitution has changed. I know that should I choose to confront him, I’m not going to be attacked by every other person in this group, I know I have an ally. Yeah, warm tickling in my toes. Maybe I’ll still let it slide, because it’s been a long day and I’m exhausted, maybe I’ve been arguing some point or other all day long and actually just want to have a gin tonic and some chatter and after all I’m not the fucking feminist action squad with a purple light on my head who has to turn up each and every time.
    But should you insist to go on, to carry on the fight on my behalf, you’re forcing the topic on me.

    My reading of this was that if you’re in a group and someone says something sexist (not necessarily aimed directly at you) you don’t want another guy to say “that’s sexist bullshit” and then, if the person being called out argues back, continuing the argument. My opinion is that, as long as the guy is not talking over you or something like that, he has every right and in fact responsibility to call out general sexism when he sees it, because its about the world, not just about the woman who happens to be standing there in that group. I admit there are some subtleties and one possible exception is if the original comment was directed personally at you, but in general, I don’t want to discourage guys from calling out sexism when they see it. I don’t see how it is forcing the topic on you, its just him being a decent guy and calling out sexism when it happens, just like he should generally do if you aren’t even there.

    Recently I was the only woman in a group of guys and someone said something generically rape-culture-y but not aimed at me. I called him out on it, and none of the other guys said anything. I was complaining to my friends that I wished someone had, and one of my friends asked me something like “but do you want them to take over the fight from you?” and I said something like no of course I don’t want them to jump in and talk over me when I’m already talking. But once I’m done with my sentence they could say “yeah dude”, or more, if they want. And then the next time something similar happened I didn’t say anything, I just glared (I was out of energy for an argument and less confident in the particular situation). And again, none of the other guys said anything. I think it would have been perfectly possible for one of them to say something without it being like they are stepping in for ME. They could say “that’s not cool”. If they say “don’t say that in front of this girl here, you’re making her uncomfortable” then I’d be more annoyed. But if they just say “don’t say sexist things” I think that’s great and not necessarily about me at all. The end result of them not saying anything is that I’m less and less comfortable with those guys because they have not stood up against sexism and I don’t know how they feel about it.

    Obviously there are particular tones and looks that can change the meaning of these interactions. But you asked where I was getting the idea that some people didn’t even want men to call out sexism at all if they’re there, and I guess that’s where I got that impression. Go ahead and correct me if I was wrong in my interpretation of what you wrote.

  105. NanceConfer says

    At the risk of repeating yourself, how about a less cryptic answer. Would you fear for your physical safety? Think your career as an atheist blogger/speaker would end? What do you fear?

  106. says

    student

    Go ahead and correct me if I was wrong in my interpretation of what you wrote.

    Short answer: yes
    Longer version:
    Here’s the very first thing I wrote on this subject:

    I’d say the first thing would be to mention them.
    Do it casually. Like not laughing, even not in an embarrased way and say “yeah, making fun at women, how witty”, or mentioning that you didn’t think it OK how a speaker adressed only men or ignored the women or spoke down to them.
    Believe me, it helps. It gives the women around ou a feeling of not being alone.
    I can tell you that many women carefully weigh the occasions of speaking up vs. not doing so. Knowing that there’s somebody who’ll stand with you makes it easier to speak up.

    Then Erasmus wondered why he often got hostile replies from the women for doing so, which was when we got into the conversation you’re quoting.

    But should you insist to go on, to carry on the fight on my behalf, you’re forcing the topic on me.

    This refers exclusively to the situation when the casual remark has been made and the good guy thinks that this is the time to have the feminism-fight, which automatically means that I’m forced to have the feminism-fight or be white-knighted.
    It does not refer to the situation whe the casual remark has been made and the bad guy gets all defensive.
    I absolutely agree with you and share your opinion on the situation you mentioned.

  107. says

    NanceConfer, does the term “Elevatorgate” ring any bells? It started almost a year ago when Rebecca Watson (named in the FAQ) said, and I paraphrase, “Guys, don’t follow me into an enclosed space to hit on me after I’ve spent an entire convention telling people I don’t find it flattering.” She’s been harassed continuously since then: rape threats, threats to assault her at convention appearances, people trying to get her fired from a podcasting gig, at least one person who is well-respected enough to be expected to act like a grown-up working to blacklist her at multiple speaking events.

    Nor has this been limited to Rebecca. People who openly agreed with her have also been harassed, had malicious rumors spread about them, been threatened with assault at public events they are invited to speak at. This is not small. And this is the treatment that people who are not powerless have been receiving.

    And Rebecca did not even name names. So, yes, you’re out of touch on this.

  108. student says

    This refers exclusively to the situation when the casual remark has been made and the good guy thinks that this is the time to have the feminism-fight, which automatically means that I’m forced to have the feminism-fight or be white-knighted.

    And this is the part I don’t agree with. Casual remark made, fine, but what’s the response? If the guy who made the original sexist remark backs down and says sorry, then anyone who goes after him after that looks rude. But if he doubles down and insists it wasn’t sexist or it was funny or whatever, then I think anyone there has a right to get into an argument with him about it (usually – not if its derailing a specific meeting with another purpose or something). If the original comment wasn’t directly about you, then it doesn’t have to be about white knighting and you don’t have to join in – ideally, that guy who’s getting into the fight is doing so because he finds sexism repugnant in general and its about the world, not about protecting you. I think everything I said above still holds even if it becomes more than just a casual remark. Again, with the general exception that if the original comment was aimed directly at a particular woman, or if the guy is giving you particular looks or something, then its a bit different. But if its a general sexist remark in a group, I don’t think it has to be white knighting to step in and have the argument. Now if the guy follows it up with “I’m so awesome and feminist let’s go back to your room” obviously he’s lost a lot of points there. I’m just saying that absent other problems, it doesn’t make sense to tell guys that they aren’t allowed to get into arguments on behalf of feminism just because there’s a woman there.

    I’m sure I could come up with situations where even a guy following MY advice could make me a little uncomfortable. The situation has to be read carefully. But in general I’d rather have people error on the side of standing up for what is right.

    Am I making sense? Maybe I’m not thinking of the right situations here.

  109. Pteryxx says

    student:

    But if he doubles down and insists it wasn’t sexist or it was funny or whatever, then I think anyone there has a right to get into an argument with him about it (usually – not if its derailing a specific meeting with another purpose or something). If the original comment wasn’t directly about you, then it doesn’t have to be about white knighting and you don’t have to join in – ideally, that guy who’s getting into the fight is doing so because he finds sexism repugnant in general and its about the world, not about protecting you. I think everything I said above still holds even if it becomes more than just a casual remark.

    While that’s mostly true, keep in mind that there’s a risk of blame and possibly retaliation against the woman if it’s even *perceived* that the intervention is on her behalf, no matter how wrong that perception might be. In some cases, for instance when there’s a personal relationship involved that you don’t know about, the woman could end up punished for *failing to defend the sexist jackass*.

    Again, I personally don’t think this is reason to never call out anyone anywhere, but it’s reason to consider limiting the flamewar, perhaps by being the one to call an end to the argument, a pause, or shift of venue. Also, be very wary of an opponent who switches to personal insults or accusations of jealousy.

  110. says

    student

    Am I making sense? Maybe I’m not thinking of the right situations here.

    No, because by now I’m more than a bit annoyed at the fact that you’re obviously not reading what I’m writing.
    You’re quoting me and then you go on harking about something I have written about in the very sentence that follows the one you quote, not to mention the fact that I’ve clarified that well above in the thread where it was perfectly understood by Jason at whom it was originally directed.
    So, by now I have three options:
    A) your reading ability is below the level necessary to participate in this.
    B) you’re trying to fuck with me and therefore constantly strawman me.
    C) you’re having a bad day.
    I’m going to be charitable and assume C and because I’m having a bad day, too, I’m out of this.

  111. says

    Holy crap. Ignore a thread for a bit. Yes, student, you have to keep in mind that there are consequences for people outside the direct confrontation. I am more than comfortable with registering my disapproval (and trust me there will be a scowl on my face when it happens), and having the conversation either move, or having the shitheel try to escalate and the next move be left up to the individual participants. I’m damn well not going to get into a knock-down drag-out that might have repercussions for people not directly involved, but directly affected, if I can help it.

  112. says

    Hey Giliell, I want to pullquote most of our conversation and try to distill it into a proper post at my place. Would further like to email it for your thoughts when it’s done. S’okay by you?

  113. NanceConfer says

    Yes, Stephanie, although I’m not involved with your day-to-day struggle, I try to read along with what the younger atheist feminist crowd is doing. I saw the elevatorgate story and the reactions. I have read about the other attacks on Rebecca Watson. And I don’t doubt they are real threats, etc.

    I am left feeling underwhelmed with the response from the feminists. The lack of militancy, the bowing to the fear of lost jobs and money, the bogging down in minutia, the lack of clarity about what you will stand for and what you won’t tolerate, the lack of insistence on being treated properly, by individuals, no matter their star power, and by conference organizers. The weakness. The unwillingness to take risks.

    Maybe it’s just me and you and you friends feel like you’ve got a good handle on things. But while I’ve been reading along, as I said, I see timidity and too much politeness. I don’t see a strong determination to create an environment the Erista’s at your conferences can count on. Yet.

    Nance

  114. Pteryxx says

    wow, that’s a new one on me… accusations that feminists aren’t militant ENOUGH. Wow.

    NanceConfer: as I understand the concept of “women are people”, it entails respecting their choices, even if those choices aren’t the ones you think best. Not everyone is prepared to face every level of threat. Even if they’re feminists.

  115. says

    Nance, your concern is noted. Your disingenuously ignorant questions are obnoxious and have wasted time I would have spent on this elsewhere.

    In the last 24 hours, I’ve received confirmations from six conference organizers, five of them for atheist conferences, that their conferences would now have formal, visible harassment policies. Five of them had no official policies before that.

    Go be judgmental at the people doing anything somewhere else.

  116. says

    Nance: because getting what is it, four? Five? major conferences to declare their intentions to adopt strong anti-harassment policies is timidity and inaction.

  117. student says

    No, because by now I’m more than a bit annoyed at the fact that you’re obviously not reading what I’m writing.
    You’re quoting me and then you go on harking about something I have written about in the very sentence that follows the one you quote, not to mention the fact that I’ve clarified that well above in the thread where it was perfectly understood by Jason at whom it was originally directed.
    So, by now I have three options:
    A) your reading ability is below the level necessary to participate in this.
    B) you’re trying to fuck with me and therefore constantly strawman me.
    C) you’re having a bad day.
    I’m going to be charitable and assume C and because I’m having a bad day, too, I’m out of this.

    I see now that I missed your one sentence “It does not refer to the situation whe the casual remark has been made and the bad guy gets all defensive.”.

    However, I think you could have pointed out that sentence without accusing me of being too stupid to discuss with you or of “constantly” lying. I admit I scrolled too fast and missed one sentence of what you wrote and that was a mistake, but that does not in any way rise to the level of “constantly” trying to strawman you. I don’t really understand where that “constantly” came from – I did make a mistake in that post, but I don’t know why you are having such a problem with any of my other posts. I was trying to have an honest conversation with you that I thought was interesting. I think the issue of when allies can or should speak up or step aside is often a grey area and its worth discussing, but I guess this particular discussion is not worth continuing right now. Even having read that one sentence, there are things I think I disagree with in your posts that I would have liked to discuss, but I guess there’s no point now. I’m sorry it came to this because I really was not trying to pick any sort of fight, and was not having a bad day, at least not until reading this last response.

  118. echidna says

    student,

    I see now that I missed your one sentence “It does not refer to the situation whe the casual remark has been made and the bad guy gets all defensive.”.

    You failed to read the sentence directly after the one you quoted and argued with. What you have done is demonstrated that you are far more interested in speaking than in listening. This means that Giliel’s choice A (lack of reading comprehension) is true, not because you can’t read, but because you are not taking the time to.
    The consequence of this is that B)(strawmanning) is also true, because you are arguing with Gilliel without actually reading carefully enough to understand her argument. C) was, I expect, a hypothetical charitable option to explain either A or B.

  119. echidna says

    Sorry, Giliell, I totally mucked up the “l”‘s in your nym. In different ways!

  120. echidna says

    Steph, I love the news about the policies and procedures. Consider this an achievement!

  121. echidna says

    Tony asked a question upthread about how white knighting comes about. I would like to note that white-knighting is not just a male-female phenomenon, but basically applies when someone higher in the power-gradient protects those lower down. I’ve been on both sides of this at various times.

    The tricky bit is that a person with more power doing something for you that you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself is disempowering, rather than empowering.

    Expressing your personal disapproval of misogynistic remarks is less likely to stray into white-knighting, especially if you do it by raising an eyebrow (much more powerful than you might imagine in many circumstances).

  122. says

    This has been for the most part a very informative and useful conversation, and I just thought I’d pop in and thank all the people who have made constructive contributions.

    And Giliell, we miss you over on the League of Reason forum. :)

  123. Insider says

    If Greg Laden is one of those implicated by women who have had a problem with sexist behaviour at these events, why is he still invited to conventions?

  124. says

    Aw, Insider thinks it’s being cute. Nice try. Greg doesn’t even go to atheist conventions generally, except for the one run by the Skepchicks. He’s been at that one several years running. Try to tell me you think they would invite him back after bad behavior.

  125. says

    If Greg Laden is one of those implicated by women who have had a problem with sexist behaviour at these events, why is he still invited to conventions?

    Hahahahahaha

    Now, take off your pseudonym and say that to my face. In person. Or do you not have what it takes to do that?

    But yes, as Stephanie points out, I pretty much don’t go to Atheist/Skeptical/Whatever conventions. I do go to CONvergnece every year, and the truth is that I rarely sleep alone nights at that CON!

  126. ... says

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight: You think it’s a smart idea to compile a blacklist of alleged incidents, and that those accused are neither told nor given any opportunity to rebut?

    Well, I sure hope no one unscrupulous is making use of this. That’d never happen, right? I mean, it’ll never happen that this’ll get abused right?

    …hmmm. I’d take leave to be “sceptical” about that.

    Oh, isn’t this a lovely day. The so-called “skeptics” introduce a thought police and blacklist with no requirement for proof or evidence.

  127. says

    No, anonymous coward, we think it’s a good idea to put together a strong anti-harassment policy for conventions and speaking gigs to sign onto, that provides frameworks for dealing with harassment complaints. Like… oh… say… every other organization on the planet.

    So are you worried about witch-hunts about false harassment claims at your place of employment? Why or why not?

  128. ... says

    Jason,

    Ain’t you a cutie? Do you practice skipping over points that you can’t answer or is that a natural talent?

    I restate my point: What is to prevent there being an en masse abuse of this sort of thing? For the record, I think the attempt to blacklist Richard Dawkins was contemptible and only redeemed by the fact that it was doomed to failure.

    As a matter of fact, sonny boy, there was indeed a false claim of sexual harassment in my workplace. What turned out was that it had been made against a disabled colleague whom certain people thought it was a barrel of laughs to wind up (the group in question turned out to have a record of mocking foreign people for their funny accents etc). The incident finally got cleared, but only just before almost wrecking the poor guy’s life and career. I repeat, the guy was disabled and couldn’t understand what was going on until it was too late.

    So, forgive me, but when people say “We’ll take all accusations as always accurate, allow no right of response, and require no evidence” – y’know, that does cause my hackles to rise.

    You know that the religious are pointing at you and laughing, right? They are laughing their socks off.

  129. says

    What attempt to blacklist Dawkins? You couldn’t possibly mean Rebecca Watson saying she wasn’t going to buy his books any more, could you? Because until Rebecca Watson buys a book, that’s not a failed “blacklist” (by which you mean boycott) by any stretch of the imagination.

    So your organization didn’t have a strong anti-harassment policy, because it allowed ongoing harassment of someone via its own policies. If this didn’t have repercussions for the people who tried to game the system for their “wind-up”, then congratulations, you’ve shown me a broken system. I’m sure the people making this system will take that possibility into account when they build policies that have no repercussions for unsubstantiated rumors, don’t name-and-shame, and don’t arbitrarily wreck people’s speaking careers just because some troll came along and decided they really didn’t like the people who support anti-bullying measures.

    You know the religious people are pointing at you and saying “wow, that’s a really good tactic for making it totally safe for people to harass one another, maybe we should adopt it”, right?

  130. ... says

    No, it had a policy that was almost abused and the reason it wasn’t was because – and I want you to pay. Careful. Attention. Here. – there was an opportunity for defence, to present counter evidence, to face the accuser. And that was in a good system, one that had checks and balances.

    Now what we have here is the exact opposite of that. You don’t answer the question about false accusations, or even accusations that are simply a matter of misunderstanding (heaven forfend, but there might just be socially ill adapted people at Skeptic conventions), because you can’t. Because this is insane.

    Incidentally, if you doubt me, let’s try it shall we? I accuse you – you specifically – of being a sexual harasser. Now try to prove me wrong.

  131. says

    Interesting. Where did you get the impression that this wouldn’t be brought to the person, that there wouldn’t be an examination of evidence, or that it wouldn’t be something more like, “let’s see if there’s a pattern here”?

    Because I could very easily prove I have never harassed you, my accuser. There’s an ocean between us.

  132. ... says

    Zvan, whoever said that I was accusing you of harassing me?

    Well, let’s take a look at this, shall we? The owner of this blog makes a number of sinister accusations against persons unnamed. She won’t name them publicly, but she will name them privately. With people who are either a) grant her the presumption of honesty, and b) to those willing to egg her on. She openly says “More stories = more credibility = more weight.”

    Right, because false accusations never, ever get positive feedback when they are circulated surreptitiously in an in-group.

    But why not name publicly? Well, could it possibly be because if you make an accusation like this out in the open and it turns out to be bunk, you are in a heap of trouble? You cannot just make damaging accusations with no evidence.

    Now, am I saying that Zvan has no evidence whatsoever to back up her claim and wants to do all this ‘off the books’ so she act without any responsibility or accountability, and that she, in particular, wants this to kick out people she just doesn’t like? No. What I am saying is that, if that were here motive, you could not possibly tell the difference from the actions

    There’s that word “evidence” again. Isn’t it fascinating how asking for EVIDENCE is suddenly controversial amongst “Skeptics”?

    Let’s also take a look at that admonition not to be skeptical, shall we?

    Also, did you just express “skepticism” over this? It’s a completely uncontroversial statement. Unaccetable gendered behavior exists.

    Call that an argument? Yes, sexual harassment exists. It is also true that women’s harassment of men exists (and also of other women, of course). Ergo, we should not be skeptical when someone says that Zvan has been harassing men at conferences and this is an attempt to ‘muddy the waters’ before it all blows sky high.

    What’s that? Where’s my evidence? Well, we’ve already decided that there’s no need for evidence or to be skeptical now, haven’t we?

    Let me make this simple: if there are prominent speakers who have genuinely behaved inappropriately towards female guests, let’s hear an open accusation. Then if it turns out to be bogus, the accused has the right of response – and, incidentally, if it turns out to be utterly bogus, the right to sue the pants of the accuser.

    False accusations DO happen. Group-induced hysteria DOES happen. It’s, what’s the word? “non-controversial”. That’s why we have things like EVIDENCE and FACING YOUR ACCUSER and OPEN TRIALS.

    But here we have a supposed skeptic – though I have no idea what on earth Zvan’s done to merit that label – calling for no confronting the accused, no evidence beyond the anecdotal, no open accusation, no requirement of evidence. This is a disgrace.

    Even with the best of intentions, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

  133. says

    Wow, you sure have imagined up something terribly damning of the whole effort!

    Hey, listen, assuming this is the policy — because it’s something that’s been proffered multiple times already for exactly this purpose — could you point to the specific clauses that suggest that this will become a free-for-all with people vindictively ruining innocent speakers’ careers?

  134. ... says

    How about…

    Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

    This doesn’t square with Zvan’s desire not to name people, or even to face them, or to allow any right of reply, or to wave any requirement of evidence.

    Incidentally, I notice that that policy also includes comments made on the grounds of race and disability and *drum fill* religion, so I am adding the following to my list of accusations towards Zvan – and let’s see her prove me wrong!

    This is beyond ridiculous. It’s flat out sinister.

  135. says

    student
    Do you understand what a strawman actually is? It means to argue against a position/argument the other person doesn’t actually hold.
    If this happens unintentionally, we call it a missunderstanding. That’s why, when people were arguing against a position I don’t hold but that was attributed to me, I asked why you came to that impression.
    You quoted a passage from me.
    I put that passage into context, gave you more quotes and referrenced you to the full conversation above in which this statement was made. I stated my main points again, which means that I spent quite some time on explaining things I already stated in a way that was clearly understood by the other participants in the conversation again for your sake.
    Now, instead of actually reading what I’ve written and maybe going back to read what else I’ve written on the subject and what questions have already been asked and answered, you don’t even read the post written solely for your convenience and adressed to you carefully and go on arguing against a position I don’t hold again.
    So, I’ve even given you the benefit of doubt that you’re having a bad day, but why should I either bother with somebody who doesn’t read what I write or who isn’t interested in what I actually say, especially after you’re doubling down again?

    Improbable Joe
    Thanks, send my best wishes to the LoR. Alas, time’s too short to engage in all places.

  136. ... says

    Addendum, let me point something out: by the standards that I quoted there, the much maligned Elevator Guy did absolutely nothing wrong. He asked, was told no, the end. Even if one grants that this was harassment, he was entirely within those guidelines. And that’s if one takes all of RW’s story at 100% face value. Yet he’s been turned into a ALMOST CERTAIN RAPIST!!! by the hysterical nutcases online.

    See why I’m a little concerned about lack of accountability?

  137. John Morales says

    1.

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight: You think it’s a smart idea to compile a blacklist of alleged incidents, and that those accused are neither told nor given any opportunity to rebut?

    2.

    This doesn’t square with Zvan’s desire not to name people, or even to face them, or to allow any right of reply, or to wave any requirement of evidence.

    Interesting how ellipsis imagines people have been accused and are afforded no opportunity to rebut the accusation whilst simultaneously bemoaning that no names have not been named.

    [meta]

    I see ellipsis basically disbelieves Stephanie’s claims and also disbelieves she has reason to believe it the best policy to proceed as she has done, and prefers to imagine maliciousness lies behind her stance.

  138. John Morales says

    [meta]

    by the standards that I quoted there, the much maligned Elevator Guy did absolutely nothing wrong.

    It seems to me that this has become the feminist version of Godwin’s law. :|

    PS The much-maligned EG was never named; to my knowledge, no-one outside the principals knows his identity (and probably only one person does), and EG never had cause to rebut the claim.

    (A certain quotation from Catherine Aird comes to mind)

  139. ... says

    Go figure. Let me ask the following question: is there ANYONE AT ALL on this board of “skeptics” who can deal with a question honestly?

    Interesting how ellipsis imagines people have been accused and are afforded no opportunity to rebut the accusation whilst simultaneously bemoaning that no names have not been named.

    They get named in private and blacklisted.

    BTW? I’m accusing you of harassing me. Now prove me wrong.

    That’s why we have such things as evidence and presumption of innocence and all the rest of it. Especially since human beings come with monkey and lizard-brains and it is not entirely unheard of for things to spiral out of control.

  140. John Morales says

    ellipsis:

    I’m accusing you of harassing me. Now prove me wrong.

    An accusation is problematic to the accused in proportion to its credibility.

    (Yours is not at all problematic)

    That said, I can demonstrate I’ve no such intent by not commenting further on this thread.

  141. ... says

    That said, I can demonstrate I’ve no such intent by not commenting further on this thread.

    “I’m not listening to you!!!! *sticks fingers in ears and rocks back and forth before going back to his room to play”

    I am increasingly convinced that there’s an “of” missing in the name of this community.

  142. says

    I’m vaguely entertained by the people who think that when I mention the existence of a list that’s been around for ages, I’m somehow responsible for it having come into being. I shall have to use my powers of conjuration for good, I guess.

  143. says

    Oh gee, look at the pingback.

    Funny how all the anonymous cowards have come out to protest and trash talk the long overdue development of a “CYA” anti-harassment policy for conferences.

    Why, it’s almost as if they want open season for harassment to go on.

    (CYA = Cover Your Ass)

  144. says

    (Actually, don’t look at the link – the guy’s a long-time harasser of Ophelia Benson, and his vitriolic rantings have been previously covered over at ur-B&W–butterfliesandwheels.org. It took me a few minutes of fruitless searching before I remembered how I’d come across him before.)

  145. says

    For the (pointless) record, elipses–now in moderation for the dishonesty of refusing to deal with the actual solutions proposed to the problem laid out here–would like us all to know that Scented Nectar is a girl. She’s actually a woman, and irrelevant, but I thought I’d let you all know.

  146. says

    Yeah. Geoffrey Falk used to be my very own personal misogynist stalker, and now he belongs to the world. It’s like when you really love a movie and then everyone else loves it too so it’s not special any more.

  147. Eliott says

    Just my perspective…
    1) this post and the others that have also appeared are a great starting point
    2) there has been some level of bad behavior from some folks that has occurred at conventions or other venues
    3) a process has started to address the bad behavior
    4) a published list of any type could or would lead to potential liability or legal action,not a good idea
    5) we, the aggregate community, need to ensure a safe and respectful environment for our entire community, without exception, at conventions, at meetups, at gatherings, at rallys, at any venue. We owe that to each other.
    6) bad behavior from anyone will not be tolerated, ever. We should all come to each others defense
    7) we are skeptical, but we believe in reason. At times emotion runs high and reason gets abandoned or sidetracked. We lose track of what we are trying to accomplish
    8) I love who we are. I love that we can talk about this so openly. I love that we are making an effort to identify a significant issue and create a dynamic answer to course correct.
    9) I hate that some in our community have been hurt, I hate that I wasn’t as sensitive to this issue as I should have been. I hate that I didn’t do enough
    10) I commit that I will not allow this behavior in my presence, ever.

  148. NanceConfer says

    “In the last 24 hours, I’ve received confirmations from six conference organizers, five of them for atheist conferences, that their conferences would now have formal, visible harassment policies. Five of them had no official policies before that.”

    That is good news, Stephanie. Off to read more and try to keep up with everyone’s progress on this.

    Nance

  149. Guesser says

    Are we talking about Richard Dawkins as someone on the “speakers to avoid” list?

    That’s what someone told me.

  150. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    I’ve just returned from the Bahamas and am a week behind on everything, but I wanted to say thanks for this post and I’m so happy there’s new momentum by good people behind this problem. I’ll now return to trying to catch up and will contribute somewhere appropriate if I come up with any ideas. :)

    (PS: Lovely to meet you!)

  151. Dan says

    There are people with multiple infractions stalking the events? An organizer or donor that is aware, is a facilitator and might be considered guilty as well. There are “strategies for minimizing the damage”? That should comfort a victim. It’s a matter of commitment and priorities. Get rid of them. Hold smaller events and don’t invite them, be creative and find other draws, whatever. We don’t need events that put people at risk. Spend some time thinking about how to lose the speakers rather than why you can’t. Let other organizers know if someone is a problem, so he/she won’t be invited to any event. Consult with the victim (make things public or not etc). Organize support, if enough people won’t speak at an event with X, X will soon not be a problem. It will also send a message to F G and H and an unsympathetic donor. When that’s done, see if something can be done for Rebecca Watson. BTW,I will not attend any conferences or speaking engagements until I read/hear that this has been favorably resolved. Before anyone says this attitude might hurt the innocent speaker, too bad, maybe they should get on board and push for a quick solution.

  152. Hollie says

    @Tony @62

    Quote: Couple (woman and man) walk up to bar. I greet them, suggest drinks and food. The guy orders the drinks and the food for the woman. ARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!
    What’s worse is when I look to the woman to tell me what she wants to eat and drink, but she leans over and whispers to her boyfriend/husband! Unquote

    I just wanted to comment on this briefly. I suffer from crippling anxiety attacks, particularly in public and with strangers. My husband acts as my mediator in these cases, including ordering for me. He does this at my behest, and this allows me to leave my home socially. He is also my biggest advocate and supporter; empowering me to finally get the medication and therapy I need to live a relatively normal life. I know we are the exception, and you seem like a conscientious person, Tony. My request is just to keep an open mind. I would be mortified if people looked at my husband with such negativity, when he is doing nothing other than helping me overcome a disability.

  153. Tony says

    Hollie:
    First and foremost:
    Thank you and I’m sorry.
    It’s taken a few days to get back with you. I read your comment at work and haven’t had the chance to formulate a proper response until now.

    The wonderful way our human brains works can be frustrating sometimes. I think my interpretation of women/men interactions as described in my example fell prey to the “it appears to be the case in the situations I’ve experienced, so it simply must be the case in all of them”** (brain fart on which kind of bias that is at the moment). Your explanation of your disability snatched me right out of that mode of thinking. The way my brain works, I’m likely to think of your comment many times in the future while I’m working and that’s a good thing.
    I was wrong.
    I’m sorry.
    BTW, there may be some things that are exceptions to a rule, but now I wonder if your situation is more common than many think.

    **I’ve lived in the Southern US most of my life (AL and FL), so I see ‘Southern Hospitality’ all the time, which has obviously colored my perception of all type of interactions (holding the door, opening the door, defending a woman’s honor, etc). I have to be more aware of that before I make any more judgments.

  154. Hollie says

    Oh, there is no need to apologize. You clearly have the best intentions, and I didn’t mean to sound so severe. Thank you for your thoughtful response, and I’m glad I can help provide a slightly different perspective.

  155. Tony says

    Hollie:

    Oh, there is no need to apologize. You clearly have the best intentions, and I didn’t mean to sound so severe. Thank you for your thoughtful response, and I’m glad I can help provide a slightly different perspective.

    I didn’t think your comment was severe at all. All you did was convey your perspective on a situation that I had a narrow perspective of. You did so in a way that didn’t show disregard to anything I said, but still managed to convey your point quite effectively.
    Would that every conversation between those of different perspectives went this well.

  156. Chris Willett says

    A secret list of powerful men.

    Names on the list cannot be spoken or written publicly.

    Conference organizers should huddle to discuss the list.

    Those left in the dark should carefully observe the behavior of powerful men to determine if they may be on the list.

    Do you have any idea how this sounds?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] speakers who abuse their power by acting inappropriately. Stephanie Zvan has offered thoughtful analysis and advice, as has JT Eberhard (and I’m certain others too). But I want to address a [...]

  2. [ETA: I'll keep this pingback, because enemies like these are sometimes the best friends a cause can have. If you're triggered by sneering, proud misogyny, however, don't read it. --SZ]

    [...] community has begun a particularly nasty type of evidence-less witch hunt. It was begun by Stephanie Zvan and Jen McCreight writing about the Women in Secularism conference that just occurred this past [...]

  3. [...] Erista: I’ve been to one secular/atheist/freethinker conference, and I was treated badly by a man (not a speaker). As awful as it was, the one of the things that made it bearable was the thought that no one knew this was going to happen and that if they had, they would have acted to support me. To think that I might go through a similar experience with a speaker while knowing that other people knew what was going to happen but felt no need to warn me makes me very angry, and it makes me feel like I’m not safe to go to conferences. [...]

  4. [...] Stephanie Van also blogged about the resulting conversations at the WIS Conference. Both Jen and Stephanie pointed out the problems with informal networks being the repository of this information about harassers (not least the lack of due process and accountability in rumour mills), and proposed more formal ways to report incidents and collate data about incidents. Our friends at the Geek Feminism Wiki got a shout out for their model policy which organisations can adjust for their particular needs. [...]

  5. […] Stephanie Zvan blogs about Jen’s comment and about harassment at skeptic/atheist conferences and suggests adopting anti-harassment policies at atheist/skeptic cons, linking to the policy on Geek Feminism Wiki as a good example.Sarah Moglia and David Silverman commit to (and follow through on) adopting an anti-harassment policy for the Secular Students Association and AACON respectively. Many more conferences follow, led by Jen McCreight, Chris Calvey, Stephanie Zvan, and many more. […]

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