I can haz cognitive dissonance? »« It happens every time like clockwork

No, DJ Grothe should not resign from JREF

I think Greg Laden has gone a little far with that one. But…

He didn’t say the right thing.

Okay, so…latest drama in the Sex Wars. DJ Grothe, the current president of JREF, and the man responsible for running The Amaz!ing Meeting every summer in Vegas (which I’ve now attended three times and Matt and Beth once), made a comment concerning the serious drop in the number of women who have pre-registered for this year’s show. Unwisely, he made this comment.

Last year we had 40% women attendees, something I’m really happy about. But this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed. (This is misinformation. Again, there’ve been no reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF, nor any reports filed with authorities at any other TAMs of which I’m aware.) We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

There are too many mixed messages one can get from that paragraph. On the one hand, DJ is understandably concerned about over-the-top Internet rumors that TAM somehow condones pedophilia and misogynist violence. But the very next sentence conflates that kind of irresponsible rumor-mongering (and I wish there were examples he’d presented of those kinds of heinous falsehoods) with the very real concerns women in the movement are expressing regarding plain ol’ sexual harassment and creeper behavior at conferences in general (not really TAM specifically). And that wasn’t a good move.

What he ought to have said is simply something like this. “I understand that there are a great many concerns about reported instances of sexual harassment and similar disrespectful behavior at skeptics’ events. I would like to reassure our supporters and attendees that regardless of what you may have heard, TAM is strongly committed to its own anti-harassment policies, and any reported violations of those policies will be swiftly and responsibly dealt with in order to ensure a positive convention experience for all attendees.”

As it stands, he comes across as shooting the messenger. As DJ is very much a politician in his interactions with people, it ought to have occurred to him to choose better wording. (Granted, he was making a comment on Facebook and not an official statement via a JREF source. But when you are president of anything, guess how every word out of your mouth will be taken?) His inability to remember an incident last year when he himself threw a guy out for harassing Ashley Miller just decreases everyone’s confidence that DJ’s really clued in here.

I’m a little disenchanted with TAM myself, mainly because I think they’ve been going off-message with the whole skepticism thing, bizarrely making room for selective inclusion of woo while increasingly marginalizing the more overtly atheistic among us. DJ’s reaction to a proposal I made to do a live Atheist Experience taping from the TAM stage went from “I like that idea!” at last summer’s show to “We aren’t doing any atheist programming this year” when I spoke to him at Reason Rally. Last year there was a workshop on, of all things, “Spirituality for Skeptics,” and one of the speakers was astronomer Pamela Gay, a devout Christian. While she commendably kept her religious beliefs out of her speech, some of what she writes about her beliefs on her own blog make me wonder if she’s best suited to speak at a skeptics’ conference rather than just at astronomy ones.

I don’t want to see DJ resign, I simply want to see him take everyone’s concerns to heart and make an effort to understand and improve. If he is seen to do this, it will go a long way toward rebuilding confidence that JREF’s ship is being well-steered away from any looming icebergs.


Addendum: In response to DJ’s remarks, Rebecca Watson has pulled out of TAM. This will fire up her haters, no doubt (“Yeah, and she said she wouldn’t buy any more Dawkins books either — I’m sure his career is over now!” “Hooray, I can ride the elevators again without having to register as a sex offender!”), but the fact is that Skepchick and Rebecca have been a major factor in TAM’s success in diversifying its audience and making the conference a welcoming place for women. Her quiz show was a popular part of TAM programming, and the Skepchick party at Caesar’s Palace in 2008 is something I’ll remember for years to come. A lot of people will accuse Rebecca of drama-queening this and elevating her own importance to the show (and it should be mentioned that TAM this year has so far scheduled 15 female speakers out of 32), but her concerns stated in her blog post — including her personal experience of harassment — should be given a respectful hearing. This is something I hope DJ and JREF won’t ignore, given the history of cooperation and partnership between TAM and Skepchick.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve asked about and suggested a couple of times that maybe D.J. Grothe is exactly who JREF wants in charge, and there’s no mistake or error in what he said with regards to TAM.

    You think they’ve gone “off message” but maybe that is exactly the message they want sent, and that they actually are cool about marginalizing feminists and atheists both. The assumption I’m making is that someone complained about atheists and JREF has gone out of their way ever since to distance themselves from atheism. Is it going too far to assume someone complained about feminism, and JREF is doing the same thing here?

    • says

      It all seems a little baffling to me, because here were both DJ and James Randi appearing at Reason Rally, with Randi interviewed on television saying “Humanity doesn’t need gods.” Which is as openly atheistic a statement as you could make. And yet they’re marginalizing atheism at their own conference, in order to placate the selectively “skeptical” out there?

      It’s just confusing. And the direction of the biggest skeptics’ conference out there should not be a confusing one.

    • Keven Norris says

      The biggest thing to remember is what James Randi has ALWAYS said, the JREF is not an atheist organization. Just because most JREF members are atheists doesn’t mean it is an atheist organization. He wants to concentrate on attacking woo and not becoming distracted with the theists attacking the JREF.

  2. says

    I recently had a little back and forth with a skeptically minded blogger who’s basic position was that skepticism shouldn’t get into making any conclusions and focus on arguments or evidence.

    The position was arguing against one psychics abilities is fine but that the skeptical movement should refrain from activism or promotion of any conclusions. There were a few exceptions made on the activism front global warming and vaccination as they were too important. That skepticism was a scientific act and not a philosophical one so you can only address scientific actions like say the effectiveness of a faith healer and not the existence of any gods.

    I don’t entirely agree with all that but if that’s the kind of road people want to go with TAM there are at least enough alternative conferences that I don’t have a huge problem letting them have it.

    As to DJ, I don’t think he should resign but I think hiring someone to help with PR might not be a bad idea.

      • CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

        Some points you might try on that…
              Someone’s reasons don’t matter if the claim they assent to was incoherent to begin with. And their refusal/inability to share those reasons wouldn’t make such claims bulletproof.

              When coherent, it’s not necessary to make an absolutely certain counterclaim in the negative (the blog’s complaint). However such statements are often shorthand for: an exceedingly low expectation that this someone is going to be the first to buck a milennia-long trend of invalidity and tired repetition among widly sampled believers, especially if this someone is holding a bible and a watchtower pamphlet. It’s not just the claim, the assessment includes the claimant’s homogeny with their peers, who have failed.

              Lastly, the choices aren’t “No such thing” and “I am not convinced” (which allows for dissent in cases of ambiguity).
        There’s also “Given the current state of knowledge publicly available on the subject, I don’t seriously think any rational person would be convinced except due to misapprehension, etc.”

        -Signed, Someone possessed by Napolean’s amnesiac ghost.

  3. 'Tis Himself says

    I don’t want to see DJ resign, I simply want to see him take everyone’s concerns to heart and make an effort to understand and improve.

    Right now, DJ appears to be blaming everyone but himself and his staff for whatever he feels like blaming people for. He writes:

    I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

    Short DJG: “Damn bitches, if they’d just shut up then there wouldn’t be a problem!”

    No, DJ, the problem is not with what people are saying. The problem is your refusal to ask questions like:

    ● Women, what are your concerns about TAM and JREF?

    ● Women, what can we do to make TAM more woman-friendly?

    ● Women, what can we do to convince you we are actively trying to make TAM more woman-friendly?

    Then you need to actively LISTEN to the answers.

    • says

      Also just asking why are’t women attending? I realise he got some emails but those may not be representative of why many women are giving TAM a pass this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason rally and Women in secularism siphoned off a good chunk of the women that might have attended TAM this year. (Doesn’t mean they did I just wouldn’t be surprised)

        • says

          I just realized that, not yet having been to a skeptic con, I really don’t know if the younger attendees are more likely to be women or not. I’m bringing a preconception from engineering that doesn’t necessarily hold true for other areas.

          Nonetheless, I still suspect that Comic-con could have a potential impact on TAM attendance, but I’m not sure if I have a plausible explanation for why it would draw a relatively higher number of women than men.

  4. Kazim says

    Martin,

    What this situation reminds me of, is the Bush campaign circa the 2004 election. Bear with me for a minute.

    Back in ought-four, we were hearing about American soldiers behaving abysmally in all kinds of ways due to lack of oversight. There was the Abu Ghraib naked pyramid, and the soldiers pissing on the Koran, and that dumbass Boykin saying our God could beat up their God.

    The Bush campaign, as you’ll recall, responded by smearing Kerry for bringing it up. They said “When those traitor Democrats talk about all this bad stuff we’re doing, it inspires more terrorism and hurts our troops.” Thus, they inverted a legitimate problem by saying that talking about it was the real danger, rather than the fact that they let it happen.

    I hope you see the connection. DJ is, in my opinion, being very very unwise by sticking his head in the sand and imploring people not to talk about things that make his organization look bad.

    • Zengaze says

      Yep pretty much nailed what I was thinking, though I didn’t think of the GW analogy along the way.

      One additional point I would add, is that the skeptical movement is supposed to be one that deals with reality, part of that requires talking about realities.

      If in fact he believes females are not going to conferences because of an over sensationalised harassment myth, there’s a solution. Demonstrate it to be a myth, debunk it. (I know this may be messing with who has the burden of proof in a claim) but if he believes this “myth” is having a massively detrimental effect on the movement, he has a duty to act, and what harm could come from taking positive action to demonstrate the skeptic movement is welcoming to females?

      Before I get roasted, please note I am not saying the harassment is a myth

      • LeftSidePositive says

        The problem is he’s leaning too hard on “insist it’s a myth!” (which is unfortunately what women have to deal with ALL THE TIME when they bring up complaints of mistreatment) instead of “positively show you’re friendly to women.”

      • sqlrob says

        Even assuming harassment is a myth, there’s a problem. There’s the implication that harassment isn’t handled properly if it does happen. So there’s two, mostly orthogonal, problems here.

  5. says

    We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women

    I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics…

    I find this bit highly problematic. It’s almost (but not quite) as if he’s drawing a connection between the obviously outrageous and false accusations of child-sex-trafficking and the blog posts that more reasonably criticize the JREF for not sufficiently focusing on making the conventions friendly to women.
    There’s just enough to give an unwary reader the impression that the women skeptics are making a rash, irresponsible and baseless accusation about TAM being a cover for a pedophile ring, but it’s also vague enough that he can claim that’s not what he meant.

    It’s phrased exactly the way I would phrase it if I wanted to tarnish the reputation of my critics, while protecting myself from any blowback from them. But… it might also just be poor writing. I genuinely can’t tell if he’s trying to make such a connection, while maintaining plausible deniability or if he simply phrased it poorly.

    Normally, I might be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, but when it comes in the context of a post that reeks of victim-blaming and has at least one outright falsehood (no reports, my ass), I have to start wondering. This statement is sounding an awful lot like it’s coming from a victim-blaming, harassment-justifying sexist, who’s trying to undermine the experiences of women and sweep problems under the carpet.

    Assuming that he’s one of the good guys, I hope he would find it disconcerting to know that that’s how he’s being perceived. If your actions are indistinguishable from those of a sexist, you’re probably doing something wrong.

    I agree that calls for resignation are premature. I’m suspending judgment at the moment, until I see what response comes in answer to the recent wave of criticism.

    • says

      And while I wait, I’ll be doing some reading on the suggestions that this is not the first time DJ has acted in this manner. I’m not up to speed on the facts of these allegations.

    • says

      Similarly issues when he made this accusation…

      “So much of that feels to me more like rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers who are eventually deemed as “skeezy,” and whom they feel should be not allowed to speak at such conferences going forward.”

      • says

        Exactly this. Does D.J. know who is saying what? If he’s heard what I’ve heard–first-hand reports–and relegated them to this, he’s a monster. Not an uncommon sort of monster, but still a monster. If he doesn’t have a full picture of what is being said behind the scenes, he has not just no business poisoning the well like this, but an active duty as the head of an organization he claims is welcoming to women to not say this crap.

    • LeftSidePositive says

      As for the child-trafficking thing, apparently there actually is a not-totally-out-there reason for why he’s getting those complaints:

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/01/03/dammit-dj/

      Now, no one is saying he or the JREF are sitting in a darkened room, twirling their mustaches and saying “Bwahahahaha! How many children shall we traffic today?!”

      BUT it really seems to me that he’s not understanding why he is being criticized (now, this does not preclude the possibility of someone completely off-the-rails emailing him something bizarrre, he’s head of a major organization, after all, so I can’t imagine he doesn’t get kooks rather frequently).

      SO, a major backer of Lawrence Krauss WAS ACTUALLY CAUGHT IN A SEX-TRAFFICKING SCANDAL. The man did time. This was not a wild allegation, there was a very detailed investigation into his criminal behavior.

      Lawrence made an UTTERLY inept defense that is CLASSIC deny, dismiss, derail:

      http://skepchick.org/2011/04/lawrence-krauss-defends-a-sex-offender-embarrasses-scientists-everywhere/

      In the face of this, DJ was totally irresponsible and played a “well, I don’t know about the details…” (when the details were provided!) and said the age of consent should be looked at “skeptically” when A PERSON WAS ACCUSED OF RAPING 13-year-olds! Seriously?! He backtracked when he was called on it, but the fact remains he was engaged in some CLASSIC techniques to obfuscate and minimize some very serious abuse. Even assuming women in the skeptic/atheist movements have been raped at the average incidence of the general population (heck, let’s be generous and say HALF that!), this means that a good number of people reading his posts have probably heard THEIR OWN RAPES dismissed in very similar terms to what DJ was doing. You can’t just wipe that away with saying your comment was ill-timed and you sincerely apologize for the impression you caused, and expect it to go back to a blank slate. The fact is, the way rape culture works, even if no one INTENTIONALLY means to shield rapists, the ways DJ was acting makes it much, much easier for rapists and child-traffickers to operate (and Catholic priests, for that matter). The reflexive denial of the problem and the lack of responsibility he showed in learning what was going on before spouting his mouth off is unbecoming of a major organization president.

      So, my best guess is that he probably got a lot of complaints that what he was doing was unacceptable and was contributing to attitudes that minimize victims and enable perpetrators (and he may have gotten some insults directed at him reflecting the practical effects of his irresponsibility), but this is NOT THE SAME THING as saying the JREF literally intentionally supports child trafficking. In essence, he’s strawmanning.

      Also, I think it’s fairly irresponsible of him to act like a victim of vicious rumors and unhinged ladybrainz for people DARING to mention “child sex trafficking,” when his own behavior has shown some pretty shocking insensitivity toward the victims of child sex trafficking. This wasn’t some malicious rumor that came out of nowhere–he fucked up, and he needs to own it.

      • LeftSidePositive says

        Oh, sweet FSM, I just realized I typed this:

        he’s head of a major organization, after all, so I can’t imagine he doesn’t get kooks rather frequently

        Holy shit, the man is head of JREF! HIS JOB is to deal with a whole pack of psychics, aura-readers, and faith-healers scrounging for $1M…if he can’t filter out emails by kooks by now I have NO sympathy!

      • says

        Well, not to be The Pedant, but there is a non-trivial difference (not that it makes the guilty party any less stupid) between an inept and clueless defense of a friend/supporter who’s charged with child abuse, and openly advocating pedophilia.

        • LeftSidePositive says

          Didn’t I say that? To wit:

          So, my best guess is that he probably got a lot of complaints that what he was doing was unacceptable and was contributing to attitudes that minimize victims and enable perpetrators [...] but this is NOT THE SAME THING as saying the JREF literally intentionally supports child trafficking.

          I think people have been trying to tell him that he is SUPPORTING child rapists, which is true: he is engaging in discourse that perpetuates the cultural attitudes that make it *much* easier for them to operate. (This is the same “I support my friends” attitude that Polanski was able to exploit.)

          DJ is likely trying to turn this perfectly cogent criticism into claims he’s CONDONING child rapists–but even the Catholic Church doesn’t do that!! They pull this “yes, it’s regrettable, but we don’t have enough information, and we don’t think the legal system is the right way to pursue this, we’ve known these priests for years and they are holy men, and here are some distracting issues we can throw at you, blahblahblah…”

          There also might be some variant of “for fuck’s sake, LISTEN to yourself, DJ!! Why would you say such rape-enabling things unless you condoned child rapists?!” but speculating about someone’s subconscious biases/total irresponsibility is not the same as repeating their specific intentions.

        • says

          I will see your Super Pedantry, and raise you an Ultra Pedantry: pedophilia and child rape are two different things. Only one of them is a crime.

  6. says

    I think we are in complete agreement here, except that I’ve suggested a more dramatic and difinitive course of action. I suggested that for a reason.

    If I was the board of an institution concerned with racism, and I found my CEO out there saying that racism is an issuer but it looks worse than it is because lots of black people are playing the race card…I’d seek to replace my CEO.

    This is different because JREFs brief is not feminism. But many think these days that the skeptics movement is poised to become politically self aware, and DJGs tour of fb and blogs tells that he is not on board with this.

    DJ is pro diversity but at the same time rather clueless. And he’s the captain of a organization that women seem to be turning their backs on. And he’s blaming them.

    Also, as pointed out, he not bing a very good skeptic in his handling or use of the data.

  7. LeftSidePositive says

    But, Martin, the thing is, this hasn’t been even close to the first time DJ has done stuff like this:

    There was the whole thing with DJ “seeing where Lawrence is coming from” when supporting a person accused of child-sex-trafficking, and being really boneheaded and derailing about making dismissive comments (again, to be clear: I’m not saying he’s EVIL about this issue, I’m saying he’s STUPID).

    And I for one was appalled by how he tone-trolled Greta Christina, and made the pretty outrageous suggestion that women objecting to instances of sexism were just trying to drive traffic to their blogs.

    I think Greta said it best:

    if D.J. is setting a tone of excusing and rationalizing misogynistic threats of violence, and of impugning the motivations of people who call him on it, that fosters an environment where it’s seen to be okay. That’s important.

    And now all of this ‘you women are ruining my conference by talking about your problems’ and ‘I have survey results therefore what you are complaining about can’t possibly be a problem!’ and ‘you are wrong to communicate this is a serious issue when it doesn’t match the incidence on my survey results!’

    It’s not that DJ MEANS to be sexist, and my understanding of the commentary is not that he’s malicious, it’s just that he has some major privilege blinders and that he is harming women’s issues by dismissing and derailing them. He’s also, frankly, completely incompetent at addressing women’s concerns. That level of incompetence, especially in view of these *repeated* failures in this regard, shows that this is a long-standing problem and he should probably, at least, take some time off to deal with these gaping deficiencies in his leadership skills.

    • says

      I agree about the blinders. I want to see him work on that, though, because in many ways, he’s done a lot to make the skeptical community accessible to women, and I think he thinks because of this, he just doesn’t make mistakes where women in skepticism are concerned.

      • LeftSidePositive says

        Yeah, I get the same vibe from DJ as I get from Obama administration flaks who think saying LILLY LEDBETTER is enough to satisfy all our possible concerns about women’s issues.

        And I agree it would be best if he changed, it’s just that after a few of these, I’ve been, like, so NOW is he going to get it??? And you can only be disappointed so many times.

  8. Adam says

    The reason people are giving TAM a pass is because the speakers are not as high profile.

    I suspect that VAST majority of women who came last year (a record breaking year mostly due to the lineup) where there with their spouses and didn’t bother coming this year because of the extra expense and less high profile speakers.

    The reality is that TAM, skepticism, and atheism attract males more than females. We can wring our hands over the non political correctness of this reality but I don’t think it has anything to do with TAM.

    • Lara says

      Adam,

      You are basing your assertions on, what, exactly? Because it sounds an awful lot like something you pulled out of your ass based on your own personal prejudices. How very skeptical of you.

      Try this on for size – your very own words, with exactly two words changed – “The reality is that TAM, skepticism, and atheism attract whites more than blacks. We can wring our hands over the non political correctness of this reality but I don’t think it has anything to do with TAM”

      or how about this – “The reality is that TAM, skepticism, and atheism attract straights more than gays. We can wring our hands over the non political correctness of this reality but I don’t think it has anything to do with TAM.”

      regard,
      Lara

      • mike says

        I tried those on for size and they seem to fit perfectly well. Your “analogy” makes no critical sense because blacks are 12% of the US pop. and gay men even less so, whereas women and men are about 50/50 but currently more men are interested in skeptical issues which is what we are trying to change.

        • says

          Mike announces to us all that he doesn’t know how fractions work.

          Hey Mike – are black people 12% of the crowd at freethought events? NO? Gawrsh! It’s almost as though Lara’s analogy works PERFECTLY WELL, it’s just that you’re kind of a moron.

          The funny part of this is that people have been explaining why this problem exists for YEARS, and yet there are folks like Adam and Mike who act like it’s some big sodding mystery that can be explained away by pulling stupidity and bad math out of their asses. We know how to improve the situation, and Step 1 is for the Mikes and the Adams of the world to actually start listening instead of offering their “educated” guesses.

      • Adam says

        Actually there are probably a higher percentage of gays at TAM then in the population as a whole. TAM is actually very gay friendly.

        The reason there are not more black people at skeptical events is because religion plays a larger role in black culture. It is also expensive to go to such events and on average black people are poor than white people. Lastly most attendees of things like TAM are college educated and only about 18% of blacks hold a college education. The same could be said for Hispanics.

        Suggesting the women are not attending out of fear of being talk to in an elevator is FAR FAR more insulting to women than my suggestion. Most women are coming as married couples, it is expensive to come (so either they don’t come or the spouse more interested comes), the lineup isn’t as good (not as many head-liners) so they might skip a year.

        • Lara says

          “Suggesting the women are not attending out of fear of being talk to in an elevator is FAR FAR more insulting to women than my suggestion.”

          When and where did you ever read someone suggest that? Women in the skeptical movement have seen one woman make an extremely mild rebuke about one person’s bad behaviour and subsequently been subjected to a ridiculous shitstorm for months afterwards. Women have seen their legitimate complaints about bad behaviour be dismissed and ignored. And that is one of the best case scenarios. Others have received threats and insults for daring suggest that there is a problem.

          That is why I’m not going to TAM. Not because I worry about being harassed, but because I have a lot of evidence that suggests that if I do witness harassment and talk about it, I will be subjected to the same.

          Harassment is a small part of the problem. The fact that the focus is on silencing the people who talk about it rather than address the problem is much, much bigger.

          I would also like to point out the lovely irony in this statement of yours “Actually there are probably a higher percentage of gays at TAM then in the population as a whole. TAM is actually very gay friendly.”

          Spot it.

        • says

          Again, I don’t think you’re altogether wrong that there could be any number of reasons why more women aren’t attending, including economic ones. But note: it’s DJ who has suggested that the downturn in women attendees this year most likely has to do with rabble-rousing feminists scaring the shit out of everyone on their blogs with horrible stories that these conferences are full of demonically cackling rapers running wild in the corridors.

          Some women have experienced harassment, not all or even most. The anger here is surrounding DJ’s making light of the problem by saying that those women who have experienced harassment are misremembering, if not outright lying, and exaggerating their own experiences to deliberately frighten away others.

  9. says

    I suspect that VAST majority of women who came last year (a record breaking year mostly due to the lineup) where there with their spouses and didn’t bother coming this year because of the extra expense and less high profile speakers.

    The reality is that TAM, skepticism, and atheism attract males more than females. We can wring our hands over the non political correctness of this reality but I don’t think it has anything to do with TAM.

    Now THAT’S how you do skepticism, folks! Make some shit up, and then make some MORE shit up! Then, go do something else.

    Hey Adam – did you ASK any women? No, that would be silly. What could women POSSIBLY have to contribute to a conversation about what they think and feel? Besides, you’ve got all of the answers already! Data collection would just be superfluous!

    • says

      I’d also like to thank Adam for reminding us all about the importance of humility. It is easy to forget, when dealing with teh various idiocies of religion, that some atheists are total dumbasses as well. You’ve provided us with a valuable service, sir. So much so in fact that I don’t think you ever need to talk about anything else ever again. Please.

  10. anon123 says

    The way I see it is this:

    You can either openly admit that scaring away even a large portion of the women is a price you are willing to pay to achieve a higher goal i.e. to reduce sexism and sexual harassment in the atheist community. That would be the honest way.

    Or you can demand that the community be more inclusive of women and then if organizers of meetings because of your suggestion have half of the speakers being women and implement an anti-harassment policy and the attendance of women drops by 50 % you simply go “you are the organizer, it is your problem not mine”. That’s be dishonest way.

    And my not surprised which way Stephanie Zvan, PZ, and skepchick choose.

    • LeftSidePositive says

      Or, y’know, DJ could actually provide some evidence for his contention 1) that women are being “scared off” at all, and 2) that it’s the women complaining publicly that are the problem, as opposed to the colossal backlash they get when they speak up.

      • karmakin says

        In the short term warning people about very real threats does tend to have that result. I’m not sure why we’re shying away from that. Not that there’s not good reason to do so..again..letting people know about very real threats seems to me to be a really good idea, and can help people, but if you look at it at those “terms” there’s a cost, so to speak. We just think that in the long-run the benefits outweigh the costs.

        • karmakin says

          That said, I do think that DJ is wrong and the drop probably has more to do with the Women in Secularism conference (and other conferences) than it does with TAM itself.

          • says

            Well, maybe, but we don’t know. It could be economic reasons (not everyone can just fly all over the place — I’m not going to TAM because my conference budget this year went to Reason Rally instead), but if TAM’s drop in female attendance does have to do with concerns about its harassment policies, then that’s a thing DJ needed to address in a better way than he did.

  11. Muz says

    As much as I think DJ’s said some dumb things of late and it’s obvious why people are annoyed with him, I can’t help but think some of this particular flare up could have been much more subdued if people really wanted it to be.
    But people will communicate via immensely composed blog posts instead (or defensive, long comments that aren’t much better). Really, I wonder some times if it’s not sexism or militant atheism that’s ripping apart skeptisism (if that is indeed what’s happening, which I doubt) but the idea that blogging is any sort of useful way of discussing things and resolving disagreements.

    Again, I kinda get why people are mad, but it basically uncharitable to pull Grothe up on the Safe Space thing like it’s some sort of thought crime.
    This is how it’s supposed to go.
    “women are saying TAM is dangerous and blah blah blah statistics surveys blah.”

    “No actually, what I said was “I thought TAM was a Safe Space”. It’s a specific thing.”

    “Oh right. Well that kinda makes those paragraphs of mine irrelevant then doesn’t it. Moving on…”

    See, if the low key middle step is taken and then that last part doesn’t emerge then people can get cross. At the risk of appearing like I’m agreeing with Grothe that all this ire is a blogger feedback loop (which I’m not), every step of the conversation being half a dozen or so captious public essays, minutely analysing quotes and tweets, really doesn’t seem able to facilitate dialogue on this any more.
    Stop blogging and talk, is what I’m trying to say.

    • Jandorian says

      “I can’t help but think some of this particular flare up could have been much more subdued if people really wanted it to be.”
      “Stop blogging and talk, is what I’m trying to say.”

      Given that DJ’s post/comment about Rebecca Watson seems to one of the things that really kicked this into overdrive (specifically his citing of things she said in USA Today to buttress his “talking about the problem is making it worse” argument seems to have contributed to her decision to avoid TAM), and given that according to Watson (I think I read this in a comment by her on Skepchick in response to the same line of discussion) DJ already has access to her email address and phone number but he chose to address her on that matter in the comment thread of a blog, I think you should direct this feedback to DJ and the JREF. It seems they need a refresher in basic PR, and your advice is certainly applicable to them.

      • Muz says

        If I appeared at all exclusive in my advice then consider that an oversight and adjust impressions acordingly ;)

  12. rrpostal says

    Well shit. TAM went and imploded before I ever got to go. I can’t think of a less fun atmosphere to be involved with. We’re arguing about what a bunch of assholes we all are while the quacks, woo and creationists stroll merrily along.

  13. says

    @rrpostal

    Perhaps, but it’s a necessary argument to have. So often we ask the Christians to clean their own house. We can’t very well ignore doing the same ourselves.

    In the long run, we’ll be stronger for it. Ignoring significant problems for political expediency is never a good idea. It always comes back to bite you in the ass.

  14. Sharpur says

    I know this is a far-out notion, but bear with me:
    Maybe, just maybe, DJ Grothe and JREF don’t think that a few bloggers on FTB and Skepchick have the authority, the right or the power to tell them what to think or what to do!
    Could that be it?

      • Sharpur says

        I didn’t say anyone was trying to control me. I’m not DJ or part of JREF, nor am I in a position to attend conferences in the USA, so I wont be at TAM anyway.

        However, consider this: Feminism is peripheral to atheism, which is only one aspect of scepticism. TAM is JREFs scepticism event. If they do not wish to relinquish control of it to a small group of bloggers whose main agenda is feminism, that is their right.

        Also, I think you have rather shot your bolt with respect to them: Led by Rebecca Watson you’ve announced a boycott of the event. You’ve repeatedly called for DJ’s head. What does he, or JREF have left to lose where you are concerned? They may as well write you off and focus on those who will be attending.

        • says

          I didn’t say anyone was trying to control me.

          Wasn’t referring to you specifically, just making a general observation about the motives of someone who would react to criticisms the way you describe.

          TAM is JREFs scepticism event. If they do not wish to relinquish control of it to a small group of bloggers whose main agenda is feminism, that is their right.

          The idea that women should not be subject to unwanted sexual advances at public events (or anywhere else) is not a feminism thing, though many of the women who bring up the subject of harassment up do happen to be feminists. But the issue at hand isn’t feminism, simply respect. What happens, though, is that when women bring up these concerns, too many men respond with “FEMINISM!” in a way that turns the word into a label declaring the matter at hand irrelevant, unworthy of serious discussion, and only something that angry man-hating harpies care about anyway. It’s a way to silence women’s voices on matters that concern them, and it is noted.

          Led by Rebecca Watson you’ve announced a boycott of the event.

          And this is where you show your hand and reveal your innate dishonesty. No one is being “led” by Rebecca, even most of her own fellow bloggers at Skepchick, who are attending the conference this year. No one at this blog has once, even once, announced a boycott of TAM. The reason I clearly gave, in English, accessible to any functionally literate adult, is that I already spent my discretionary money on Reason Rally this year, and that I hope to go back to TAM soon.

          You’ve repeatedly called for DJ’s head.

          Can you even read? The very title of this post is rejecting the call for DJ to resign.

          Come back when you’ve got something other than bald-faced lies to make a point with. Jesus, you’re as bad as a creationist talking about Dawkins.

          • Sharpur says

            The idea that women should not be subject to unwanted sexual advances at public events (or anywhere else) is not a feminism thing, though many of the women who bring up the subject of harassment up do happen to be feminists. But the issue at hand isn’t feminism, simply respect. What happens, though, is that when women bring up these concerns, too many men respond with “FEMINISM!” in a way that turns the word into a label declaring the matter at hand irrelevant, unworthy of serious discussion, and only something that angry man-hating harpies care about anyway. It’s a way to silence women’s voices on matters that concern them, and it is noted.

            I have not used the term feminism in the way that you described though. Phrases such as ‘man-hating harpies’ and ‘attempts to silence womens’ voices’ are yours. Since you use them though, do they indicate what you think JD and JREF are thinking and doing, or are they abusive strawmen directed me for disagreeing with you?

            And this is where you show your hand and reveal your innate dishonesty. No one is being “led” by Rebecca, even most of her own fellow bloggers at Skepchick, who are attending the conference this year. No one at this blog has once, even once, announced a boycott of TAM. The reason I clearly gave, in English, accessible to any functionally literate adult, is that I already spent my discretionary money on Reason Rally this year, and that I hope to go back to TAM soon.

            I have no hand to show, as I said I’m nothing to do with JREF nor can I attend TAM. I think it is disingenuous of you though to claim, on the one hand that Rebecca Watson has widespread support, and on the other to deny that her views may be influential.
            Also, I don’t understand why you keep going out of your way to insult me in every paragraph. I’m a reader of athiesm/scepticism blogs who hasn’t visited FTB for a while. I’ve returned to find this sort of behaviour. Surely you don’t think addressing people in this way can have any positive effect.

            Can you even read? The very title of this post is rejecting the call for DJ to resign.

            Come back when you’ve got something other than bald-faced lies to make a point with. Jesus, you’re as bad as a creationist talking about Dawkins.

            Of course I can read, but the reason for the title of your post is because several people on FTB, with whom you are broadly in agreement have called for JD to resign many times. You conclude it by saying that you think it’s ok for him to keep his job if he does what you and your friends say. However, as I pointed out, neither he, nor JREF have anything to gain by going beyond what they’ve already done it a, probably, futile effort to placate you.

            Finally, you conclude your response by insulting me again. You don’t know me. I’m simply a passer-by on this and numerous other blogs and forums – including the RDFRS – yet because I disagree you direct a torrent of abuse at me. Are you interested in engaging those outside your existing circle? Or is FTB now a place where no dissent is permitted? If so it makes rather a mockery of ‘freethought’.

          • says

            I think it is disingenuous of you though to claim, on the one hand that Rebecca Watson has widespread support, and on the other to deny that her views may be influential.

            You didn’t say she was influential, you said we were being “led” by her, in a way that indicated Rebecca is someone who says “Jump” and an coterie of feminist sycophants says “How high?” There’s an art to spin control, and you’ve yet to learn it.

            Also, I don’t understand why you keep going out of your way to insult me in every paragraph. I’m a reader of athiesm/scepticism blogs who hasn’t visited FTB for a while. I’ve returned to find this sort of behaviour. Surely you don’t think addressing people in this way can have any positive effect.

            Pot, meet kettle. You turned up here and spewed a tissue of lies about our position towards TAM (boycott? — no) and DJ Grothe (off with his head? — no), all of which while hand-waving away the topic of sexual harassment as something of sole interest to feminists who simply want to tell JREF and TAM what to think and do. That was insulting. And whether you did all of this out of cluelessness or malice, now that you’ve been called out on your lies, you’ve predictably shifted to victim mode to complain about the abuse you’re getting. You’re also just as predictably pulling this:

            Are you interested in engaging those outside your existing circle? Or is FTB now a place where no dissent is permitted? If so it makes rather a mockery of ‘freethought’.

            Ah yes, the old “Disagreement with me = intolerance, stifling of dissent, a mockery of freethought!” Hint: I am engaging you, right now. It’s just that you’re wrong if you think “engagement” constitutes “agreement.” If your idea of a “freethought” blog is one where you can spread falsehoods with impunity and without fear of remonstration, good luck finding one. You won’t find it here.

          • says

            I think it is disingenuous of you though to claim, on the one hand that Rebecca Watson has widespread support, and on the other to deny that her views may be influential.

            I think it’s disingenuous to claim that that’s what’s under discussion. You didn’t say that Rebecca’s views were influential, you said:

            Led by Rebecca Watson you’ve announced a boycott of the event. You’ve repeatedly called for DJ’s head

            Those are specific factual claims. Claims that are wrong.

            You said something that isn’t true. You were called out for it. Do you really think that’s unreasonable?

            the reason for the title of your post is because several people on FTB, with whom you are broadly in agreement have called for JD to resign many times

            So go take it up with them. Martin clearly doesn’t agree with them on this point, so why throw around these accusations here?

  15. andrew brooks says

    I would be curious to know if anyone has changed their position on the subject of continuing to have Grothe lead the JREF, especially in light of more recent statements.

    • says

      Personally, I used to be open to the idea that DJ’s problem was a matter of poor communication skills and a tendency to speak too hastily. I held out hope that he simply needed to learn a bit about how to express himself and that deep down, he was a decent guy.

      I no longer think that. DJ’s problem is DJ and I’m past the point where I’m thinking he’s going to change. As long as he’s in charge of JREF, they’ll be less than what they could be. I am ready to say that he should resign, be fired, be tossed into the gutter and have the nightpot emptied on his head; whatever will get him the hell out of there.

      I don’t know exactly what his problem is (I’ve never met him), but it’s clear that he is part of the problem, not the solution. I think that JREF, and skeptic movement at large, would benefit from him shutting up and getting his ass out of the spotlight.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I told you recently about The Conversation. It’s still ongoing, despite attempts to derail it by some folks who just can’t quite seem to understand why sexual harassment is not okay, and that putting policies in place to ensure harassment is handled quickly and appropriately are not, in fact, going to to turn the skeptical and atheist movements into the Taliban. It’s ongoing despite the fact that people who should know better seem to believe discussing these problems is the problem, not the problems themselves. (If that kind of blame-the-messenger syndrome reminds you a little of the Bush regime’s attempts to sweep problems under the rug by attacking the people who mentioned problems instead of solving the actual problems themselves, you are not alone.) [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>