On the Interplay of Values and Goals »« Where Are the Women?

D.J. Grothe Tackles the Problem of Harassment

Yesterday, I asked people to help Kylie collect information on why women don’t return to TAM. I included D.J. Grothe’s hypothesis on the topic. As Kylie was asleep in Australia, D.J. left a response (to what exactly, I’m not sure) in my comments as well. Rebecca Watson took the opportunity to ask D.J. to clarify part of his original hypothesis, which he did. He left an additional comment, which was largely repetition of prior points, as well.

I’d like to take the opportunity to highlight and comment on some of what D.J. had to say. First, from the original hypothesis:

We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

There are a few interesting points to note here. First and foremost, I very much hope that D.J. is not telling us that JREF has gotten complaints about specific speakers that he is calling “misinformation” and blaming on the discussion of the last two weeks. To the best of my knowledge, only one person has publicly named a speaker, and she was specific about what she said that speaker had done to her. If people have been writing in about that speaker, to the best of my knowledge, D.J. is not in a position to determine whether that is misinformation.

If people are writing in about other specific, named speakers and D.J. is also dismissing this as “misinformation”, there is an organizational problem that needs addressing immediately. That information has not been spread publicly, which means that someone not feeling safe about a particular speaker has their own reasons for doing so. Those reasons may not be public information, but neither does that mean they are invalid. If JREF doesn’t have a better policy in place for dealing with this kind of information than scoffing about it publicly, I think D.J. has one more answer about why people might not feel safe at TAM.

Then there is the problem of using the word “misinformation” at all. If you are misinformed, you’ve been told something that is incorrect. Starting from the position that the people who have been saying there’s a problem with some speakers are incorrect can only lead you to one conclusion, whether that conclusion is true or not. So if some of the speakers who speak at TAM are dangerous to some of the audience, that kind of closed inquiry can never uncover it.

You can see the effects of D.J.’s presuppositions in a later comment.

So much of that feels to me more like rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers who are eventually deemed as “skeezy,” and whom they feel should be not allowed to speak at such conferences going forward.

So now you know. If you were considering reporting harassment or assault to JREF so that they could make their speaker roster more safe, you now know what kind of person you are and what actually happened–all before you tell him. At least according to this comment. For anyone who was trying to find out why these things aren’t reported, here’s one answer.

For the record, no, that’s not the kind of thing we’re talking about. One of the incidents, told to me by the person it happened to, was an attempted rape. And Jen has been clear about the scope of the problem from the beginning.

Both female friends and strangers confided in me, telling me stories of speakers that talked only to their chest, groped them against their wishes, followed them to their hotel room, or had goals to bag a young hottie at every speaking gig they did.

As for D.J.’s insinuation that it’s “misinformation” that he holds any particular opinion, that would require someone saying that he does. If the complaints he’s gotten have been based on his own words and actions, he doesn’t get to deflect that onto anyone else. I did warn him of that. He preferred to blame me and keep making public statements like the ones here.

At Rebecca’s request, D.J. also got more specific about which statements were causing women to stay away from TAM this year. Part of the fault was Rebecca’s.

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

(http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-15/atheist-sexism-women/50416454/1)

If we tell people that our events or our movements are not safe for women, some women are bound to believe that.

D.J. doesn’t say that Rebecca was wrong. Just that people are staying away because she spoke up. And then there are those elipses…

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space and we have a lot of growing to do. The good news is there are a lot of people within the community who are interested in making it better and getting rid of our prejudices.”

Yes, Rebecca is painting such a dire picture–of people tackling a problem. Eek.

Or maybe I’m the problem. Or Jen. After all, D.J. linked four posts from us pointing out that there is a problem with speakers and trying to get it fixed in a responsible way. Of course, all of those posts have gone up in the last two weeks. I’m pretty sure the gender ratio of TAM attendees has not changed appreciably in that time. Someone please let me know if that’s wrong.

Also, this?

http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/05/23/real-progress/ — “I’ve also seen ideas about conferences sharing or consolidating data to make it easier to identify problem speakers” [This suggests something like the creation of a blacklist of "sexist" speakers?]

If a bunch of conferences share their harassment-report data, then take action based on patterns of reports, this is nothing like “a blacklist of ‘sexist’ speakers”. It is responsible behavior based on patterns of harassment, and minimizing it as targeting scare-quoted sexism is appalling.

Then there are the statistics D.J. quoted from TAM’s survey and from incident reports. I’ll tread lightly over this, because the discussion is still ongoing. As I write this, we don’t know how the survey questions were phrased. We do know that there were incidents last year that were reported to D.J. but not included in any incident reports for various reasons. I’ll refer everyone to Ashley Miller to keep up with that.

Essentially, shortcomings have been exposed in the reporting system for harassment at TAM. I sincerely hope they’ll be straightened out before this year’s event. I also hope that D.J. will publicly revise his public statement that there were no events reported for TAM last year. I hope, for JREF’s sake, that he revises that soon.

As for the rest of it, I’d also like to think that D.J. would reconsider his allegations that people trying to fix the problems in this community are [ETA: any sort of major force] driving people away from the community by doing so, particularly since it’s demonstrably wrong [ETA: based on all the data collected to date]. From what I’ve seen, however, D.J. is not capable of changing his mind on that. He’s not capable of listening to the people telling him that he’s part of the problem. Given all that, this looks ever more reasonable.

Comments

  1. says

    I still haven’t seen an answer to my question about whether or not DJ also violated confidentiality of the TAM survey respondents when he discussed in detail the responses.

    But hell, at this point, he’s dug such a huge hole, why worry about a couple of additional inches of depth either way?

    Epic Leadership Fail. Sad.

  2. Brad says

    One thing I learned from the prior thread is that I badly misunderstood the term “safe space”.

    I had presumed that it simply meant “a place where women are less likely to be harrassed.”

    Based on my reading, though, I now understand it involves primarily confidence that any reports of harrassment will not be dismissed or discounted, but will be treated seriously and confidentially. Is that a better definition?

    Obviously, a strongly-worded, widely-advertised harrassment policy that includes a clear method for reporting issues can be a part of that.

    But a policy is only the start, and if that confidence in the policy isn’t there, then something is still wrong. It seems to me that discounting the stories that are now coming out isn’t doing anything to inspire greater confidence.

    If there were no “formally reported issues” at prior conferences (which seems suspicous, due to the number of attendees), perhaps a better response than “yeah! we had no harrassment this year!” is asking why women might not have felt comfortable reporting issues that did occur.

  3. John D says

    The fembots have spoken D.J.

    No amount of clarification or honesty will save you unless you go down on one knee and claim you were gigantically mistaken in writing your prior post. (I recommend you claim that the old Christian Patriarchy is so strong you didn’t even recognize it. This his worked with some success in the past). You will be executed on the shrine of female victim-hood like so many men and women who fell before you.

    This is the happy result of the many atheist organizations that have given in to the feminist agenda. Stocking conventions with misandrist bloggers was bound to backfire one day.

    Good bye D.J. – It was nice knowing you.

  4. says

    I went to a gaming convention a few years back. I dealt with misogynistic bullshit – being ignored, having people answer questions I asked to my husband instead of too me, being patronized, having my shirt looked down, being hit on, the ‘accidental’ brushes against my breasts, and the constant assumption that I was buying something for my SO instead of for myself.

    I wouldn’t have reported any of that on any kind of harassment survey though. It simply wouldn’t have occurred to me to do so because nothing in the above is out of the ordinary for my general experiences. And I’m not just talking about at cons, but anytime I try to do anything tech, construction, or gaming related, with some of it existing constantly no matter where I go.

    Nobody outright grabbed my breasts or rear, nobody got right in my face to scream misogynistic slurs at me after I declined to give them my number, so, at the time, I considered it a good trip.

    But you know something?

    My treatment at the con was still fucking unacceptable. I shouldn’t have had to put up with any of that nonsense.

    I also knew that because neither of those events happened (in front of witnesses that were A) willing to give a report and B) didn’t think it was just all in good fun/my fault anyway), nobody would take any complaint I made seriously. I’d just be ‘imagining’ or ‘overreacting’ or ‘oversensitive’. Because that is how it has occurred every single other fucking time I’ve tried to make a complaint about any of this crap.

    So, I won’t be going to TAM. I see nothing that leads me to believe my experience there will be any different from the experiences that eventually stopped me from going to/participating in gaming conventions, comic conventions, certain stores, sports events, midnight matinees of cult movies, concerts, MMORPGs, several bars, many internet forums, and Xbox Live activities.

  5. kerfluffle says

    There’s a weird overlap of privilege/lack. DJ is gay and might have experienced harassment. That particular subset of harassment looks a certain way. Harassment of women is different. Because DJ is more aware of his subset, he is having difficultly recognizing the other. This is frustrating.

    His response to Ashley Miller gives me hope. He is trying. No, he’s not doing a very good job of it right now. We’re seeing the learning curve in action. That’s usually where people who don’t want to learn dig in their heels and get stubborn. DJ isn’t. He’s accepting that his previous statement was incorrect and asking for more information.

    It would be better for the JREF to have an adaptable president. DJ is showing signs that this is the case.

  6. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    DJ needs to respond to the legitimate criticism that it’s all Rebecca’s and other complainants’ fault for speaking out. Like, right now. It wouldn’t even have occurred to him to respond that way if it were someone complaining of homophobia.

    Yeah, sorry, but, um, no. Not good enough yet.

  7. says

    I wouldn’t have reported any of that on any kind of harassment survey though. It simply wouldn’t have occurred to me to do so because nothing in the above is out of the ordinary for my general experiences. And I’m not just talking about at cons, but anytime I try to do anything tech, construction, or gaming related, with some of it existing constantly no matter where I go.

    Nobody outright grabbed my breasts or rear, nobody got right in my face to scream misogynistic slurs at me after I declined to give them my number, so, at the time, I considered it a good trip.

    But you know something?

    My treatment at the con was still fucking unacceptable. I shouldn’t have had to put up with any of that nonsense.

    @WithinThisMind, I’ve had this sort of experience as well. I recall being asked via Pictochat (was just following DS launch) by someone who was a regular in the community to “show my tits.” IT WAS SUCH A FUNNY JOKE! BECAUSE CASUAL MISOGYNY IS FUNNY!

    It was absolutely unacceptable and I’m not super interested in putting myself in this position again. Yet I never reported it because like you, it wasn’t outside the ordinary of other such experiences it didn’t seem worth mentioning.

    It wasn’t like being physically assaulted on public transportation, so what were they going to do?

  8. Konradius says

    Based on purely the statements made by DJ alone, outside of any context, were I a woman wanting to attend TAM, I would reconsider.

    This is not the first time it has been said to DJ that women do not feel they are being taken seriously. The last time I actually made that same mistake myself.

    Being in the sceptical movement requires you to learn from past experiences. Even if he totally rejects all actual instances of harassment ever, he should have learned from the last time that outright denial is completely counter-productive and self-defeating.

    His main talking point should have been: We have a good harassment policy that can be evaluated by the people who complain of misogyny in our movement. We are alert and will respond firmly to any incidents.

    And finally, I’m not surprised he has little experience with misogyny. Not just because he’s a man and thus unlikely to be hit on, I also suspect not too many menz talk to him about scoring a woman. In the human spectrum of sexuality a male homosexual is the farthest you can get away from misogyny problems.
    What this means is that he should listen far more closely to what is said and vet his statements with people that have more experience in these matters.
    He was as much a sceptic as a climate denialist (well, in my conference the temperature stayed the same!)

  9. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Based on my reading, though, I now understand it involves primarily confidence that any reports of harrassment will not be dismissed or discounted, but will be treated seriously and confidentially. Is that a better definition?

    I would say so, yes.

  10. says

    Based on my reading, though, I now understand it involves primarily confidence that any reports of harrassment will not be dismissed or discounted, but will be treated seriously and confidentially. Is that a better definition?

    That’s a pretty good summation, yes. I hope Situ reads this and learns.

  11. Pteryxx says

    following up on this:

    Based on my reading, though, I now understand it involves primarily confidence that any reports of harrassment will not be dismissed or discounted, but will be treated seriously and confidentially. Is that a better definition?

    Yes, and I suggest going to the Skepchick thread about the sex card incident. Compare the commenters thanking Carl Tracy, the organizer who handled the complaint, to the response DJ is getting.

    Here’s one such comment:

    http://skepchick.org/2012/05/sex-and-the-keynote/#comment-150432

    Also, thanks to the organizers for being awesome and implementing the policy. I felt secure knowing that if anything else inappropriate happened, I had the proper resources to have it taken care of quickly and discreetly.

  12. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    In the human spectrum of sexuality a male homosexual is the farthest you can get away from misogyny problems.

    I disagree. Homophobia is Misogyny’s eldest son. It’s so bad to be gay is that they have sex! With men! Like women do!

  13. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Exactly, Illuminata. Homophobia is a just a specialized subset of misogyny. There are people who still don’t get that?

  14. BJ Kramer says

    As for the rest of it, I’d also like to think that D.J. would reconsider his allegations that people trying to fix the problems in this community are driving people away from the community by doing so, particularly since it’s demonstrably wrong.

    demonstrably? Where exactly is this demonstration?

    When you respond please remember you didn’t say that it’s demonstrably wrong that it’s exclusively because of these ham-handed (or so you seem to think DJ thinks) attempts at fixing the problem. You said it’s demonstrably wrong that “people trying to fix the problems” are “driving people away”. I not only think it’s blinding obvious that they are (along with who-knows-how-many other reasons), but I can give you names.

    Which means it’s demonstrably right. Of course, it’s your allegation, so the burden of proof is on you.

  15. bleeb says

    So if I were to attend TAM and had an evening where someone was bothering me – standing too close, “accidentally” brushing up against me, following me, making suggestive comments – what happens if I complain?
    *Should I complain to a JREF representative at the time? About what? There’s no evidence for any of it, none of it is against any laws. It’s the sort of thing that is vague and hard to describe.
    *Would anyone believe me? I’m almost 40 and overweight, and people seem to believe that this only happens to pretty, young girls.
    *If I don’t complain at the moment, should I complain later on a survey? Would I realize that answers to a question like “Did you feel welcome” will be read later to capture that kind of experience? If I’m answering a survey about an event, I’ll have the event on my mind in my answers, not the behavior of that one guy that one night. Why would I complain then anyway? No one’s going to do anything about it at that point, and if it’s not clearly stated then I have no idea that survey answers are being used to compile sexual harassment statistics.
    *Should I mention it later, on the internet? I’ll get attacked 100 different ways if I do. I’m over-reacting, I took it wrong, I didn’t complain fast enough or to the right people, I’m scaring future attendees away, etc.

  16. says

    Regardless of anything else, shouldn’t the ultimate goal of making our community a safe space for women to make it better than the background radiation of misogyny that women experience in society as a whole? The fact that Withthisinmind@4 would not have reported any number of egregious and actionable instances of harassment because they were not otherwise out of the ordinary is deplorable and anyone who claims to be a leader in this community and who claims to try to make a place safe for women should absolutely take steps to make sure that any such harassment is clearly unwelcome, and reported to visible and accessible infrastructures put into place by clear and well-distributed policies.

    I would even be perfectly fine with people having to read and sign those policies before being issued their tickets. We need people to know that this shit won’t be tolerated, so that the issue of underreporting is also tackled.

  17. says

    You said it’s demonstrably wrong that “people trying to fix the problems” are “driving people away”. I not only think it’s blinding obvious that they are (along with who-knows-how-many other reasons), but I can give you names.

    If bad things are happening to women, and some women point those bad things out, and other women pay attention to the point-outers and decide that the bad things are bad enough to avoid the conference for, then it is the bad things that are driving people away. Not the point-outers. The point-outers are performing the service of full disclosure, to give people information they need to make their decision about whether to attend the conference.

    If you silence the point-outers in order to make the conference seem less bad, then that is sort of a lie by omission. You are luring people to the conference under false pretenses.

  18. says

    KarenX: YES. This is very much an instance of that high school trope where a bully gets in trouble, then blames the bullying victim for “tattling”.

  19. Pteryxx says

    Jason T(etc): yes this, good comment.

    I would even be perfectly fine with people having to read and sign those policies before being issued their tickets. We need people to know that this shit won’t be tolerated, so that the issue of underreporting is also tackled.

    Point of order: while I applaud the sentiment, for a big event, that would really slow down the registration lines and add an extra box of paperwork. I’d suggest posting some prominent, simple no-harassment notices, have the policy itself posted somewhere for easy reference (such as at the registration table, or in convention handouts or programs if you have them) and consider having SPEAKERS AND STAFF actually sign the policies. Speakers are in a position of power (and scrutiny), and staff and volunteers are responsible for enforcing the policy.

  20. says

    Okay, for online registration, it shouldn’t be a big deal to post and require signing off with an “I agree to the [Harassment Policy] [x]” checkbox. For at-the-door registration, hand them a paper copy with their ticket. Have speakers and staff sign the policies, and staff gets a special policy explaining how to deal with harassment and complaints.

    That “how to deal with” should include a reporting and aggregation of information. And in the exit survey, which only a percentage of participants will take anyway, ask very pointed questions about harassment, sexual or otherwise. Don’t just ask “did you feel welcome” or what-have-you.

  21. Pteryxx says

    *nodding to Jason* I’m sorry I haven’t been able to find my reference on what ARE good questions to ask on a sexual harassment survey. There’s very little research so far and it’s not easy to make such a survey. I’d suggest going to one of the organizations I cited somewhere or other, oh heck, such as the AAUW or a major campus or employer with a harassment policy, and ask for advice.

  22. says

    It is far past time for DJ to bring a crisis communication expert on board, and perhaps a handler to keep him from sticking his foot in his mouth every chance he gets.

    Seriously, DJ, you are making things worse. Quit telling us how good the JREF has been in the past, about how many women speak at TAM, and how you have a harassment policy. Quit talking about your survey, which is clearly inadequate for the purpose of detecting this problem.

    Tell us how you are going to improve the system, improve record keeping, improve the survey and other information gathering systems, improve responsiveness, stop blaming the victim and those that are bringing this problem to light, and most importantly, follow through.

    And if you find yourself surrounded by people that are telling you that this isn’t a problem, just a feminist non-troversy, you would do well to get away from them.

  23. pixelfish says

    Sorry. My jaw is completely dropped over the “recounting sexual exploits” and “locker room banter” comment which I’ve only just seen.

    Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

    So because folks developed a way to keep other folks in the know–because many of us feel that we would face hostility for coming out with what we know–our discussion is reduced to “sexual exploits” and “locker room banter”. I’m afraid my confidence that any sexual harrassment policy has really gone skittering off down the metaphorical tubes.

  24. LeftSidePositive says

    And I just can’t get over those WALLS of text DJ was spouting describing his surveys–look, DJ, women who have been feeling uncomfortable will not stop feeling uncomfortable if you try to explain away their discomfort. The fact that you don’t think THAT many other people had a problem won’t change the fact that these people ARE dealing with problems.

    The appropriate thing to say is “I’m concerned about this. We did our best to look for and address this problem–we even made a survey! (and then POST A LINK to your detailed survey results IF people want to read them!) Since we weren’t finding what you’re describing, we’re soliciting advice on how to make our survey better…”

    See, was that so hard?

  25. Masakari says

    D.J. Grothe’s responses appear accurate, and the burden of proof is still on the people making claims of harassment, yet fail to at least provide details of what happened. D.J. has emphasized many times that he is willing to do something if harassment is reported. He can’t go around and impose boundaries on other innocent people (or all men, from the FfTB standpoint) because a few women are scared of men talking to them or propositions. I say this because the people commenting on these types of blogs don’t seem to know what harassment and abuse is, and this is probably why the “victims” won’t say what happened. Either that, or one of these bloggers created those harassment stories themselves, to stir controversy and blog hits. There’s no way to know.

    Elevator-chick already gave other women the impression that these conventions are unsafe, and now the numbers have suffered because of it. She also gave the impression that a polite invite for coffee is harassment. It is now possible that her like-minded fans may be interpreting some non-harassment incorrectly, which is why normal, sane people are skeptical about the recent complaints of “harassment”, or “abuse”.

    If there really were victims out there, then it sucks that it happened, but it also sucks that they lacked the intellect and courage to report it to authorities. What these bloggers want are for men to make special exceptions for women, and to walk around on egg shells because anything men say can be interpreted as sexual harassment or make them uncomfortable. They represent a position where women are weak, a position which is sexist against men and women.

    It’s funny to see how Rebecca Watson wondered which prominent and well-meaning women skeptics gave other women that impression (in comment #11 of the other article),
    D.J. pointed out it was her in comment #13, Rebecca Watson running to USA Today and these types of yellow-journalistic blogs gave women that impression,
    and then Rebecca Watson acts surprised in comment #25.

    This yellow journalism is disgusting. You people just want D.J.’s head. You act like you care for a response, wait for him to say something, and then find something to pick on or twist to your advantage.

    D.J. Grothe should get together with the other women-skeptics in his organization (since crazy radfems would use an “ad-HIMinem” attack on any man that speaks with D.J.), make a long video doing what they does best, and debunk the myths from these types of yellow-journalistic blogs. If it wasn’t already done, at future conventions have all attendees fill out feedback cards stating their gender and their experience.

    JREF should also denounce these bloggers and not have any of them speak at future conventions. They’re not skeptics. They’re religious, rad-fem kooks, looking to burn people at the stakes. People would eventually see these bloggers for what they are, and the number of women who attend future conventions will go back up.

  26. says

    As I said elsewhere:
    That TAM is “not a safe space” does not mean what DJ Grothe (and some others) here seem to think it means. The world is not a safe space for women. “Not a safe space” is the default setting. To make TAM or any other skeptic/atheist meeting into a safe space takes concerted and deliberate effort.

    We’re not seeing that effort. Instead we’re seeing denial, minimisation, and a remarkably horrible and protracted series of cases of shooting the messenger.

  27. says

    Oh look, another idiot who can’t see that the really important thing that happened to Rebecca was not the elevator situation, but the response to it. The one we can all see, in which the mildest casual mention (without even naming names) that something was not a good idea was met with screechy extreme verbal abuse and threats of violence, up to and not excluding threats of rape and death. Which continue today.

    Clue, dudes. Those internet postings are not visible only to Rebecca. We see what you did there.

  28. says

    I hope if nothing else, DJ notices who’s supporting him unquestioningly while launching vitriolic attacks against “fembots”, and wises the hell up because of it.

  29. xtog says

    Stephanie, you criticize DJ for not being “capable of listening to the people telling him that he’s part of the problem”

    and then when Masakari #30 makes a clear statement in opposition to your cynicism towards DJ,..you respond with,…

    “Masakari is gone for the gross crime of being boringly stupid.”

    Maybe you could respond to post #30 without the juvenile dismissal that you claim to be bothered about in DJ’s response.

    What exactly was stupid about that response?

  30. says

    I hope if nothing else, DJ notices who’s supporting him unquestioningly while launching vitriolic attacks against “fembots”, and wises the hell up because of it.

    Indeed. If the rabid misogynists are lining up to support you–as they are for DJ right now–that SHOULD raise some red flags.

  31. xtog says

    So, you are not taking his response seriously,….which is precisely the criticism you make of DJ.

  32. xtog says

    Sally, funny how my first post here on FTB where I simply ask you all to tell me what was wrong with post #30 gets greeted with childish dismissal. Why should anyone even bother to have a back and forth on this blog if you all are too lazy or cowardly to defend your position?

  33. Eshto says

    “Masakari is gone for the gross crime of being boringly stupid. If he’d only put his ‘ideas’ in his own words….”

    Awww what’s wrong, he made too much sense for FTB so you blocked him?

    If you have a problem with D.J. why don’t you just send him an e-mail and talk it over in private?

    OH WAIT THAT WON’T GET BLOG HITS. Nevermind.

  34. says

    Wait, so neither of you have any specific questions about specific things that have already been covered in Masakari’s antifeminist rant, you just want to taunt Stephanie for having banned him instead of going over it all again?

    Figures.

  35. says

    Yep, Jason, that about sums it up. Also, they each have exactly one chance to tell me exactly what I should be treating seriously that I haven’t already.

  36. xtog42 says

    Stephnie,…All I asked was for you to explain what you said was boringly stupid and you dismissed my question.

    How about this angle….In 30# it is written that in bringing up the elevator incident so prominently and tying that into the drop in female attendance without any real data and ignoring other variables that may also have led to that drop,…the speaker actually provoked that which she bemoaned.

    While the speaker may have been the victim in the elevator, her response to the incident can be criticized for harming future female attendance.

    We all know sexism is a problem, I am not denying that, I am just wondering whether it is as big a problem as it has been made to seem and whether it actually is why there are not more female skeptics going to those events.

    So, can you understand that sometimes a victim’s response can overshadow the initial victimization.

    And quite frankly, your title to this post seems to imply that DJ can somehow solve the problem of sexual harassment,…isn’t that a bit unfair to him, especially if he doesn’t believe the problem is as profound as you do, which he has the right to do no matter how much you disagree.

  37. LeftSidePositive says

    @xtog, #41–you know, not taking repeated claims of harassment seriously is not quite the same thing as not taking seriously someone who uses terms like “Elevator-chick” and says that women will come back if you ban female speakers who have discussed harassment.

    But fine, I’m in the mood for troll-bashing! You want to know how Masakari was such a boring antifeminist troll, let’s count the ways:

    1) He says DJ’s statements have been accurate, when it has been brought to DJ’s attention that in fact there HAVE been reported instances of harassment at TAM that he was supposed to know about.

    2) He repeats the canard about burden of proof when women have already discussed in detail why they do not feel safe coming forward and facing a likely barrage of harassment and rape and death threats.

    3) He claims anti-harassment policies are “imposing boundaries on innocent people” when, by definition, if you are violating an anti-harassment policy, you are harassing someone, which makes you NOT an innocent person. This does not limit innocent people any more than an anti-theft policy limits innocent people.

    4) He puts the word victims in scare-quotes.

    5) He accuses women of making up stories of being harassed to generate blog hits.

    6) He uses blatantly sexist language like “Elevator-chick.”

    7) He was egregiously dishonest in misrepresenting Elevatorgate as a “polite invitation to coffee” when in fact it was isolating someone in an elevator at 4 o’clock in the morning and asking her to his hotel room even after she specifically and publicly said that she was not okay with being treated in a sexualized manner.

    8) He made a blatantly ableist comment implying people objecting to sexual harassment are not “sane.” (followed up later by “crazy” and “kooks”)

    9) He specifically brings up a case where a woman publicly objected to an instance of sexualization and was the recipient of rape and death threats, as an instance of “non-harassment,” as though the (dismissively termed) “like-minded fans” of this person wouldn’t be aware that the main objection to Elevatorgate was not just Elevator Guy, but the sustained defenses from far too many atheist men AND all the rape and death threats.

    10) He uses minimizing and distrustful language like “if there really were victims out there…” (see #2)

    11) He blames the victims for not acting the way he wants, and further insults them by saying they’re lacking in intellect and courage, thus putting responsibility for abuse on the victims, who already have enough to deal with (again, see #2, and #9).

    12) He creates a strawman position where the simple goal of not harassing people is misconstrued as “walking on eggshells.”

    13) He plays a tired I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I when he tries to judo-flip addressing the concerns of people who are being systematically mistreated into saying they’re “weak” (as opposed to just in need of social support like the vast majority of humanity is the vast majority of the time).

    14) He tops off #13 by trying to claim speaking out against sexism is sexist (apparently forgetting, I might add, that the majority of people standing up for these apparently “weak” women are…other women! In fact, they’re often THE SAME women that have been harassed previously!)

    15) He blames Rebecca for making DJ go on the record with his blaming statements, and then blames her again when she appropriately calls DJ out for the fact that he apparently doesn’t think it’s okay for her to publicly state she has not been treated like she’s in a safe space.

    16) He accuses people of “twisting” DJ’s words without saying how they’re actually being twisted, and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that the direct purport of DJ’s statement is marginalizing to women.

    17) He seems to think that DJ hand-picking women who agree with DJ will address women’s concerns (yeah, I guess it’s working for Mitt Romney…ha!).

    18) He accuses people who object to DJ’s attitudes of rejecting men simply for being men (“ad-HIMinem”) as opposed to realizing that, maybe, they haven’t had the same level of experience with gender-based harassment as the women they’re talking to!

    19) He asserts that these instances of harassment are myths, which, considering people have stated that they have first-hand experience of being harassed, is saying that these women are liars.

    20) He accuses blogs that are calmly discussing their prior experiences, the need for confidentiality, and the need for anti-harassment policies as “yellow journalism.”

    21) He advocates punishing women who have discussed the problem of harassment, and their personal experience with harassment by being banned.

    22) He insists that people trying to get a consistent, reported, implementable data collection system to respond effectively to harassment “are not skeptics.”

    23) He apparently thinks the view that women deserve to be treated with basic acknowledgement of their rights and personal space as “religious.”

    24) He conflates the call for simple professional accountability at conferences with institutionalized religious violence (“burn people at the stakes”).

    25) He (hilariously) asserts that if women are punished for speaking up about sexual harassment, more women will want to attend.

    Sooo….anything else we can help you understand?

  38. says

    How about this angle….In 30# it is written that in bringing up the elevator incident so prominently and tying that into the drop in female attendance without any real data and ignoring other variables that may also have led to that drop,…the speaker actually provoked that which she bemoaned.

    While the speaker may have been the victim in the elevator, her response to the incident can be criticized for harming future female attendance.

    This was already addressed, in this post, in fact.

    So, can you understand that sometimes a victim’s response can overshadow the initial victimization.

    You mean Rebecca’s “Guys, don’t do that”? Yes, that was a huge, terrible overreaction.

    That up there^^? That’s sarcasm.

    This has also been addressed. Repeatedly and ad nauseum across the blogosphere for the last 11 months.

    And quite frankly, your title to this post seems to imply that DJ can somehow solve the problem of sexual harassment,…isn’t that a bit unfair to him, especially if he doesn’t believe the problem is as profound as you do, which he has the right to do no matter how much you disagree.

    D.J., in case you haven’t bothered to sort this all out before commenting, made an unsolicited statement about why female attendance at the conference he’s responsible for is down. He blamed that on Rebecca. He blamed that on Jen. He blamed that on me. He specifically blamed that on me working to get harassment policies in place at other conferences. He did all this without data. He has yet to exhibit any kind of self-reflection on what he could do about the problem.

    That title? Also sarcasm.

    If you want to complain about someone being unfair, start at the beginning with D.J. He has every right to believe whatever he wants about the prevalence of sexual harassment. Others have the right to criticize him for acting on beliefs that are unreasonable. What he doesn’t have the right to do without repercussions is throw blame at other people when that blame counters what he’s being told by the people he supposedly wants at his conference. What he doesn’t have the right to do without repercussions is decide unilaterally that women who complain about harassment are making shit up about guys they had sex with.

    This has also been addressed. In this post.

    There is nothing new in Masakari’s comment. There is a remarkable amount that is inane and pointlessly insulting to people who are working to make a problem go away in a professional manner. There is a great deal that’s flat out false. That’s why it’s stupid, and that’s why I’m not going to waste any more time on people who can’t be bothered to read and absorb the post they’re commenting on.

    I have work to do on harassment policies instead.

  39. says

    We all know sexism is a problem, I am not denying that, I am just wondering whether it is as big a problem as it has been made to seem and whether it actually is why there are not more female skeptics going to those events.

    We’re still waiting on several pending requests that DJ show where he got that idea, when he decided to throw those of us pushing for anti-harassment policies under the proverbial bus for it. So far we haven’t seen what gave him that impression except that we’re an easy scapegoat. (Gee, I thought scapegoating was entirely in the skeptic’s domain!)

    LSP@47: KABLAM.

  40. xtog42 says

    Great cut and paste job LeftSide, but if I dispute the blather you just posted I’ll simply get banned so let me leave this incestuous crowd to itself by saying, “Thank goodness DJ is running the show.” and not a bunch of hysterical, presumptive, hijacking, hit-seeking flamers.

    We all know he’ll come out with some regulations that will address the issue for the future and they will be reasonable and effective but you will nit-pick them and by doing so you will have exposed yourself as more interested in flaming the debate than finding solutions.

    I can see now that here on my first day on these boards that you all are simply not serious about the challenges the free-thought community face from the outside. You would rather navel gaze and unfairly bash allies over insolvable societal issues.

    I’ll let you all go back to agreeing with each other and find a site that actually allows people to freely express themselves without the fear of being banned for simple disagreement.

    And Stephanie,….Rebecca’s little old “Guys, don’t do that?” struck right at the heart of why so many women are religious,…they feel (for some reason) safer with God-fearing men than with free-thinkers.

    If I didn’t know any better, I would believe that those of you who are magnifying this issue are simply moles. And let’s face it DJ’s concern that these criticisms are simply flaming boards for hits is a valid concern, and it will be proved when he responds with guidelines for the next meeting and the female attendance goes up and you all still wallow here in your own victim-hood. Religious people could not ask for better stooges than you.

    Good luck flamers and hijackers, wish my first time posting on here involved less personal attacks and lazy dismissals so you all could see what an asset I would be to your cause,…that being the Free-Thought cause.

  41. says

    We all know he’ll come out with some regulations that will address the issue for the future and they will be reasonable and effective but you will nit-pick them and by doing so you will have exposed yourself as more interested in flaming the debate than finding solutions.

    I certainly hope so! I even helpfully wrote those regulations for him, if he’s willing to adopt them!

  42. says

    Jason #19:

    KarenX: YES. This is very much an instance of that high school trope where a bully gets in trouble, then blames the bullying victim for “tattling”.

    As someone who was a victim of bullying in school until I pretty much checked out of socializing, I would like to issue a nice, big, hearty FUCK YOU to DJ Grothe for trying to say that the problem is caused by the people reporting rather than the people harassing.

    Can anyone make sure it gets delivered to its intended recipient?

  43. says

    Haven’t we already seen a clear demonstration that pictures of cute animals are far stronger drivers of hits than any discussion of sexism? This isn’t a means to drive traffic. It is an attempt to discuss a valid concern of a sizable portion of the skeptic community.

    And can we finally get past the ridiculous claims that the people that act boorishly have Asperger’s syndrome?

  44. A. Noyd says

    xtog42 (#50)

    Good luck flamers and hijackers, wish my first time posting on here involved less personal attacks and lazy dismissals so you all could see what an asset I would be to your cause,…that being the Free-Thought cause.

    Aaaahahahahahahahahahaha!

  45. says

    Also, why is it that the actions of xtog and other DJpologists appear to resemble the actions of most bullies? False claims, exaggerated narratives, projection, an insistence that we live up to their standards and play by their rules…

    I see it with MRAs, conspiracy theorists, religionists, homophobes, transphobes, right-wingers…and pretty much anyone else who is fantastically wrong.

    And, conveniently, the “rules” we’re supposed to live up to always seem to amount to “we are right until proven otherwise and debate outside of these terms is unacceptable”.

    Intellectual bullies, all of them.

  46. says

    Setár@56: as someone with a pretty much identical scholastic history, I share your hatred of bullies, intellectual or otherwise. That’s pretty well exactly why I’m in this and every other fight.

  47. says

    I think that in addition to harassment policies, the skeptical community could do well with a document on identifying intellectual bullies.

    We need to stop taking people who use these tactics seriously. It’s damn obvious that someone’s not going to change their mind when they frame the entire debate in terms of them being right until proven wrong (and anything else is unfair).

  48. C. Folk says

    Wow. I’m one of those people who occasionally dislikes seeing commenters summarily attacked and dismissed, though tone/language never bothered me. The comments from xtog42 once again have reminded me of the costs that responders may pay when they treat people with generous consideration. LeftSidePositive goes through a fair bit of effort to show why Masakari’s comment was so obnoxious, and gets a dismissive “[g]reat cut and paste job” and a new obnoxious rant as a reply. That is infuriating.

    LeftSidePositive did at least expose xtog42 as a worthless douche, and no doubt affected the perceptions of lurkers as well. When I began taking feminism seriously and learning about male privilege, I rarely commented myself, but benefited as a lurker by seeing my questions, attitudes, and tendencies responded to by feminists. In fact, I still benefit from these discussions, because I’m not perfect at keeping my privilege in mind, and still make mistakes.

    I’ve been following this subject the last few days, and just wanted to say that there are those of us out in lurker-land who appreciate those of you who deal substantively with the ignorant, even if we don’t always thank you as often as we should.

  49. Utakata says

    @Setár & Jason Thibeault:

    I’m not sure I would use the word “intellectual bullies”. They’re bullies for sure…but use a lot of turgid and stupefying words to cover up bad arguements. And they’re trying to be decpetive about it, and not very good at it. You know…

    “Good luck flamers and hijackers, wish my first time posting on here involved less personal attacks and lazy dismissals so you all could see what an asset I would be to your cause,…that being the Free-Thought cause.”

    …making an ad hominem while complaining about ad hominems, as a fine example, lol. That’s not really bright.

    Intellectual suggests intelligence. So would “anti-intellectual bullies” be better suited? Since the difference between them and moronic bullies is really more flowery use of words.

  50. LeftSidePositive says

    @C. Folk: yeah, that’s basically exactly the reason I play whack-a-troll. Most of the time people asking the disingenuous questions are *never* going to be convinced, and I don’t blame people for accurately assessing that and telling them to shove off*. HOWEVER, I realize that to those who are unfamiliar with the trolling tactics, or aren’t familiar with the arguments that we know so well that we can reduce them to a few words (biggest example here would be how much is communicated by the word “privilege” if one is familiar with the concept), can come away confused and look like discussions aren’t being seriously considered. So, I’m a big believer in argue-in-public and argue-for-the-lurkers.

    So, thanks for your kind comment and I hope it continues to be helpful. & If we don’t hear from you, happy lurking :)

    *Actually, this is one of the things that bugged me the most about DJ’s criticisms of Greta Christina a while back, when DJ insisted she was being “unfair” in writing off a troll. No, DJ, it wasn’t “unfair” you’re just watching a master who has much more efficient diagnostic skills than you!

  51. says

    Utakata #60:

    Intellectual suggests intelligence. So would “anti-intellectual bullies” be better suited? Since the difference between them and moronic bullies is really more flowery use of words.

    And potential ableism.

    At any rate, “intellectual” is supposed to refer to the sphere these bullies tend to operate in, the same as with “schoolyard bully”. They also aren’t necessarily anti-intellectual, as one can be an intellectual bully in one facet while getting other things right (there are some Pharyngula regulars who are guilty of this).

    It also refers to how they turn intellectual pursuits into bullying exercises by engaging in debates where defending their position includes acting as judge and jury, and this is supposed to be fair.

    C. Folk #59:

    I’ve been following this subject the last few days, and just wanted to say that there are those of us out in lurker-land who appreciate those of you who deal substantively with the ignorant, even if we don’t always thank you as often as we should.

    This brings to mind another tactic of intellectual bullies: abusing “silence is taken for agreement” by claiming (implicitly, by virtue of stuff like “no one believes you”) that all the lurkers are siding with the bully.

  52. C. Folk says

    @LeftSidePositive:

    I admire your patience. I read threads on several posts in which you amazed me with your thoroughness and responsiveness.

    It occurred to me, after I commented, that I could justifiably be rebuked for not helping to combat ignorance myself. I do stand up against sexism, among other things, in person, but I just am not very good at commenting online. It takes me a long time to write a comment, and I usually just delete it, because it doesn’t seem good enough to post. Anyway, it doesn’t make me a very good ally to always leave it up to others, so I’ll try to put more effort into it in the future (not tonight, though! Must get back to work!).

  53. LeftSidePositive says

    @C. Folk,

    See, my problem is that the “HERE IS WHY YOU’RE WRONG” flashes through my head just about instantaneously, but by the time it gets converted from sodium channel depolarization to actual words, it’s a paragraph or more (per individual point of wrongness! You can see how that adds up!)… and I can’t type as fast as I can think! Oh, well…

    I think you should comment when you feel comfortable to comment, but one thing you can do to be helpful is make liberal use of the “like” function when you’re on a blog that has such a thing. Of course, argument from popularity is a logical fallacy, but dammit, we humans are social creatures, and even if you don’t feel comfortable adding your own comment, it does make those writing them know that they are being noticed and appreciated, it means that the trolls notice that people in general are aware of their dishonesty, and the other well-meaning lurkers feel that their views and sympathies are not marginalized.

    Cheers!

  54. says

    I agree that they should be called intellectual bullies, because they are certainly not physical bullies. It describes their magisterium, not their capabilities.

    C. Folk, I second LeftSidePositive in that you should contribute when and where you feel comfortable. While we could certainly use the assistance, your personal comfort should always come before SIWOTI.

    (This is advice I really need to internalize, honestly.)

  55. Bleeder says

    DJ seems to be inflicting more damage to himself, the JREF, and TAM than anything that preceded his comments.

    As long as I’ve been aware of the skeptical movement and skeptical conferences, I’ve always thought that I’d like to go to TAM some day. But it is a much lower priority today than it was even a year ago. TAM seemed great when there were fewer other options. No more.

    There are too many other apparently good rationalist, freethought, atheist, skeptical, popular-science conferences out there for me to choose TAM, given my finite resources and my finite free time. If I can only go to one or two conferences a year, why should I choose TAM? The JREF hasn’t made a very compelling case lately.

    I don’t even know where to begin. This is in no particular order of importance, and some of these are not specific to the single year decline in female registrants that DJ was trying to address but just reasons why people might choose to avoid TAm in favor of other cons:

    – DJ claimed there had been no incidents of harassment, despite a frequently cited example where he personally intervened to alleviate the situation. Will he admit there was at minimum this one incident or will he contradict the event as recorded by others?

    – DJ claims there is a perception/image/framing problem, thereby setting up TAM/JREF up for a Streisand effect. Is he incompetent, stupid, or delusional?

    – When I go to the JREF website, I see the JREF forums. It is a cesspool of the worst loser-dom this side of the (fictitious) Ayn Rand fanboy sub-sub-reddit of the MRA sub-reddit. JREF forums isn’t the JREF and the JREF isn’t TAM. But it IS all linked, and that is enough for many.

    – The majority of TAMs, including the one in question, occur in Las Vegas, a city which I do not enjoy, and would prefer not to re-visit. Many people do not enjoy Las Vegas. This is a problem for all cons, choosing an attractive city. News-flash for the JREF: many people think Vegas sucks. See the analogy in the previous point, it applies to Las Vegas also.

    – This business of claiming that the problem isn’t the problem, but the people pointing out the problem are the problem IS THE PROBLEM with DJ in this instance.

    – Despite pop-culture sitcom tropes, being gay doesn’t make you a feminist, or even feminism-aware. DJ is proof, apparently. DJ should expect male and female; gay and straight; cis and trans; black, white, green, orange and purple FEMINISTS to get in his face. And he should either deal with it, or admit he does not really care what they have to say. He’s half-way to that position already based on his other writings. If that’s the case then stop messing around and just say so.

    – TAM seems to have married itself to a certain brand of libertarianism by its association with Penn Gillette and other libertarian celebrities. Many skeptics think that some of their political views, repeated as loudly and with as much conviction as religious fundies, are as unfounded in empirical data as dowsing or homeopathy. Such skeptics are not interested in hearing their dogma any more than Randi wants to sit there and listen to Peter Popoff or John Edward.

    – Does DJ have anything to say about what effect, if any, other events scheduled for the same weekend, or larger social or economic trends, may be having on the registry process this time around? It seems that before one jumps to the conclusion that some people’s comments about TAM/JREF are having an effect, one might look at the larger social mileu for trend explanations (i.e. what is registration like at other events of the same time, place, topic, etc.?; does the TAM data match a larger trend or is there evidence of TAM suffering at the hands of other cons?)

  56. echidna says

    Despite pop-culture sitcom tropes, being gay doesn’t make you a feminist, or even feminism-aware. DJ is proof, apparently.

    To my eyes, it would be reasonable to suggest that he doesn’t care for women at all.

    This quote of DJ from the OP rings a false note to my ears:

    So much of that feels to me more like rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers

    Women engaging in locker-room banter? Sorry, but that stereotype seems ill-fitting, unless Australia and the US differ more than I understand (and I lived in the US for several years). If this is how DJ frames women discussing harassment, then I have no interest in anything he is involved in.

  57. says

    Many skeptics think that some of their political views, repeated as loudly and with as much conviction as religious fundies, are as unfounded in empirical data as dowsing or homeopathy.

    That would be because they are, liberturdian dogma (aka “neoliberalism”) has been the rule since 1980 and the result has been everything to the rich and bread and circuses to everyone else — and now it’s become just circuses because the rich have taken all the bread too.

    Politics is no more immune to skepticism than religion is. Please stop perpetuating the narrative that politics can somehow encompass many fact-based disciplines and yet not be based in fact at all.

    It is a cesspool of the worst loser-dom this side of the (fictitious) Ayn Rand fanboy sub-sub-reddit of the MRA sub-reddit. JREF forums isn’t the JREF and the JREF isn’t TAM. But it IS all linked, and that is enough for many.

    Err…on its own this is weak, yes, but how did you not notice that it dovetails nicely with the bit about Penn Jillette?

    And how about how libertarian dogma is literally packaged and concentrated privilege, denying everything from institutionalized racism on down to the mere fact that most rich people are rich by inheritance?

    black, white, green, orange and purple

    Please check your privilege.

  58. Pteryxx says

    especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers

    Yeah, I have a problem with this DJ quote too. Complaining about sexual harassment DOES NOT EQUAL “recounting sexual exploits WITH” anyone. No, that’s another person inflicting sexual exploits upon you. Argh.

  59. Bleeder says

    Setar,

    1) I don’t fit into your neat little privilege narrative, nor do I fit into the title of the url of your link. Thanks for trying. Next time try with a white person. You’ll have better results when the shoe fits, I think.

    2) “Please stop perpetuating the narrative that politics can somehow encompass many fact-based disciplines and yet not be based in fact at all.” I’ve done nothing of the sort. My precise point was that the claims to factual basis and skepticism-foundations of the loudly proclaimed political views of several TAM-associated celebrities are INSUFFICIENTly demonstrated (upon close analysis their claims rely upon as much theory and as little data as most other political platforms) and make TAM less desirable to people who don’t already agree with such views. All skeptics have blind spots and engage in emotion or non-factual thinking from time to time, and political views are probably second only to religion in being a cause for unaligned people to experience revulsion. Their claims to skeptical and factual bases for these positions, despite a lack of robust data to justify such positions, makes them appear rather UNskeptical and thus less attractive of a participant in a supposed skeptical conference. If TAM is going to distance itself from atheism on the grounds that atheism is somehow divisive ideology, then why embrace a political philosophy which is no less divisive?

  60. says

    the (fictitious) Ayn Rand fanboy sub-sub-reddit of the MRA sub-reddit.

    Fictional or not, KILL IT WITH FIRE.

    Libertarianism isn’t based on any sort of fact-based discipline, though. It’s based on faith in the Invisible Hand, where if you laissez-faire everything this imaginary hand-like deity will manipulate things such that the best possible outcome for all parties is magically achieved. This should be skeptically scrutinized, but there are so damn many entitled douchebags in the skeptical and atheistic movements who espouse these faith-based economic/political ideologies that one simply can’t ignore it as irrelevent to the conversation. There simply are people in these movements whose political ideologies have been placed as sacrosanct from their skepticism, much as there are religious skeptics who place their religion as sacrosanct.

  61. says

    I don’t fit into your neat little privilege narrative, nor do I fit into the title of the url of your link. Thanks for trying. Next time try with a white person. You’ll have better results when the shoe fits, I think.

    Being nonwhite is not a get-out-of-privilege-free card; you have still engaged in the criticised behaviour.

    Move to strike as non-responsive.

    I’ve done nothing of the sort.

    Many skeptics think…

    In making the above statement you delegitimize the evidence and arguments against the workability policies espoused by “libertarians” such as Penn Jillette by acting as though they are somehow on an equal level with the pure bullshit supported by such libertarians.

    This is no different than delegitimizing the evidence for evolution by claiming that creationism is an equally valid viewpoint that deserves to be on the same platform as evolution.

    In short, yes, you did. Move to strike as non-responsive.

    My precise point was that the claims to factual basis and skepticism-foundations of the loudly proclaimed political views of several TAM-associated celebrities are INSUFFICIENTly demonstrated

    Then say that rather than waffling by saying “[m]any skeptics think” that.

    …and political views are probably second only to religion in being a cause for unaligned people to experience revulsion.

    And by waffling and saying “[m]any skeptics think…” you are kowtowing to this revulsion and thus perpetuating the myth that politics is above skepticism.

    Move to strike as non-responsive. =/

  62. says

    Jason #72:

    Libertarianism isn’t based on any sort of fact-based discipline, though. It’s based on faith in the Invisible Hand, where if you laissez-faire everything this imaginary hand-like deity will manipulate things such that the best possible outcome for all parties is magically achieved.

    And, as I pointed out above, said faith in the Invisible Hand is simply concentrated privilege that ignores every single marginalization ever, from sex and race right on up to class.

    It is thus unsurprising that most libertarians I have seen are white, staight, cisgender, relatively well-off men.

    There simply are people in these movements whose political ideologies have been placed as sacrosanct from their skepticism, much as there are religious skeptics who place their religion as sacrosanct.

    And yet while there are a huge number of atheist/secularist resources, there are few if any skeptical politics resources.

    This is a massive hole that requires filling. Sadly, I don’t know where to start, otherwise I’d be making suggestions x.x;

  63. says

    Err.

    And yet while there are a huge number of atheist/secularist resources, there are few if any skeptical politics resources.

    Right after I hit submit I realized I should have added to this: there are many skeptics who make very good posts about political issues, but to date I have yet to find a skeptical resource that is exclusively or even primarily devoted to applying skepticism to politics.

    Amanda Marcotte is the best that I can think of. All the other skeptical bloggers I know of that are good with politics place it on the back burner compared to atheism and general skepticism.

  64. karmakin says

    There are also a lot of political bloggers who are also skeptics/nonbelievers, but they tend to focus on the politics and not the skepticism.

    I think, that at the end of the day the tenuous co-existence of the progressive branches and the Libertarian branches simply can’t last. There’s too much difference, too much in terms of different priorities and goals, to really result in a comfortable coalition. For what it’s worth I don’t actually think that has to be the case, except that Big L Libertarianism isn’t the consistent ethos that most adherents claim it is, and it’s simply an exercise in privilege claiming. (Libertarianism focused on increasing individual liberty would understand, as an example, that government intervention and even control of certain things actually increases the freedom of most people. Single-payer health care being the biggest example)

    DJ is stuck in the pit of trying to keep both sides happy, and it simply can’t happen.

  65. BamianBuddhas says

    Yes, Rebecca is painting such a dire picture–of people tackling a problem.

    I can’t see any tackling. No-one from FTB has put forward a single solution or suggestion to the so-called problems raised by Rebecca and others.

    I think the atheist/skeptic community would prefer it if Rebecca, Ophelia, PZ, Jen, Swan, et al, stayed away. Nobody likes you, nobody wants you, and the prevailing view on the JREF forums, the SGU forums, the RDF forums, and virtually every forum outside of FTB is that you are troublemakers, hypocrities, bullies and liars.

    Bugger off.

  66. ischemgeek says

    @ #77

    So, what would you consider ideas for how to solve the problem? Calls to implement good anti-harrassment policies? Done. Discussion about what makes a good anti-harrassment policy? Done. Discussion about how what makes a space “safe” for disadvantaged groups? Done. Discussion about how to make a space safe? Done. Discussion about what women actually want out of the administration fo these conferances, what would make us choose to (or choose not to) go to a place like this? Done.

    Frankly, if you don’t think that people have been proposing ideas about how to solve it, you haven’t been paying attention.

    Finally, pointing out that a problem exists is good on its own when there are those who allege that because they don’t have any record of something happening, it’s not a problem, even though there’s ample evidence that sexual assault and harrassment is hugely under-reported (and, in at least one case, one incident that definitely did occur and was reported was for some reason apparently not recorded).

  67. says

    Funny thing, BamianBuddhas. I have, in fact, offered solutions. They’re even being implemented. So that little “prevailing view” of yours isn’t based in any kind of evidence. At the same time, the state of the various skeptical and atheist fora are being cited as one of the reasons women don’t feel welcome at events. So congratulations on being part of the problem, being dead wrong, and invoking an argument from popularity while you do it. Also for being incapable of spelling my name when it’s right in front of you.

    You’ve really covered yourself with glory here.

  68. says

    What’s with the assumption that we need to do all the homework for these organizations anyway? While at the same time defending someone who says that women should just report the incidents and then not talk about it for fear it might send the wrong idea to other attendees?

  69. says

    Deen, in a lot of ways, this is a young movement with young organizations and young leadership. A lot of these activists haven’t come from mature industries into the work they’re doing now. Doing some homework to help them professionalize is a worthwhile bit of volunteering, in my opinion.

  70. says

    Hey…so…I know I’m late to the party, but is it just me or does the statement “I don’t feel safe there” really not qualify for a burden of proof? I mean…if someone doesn’t feel safe, then you’ve got room for improvement.

  71. says

    @Stephanie Zvan in #81: Oh, I agree. But the keyword is volunteering. What I was objecting to were the repeated demands for solutions, like the one in #77. Since when was solving an issue a requirement for bringing it up?

  72. says

    @Ben Zvan in #83: didn’t you get the memo? “Feelings” are unscientific and can’t be brought up in any rational argument.

    I really don’t like hyperskepticism.

  73. John D says

    Deen – Feelings are real. This is not the claim.

    The claim is that there is a real difference between an actual level of threat and the “feeling” of the level of threat.

    An interesting example of this is the current trend for Americans to think crime is worse than ever. Most Americans think this. This is, of course, not true. Crime of all types is lower now than it has been in several decades. This shows the difference between perceived threats and actual threats.

    DJ is making a point of the phenomena. Part of his claim is that registration may be down because of a perception that TAM is are “very” dangerous event. There is NO evidence that TAM is a particularity dangerous event compared to other similar conventions. There is no evidence that TAM is particularly risky, but many people could perceive it that way (due to the level of discussion regarding TAM and “risk”).

    Making people “feel” safe is a very different challenge than actually making them safe.

  74. says

    John D, there is no evidence that registration is down at TAM because anyone is perceiving it as a “‘very’ dangerous event”. Would you care to go lecture D.J. on his ability to analyze the actual level of threat to his event before he starts blaming people?

  75. Timid Atheist says

    DJ is making a point of the phenomena. Part of his claim is that registration may be down because of a perception that TAM is are “very” dangerous event.

    May be down. He doesn’t know that for sure, he has no proof backing that claim up. That is simply his opinion.

  76. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    There is NO evidence that TAM is a particularity dangerous event compared to other similar conventions

    There’s also NO EVIDENCE that people talking about the problem of sexual harrassment is why female attendance dropped for TAM.

    I’m sure there’s still some way you can make this all Rebecca, Stephanie and/or Greta’s fault, right?

  77. Janus says

    As a white man, in my late teens I would have agreed with the comments of many of the anti-women idiots posting here. Then I actually had interactions with women who were sexually assaulted, harassed, or inappropriately approached or touched. These ranged from date rape to work harassment to subway groping experienced by people I loved. At first, hearing women “rage” against these things and women using the word “male privilege” really upset me for some reason.

    Then I realized I’d never be able to truly understand their experiences myself, and that maybe I should just trust them about how they feel. That the onus doesn’t fall on women to guard themselves everywhere, vigilantly document and report every transgression they face, and calmly explain their feelings in a way that won’t insult my sensibilities. It took a while to realize how screwed up the general reaction to these things is. And how women are constantly forced to “walk on eggshells” in how to react and respond to these terrible events in addition to living in a society where these things happen.

  78. Janus says

    Also, if I can sum up what happened for any dummos who aren’t clear or misinterpreting things:

    1) Several female bloggers in the skeptical/atheist communities talked about their experience of feeling like conferences are not entirely safe and friendly places for women. Many with specifics including lewd comments, propositions, groping, etc. Extra lamentation it sucks they don’t feel safe in a community they love.

    2) Responses from (mostly) men that their feelings and comments are overblown. Some lightly critical, others being actual threats of rape and death.

    3) Female bloggers commenting on how gross the response was to their reasonable concerns.

    4) Responses from mostly men about how dumb and “sexist” it is there is now a large discussion about women’s issues. Continuing on about how it’s all a dumb flame war driven by women.

    5) Female bloggers continuing to comment on the uncalled for negative reactions and the larger implications.

    6) Unverified claims that women bringing to light the problems, continuing to “harp” on them, and doing so over a number of months has ruined women’s impressions of the conferences and communities. Complete disregard of the fact that the women’s experiences are real, that many men’s reactions were grossly misogynist, and that maybe just maybe a woman with these experiences should be consulted before jumping to any blanket statements.

  79. Matt Penfold says

    Janus,

    Other than that there are men who totally “get it”, you have it spot on.

  80. The Pint says

    Janus @ #92 – that pretty much sums it up, although I’d add to point #1 that it’s not just about the grossness of dealing with lewd comments or propositions or groping and how it makes women feel unsafe – it’s also feeling unsafe because women aren’t sure if they’ll be met with support if they report any of those things in the first place. The comments, the groping and so forth – it’s still awful to deal with, but I would still regard a con as a “safe space” even if I experienced some of that treatment so long as I was confident that if I reported it, the con organizers would listen to me, deal with it appropriately and make sure the incident was recorded for future reference, rather than make me feel that reporting said instances were the actual problem and I was making it worse by doing so.

  81. Eliott says

    I’ m not psychic but let me make some predictions,
    - someone is going to say something deemed inappropriate to the wrong person at an event and a physical altercation is going to occur that will lead to a lawsuit
    - someone is going to get sued for harrassment
    - someone is going to get sued for inappropriately investigating harrassment
    - someone is going to get sued for divulging information that should have been protected
    Those being sued will be the organizers, the organizations the individuals are with and the individuals themselves.
    Let me ask the rhetorical why do I think this…
    - we live in litigious times
    - someone is going to make a point
    - the belief that a policy will indemnify the groups
    - this is an extremely complicated issue that in many cases is being misrepresented…there is a huge difference between harrassment in the workplace and what many on the blogs are calling harrassment. I am not condoning horrific boorish behavior anywhere, in fact the exact opposite and promise if it occurred around me I would stop it immediately. I believe we have made some great first steps in identifying the issues but to get this process where it needs to be will take more effort on everyone’s part…or a huge lawsuit.

  82. Janus says

    @93 Yeah, totally. I didn’t mean that all men are clueless, but that those insisting women are stealing their rights or whatever bullshit are usually dudes. Certainly not all dudes.

    @94 Definitely forgot the part about reporting and being taken seriously. I left off talking about that for space. But the whole berating women for how, when, why, and such of reporting these transgressions is so ridiculous. “Oh you didn’t report it in whatever way in hindsight is best? Well you’re SOL.”

    I was floored the first time I talked to some female friends in college about dudes groping, propositioning, being lewd to them at school, work, etc. and how they just kind of learned to deal with it. Saying something often means tons of paperwork, being scrutinized, reliving the event, co-workers calling you a “bitch,” people saying it didn’t happen that way—and then sometimes a discussion of was what you were wearing “appropriate”? did you flirt with him? what did you say to ward him off? Unless it’s super super bad, they would just deal with it on their own. Certainly the problem is with these women and not misogynists.

    Another reason it was crap for DJ to basically say, “Well such and such a b.s. survey that some people may have filled out or not or whatever says something else from what some women experienced. Huh, them bitches be kray.”

  83. says

    Delurking on this, simply to voice support for the Rebecca/Stephanie view.

    I think the point has been well made that this situation is less about Rebecca and Jen’s public statements on safety and more about the year-long cavalcade of crazy faced by those women who stood up against inappropriate behaviour by convention-goers. It has brought a lot of sexists out of the woodwork, blinking in the daylight. So should we be surprised that the result is women feeling that conventions like TAM are not entirely friendly towards them?

    I hope DJ grasps this. It’s less about the statements by some feminists and more about an online world where douchebags strut about preening and displaying their privilege while screaming at the ladies. Many of these guys are convention-goers–at least enough of them to foul-up women’s perceptions of the events themselves.

    The solution has many dimensions. Anti-harassment protocols at conventions are a big part of educating those guys who haven’t yet ‘got it’. But there’s also the online grassroots that needs to be tackled too. If the perception is that JREF is a sexist slimepit, then maybe that needs more robust moderation.

  84. Cara says

    And Stephanie,….Rebecca’s little old “Guys, don’t do that?” struck right at the heart of why so many women are religious,…they feel (for some reason) safer with God-fearing men than with free-thinkers.

    What.

  85. says

    There is NO evidence that TAM is a particularity dangerous event compared to other similar conventions

    Conventions in general are not necessarily safe places to begin with. Steps need to be taken to make them so; such as clear harassment policies, proactive and well-trained staff, and clear and efficient reporting procedures.

    The fact that known incidents have not been on report, despite conference staff and even DJ himself being involved, shows that the reporting procedures of TAM could do with some improvement.
    DJ’s original statement, that he was unaware of any reports, speak not to how safe a place TAM is, but to the laxity of the procedures.

    I think the proper approach here, and the one I hope DJ takes, is to conclude that the reporting procedures are inadequate and take steps to correct that. In the meantime, the lack of reports is irrelevant, since it doesn’t speak to the number of actual incidents.
    Beyond that I hope that he thinks a bit more before speaking in the future. He seems to have an unfortunate tendency to talk shit. I’ve heard far more irresponsible accusations from him than from any of the bloggers he criticized.

  86. LeftSidePositive says

    There is NO evidence that TAM is a particularity dangerous event compared to other similar conventions.

    To which I say:

  87. echidna says

    xtog42:

    [women] feel (for some reason) safer with God-fearing men than with free-thinkers.

    I guess you have never been accosted by a Catholic priest (like I have), or you would never dream of saying this.

    Religious people have a mechanism to deal with guilt that’s pure fantasy – and allows them free reign to do what they like. They can always be “washed clean”.

  88. echidna says

    If the perception is that JREF is a sexist slimepit, then maybe that needs more robust moderation.

    I don’t think that this is the case. But Grothe is causing further damage with every comment he makes.

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