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Jun 01 2012

I want to be Howard Wolowitz when (if) I grow up

Kazim asked me to repeat some thoughts about the sexism issue in the skeptical community. He’s right that it’s not fair to let him, Martin and Matt take the heat on the AXP side, while addressing these issues over at Godless Bitches, as if AXP isn’t part of the skeptic community and this issue. So, here I am.

I’ve not really wanted to post much about it, because I got enough of it during Elevatorgate, and pretty well determined that the amount of energy required to make an ounce of headway made it not really worth it for me personally, based on the reality that simply avoiding boors isn’t so difficult for me that I need to work to change them. Be as boorish as you like. Just stay away from me. And I will guarantee that, for my part, I will do everything within reason to avoid having to spend so much as a second of my life anywhere in proximity to you and, what I consider to be, your obnoxious attitudes and behaviors.

I don’t know if I’m the best person to weigh in, as I consider it no great loss to miss Dawkins speak if it means avoiding a weekend of being surrounded by a hotel full of socially inept, inconsiderate, thoughtless, self-centered people. I can read Dawkins’ thoughts in any number of his excellent books without hanging out with a crowd of strangers, which, for me, as a natural introvert, is, I assure you, no great loss. I’m not pushing for, or promoting anything with this post. Fire DJ, or don’t. Have Rebecca speak, or don’t. Fill your audience to the brim with the most boorish personalities on the planet. I honestly don’t care. Whether that makes me more objective in my perspective or easier to disregard, I, also, don’t care.

Again, I’m posting because I was asked to, not because I have anything Earth-shattering I feel any need to share or add to this dialog. In fact, everything I’ve said above, and will say in a moment, should not be considered “news” on this issue. It’s just my personal, subjective assessment and response to what I’ve seen and read from people, themselves, defending, what I consider to be, obnoxious behaviors at skeptic conventions. I’ve gathered, from their insistent rhetoric, that it’s their right to be as disrespectful toward the other attendees as they like. And, to be fair, so long as a convention has no policy to ensure overall social comfort of attendees, it doesn’t matter if they include in their crowd those who are boorish and intolerable to other paid attendees. As long as their behavior isn’t outside legal boundaries, it’s up to the hosts what they will endorse and ask the rest of their audience to endure. However, I expect you won’t mind me laughing at you if you should be so foolish as to ask me why I’m not attending the latest skeptic/atheist convention. You’ve got to be kidding—sincerely kidding—if you’re asking me that. I’d loathe to attend it. And I find the more compelling question “Why would anyone subject himself/herself to a group that contains a fair number of publicly outspoken members who consider their right to be rude to the other guests at a social event, to be more compelling than the overall comfort of the group of guests as a whole?”

Why, on Earth, would I endure these people if I wasn’t absolutely forced to? And, more ridiculously, how self-loathing would I have to be to actually PAY to endure a weekend of disrespect—when I’ve been warned in advance, by the boors themselves, this is what I can expect? I’m actually laughing as I type this because the idea of me willingly doing that to myself is just so stupidly absurd.

To help put it in perspective, following are my ideas for an enjoyable evening in order of preference:

1. Reading a really good book.
2. Reading a really awful book.
3. Being compelled to ingest a plate of dog feces.
4. Pressing myself naked all over with a hot steam iron, set to “full.”
5. Attending a skeptic convention with a crowd of people to whom Howard Wolowitz represents a role model:

If you’re not familiar with Wolowitz, he’s the type of guy I see so many commentors proudly describe themselves as being exactly like—the type of guy, who, when he approaches women and opens his mouth to impress, causes women to flee in droves—trampling one another in an effort to escape as quickly as possible. Imagine, then, being in a hotel lounge with 100 Howard Wolowitzes crammed in there with you, and you’ve pretty well pegged the conventions as they’re represented by the comments (of the boors themselves) posted at any skeptic blog that includes a dialog on sexism in the skeptical community. This may not be how it truly is at the conventions, but it’s surely how these people represent themselves online. And I have yet to see any strong affirmation from a convention host that this isn’t the case. Sure, they may be saying women aren’t commonly reporting sexual battery. But if you’re asking me to PAY to attend, I expect a fun experience, not a weekend of putting up with a herd of clueless clods, the likes of Wolowitz. Yes, yes, I understand he’s not dangerous. I didn’t say he’s harmful. He doesn’t scare me. I’m not saying I’m afraid he’ll rape me. I’m only saying he’s the guy I want to avoid like The Plague when I’m trying to enjoy myself. “What’s wrong with walking up to a woman you don’t know and asking her to come back to your room with you?” Nothing, if you’re goal is to be a Wolowitz clone. In fact, if that’s your goal, then “Bravo!” and “Well done!”

So, take it, leave it, love it, hate it, piss all over it. I couldn’t care less these days. I was asked by Kazim to put it down for the blog, and that’s the reason you’re reading it. If you’re Howard Wolowitz, don’t sit beside me, don’t speak to me, don’t write to me, don’t tell me how you masturbate to my TAE presentations, don’t interact with me at all, or I’m getting up and leaving. Follow me, and I’ll introduce you to security. And if you’re 100 Howard Wolowitzes at a skeptic convention, then the convention, as far as I’m concerned, is all yours. You’re welcome to it. Enjoy. And, without an ounce of sarcasm, I add a hearty “thank you” for warning me in advance—with your flood of truly unbelievable comments at multiple skeptic blogs and social sites—before I had dropped real money and time on what sounds like a truly tedious weekend of being surrounded by unbearable personalities.

Now, where did I put that book?

116 comments

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  1. 1
    Renee

    “Why would anyone subject himself/herself to a group that contains a fair number of publicly outspoken members who consider their right to be rude to the other guests at a social event, to be more compelling than the overall comfort of the group of guests as a whole?”

    *standing ovation*

    There’s a middle ground between Howard and Raj. I think most people are capable of finding it.

    1. 1.1
      Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

      *Joining in the standing ovation*

      Awesome post. Summed up *exactly* why I won’t put my time, money, health and happiness on the line to attend a conference which I won’t enjoy.

      Thank you.

      1. charlesstearns

        *adds a third body to the ovation* Awesome. Just … awesome.

        Without a doubt, this is the best response I’ve read to all of the sexist jerks who come crawling out from under their rocks to post sexist comments on blogs about how none of them are sexist, really. “It’s not THEIR fault that women see them as sexist, it’s because women are too damn sensitive, or something, and what do you mean my comment is sexist?” The level of cluelessness is absurd. Maybe, just maybe, this may actually get a few of them to listen.

    2. 1.2
      Rilian

      Raj is really rather sexist too. All the main characters are kind of. Sheldon is the worst.

  2. 2
    Jandorian

    “Why, on Earth, would I endure these people if I wasn’t absolutely forced to? And, more ridiculously, how self-loathing would I have to be to actually PAY to endure a weekend of disrespect—when I’ve been warned in advance, by the boors themselves, this is what I can expect? I’m actually laughing as I type this because the idea of me willingly doing that to myself is just so stupidly absurd.”

    I’m not the correct gender to be targeted by the Wolowitz clones, but this still hits it spot on for me. Why in the heck would I willingly put myself in the same place as a bunch of these losers and then expect to enjoy it? I won’t enjoy interacting with them, they will drive away other people I may enjoy interacting with, I will be tainted by the association, AND I’m supposed to pay some of the very same cretins for the privilege? I think not.

  3. 3
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    This is pretty much the perfect response.

  4. 4
    epe

    That pretty much sums it up for me.

  5. 5
    The Pint

    I despise Howard Wolowitz with the heat of a thousand suns, so this is just about the most perfect summation of the situation. Thank you!

  6. 6
    Samantha Vimes

    Exactly!

  7. 7
    Jen Peeples

    I could not agree more. I have absolutely no interest in spending money to attend a conference populated by some of the people I’ve interacted with online. Zero. You can have it.

  8. 8
    heisenbug

    I completely agree here. If you are uncomfortable at that sort of convention (which would be normal), then there is no reason to attend it. I have no idea who that Wolowitz guy is, but he sounds like someone completely cluless about social etiquette. He also sounds like a guy who would eat soup with his fingers.

    Though, I am a little puzzled with all the fuss. Heircat offered the best solution of all. Just ignore a conference with such people, that is it. No need to scream at every blog about misogynists.

    1. 8.1
      LeftSidePositive

      Right. So we should just be silent and leave the spaces to you guys. It’s totally not a problem if women just disappear from a movement. It’s totally not a problem if women feel like they’re not welcome or are treated so badly that they don’t enjoy a conference on a topic they would otherwise enjoy. It’s totally not a problem if women have fewer opportunities to become involved in skepticism because conferences are systemically off-putting. Because it’s tradition. And “mademoiselle,” or something.

      You know, on the other thread, you (disingenuously) claimed that women should be treated equally if they wanted equal treatment. Now you’re saying that those who are saying they want equal treatment should stop making a fuss on blogs and just stay home from conventions that are treating them poorly… This doesn’t sound like equal treatment to me.

      1. heisenbug

        Leftside:It’s totally not a problem if women just disappear from a movement

        Me:Did I say that is not a problem? I think not. However, it is the problem of the organisition and that is it. Do not invite douchbags at the conference and things will be ok.

        Leftside:Now you’re saying that those who are saying they want equal treatment should stop making a fuss on blogs and just stay home from conventions that are treating them poorly

        Me:There are two possibilities here. Either the people in charge realize the problem and fix it or the conference will eventually just die off. And if you enjoy the topic so much, just organize your own damn conference. But if you are too lazy and just want to complain, do not expect any sympathy.

        Leftside:Because it’s tradition. And “mademoiselle,” or something.

        Me: You have completely missed my point. The question “why” gender roles are different is completely irrelevent. It does not matter if its because of nature, social traditions or both. What matters is what the PEOPLE want for themselves. You just assume self-centerly that everyone has the same tastes as you do. You outright discard the possibility that the majority might think otherwise. You call a different culture in which a woman usually wears burcas “sexist” and wish to change it. Unfortunately, you do not care about the people involved. Some are used to burcas (whatever the reasons) and feel naked without it. Would you be comfortable if someone were to send you to a nudist camp by force?That is what modern feminism tend to do in my opinion. Changing a tradition that the majority enjoy just because a minority has too much irrational psychological issues is idiotic.

        1. Martin Wagner

          Are you honestly suggesting that those who think, for example, that dressing women in burkas is a bad thing are the ones with “irrational psychological issues,” while the religious loons who force them to dress that way because of their inability to handle their own sexual hangups are the rational ones?

          Because that would be just about the most fucked up, down, and sideways thing I’ve heard in my life, even by your already impressive standards.

          Fallacy Watch: The fact that something is “a tradition” that is enjoyed by “the majority” doesn’t validate it morally, ethically or intellectually. See: slavery in pre-Civil War south.

          1. heisenbug

            Martin:Are you honestly suggesting that those who think, for example, that dressing women in burkas is a bad thing are the ones with “irrational psychological issues,” while the religious loons who force them to dress that way because of their inability to handle their own sexual hangups are the rational ones?

            Me: Sigh…As you like to say it…If we had an Academy award for not getting it, you d be Tom Hanks. I am saying that is irrational and immoral to force women who like to wear burkas not to wear them just because some peoples with too many hang ups do not like it. It is also irrational and immoral to force a woman to wear burkas just because some people have never learned to control their libido. The issue is about FORCING others to behave the way you like.

          2. Russell Glasser

            Sigh…As you like to say it…If we had an Academy award for not getting it, you d be Tom Hanks.

            I don’t know, there’s some stiff competition in that area awards. I heard you were nominated for seventeen awards, including Best Director in the Drama category, and also Loudest Soundtrack.

            I am saying that is irrational and immoral to force women who like to wear burkas not to wear them just because some peoples with too many hang ups do not like it. It is also irrational and immoral to force a woman to wear burkas just because some people have never learned to control their libido. The issue is about FORCING others to behave the way you like.

            Boo fucking hoo. My rights are being infringed because I can’t get retain my invite to a private event without adhering to a code of contact.

            You said it yourself: “Do not invite douchbags at the conference and things will be ok.” No one is contesting YOUR right to BE a douchebag. But now it seems like you’re saying that once you’ve been identified as a douchebag, disinviting you from the event is as bad as enforcing burkas at all times. Screw the Academies, you should get a lifetime achievement award and your own boardwalk star.

          3. heisenbug

            Kazim:But now it seems like you’re saying that once you’ve been identified as a douchebag, disinviting you from the event is as bad as enforcing burkas at all times.

            Me:Another contender for the title of the clueless chump of the year. You are free to behave the way you want. However, your actions have consequences. If you want to be a douchbag – go ahead, but no one is going to hang out with you. You are free to be a jerk, but others are also are free to choose to avoid you.

            Woman are also free to not wear a burka in a muslim society. The consequences would be that many would start to avoid her since her behavior goes against the norms. The same way most people in the West would avoid having anything to do with a guy who hangs up in the street in his underwere. Should the woman, who refuses to wear a burca, be stoned to death? I think not. Should the guy without his pants be send to jail? I think not. Should these people be avoided because they make others uncomfortable? I think yes.

          4. Martin Wagner

            Woman are also free to not wear a burka in a muslim society. The consequences would be that many would start to avoid her since her behavior goes against the norms.

            Christ, you’re as thick as a whale omelet. In Afghanistan under the Taliban, burkas were not optional wear for women, they were mandated by law. And a woman who did not wear one in public wasn’t merely looked on disapprovingly, she was publicly flogged. And even in Muslim nations where women don’t have to wear burkas, they definitely have to wear at least a hajib, or be similarly mistreated.

            Beyond basing everything you’re saying on what amounts to an appeal to popularity fallacy (“tradition,” what “the majority” approves of), you’re conflating things in a way that constitutes flat-out reality denial. Seriously, if you have to go to lengths this desperate to make your point, you’ve already lost.

          5. LykeX

            Woman are also free to not wear a burka in a muslim society

            You’re delusional. Women who refuse to follow the rules of behavior are imprisoned, beaten, raped and killed.

            Here’s a cleric explaining his disappointment with the fact that women who refuse to wear hijab are allowed to live. Here’s a woman who wasn’t allowed to live. That’s two minutes of googling.

            I’m personally against laws that mandate that women can’t go covered, but this issue is irrelevant as long as women don’t have an actual free choice. Once the right of women to choose is clearly established and defended, I won’t bat an eye or say a word if a woman want to go covered head to toe, but assuming that she, in the current environment, had a free, uncoerced choice in the matter, is simply dishonest

            Should these people be avoided because they make others uncomfortable?

            They don’t make me uncomfortable. The thing I find uncomfortable is not that a woman might want to wear a certain dress, but the thought that she might be doing it because she’s afraid of ostracism or violence if she doesn’t.

        2. RowanVT

          What you are completely whiffing past in your post regarding burqas is that those women DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE about whether or not to wear it. If I want to wear a sheet, I can. If I *don’t* want to wear a sheet, I can. That ability to choose, just as a man can choose what to wear, is important.

          And the only reasons why some women may feel ‘naked’ without one are because:

          They’ve pretty much been forced to wear one their whole lives and so have come to accept it as the norm.
          They’ve been steeped in so much shaming religious doggerel about how they tempt men away from allah with their very selves and that their selves when not under a sheet are like parading naked in front of those poor *poor* men with their no self control.

          Makes me wonder if you think the slaves shouldn’t have been freed. After all, it was rude to make them live without someone telling them what to do when that’s what so many of them were entirely used to! And maybe there were a few who didn’t mind it!

          And don’t you dare cry false equivalence, they’re not *that* far from each other when the women are effectively considered property and are killed if they go somewhere with a male they are not married or related to. If you think my statement is absurd, you need to realise yours is. If you *don’t* think my statement is absurd…. you are a reprehensible human being.

    2. 8.2
      Martin Wagner

      That’s all well and good, except that I’d rather it was “such people” staying home, while the cool people like Tracie in the world were the ones eagerly attending.

      I’d like to see “such people” work on themselves a little, so that they didn’t have to be such people anymore.

      1. tracieh

        And just to be clear, the conventions *may* be full of cool people with little representation of assholes. I have no idea. I posted recently on another thread where this blog post was linked, and I want to share my comment there as clarity for what I’m saying/not saying in my article above:

        Regarding social awkwardness, I used Howard Wolowitz as the example of the type I’d do anything to avoid. Sheldon Cooper is about the most socially inept person portrayed on the show BBT, and I’d gladly spend an evening with him without the slightest feeling of “ewwwe” or “ick.” As a few have noted, it’s not *just* social ineptitude. There’s more to it. If you want details, see the video I linked to. Wolowitz is ridiculous for a reason, because he’s a type–that we’ve all had to deal with at one time or another.

        And I can’t stress enough that my post does not claim to be an assessment of the conventions. Simply put, it’s an explanation of why I’ve never bothered to attend them–since a convention host recently took a guess at why women don’t attend. His assessment was quite foreign to me, so I was just saying that, for me, here is why I don’t attend. It goes like this: Community X represents itself as having a lot of loud and proud assholes included in the mix. Community X holds a conference. Tracie isn’t interested in hanging with a mix of good people along with a disproportionate number of loud, proud assholes. Tracie stays home. Tracie acknowledges that said assholes may not even be at the conventions, but as they are a very vocal and visible part of the community, the risk to benefit ratio seems intolerable to her:

        Risk: Cost of convention. Air fare. Hotel cost. Time lost to attend.

        Possible outcome if the impression provided to me online is not representative: Get to see Dawkins talk in person rather than read what he has to say.

        Possible outcome if the impression provided to me online is representative: Regretting a lot of lost money and time (it’s a bit more involved than showing up for a local happy hour social event to see if I like it), and spending a dismal weekend in a hotel with a number of people I want to get away from.

        The potential cost to benefit makes it something I prefer to opt out of. It’s as simple as that.

        1. AJ

          Finally, a situation whre Pascal’s wager actually makes sense. :)

      2. LykeX

        That’s all well and good, except that I’d rather it was “such people” staying home, while the cool people like Tracie in the world were the ones eagerly attending.

        Indeed. I’m wondering if perhaps there’s a kind of snowball effect going on, too. If, in a group of friends, you find that all your friends are going to conference X instead of Y, would you choose to go to Y? Or would you rather go to X, where you know there’ll be people you know and like?
        Especially if they’re friends who live far away and you don’t get to meet often outside conventions.

        Once the good people start migrating, they’ll drag a lot of other people with them; people who might not even know of or care about the issues that made the original set of people decide not to go.

        A substantial part of the point of a convention is not just to hear the speakers, but also to associate with the other convention-goers. If the people I want to hang out with aren’t going, then I’m not going.

    3. 8.3
      Jen Peeples

      “Though, I am a little puzzled with all the fuss. Heircat offered the best solution of all. Just ignore a conference with such people, that is it. No need to scream at every blog about misogynists.”

      Avoiding the conference doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore it or shut up about it. On the contrary – I’m going to continue to call out assholes who harass and their enablers. You would be in the enabler camp.

      You, in fact, are a classic denialist/enabler. First, you pretend the problem doesn’t exist (what’s the fuss?), then assert (without evidence) that the claims are exaggerated and those making them have “psychological issues.” When those tactics don’t work, you bring up something irrelevant to the issue at hand, like mademoiselle, burkas, and your support of gay marriage.

      When someone points out that your proposed “solutions” are born of ignorance and don’t work – at no time in all of history has any marginalized group been granted equal treatment by NOT speaking up about injustice – you ignore that and blather on about tradition. Let me be clear – I don’t believe harassing women is a tradition at TAM, but to whatever extent it is, it needs to end. And if you think holding the door for someone is the same as harassment, you truly don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about and you need to just shut up.

      You go on to make the astonishing claim that this is not a problem for the community as a whole. Wrong! The problem most clearly manifests at conventions, but it exists in the community as a whole, and it’s incumbent on the community to address it.

      Your denial of the problem won’t make it go away, but it does make it easier for predatory individuals to get away with harassing people at conferences. By attempting to silence complaints of harassment, you are enabling their behavior. You’re part of the problem.

      1. tracieh

        >The problem most clearly manifests at conventions

        Just to add that I have heard myriad tales of harassment problems from women contacting me privately to say they’ve had issues with local atheist meet ups. At ACA, as much as I love the group and support it, we know how that can be, all too well, ourselves. It manifest perhaps most publicly at conventions–but I wonder it doesn’t clearly manifest within the community at-large in the local organizations. I don’t claim to know. Just wanted to add that info.

  9. 9
    Comment1

    I suspect all those women who have decided not to go are thinking much like this. If you’re not in some way passionate about the conference you’re unlikely to try and change it or make it better, you’ll just say it’s one of those crappy events you won’t enjoy and avoid it as you do other crappy events.

    The ones screaming about the conference are like the hardcore fans who really want to make it work. Most people don’t care to that extent. You won’t hear from them or see them, they’ll just move on.

    1. 9.1
      tracieh

      Correct. It is absolutely my subjective nature as an introvert that makes me not care about fixing this issue with as much passion as some others. I do agree with some comments above that the problem can adjust itself in a number of different ways. I had heard tell of a feminist convention for skeptics, and when it was suggested, I said that might be the one and only event I would make an effort to attend, simply to show my support.

      Matt has asked me about going to conventions potentially as part of TAE–if, for example, we were asked to do a live show at a conference. And, for Matt and the show, I would do it. But if it’s just a question of me taking that initiative–not likely.

      Too often when a person behaves in a socially inappropriate way, everyone feels too awkward to call it out. People really do just sit and eye roll (just like Howard’s friends in the video I linked to). When one person is the target of such an awkward advance, and nobody speaks up, that person can reasonably interpret that entire event as the group’s endorsement of that sort of behavior.

      That’s something I actually have seen on a smaller scale at atheist events.

      But consider if, when Howard gets embarrassing, if the rest of the group were to say “OMG Howard, stop it, can’t you see you’re making this person uncomfortable? Chill out, dude!” At least the person would think about how, while at the happy hour, there was this one idiot–but the rest of the group was cool and supportive. But by remaining silent we actually are being more concerned with not making the one causing the problem feel uncomfortable, as he makes others feel so.

      I extrapolate–rightly or wrongly–that the conventions would just be a larger version of that same community I observe from people representing themselves in this community online or at smaller meet ups.

      1. katansi

        Actually, thinking of the show itself, Penny was made to apologize to Wolowitz when she finally exploded at him for being a creepy, harassing, inappropriate fuck up towards her. It wasn’t just the group remaining silent, it was the group telling the person getting harassed to suck it up and APOLOGIZE for standing up for herself. That’s so much worse than silence. I hate the “don’t rock the boat” topped off with “smooth it over.”

        1. tracieh

          And I may be confusing two different shows–but didn’t cont he try to hit on her when she attempted to apologize?

          1. CT

            Yes, she punched him in the face.

  10. 10
    LeftSidePositive

    Did I say that is not a problem? I think not.

    Yes, you did. You said you did not understand all the “fuss.” You said there was “no need to scream” about it.

    Do not invite douchbags at the conference and things will be ok.

    And HOW exactly do you propose limiting conference registration to non-douchebags? It’s an event open to the paying public, and web registration systems do not generally have magic tele-douchebag-detecting powers.

    As for speakers, feminists are TRYING to get people to take harassment complaints seriously, to record them, so that these speakers will not be invited it enough disturbing patterns crop up. Have you noticed how many people have accused them of being the Taliban for this? Have you noticed that a leader of a major organization has blamed THEM for women being turned off from their conferences. Have you noticed that YOU are trying to silence people trying to do exactly what you toss out as being a solution as “screaming on the internet”?!

    Either the people in charge realize the problem and fix it or the conference will eventually just die off.

    And just HOW LONG exactly am I supposed to wait for these conferences to die off? WHY hasn’t this passivity seemed to work before? Why do I have to just wait around for the people in charge to fix it instead of share my opinion and concerns?

    And if you enjoy the topic so much, just organize your own damn conference.

    So you are saying that all I need to do to be treated fairly in this movement is to quit my job and raise several hundreds of thousands of dollars and make connections with speakers I’ve never met and fly them across the country. And, of course, develop psychic powers so I know who of all the people who registered online are harassers. Duly noted.

    But if you are too lazy and just want to complain,

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s an ongoing project of people devoting lots of time and effort into crafting a harassment policy and discussing what makes them effective, and striving to get them implemented. That’s not being lazy. That’s not complaining. That is substantive positive activism.

    do not expect any sympathy.

    No–we expect your support for an anti-harassment policy, and your basic human decency in speaking up if you see predatory behavior. Failing that, just shut up and get the fuck out of the way of those of us trying to fix the problem.

    What matters is what the PEOPLE want for themselves.

    YOU ARE NOT LISTENING to what the people want for themselves. We tell you we’d like equal opportunity to enjoy conferences and non-douchebag treatment, and you tell us to stay home and wait it out!

    You just assume self-centerly that everyone has the same tastes as you do. You outright discard the possibility that the majority might think otherwise.

    Again, find me these population of people who really want to be harassed. Again–READ THIS POST. People find the entitled, inconsiderate attitudes of these fools very distasteful. You even presumed that conferences would fail if they catered to them–you keep switching from telling me my attitudes are so common I should just let nature take its course and it will be fine soon, to telling me my attitudes are apparently such a fringe minority that even suggesting I have a safe, low-harassment space is “imposing my views on others.” Which is it?

    You call a different culture in which a woman usually wears burcas “sexist” and wish to change it. Unfortunately, you do not care about the people involved.

    I care very much about the women who are beaten or stoned for not veiling. I care about the women who are murdered by their own family members for being too independent. I care about the women who have acid thrown in their faces for going to school. Do you?

    Some are used to burcas (whatever the reasons) and feel naked without it. Would you be comfortable if someone were to send you to a nudist camp by force?

    You are drawing a false dichotomy. I can both criticize the burka for being sexist and be steadfast in people’s right to freedom of expression to wear one if they so choose. However, I will be very outspoken in my denunciation of a government or society that REQUIRES it of women.

    That is what modern feminism tend to do in my opinion.

    That is because, as you have shown in the other thread, your opinion is complete and utter horseshit. (And, I’d like to generally point out that the majority of modern feminists oppose burka bans and it’s mainly xenophobic rightwingers–and, misguidedly, some atheists–who are pushing them.)

    Changing a tradition that the majority enjoy

    What tradition are you talking about? Are you talking about changing the tradition that women are LEGALLY REQUIRED on pain of very severe physical punishment to wear a burka in some countries? Then, yes, I support changing that “tradition,” because it is a violation of human rights. If the majority enjoy their burkas they can keep wearing them voluntarily, but the government has no business enforcing it.

    Or are you talking about men harassing women at atheist conferences? Well, that is a violation of individual autonomy and is therefore unacceptable. The attitude that these men are entitled to treat women badly is appalling. Of course I’m going to change that, because that isn’t just people observing traditions with other consenting like-minded folks, it’s people forcing their entitlement onto others and insisting that women have their boundaries violated.

    just because a minority has too much irrational psychological issues is idiotic.

    Oh, great! Dismiss the opinions of marginalized people with whom you disagree with accusations of mental illness. While you’re at it, insult people with actual mental illnesses (which amazingly enough, does NOT preclude them from being advocates for social justice or immediately invalidate their concerns). Assume that women speaking up for themselves must be irrational. Denigrate minority rights.

    Seriously, dude, what the fuck is WRONG with you?!

    1. 10.1
      LeftSidePositive

      Point of scrupulous pedantry: the majority of feminists I read and respect are opposed to burka bans. I have made no comprehensive study of the prevailing attitude towards burka bans among those identifying as feminists.

  11. 11
    Hazelwood

    Great post. It is unfortunate that keeping away from such people can mean keeping yourself from hearing great speakers and I can understand why people are trying to make a change so that doesn’t have to be the choice.

  12. 12
    heisenbug

    Leftside:Yes, you did. You said you did not understand all the “fuss.” You said there was “no need to scream” about it.

    Me: It is a problem for the organisation, but not to the community itself.

    Leftside:And HOW exactly do you propose limiting conference registration to non-douchebags? It’s an event open to the paying public, and web registration systems do not generally have magic tele-douchebag-detecting powers.

    Me: Simnple, just do not sale tickets to strangers. Keep a track of the people who buy the tickets, ask for an indentity card. If someone is unable to behave, just ban them from the conference and add that person to the black list.

    Leftside:Have you noticed how many people have accused them of being the Taliban for this?

    Me: I am not that framiliar with that conference. Some complaints are clearly justified. However,there is also a possibility that some are exaggerated.

    Leftside:And just HOW LONG exactly am I supposed to wait for these conferences to die off? WHY hasn’t this passivity seemed to work before? Why do I have to just wait around for the people in charge to fix it instead of share my opinion and concerns?

    Me: I have no idea how much time you would have to wait. You have already shared your opinion on the issue, I see nothing else you can do here.

    Leftside:So you are saying that all I need to do to be treated fairly in this movement is to quit my job and raise several hundreds of thousands of dollars and make connections with speakers I’ve never met and fly them across the country.

    Me: If you care that much about the issue – yes.

    Leftside:I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s an ongoing project of people devoting lots of time and effort into crafting a harassment policy and discussing what makes them effective, and striving to get them implemented.

    Me: I would need to have a look at those ideas first before making a judgement. Though, if you are going to impliment some ban on “mademoiselle” or “girl”, it would be ridiculous.

    Leftside:Again, find me these population of people who really want to be harassed.

    Me: What do you mean by harassment? If it is about opening the door for a lady or calling her a girl I could name you plenty of people. If you mean by it groping or verbal abuse than I cannot think of any.

    Leftside:I care about the women who have acid thrown in their faces for going to school. Do you?

    Me:Yes I do. But that is not what I am talking about.

    Leftside:However, I will be very outspoken in my denunciation of a government or society that REQUIRES it of women.

    Me:We are almost on the same page here. I am also against forcing others. But the majority or society is still the one that decides what is appropriate and what is not. Is it appropriate to make unwanted sexual advances at a conference? Yes it is inapropriate because our society deems so. Is it appropriate for going outside without your pants on? Is it appropriate not to wear a burka? Some of these questions have a definite answer, others do not. One needs to take into account the situation, culture and traditions. Pople are usually the most comfortable with their own culture. For some, being without a burka is the equivalent of being pantsless. If no imminent harm is done by such actions, then there is no meaning of changing some tradition if the majority likes it.

    Leftside:That is because, as you have shown in the other thread, your opinion is complete and utter horseshit.(And, I’d like to generally point out that the majority of modern feminists oppose burka bans and it’s mainly xenophobic rightwingers–and, misguidedly, some atheists–who are pushing them.)

    Me: Right back at your shortsighted, celf-centerd, ignorant self. Do show that the majority of feminists opposeburka bans.

    Leftside:What tradition are you talking about?

    Me: I am talking about the tradition of holding the door for a lady or calling a woman “mademoiselle” or “girl”. If no harm is done and the majority enjoys such tradition, then it should be kept. Just saying that those words are offensive does not make them offensive. In France feminists pushed for the ban of “mademoiselle” primarely because the considered it offensive.

    Leftside: Assume that women speaking up for themselves must be irrational. Denigrate minority rights.

    Me: Is it rational to be offended that someone called you “girl”? I think not. It is the first time in my life I learned that someone thinks it is offensive. No one I know of have ever used the word to insult another woman.Hence, most likely, you are the one with the issues.

    1. 12.1
      Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

      Are you still on this supposed “banning” of mademoiselle? You have had it explained to you over and over and over again. France has not banned anything. They won’t go into a French school and drag out a teacher for saying mademoiselle to a girl. They’ve merely removed the term from being used in things like forms (you know, when you get a paper or electronic form and it has “Mr. / Ms. / Mrs. / Dr. / Hon.” at the top?)

      Tradition sucks. I don’t give a rat’s ass about tradition. Tradition is what is keeping gay men and lesbian women from getting married. The two most common stupid arguments I hear when talking about why gay marriage should be legal are “gay people can’t have kids” and “marriage has always been one man, one woman.” Traditional things should be constantly examined and determined whether they should be dragged forward through the rest of human history. Some traditions can stay (I have no problem with Christmas, for example) but others should be eliminated (Columbus Day – because we’re celebrating an asshole.)

      1. heisenbug

        Katherine:Are you still on this supposed “banning” of mademoiselle?

        Me:Yes I know about it. They banned the usage in government office. And I do not like it since I see no valid reason to do so.

        Katherine:Traditional things should be constantly examined and determined whether they should be dragged forward through the rest of human history.

        Me: I completely agree with you. That is why I support the right of gay couples to marry.

        Katherine:Some traditions can stay (I have no problem with Christmas, for example) but others should be eliminated (Columbus Day – because we’re celebrating an asshole.)

        Me: Uhu…Christmas is ok, but no Columbus day… Others, though, have problems with Christmas, but not Columbus day. Should we eliminate every singule tradition and holiday just because some have problems with it?

        1. Jasper of Maine

          Should we eliminate every singule tradition and holiday just because some have problems with it?

          There’s a key nuance that you aren’t distinguishing between.

          If a family voluntarily decides to have a tradition – whatever.

          It’s when traditions are forced on others, such as traditional gender roles in a culture, that it becomes severely problematic intrinsically.

          So let’s please distinguish between voluntary and involuntary tradition.

          Otherwise, it’s basically an equivocation fallacy, to compare the voluntary observance of Christmas with culturally institutionalized sexism.

        2. Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

          I was using Columbus Day as a bit of an exaggerated idea. Though as a Native American I find a day celebrating a man who thought no issue with murdering us and forcing his ideology on us a bit insensitive.

          The reason behind the mademoiselle change is that women, and not men, are being defined by whether or not they’re married, which is not the call of government to make.

          1. heisenbug

            Jasper:So let’s please distinguish between voluntary and involuntary tradition.

            Me:Usually a tradition is not formed voluntarily. You are born into a family with traditions, the same way you are born into a society with specific traditions. Good manners are also a form of tradition that is “forced” on others. I agree that we should not directly punish someone who refuses to follow some specific tradition. However, there are norms in a society (like do not pick your nose in public or do not make unwanted sexual advances at an inapropriate place). If you want to violate these taboos – go ahead. But do not be suprise if others, to whom these norms are important, are going to avoid you. And that applies to gender roles in a society. There are patterns of behavior that both women and men are expected to follow in a society, and if they refuse to do so, they would just have accept the consequences.

            Katherine:The reason behind the mademoiselle change is that women, and not men, are being defined by whether or not they’re married, which is not the call of government to make.

            Me:The main reason it was pushed by feminist groups was because it was considered “offensive”. Indeed, it is not the call of the government to define whether a woman is married or not to give her driver s liscence. The “mademoiselle” or “madame” part in the form is completely irrelevent most of the times. But it has become a historical tradition. Why should you care in the first place if the government knows you are married or not? For a minority with huge psychological issues it matters tremendously it turns out. Will these psychological issues go away because the word “mademoiselle” is not used anymore in official business? Somehow I doubt it. Hence, these actions were useless to improve the situation. At the same time a huge number of people are sad because a tradition important to them has been stopped. Of course, it is not the end of the world, but it still a dissapointement.

          2. Jasper of Maine

            Me:Usually a tradition is not formed voluntarily. You are born into a family with traditions, the same way you are born into a society with specific traditions. Good manners are also a form of tradition that is “forced” on others. I agree that we should not directly punish someone who refuses to follow some specific tradition. However, there are norms in a society (like do not pick your nose in public or do not make unwanted sexual advances at an inapropriate place). If you want to violate these taboos – go ahead. But do not be suprise if others, to whom these norms are important, are going to avoid you. And that applies to gender roles in a society. There are patterns of behavior that both women and men are expected to follow in a society, and if they refuse to do so, they would just have accept the consequences.

            You’re winning another “Not getting it award”. I actually agree with the above.

            The part you’re not getting is that whether something is a tradition or not isn’t relevant to whether it should be fought.

            Being taught manners isn’t good because it’s tradition. It’s good for other reasons. Likewise, traditions like slavery aren’t bad because they’re traditions, but rather due to other reasons.

            So whenever you bring up tradition, it’s completely superfluous and irrelevant to whether a problem should be addressed. It’s just yet another distraction from the problem – a red herring.

            If a culture has a tradition that’s wrong, it should be fought, even if it initially triggers a backlash. If a culture has bad traditions, it needs to become more civilized, and rectify them.

          3. heisenbug

            Jasper:The part you’re not getting is that whether something is a tradition or not isn’t relevant to whether it should be fought.

            Me: It is not about it being a tradition or not. It is about it being IMPORTANT to others or not.

            Jasper:If a culture has a tradition that’s wrong, it should be fought, even if it initially triggers a backlash. If a culture has bad traditions, it needs to become more civilized, and rectify them.

            Me: I completely agree. What we might disagree with is which traditions are wrong. If you cannot offer some valid reason to cancel a tradition you consider wrong, then to quote Leftside “fuck off”. And no, telling that a minority is “uncomfortable” with a tradition is not a good reason to eliminated something that is important to the majority.

          4. Jasper of Maine

            I completely agree. What we might disagree with is which traditions are wrong. If you cannot offer some valid reason to cancel a tradition you consider wrong, then to quote Leftside “fuck off”. And no, telling that a minority is “uncomfortable” with a tradition is not a good reason to eliminated something that is important to the majority.

            1) Congratulations for yet again downplaying sexual harassment of women into merely “uncomfortable”.

            Not to mention your qualifications for action are incredibly vague. Institutionalized racism in the 50′s made blacks “uncomfortable”, and was important to the majority. Therefore, it’s okay, right?

            Lots of wiggle room you’ve created for yourself there.

            2) You’re employing another logical fallacy – appeal to popularity. Because something is important to the majority does not determine whether it’s right or wrong.

            I would think in this day and age of civilization, racism, sexism and sexual harassment would be considered wrong – no matter how large the majority it is who wants it that way.

            At this point you’re pretty much coming out in full support of institutionalized sexism – as long as enough people want it that way.

            Still being part of the problem, I see. You’ve learned nothing.

        3. LykeX

          Are you still on this supposed “banning” of mademoiselle?

          Yes I know about it. They banned the usage in government office. And I do not like it since I see no valid reason to do so.

          There are two possibilities here. Either the people in charge in the French government realize the problem and fix it or the country will eventually just die off. And if you enjoy using “mademoiselle” so much, just organize your own damn gorvernment. But if you are too lazy and just want to complain, do not expect any sympathy.

    2. 12.2
      RowanVT

      “Is it appropriate to make unwanted sexual advances at a conference? Yes it is inapropriate because our society deems so”

      Wait a bloody moment here.

      You honestly think that the only reason it is inappropriate to make unwanted sexual advances is because society at large deems it in appropriate?

      Not the fact that it makes other people uncomfortable, or can even cause panic attacks? (I was stalked at 17, guy tried to break in. I’ve had several other close calls with sexual assault)
      Not the fact that it assumes that the other person is only there so the perpetrator can get laid and thus that the other person has little to no inherent worth otherwise.

      Which means that if society did deem it appropriate… you think it would be perfectly okay behaviour? Thanks for admitting this. You now completely creep me out.

      1. heisenbug

        Jasper:Congratulations for yet again downplaying sexual harassment of women into merely “uncomfortable”.

        Me: Great, as always we are speaking about completely different subjects.I was speaking about the “mademoiselle” and “girl” issues. And of course sexual harassement should be condemned.

        Jasper:Not to mention your qualifications for action are incredibly vague. Institutionalized racism in the 50′s made blacks “uncomfortable”, and was important to the majority. Therefore, it’s okay, right?

        Me: You do know about the “harm principle”, do you? It was far from just making blacks “uncomfortable”.

        Jasper:Because something is important to the majority does not determine whether it’s right or wrong.

        Me: Sigh…I never said it was right or wrong. I said one should respect the will of the majority if they cannot offer any valid reason to change some specific pattern of behavior.

        Jasper:At this point you’re pretty much coming out in full support of institutionalized sexism – as long as enough people want it that way.

        Me: Yes, I think that not everything about sexism is bad. Live the way you want and I will live the way I want.

        Rowan:Which means that if society did deem it appropriate… you think it would be perfectly okay behaviour? Thanks for admitting this. You now completely creep me out.

        Me: You do understand that that it is impossible for society to deem it appropriate? You remind me of some Christian telling that torturing babies is ok if god does not exist. Patterns of behavior in our society were initially established out neccessity for survival. Wrong patterns die out with time, neutral ones are just kept and positive ones persever

        1. RowanVT

          “You do understand that that it is impossible for society to deem it appropriate?”

          If it’s so *inherently* disapproved of, why did we have to make anti-sexism laws? Why did we have slavery at all? Why does racism still exist, and even flourish?

          And *I’m* not the one saying torturing is okay without a deity. YOU are the one who said it is inappropriate BECAUSE society says so. Not because of the reasons I offered, but because society.

          Society not that long ago had no problem with not allowing women to vote. Or own property. My mother was told that too much education would damage her brain when she was a teenager. This was in the 60s. Not even 50 years ago.

          Here’s a current version:

          Not that long ago (and to some degree still today), society thought homosexuality was horrible and wrong, and that gay marriage in particular was a travesty.

          By your “reasoning”, those things are wrong because society says they are. This is what YOU stated.

          And I think you a boor for it.

          1. heisenbug

            Rowan:If it’s so *inherently* disapproved of, why did we have to make anti-sexism laws? Why did we have slavery at all? Why does racism still exist, and even flourish?

            Me: Because slavery was ok 2 thousand years ago (it offered significant benefits for the slave owners at the time), that does not make it ok today. There are reasons why some patterns of behavior were ok in the past, but not today. And racism still exist because of several reasons. Though, mainly because not every society has outgrown it. As for sexism, some parts of it are ok, others are not. What is going to happen in the future? I have no idea.

          2. heisenbug

            P.S. I forgot the compulsory insult at the end of my post. Rpwan, I believe you are stOOOpid. When in Rome, do as the Romans…

          3. Russell Glasser

            And I believe you can get lost now, finally.

          4. LeftSidePositive

            Did you seriously just say “As for sexism, some parts of it are ok, some are not”???

            SERIOUSLY?!?! Who the fuck are you to say that my being treated as less than equal is okay?!

            Your arrogance and hostility to women’s rights is genuinely shocking.

            (btw, slavery wasn’t “okay” 2 thousand years ago–people were still raped, beaten, and died after lives of brutal hardship and misery!! You may have noticed way back when the Israelites were enslaved, they didn’t exactly go “Oh, well this is totally consistent with the cultural values of our time, so we’re okay with it!” In fact, I think Moses made a bit of a stink about it… Is your definition of “okay” just what the powerful group wants? In that case, you’ve got some seriously fucked-up values!)

          5. anat

            Heisenberg – Seriously??? If slavery offers benefits *to the slave owners* it is OK? Because the cost/benefit of the slaves isn’t part of the picture? I get that the laws are made by the powerful based on their own cost/benefit calculus, but that just means the existence of laws isn’t evidence for their moral status.

            And no, there is *nothing* right about racism or sexism (or heterosexism or cisseism or…)

  13. 13
    mikespeir

    And we wonder why people have historically seen sex as such a volatile proclivity that needs defined boundaries.

    1. 13.1
      Bjarte Foshaug

      I am sometimes tempted to wonder if the secular backlash against religion-imposed sexual repression hasn’t gone too far. Just because we don’t owe any obedience to the rules of an imaginarny celestial dictator, doesn’t mean having as few inhibitions as possible is a goal worth striving for (The opposite of an evil isn’t the opposite evil). The legions of Wolowitzes who frequent the comments sections of any blog post about sexual harassment in the atheist/skeptical “communities” (whatever that might be…) could definitely benefit from a healthy dose of sexual repression (and preferably castration just to be sure…).

  14. 14
    LeftSidePositive

    What does it take for heisenbug to get the ol’ banhammer? I mean, this dragging of burkas, doors, mademoiselle, into a thread about not being harassed? This perpetual refusal to actually listen to what people are saying? The insistence on bringing up arguments that have already been refuted? The repeated conflation of being asked to stop things that hurt others versus being “forced” to abandon voluntary traditions, and the repeated conflation of limiting the government’s actions with limiting the individual…

    It’s not just that he’s a pompous, sexist, self-entitled ass. It’s that he drags the discussion down to mind-numbingly stupid and unproductive levels.

    1. 14.1
      Russell Glasser

      It took that. He’s out.

  15. 15
    LeftSidePositive

    It is a problem for the organisation, but not to the community itself.

    Just to add to those who have said that this attitude is completely irresponsible and reprehensible.

    And, since this is basically one of the few on-topic things you’ve said:

    Simnple, just do not sale tickets to strangers.

    SERIOUSLY?! How the fuck is a conference supposed to make any damn money if it doesn’t sell to strangers? Have you never seen a registration form?! Have you never even HEARD of a business that caters to the public? How is an event that caters to a community of thousands and wants to sell hundreds of tickets POSSIBLY make sure that their customers aren’t “strangers”???

    Keep a track of the people who buy the tickets, ask for an indentity card.

    “Identity cards” generally don’t say “sexist douchebag” on them, you know.

    If someone is unable to behave, just ban them from the conference and add that person to the black list.

    You know, this sounds a lot like an anti-harassment policy, so what the hell are you so opposed to, with all your derailing?

    1. 15.1
      Jasper of Maine

      You know, this sounds a lot like an anti-harassment policy, so what the hell are you so opposed to, with all your derailing?

      So wait – he agrees with us? Why did he have to take the scenic route through Mordor first?

      1. LeftSidePositive

        Not exactly–his strategy was to just make it absolutely impossible to pin down what he believed by willfully changing the subject and stonewalling anyone who was actually trying to make any headway on the causes he ostensibly supported (and, apparently, had the ultimate authority to decide when they’d gone too far!).

  16. 16
    Patricia, OM

    Are these conventions really that awful? I’m paid up and was eagerly looking forward to the FFRF convention in Portland, OR in October. Now I feel like a chump.

    1. 16.1
      Jennifer Ouellette

      Not necessarily. :) Most people go and have a very nice time. Those who choose not to attend, however, have good reason to suspect they won’t have a good time, is the point of the blog post.

    2. 16.2
      tracieh

      As Jennifer said. Just to add my post is not a review of any convention. I don’t attend the conventions. The issue rose recently of “why don’t more women attend?” This was coupled with a noted drop in registration for TAM for women pre-registrants. The idea was put forward–as I understood it–that women have had their perceptions poisoned by bloggers making too much of a big deal about sexism at conventions, and I was trying to make the point that sexism is in our community and the sexist skeptics are loud, proud, and seem pretty numerous if I go by the online tally at comment sections of public blogs. And since the community is both compact and dispersed geographically, the online representation is pretty well what most of us have to go on. And in my personal experience in my local atheist community, I also have seen behaviors tolerated (where people were made to clearly feel uncomfortable) that would violate standard sexual harassment policies at most modern companies. When I’ve seen these behaviors, since I know the people involved, I’m aware that these interactions are not cases of mutual consent, but of boorish disregard for another person’s comfort. And I’ve been told by others similar things occur at many small atheist communities elsewhere.

      So, the community appears to have a greater-than-outside-the-community number of members who make others uncomfortable–often female members–and simply don’t think they need to behave as though “other people” matter at social engagements. In fact, outside my interaction with the atheist community, I don’t encounter this sort of social behavior, ever, in any of my other group interactions. But that’s just me and my social circles. I have also heard some people who encounter this sort of behavior at their workplace, and so for some it may be a broader, regional problem with high levels of sexism where they live?

      While I reason the conventions would be drawing a random sampling that would represent the community as a whole–that may not be the case. And there are many people who attend the conventions and have a wonderful time–as I sincerely hope you do.

      1. Martin Wagner

        This leads me to A Thought. (I’m a dork that way.)

        The whole idea of atheists convening in large numbers at all is a fairly recent phenomenon. When I first joined ACA back around 1999, we were a tiny handful of folks hanging out at a bagel shop, and even that was taking a fashion risk back then. TAM did not yet exist. Atheist celebrities writing million-selling New York Times bestsellers would have seemed a bizarre utopian fantasy. And we would have guffawed outright at the very possibility of something like Reason Rally. We were a tiny, marginalized bunch. Few of us were under 40, fewer still under 30.

        What this means is that for generations, atheists have either done whatever socializing they did by holding their nose and hanging out with theist friends, or they self-isolated by choice. Unlike Christians with a well-established tradition of social structure via churches and overall community support, atheists had no social support structure in which they felt comfortable. So unsurprisingly, understanding social rules has come slower to a lot of them. And this problem is exacerbated when the genders mingle. First, you thought you were the only one. Then, you realized there were others. Then, you realized some of those others were, like, chicks! For some guys in atheism, unaccustomed to an active social life in general, and generally not the kind of people hanging out in the mainstream of American culture overall, the social interaction that comes naturally to many folks has involved a steeper-than-usual learning curve.

        In other words, the whole thing of getting together in groups at all is a cultural phenom that’s less than a decade old for many of us. The training wheels are still on. A lot of the hostile defensiveness coming from some atheist men might be attributable to that fact, and how embarrassing it is to own up to.

        1. tracieh

          I don’t know. I was a theist and became an atheist. I endured institutionalize sexism as a theist. And as an atheist, it appears to be more of an individual phenomena. Perhaps under theistic fundamentalism, the individuals who are sexist have such an overarching umbrella that they don’t need to assert themselves? I mean, as a theist, I knew men who weren’t sexist who seemed to accept sexist doctrines as a necessary bowing to authority. They certainly seemed to be respectful of me and my capabilities, however. I recall once when the church decided I could not be a teacher’s assistant for a class that contained a baptized male member, the teacher came to me very apologetically to let me know. Certainly HE was not supportive of that decision; but he, like I, bowed to the institution’s authority and decision. Was he sexist? Not in my view. Outside of religious shackles, he’d have been very eager to have me assist and respectful of my capability to do so.

          The problem I have is that many people mingle, flirt and date without the slightest problem. I can’t excuse behaviors that make others uncomfortable by saying “Well, this person is just so excited to find skeptic women to date that he ran ahead without following standard social protocols.” Standard social protocols are merely polite, considerate behaviors. It really applies no matter what your beliefs in gods or woo. Being considerate of others and just showing a bit of consideration for who they are, what they like/don’t like, before plowing ahead with your agenda, disregarding whatever might make them comfortable/uncomfortable, isn’t excusable. To say it’s your right to hit on me, to the point you feel it’s too much to ask to spend a couple of minutes to get *my* take on *my* preference about sexual advances, is just boorish. So, you want to hit on me, and you don’t care if I want that or not? So, what you want is paramount. What I want is irrelevant. And your goal is to convince me I should have sex with you? At that point the person really seems to have a disconnect between how my impression of them and what they think of me relates to my desire to be intimate with them. I’m not inclined to have sex with people who only seem concerned about themselves and their own needs, and can’t grasp “other people” as a concept. That is the very definition of a boor.

          I just can’t see how male/female would matter. It’s just basic good manners and consideration for any other person. I socialize still with theists–and atheists. I just don’t see that it impacts my ability to be considerate. And assuming I were single, and interested in dating or sex with another skeptic/atheist, I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t be at least *as* considerate toward that person–if not more so, since I’m after something from them that I want. If I want something from you, it behooves me to be considerate and kind to you. It’s just odd anyone would think that being inconsiderate should even be tolerated, but that it should be considered a success strategy for getting something from someone else, is just oddly stupid…?

  17. 17
    Jennifer Ouellette

    Excellent post, because it focuses pretty dispassionately on the thing that started it all: why women appear to be staying away from TAM this year. Stripped of all the strong emotions, it comes down to, well, marketing, and how the skeptic community is perceived broadly, based on the online behavior of some of its members. There are lots of conventions one could attend over a given year. Why should people attend TAM? What makes it stand out as an attractive option (or, alternatively, as an unattractive option)? This post captures that element perfectly by giving a glimpse of the thought process of someone looking on and trying to decide whether or not to attend.

    Think about why any of us make the effort to spend our money and time on such things. We anticipate seeing old friends, and meeting new ones (or finally meeting people we’ve interacted with pleasantly online), and hearing great talks by people we’ve come to admire based on their work in the public sphere. In short, we anticipate having a fun, pleasant experience. And we weigh those expectations against the costs of attending and the potential negative aspects — which includes the likelihood of having to deal with unpleasant people. And we’re going to base part of that assessment on our online interactions, or observations of members of that community’s online behavior on comment threads — because, like it or not, those folks are just as representative of the community as the many lovely poeple who are in the community.

    It doesn’t take very many boors to spoil an atmosphere. Even 50 Howard W’s at a convention of a few thousand is sufficient to dissuade many people from attending. Watching all the in-fighting and name-calling and off-topic side arguments (burkas? banning of mademoiselle? Seriously?) just reinforces that perception. There’s certainly nothing wrong with raising important issues like sexism and misogyny — but the way in which a community responds is going to definitely have an impact on how outsiders perceive that community, and that, in turn, will influence their decision as to whether they wish to be a part of it.

    It’s the PERCEPTION created by these conflicts that conventions like TAM must counter, by instilling sound policies and then enforcing them, thereby reassuring potential attendees that everything will be done to make their experience not just bearable, but truly enjoyable — and hence worth forking over their cold hard cash.

    TAM isn’t the only game in town, you know. If you want to compete in a thriving marketplace of people interested in topics such as these, you need to make sure your product is one that people want to buy. Otherwise, they will go elsewhere. Life’s too short to deal with Howard W. :)

    1. 17.1
      tracieh

      Well said. Great synopsis.

    2. 17.2
      Brono

      “Why should people attend TAM? What makes it stand out as an attractive option (or, alternatively, as an unattractive option)? This post captures that element perfectly by giving a glimpse of the thought process of someone looking on and trying to decide whether or not to attend.”

      My decision whether to attend TAM or not was based purely off who the speakers were. I never put anymore thought in it than that.

  18. 18
    L.Long

    Reading about this issue and the comments above reminds me of the ‘golden Rule’ issue. It says do unto others as you want them to do unto you…..well it plan sucks!!!

    scumbag… Hey girl I want you to ask me up to your room for hot sex, so I’m coming onto you…..see gold rule SUCKS.

    If everyone used and pushed the ‘PLATINUM RULE’ we all would be better off….Find out what the other person wants and likes and do unto them as THEY wish….is a lot better way to interact. This automatically requires one to politely get to know the other before making any overtures. Also guys, when you see this activity, mentioned above, going on make sure the scumbag knows that you think he is a clown and laugh at his total lameness.

    1. 18.1
      tracieh

      I agree that a massive problem with the golden rule is that it assumes “the universe is me.” So true. It’s a social reality that in general we should approach people assuming social norms–using the broadest acceptable categories as a starting point; but that in no way should be justification to dismiss behaviors that fall outside of statistically “normal” behaviors. If someone likes X, where most people enjoy Y, I accommodate X where it’s reasonably possible. But I approach a stranger with Y in mind, I admit.

      It’s like holding a party. Just because some people may have a fetish where they enjoy eating feces does not mean I’ll include it in my party menu. If they show up with a plate of feces and begin shoving it into the faces of my other guests–they either have to stop or leave. Just because they love to eat feces should not make it difficult for them to grasp most others do not. It’s not hard.

  19. 19
    Wolf Martinus

    Thanks for the post. Excellent Job of pointing out exactly where the problem lies.

  20. 20
    Hertta

    Thank you for this. Why is it so difficult for some people in this movement to understand that they can’t guilt women into wanting to spend time with assholes? I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of women in this year’s TAM will be even lower than the projected 18.

    1. 20.1
      tracieh

      It isn’t just guilt, either. There is this concept put forward on occasion in these discussions that there is nothing wrong with pushing attention or association on others, even if they’ve done nothing to encourage or invite that attention or association. It’s bizarre.

      The person approached may not feel put out at all; that happens sometimes. However, one should never assume, when they ask another person for their time and attention (a chunk of their life, basically), that they are not asking a lot from that other party. In fact, how big a favor you’re asking from someone else when you ask for their time and attention is assessed by *them* based on their situation and preferences–not you. It’s part of *their* life you’re asking to use/potentially waste, not your own.

      These are not people who asked to be intruded upon, so I may not get a polite response. I’d be like a phone solicitor calling someone at home. Sure, I can, legally; but it’s, understandably, annoying as hell to some; and, I get what I get, if my job is to annoy people by interrupting them randomly in the middle of whatever they might be doing. I might get a polite “no thank you,” or a “fuck you!” and a hang up. But since *I’m* intruding on another person–the least I can do is act as though I know that’s what I’m doing, and not pretend they’re obligated to be kind about me imposing on them.

      Again “other people”–what a concept?!

  21. 21
    brianmurray

    I haven’t ever been to one of these conferences, so I don’t know how people act there. I always had the impression that the men there were generally pleasant, welcoming, and friendly. But after reading this, and Rebecca’s posts, I can say, as a privileged white man, that I wouldn’t want to associate with them either. I don’t want to have anything to do with the Wolowitz clones.

    But maybe thats not how the attendees are. DJ doesn’t seem to think so. Many others don’t either. If DJ is right, then I entirely understand his comment. If he is wrong, then TAM and all other conferences will likely cease to exist shortly, and will certainly stop growing.

    1. 21.1
      Martin Wagner

      My personal experience (as a dude) of TAM is that it’s been a wonderful conference full of extremely friendly people, and I haven’t heard, even secondhand, reports of widespread creeper behavior. On those occasions when it’s happened, it appears to have been dealt with swiftly. Still, it was odd of DJ to insist nothing of the kind has ever happened and that women are the ones creating the problem by creating an unpleasant atmosphere, when, if he’d just said that TAM has a strong anti-harassment policy in place and will enforce it as necessary, no one would have given him a hard time and the last several round of discussions in the blogosphere need never have happened.

      1. brianmurray

        I’m glad that its generally pleasant. Its obviously happening, but perhaps its a smaller degree. Jen (I think thats the author? Alias’s, gah) feels that its going to be filled with creepers, and isn’t going because of that, which is, to my reading anyways, what DJ was saying. Perhaps the discussion needs to be toned down to match the actual level of creepy bastards at the event. Its the difference between the message and the delivery. And, of course, we all must remain diligent and stop any bad behaviour from occurring at these events.

        1. LeftSidePositive

          I think the issue is that while there are relatively few actual creepers, there is apparently a loud & proud contingent that feels entitled to creep, and will insist on defending creepers and marginalizing women. We don’t want to hang out with those people, even if they do not choose to be directly creepy to us.

          (And I don’t think any of the female bloggers made any claims about the total prevalence of creepiness–just that it’s common enough that women have to deal with it and be on guard, which isn’t fun, even if nothing happens *at that particular event*. It wasn’t until DJ inserted himself that he tried to make claims about absolute prevalence, or that bloggers were exaggerating the prevalence.)

        2. Hertta

          It’s not from female bloggers’ warnings or even reports of creepy behavior that I’ve gotten the impression that a conference is something I don’t want to spend money on. And Tracie is not saying that either. The problem is the the entitled sexist assholes who are all over skeptic/atheist blogs/forums/YouTube. By the looks of it, they make up a significant portion of the movement and some of us just choose not to spend time with those people IRL.
          Again, it’s the entitled assholes themselves who are keeping women away. You can tell women to “tone it down” till you’re blue in the face and we’ll still see all the messages from the Howard Wolowitzes. Did you even read the OP? This is what Tracie said:

          Why would anyone subject himself/herself to a group that contains a fair number of publicly outspoken members who consider their right to be rude to the other guests at a social event, to be more compelling than the overall comfort of the group of guests as a whole?

          1. tracieh

            Thanks, yes. I can’t stress enough that my post is NOT a conference review. It’s a statement that the skeptical community online seems to include a larger-than-normal segment of boors. For example, there are a number of conferences related to some other areas of my life where nothing like this is even remotely an issue. So, it’s just weird to me to see a community represented online by so many people I find distasteful. I don’t get that impression from any other community I interact with in other areas of my life.

            Because I assume a convention or conference will be a cross-section of the community, I draw a conclusion–perhaps erroneously, but reasonably–that these events will include the same percentage of boors represented online–which is too many, in my view.

            It could well be the conventions are super and there are very few problems. If so–that’s great. But I RARELY read atheist/skeptic blogs, but when I see anything remotely touching on sexism–it’s very much the comments, and not the original blog post that leaves me with a bad impression. That is my only point. I judge the community based on feedback from the community–not the occasional one-off story of someone’s sexist encounter recounted in a blog post.

  22. 22
    katansi

    Well said.

    “Yes, yes, I understand he’s not dangerous.”

    But you never know. Obviously I don’t think a fictional character is any more dangerous than giving someone and incredibly bad idea of how they’re supposed to act but in real life? You never know. And someone that is overtly leering and harassing I put high up there on someone to avoid because… you never know.

    1. 22.1
      tracieh

      I don’t discount your point. I just want others to be clear that “dangerous” is not the sole criteria of assessing “boor I’d like to sit far away from.” It seems that if a person says “that guy is a creep,” suddenly there is a response of people asserting you’re claiming he’s somehow frightening. I have no idea how that has come about, but I’ve seen it. But “creep” when used as slang carries the, very commonly used, definition of:

      “Slang . a boring, disturbingly eccentric, painfully introverted, or obnoxious person.”

      Just because I indicate a behavior is socially unbecoming or “creepy,” does not mean I’m saying “you’ll frighten the poor, timid womenz–who will think you’re a rapist.” It simply means you’ll be so obnoxious that people (men and women) won’t be able to have fun with/around you and will want to be elsewhere–i.e. wherever you’re not. Being the person everyone wants to avoid, and nobody wants to be stuck at a table with for an evening does not mean you’re being accused of acting like a rapist. It could just be you’re acting like Howard Wolowitz–who is avoided for many other reasons than fear.

  23. 23
    dThought/dT

    Funny, I don’t want to attend an any atheist conventions because I’m afraid I’ll be called a Howard Wolowitz clone if I were to speak to someone.

    1. 23.1
      LeftSidePositive

      Did it ever occur to you to make a conscientious effort not to BE a Howard Wolowitz clone?

      1. brianmurray

        I think what hes saying is that he is socially awkward, and that can often be misconstrued as being creepy. For some, its unintentional, and if they know, they stop. Not everyone is as socially awesome as others, and he doesn’t want to be demonized for that.

        1. tracieh

          >I think what hes saying…

          I’m amazed you got all of that from a single sentence, where the person indicated no reason whatsoever for why they might be labeled HW–other than they might merely speak to another person. If their mode of speaking to others includes no concern for what the other party might want, and only consideration for what they, themselves, might want, then I agree they have reasonable grounds for their concerns.

          It’s the difference between sitting down at a bar table next to someone else and beginning a dialog–because legally I can–vs. asking, “do you mind if I join you?” because I actually acknowledge that other person’s desire to associate with me is something that should be considered–if I’m going to interact with them. It doesn’t take genius-level social literacy–just an ounce of thoughtfulness toward others. “Shy” and “asshole” are not interchangeable. I’m pretty introverted, but I don’t consider it an imposition to try to remember “other people” matter when I’m asking those “other people” to interact with me.

          1. brianmurray

            Indeed. Perhaps I am reading into what he said, but I could also say the same for the other responses. How do you know he is an asshole? How do you know he has no regard for other human beings? There are a lot of people with Aspergers in the group, which is a recognized condition that limits people’s ability to really comprehend and work within the social constraints that we find rather trivial. I certainly don’t want to attribute it to malice when an another explanation will do.

            Of course, I could be entirely wrong, and he could just be an entitled douche who demands that others conform to him. But, neither of us know this, so its pointless to imbue our own biases on him.

          2. Rilian

            My brother has Asperger’s Syndrome, and he never ever ever comes off as a creep or a misogynist. He is the least sexist boy I know. The “awkwardness” caused by AS is in the form of staring off to the side instead of looking at the person you’re talking to, and taking longer than normal to organize your thoughts and answer questions, to the point where people wonder if you’re even paying attention, and using strange intonations, and making “jokes” that no one gets.

          3. tracieh

            >How do you know he is an asshole?

            Did I say I knew he was an asshole?

            >How do you know he has no regard for other human beings?

            Can you show me where I indicated he has no regard for other human beings?

            >There are a lot of people with Aspergers in the group

            Yes, and I have never had a problem with any of them being inconsiderate, so that is not what we’re talking about.

          4. tracieh

            In fact, here is what I said:

            “If their mode of speaking to others includes no concern for what the other party might want, and only consideration for what they, themselves, might want, then I agree they have reasonable grounds for their concerns.”

            If they aren’t inconsiderate, and they aren’t an asshole, then they have nothing to fear. That’s what I said. I did not assume they do or don’t consider others–only that *if* they don’t, they’re the definition of a boor. If they do consider others, I have no clue why they’d fear being labeled an ass just for speaking to others…?

          5. brianmurray

            Exactly. But how can you tell they are being a boor, or just socially awkward? You don’t know their intentions, and its very easy to pass judgement. Their intentions may be entirely pure, but it still looks the same.

            You didn’t call him an asshole, thats my words. Boor, asshole, wolowitz clone. I use them interchangeably in this exchange.

            I also understand that you didn’t say any specific person doesn’t have any regard for others, but the only way for us to judge what others are thinking is by their actions. I recognize that not all people with Aspergers are boorish. I would even imagine most are fairly reasonable and able to grasp most of these social nuances. But some may come off as boorish which can lead to quick judgements about their character. Hence, someone who wants to do the right thing, but may be unable to do so without external viewpoints.

            I’m not that socially awkward, so I wouldn’t fear that kind of judgement, but if I can empathize with someone who would be in that situation.

            Of course, this is all “edge-case” stuff. I doubt many fall into that category, and suspect most are likely actually boorish. Honestly, I started reading some more comments recently, as I generally avoid them, and see exactly what you are talking about.

        2. LeftSidePositive

          The thing is, we see this kind of behavior QUITE a lot, and this follows a very common pattern: try to shut down discussions of women being harassed/creeped on by insisting that their perfectly innocent behavior is likely to be called out (as though being told they’re being offensive is the worst thing ever and totally on par with repeated harassment!), and therefore all discussion of making inappropriate behavior socially unacceptable should grind to a halt, because of the poor socially awkward person!

          And it’s gotten to the point that a lot of us are REALLY sick of “socially awkward” being used as an excuse, as a reason why we shouldn’t criticize behavior that’s rude or harmful to us, and it ultimately just reinforces the status quo of these guys to do whatever they want.

          1. brianmurray

            That’s fine. He never mentioned why, but if you are content on him being a boorish asshole, then whatever. No skin off my back.

            Its not exactly a discussion if everyone just agrees, so one could argue that you are simply trying to shut down a discussion by declaring that every opinion different than your own is sexist and horrible and is not permitted. I agree with you on this issue, but if you just want to tar and feather everyone because you don’t want a discussion, then fine, your anger against a discussion does not bother me.

            And besides, I am certainly not saying boorish behaviour should be acceptable, only that the reaction should be tempered. If you know that, great, thats perfect, but you would never know that from your reactionary comment.

          2. LeftSidePositive

            brian–so do you really think basic pattern recognition is out of line? Exactly WHAT reasonable discussion was I “shutting down”? Why must disagreement from feminists be seen as “shutting down”? “Here is why you’re wrong” or “here is the obvious flaw in your ethical worldview” or “here is why this attitude does demonstrable harm to others” do not shut down discussion. They advance it with substantive and important points, which may be uncomfortable for some people. On the other hand, “It’s not fair that I should be compared to Howard Wolowitz!” is in effect saying, stop talking about this phenomenon that is hurting you because it might have some minor blowback for me, actually is shutting down discussion. It makes clear that anything that might chip away at privilege is out-of-bounds because that person’s privilege is more important than the under-privileged person being wronged. And I think you’re failing to realize that we hear this line of justification QUITE A LOT.

            Why is saying why you have a problem with something–clearly laid out and in detail–”tarring and feathering”? Why isn’t it just “identifying a pervasive social problem”?

            And, I gather from your screen name that you are not of the gender that receives the vast majority of gender-based harassment. So where exactly is the wellspring of your moral authority to tell us that our reaction should be tempered? This sounds an awful lot like a privileged person dictating the terms of how the marginalized person is allowed to discuss their own marginalization.

          3. brianmurray

            Thats a wonderful straw man you have set up. I’m glad I bear no resemblance to it.

            – so do you really think basic pattern recognition is out of line?

            It’s not. It is fine, but should not be the final decider.

            – Exactly WHAT reasonable discussion was I “shutting down”?

            This one.

            – Why must disagreement from feminists be seen as “shutting down”?

            Its not. I am talking about you getting all angry that someone holds a different point of view than you.

            – “Here is why you’re wrong” or “here is the obvious flaw in your ethical worldview” or “here is why this attitude does demonstrable harm to others” do not shut down discussion.

            Its a good thing your post did that. Otherwise I may be inclined to disagree.

            – On the other hand, “It’s not fair that I should be compared to Howard Wolowitz!” is in effect saying, stop talking about this phenomenon that is hurting you because it might have some minor blowback for me, actually is shutting down discussion.

            Sweet. I’m glad I never said that.

            – It makes clear that anything that might chip away at privilege is out-of-bounds because that person’s privilege is more important than the under-privileged person being wronged.

            It is? Cause, I don’t think its out of bounds. It is very important to talk about these things, but its also important to hear other viewpoints, even if they are wrong, otherwise you can never hope to have a full understanding of the topic.

            – And I think you’re failing to realize that we hear this line of justification QUITE A LOT.

            This is quite possibly true, I try to avoid these discussions. I’m not using it as justification though, but am trying to temper a clearly reactionary persons response to what they see. A harsh reaction may be justified, but may not. It really isn’t worth passing snap judgements on people. If its clear they are being boorish and don’t care, then great, react harshly and I will be there backing you up. If its not clear that they don’t care, then I will harshly criticize you until its established.

            – Why is saying why you have a problem with something–clearly laid out and in detail–”tarring and feathering”? Why isn’t it just “identifying a pervasive social problem”?

            Its not. This is also not what you did (keep in mind, I haven’t read the rest of your comments in the other threads). You made some assumptions about me which were inaccurate, which is tarring and feathering.

            The rest of your diatribe actually rather disgusts me. I have no moral authority over the issue, and nor do you. I have never claimed moral authority either. Nobody has any moral authority over anyone else, or over any discussion. This is exactly what this whole discussion is about.

            I have never said anything along the lines of how people should discuss anything. I have never said anyone should stop. I have only ever said that… well, you can read it all, but you clearly didn’t. You have already passed your judgement. Its not worth my time to continue to argue with you if you are just going to talk past me.

          4. LeftSidePositive

            Thats a wonderful straw man you have set up. I’m glad I bear no resemblance to it.

            It wasn’t even ABOUT you. It was about dThought/dT. It is only tangentially about you to the extent that you were insisting that I not identify what I saw as being problematic about him out of some misguided concern for “social awkwardness.”

            This one.

            Please actually point out what particular points you thought were reasonable and how you felt they got short shrift. Frankly, I am not inclined to see “but I don’t want to be compared to HW” (from dThought/dT) or “but maybe he’s socially awkward!” (from you) as particularly reasonable (and I have already explained why above). But you’re going to need to be more specific as to what you thought was reasonable for this to move forward.

            Its not. I am talking about you getting all angry that someone holds a different point of view than you.

            Might you wish to consider that so eagerly assuming that an outspoken woman must be “all angry” is just the teensiest bit problematic? My first post was flippant, not angry. My second two posts were mildly annoyed, but mostly very academic in content and analysis. Where is this accusation of “anger” coming from, and who are you to say whether or not my (presumed) emotional state is justified?

            Its a good thing your post did that. Otherwise I may be inclined to disagree.

            So then what’s the problem?

            Sweet. I’m glad I never said that.

            Again, I meant dThought/dT said that–it was the entire content of his post.

            but its also important to hear other viewpoints, even if they are wrong, otherwise you can never hope to have a full understanding of the topic.

            I did hear his viewpoint. I said why it was wrong, and I elaborated on why I thought so.

            but am trying to temper a clearly reactionary persons response to what they see.

            Check your privilege, please. Also check your presumed stereotypes about outspoken women.

            A harsh reaction may be justified, but may not.

            Then maybe you should leave that judgment to those who are more experienced with this type of behavior and are personally affected by it?

            It really isn’t worth passing snap judgements on people.

            Look, dThought/dT was pretty clear in putting his own comfort ahead of that of others, and if you’ve dealt with this a lot, this is just waving red flags like a matador.

            If its clear they are being boorish and don’t care, then great, react harshly and I will be there backing you up.

            One: his comment really didn’t show any concern for others. Two: I rather flippantly suggested he try a bit more empathy and introspection. That’s not exactly “harsh,” and if that is your standard for being too harsh, it will be pretty much impossible for a less-privileged person to EVER be heard.

            You made some assumptions about me which were inaccurate, which is tarring and feathering.

            To the extent that I was talking about the “socially awkward” issue, please understand I wasn’t talking about you, but was talking about the inadequacy and the privilege inherent in using “socially awkward” as a defense. I did not make any implications that you were doing so intentionally, nor did I state or imply you were a bad person, but rather I focused entirely on the negative repercussions of using “socially awkward” as an excuse, an why it is invalid.

            The rest of your diatribe

            While I’m very sure you don’t mean to do this intentionally, you’re giving off a very strong vibe of being uncomfortable with outspoken women. There is nothing even remotely strongly-worded in what I said about privilege and tone, at most it’s mildly snide. If this registers as a “diatribe” for you, you may want to seriously consider how you perceive women who stand up for themselves. This falls directly into the classic pattern where even mildly-assertive women are labeled “bitchy” or “ballbusters” or whatever, where that level of assertiveness is admired in a man.

            actually rather disgusts me.

            Well, then, I guess I’d better temper my opinions so that the privileged person can hear them in maximum comfort for him! So, you tell me how I shall temper my opinions on issues that materially affect my life, and when I speak up for my moral right to express myself, you feel entitled to tell me you feel disgusted? Look, I don’t know how to say this any more mildly, but this is not acceptable.

            I have never claimed moral authority either.

            Yes you did. You said: “that the reaction should be tempered.” You then proceeded to police my tone as being “reactionary.” “Should” is a word that explicitly denotes moral authority and the establishment of moral standards, even in its very definition: used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.

            I have never said anything along the lines of how people should discuss anything.

            So what else could “the reaction should be tempered” possibly mean? What else could calling my comment “reactionary” possibly mean?

          5. brianmurray

            To start with, I actually didn’t know you were a woman. It makes no difference to me that you are. Your posts are transparently reactionary. The derision and anger is dripping from your words.

            None of your posts actually contained any contradictory content. Lets just be clear. All you did is say that “maybe you should try to not be boorish” (maybe he does try, you don’t know). And then went into a diatribe about how people are trying to shut you up (seriously, who?). There wasn’t anything saying that its impossible, or even unlikely, that some men are just awkward. You also never explained why it isn’t a reasonable argument, only that you think its a justification and it must be invalid. You only ever worked to justify your own notion that its OK to judge people who you don’t know, based on very short term and limited interactions. I don’t think that is OK. I also recognize that overtly boorish behaviour, regardless of its intentions, should not be tolerated. My argument is about the in-between, the zone where someones behaviour can be construed incorrectly.

            You say that the only people who should pass judgement are the ones affected directly by it. There is a reason a court of law, in civilized nations, does not allow victims to decide the verdict or sentence of a case. That’s not to say you don’t have a valid and important opinion, but its not a good reason to discount others.

            When I said “should” be tempered, thats a personal statement of an opinion. I didn’t say you “must”. It wasn’t intended that way, even if you read it that way.

            Mostly, I find myself agreeing with you. Its that 1% zone where we seem to disagree.

            A lot of your post goes on to say how I’m not comfortable with a woman. I had zero indication of that, so you are obviously reading things into it that simply don’t exist. (Before you say that you declared you were a feminist, men can be feminist too). I have no problem with you expressing your opinion, and I recognize that I should have no place is “permitting” any speech. But, I also find it reprehensible to say that others have no say in a matter because of their gender or perspective.

          6. LeftSidePositive

            Your posts are transparently reactionary. The derision and anger is dripping from your words.

            Projecting, much?

            All you did is say that “maybe you should try to not be boorish” (maybe he does try, you don’t know).

            Actually I have some pretty good evidence against this. For one thing, his post is all about him. Secondly, he is blatantly misrepresenting the content of the objection to being Howard Wolowitz by pretending that we just love to denounce people as creeps “just for speaking to someone.” This pretty blatantly minimizes the kind of behavior we are discussing as problematic, and again positions his comfort and his entitlement to speak to people over whether or not they want to be spoken to.

            And then went into a diatribe

            I strongly suggest you stop using the word “diatribe” to refer to women expressing themselves.

            about how people are trying to shut you up (seriously, who?).

            I have already explained that this “what about the menz” attitude of “but I might be told I’m being unpleasant!!! :-O” is used as a way to make women feel like they shouldn’t talk about people being unpleasant to them, or what to do about it.

            There wasn’t anything saying that its impossible, or even unlikely, that some men are just awkward.

            Whether or not some men are just awkward is irrelevant. If they are making others feel uncomfortable, the onus is ON THEM to address the deficits in their social behavior. It is not on us to tolerate them making us feel uncomfortable. You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, but being creepy–intentionally or not–harms someone else. If you cannot try to get laid/get flirted with without making others feel uncomfortable, you need to fix this within yourself or just not get laid or do not attempt to flirt. No one is ENTITLED to someone else’s body, time, or attention, and when “socially awkward” is used as an excuse, it implies that people should make allowances for those who are not good at actually making people WANT to spend time (sexual or otherwise) with them.

            Moreover, the claim of “socially awkward” is used REPEATEDLY (even for Elevator Guy!) to excuse behavior that is out-of-social norms, and to tell women they should be patient for those making them uncomfortable. It makes women’s needs and desires secondary, and denies our subjective experience, as though we’re supposed to be equal-opportunity flirt-fodder.

            You only ever worked to justify your own notion that its OK to judge people who you don’t know, based on very short term and limited interactions. I don’t think that is OK.

            Well, these people are impinging on me for my time. I don’t owe you the chance to be a blank slate, I don’t have to shut off my assessments of my safety or my comfort level to give you the benefit of the doubt. I also don’t have to withhold criticism of what I see–especially since you’ve given me no reason to believe my criticism of dThought/dT was wrong, only that you think I should hold off on it until YOU think it’s acceptable. Well, no.

            I also recognize that overtly boorish behaviour, regardless of its intentions, should not be tolerated. My argument is about the in-between, the zone where someones behaviour can be construed incorrectly.

            Again, you are coming from a point of privilege where you presume that you deserve to be considered an admirable person, and that a certain amount of evidence to the contrary should be ignored. You are also shockingly unaware of how often harassers repeatedly exploit that in-between behavior to wear down and gaslight their victims. I can tell you from long personal experience that being subjected to this plausibly-deniable sexually charged behavior is draining, it’s demeaning, and it totally sucks the joy out of being somewhere, and we’re subjected to it ALL THE TIME.

            And if a guy’s behavior is construed “incorrectly,” that’s a problem WITH HIM, and he should make amends for making the other person uncomfortable. If he genuinely didn’t mean it, then he would try to consider the other person’s point of view. Otherwise it just sounds like he’s using “I didn’t mean it” as an excuse. It also shows that he’s not learning from his behavior to be less socially awkward–he is claiming potentially harmful behavior as an identity, and that is just not okay.

            You say that the only people who should pass judgement are the ones affected directly by it.

            Yeah–because this is not about one person’s behavior; this is about social norms. Remember when a bunch of white Supreme Court justices decided that “separate but equal” was okay? Don’t you think they would have had a bit more insight if they were actually directly affected?

            There is a reason a court of law, in civilized nations, does not allow victims to decide the verdict or sentence of a case.

            You do realize there’s a different standard for locking someone up for an extended period of time, versus criticizing them and asking them to go away, don’t you?!

            Moreover, this is not about “a verdict”–in which a crime is already clearly defined in law and in the charges, and we are establishing whether or not Person A committed it; this is about letting people who are affected by behavior have a voice to express what is unacceptable behavior, rather than the privileged people voicing their entitlement.

            That’s not to say you don’t have a valid and important opinion, but its not a good reason to discount others.

            So what opinions have I discounted? Could you please defend them on their merits instead of just giving me a vague lecture about “other opinions”?

            When I said “should” be tempered, thats a personal statement of an opinion.

            And it is an opinion of moral obligation and the rightness versus wrongness of a particular action, as I have already shown you with the definition of “should.”

            I had zero indication of that,

            Yes, actually you did. I described gender-based harassment as being harmful “to us,” which I think should make it pretty clear that I’m in the group getting the gender-based harassment. Also, when I ask you why you can “to tell us that our reaction should be” in the context of gender-based harassment (and how you aren’t in that group), I think it’s pretty damn clear what my gender is.

            But, I also find it reprehensible to say that others have no say in a matter because of their gender or perspective.

            Where, exactly, did I exclude anyone from having a say in a matter because of their gender? If “the matter” is how it is appropriate to respond to harassment THAT YOU DON’T RECEIVE, then yes, your gender is materially relevant to your ignorance in this matter, and is materially relevant to the fact that you have advantages in this situation where I don’t so it is inappropriate for you to have a say in HOW I EXPRESS MYSELF on issues that affect ME, but do not affect you. This really shouldn’t be that hard.

            And perspectives can, simply, be wrong. That’s not to say it can’t have a say in a matter, but that say won’t be accepted or admired if it is seriously misguided.

          7. brianmurray

            I strongly suggest you stop using the word “diatribe” to refer to women expressing themselves.

            What is your fixation on this? Your posts are getting angrier and angrier. I am not supposed to use it against women, but its A-OK against men? No. It’s an accurate word describing your posts. You clearly have no intention of doing anything more than inflating your own ego. If you are so unable to empathize with your fellow human beings that you cannot understand what I am trying to say, then we are done. There is no common ground here.

          8. LeftSidePositive

            It’s just plain bizarre that you’re so insistent on perceiving an altogether academic description of privilege, with a few capitalizations for firm boundary-setting and emphasis, as “angry.” Really, I’m just plain baffled.

            And in my abundant experience, it’s generally marginalized groups that get this treatment–this doesn’t apply only to women, but women are the marginalized group under discussion here. My emphasis on you using this toward a woman (or *at least* giving the most charitable interpretation of your denseness, toward someone advocating women’s issues) is that it follows a pattern exactly of perceiving people speaking up for their rights from a relative disadvantage as being unreasonable or angry.

            Look, my interpretation of what you’re trying to say is that you think “social awkwardness” should give people slack for problematic behavior, and you think that the person being creeped out, or discussing being creeped out, should temper their response and put the other person’s feelings ahead of their own…when they weren’t the one who initiated the interaction! How is this misreading you? It seems abundantly textually well-supported.

          9. tracieh

            Brianmurray:

            > Exactly. But how can you tell they are being a boor, or just socially awkward? You don’t know their intentions

            If they’re self-absorbed and showing no regard for others, what difference do their intentions make to my desire to avoid them? That is the very definition of a boor, in fact. All you are asking is “what if the person is a boor but doesn’t intend to be?” You’re not really making a case they’re not boorish—just positing a cause of their boorish behavior. Is a person diagnosed with Dwarfism not short, since it’s a genetic cause for their height?

            The fact is that little children grasp the concept of being considerate—they learn it in elementary school, and it’s actually also a section in the children’s magazine “Highlights.” Are socially awkward people defined as those who are unable to learn at the rate of a reading aged child? Because that’s news to me. A reading age child can understand consideration for others, but a great many adults who claim to be good thinkers, shrink at the idea that they should be expected to learn, understand or behave in line with “consideration for others.” You’d think I was asking people to be able to fly to the moon in order to be acceptable in social settings.

            > but the only way for us to judge what others are thinking is by their actions

            Amen to that. And glad you recognize it. And the only way to judge if I want to spend time around another person is to observe their actions. Do I have a right to avoid boors or do I not? Do I have freedom of association? Does it matter what the cause of their boorishness is when I’m the one being asked to endure it?

            > I recognize that not all people with Aspergers are boorish.

            I’ve never met a single example of a person professionally diagnosed with the disorder who was inconsiderate toward me, and I have met several people diagnosed with the disorder. In fact, of those I do know, they actually have expressed that they resent having their condition used as an excuse by people who act in an inconsiderate fashion—because that is not what their disorder causes.

            It’s the difference between sitting down with someone at a small table in a hotel lounge and starting to talk to them, versus walking up and asking “May I join you?” before taking such a liberty with another person’s time and association. I need only consider that simply because I want to socialize with *that* person does not equal them feeling reciprocation. *They* are not *me*–and that’s not a difficult concept for anyone to grasp. If you can coordinate attending a convention, I should think you can understand that your thoughts are not the thoughts of others, right?

            I should not consider my association as a gift other people are lucky to have bestowed upon them, but as a potential imposition. *They* can tell me if my association is welcome or imposing. I don’t get to make that choice for *other people.* And I don’t need to excel in social graces or social literacy or reading social “cues,” if I just remember to *ask* “is this OK with you?” before I act toward, or on another person, do I? The person will answer, and I can proceed accordingly—without having to interpret anything as mystifying as someone rolling their eyes at me. Is that so very difficult for so many skeptical, free-thinkers to wrap their supposedly brilliant minds around?

            Really “think of other people” is something we should think is mystifying and difficult and too much to ask from attendees at a social function–for people who pride themselves on a capacity to reason well? That’s laughable, to be honest. It’s insulting to boors everywhere to suggest they’re this incompetent. Rather than defend or support their cause, you’ve actually now defined them as not only boorish but less-intelligent-than-a-5-year-old as well. If I had Asperger’s that would pretty well rub me the wrong way completely.

            LeftsidePositive:

            While my own comments would apply in any context to men or women who are inconsiderate of others, I found this to be quite a good statement of yours:

            >Look, my interpretation of what you’re trying to say is that you think “social awkwardness” should give people slack for problematic behavior, and you think that the person being creeped out, or discussing being creeped out, should temper their response and put the other person’s feelings ahead of their own…when they weren’t the one who initiated the interaction! How is this misreading you? It seems abundantly textually well-supported.

            I was thinking last night about some prior comments regarding Asperger’s. I’ve never had a problem with anyone I’ve known who was diagnosed with that disorder. They can seem a bit odd, but I’ve never felt they were inconsiderate toward me—or anyone I’ve seen.

            But what if there were a disorder where people where self-absorbed, disrespectful and thoughtless regarding “other people”? Wouldn’t we basically be simply asserting that there is a disorder that causes people to be assholes—which are, by definition, people who are self-absorbed, disrespectful and thoughtless regarding others? It would be as though we defined short as any woman under 5’ tall, and any man under 5’6” and someone complained that people who have Dwarfism should not be considered “short” because they have a diagnosed disorder that causes their condition. How on earth would that make them *not* short? It would simply be identifying the cause of their small stature as genetic.

            Another example was a guy I knew who only dated blondes. He found them attractive and didn’t like dark-haired women. That’s pretty well a personal aesthetic that anyone would be entitled to. Should I get bent because I was born brunette? Does he then have to date me? I can’t see why.

            I don’t particularly care *why* a person would be an ass toward me, or others, at a social function. I still would prefer NOT to have to endure such behavior aimed at me at a social gathering where I have paid to have a good time and enjoy myself. This is similar to what I said above—this bizarre idea that my right to freedom of association doesn’t matter—I should be obligated to socialize with assholes, poor things.

            I just don’t agree. I don’t care why you’re a boor, I only care *that* you are when the question is whether or not I’d pay money to be around you. Be all the boor you like—or need to be—but don’t expect me to want to hang with you if you’re a self-absorbed, inconsiderate person who doesn’t give—or even is incapable of giving—any thought to the comfort and well being of others in proximity.

            And for the record, I don’t believe “socially awkward” or Asperger’s is what we’re discussing here. But even if diagnosed conditions did cause this—if this was the crowd at conventions, I’d still stay home.

          10. tracieh

            >this is about letting people who are affected by behavior have a voice to express what is unacceptable behavior, rather than the privileged people voicing their entitlement.

            I’d add a clarification to this: It’s about me being allowed to decide IF I agree to be behaved upon or toward. The prior example of allowing a victim to decide the fate of a criminal is not recognizing that what this is more akin to is asking the victim BEFORE the crime is committed, whether or not they’d like to be the victim of this crime. And for the life of me, I can’t imagine why that should be objectionable?

            My post is about me saying I’d rather NOT be subject to inconsiderate behavior–and that I’m willing to take the steps, myself, to avoid it. And apparently even THAT is controversial. It’s truly amazing. There really is this expectation that (1) you must associate with people who treat you inconsiderately or you’re out of line, and (2) even saying you don’t like being treated inconsiderately is *you* being out of line.

            It’s just amazing. I have to laugh because I honestly can’t believe it.

          11. tracieh

            In thinking further on this last night, I wanted to stop this thread from going too far into a ditch. I believe the insertion of Aspergers is a red herring and not at issue and have asserted as much. Before further dialog ensues comparing Howard Wolowitz to a person with Aspergers, I would appreciate anyone who believes that he is intended to portray an Aspergers personality, please post that thought at the Aspergers forum at this site:

            http://autism.about.com/od/aspergerssyndrome/Asperger_Syndrome.htm

            If the group agrees Wolowitz is a sitcom-stereotype version of Aspergers, we can continue with that line of thought. Otherwise, I have to insist that I know of no evidence (and certainly none has been presented here) that Aspergers is a diagnosis of “compulsive asshole-ism.”

  24. 24
    Rilian

    So your attitude is just let them have the conventions.
    It reminds me of how I’m fine with just letting the religious crazies have the public schools, and the atheists can just homeschool or start their own homeschool cooperatives.

    1. 24.1
      tracieh

      My “attitude” is that this is a community that has to decide as a community whether or not they care if I feel welcome at their conventions. It’s the same as my attitude toward Walmart. I don’t support their model, so I don’t shop there. However, if others want to shop there, I don’t think it’s my right to stop them from shopping there. I think it’s a far more theistic model to try and shut down Walmart because I don’t like it, than to just shop elsewhere.

      If someone wants to work to change the Walmart model, I don’t denounce that, either. In fact, nowhere did I recommend efforts to change the conventions should halt or that everyone should follow suit with what I do. I noted that from my specific vantage point as an introvert, social conventions are hardly a draw to me to begin with. It’s like having a problem with a skeptic marathon–as I hate running, that’s not an issue that would matter to me. It doesn’t mean I don’t understand how it might have more relevance to others who want to attend the marathon, but feel barred from doing so due to the problems at the events.

      1. tracieh

        I should also note a false equivalency between using something illegal to compare to something that is merely socially off-putting.

        1. Rilian

          I don’t think it’s a false equivalency. The law is arbitrary.
          I’m just saying that, the same way I’d rather just stop going to conventions full of annoying people than keep going and try to change them, I’d also rather just give up on the public schools than try to change them, causing myself and/or my kids annoyance or suffering in the meantime. In neither case am I making a judgement about whether what any of the people involved are doing is right or wrong or legal or illegal; I’m just talking about how I would rather not involve myself because it’s not worth the trouble. Am I saying this clearly…?

      2. Rilian

        I’m sorry that my use of the word “attitude” came off as offensive. I didn’t mean anything bad by it.
        When I said “let them have the conventions”, I meant, like, just write them off and let them have the conventions all to themselves, instead of trying to participate and change them. I’m not suggesting that the conventions should be shut down.
        I hope that’s clear. I’m not very good at explaining what I’m thinking, really.

        1. tracieh

          I appreciate the clarification, and also the opportunity for me to clarify my own position. I think now that I have a better grasp of what you’re saying I can better explain myself for others who may misunderstand what I intended.

          A person who is part of a racial minority will be more likely to encounter racism than I might be. And it would make sense to me if that person were part of a group like the NAACP. I’m not a member of NAACP–but I would hope nobody would see that as me not caring about racism and its impact on society–or worse an endorsement of racism.

          In the case of the public schools, then, for example, if we did a poll among atheists and found that atheists with school aged children showed somewhat more concern on the issue of religion in public school than atheists who don’t have school aged children, I would not find that surprising. People apply their time, energy, resources to efforts as they value and prioritize them. In other words, I don’t have the time, money, energy to devote fully to all the things I’d like to see “fixed” in the world. There is just far more work to be done than I can fully participate in. And so I have to prioritize my goals in that regard.

          With this issue, if I was someone isolated and really desiring contact with other atheists/skeptics–someone perhaps living in the closet or rejected by family or friends, then making sure the conventions are welcoming would be HUGE to me. And I’d be working hard to make that shift. That person has a great deal of incentive to change the model rather than respond to it with “meh…If they want me to pay to attend, they need to change the model.”

          For me, clearly I do get active in some issues and in some regards. I am also active in other social areas that are not atheist related. I spend money on issues that are near and dear to me personally, and I lend my time/energy/resource to things that impact me most directly. In this case the conventions just don’t impact me greatly. I’m not highly social, and so I need a reason to go. Any hurdle or perceived hurdle, to someone as introverted as I am, is going to be just enough excuse for me to justify staying home–where I generally prefer to be, anyway.

          Thank you for your comment and your clarification. And I hope this helps explain my perspective a bit better.

  25. 25
    smhll

    but am trying to temper a clearly reactionary persons response to what they see

    How is it clear to you that the person is reactionary? Mightn’t she just be awkward? Typing with arthritic fingers? Brusque because she is in a hurry, or eating soup with her right hand. Please consider all the possibilities before jumping in with unsupportable condemnation.

    Thank you for playing!

    1. 25.1
      LeftSidePositive

      LLOL!

      By which I mean literally laughed out loud!! I read your post, and an involuntary, audible HA! sprang forth!!

  26. 26
    Comment1

    Weird how it went into a “mad or bad” thing. Next time the issue comes up, I vote for this video:

  27. 27
    bismarket

    What a load of tosh. i must say though that i am equally loathe to attend a conference filled by people like you. Lighten up. While i am sure anyone that was truly like Howard would get tiresome people would do well to remember that he’s a parody (an exaggeration) & nobody can really take you seriously if your claiming that there’s likely to be even ONE person attending that is truly “like him” let alone 100. The people who are a little bit similar are usually easy to deal with by anyone with even limited social skills & i find a healthy sense of humour & ridicule to those “Types” works wonders & stops me coming off like a mean spirited, humourless old spinster, lol.

  28. 28
    Jen Peeples

    Tracie said:

    I believe the insertion of Aspergers is a red herring

    Yes, thank you. I’ve had it offered to me as an excuse for bad behavior by people who clearly didn’t have a diagnosis of Aspergers. I’m offended by this on two levels. First, it’s insulting to Aspies, and second, it’s a crass attempt to dodge responsibility for inappropriate behavior. No Aspie I’ve ever known has offered their diagnosis of Aspergers as an excuse for a social faux pas.

    I don’t have Aspergers, but I work in a field with a relatively high percentage of Aspies, and I’m pretty good at recognizing them. The “social awkwardness” of people with Aspergers more often causes them discomfort than those around them. As Tracie noted, they’re not generally assholes, and those that are, are assholes for reasons unrelated to Aspergers.

    1. 28.1
      Martin Wagner

      And I strongly suspect that a lot of guys who claim to be Aspie have not in fact been professionally diagnosed but are self-diagnosed, because they know they’re socially awkward, can’t figure out how to get better at it, and think that people will be more sympathetic to them, and more willing to do the hard work of initiating social interaction with them, if it’s believed they have “a condition.”

  29. 29
    T

    I’m sure it’s been referenced by others before, but it seems salient to the point so I don’t feel bad reiterating.

    There is a bar scene in A Beautiful Mind where RC as Nash makes the case that if all his friend go for the blond, they block each other therefore none of them get the blond. If they then turn to the friends, they are rejected again because no one wants to be thought of as Option #2. Try replacing, ‘Blond’ with ‘Vagina’ and ‘Friends’ with ‘Entire Person Possessing All of the Following: Thoughts, Emotions & Vagina,’ and you get might start to understand why hitting on someone in an overtly sexual manner, as a first approach, results in rejection more often than not.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CemLiSI5ox8

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you create an environment where only women receptive smarmy behavior come. Now, it seems obvious that this is a fairly small percentage of women but I don’t have stats so I will err on the generous side. You then still face the fact that if there is 20% female attendance, you have, in theory, a 25% change of getting laid, but that doesn’t hold if you are constantly cock blocking each other. If the ladies are going to go to bed with anyone, it’s probably going to be someone from the upper echelons of geekdom, and the majority will continue to consistently lose out. So I fail to see how this works in anyone’s favor.

    This reasoning seems a bit like homeopathy: “If we keep reducing the number of women who come to conferences, somehow the potency of my normally toxic charms magically increases exponentially and becomes efficacious.” Yes, I fully realize the analogy is not quite right, but I’m sure you get the point.

    1. 29.1
      Suido

      Dafuq?

      Are you seriously using this as a forum for offering creeps advice on how to better hit on women so that their chances of getting laid increase?

      Congratulations on missing the point. GTFO.

      1. T

        Clearly I did a poor job of chopping a short essay into a few paragraphs; my point was the exact opposite. A poor attempt at reductio ad absurdum. Very embarrassing to think the opposite was being perceived.

        I was trying to point out the incredibly faulty reasoning of the men who are making the case that women who want to avoid being hit on should stay home (or not focus attention on the offenders) and let the conferences turn into a free for all and that somehow, magically, fewer women at conferences works out better for everyone in the long run. It is so obviously and measurably the case that when there is a more balanced ratio of the sexes, and men treat women like people instead of ambulatory vaginas, that everyone enjoys each others company more, and the odds of people getting laid (which seems to be the point of their mission) increase. Unless of course it’s just to form an all boys skeptic group, in which case they should build a club house in a tree in their parents back yard like the 12 year olds they are.

        The type who keep making this case strike me as the type who would fail in their missions to get laid in the *best possible circumstances*, and if they actually cared about evidence, they would look at it and realize that the flaw in the equation is their own behavior and reform themselves. It takes a certain kind of blindness to have mountains of evidence thrown at you by countless prominent and well respected women and men saying there is a problem, and discount all of it. It strikes me as ironic that some skeptics and atheists are engaging in the same kind of behavior, both the wishful thinking and bullying, as the fundies and quacks.

        That is what I meant.

        In in the future I should avoid cropping essays in to post site bites.

  1. 30
    Men's Guide to Not Being Dicks | Tangled Up in Blue Guy

    [...] heicat at Freethought Blogs’ Atheist Experience shares my viewpoint on conferences: Again, I’m posting because I was asked to, not because I have anything Earth-shattering I feel any need to share or add to this dialog. In fact, everything I’ve said above, and will say in a moment, should not be considered “news” on this issue. It’s just my personal, subjective assessment and response to what I’ve seen and read from people, themselves, defending, what I consider to be, obnoxious behaviors at skeptic conventions. I’ve gathered, from their insistent rhetoric, that it’s their right to be as disrespectful toward the other attendees as they like. And, to be fair, so long as a convention has no policy to ensure overall social comfort of attendees, it doesn’t matter if they include in their crowd those who are boorish and intolerable to other paid attendees. As long as their behavior isn’t outside legal boundaries, it’s up to the hosts what they will endorse and ask the rest of their audience to endure. However, I expect you won’t mind me laughing at you if you should be so foolish as to ask me why I’m not attending the latest skeptic/atheist convention. You’ve got to be kidding—sincerely kidding—if you’re asking me that. I’d loathe to attend it. And I find the more compelling question “Why would anyone subject himself/herself to a group that contains a fair number of publicly outspoken members who consider their right to be rude to the other guests at a social event, to be more compelling than the overall comfort of the group of guests as a whole?” [...]

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