Opening Ranks

Yesterday, Elise Matthesen told the world that she had been sexually harassed at an F&SF convention by sharing details and tips of how to report and make it count. The response from well-placed individuals in the industry has been heartening, uncharacteristically so for situations of this sort. I think that requires some recognition.

First, we have the six authors who shared Elise’s post, making sure it was widely seen:

Of these, Jim Hines also confirmed that this was the same editor whom a number of people had named privately in 2010 as a harasser. Mary Robinette Kowal also took everyone through the reasons to be afraid of naming the harasser and the reasons why they didn’t apply to her. She then named him as Jim Frenkel, editor at Tor.

This is where, in my experience, things would normally go badly wrong. They didn’t here. [Read more...]

Saturday Storytime: My Mother’s Body

Part of the fun of meeting (in this case online) new people in the F&SF writers community is that you then get to find new stories too. In addition to writing science fiction and fantasy, Christie Yant is an assistant editor at Lightspeed Magazine.

I never saw my mother’s body after she died. The man on the other end of the line asked me if I wanted to–whether they should delay the cremation so that I could make the two-and-a-half hour drive up the coast to where she lay in storage. Pale and spotted with bright red cherry angiomas, her sides striped with purple scars from multiple kidney surgeries and her arms mottled with worn red gashes where the tremors had caused her to scratch herself, I had seen enough of my mother’s body when she had been alive.

It’s different now that it’s my own body. I find myself fascinated and curious as I’m prepped and marked. Striped, as she was, but with markers and dotted lines. It makes me think of a butcher’s diagram describing different cuts of meat, and that makes me laugh because it is so close to the truth.

***

My mother’s feet were blue and cold, as if she were dead already, and the thick yellow nails of her big toes always had a “v” cut in them, to keep them from becoming ingrown. They were ingrown anyway, more often than not, toes swollen red and white from the infection. My grandparents would ask me to rub her feet sometimes to try to bring the circulation back to them. I hated touching those half-dead things. It seemed to me that if they were dead then they must not hurt, and I was afraid that rubbing them back to life would cause her pain.

My own feet are cold and the nurse brings me another warm blanket, tucking it carefully around my feet with almost maternal care as she thanks me again for what I’m about to do.

“You’re so brave,” she says. I murmur words of appreciation because I know she means it, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

Keep reading.

Let Me Tell You a Story

I’ve told this story several times since the events happened in 2002, but the telling has always been fairly private. That’s how these stories move, you know. However, today is a good day to say things out loud. Increasing the number of targets for backlash isn’t the worst thing a person can do, provided they’re up for it. I’m not sure I’m up for it, but I’m not sure I can handle telling these stories in private anymore either.

It was 2002. World Fantasy Convention was held in Minneapolis that year. I was there, along with the rest of my writers group and a bunch of friends who were in another writers group. One or two people had book contracts that year. We were green and a little nervous and not so terribly mature as we turned being snubbed by big editors into a faux competitive game.

The number of details I remember seems funny, but I suppose it shouldn’t. When things that are that wrong and that disappointing happen, you either try to forget them forever or they stick with you. This one stuck with me. [Read more...]

“Paleofantasy”, Marlene Zuk on Atheists Talk

Oh, poor humanity. Poor, poor us, stuck in a world for which we are so ill-suited, better fitted by our genes for using crude stone tools than our modern technologies, haunted by ancient instincts, slowly being killed by our strange habitat and behavior. Or maybe not.

In her new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live, evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk takes the stories we are told about how our deep ancestry determines the way we are and puts them under the microscope. They frequently come up lacking, but along the way, Zuk provides an entertaining education about our paleolithic and more recent pasts.

Join us this Sunday, when Dr. Zuk shatters our myths about our past and gives us something more interesting to replace them with–the truth.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Telling Time

Ed Brayton has a request. It’s more than reasonable. It may even be something you’ve already considered doing on your own:

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about Joe Klein’s awful cover story in Time magazine last week, which took an entirely inaccurate and gratuitous cheap shot at the atheist and humanist community. His article focused on Team Rubicon, a wonderful organization of veterans that does crisis relief work after natural disasters.

[...]

You may also have seen Klein’s sad and absurd response to criticism he received for it, which Hemant thoroughly dismantled, and the editors of the magazine, when faced with the opportunity to make up for it, instead making it even worse. And I hope you’ve seen Dale McGowan’s eloquent rebuttal in the Washington Post.

But as Dale suggests, this really isn’t about Joe Klein. Frankly, Klein has been a tired hack for most of my adult life, so I’m not at all surprised by either his initial absurdity or his equally inane response to criticism. It isn’t even really about Time magazine, though their response has been pretty appalling. It’s about how ignorant statements like the one Klein made are perfectly in sync with the larger culture, which tends to treat the entire secular community with indifference, at best, or outright hostility. And as long as the mainstream media continues to view us with either dismissal or derision, the situation is not going to change.

This is where you come in. On behalf of Foundation Beyond Belief, which has been so successful in channeling the compassion of the humanist community that it is about to go over the $1 million mark in funds raised and distributed in less than four years of operation, I’d like to ask you to email the editors of Time magazine at letters@time.com. Please be polite rather than angry when you do so.

If you need them, Ed has a number of things Time really should know about Foundation Beyond Belief. Those are good, particularly if you helped contribute to those efforts. Or since many of you are members of local atheist or humanist groups that do the kind of work Klein is claiming doesn’t happen, you can tell them about that too.

Tell them about the donations collected. Tell them about the blood drives. Tell them about the trash picked up. Tell them about those hot meals that have been handed out.

If there is also a letter sent by the leaders of the organization you belong to, all the better, but don’t neglect to write to them yourself.

Fuck Your Civility

Well, here it is a day later, and still no one had told Steve Snyder that it his comment at JT’s was unacceptably sexist. So I did.

Well, Steve Snyder/SocraticGadfly, since no one else can be assed to step up and say this, no matter how much me being harassed “pisses them off”, no matter how much they’ll stand up for JT, fuck off, you putrid, obsessive, pointless, sexist smear of slime. It is not anything but vilely anti-social to spend two and half years after a woman tells you that rape allegations need to be taken seriously popping up any time she and the man on whose blog you were schooled are mentioned together to say that this woman is controlling this man’s behavior by having sex with him.

It only gets you two things. The first is a reputation as someone who isn’t capable of making a socially acceptable argument about why treating rape seriously is bad but can’t let the issue go, and the second is secular and skeptical movements that are distinctly hostile to women.

So fuck right the hell off.

And the same goes for anyone incapable of telling Steve here the same thing.

If none of the people preaching for civility are going to stop this behavior, if none of the people telling me how to behave are going to do anything to see that I’m treated well in return, they get to deal with how I deal with it. And they get to deal with how I deal with it after a day of my mistreatment being ignored in a forum where putting the smack down on bad behavior is supposedly the order of the day.

And if they really want to know how their version of “civility” fits into this, they can ask me. Very nicely. I doubt they’ll like any answer they get today, though.

Screaming

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is a hero. She filibustered a restrictive abortion bill for 11 hours yesterday without break, without food, without drink, and without more physical support than that offered by a pair of running shoes and a back brace. She then stood or the remaining hour of the special session after the Republican chair claimed that discussing sonogram requirements wasn’t “germane” to debate on an abortion bill. She stood as Democratic senators raised an hour and 45 minutes worth of points of order and arguments largely supplied by people following the debate on Twitter, for 15 minutes more as the crowd made business impossible, and for another 45 minutes or so as the Republican chair claimed the bill had been passed and chaos reigned, in case it was important.

She talked about why safe, legal, easy to obtain abortions are critical to the health of women and the well-being of families and children. She told the stories of people who had had abortions or whose families had been affected by abortions for the better. She talked about the implications of the bill–this being what prompted the chair to claim she was off-topic and declare her filibuster over.

She’s a hero. But I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about that hour that started 15 minutes before midnight. [Read more...]

Fallout

Ouch.

I just received a press release. Note that this was all set in motion on Friday, before the apology.

On Friday, Point of Inquiry’s two co-hosts—Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney—resigned from their positions at the Center for Inquiry. On Monday, Point of Inquiry producer Adam Isaak followed suit. This note is to explain our reasons for departing CFI and our future plans.

In May of 2013, when the Women in Secularism II conference took place in Washington, D.C., Point of Inquiry—the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry—was more successful that it has ever been. Following a format change in 2010, our audience has increased by 60 percent and our growth rate has doubled in the last year and a half. We’d recently done a highly successful live show featuring Steven Pinker before a packed room at the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and interviewed guests like Oliver Sacks, Jared Diamond, Paul Krugman, and Mary Roach. We had started to incorporate new, successful video content. 2013 featured our most listened-to show ever and we were averaging well over 2 million total downloads per year. 

Then came the events at that conference—including a widely criticized speech by Center for Inquiry President & CEO Ronald Lindsay. Lindsay then went further, writing a blog post which referred to a post by one of his critics—Rebecca Watson—as follows: “It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.”

In response to public criticism of Lindsay’s speech and blog post, CFI’s Board of Directors issued an ambiguous statement regretting the controversy, but going no further than that.

These actions have generated much discussion, criticism and polarization within our community. In addition, they created an environment at CFI that made it very difficult for our producer, Adam Isaak, to continue working there. 

We, like others, welcome Lindsay’s recent apology. That apology, however, was not followed by any direct effort to retain Chris or Indre, nor did it make up for the very real toll this controversy has taken upon our podcast and our ability to produce it.

The actions of Lindsay and the Board have made it overwhelmingly difficult for us to continue in our goal to provide thoughtful and compelling content, including coverage of feminist issues, as in past interviews with guests like Amanda Marcotte, Katha Pollitt, MG Lord, and Carol Tavris. 

The Center for Inquiry has supported us in the past and has asked Chris and Indre to speak at many of its conferences. We are thankful for that.  But we’re a team and we do this together. We believe that this controversy has impaired our ability to produce the highest quality podcast under the auspices of CFI and that our talents will be put to better use elsewhere.

To that end, we are in the process of formalizing a new podcast that will allow us to continue to provide the in-depth interviews with leading intellectuals that made Point of Inquiry such a success. We’ll announce the name and more details about the new podcast shortly but as of right now, we can already announce something we’re all incredibly excited about: the new show will be produced in collaboration with the nonprofit news organization Mother Jones. You can follow @MotherJones on Twitter to get the latest updates on the show’s official launch. We all look forward to turning our attention to the work at hand, and leaving this controversy behind.

Adam Isaak, Indre Viskontas, and Chris Mooney

I got to talk to Chris and Adam briefly at the conference. Best of luck to all three. Mother Jones is not at all a bad place to land.

Yay for “Support”

I’m tired today, so maybe this will be crabbier than usual, but I’m tired of being “supported” as someone who gets harassed. I’m tired of vague “Naughty, naughty”s from people who do jack shit when the people engaging in harassment are doing it right in front of them. And I’m really fucking sick and tired of people using their vague, toothless “support” to tell the world they’re good people.

Today’s example. Take a blog post that contains this statement:

Here I’ve been giving the impression that I empathize with harassment and inequality, not just because I give a damn about justice and fairness in general, but also because I have friends in the movement like Stephanie Zvan who have been harassed by a cabal of very malicious people and that pisses me off.

Drop this comment on it almost immediately:

If you’re really about supporting Stephanie, why didn’t she tell her “husband,” Greg, that in the first place, since she wears the pants in that “family.”

Then watch the comment be ignored for two hours in the middle of an active comment thread in which the post author is participating and people are up- and down-voting comments. Watch all the comments about how someone shouldn’t have said something stupid to the post author get up-voted many times before anyone down-votes that comment even once.

Then, two hours later, see someone finally interrogate the comment:

Seriously? You’re going there on a blog post about sexism. Curious what JT’s thoughts are on this.

Then see the person who is “pissed off” that you’ve been harassed react:

My thoughts are that I have no idea what Gadfly’s talking about. Stephanie and Greg aren’t married, so I assume he’s making some kind of in-the-know dig to which I’m no privy. If so, I think that’s pretty weak.

In other words, see someone who’s been at you with the same basic sexist meme for two and a half years (because you disagreed with him about whether rape allegations should be taken seriously) get shrugged off for doing it again. Because–you know–what? On a post where someone says this sort of thing pisses them off.

Yay for people getting “pissed off” about harassment. Yay for “support”.

Did I mention how fucking tired I am?