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Rebecca explains

Rebecca Watson explains why she won’t be at TAM this year.

During my visit to Germany last week, I was asked by a conference attendee how I thought we could get more women to attend skeptic and atheist conferences. I gave the answer I nearly always give: when we increase the number of women on stage, we increase the number of women in the audience. As usual, I gave this example: The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) run by the James Randi Educational Foundation. I pointed out that when I first started attending (TAM 3), there were very few women on stage and the audience was only about 20% women. I explained that last year (TAM 9) an effort had been made to have women comprise 50% of the speakers. Most of those women were on panels and workshops, but it was a huge step. That, combined with ongoing promotion in places like Skepchick where Surly Amy raised thousands of dollars to give travel grants to dozens of women, helped finally raise the percentage of women in the audience to 40%.

Skepchick helped to promote TAM to women, and to send women to TAM. Skepchick has been good to TAM.

So it’s odd for me to be announcing that I will not attend TAM this year, because I do not feel welcomed or safe and I disagree strongly with the recent actions of the JREF president, DJ Grothe.

I’ve attended TAM since TAM 3 in 2005, and since TAM 4 I’ve actively raised money for grants to send more women. That’s actually how Skepchick got started – selling calendars to raise money for women to go to TAM. Signed calendars were even auctioned off at TAM in order to raise even more money for the JREF. For several years, we at Skepchick actively tried to work with the JREF to help increase the number of women on stage, as well, creating long lists of potential female speakers and suggesting panels and other events that would be of interest to women. TAM was the main event for Skepchick, even after we started running our own event at SkepchickCon.

You would think JREF would be grateful. But then DJ Grothe, president of JREF, blamed women talking about sexism and harassment for a reported decline in women registering for TAM. Say what?

DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment. I found that claim astonishing, since I was only aware of women speaking frankly about their own experiences and their own feelings. I couldn’t imagine that DJ would be literally blaming the victim for speaking out. To be sure, I asked him in that thread to give us examples of what he was talking about. To my surprise, this was his response:

Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

(http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-15/atheist-sexism-women/50416454/1)

Over the past several years, I’ve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told I’m a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told I’m too ugly to be raped, told I don’t have a say in my own treatment because I’ve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesn’t convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped – by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.

This is quite obviously not a safe space for me or for other women who want to be free of the gendered slurs and sexual threats and come-ons we experience in our day-to-day lives. But apparently, DJ thinks I am lying about that, since apparently my feeling that the freethought community is not a safe space is “misinformation.” I should apparently put on a smile and pretend it doesn’t happen, because by reporting on my treatment, I am creating “a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.”

As Jews in Germany circa 1936 might have created “a climate where Jews — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center creates a climate where people who are the object of systematic vocal hatred end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe. That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course, but then Rebecca didn’t name TAM in the item DJ quoted, either; she (or rather USA Today, indirectly quoting her) said “the freethought community.”

And once again we see that the tragedy isn’t necessarily in the initial problem – like say a man propositioning a woman who has just said she doesn’t want to be propositioned, at 4am in an elevator – but in the reaction to a mild rebuke from the woman. The nonstop avalanche of rape threats she gets because she had the temerity to say “Guys, don’t do that.”

And so here, the tragedy isn’t in the initial amount of harassment. It was (initially) only slightly more harassment than I had had to deal with in my every day life, after all, outside of this community. No, the tragedy is when the president of the organization that inspired me to join this community tells the world that women feel unsafe and unwelcome because of me. Because I talk about the men who harass me in this community, even while I encourage more women to attend these conferences and stand up and be counted, while I give conference organizers tips on improving the experience for women, and even while I help raise thousands and thousands of dollars to send women to these conferences.

It’s deeply depressing.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Lyanna says

    Good on Rebecca.

    DJ Grothe was asking for this with his irresponsible messaging about how women who are harassed, or who observe harassment, shouldn’t speak up about it because it will make his conference look bad.

  2. julian says

    I doubt this’ll have much of an impact on the numbers Grothe is so enraptured by but it’s nice to see. Hopefully they’ll redirect their efforts toward something more fulfilling and less likely to stab them in the back.

  3. Josh Slocum says

    And don’t forget to indulge the menz who keep popping up saying, “It would be really nice to know how much actual harassment there is.” Because if women tell them it’s anecdata. If they don’t fill out surveys there’s no “evidence.” Videos or it didn’t happen. Also you’re Slutz because parties.

  4. Josh Slocum says

    And Ophelia, you’re usually better on accuracy. Men “explain.” Rebecca shrieks, accuses, bitches, lies, tantrums and cunts-off.

  5. says

    Reasonably often, I don’t agree with what self-described feminists say descriptively. Somewhat more often, I don’t agree with the proscriptive views of self-described feminists.

    But I really don’t grok the spittle-flecked outrage that such views generate in some quarters.

  6. says

    Well quite. Reasoned disagreement is one thing, and a string of bitchy cunt and cunty bitch shouting is another.

    Some moron just called Rebecca an uppity self-righteous cunt on Twitter. Thank you for confirming.

  7. Matt Penfold says

    Some moron just called Rebecca an uppity self-righteous cunt on Twitter. Thank you for confirming.

    It is as though some people do not even want to pretend to be civilised.

  8. says

    Also couldn’t help but chuckle at one of Rebecca Watson’s comments a little further down:

    Note that we don’t actually have any evidence that the percentage of women decreased. We only have DJ’s word.

    If that were a woman’s word, DJ would call it gossip and misinformation.

  9. Brownian says

    From Rebecca Watson’s post:

    I should apparently put on a smile and pretend it doesn’t happen, because by reporting on my treatment, I am creating “a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.

    DJ says I am the one doing that. Me, who has never discouraged people from attending TAM and in fact has given thousands of dollars to the JREF in order to send more and more women to the event. Me, who has never said that TAM is a dangerous place for women. I’m the problem.

    Emphasis mine.

    Well, Grothe defenders? Why is he attacking an ally?

    Or does that argument only work for the privileged?

  10. leni says

    It is depressing :/ Kudos to Rebecca for sticking to her guns though. I really wish she, or anyone, didn’t have to put up with this shit.

  11. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Personally, I’m amused by the slimepit trolls who tour every FTB blog just to tell the bloggers that no one likes them, no one wants them at conferences, no one listens to them, blah blah blah.

    If that were true, why are they here to tell us? If we don’t matter, we actually wouldn’t matter.

    Rather, it seems like the bigotted unhinged bullies have something to be worried about.

  12. BWE says

    Josh Slocum says:
    June 1, 2012 at 9:22 am

    BWE is a known liar, Ophelia, if you haven’t run across it before.

    Hmm. You will be unable to support that accusation because it isn’t true. I however can support those I may make. May I ask why my comment isn’t appearing? Is it not a legitimate question?

  13. Brad says

    I don’t think I’m the first to mention it, but I’m genuinely curious if the decrease in women’s registrations for TAM might actually be due to women choosing to attend one of the women’s-focused conferences (Women in Secularism Conference or SkepChickCon), and not able, financially or logistically, to do both.

    I don’t think it changes the substance of the controversy that has followed, but it certainly makes DJ’s original comments even more unfortunate (since there was a reasonable alternative explanation for the drop that didn’t involve blaming those speaking out about legitimate concerns).

  14. dandy_lion says

    @Brad That’s what I thought as well. If I had to choose between TAM and Women in Secularism, I’m going to choose the second because, for me as a woman, it is both something I want to hear more about and seems like a more welcoming atmosphere. What DJ Grothe is saying baffles me and I’m glad Rebecca and the Skepchicks are not having an official presence at TAM.

  15. says

    The man who called Rebecca Watson an “uppity cunt” on Twitter has apologized for using the c-word, but doesn’t get why “uppity” is a problem. He says the dictionary defines it as “arrogant”, so “take it up with them”.

  16. Ian says

    I’m sorry that you have had to put up with both the appalling behavior prior to your “elevator-gate” disclosure and, especially, since then. It’s not unusual to find that the people who share your worldview/interests/passions contain a considerable number of cranks, obsessives, conspiracy-theorists, bigots, and those with a tenuous grasp on reality. But what is truly depressing is the viciousness of the response to you and other women who have spoken out. Why would you want to continue to be associated with such people? I have read goodness knows how many blog postings on sceptical blogs mocking/criticizing some theist group consisting of little more than one man and his dog as though they are a threat to the continuation of civilization, but when the spotlight is shone onto the appalling behavior of a not insignificant portion of the sceptic community the messenger is told – at the most civil – to shut the fuck up. Many years ago my youthful political ideals led me to explore radical groups but my experience of the people involved was that no way on earth did I want most of them near any kind of power; it is a shame that the sceptic community creates a similar response.
    My suggestion to women who have experienced what Rebecca has is to do exactly what she is doing – take away your patronage. Set up your own groups and conferences. Do not participate in any groups which refuse to take seriously and act upon the sexism in their ranks. If the comments aimed at you as women were aimed at people of color, jews or the disabled you would not hesitate to boycott the group in sympathy with those thus abused, you should not hesitate to do the same thing on your own behalf.

  17. Ian says

    Oops, I guess I forgot which blog I was commenting on! The comment still applies but I apologise to Ophelia for addressing it to Rebecca directly rather than to her.

  18. Bjarte Foshaug says

    After having spent a considerable amount of time wading through the comments sections of various blog posts over the last ten days or so, I wouldn’t touch the JREF with a ten foot pole. Not because of anything Rebecca, or Ophelia, or Stephanie, or Jen has written, but because of the absolute viciousness of the backlashers against admitting that sexual harassment is even a problem (let alone actually doing something about it). If these people are part of the “skeptical community”, then I sure as hell don’t want any part in it.

  19. BWE says

    I guess my post which seems to have become invisible is echoing something similar to ian’s post. There really might be something wrong with the group. It might not be a representative sample.

  20. Beauzeaux says

    I am of an age that exempts me from unwanted attention from men. Somewhere around my mid-forties I became completely invisible!!

    In any case, the treatmemt of Rebecca Watson has removed whatever small desire I might have had to meet fellow (male)skeptics in person — with a few exceptions.

    The ugliness directed at Watson has been so outsized, so ridiculously over-the-top, that I wonder at the sanity of these guys (and Abbie). Are these hateful people able to behave like humans in public? Or do they just skulk around gatherings leaving a trail of slime and filth?

    I’d rather just read.

  21. Aratina Cage says

    As Jews in Germany circa 1936 might have created “a climate where Jews — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center creates a climate where people who are the object of systematic vocal hatred end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.

    You don’t even have to go so far. As commenter skeptifem has been saying on some of these threads, this type of thinking pervades corporate employment where women who speak up against a culture of harassment are seen as troublemakers even by other women. The same happens to LGBT people who speak up about harassment in the workplace or even in the community (how many same-sex couples were [and sometimes still are] seen as agitators before the fight for marriage equality became mainstream? or the LGBT people organizing pride parades?). The same thing happened to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the people leading the civil rights movement. Heck, the same thing even happens in some relationships when one person brings up a controversial issue and is rebuked for making things worse than they were.

    People are often afraid of the battles that must be fought to change things for the better or to prevent things from getting worse. The personal costs can be too great, up to and including the death of oneself or loved ones. It is easy to reach the conclusion that life would be better if things went back to the way they were before the first person spoke up and before the problems were pointed out and protested.

    DJ was calling for us to go back to what commenter Sastra has termed dinner table diplomacy where we all keep silent about the problems we have with others (well, all of us except for cantankerous old Uncle Smith who nobody listens to anyway). People refused, so it appears that DJ decided to single one of them out. It had to be someone major, someone who had gone through the trouble of making many of the dishes on the table, that way the message to the rest of the agitators would be loud and clear.

    Now that Rebecca has gotten mad and left the table, DJ probably expects to be able to eat his dinner in peace (there’s still Uncle Smith to cope with, but *shrug*). Leaving the table is a big price to pay and the others know it. Will this tactic work? Will DJ make it through the main course all the way to second helpings and dessert?

  22. Aratina Cage says

    BWE is a known liar…

    Hmm. You will be unable to support that accusation…

    ORLY? Supporting evidence. Unless “bwe4″ is not you?
    *looks at the WordPress avatars for BWE and bwe4*
    Nope. Same person.

  23. Josh Slocum says

    Oh, looks like somebody’s emptying the roach traps. Feel free to cart my nonsense out too!

  24. BWE says

    Wow. Please explain to me what I am and am not allowed to say. I thought I was being civil and skeptical and all that. For real. WTF is going on here?

  25. Aratina Cage says

    OT (Sorry. I’ll accept going into moderation if this is too far off track.)

    @johnsonvillevandenwymalenburg

    Supporting evidence comes from Pope PZ himself.

    It doesn’t matter who was involved. Read backwards in that thread and find out yourself.

    He said it, I believe it, end of story.

    That is something many of us who are not authoritarian-minded would not agree with. PZ has earned my trust, yes, but it is plain to see in that thread that BWE was not beholden to the truth.

    What more evidence of BWE’s crimes could one need?

    What crimes? By the way, funny how BWE’s claim itself on this thread added to the evidence against BWE.

    If you don’t think that is sufficient evidence you are not a good atheist.

    Because an atheist is, by definition, someone like me who thinks that BWE is (and you are) trolling. Talk about rocket-propelled goalposts on wheels!

  26. Aratina Cage says

    *facepalming myself* I shouldn’t have said anything. Zipping it on that front now.

    @Ms. Daisy Cutter
    I just haaaad to look at that tweet by Ian Adelstein, didn’t I? *deep breaths* At least we can’t see the tweet he is responding to because I can only imagine that it is on the same level.

  27. Josh Slocum says

    Daisy, did you catch how Ian Adelstein totally “didn’t mean it in a sexist way@!!”?

  28. Midnight Rambler says

    Groethe’s big semantic blind spot in debating this seems to be that he doesn’t understand that there’s a huge gap between a “safe spot” (where nothing bad should happen) and a place that is unsafe and dangerous, i.e. where you would pretty much expect something bad to happen. In between is most of the real world with all its faults and failures. Instead of trying to fix those problems, he seems more interested in blaming the messenger.

  29. says

    Some moron just called Rebecca an uppity self-righteous cunt on Twitter. Thank you for confirming.

    Uppity. Does any word in the English language reveal more about the mindset of the person who uses it?

  30. MyaR says

    [I'm posting this here for two reasons: I know Ophelia and have only met Rebecca once, and I can't log in at Skepchick for some reason.]

    DJ’s made it pretty clear that he doesn’t know how to address what is clearly a problem, so I have a grassroots proposal, thanks to a Skepchick commenter — the Back Up project — The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project & Gentlemen’s Auxiliary.

    I’d be willing to get flyers printed and pay for buttons/stickers to distribute, as well as coordinating a group who’s willing to wear buttons and pay attention to what’s going on in conference spaces. This is the first TAM I’m attending, so I’m hoping there are people who’ve been before and are interested in constructive action who are willing to help out. All it requires is being willing to join a group/conversation and report anything to the conference organizers/security if need be.

    I figure this is ultimately more useful than my other course of action, which would be finding out how much of my conference fees, flight, and car rental are refundable.

  31. fastlane says

    MyaR…careful now, you’re beginning to sound uppity.

    Do I need a sarcasm tag? It feels like I do, given all the morons otherwise posting on this topic.

    I think that’s a great idea, especially for those who have already made reservations.

  32. Godless Heathen says

    @Brad,

    Someone on a different blog mentioned that maybe last year’s attendance by women was abnormally high and that this year’s is back to normal. I’d be interested in knowing what the percentage of female attendees has historically been.

  33. Carlie says

    Uppity. Does any word in the English language reveal more about the mindset of the person who uses it?

    Maybe “well-spoken” comes in second.

  34. Sastra says

    Question. I’ll be attending TAM again this year (I’ve been to all of them so far and hey, this time I get to hear Ophelia.) I’m going to miss seeing/hearing Rebecca: she was always a bright spot. So … if I wear my red Skepchick t-shirt, would people think I was supporting her — or trying to undermine her personal boycott?

    Or would they just think I was probably clueless/ be clueless themselves?

    (I bought the t-shirt from Rebecca at last year’s TAM, after first asking her if it was okay to wear it with my Dawkins’ ‘A’ necklace. She grinned and said “absolutely.” Which was nice of her, because it was a bit sly of me to bring it up. I was curious how she’d respond.)

  35. Sastra says

    Hey, maybe we should start a general movement: all women going to TAM should wear a Skepchick t-shirt. All female speakers, as well. A (small) sea of red.

    I am Spartacus.

  36. FredBloggs says

    So is Rebecca saying she experiences more harassment at skeptic conferences than in the general population? I hate the stereotype, but is this because the conferences are, well, sometimes a bit geeky? (coming from a geek) – populated with a lot of clumsy, maladjusted men?

    I’ve never attended one, so perhaps I’m being unfair.

  37. Matt Penfold says

    So is Rebecca saying she experiences more harassment at skeptic conferences than in the general population? I hate the stereotype, but is this because the conferences are, well, sometimes a bit geeky? (coming from a geek) – populated with a lot of clumsy, maladjusted men?

    Do you really want to argue being a geeky bloke is an excuse ?

  38. Lyanna says

    Fred: can’t speak for Rebecca but she hasn’t actually said that skeptics at conferences are any more likely to harass than the general population. And others on her “side” have explicitly denied saying any such thing. What they do say is that skeptic conferences have little awareness of harassment as a problem, and consequently lack policies and frameworks to deal with harassment complaints.

    I’m a little wary of saying that geeks are more likely to harass than others, and not just because I’m a female geek. It’s mostly because I think it can end up turning into an excuse: awww, poor dears, they’re so socially awkward and geeky and they don’t really MEAN IT when they do it, they just don’t know any better! Sorry, but no.

    Not saying that you, Fred, are making excuses, because you’ve done no such thing. Just saying that your suggested explanation, while perfectly possible, often ends up being an excuse.

  39. Matt Penfold says

    To add to what Lynanna has said, and to expand on my reply to Fred Bloggs.

    Social decorum is something people are supposed to be aware of, and sorry, but being geeky or whatever is no excuse. If someone has problems such as that they do not know how to behave properly in public then quite honestly they should be be in a position of being in public without a responsible adult.

  40. FredBloggs says

    Matt – I never said, implied, or suggested excuse. I was looking for an explanation.

    Lyana – I’m not trying to be confrontational, but

    “And so here, the tragedy isn’t in the initial amount of harassment. It was (initially) only slightly more harassment than I had had to deal with in my every day life, after all, outside of this community”

    Isn’t that what Rebecca is saying?

    I’m not a woman. I don’t (often) have to deal with unwanted advances, or abuse – but do men really behave this way? I’m not trolling, I’m genuinely interested. Any men in my circle who used such terms would soon face some harsh criticism (even if only out of some old-fashioned sense of politeness!)

  41. Matt Penfold says

    Matt – I never said, implied, or suggested excuse. I was looking for an explanation.

    Well other than that you asked for one you mean ?

    Let me remind of you what you asked:

    So is Rebecca saying she experiences more harassment at skeptic conferences than in the general population? I hate the stereotype, but is this because the conferences are, well, sometimes a bit geeky? (coming from a geek) – populated with a lot of clumsy, maladjusted men?

    Notice that question mark at the end ? That means you were asking!

  42. says

    Any men in my circle who used such terms would soon face some harsh criticism (even if only out of some old-fashioned sense of politeness!)

    I’m sure you’d like to think so, Fred.

    Usually, however, people’s social circles find a way to excuse that behavior and somehow blame the woman.

    It’s rather like the claim that men are taught not to hit women, and therefore hitting a woman is a grievous offense to a man’s chivalry. Which doesn’t do much to explain the number of battered women out there.

  43. Lyanna says

    Fred: I hadn’t seen that Rebecca has said that she’d experienced slightly more harassment among skeptics. So, okay, that seems to be a (slight) factor.

    Maybe it’s the geekiness. Or maybe it’s just the general absence of women. Or maybe it’s the “online” factor stretching into real life: many skeptics appear to have met each other online, where there is routine harassment of women, and then bring their same “online” behaviors into real life social settings, where such behaviors are somewhat likelier to stand out.

    Either way, though, I do think the main problem is (as Rebecca said) a failure to respond correctly to the harassment on the community’s part.

    As for your question about men really behaving this way often: not most men in most settings.

    But there are many settings in which harassment is not overtly visible (because people know it’s wrong), but where it flourishes in dark corners, or under the guise of ‘joking’. There are also some settings where it’s generally tolerated and overtly vicious.

  44. FredBloggs says

    Matt – yes, asking for an explanation. Asking if that WAS the explanation.

    Daisy – with respect, people don’t use these terms to refer to women in my company – it’s possible they do it online, there’s no way I could know. But please believe me when I say, this behaviour (at least publicly) is not the norm within my circles.

    Lyanna – It could be the online factor backwash. Wouldn’t it be awful if people thought they could behave in real life as they do online? I’m glad your experience has been that most men don’t behave this way most of the time. My sisters have told me some awful stories of experiences they’ve had, and of course it makes me angry. But to me, the idea that a women’s experience of a skeptics convention is worse than their daily life is truly awful – aren’t we (skeptics) supposed to be intelligent?

  45. Matt Penfold says

    Matt – yes, asking for an explanation. Asking if that WAS the explanation.

    It was hardly something you needed to ask! The answer was fucking obviously no.

    How fucking hard do you think this is ?

  46. Matt Penfold says

    Daisy – with respect, people don’t use these terms to refer to women in my company – it’s possible they do it online, there’s no way I could know.

    Except you are online, and you do, or at the very least, should know.

  47. FredBloggs says

    Matt – if women face more harassment at sceptic conventions than in general, then that requires an explanation.

    My question is what is that explanation?

  48. Matt Penfold says

    Matt – if women face more harassment at sceptic conventions than in general, then that requires an explanation.

    My question is what is that explanation?

    Care to say who has said that ? Or are you just making shit up ?

  49. FredBloggs says

    Again, quoted:

    “And so here, the tragedy isn’t in the initial amount of harassment. It was (initially) only slightly more harassment than I had had to deal with in my every day life, after all, outside of this community”

    True, Rebecca isn’t referring to ALL sceptic con’s, but she is referring to TAM.

    If your complaint is that I’m referring to ALL con’s, then you have a point.

  50. Matt Penfold says

    If your complaint is that I’m referring to ALL con’s, then you have a point.

    Well you are, since Rebeccca is.

  51. Matt Penfold says

    FredBloggs,

    To add to my previous reply, you still have not explained why you think being geeky is any kind of explanation.

    If someone is that unable to work out how they should interact with people what the fuck are they doing out in public ?

  52. says

    I hate the stereotype, but is this because the conferences are, well, sometimes a bit geeky? (coming from a geek) – populated with a lot of clumsy, maladjusted men?

    I hate to break it to you, but harassing women (and otherwise simply not giving their interests and ideas equal consideration to yours/men’s) is, in our society, adjusted. Engaging in behavior that reflects the dominant culture, and ours is a sexist-misogynistic culture, is adjusted.

    You should aspire to be maladjusted.*

    *(Ignore the nonsense about “neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.”)

  53. Dorothy says

    Seconded – for #39 MyaR
    #44 – where do I get a t-shirt – and do they come in XXXL
    Cause I am really tempted by TAM. The speakers look awesome!
    #44 Sastra – do I really need to rent a car? I had the impression that the hotel would have shuttles.
    I will accept off topic information at dgrasett at rogers dot com. I have only attended at INR2 and was very impressed.
    HOWEVER – harassment is NOT impressive.

  54. says

    Dorothy, if you’re tempted, go – we can hang out together and tell any harassers to go for a long walk in the desert.

    From reading blogs the other day I gathered there are indeed shuttles, but they apparently fill up when everyone is leaving at once. I’m sure there’s no need to rent a car though. People were sharing taxis.

  55. petria says

    I think FredBloggs original post was fairly straightforward. He wants to know more about the demographics of different conventions.
    I think that’s an interesting question especially in light of Rebecca’s statement about TAM.
    Why is everyone ripping him apart?
    Nothing in his comments condoned sexual harassment.

  56. rowanvt says

    I just very quickly explained this whole situation to my boyfriend. He is made of win, for his response was a long pause and then a fervent “People are dumbasses”. Other comments from him included “He needs to back up a step” in response to DJ Grothe complaining that women mentioning episodes of harassment was the reason why other women don’t want to attend the con and “Uhm… no” to the idea that my ‘feeling’ unsafe isn’t important if I’m “actually” safe.

  57. Smhlle says

    Plus, I don’t think Grothe can guarantee that women will be safe from both harassment and minor or major assault at a conference. He is extrapolating from a rather thin data set. He thinks women will be fine, and thinks if their opinions differ then they are most likely wrong.

  58. says

    Sastra: She hasn’t told anyone else to boycott TAM. Surly Amy is still going to be there and has even sent several women there with her scholarships.

    FredBloggs: From what I have experienced and heard, this is a problem that goes beyond so-called “clumsy Romeos (http://skepchick.org/2012/01/beyond-jokes-and-pick-up-lines/). I would say that the problem stems from a boys’ club mentality combined with an inability to take women’s concerns seriously.

  59. says

    @Petria at 65. I second your sentiment. I don’t think FredBloggs was trying to excuse harassing behavior, he is just curious if his theory helps explain it.

    It doesn’t. And not just because it is an unfair characterization of geek culture to assume it is full of misanthropes. With the mainstreaming of comic and sci fi culture over the last 20 years that is a foolish assumption. Plenty of people who would never have been cast as the heroes in Revenge of the Nerds will be at Comic-Cons this year. Or PAX, or Gen-Con. Geekdom is no longer the exclusive preserve of some species of overgrown manchild who has no idea what a real woman looks like.

  60. says

    Also, it is simply bad profiling to assume that you can pick out the bad apples because they look or act a certain way, unless that “act a certain way” is to sexually harass people.

  61. Sastra says

    Heina: Thanks; I didn’t think so, and that’s consistent with her earlier stance on Dawkins. I’m going to wear the shirt … though if it looks like there will be a movement of t-shirt-wearing skepchicks, then probably best to ask Rebecca whether she would see this as inspiring support, or her worst nightmare, or other.

    @ Dorothy #63:

    There are some Skepchick shirts in the Skepchick shop at the website — and Ophelia’s right about the shuttles. They tell you not to try to book till “24 hours in advance” but that’s bogus — start asking at 3 weeks prior (and be prepared to spend a lot of time on hold, in my experience.)

    Or, wear a skeptical t-shirt of some sort at the airport and look for people standing in the taxi lines wearing same: share.

    Rebecca W. used to hold women-only slumber parties at TAM. Then they evolved to gigantic proportions and are now apparently no more to be. I preferred the initial form.

  62. Rich says

    This is weird. Maybe skeptics are not the educated and enlightened souls I’ve been thinking we are. Apparently, there are a bunch of knuckle-draggers in the bunch too. Hmm. Casts a pall on things in my view. Thanks for bringing this all to light.

  63. A nym too says

    Ken Ken Ken… your dogwhistle, “self-described feminists”, was louder than a jet taking off. I. know you meant :

    “shrieking, misandrist harpies who think a pat on the arse is a bad thing, lol bitches”
    but please, let me remind you of one thing. Feminism is no more, and no less than, the radical belief that men and women deserve equal treatment. That’s it.

    So your little dig reveals a lot about you, namely that you don’t believe that women deserve fair and equal treatment. In 20fucking12, no less.

  64. says

    As Jews in Germany circa 1936 might have created “a climate where Jews — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center creates a climate where people who are the object of systematic vocal hatred end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe. That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course…

    Nonsense, Ophelia. That’s exactly what you just did, compare TAM to Nazi Germany and women to Jews in Nazi Germany. Denying that you did so doesn’t change that. It just makes you sound disingenuous.

    As you might (or might not) know, I very much detest the gratuitous use of argumentum ad Nazi-um. I even have a special category for it on my blog:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/category/history/hitler_zombie/

    My taking you to task for your analogy also has nothing to do with whether I agree with you and Rebecca regarding TAM and DJ Grothe. Rather, it has everything to do with language and not sliming your opponents with the Nazi label (while saying that’s not what you’re doing). These are things that really irritate me. I expect better.

    I’m debating whether your hyperbole is worthy of inclusion. I haven’t done a Hitler Zombie post in a long time. Maybe it’s time.

  65. says

    Orac – no I did not.

    It’s a matter of parallel logic.

    Rebecca said, by reporting on my treatment, I am creating “a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.”

    What else would be like that? You need another oppressed or persecuted group reporting their oppression or persecution, being accused of “creating a climate where members of said group — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” I chose Jews, and then people whose oppression/persecution is reported by the SPLC. The point was to highlight the grotesquerie of the accusation against women when people of good will don’t generally make accusations like that against other spat-on groups.

    This is a point I make (or try to make) often – the fact that the taboo on racism and homophobia and xenophobia and the like is not matched by a taboo on sexism. I don’t think DJ Grothe would make an accusation like that against Jews or the SPLC in a million years – and that was my point. Why does he make it about women?

    Thanks for your generous and careful reading; I look forward to meeting you at TAM.

  66. says

    Not even close to Ophelia’s point, Orac. Nobody’s being compared to Nazis and Jews. It doesn’t even take a CAREFUL read of that to understand what she’s saying, just a not-hasty one.

  67. says

    I totally get Orac’s point and I think it is (generally) valid; one must always look with squinty little eyes and a squinched up face at any use of reference to Nazis or The Holocaust simply because, well, of the usual reasons.

    Having said that, while examining the use of the parallelism, analogy, or metaphor is good, assuming it is incorrect in all cases is not. Ophelia makes a good point and her use here may be quite right.

    The thing is, shifting the mode only to “race” for a moment to simply (crossing categories of ferociousness behavior complicates) it was once said by a very wise man that “Racism, left unfettered and unquestioned, will ultimately always lead to genocide. That might be wrong now and then but it is not worth taking the chance.”

    The point of this is simply that tossing off arguments against discussing isms as inconvenient is the tool of the proverbial devil. There is a direct link between failing to sweat the small stuff (certain small stuff) and social disaster. The problem is, you don’t necessarily know which small stuff to sweat. In 1946, there were millions and millions of people who would have said “Yeah, I’d have shot Hitler as a 10 year old if I knew…” but nobody (I assume) in 1899 who would have done so of him, or any other 10 year old in his little Bavarian playgroup.

  68. Lola says

    Le Sigh.
    Sometimes I just get so tired with trying to fix crap like this. The current of sexism just gets so hard to fight against sometimes. And it’s so much worse when it comes from people who should know better.

  69. Jessie says

    Are women not really wanted at conferences and events, as is the case in the gaming world? I certainly don’t feel welcome.

  70. says

    That’s certainly not true of all conferences and events, Jessie. I was a speaker at 3 in the past 3 months and I felt welcome and more than welcome. Two were put on by the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the other was QED in Manchester (UK).

    I don’t at the moment feel very welcome at TAM, which is awkward, since I’m on the list of speakers…And yes, it does feel somewhat like what I’ve been told about the gaming world – I have seen some shouting along the lines of “bitchez gonna ruin our TAM.” But maybe that’s just a tiny minority and TAM itself isn’t like that at all. I’ve never been to one, so I really don’t know.

  71. Jessie says

    Ophelia, I’m glad it doesn’t happen at all conferences and events but it happens enough to make me wonder if the benefits outweigh the risks, and are worth the time and the money. I’m full of admiration for those of you who battle on regardless of personal cost. I’m just not that brave.

    If it is a minority who don’t want women there, why don’t the majority seem to want to do something about that? Doesn’t their silence suggest that they don’t think it’s important that women are involved?

  72. Moderatating voice says

    Once again, the radical feminists come out with the false claim that elevatorgate was about some people overreacting to Rebecca Watsons original statement on the incident (rather than the horrific witchunt for ‘MRAs’ and ‘harassers’ that followed, in part thanks to PZ Myers).

    People can disagree with you without being evil. People can think that feminism is a pile of crap without hating women. If you weren’t all so blinded by ideology, you might be able to see that.

    This shit is why I distanced myself from the skeptics movement. You people all decide that, because you support science, all your (subjective) views must be scientific. This makes you intolerably opinionated, and often factually wrong – but you will never see it. Ironically, this is a stark contrast to how science (which your sort claim to champion) actually functions. Can you think of an actual scientist being this hardheaded?

  73. Sharpur says

    F.T.B. W.T.F?

    TAM = Nazis? Rebecca Watson = Martin Luther King Jr?

    Except no-one’s saying that. Even when they evidently are?

    I used to read the FTB blogs quite regularly for the science articles and to keep up with what was going on in the atheist/sceptic scene across the pond.

    Now, I find it full of the sort of rubbish that taught me to despise a certain type of undergraduate ‘debater’: Self-righteous, hypocritical, hyper-sensitive, immune to logic (parallel or otherwise*) and ever so fond of bans and blacklists. ‘Fighting fashionable nonsense’? No, quite the reverse. I am truly saddened.

    *Parallel logic is a term in IT relating to programming languages used in parallel processing. It has nothing to do with Godwinning and then pretending you didn’t.

  74. says

    Jessie – I really don’t know. I hope it’s changing though.

    Sharpur – what? What do you mean FTB? I’m not FTB. No one is. What’s the point of addressing a whole bunch of people as if we were one person?

    This is B&W. It’s on FTB, but it’s not FTB. There is no one FTB. It’s crazy the way people keep banging on about FTB (while accusing it of opposite and self-canceling faults).

  75. Sharpur says

    “This is B&W. It’s on FTB, but it’s not FTB. There is no one FTB. It’s crazy the way people keep banging on about FTB (while accusing it of opposite and self-canceling faults).”

    Who’s been doing that? Not me. It seems you’re doing what you accuse me of doing i.e. lumping me in with a whole lot of ‘people’.

    Except, unlike you, and Greg Laden and Jason Thibeault (just to cite this post and comments) I don’t know who these ‘people’ are. They and I don’t share a blogging site. We don’t pop up in each other’s comments sections to agree with each other, or to attack those who criticise (which strongly implies a commonality of views).

    So, I think it’s a little disingenuous of you to claim that there ‘is no one FTB’. Indeed, if that’s the case why have a site at all, with it’s shared logo, wiki and dungeon?

  76. says

    Are you nuts? Look at your own comment – you address “FTB”, you say you find “it” full of rubbish, as if “it” were one thing. Then you ascribe all sorts of qualities to “it” then you suddenly veer back to B&W again at the end.

    There is no shared dungeon, there is no shared wiki. You’re talking nonsense.

  77. Sharpur says

    “Are you nuts?”

    No, I’m not. Though I’ve become aware that the accusation is an increasingly common tactic hereabouts.

    “Look at your own comment – you address “FTB”, you say you find “it” full of rubbish, as if “it” were one thing. Then you ascribe all sorts of qualities to “it””

    You speak as if no entity known as FTB can be conceived of! In fact, there is a group of blogs with that name and B&W is one of them – see top left of the page. I’ve recently returned to reading these blogs after an absence. I have been unimpressed with the content in several of them. (You see, FTB doesn’t have to be ‘one thing’ to be ‘full of rubbish’. It can be several things, each individually full of rubbish. These things would then have that quality in common. Really, this is just basic English grammar.)

    “then you suddenly veer back to B&W again at the end.”

    That’s called citing an example. It seemed to me to be a good idea to use the blog post on which I was commenting – this one – as my example. So I cited it as an instance of something I had seen occurring on several FTB blogs i.e. FTB bloggers chiming in to comments to agree with a fellow FTB blogger and/or attack critics of that blog. (This, again, re-enforces my contention that FTB blogs have things in common – opinions – thus allowing me to speak of them collectively in regard to those things.)

    “There is no shared dungeon, there is no shared wiki. You’re talking nonsense.”

    So, no-one is listed as banned in the dungeon or attacked in the wiki except for things they’ve posted on P.Z. Myers’ specific Pharyngula blog? Ok, I’ll take your word for that. I was just a bit taken aback by the degree of venom I found there. They’re not parts of the FTB website I’d noticed on earlier visits.

    Well, links from other sites may direct me back here from time to time, but the current content of FTB isn’t what keeps me coming back to a site for it’s own sake. Goodbye.

  78. Pierce R. Butler says

    Greg Laden @ # 77: … [Hitler's] little Bavarian playgroup.

    Obligatory nit: At the age of 10, little Adolf played in Austria; he didn’t make it to Bavaria until his 20s.

  79. Keenan Crow says

    Ah yes. The old jumping of the Nazi shark. I would say that I expected more, but the last time I went against the current with a relevant criticism backed with supporting peer-reviewed evidence, I was publicly insulted and shamed.

    Someone should be able to disagree about policy without having any sort of Nazi reference equated with them or their suggestion. You don’t get a free pass by saying “That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course” when that is what just happened and everyone knows it. This is childish name calling at best, and is doing nothing to move the conversation forward.

    There is a sub-culture within this movement that seems to think that public shame is something we should be advocating. It doesn’t change people’s minds, it just makes them more careful to express their views in public. Further, it may turn people who feel they are supporters into adversaries.

    Do I think DJ is right? Not really. He made a big scene about something which could’ve been handled privately, and further I don’t necessarily agree with his views on harassment policy. That doesn’t mean he is like a Nazi, though. That doesn’t mean that he hates women. That doesn’t make him a misogynist. It makes him someone with a different opinion about how to best solve the problem. Don’t agree? Cool. Let him know. You should. Just do it without all the vitriol and public shame.

    This is what I hate so much about the movement, and why I stopped posting on my blog. I’m tired of working day in and day out on women’s issues (I volunteered over 80 hours of my time in the last month alone to a leading womens organization) only to be told I am a misogynist because I disagree about communications strategies or policy issues. That is unacceptable, and it isn’t helping anyone.

  80. says

    What’s your point? Did you not see that I did a followup post withdrawing the Nazi reference?

    And for that matter who are you? I get so many people these days making their first ever comment to say things like the above. It seems so…premature.

  81. says

    In fact, there is a group of blogs with that name and B&W is one of them – see top left of the page. I’ve recently returned to reading these blogs after an absence. I have been unimpressed with the content in several of them.

    That’s still no reason to lump them all as FTB – it’s just uninformative, and vague. It’s like saying you hate fruit when in fact you mean you hate pineapple and grapes.

  82. Keenan Crow says

    No, I didn’t realize you had retracted your statement. I still cannot find the retraction. If you wish to deride me for missing it perhaps you should edit your blog post with a link or clarification. Otherwise I can only take the post at its word.

    Further, my apologies for thinking that this comments section was open to everyone. My relative lack of celebrity should not undermine the rest of my statement, however. I only mentioned my (largely unread) blog as an example of a previous instance I have seen of public shaming…and how it removed me from wanting to participate. That was the first comment I have made in quite some time…your response reminds me of why.

  83. says

    No it wasn’t “who are you, you’re not famous” – it was “who are you why are you shouting at me before we’ve met.” I think it’s odd to make a first comment in order to shout at the blogger, and as I said I’ve been getting a lot of that lately. I don’t know you, so why are you telling me off?

    The comments section is open to everyone. But your comment is quite aggressive, and since you’re a stranger – it’s bizarre.

  84. says

    Here, I’ll show you. First two paragraphs.

    Ah yes. The old jumping of the Nazi shark. I would say that I expected more, but the last time I went against the current with a relevant criticism backed with supporting peer-reviewed evidence, I was publicly insulted and shamed.

    Someone should be able to disagree about policy without having any sort of Nazi reference equated with them or their suggestion. You don’t get a free pass by saying “That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course” when that is what just happened and everyone knows it. This is childish name calling at best, and is doing nothing to move the conversation forward.

    That’s a very odd way to talk to a complete stranger out of the blue. You sound more as if we’d been wrangling for days. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, rude.

  85. Keenan Crow says

    Well, I mean, this is a public forum. I just assumed that criticism was acceptable whether or not I knew you. I have just been monitoring this situation rather closely and finally decided to speak up. I apologize if you thought me rude.

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