Maybe we can make a little progress here.
DJ Grothe has a comment on his Facebook wall (I don’t know if it’s public or not), replying to this comment:
I wish you could see, DJ, how a different frame would improve your position. Don’t say that the talk is causing a problem, say that the talk has increased the JREF’s desire to continue making TAM a safe and fun place for women.
D.J. Grothe: I certainly agree, and don’t believe any conversation about sexism is the problem — sexism is the problem. But there may be disagreement about the best ways to combat that problem. I favor direct communication and reporting harassment and naming names (such helps organizers remove offenders etc). And I remain optimistic that people of good will can disagree on such strategic issues and continue working in common cause.
Ok; this is one place where the gears start to grind, and maybe further discussion will help us make a little progress. (That’s what we want, right? Not Deep Rifts!! but explanation and better understanding. Right? But of course.)
Here’s the problem: it’s not that easy. It’s sooooooo not that easy.
Reporting sexual harassment (hereafter SH) is not easy – and by not easy I don’t mean it’s a nuisance, or difficult the way learning a new language is, I mean there are inherent problems and obstacles and penalties that make it all but impossible in most cases. I’ve just been chatting with some UK friends on Twitter about it, and they all instantly produced examples from their own experience.
- SH is by its nature covert. People usually don’t do it in crowded rooms full of witnesses, although sometimes they do, as Ashley Miller has been telling us.
- SH by its nature doesn’t leave evidence, unless it ends in rape.
1 and 2 all by themselves are enough to show that reporting and naming names are not always going to be even possible, let alone easy. Then there are all the other problems – it’s a friend, it’s a boss, it’s a colleague, it’s someone super-important or famous or money-giving or otherwise of value to the organization you work for; it’s a neighbor, a landlord, a relative, a friend’s relative.
Then there’s the “I’m a skeptic!” problem. On the one hand you have 1 and 2, and on the other hand you have people saying “I’m a skeptic, where’s your evidence?” People are saying this about SH among the atheists and skeptics right now, often with venom and malice and cunty epithets. So that’s another obstacle, innit. On the one hand women should report it and name names, on the other hand I’m a skeptic and where’s your evidence.
DJ, this is a problem. It’s a structural problem within skepticism. That’s not your fault or our fault (we women who have been talking about it lately), it’s just a problem. On the other hand when you blame us for talking about it in general terms instead of reporting it and naming names, well that much is your doing.