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Jul 12 2012

I Hate to Say, “I Told You So” (Updated)

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when that’s exactly what I want to say. This just isn’t one of them. Cassandra is not my favorite role.

Back when I wrote a post asking for clarification that TAM would have a harassment policy for this year, I got jumped on. The second comment:

Why on Earth would JREF not have an anti-harassement policy, if they have had one last year? What makes you think they will ditch it this year, and in the years to come?

Another comment, from someone who generally agrees with me:

It’s ridiculous to think TAM won’t be having an anti-harassment policy in place for future Meetings. Grothe may currently be suffering from a severe case of foot in mouth but I see no reason to think he’d block the continuation of an anti-harassment policy. What reason would he have? He’s made it clear, whatever his other faults, he does want a policy in place and that it is a point of pride for him that they (TAM) were among the first to have a policy in place.

Then there were those people who decided I was trying to ruin TAM:

Emery: Wendell, let me be very clear as we wrap up that point. What I want to say very very very loudly is: this is the problem. This is the fundamental problem. There’s so much misinformation about DJ. There’s so much information about JREF, and what they did in light of the discussion, that it’s insidious. It’s almost religious-eque, and it’s really pissing me off. And it makes me embarrassed for my community. And by that, I mean the skeptical and the atheistic community. It really really bothers me.

Wendell: I’d like to make one question in the harassment policy category, and we won’t go into the speaker-no-sex part because that was part of the power thing we aren’t going to agree on. But it does strike me as odd, that with all this going on, that they don’t have a public—to my knowledge, you all can correct me if I’m wrong—they haven’t published a policy for the TAM that’s happening in three weeks? Four weeks? They haven’t talked about it, they haven’t published it. It seems to me, if I was them, I’d be putting that out front.

Travis: BJ, I mean DJ, did post a link to last year’s policy, and said they would have a similar or equal policy to last year.

Wendell: Where did it say that, because I think—

Travis: It was said on one of his comments somewhere—

Wendell: Where’d it say that. Every comment I’ve read, he’s referred to last year’s policy. He hasn’t said that this year’s will be the same.

Travis: Well, I think part of the reason is that they’re working on the new policy.

Now, I did say that I might be interpreting D.J.’s wording badly, but apparently that didn’t matter just then. It certainly doesn’t matter now, not after this comment:

Speaking of various policies at conferences, I just checked in to a big one (which shall remain nameless, to me), here where I just drove to, in Las Vegas for this weekend.
I had been assuming that they would have a policy that they would hand out at registration, or that their web site would be updated with one today. No such luck. I got my badge,with a nice holder. I got a conference schedule. I got a beautiful full-color booklet with various welcome messages and speaker bios. I even got the included t-shirt. But no policies.
It did say that the welcome gathering at the bar right now is not an official evert of the conference. Although I did see the executive director there talking with people.
The brochure did also mention that the private party this weekend is also not an official event.

And the brochure did assure me that the organization does want this to be a nice experience for everyone, and that they want things to be good. Sorry I don’t have the wording in front of me now.

Anyway, I plan to try to get my money’s worth of enjoyment out of the meeting. Maybe buy some more Surly-Ramics. But I’m no longer expecting to go back in future years. A shame. Particularly as there had been no connection between this conference and any current discussions on policies until its exec director chose to bring up his specific conference for no specific reason. Enough said. Sorry for bringing it up again. Never mind.

I’ve confirmed this with a number of people who are at the conference. I’ve confirmed as well that this isn’t a matter of last year’s statement on the subject looking anemic after all the discussion about robust policies. An just as I was ready to post this, I received pictures of the brochure (missing the cover and thanks pages), which are posted below. I don’t have time to convert the text for the visually impaired, but I’ll work on that later, if no one helpfully puts it in the comments. [ETA: Thanks to Palle, the text for all these is in the comments.]

A Message from Our Founder

Dear Amazing Skeptic

About the JREF and TAM

There really is less (if anything) in place this year than last for a public anti-harassment policy at TAM. And that sucks, even if I did tell you so.

Update: According to one tweet, volunteers at TAM did receive training this year on how to handle harassment complaints. This isn’t something people should have to find through a tweet on the hashtag, but at least it’s something.

80 comments

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  1. 1
    julian

    Second comment is mine and boy do I feel like an ass.

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    Don’t. I had to work hard to get to the point where I wrote the post at all. :p

  3. 3
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I honestly don’t understand. Does the spite run so deep they’re willing to abandon a policy they once prided themselves on, just to say fuck you Stephanie, fuck you Rebecca, fuck you Ophelia, fuck you Amy? Really? Really? What possible profit is in this for them?

    Jesus Christ.

  4. 4
    smhll

    Is there a word missing from your next to last sentence?

    (I did notice that when this issue came up, DJ used past tense to talk about last year’s policy and didn’t say anything about what was then this years upcoming conference.)

  5. 5
    Palle Raabjerg

    Here’s a transcription of D.J. Grothe’s intro. Punctuation might be slightly off, and it’s possible for typos to occur.
    I’ll do the rest momentarily. Wont take long.

    “Dear Amazing Skeptic,

    A hearty welcome to the Amazing Meeting 2012, themed Skepticism and the Future! This is our tenth TAM in Las Vegas, and our fourteenth TAM so far, stretching back over seventeen years of JREF’s skeptical education, activism, and community building. And this year, we look to the future with a skeptical eye, asking questions about the future of the skeptics movement, claims surrounding future technology, and various failed ways our cultural competitors have tried to predict the future, often with harmful results.

    So, why are we here? What makes TAM special? This annual gathering of critical thinkers is the largest of its kind in the world. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to make like-minded friends, enjoy some of the brightest minds on issues important to us, and leave with tools for spreading a helpful and skeptical message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief. TAM Vegas 2012 is like a vacation from the nonsense we confront every day and a time to celebrate skepticism. For some, it is like a skeptics’ family reunion. One of my favorite things about TAM is that it is a great chance to have important arguments like only skeptics can.

    I think a major motivation for going to TAM is that skeptics care deeply about people, and they know that when people believe in nonsense, they often get hurt. And at TAM we explore ways to fight back. This is central to the mission of the James Randi Educational Foundation: Randi has been fighting the fakers for decades, and the JREF works to continue and expand that impact. We all travel to Vegas for a few days every year because we want to work together to fight against the “woo woo” as Randi calls it.

    Our program for TAM 2012 is excellent, and we couldn’t put on such a big event without the support of our sponsors, including the Skeptics Society, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Surly Ramics, and the SGU, and through the ongoing support of the John W. Carson Foundation. And hundreds of folks are attending this year for the first time, including dozens who have received generous grants from our supporters–big thanks to the JREF Forum, Surly-Ramics, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for this help. Please welcome all of the new faces to our happy throng!

    Also, be sure to say hi to the JREF team while you’re here, and learn about our new educational projects and outreach programs. We look forward to enjoying an amazing time with you over the next four days.

    Sincerely,
    D.J. Grothe
    President

    P.S.: Keep in contact with us during the event by tweeting at us @jref, the hashtag for the conference is #tam2012″

  6. 6
    eurosid

    @Josh
    How else do you explain it? How else CAN you explain it?

    Could this be an oversight? Hard to believe that with all the fire fights around this issue. Very hard to believe.

    Looks like a choice has been made. Looks like a statement has been made.

    Thanks for clearing it up, DJ.

  7. 7
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I thought that DJ was trying to keep things focussed on “evidence” and last year’s policy was in evidence. This seemed consistent with the hyper-skepticism (what? There exist instances of guys being jerks to women? And that gender stereotypes and sexism play roles in how that gendered jerkiness plays out? Not only that, but some of this gendered jerkiness is directly related to sexual topics? Impossible! Pics or it didn’t happen!) in his posts.

    I had nothing to say on your “hope” that there would still be a policy this year. I agreed, but I didn’t initially see that much reason to believe that there wouldn’t be one. Later, when things got so ugly that I thought that there might not be one, I had forgotten your original mentioning of this possibility, Stephanie. I may even have thought that the thought was born out of my own brain. (My ladybrainz – so confused!)

    I’m glad you brought this back. heavens to mergetroid, this just sucks.

  8. 8
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I honestly don’t understand. Does the spite run so deep they’re willing to abandon a policy they once prided themselves on, just to say fuck you Stephanie, fuck you Rebecca, fuck you Ophelia, fuck you Amy? Really? Really? What possible profit is in this for them?

    Yes, because it’s much, much more important to show that those uppity women can’t tell him what to do. Don’t matter how many people they’Re throwing under the bus, because bitches ain’t shit.

    And it will be a 100% harassment free con, cause, hey, who’d be stupid enough to report anything anyway, apart from lack of protocol.

  9. 9
    Palle Raabjerg

    Here’s the mission statement and stuff:

    “THE JREF MISSION

    We promote critical thinking by reaching out to the public and media with reliable information about paranormal and supernatural ideas, which are widespread in our society today.

    ABOUT THE JREF

    The James Randi Educational Foundation was founded in 1996 to help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. The JREF offers a still unclaimed million-dollar reward for anyone who can produce evidence of paranormal abilities under controlled conditions. Through scholarships, workshops and innovative resources for educators, the JREF works to inspire this investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers.

    We need your help to create a world where everyone has access to the tools of science and critical thinking, and charlatans can’t get rich by deceiving people. You can make a difference by becoming a contributor, taking action with us to stop paranormal and pseudoscientific frauds, and joining us every year at The Amazing Meeting, the world’s premier gathering of skeptical thinkers.

    ABOUT TAM

    The Amazing Meeting (TAM) began when members of the JREF’s online forum community had the idea for a small gathering in Ft. Lauderdale. When more than 150 guests showed up for the first TAM in 2003, we knew we’d hit on something special.

    Since then, the JREF has sponsored more than a dozen such meetings, including Amazing Meetings in London, England, and Sydney, Australia. Through our ongoing conference-at-sea program Amazing Adventures. We have presented educational sessions on cruises to the Bermuda Triangle, Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, and the eastern Caribbean, with more planned for the future. In recent years, TAM has grown to well more than 1.000 attendees.

    We are proud to bring you talks, panels, and workshops featuring some of the brightest and most engaging people in science and skepticism. But the best thing about TAM is still the community and camaraderie. You’re in the company of hundreds of other people who prefer the world the way it really is real.

    To get the most out of TAM, introduce yourself to as many of these outstanding people as you can, and join the conversation online by using these QR codes.”

  10. 10
    'Tis Himself

    Grothe doesn’t believe in half-measures when he’s carrying a grudge.

  11. 11
    Palle Raabjerg

    And Randi’s intro. All done.
    I’m not sure how important these are, since it’s the stuff that’s missing that seems to be interesting. But I guess they’re good to have anyway.

    “A MESSAGE FROM OUR FOUNDER…

    Welcome to The Amazing Meeting 2012! Whether this is your first time or you’re a veteran TAMmer, we’re very pleased to have you as our guest. TAM provides a rare opportunity to not only meet some of the biggest names in science and skepticism, but also make potentially lifelong friendships with like-minded folks who believe that critical thinking can be used to change the world. During our four favorite days in the desert, we’ll discuss and debate the issues most important to skeptics, with a special focus on the future: where we are headed, as a movement and as a species.

    TAM veterans know the drill, but for those who are wandering these strange carpeted halls for the first time, please don’t hesitate to stop me to introduce yourself and offer a handshake or a hug…especially a hug! Whether I’m browsing the exhibitor tables, carrying a plate of broiled (not fried!) flounder, or signing a book, I’m always ready to meet a new friend or say hello to a familiar face.

    TAM is also a time to celebrate the important work of the James Randi Educational Foundation and of skeptical activists around the world. As you know, for the past six decades I’ve been investigating claims of the paranormal and challenging those who claim to have supernatural powers, putting my money where their mouths are. Since the JREF first offered up its million-dollar prize–more than 16 years ago–to anyone who could show us his or her stuff, not one has successfully demonstrated any paranormal ability. This has brought international attention to our exposure of charlatans and swindlers, which, in turn, has promoted a better understanding of the reasons people accept these unbelievable and harmful claims. We hope you’ll get more involved with the JREF’s work for science and skepticism when you return home.

    Before I go, one more thought: The James Randi Educational Foundation could not exist, nor could The Amazing Meeting, without your support. Thank you for supporting our work so we can continue to defend reason and fight dangerous superstition.

    And we’re off!
    James Randi”

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    A big round of applause for Palle!

  13. 13
    Ophelia Benson

    Stephanie (and all) check out the slogan on Harriet Hall’s T shirt -

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/07/boy-am-i-glad-im-not-in-las-vegas/

    It’s a big ol’ spitefest in Vegas this year, baby.

  14. 14
    MichaelD

    Ah well that’s ok. Saves me the trouble of finding the time and money to attend TAM in the future. I’d call it a loss but there are lots of other conferences and conventions to attend.

  15. 15
    julian

    I’d call it a loss but there are lots of other conferences and conventions to attend.

    Here! Here!

  16. 16
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    They’re not actually a skeptical organization, they are a bunch of self-involved clowns who go after the low-hanging fruit of easily-debunked ghost claims in order to feel superior to society at large, and then extend that “superiority” to all aspects of their lives in order to not have to critically examine their own behavior. Lots of libertarians in that crowd obviously, since that’s a common place where massive self-regard and huge blind spots meet.

    Not a dime or a bit of attention from me, when there are organizations that are about something more than money and ego.

  17. 17
    screechymonkey

    But I don’t understand! I was assured that “policies remain in place until they are repealed! [fist shake]“

  18. 18
    Sili

    I honestly don’t understand. Does the spite run so deep they’re willing to abandon a policy they once prided themselves on, just to say fuck you Stephanie, fuck you Rebecca, fuck you Ophelia, fuck you Amy? Really? Really? What possible profit is in this for them?

    They’ve discovered a niche market that just lurrrves conferences with no harassment policies. Since “women were down”, they’re catering to the letches instead.

  19. 19
    xtog42

    This just shows how marginal the sexism derail crowd of trolls are among the world atheist movement. The TAM crowd is no more sexist than any other crowd, despite the whining otherwise.

    Why fix something that is not broken? TAM just does not need you, nor does the atheist/freethought world. The movement was cruising along before you came and will do so if you leave.

    Want to talk about social justice? Then how about talking about the discrimination of atheists and the privilege of religious people. Want to talk about other social justice issues? Go somewhere else.

    Why should TAM appease a crowd that goes out of its way to publicly demean them by making stuff up, failing to recognize how much they have done concerning sexism and generating base-less outrage against them?

    TAM administrators aren’t stupid, nor are they about to allow themselves to be bullied by insatiable hysterical malcontents.

    BRAVO TAM! Carry On and leave the panic stricken derailing sexism trolls behind. In the fight against religious privilege we cannot be distracted by other issues, especially insolvable ones like sexism at conferences.

    If religious people wanted to derail the atheist movement, they could not have done better than create the phony sexism in atheism issue. Watson and her dupes are helping no one, and harming their allies while using the same old tired and untrue arguments about the immorality of the freethought crowd that religious people have used to attack atheists for centuries.

    Gee, I wonder why atheists are so sensitive to such attacks? All we said is Guys don’t do that. Yeah and all we are saying is take your unjustified and ignorant demands to those who deserve them,…religious bigots.

  20. 20
    Brad

    Closest I could find to addressing the issue on the TAM website was on their FAQ page:

    How does JREF handle safety concerns?

    The Amazing Meeting, while a private event, is held at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, which is open to the public. The safety of our attendees and speakers is a priority. If an attendee encounters a problem within the conference area, they should report the situation to TAM staff or hotel security. JREF has also engaged an independent consultant on these issues, with decades of experience handling security, boundary and safety concerns, to assist us in dealing with any matters should they arise at the event.

  21. 21
    carlie

    Jeez, that bit that Brad quoted sounds like it’s geared towards incidents like tripping over a badly-placed ottoman.

  22. 22
    Pierce R. Butler

    An anti-red-print-on-yellow-paper-for-crysakes policy is urgently needed too. Ouch!

  23. 23
    Deen

    It did say that the welcome gathering at the bar right now is not an official evert of the conference. Although I did see the executive director there talking with people.
    The brochure did also mention that the private party this weekend is also not an official event.

    Wow. So anything that happens at these non-official events that TAM organized is now no longer their responsibility? Because they’ve just declared them to be unofficial? I wonder if they got legal advice on that. Either way, it doesn’t make this party sound more welcoming.

  24. 24
    Jafafa Hots

    Xtog has me convinced. TAM does not need me and I do not need it.

  25. 25
    Jessa

    carlie:

    Jeez, that bit that Brad quoted sounds like it’s geared towards incidents like tripping over a badly-placed ottoman.

    I disagree. If you trip and hurt yourself, virtually all places have paperwork that is required to be completed so that there is an official record. Unlike harassment at TAM, if last year is any guide.

  26. 26
    karmakin

    @Deen: That’s a massive red flag to me as well.

  27. 27
    Jafafa Hots

    My father is NOT a feminist.
    I remember him telling me he didn’t approve of MLK because he thinks people should “work within the system.” He hates protestors, hates government, loves corporations, thinks they only do wrong when gvt. forces them to, thinks people who complain should “do something productive” etc.

    Typical conservative.

    I mentioned the harassment policy issue and the furor to him and his response was “how do they even get insurance for these events?”

    He has worked for insurance companies, considers them basically victims of the government, serves on the board of a fraternal that issues insurance and also has non-related conventions each year that get tens of thousands of attendants.

    He was simply astonished that ANY organization could possibly have an event without policies in place.
    “Do they even have a lawyer? Somebody’s asleep at the switch. How did they even manage to get that big?” were the kind of comments he had.

    This from a 78 year white old man bordering on a libertarian/tea party brew in his views.

    When a guy who has probably actually used the word “feminazi” seriously can see the problem, you have to be deliberately blinkered to miss it.

  28. 28
    julian

    I too have had my desire to never attend a skeptical event like TAM reinforced. It’s obvious the concerns of the skeptic/atheist community don’t even touch on mine so it can go fuck itself royally.

  29. 29
    Eristae

    @xtog42

    If you don’t need or want us at TAM, then don’t whine when we aren’t there. Seriously. You can EITHER flip out at the drop in female attendance at TAM (as DJ did), OR you can declare that you don’t want those women who don’t fit into your box (as you are doing).

    Pick one.

  30. 30
    Wha Happenin?

    I sure hope the local police have stocked up on rape examination kits. They are, unfortunately, going to need a bunch before TAM is over.

  31. 31
    AndrewV69

    [Troll Alert!]

    Sounds like natural selection in action.

    Those who like being harassed and those who like to do so, will go.
    Those who do not care for either, will not go.

    Sounds like a win/win/win situation.

    [/Troll Alert!]

  32. 32
    Stephanie Zvan

    And you slimepitters suggest that we’re the ones who claim everything is rape.

  33. 33
    Jason Thibeault

    FFS. @30 and @31, making shit up is only cool if you have no vested interest in, you know, reality. Thanks for showing your stripes though.

  34. 34
    Stephanie Zvan

    Thank you, Palle. I hate leaving pictures without the text.

  35. 35
    AndrewV69

    @#32,

    And you slimepitters suggest that we’re the ones who claim everything is rape.

    I assume that was meant at me? Well in my case I assumed that #30 was trolling, hence my attempt at humor/trolling always includes the [Troll Alert tag.

    Hmmmm… that implies you think #30 is serious?

  36. 36
    Stephanie Zvan

    Ophelia, oh, FFS.

    julian, we’re part of the skeptic/atheist community too. Don’t forget that.

  37. 37
    Stephanie Zvan

    It implies that I think #30 is trying to fuck with this comment thread.

  38. 38
    Utakata

    @xtog42

    “Want to talk about social justice? Then how about talking about the discrimination of atheists and the privilege of religious people. Want to talk about other social justice issues? Go somewhere else.”

    Oh pluh-ease. This is TAM for crying out loud, not the athiest version of the Republican National Convention. Why don’t you go somewhere else?

  39. 39
    AndrewV69

    @#37,

    It implies that I think #30 is trying to fuck with this comment thread.

    Entirely possible. In other news (washington post):

    Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/do-atheists-have-a-sexual-harassment-problem/2012/07/12/gJQAnMIAgW_story.html

    Officials for The Amazing Meeting, or TAM, said Wednesday (July 11) that women would make up 31 percent of the 1,200 conference attendees, down from 40 percent the year before. A month before the conference, pre-registration was only 18 percent women, organizers said.

  40. 40
    Samantha Vimes

    Certainly, when a conference decides to withdraw anti-harassment policies, it does seem to be greenlighting boorish behavior, and should expect a drop in female attendance… followed by a drop in attendance by men who were actually hoping for female company rather than a Get Rid Of Stinky girlS clubhouse.

  41. 41
    SallyStrange

    Want to talk about social justice? Then how about talking about the discrimination of atheists and the privilege of religious people. Want to talk about other social justice issues? Go somewhere else.

    Intersectionality.

    See, the thing is, once you start talking about any kind of discrimination, you automatically start talking about all kinds of discrimination.

    Talking about discrimination against atheists and religion privilege inevitably leads to talking about how religion justifies discrimination against LGBT folks. Or women. And then you can’t help but start making analogies to discrimination against people of color.

    And indeed, there is a science and a body of research around how discrimination functions. If you’re a skeptic, and you want to talk about how religious privilege functions in the real world, you must reference that body of work, or else you won’t be talking about reality. If you want to talk about discrimination without talking about the academic and scientific research, you only reveal your own ignorance, willful or otherwise.

    It’s completely illogical to want a conversation about discrimination and privilege, but to restrict it to only one type of privilege.

    It makes more sense, if you don’t want to talk about sexism or racism or other forms of discrimination, to just not have that conversation altogether. Stick to Bigfoot and chupacabras and ghosts.

    So which do you prefer, xtog?

  42. 42
    brucemartin

    Just for completeness, here is the text from the start of the official four-page printed schedule:
    “Wednesday, July 11, 9-11 pm
    Drinking Skeptically
    Join your fellow skeptics at the South Point’s Del Mar Lounge for this unofficial TAM kick off. Please note: This is an open event in a public area of the hotel and is not an official part of TAM.”

    If my only context were that of a straight white male whose Pilgrim ancestors stepped off the Mayflower in 1620 (all true), I would have thought this was all great stuff. But in the context of having lurked on a few blogs for the past couple of years, it seems to me to be highlighting that it is intentional policy to turn a blind eye to things that might happen, and to make it clear to all potential attendees that a blind eye will be kept.

    I wonder what it will be useful for me to say in the written feedback form at the end of TAM on Sunday? I’m tempted to just write “goodbye forever”, but I think I will try to explain it to them again there, and maybe Randi will feel like making changes.

  43. 43
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Thank you, Palle Raabjerg

    xtog42

    This just shows how marginal the sexism derail crowd of trolls are among the world atheist movement. The TAM crowd is no more sexist than any other crowd, despite the whining otherwise.

    Head->desk
    Who said otherwise. Only sadly most crowds are fucking sexist.

    Why fix something that is not broken? TAM just does not need you, nor does the atheist/freethought world. The movement was cruising along before you came and will do so if you leave.

    Face->palm
    So, you think that sexism in general society is nothing to worry about, no problem?
    Gosh, I think that 1 in 4 college students being raped is just OK then, why fix something that isn’t broken?
    Guess that all that groping is Ok then, I mean, I wouldn’t suffer more of it at TAM than at a stupid concert, why fix something that isn’t broken.
    So, if TAM doesn’T need us, tell DJ to stop whining about lower female attendance. You can have it back as a white boys club.

  44. 44
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Crossposted from Pharyngula:
    A little funny math:
    There are 1200 people at TAM now. 31% of them are women
    There were 1672 people at TAM last year, 40% women
    There are 472 people less at TAM this year than there were last year.
    There were 668 women at TAM last year
    There are 371 women at TAM this year
    There are 297 women less at TAM this year

    There were 1004 men at TAM last year
    There are 829 men at TAM this year
    There are 175 men less at TAM this year

    Male attendance at TAM dropped by 11.9%
    Female attendance dropped by 45,4%

    And it’s all the fault of Stephanie, Ophelia and Rebecca

  45. 45
    rorschach

    And it’s all the fault of Stephanie, Ophelia and Rebecca

    Personally, I blame Ashley Miller.

  46. 46
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Personally, I blame Ashley Miller.

    I think there are enough of them around, we can all have our personal scapegoat.

  47. 47
    The very model of a modern armchair general

    TAM veterans know the drill, but for those who are wandering these strange carpeted halls for the first time, please don’t hesitate to stop me to introduce yourself and offer a handshake or a hug…especially a hug!

    Raised eyebrow.

  48. 48
    William Brinkman

    I was going to write a TAM “Tweet from the Future” where DJ Grothe announces, “No Rebecca, no harassment policy.” It was going to be a joke. So I’m a bit stunned that he actually went through with it.

    Now I have to wonder if the free shuttle to the brothels tweet I was planning will come true as well. ;)

  49. 49
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Called it.

    I actually felt like this has been intentional. Rather than deal with harassment, their very libertarian solution was to drive away people who were least likely to go along with harassment, and create an atmosphere with no written policy and a “shadow” policy where victims of harassment and worse know they will get no support from JREF. So the people who do show up know they are on their own, and won’t make too big of a stink when someone assaults them.

    But FtB is to blame. And Rebecca Watson, always Rebecca Watson.

  50. 50
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I actually felt like this has been intentional.

    This cannot be accidential. I mean, you can’t miss accidentially the one thing you talked about lots and everybody will look at

  51. 51
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Giliell, I don’t just mean the retraction of the anti-harassment policy and the not-subtle “socialize at your own risk” bit. I mean the whole thing from the first “finger-pointing at those pesky women for talking about harassment that totally never happens because DJ didn’t write it down” incident. The way they completely blindsided FtB and Skepchick both with what seems to be a fairly concerted effort to marginalize and scapegoat ahead of what is obviously a major loss of participation in TAM.

    And aren’t we done giving the benefit of the doubt to people who at best interpret things in the worst light, and at worse are intentionally creating and spreading false narratives into the community, in order to discredit the people pushing for anti-harassment policies?

  52. 52
    M

    Hello all slimepitters and MRAs out there. Keep in mind when you get ready to post.
    Everything you say on this subject is wrong.

  53. 53
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, yay. Yet one more visitor from the slime pit adding the kind of statements they think “we” say to the conversation because we’re not actually saying them.

  54. 54
    Miriam

    @53, got an ax to grind much?

  55. 55
    karmakin

    You know, this was probably a bad weekend for them to have TAM anyway. I know that if I were in that particular neck of the woods, even assuming that TAM wasn’t a “skeptic”-fest (which it is, and as such it’s something I have zero interest in)…

    I’d be SO at Comic-Con instead. I mean at least to me that’s a no-brainer.

  56. 56
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Improbable Joe
    Hmmm, I think it’s a mixture of incompetency, hurt fee-fees and looking for a scapegoat.
    I mean, the whole DJ Grothe debacle started way before which migh have been one reason for the lower female attendance (together with the fact that there are more cons, more regional, less expensive).
    Add fucking Libertarians like Jilette into the mix and you get a recipe for a disaster.

  57. 57
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Don’t expect anything better from cowards. Its a cowardly act to refuse to look at your problems and blaming someone else. it’s a cowardly act to then run away and hide. I don’t know abou you, but I don’t truck with cowards.

    My heart breaks for James Randi, who, I feel, deserves a legacy suited to his contributions to the world. Instead of the angry whiny bigot fest he’s gotten instead.

    That said, I don’t see how we’ve lost anything. It’s a boring ass group of libertarians who’s main goal in life is feeling superior to people who believe in Bigfoot. I mean, I can’t think of anything less interesting. Well, except maybe going to church.

  58. 58
    Matt Penfold

    Male attendance at TAM dropped by 11.9%
    Female attendance dropped by 45,4%

    That is pretty damming evidence. In a sane world questions would be asked of the organisers as to how they could let such a situation come about, and they would not be allowed to blame on the bitching bitches.

  59. 59
    Arkady

    @Xtog

    Yes, TAM probably isn’t any less safe than any random non-atheist event/night out…

    Can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but it’s rare to go on a night out with friends in my current city and not have something unpleasant happen. Groping/attempted groping from strangers (and one creepy colleague I tend to avoid), proposition from a taxi driver when I was the last one in the car, 2AM guys who proposition then scream ‘BITCH’ as close as they can to you ear when rejected, drunk guys who come up to say something then try to kiss you… I was reflecting on this recently after warning two new colleagues about Creep in our lab, that so many of those objecting to these policies (and the earlier objections to the very fact that women pass on details of creeps to each other that Jen recounted) seem to have no idea how many of us depressingly have to deal with this shit on a regular basis in our ‘real lives’.

  60. 60
    Rieux

    What SamStrange @41 said.

    It seems to me that religious privilege is a major element of how religion, society, and nonbelievers relate to one another. I would like to see prominent atheists talking about it quite a bit more frequently.

    But the current topic is, to put it mildly, rather relevant to any discussion of privilege, and (as if the ridiculous levels of flat-out inhumanity weren’t disheartening enough) various people’s inability to recognize the deluge of male privilege currently issuing from so many quarters doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that a smart and broadly understood critique of religious privilege is anywhere on the horizon.

  61. 61
    Polaris

    I work in a school and we have policies for everything, from health and safety to marking books. However, they are not shown in our publicity material, or brochures. So why is TAM being held to a higher standard, than say a school. Just because they are not visible on the first or second pages, doesn’t mean they are not there, or not acted upon. I personally, prefer a low key approach to policies – it builds a better and more constructive atmosphere.

    In a past life, i.e. before teaching, I went to many conferences and have never seen a ‘behaviour’ policy. I admit TAM appeals to a broader spectrum of attendees than does, for example, the International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants, but surely intelligent adults don’t need to be over policied.

    Communities whether local or one as diverse as the skeptics, should be built on trust and relationship. They should not be controlled by the whims of the few (whatever side of the argument) but should be there for the benefit of the whole community. It means people need to be accountable to each other, treat everyone with respect. If we need to legislate for every detail and eventuality it means that trust and relationship have gone, and the community will be the poorer for it. Idealistic, I know, but surely that is what we should aim for.

    However, we are not in an ideal world, so maybe it would be better to judge the success (or failure) of TAMs approach after the event, based on evidence.

  62. 62
    Eristae

    To be absolutely honest, I’m really shocked.

    First, I had thought there was a fairly good likelihood that they would reimplement the harassment policy from last year, even if you didn’t say anything. After all, if they had the damned thing already written, then why not? I thought that if they didn’t reimplement it, it would be because people didn’t think about it, not due to some kind of active effort.

    Second, I assumed that because you had said something, the second option (not having thought about it) would be gone by virtue of TAM not being able to have not thought about it. Thus, I thought it would be there, if for no other reason than they wouldn’t want to look like raging assholes who knew people wanted anti-harassment policies and then deliberately didn’t have one.

    I was terribly mistaken.

  63. 63
    Eristae

    @Polaris Are you telling me that you had policies in your school that your school expected people to follow but did not make readily available? Because I’ve been to all kinds of schools, and all of them have their rules readily available. Hell, some schools don’t just make them readily available, they actually make you take the things and sometimes (not as often) make you sign something indicating you’ve read them. I would be absolutely stunned if an organization had rules that people were expected to follow but no easy way of finding the rules, and I would be even more stunned if people who broke the rules were okay with not having been given the rules they were expected to follow.

  64. 64
    Jason Thibeault

    Here’s what gets me — several times, DJ has deflected on harassment policy language that was offered to them, because apparently they were working on something and it was being hammered out in closed-door meetings. Then TAM arrives, and there’s absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Meaning those times he deflected because they were working on something were either lies, or kicking the can down the road until they could reveal that they believe their best strategy is “ignore it and it will go away”.

  65. 65
    sisu

    Polaris:

    In a past life, i.e. before teaching, I went to many conferences and have never seen a ‘behaviour’ policy.

    I was at CONvergence last weekend and they have an anti-harassment policy. It’s online here: http://convergence-con.org/about-us/policies/#antiharassment and it’s printed in the schedule/book that’s handed out to everyone at registration. And if you were wondering, it didn’t affect registration: there were 6,000 people there – more than 4x the number at TAM this weekend.

  66. 66
    A Hermit

    You know I keep reading about the “bullying” going on here, but that video of Emery’s obscene, screaming, red faced, spittle flecked tirade when told that Steph Zvan had dared to write an e-mail asking to see TAM’s harassment policy was the very embodiment of the word “bully.” That wasn’t just disagreement it was blind, unreasoning hate. That one moment kind of summed up the whole issue for me…

  67. 67
    carlie

    I work in a school and we have policies for everything, from health and safety to marking books. However, they are not shown in our publicity material, or brochures. So why is TAM being held to a higher standard, than say a school.

    Really? Because my kids and I both have to sign the code of conduct for their school every year and turn it in. And yeah, how are you supposed to follow them if you don’t know what they are?

  68. 68
    Palle Raabjerg

    @Stephanie:
    No problem. I actually kind of enjoy transcribing stuff. It may be one of the extremely few good excuses for writing with the brain switched off. Which can be kind of relaxing :)

  69. 69
    smhll

    Can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but it’s rare to go on a night out with friends in my current city and not have something unpleasant happen. Groping/attempted groping from strangers (and one creepy colleague I tend to avoid), proposition from a taxi driver when I was the last one in the car, 2AM guys who proposition then scream ‘BITCH’ as close as they can to you ear when rejected, drunk guys who come up to say something then try to kiss you…

    I’d like to promote some empathy or sympathy for a young woman going to her first large skeptics convention. If she doesn’t happen to have a partner or friend who also wants to spend the money for this type of event, then she’s likely to go alone. Fairly few young women would go out alone to a bar randomly at night, when travelling to a new city. That’s more of a thing done with friends. I realize a lot of people feel that other con-goers would “have her back” at the bar at the end of the day, but I think someone who is just dipping a toe into skepticism might feel alone. As described above, this shit is hard enough when you have your friends with you. Also paying a fairly large registration fee and then skipping the evening events would be make many of the hours of the trip unfun. (This comment’s aimed at the people who suggested just not going to the bar for the “after” socializing.)

  70. 70
    julian

    Really? Because my kids and I both have to sign the code of conduct for their school every year and turn it in.

    I kinda thought every school did this.

    Are there seriously schools out there that don’t tell parents and students what sort of behavior is expected of them?

    Jesus…

  71. 71
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    is like a vacation from the nonsense we confront every day and a time to celebrate skepticism.

    Except sexism. Can’t escape from that nonsense. Can’t be critical or skeptical of sexist behavior.

  72. 72
    Silentbob

    @ 47 The very model of a modern armchair general

    TAM veterans know the drill, but for those who are wandering these strange carpeted halls for the first time, please don’t hesitate to stop me to introduce yourself and offer a handshake or a hug…especially a hug!

    Raised eyebrow.

    Randi’s a gay octogenarian. I think your eyebrow is being a little paranoid.

  73. 73
    jkthurman

    “Randi’s a gay octogenarian. I think your eyebrow is being a little paranoid.”

    Well, that depends, doesn’t it?

    My eyebrows went up and I wasn’t thinking sexual assault specifically.

    I just…don’t generally like to be touched by strangers. And yes, I did notice that he was inviting hugs for himself, not explicitly encouraging them among others – but there is an implicit condoning of hugs among strangers with the way that is worded. Which would be cool (if not really something I’d be um, excited about) …if I felt like the rules about hugs, etc. were clear. So that in addition to all the shit going down about the harassment policy….yeah, my eyebrows reacted to that.

  74. 74
    sambarge

    “Randi’s a gay octogenarian. I think your eyebrow is being a little paranoid.”

    Can we please stop referencing sexual orientation and age as proof that someone’s intentions in this debate are above reproach? Being gay and/or old doesn’t mean that everything you say is appropriate.

  75. 75
    Stacy

    @jkthurman, Randi said the same thing last year. I’ve met him in person several times, and he’s quick with a hug. I doubt that was intended as a sock in the eye to those of us who advocate for harassment policies. He may only be dimly aware of the controversy; I doubt he micromanages TAM.

  76. 76
    julian

    The update is reassuring. Glad to hear they are taking this seriously even if they’re keeping all this behind the scenes.

  77. 77
    screechy monkey

    Julian, I’d say the update is minimally reassuring. Training your volunteers to handle complaints is good, but not bothering to inform people what complaints the volunteers might do something about it lousy.

    Which reminds me: where are all those people who were nitpicking the sample policies that have been posted? The ones who were wringing their hands about how this possible word or phrase could be interpreted in a certain way that would lead to CHAOS? Because if you’re so upset about anything less than 100% certainty, then how much worse is it to have an unofficial, secret “policy,” or effectively just an ad hoc system?

  78. 78
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Those, they’re training volunteers how to handle complaints they make sure are never going to come in because:

    -Who’d be masochistic enough now to speak up?
    -Wouldn’t know what to do anyway and whether there’s anything in place anyway.

    That’s like having a well-staffed police-department only that they never wear uiforms and don’t tell you their address

  79. 79
    jonathanray

    I honestly don’t understand. Does the spite run so deep they’re willing to abandon a policy they once prided themselves on, just to say fuck you Stephanie, fuck you Rebecca, fuck you Ophelia, fuck you Amy? Really? Really? What possible profit is in this for them?

    Jesus Christ.

    It turns out that the reason they removed the old policy was that their lawywers (both inside and outside counsel) nixed the old policy as well as a few other policies that had been passed around the blogosphere. IANAL but I think it increases their liability by providing some sort of warranty about what happens outside of the conference area (e.g. hotel bars). The reason they got rid of the old policy was NOT spite against feminists as has been widely speculated by people who ought to know better.

  80. 80
    Stephanie Zvan

    According to what source?

  1. 81
    Derangierte Einsichten - TAM und JREF können mich mal

    [...] hat TAM begonnen. Es gibt keine Leitlinien für Übergriffe. Stattdessen gibt es T-Shirts für Frauen, auf denen steht: Ich fühle mich hier [...]

  2. 82
    #45 Sexism in Skepticism, or: Learn to stop worrying and embrace the impending schism. « More Women in Skepticism

    [...] 7/16/2012: Giliell, a frequent FreethoughtBlogs commenter and independent blogger, ran the numbers for TAM 2012. TAM had 31% women, but smaller attendance, and the actual number of women who registered for 2012 [...]

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