And this weekend in the annals of “You feminist women don’t get to organize and maintain spaces of your own”, we have this.
Travis Roy: The people I’m badmouthing and getting banned from meetings because I don’t like them are being mean to me! Out of the @SurlyAmy playbook.
Richard Murray: @Sc00ter @SurlyAmy you and your misogynistic micro aggressions, Travis. No more real jewelry for you.
D. J. Grothe: Maybe cut people some slack. Don’t underestimate the role of alcoholism and personality disorders.
Yes, that’s D. J. Grothe calling Surly Amy an alcoholic with a personality disorder. It’s almost cute that he’s decided this is just a thing people do, except, of course, that he’s just throwing the words at someone who is no longer useful to him. When I talked about the people who have suggested to me that Grothe is a psychopath–though I’m pretty sure I didn’t mention anywhere that a few of them also said they’d never seen him sober, so I don’t know where he picked that up–I was careful not to endorse the label.
Instead, I was specific about the pattern of Grothe’s problematic behavior that was behind the complaints of those people. That is not what Grothe did here. Instead he, entirely in line with the pattern of behavior I documented, flat out lied. He used to be friends with Amy, living in the same building until her address was posted online by a men’s rights harasser. He has every reason to know that Amy, on a really decadent night, has two glasses of wine and goes to bed. An alcoholic she is not.
Then there’s the “personality disorder” he claims for Amy, with his vast professional education as a stage magician, and the behavior he claims is a result of that disorder. They’re talking about the Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group (LAWAAG), a group started by Surly Amy as a place for women free of the harassment that’s been heaped on women who dared to point out sexism in the local scene.
Amy’s “disordered” behavior? Removing the RSVPs of some local women from one of the group’s Facebook event pages and barring them from participating in the group’s in-person planning meetings, the few closed meetings LAWAAG has.
This plays into the tired anti-feminist tropes that feminist women who aren’t super friendly with all other women, no matter how they behave, are hypocrites. That, of course, is nonsense. Feminism is a political and social movement (or set of movements), not a social club. If you want to demonstrate that Amy’s behavior is disordered, you need to make a case why these women should be welcome in this group that relies on something beyond their gender identity.
Who are the women who were “banned”? Three of them were participants in a discussion on the LAWAAG Facebook event page (not the pathetic attempt at a brand-confusion page) that I happened to see. The topic was relatively benign. The delivery was less so.
Without any prior interaction with anyone else posting on the page, Susan Gerbic proposed that the group take part in a project related to cancer, though this is unconnected to the mission of the group, because she’s a cancer survivor. Wendy Hughes and Heather Henderson, neither of whom had participated on the page, joined her to enthuse about the side project for dozens of comments, making no reference to the actual topic of the meeting. (LAWAAG will be preparing for an art installation on online harassment.)
In addition to the context of this interaction with the group, there is the matter of who these three women are. Susan Gerbic runs a project to increase the visibility of a subset of skeptics on Wikipedia. She is the person who commemorated Harriet Hall’s anti-Skepchick shirt on Wikipedia promptly after it was photographed at The Amazing Meeting and suggested that the coffee Hall was holding was what made it “a great image“. Though Hall later noted that she didn’t fully understand that the shirt would be hurtful to and exclusive of Skepchicks like Amy who attended TAM that year, the t-shirt remains. This year at TAM, it was Gerbic’s son who was photographed wearing the “Team Radford” t-shirt.
Heather Henderson is a host of the Ardent Atheist podcast, though she didn’t participate in co-host Emery Emery’s spittle fest a couple of years ago. What she did do, however, was show off her gift of a couple of knock-off Surlyramics in order to declare both her and Emery “gender traitors”. Given comments like “I didn’t even realise this was to do with the Watson Skepticult crowd!! That’s even funnier, keep up the good work.” and “Watson and her Skepcunts piss me off to no end.“, this was understood by her friends to be an act hostile to Skepchicks and atheist feminists. Henderson was also the person who posted an anti-Skepchick Cards Against Humanity hand from TAM this year. (Custom cards by Kyle Sanders, apparently as part of his Kickstarter promotional efforts at TAM.)
These cards where actually played during a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity at #TAM2014 #WhatAreTheOdds
Black card: [blank] + [blank] = [blank]
Statement with white cards: Skepchicks + Not having sex = Passive-agressive Post-It notes.
Wendy Hughes is less known outside Los Angeles and TAM skeptics groups. However, she has most clearly signaled her unwillingness to participate in the group, stating that its Code of Conduct is impossible to follow. Here is that code of conduct. She also recently, and bizarrely, tweeted a picture of her with Richard Dawkins at Ophelia, with the text, “Here is me not being raped in any sense by
@RichardDawkins He has made me & others understand life. @OpheliaBenson”
Given that two of these women have expressed hostility toward Surly Amy as a Skepchick, and the third has said outright that participation in the group is “impossible”, their behavior on the LAWAAG page—expressing no interest in the group’s actual events and goals–is difficult to interpret as anything other than an elaborate, intentional disruption. This, as well as their prior behavior toward Amy, is exactly what LAWAAG was created to provide a shield from.
Nor is this the only act of aggression toward LAWAAG in recent days. The announcement for tomorrow’s meeting, the planning meeting for the installation on harassment, has twice been deleted from the Greater Los Angeles Skeptics Meetup group page.
Meetup.com event deletions can only be done by a page administrator. If you look closely at the left-hand column of the screen capture above, you’ll notice a familiar name. Wendy Hughes, one of the people posting on the LAWAAG thread I’ve been discussing, had this access at the time of the deletion and has it today.
“What’s her face?”, who goes by both Linda Lawrence and [real-life name deleted at her request], also had access. This is the person who created the knock-off Surlyramics that were shown around at TAM 2012.
Given Linda’s comment on Saturday that “[name redacted] just took it for the team…” and her disappearance as a page admin, it seems reasonable to intuit that she was–if not directly responsible for at least one of the deletions–then viewing this as an “us vs. them” situation in which sacrifice is warranted.
Again, this is the kind of hostile interference that prompted LAWAAG’s founding. There is demand for the group as well. Women want to be able to meet and talk about science, skepticism, atheism, and humanism without constantly being interrupted by people who think they’re more important than the topic at hand. Surly Amy has undertaken to provide that space, even if it means excluding women who wish to disrupt it from the planning process.*
That’s what Grothe is calling disordered behavior here. That’s what he claims is the result of a personality disorder and alcoholism–keeping disruptive people from being able to take over the group. Again he says whatever he thinks to say, with no care for whether it is true or even whether it will make sense to an observer who isn’t eager to believe his every word.
Maybe he thought he was saying something that would damage Amy’s reputation. Instead, he simply continues to provide evidence that his words should not be trusted.
* Seriously, the only meetings that currently exclude anyone are planning meetings, where the direction of the group is determined. Meetings featuring speakers are open to the public. I’ll be speaking at the October meeting. Sikivu Hutchinson will be speaking in November. Even Grothe is welcome to attend these meetings. Maybe he should, so he actually has something real to talk about.