What Happened After I Reported

This is a guest post from Elise Matthesen. It is a follow up to her post from last year, “How to Report Sexual Harassment“. Find more background and reactions on the situation with WisCon here.

Last year at WisCon 37, I told a Safety staffer that I had been treated by another attendee in a way that made me uncomfortable and that I believed to be sexual harassment.  One big reason I did was that I understood from another source that he had reportedly harassed at least one other person at a convention. I learned that she didn’t report him formally, for a lot of reasons that aren’t mine to say. I was in a position where I felt confident I could take the hit from standing up and telling the truth. So I did.

I didn’t expect, fourteen months later, to have to stand up and tell the truth about WisCon’s leadership as well.
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Why This Matters

American Atheists’ official representative calls a group of people who’ve been harassed for years “pussies” and an American Atheists official posts it to Twitter and Facebook suggesting it’s a reason people should subscribe. The Friendly Atheist posts a video from the Amazingly Notorious Atheist and says, “Oops”, in a buried comment. Some random but persistent asshole spends hours “caricaturing” FtB bloggers, Rebecca Watson, and someone who dropped out of organized atheism after intense abuse—then some other asshole decides he has to send each one of these caricatures to their targets on Twitter.

What does all this mean? It’s time for one of those periodic reminders of exactly what it is those of us standing over here are arguing for.

Have you forgotten how all this started? [Read more...]


Jason has received the most wonderful* piece of FtB fic in his comments. The whole thing is a rather awesome** exercise in comparing FtB to the slave-owning South and YouTube atheists, but the last paragraph is the most amazing*** part.

We (the Union) will inevitably stamp out the scourge that is the FtB fanaticism (that’s you, the South) when basically all of the relevant groups see the light of reason and leave you by the way-side. General William T. F00t’s scorched earth campaign has pretty much decimated your resources and left no idiot standing. General Ulysses S. Mykeru has either entirely defeated or cornered your leaders here while your stronghold of Atheism+ forums is all but deserted. Eventually, General Mykeru will capture your president Peezey, force him to surrender unconditionally, and then proceed to eat Generals Brayton, Watson, and Benson alive. General F00t will ensure Secretary of State J. Glenn and Chief Justice TJ Kincaid oversee movement Reconstruction, whilst F00t takes his place as Secretary of Education in President Dawkins’ Cabinet. President Dawkins’ cabinet is by far the most outstanding, and includes the noted Vice President Abbie Smith, Attorney General D.P.R. Jones, Secretary of Defense Sam Harris, and the famed Secretary of the Treasury Neil deGrasse Tyson. Your president Peezey will be sentenced to hard labor in Karen Straughan’s service; General Svan will be sentenced to a diet. You and the rest of your confederates will be expelled into Utah, the pit of Mormon, as punishment for your warmongering. May those crazy bike-riding, creepy, thieving missionaries have mercy on your souls.

In my copious**** free time, I may have to revisit those proposed positions for the lulz. For now, though, take a look at the punishments.

To start with, it’s hard to claim you’re the North when you want to have people eaten alive. That wasn’t exactly how they went about it. Burning? Yes. Cannibalism? No. Your position as the “good guys” is in danger here.

It’s even harder to position yourself as the anti-slavery North when your next step is to sentence someone to slavery.

Me? I’m sentenced to a diet.

No, really. A diet. The punishment this fantasist came up with for me is that I have to not eat a whole bunch of food. He doesn’t have any idea how much I eat now, but I’m fat, so not eating scads of food must be punishment.




Honestly, dude, could you find a better way to show off your shallow thinking than that? Oh, wait. You can. You can brag about how Team You is death to all religion, then reveal that you find Mormon missionaries terrifying.

Oh, no, Brer James! Please, please don’t throw me into the…bicycles?

Hey, Richard Dawkins, these are the people who claim to be speaking for you. How does this make you feel?

* By “wonderful”, I mean that it really makes me wonder about the person who wrote it.

** My jaw dropped as I read it.

*** Someone wrote this? Really? And they were serious?

**** This is just sarcasm.

Returning to the Scene, Or Coming Back After Harassment

This isn’t a post I wanted to write. In early April, I wrote a 900-word letter to the chairs of Wiscon 38 in hopes that, not only would I not have to write this post, but I would be able to write a much happier post instead. The letter started:

I am, of course, writing to you about Jim Frenkel.

I’m a long-time WisCon attendee, although I haven’t attended the last two years due to a scheduling conflict. I still consider WisCon one of my “home” cons even though I live in Minneapolis.

I’ve also been in the middle of the sexual harassment storm in the atheist and skeptical movements. I led the push to get policies in place for our conferences. I’ve consulted with organizations writing policies. I’ve written extensively about the topic. And I’ve both whipped up and eased anger on the topic as I felt it was appropriate and could be productive.

So when I say WisCon is headed for an internet explosion, I both know what I’m talking about and am invested in heading it off. I’ve been talking to several friends who have received their programming information, and the chatter isn’t pretty, as I’m guessing you already know. I would much rather see WisCon be an example of what to do right than end up a patch of scorched earth. To that end, I’m offering some unsolicited advice and some help to make my recommendations easier to follow if you think they have merit.

The rest of the letter consisted of three specific recommendations and a template for a statement proactively addressing the return of Jim Frenkel after a harassment complaint last year led to the sharing of additional harassment complaints* and ultimately Frenkel’s parting ways with the publishing company for which he had long been an editor. I sent the letter because friends had noticed Frenkel’s name showing up in the preliminary programming for this year. They had written to the co-chairs or to the concom (convention committee) and not been pleased with the responses they received.

So I put in hours of work on that letter and statement, covering both the possibility that they were lacking only in communication and the possibility that they hadn’t worked the decision through in an organized fashion. I did some of the work they would need to do in order to get ahead of the problem and offered to do more or to find them a person acceptable to them who would. I didn’t insist that Frenkel not be allowed to return, but I did make it clear that they would need to be able to explain their decision if he came back.

This is the response I received a few hours after I sent my email.


Thank you for your input.

Piglet Evans, [email protected]
WisCon 38 co-chair

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Congratulations, Richard Dawkins

Dear Professor Dawkins, congratulations on your new intellectual peer group–the slime pit.

For those of you not yet in the loop, on Tuesday, Dawkins suggested that “Shakespeare Schubert Darwin Einstein” should be the people chosen to represent humanity to hypothetical alien intelligences. At the time, he did suggest that other people would have other opinions and even suggested he would be interested in hearing them. On Thursday, however, when someone tweeted at him that they didn’t want humanity represented by “only old white guys”, Dawkins turned around and asked “”Old white guys”? Who then would you choose as a better poet than Shakespeare, better scientist than Einstein . . . etc ?”

After Dawkins moved his recommendations up the ladder from personal choices to “the best”, the following conversation occurred.

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How Mother Jones Set Me Up for Harassment

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that several friends had shared a Mother Jones article on street harassment. I pulled it up and noticed that it was several compelling graphics on the prevalence of street harassment along with a link to and brief description of the report the numbers came from. So I went and took a look at the report (pdf).

Generally happy with the report, and happy to have graphics that could carry its messages further, I went back and tweeted the Mother Jones article. I took their name off the tweet, as I often do when I want people to think more about the content than the source of an article. Then I forgot about it for the moment, until I received a Facebook comment on my tweet that said, “Not All Pigs Are Men! (Did I get that right?)[Read more...]

The Best Defense

It’s been a few days since I put up my post about D. J. Grothe’s record of lies and his most recent threat (that I know of) to lie again. In the meantime, the reactions from Grothe’s supporters have been coming in. I already posted about the first one I saw, but there have, of course, been plenty more. People just keep sending me links.

After Rebecca Watson tweeted the piece and said she’s one of the people who thinks Grothe is a psychopath and Monette Richards retweeted it, EllenBeth Wachs had her say. I’ll spare you pictures of this one, though I have them if anything disappears. It’s long.

@BlameEllenBeth: @rebeccawatson @MistressOfFrog Really disappointing Monette. How is this different than the hate and lies Rebecca gets thrown at her

@MistressOfFrog: @BlameEllenBeth @rebeccawatson Show me the lies in this piece, please, EllenBeth.

@BlameEllenBeth: @MistressOfFrog The link to the photo claiming assault @rebeccawatson

@MistressOfFrog: @BlameEllenBeth @rebeccawatson can you be a bit more specific. There are a lot of links in this piece.

@BlameEllenBeth: @MistressOfFrog Stephanie’s title and her disclaimer not to be armchair pyschologists is the height of hypocrisy -

Referring to a question that I think is reasonable and open by using a question mark but insisting that people not try to answer the question because they’re not qualified is the “height of hypocrisy” now. What would she have had left to say had I tried to diagnose him rather than declining to answer because I’m not qualified? [Read more...]


It’s a weird thing when people tweet at you in the third person. It’s particularly weird when that person likely has no followers in common with you, and is, thus, speaking to you in the third person. Or rather, to me.

Screen cap of tweets from iamcuriousblue. Text in the post.

@Szvan and the drama she just can’t let go of http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/06/equality-for/

> @Szvan can talk about Grothe etc being “psychopaths” all she wants. Based on my interactions with her, that’s projection of her behavior.

Now, I don’t know whether iamcuriousblue there meant to link to this piece instead and grabbed the wrong FtB tab to copy his link from. Or whether they meant to link a piece I had tweeted twice (which they’re not following me to see) then talk about a post I wrote in a second tweet only a minute later. Either way, the line about me not being able to let go is downright precious.

As for their interactions with me, see for yourself:

Oh, wait. That last one’s right here. If we were to conflate lying and psychopathy, as iamcuriousblue appears to be (inappropriately) doing, who’s the psychopath in these encounters?

D. J. Grothe, Psychopath?

A funny thing happened nearly two and a half years ago. When I say “funny”, I mean the kind of thing where the principals get together years later, look each other in the eye, and laugh because what the hell else are they going to do?

In early January 2012, after months of hesitation, I wrote a post about three incidents involving JREF president D. J. Grothe’s reactions to pseudoscientific rape apologia, child sex trafficking, and misogynist, threatening comments aimed at a feminist blogger. I pointed out that Grothe, in each case, had stepped in to defend the anti-feminist actions in question and suggested he needed to take a look at that trend.

The response from him at the time was the now-infamous chant of “Doin’ it for the pageviews!”. The response a few months down the road was to blame me, among others, for the decline in female attendance at The Amazing Meeting, an assertion that was contradicted in the very thread where his comments were left. The ongoing response has mostly been futilely derogatory, vague comments on Facebook and Twitter and blocking anyone who might have an interest in discussing those comments skeptically in public.

The responses from people other than Grothe, however, were enlightening. There was the usual back-and-forth of “Thank you for speaking up publicly” versus “How dare you say bad things about a public figure?”, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the people who have known Grothe personally. [Read more...]