[Pre-Blogathon] Of Dinosaurs and Saddles

Part of the reason I’ve been so inactive on the internet recently is that the indomitable Louise (@spa_yedimonster) and I spent part of this week in Kentucky at a certain museum (hint: it involves creationism) you may recognize…

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…for a women’s conference.

A full write-up (with pictures!) will be appearing over at Friendly Atheist shortly.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogalogging over here for SSAWeek, starting at 10 Central. Have something you want me to write about? For a $20 donation to the SSA, you can pick a post topic!

Have a post topic? Tweet me! Even more importantly, donate to Secular Students!

DJ Fact Correction

I generally don’t take the time to fact correct every random person who misrepresents what I say, because it’s a herculean task, but I’m surprised to find, after all the positive back and forth between us, that DJ went and said this:

All we knew about was that someone was removed from the speaker reception because he wasn’t permitted to be there, and was apparently drunk. In her blog post and in further comments, Ashley says she didn’t feel like the harassment was worth reporting to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time, nor did she nor anyone else mention it in one of the TAM attendee surveys.

No, absolutely not true, and an abhorrent misrepresentation of what happened.

From the man who reported the incident:

…he was rude and talking to several ladies with inappropriate language. I told you [DJ] about him and you took immediate action and talked to the gentleman and you took him from the room.

At that time, DJ only knew what I told him and he acted immediately and did the right thing. There is a chance that DJ does not remember this because he only knew that the guy was rude, drunk and needed to leave. DJ did not stop to think about it – he just took action.

I had been told it was already reported, because it was reported and dealt with by DJ, I didn’t know a second report was necessary. Had DJ himself not been the one who handled the issue initially, if I had thought that he’d totally forget, if I thought he would think that being alerted to a man bothering women translated to just a guy who wasn’t invited, or if I knew that he had not gotten complete information, I would have immediately made an additional report.

Because the issue was very much worth reporting to the JREF staff — which is why it was, it just turned out that the report was incomplete.

To say that I did not think it was worth reporting is a lie and an egregious one at that.

Furthermore, I did not think that DJ would ever be going around saying that no harassment was ever documented at TAM. I didn’t think DJ would be saying that the low attendance problems at TAM were from women talking about sexism they experience. I didn’t think that DJ would ever be saying that the only problem that TAM needs to correct is that victims just don’t officially report enough.

I am extremely lucky that there were other witnesses, I hate to think what other women who’ve been harassed are thinking right now. What would people be saying about me right now if I hadn’t had half a dozen other people there? I mean, considering what they’re already saying.

I hate posting about this stuff. I absolutely despise it, because it’s hard to deal with the comments and it’s hard to relive all the harassment — and not just that one incident, but the lifetime of cultural shame and guilt and horror and anger that comes with every incident. I think what some people are missing is how much that can hurt and how difficult it is to expose yourself like that. Should women report it?  Absolutely, but it’s really difficult to do so because it is painful and when people act the way DJ is acting right now, it makes it even harder.

TAM: For the Ladies?

Jen McCreight and PZ Myers have both posted on this — how welcome are women to skeptic events?

I want to say, before I get into some of the less flattering stuff, that I had an excellent time at TAM8 and I met a lot of really interesting, cool people, both men and women.  And many of the women there were strong, outspoken and hilarious, so even if the women are under-represented, they’re well-represented.  I say under-represented because there was a 20 guy long line to the men’s bathroom and no wait to the women’s bathroom.  If that doesn’t speak to gender ratio, what does?

Of course, there were the constant murmurs of how every guy wants to “bag a skepchick” and the winners of the skepchick party costume contest were the girls willing to make out with each other, but I generally accept that with just some eye-rolling.  There were comments I heard about the looks of the female speakers, but then people were making fun of James Randi and Michael Shermer’s height, so maybe that plays out.

I hang out with geeks, I like geeks, I like geek humor, and a lot of that is offensive if you’re easily offended.  And there can certainly be an air of sketchiness around some of those guys with less familiarity with social interaction, and I will say that TAM was a lot less creepy than Comic Con or Dragon*Con when it came to my average interaction with a strange dude.  People there seemed to be genuinely interested in what I had to say, and the environment seemed to be as deliberately nonsexual as possible most of the time.  Though I was occasionally asked if I was in high school, but ageism is a whole nother thing.

I was, however, really bothered by how the female psychic, Anita Ikonen, was treated and talked about.

I understand that the “other” in a skeptic convention is not going to be gender, race, or sexuality but opinion and point of view.  Someone who thinks that they have magical powers is automatically going to be the center of a fair amount of eye-rolling, derision and name-calling.  It’s natural for groups to behave that way, unfortunately, and I’m not here to say that I support the things Anita believes or even her behavior, I don’t know her that well.  But I will say that most of the insults and jeers thrown her way were all based around the fact that she was a young and attractive woman.

Someone called her, on her facebook page, a “psychic slut”.  Many people at TAM accused her of using her sexuality to her advantage, of sleeping around, of sexually getting off on attention.

I will break this down in a second, but let me make one thing very clear: No one, male or female, should ever call a woman a slut.  The intent of that word is to make a woman feel ashamed of her sexuality, to humiliate her, to make her feel degraded.  Not only does it shame the woman in question, it also makes every other woman scared of admitting to being a sexual creature.

It is the fear of being thought a slut that keeps women from accepting their own sexuality and it keeps victims of rape and molestation from feeling safe revealing that they’ve been hurt.  There is, in my opinion, no more hurtful word you can use towards a woman, it is as vile and low as the N-word.  And society uses it to keep women in their place, especially uppity women with opinions and beliefs you disagree with.

So, if you want to say this psychic woman revels in attention, fine, but you don’t get to start calling her names because you don’t like attractive women who are at home with their own sexuality.  You do that and you start driving away the skeptical women in the group.  I don’t want to be part of a group that slut-shames any woman who doesn’t agree with them, though I don’t think the majority of the skeptical group is guilty of that behavior.

I talked to Anita yesterday, I let her know I was writing this and she told me some other things that had happened to her.  She got turned away from taking pictures with a skeptic celebrity with a brusque, “I’m married,” as though she was trying to sleep with them rather than get a photo, and she was asked to send topless photos to a skeptic when they learned she was a psychic.  I know I just went off the other day on how skeptics don’t need to show a consistent face, but this behavior is completely unacceptable in any human.

The girl may be nuts, she may have HPD, she may be incredibly attention hungry for whatever reason, but that doesn’t make her a slut.  I know some people may have personal reasons to dislike her or the discord she apparently causes, but that doesn’t make her a slut.  And if you hate her, fine, and if you hate that the JREF brings her more publicity, fine, but you don’t get to go around complaining that she’s too flirtatious or that she gets all this attention just for being young and cute.  If people react to that in a way you don’t like, it’s their own fault.

This reminds me of the TDS kerfluffle.  Everyone is pissed at TDS for not hiring enough women or having enough visible women.  So, when does everyone get really vocal about it?  When TDS hires an attractive, sexualized woman.  Guess what?  Women have sex!  Women can have sex and be funny!  Olivia Munn is being punished and slut-shamed for pursuing a career in comedy because she’s not the right kind of woman.  You think that when you complain about it the only person you’re hurting is The Daily Show?  How would you feel if someone hiring you turned into an internet shit storm about how you posed in Playboy and just aren’t that funny on G4?

The feminist movement can really hurt women who aren’t the “right kind of woman”.  Women who are naturally thin (real women have curves), like to have sex (sex is men taking advantage of women), or really like clothes or barbies or the color pink.  It’s hard enough to be a woman, it’s hard enough to be different, can’t we let women be human?  Can’t we let them be sexual beings without trying to make them feel horrible about themselves?  Can’t we focus on the intellectual shit instead of petty bitchery?

Your Friendly Next Door Atheist, Please Don’t Evict Me

My apartment building has new project managers, who also happen to live next door to me. They are a very young, blonde couple with two very young blonde children. They are incredibly polite, though I do hear their baby crying all the time.

They are, of course, god-botherers, having moved in here while he goes to seminary. I feel both good and bad that my radar skills are so honed that I knew he was a seminarian long before he told me (and the rest of the apartment building) through a letter to everyone. I suppose it must be difficult being a priest because you can’t say what you do without saying what you believe, and therefore implying what you think about people who believe differently.

Perhaps it’s overly paranoid of me, but I worry that there’ll be some prejudice against me should he find out I am not into the Jeezy Creezy, and as he is in a position of authority it’s one of those :/ things. Plus his kids are cute, I’d hate for him to be like, “Stay away from the evil monster lady next door.” On the other hand, priest types are usually more interested in conversations with the non-believer than the average Christianist, I think they think it hones their skills.

Slightly related to this is something that came out about Elena Kagan recently — she supported a landlady’s right to refuse to rent to an unwed couple on religious grounds, despite the Fair Housing Act. This is one of those ideals versus real life problems — ideally people would be free to discriminate and the free market would prove that they don’t do well and no one would want to discriminate anyway, but in the real world, you have to balance rights — which is more important the right to housing or the right to discriminate? Maslow has some thoughts on this, but basically my right to resources offered to the public trumps your right to refuse me those services because you don’t like me.

Also today, the guy at the 7/11 near where I work let me get $10 in quarters. Maybe he’d have done this for anyone, but I’m going to say it’s because I’ve made a real effort to talk World Cup with the people in the 7/11, even though they can be somewhat difficult to understand, and I’m always very nice to them. I have a weird psychological need to get along well with all the people who do jobs I would hate to do.

I’m thinking about going to TAM for just one day, which would be 175 instead of 450. Have to figure out work situation first, but it could be cool. Penn&Teller have cancelled and I’d miss Adam Savage, but I would see Randi and Dawkins. And I’d get to, you know, be there.

Boobquake!

Today is the awesome day of Boobquake, where girls around the world are testing the theory of one crazy cleric who claims that all the recent earthquakes are caused by girls dressing too revealingly.

An extremely scientific take: http://www.esarcasm.com/13822/boobquake/

Ah, it’s days like these that very nearly make me wish I hadn’t had that reduction.  That’s three pounds less of boobs contributing to science, glorious science!

And to those poo-pooers and naysayers of the feminist kind, it’s science, I’m doing it because I want to, and stop being so lame!  I mean, what a glorious day for boobies, they have (through Hef) saved the Hollywood sign.  And everybody loves boobies!

This is what science and skepticism should be: silly, sexy, fun, and heavily underlining the ridiculousness of fundamentalist quacks.

{ ( • )( • ) }   Earthquake