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Aug 06 2013

More Names Will Be Named

Oh, I really should have finished writing this post on Sunday. My reputation as a seer would have been made. At least Twitter has time stamps.

In 2010, the behavior of Jim Frenkel, editor at Tor, was the cause of much chatter in the F&SF world. Jim Hines provided information on how to report him and other professionals who engage in sexual harassment while representing their companies to their employers. Some F&SF conventions took a look at their own anti-harassment policies (or their lack) and made changes.

Frenkel wasn’t named publicly.

In 2013, Frenkel harassed Elise Matthesen at WisCon in front of witnesses. Matthesen reported Frenkel, with help and encouragement from her friends, to both Tor and WisCon. She was told by Tor that this was the first time Frenkel had been “formally” reported. She wrote up procedures for reporting with comprehensive detail on how it felt to report. Her signal was boosted significantly by several friends and others who take sexual harassment in F&SF very seriously.

This time, Frenkel was named publicly. Why?

A few things have changed in the F&SF community in those three years. The biggest is that we’ve been talking to each other more. We’ve always talked some, as references to various back channels have shown, but the increase is important.

We’ve told our stories of harassment with trepidation, typically without names. We’ve worried out loud that we won’t be believed, but we’ve told our stories anyways. We’ve gotten pushback–hostile questioning over minutiae and insinuations that we can’t tell what people are doing when they’re interacting with us.

However, we’ve also found out just how many people have had the same experiences we have. Even when we haven’t named names, people have contacted us behind the scenes to tell us who did these things to us. They haven’t asked; they’ve told. And they’ve been right, usually, though sometimes we all discover that there are more names that haven’t yet been named. Because we’ve also learned about the patterns of abuse, how people are targeted because they have professional obligations to fulfill at these functions, products and services to sell by being charming–which is usually incompatible with raising a stink about how you’re being treated. We’ve seen how newbies are assumed to be free game and how their harassment is treated like hazing.

When I talked about my experience with Frenkel, I heard about three other people who had experienced the same thing. One of them commented publicly, two more to a friend behind the scenes. The public validation was good for me in that it reduced the risks associated with speaking up, but the private validation was even more important. When the first person noted on Twitter that the same thing had happened to her, I jumped, then relaxed. I knew that what had happened to me was not appropriate, that it wasn’t some kind of misinterpretation, but in the midst of all the gaslighting that happens on this topic, the confirmation was critical. Just me? Nope. Not at all.

Then there have been the people who’ve gotten angry with us, not for telling our stories, but for keeping quiet. They are wrong to demand more of the victims of harassment, but they are also right that the way things have been done doesn’t protect everyone. It only protects those of us with the right connections. We know that, and it makes a big difference to many of us. Some of us are in a position to do something about it.

Sharing our stories, without names attached, has provided the impetus for us to network, gain support, gain more information than most people will see in public. It has also exposed to us to the other side. We’ve seen the nastiness. We’ve seen the “concern” that maybe we just don’t understand what’s happened to us. We’ve been called the names. We’ve had people go after our reputations. If it didn’t happen to us directly, it happened with enough publicity that we saw how it played out.

As it turns out, it’s really not that much worse than some of what we’ve dealt with, as ugly as it is. And the scary part of it just got that much easier. That makes it much easier to name names. Now that there’s a precedent, expect it to keep happening.

Karen Stollznow did all but that today when her post about being sexually harassed and assaulted went up. (She’s a skeptic rather than in F&SF, but the parallels in how the situations have progressed have been remarkable.) Stollznow didn’t go to the trouble to blur the details of her experiences in a movement that is, after all, really quite small and well-networked, a movement in which plenty of people have been paying close attention to who’s done what for the last two years.

The conference with the overzealous and intimidating security is obviously TAM 2012. Surly Amy and Jamie Bernstein reported the same treatment last year, and it’s anything but standard operating procedure for conferences. The friend who came forward is Ashley Paramore.

Karen’s stalker and assaulter isn’t hard to track down from the information she gave either. Her work history is known. Only one organization adopted the language she quoted. She has an honorary position there. There are very few people there with the reputation for sexism that this guy has, and it hasn’t been that long since he was posting overseas vacation pictures on his Facebook wall. She put the information out there for anyone who wanted to track it down. All she withheld was the name.

But you don’t have to do even that much. All you have to do is look at Twitter.

Tweet from Ian Murphy. Text provided in the post.

@Ian_Murphy: FYI, Karen Stollznow’s sexual harasser is Ben Radford. Someone had to say it. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/2013/08/06/im-sick-of-talking-about-sexual-harassment/?WT.mc_id=SA_sharetool_Twitter … #skeptic #atheist #shame

As with Jim Frenkel, this is a situation that a lot of people know about. There were plenty of people in a position to name Radford. Ian just got there first, only a few hours after the existence of the harassment was made public.

This is going to keep happening. We’ve been watching these harassers (men and women) behave like assholes while the rest of us have gotten more harassment for even discussing the topic. They’ve left us very, very little to lose by naming names.

Do you think they’re going to suddenly start treating us and our friends better? Do you think they’re going to go out of their ways to stop the add-on harassment that’s been going on for years? Or do you think we’re just going to get fed up watching how this plays out and decide it’s time for everyone to deal with the aftermath?

I know which I’m betting on.

34 comments

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  1. 1
    D. C. Sessions

    Divide and conquer.

    When abuse is only fit for “conversation in quiet rooms” (to quote a Presidential candidate) it’s much easier to keep victims from finding out that they’re not alone, that they’re not the exception. And then it gets so, so much easier to band together for mutual support.

    Before you know it, somebody finds out that the harmless little bunnies are sisters of Coney Dewclaw.

  2. 2
    Great American Satan

    People are gonna freak out about “witch hunts” and “ruining careers” and such, but if someone was violating the trust of their position of authority to satisfy creeper tendencies, shouldn’t they be forced to “find other opportunities” already?

    Freeze Peach that slymies so hotly desire is the free speech we all have, magically divorced from consequences. Well, a consequence of the verbal online harassment is that some people are not going to like you. So sorry that thaws your fruit, but in the real world, consequences happen.

    Now a different – though related – type of harassment is going to face a reality it managed to avoid for years. I have to admit, I’m going to be laughing while other people are losing their jobs. So evil. And I so don’t feel bad about it.

  3. 3
    D. C. Sessions

    People are gonna freak out about “witch hunts” and “ruining careers” and such, but if someone was violating the trust of their position of authority to satisfy creeper tendencies, shouldn’t they be forced to “find other opportunities” already?

    The list of more or less victimless ways to lose your job is very, very long. It can even include attending the wrong Baptist church, never mind getting caught by the boss in a totally mutual affair with his adult daughter.

    That sexual harassment of people while representing the company is now heading for the “crash and burn” list does not distress me for a picosecond.

  4. 4
    Gretchen

    As with Jim Frenkel, this is a situation that a lot of people know about.

    Has Karen Stollznow acknowledged it? Has anybody asked her?

  5. 5
    dmcclean

    #2 wrote “sorry that thaws your fruit”.

    Well played. :)

    If this is a new coinage it really needs to catch on.

  6. 6
    Stacy

    Gretchen, yes.

  7. 7
    Gretchen

    Stacy, where?

  8. 8
    Jesse W (not logged in)

    Gretchen @7 — The closest I can find is a tweet by Ian_Murphy confirming that he asked her for permission before posting it. https://twitter.com/Ian_Murphy/status/364822830908579840

    I have not seen anything from her explicitly acknowledging the accuracy of the identification, but I don’t think it’s particularly important, either. The details she did put are quite enough to make it clear who she was referring to.

  9. 9
    Stephanie Zvan

    Ian confirmed he had permission. PZ had been talking to Karen about it before announcing. Carrie Poppy confirmed on Twitter that the information about Karen reporting three assaults to JREF (and them declining to blacklist him) came from Karen.

  10. 10
    gwen

    I’d heard rumors of a history of sexual malfeasance on his part. CFI needs to get their house in order. I was sexually assaulted by a doctor I worked with in the 1970s. I reported it, but got absolutely no response. It was humiliating having to continue to work with this doctor, who was in a position of trust, and had a history of assaulting women at work. My heart goes out to Karen, and I am infuriated with Radford. He now resides in my virtual garbage bin with Thunderf00t, and I have cancelled my subscription to his podcast, MonsterTalk.

  11. 11
    Stephanie Zvan

    Did I say more names would be named? https://twitter.com/szvan/status/364943175888035840/photo/1

  12. 12
    Silentbob

    What’s this? More “mean-spirited” and “distasteful locker room banter” from a woman “recounting sexual exploits”. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk about that stuff or you’ll scare all the women away?
    (/snark)

  13. 13
    nyarlathotep

    https://twitter.com/szvan/status/364943175888035840/photo/1

    Michael Shermer was actually one of my guesses for the man who had harassed Karen Stollznow before Radford was named. I remembered rumors floating around after the first Women in Secularism that Shermer was known to harass women. Radford I suspected less but he still didn’t surprise me. I’m more surprised that it’s taken this long for someone to name Shermer publicly than I am surprised that he harassed women.

  14. 14
    Stephanie Zvan

    There’s also this: https://twitter.com/dELYSEious/status/364947819045466113

    That doesn’t count, of course, because Elyse is a Skepchick and thus the least trustworthy of an already untrustworthy gender.

  15. 15
    nyarlathotep

    For some reason, the Atheism/Skepticism community seems help bent on reaffirming something I learned relatively early in my life: it’s better to expect people to disappoint you.

  16. 16
    nyarlathotep

    Hell bent*, obviously.

  17. 17
    Great American Satan

    This feels like being on the leading edge of a storm that will bring terrible things (already beleaguered women being harassed to the brink) and awesome things. Too often progress has to inch forward slowly. Now we just might be able to see a part of the world completely upended. I want all these harassin’ segments of the “geek” universe to have to acknowledge women as equals or crumble and die. Could it be, the end of the line is coming?

  18. 18
    Jadehawk

    The conference with the overzealous and intimidating security is obviously TAM 2012.

    Knew it. That was so uniquely screwy, I immediately recognized it from the description.

    As for everything else… I just can’t right now.

  19. 19
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    This feels like being on the leading edge of a storm that will bring terrible things (already beleaguered women being harassed to the brink) and awesome things. Too often progress has to inch forward slowly. Now we just might be able to see a part of the world completely upended. I want all these harassin’ segments of the “geek” universe to have to acknowledge women as equals or crumble and die. Could it be, the end of the line is coming?

    I think you’re right that this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But we’ve already seen change and I hope to see more. Naming and shaming is absolutely necessary, I feel. Demure silence and refusing to make a fuss clearly hasn’t done much good.

  20. 20
    G Pierce (Was ~G~)

    #17- Yes. Perhaps the damn is rumbling before the burst. I don’t see how CFI can restore the trust it lost without getting an overhaul in leadership. Sad, but I’d rather know the truth about their values. (not that the response from the Board really encouraged me.) I don’t even feel it’s worthy to ask people to resign, I think enough is enough, I can just tell them I’m cutting my losses and good bye. For me this is particularly sad because I also love skepticism which leaves no major organizations with a major commitment to it I can support.

    Were any of the 3 assaults that were reported to TAM during the year DJ said there had been no harassment? (2011?) Carrie Poppy has been tweeting some interesting things about this and she actually had an inside scoop.

  21. 21
    Pteryxx

    I’m getting a sick feeling about the unstated reasons behind Carrie Poppy’s resignation as JREF communications director last year.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/11/anyone-else-reckon/

  22. 22
    Sili

    Has the highly esteemed physicist who appears on the Colbert Report been fingered yet?

    What about the renowned illusionist who’s part of a famous double-act with dubious politics?

    Yeah – I can’t keep a secret.

  23. 23
    Sili

    I see one of them has.

    With company I was not expecting …

  24. 24
    pHred

    Well shit. One name on that list surprised and disappointed the hell out of me. Frack.

  25. 25
    MyaR

    I don’t know if I’m just cynical, but not a damned one of these names is surprising, discounting the one whose existence I wasn’t aware of.

  26. 26
    Kurt Helf

    I haven’t heard Karen on “Monster Talk” in some time, though she’s still listed as one of the hosts, and presumably this is the reason. Let’s hope Ben disappears and Karen reappears.

  27. 27
    Sili

    MyaR,

    Would it be possible for you to share your dirt on Nye? This is the first time I hear him mentioned.

  28. 28
    Jadehawk

    to sum up, once again:

    1)The CEO of CFI gives a speech whining about being silenced because of “shut up and listen”, with the full support of CFI and to the rabid delight of the fuckweasel brigade, which also whines about being silenced a lot.

    2)The fuckweasel brigade attempts to silence Melody Hensley by claiming that the illness they caused is also reason for her not to have a job interacting with the public

    3)CFI attempts to silence Karen Stollznow about being a victim of sexual harassment.

    I sense a pattern.

  29. 29
    carlie

    Yeah. Somehow now Lindsay’s speech looks almost cutely quaint by comparison. Turns out that wasn’t the CFI’s big problem, that was the least of their problems.

  30. 30
    LykeX

    What about the renowned illusionist who’s part of a famous double-act with dubious politics?

    Him too? I knew he was a bit of a douche, but I thought that was mainly on political matters.That said, I wouldn’t be shocked.

  31. 31
    Tom Foss

    LykeX: I’ve heard at least one specific, third-hand story about that guy, and I would not be surprised if it came out in the near future.

  32. 32
    Skeptical Jackal

    What happened with the “More will be named” Tumblr at http://morewillbenamed.tumblr.com/ ?

    Apparently it has been hijacked and the content replaced with some silliness.

  33. 33
    Tom Foss

    It was deleted, someone snapped it up and made a parody.

    As parodies go, I’d rather have this silliness than what I expected, just tons of false “hur hur rape so funny” rape allegations against the FTBloggers & Skepchicks.

  34. 34
    praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type)

    @Skeptical Jackal:

    It was deleted last night. This morning it was re-registered and is now that weird parody.

    When you delete a blog on tumblr the URL becomes available for anyone to take. This is why you will find tumblrs that have nothing but placeholders which sometimes contain nothing but shifting placeholders which will explicitly state something along the lines of “No, you can’t have it”.

    (The placeholders will change over time because a “static” or “dead” blog can be deleted by tumblr staff as there is a rule against “squatting” or “hoarding” URLs.)

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