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Jul 12 2012

Boy am I glad I’m not in Las Vegas

Want to see why? This is why.

Picture credit “Karl Withakay”

128 comments

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  1. 1
    Marta

    So that’s how it’s going to go. Huh. Big surprise.

  2. 2
    julian

    Says it all. Pretty clear what skeptics are welcome at TAM and which ones can get lost.

    Happy to be in the get lost pile.

  3. 3
    Magicthighs

    Ah, SHE feels safe and welcome at TAM, therefore… what exactly? Should we make t-shirts that state the opposite and wear them while not being at TAM now?

    Ugh. And please tell me that’s not an official TAM shirt, by the way.

  4. 4
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Right now I’m glad there’s a big fat ocean between me and TAM.
    There’s a double bed-couch in my living room, if you want to come over

  5. 5
    'Tis Himself

    Okay, I’m iggerant. Who is that person? I’m guessing Paula Kirby but I don’t know.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    I’ll be right over, Giliell.

    But Marta – exactly. First day, and there it is. I knew it. I knew it was going to be like that, though I didn’t know it would be that bad, that soon. Some of the speakers have been spending the past few weeks smearing me on Facebook – that was a big help.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    No no, it’s Harriet Hall, and I know no ill of her. What I know of her is good. But this is not so cool.

  8. 8
    Kaoru Negisa

    You know what? I hope they never, ever have to regret that attitude. However, if they do, I hope they have an avenue to take in order to deal with that problem that makes them feel comfortable and believed.

  9. 9
    Ing

    “I feel Safe and Welcome at TAM”?

    Well good job skeptics community, you certainty have gotten that irony blind suspicious specific denial propaganda thing many cults master down pat!

    Can we make response Tshirts that read “I Most Definitely Did Not Get My Wallet Stolen By Penn Jillet?”

  10. 10
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I know that most of the people speaking and organizing are at least a couple of years out of elementary school, but they don’t seem to have grown up emotionally AT ALL. But of course you’re the bully, even though they are going after you and not the other way around.

  11. 11
    throwaway

    It seems this week in news has been all about bashing victims, from Tosh to Stanhope and this. I mean, more-so than usual. It’s all a bit much right now.

    I’m glad she feels safe. Seriously, if her mind is at ease, I guess that’s a good thing. But what really ticks me off is her disregard for how others might feel. That is the most disgusting thing of all.

    The supposed lack of policy* was another decision on TAMs part. Chances that a lack of reported harassment events are cited as evidence that no policies are needed? Preeetty damn high. I don’t want anyone harassed, bullied, stalked, objectified, etc., so I’d be OK if they want to cite – it if it were true. It just really, really sucks that this might be added to the repertoire of cyberstalking, character assassination, defamation and other ongoing harassment of the FTBullies.

    * I’ve heard conflicting reports about this. Is there one or not?

  12. 12
    Sili

    You know what? I hope they never, ever have to regret that attitude.

    Agreed.

    But not so for TAM. I hope this is the beginning of the end for that meeting.

    Oh. People will still go, of course, but I hope noöne of import ever takes them serious again.

    (Also, Novella? Find somewhere else to organise your continuing education.)

  13. 13
    The Mellow Monkey

    Am I the only one strangely reminded of hostage victims being forced to say positive things about their captors?

    That t-shirt actually creeps me out a little, where before I’d just rolled my eyes at TAM. So, uh, good job?

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    No, there’s no policy, at least not one that’s not locked away in a bank vault where no one can see it. Stephanie has details.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/07/12/i-hate-to-say-i-told-you-so/

  15. 15
    Kaoru Negisa

    But not so for TAM. I hope this is the beginning of the end for that meeting.

    As do I. Or that this is a reactionary outburst and the people in charge there come to their senses. I love the JREF and the work they do, generally. Hell, I was just listening to the latest Consequence in the car on my way in to the office. But this is just ridiculous.

  16. 16
    'Tis Himself

    Thanks, Ophelia. I read the wikipedia article on her. She seems like a reasonable person and certainly an appropriate person to speak at a skeptics convention.

  17. 17
    'Tis Himself

    When DJ Grothe carries a grudge he doesn’t let it go.

  18. 18
    Pteryxx

    * I’ve heard conflicting reports about this. Is there one or not?

    Just this:

    How does JREF handle safety concerns?

    The Amazing Meeting, while a private event, is held at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, which is open to the public. The safety of our attendees and speakers is a priority. If an attendee encounters a problem within the conference area, they should report the situation to TAM staff or hotel security. JREF has also engaged an independent consultant on these issues, with decades of experience handling security, boundary and safety concerns, to assist us in dealing with any matters should they arise at the event.

    From their website FAQ. Also quoted here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/26/huge-news-from-american-atheists-re-harassment/

  19. 19
    Ophelia Benson

    But of course you’re the bully, even though they are going after you and not the other way around.

    Well of course I’m the bully! I have a blog. A big huge scary blog, with fangs. All they have is a blog and a forum and a website and Idon’tknowhowmany members and an organization and offices and a meeting with 1200+ attendees and lots of famous people who hate me personally and do public rants on Twitter and Facebook saying so. Oh and money and funding from other skeptical (and even atheist, despite their dislike of atheism) organizations and promotion from lots of conspicuous people. That’s all. I have a blog. So do they, but mine is – well it’s mine, so obviously it trumps all their stuff when it comes to deciding Who’s The Bully.

  20. 20
    Pteryxx

    Ophelia: But you did win Twitter. That’s got to count for SOMEthing. ;>

  21. 21
    carlie

    Holy crap. I thought that the lack of policy in the welcome materials was bad enough (still holding out a little hope that it is somehwere in a separate handout?) but this is a blatant stab.

  22. 22
    Magicthighs

    Up until a few weeks ago, when DJ Grothe needlessly blamed “some female bloggers” for a decline in women registering (I wonder if the actual attendance is down by the way, there have been no updates on that), I really wanted to visit TAM some day. After DJ’s lashing out I couldn’t care less about attending. Now, I’m simply disgusted by them, and I wouldn’t dream of spending a dime on TAM, and I’m sure as hell never going to donate to them again.

  23. 23
    Kels

    This brings up a couple of questions. Who’s providing the T-shirts? Are there more people around with them, or was this a one-off? If the latter, why did she take it in the first place, let alone wear it?

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    Magicthighs – quite so. I’m not kidding when I say I’m glad I’m not there! Boy am I not kidding. I was looking forward to it until DJ dropped his bomb – and after that I was dreading it. Now it looks like sheer hell, all full of giggling feminist-haters. Bleargh.

  25. 25
    Ing

    “I Carry Mace at TAM”

  26. 26
    Ing

    “Why the F&*K Did I Come to TAM?”

  27. 27
    carlie

    Not knowing this woman, is there any chance that she missed the whole online thing altogether, was handed this shirt and doesn’t understand the background?

  28. 28
    carlie

    Not saying it’s not a direct “fuck you”, because it is, just wondering if it’s her message or someone else’s.

  29. 29
    CJO

    Shirt belongs on some creepy dude with shifty eyes and a camera on a stick.

  30. 30
    Timothy (TRiG)

    In your comment on Almost Diamonds, you called this a spitefest. That is an absolutely perfect word. Is there any possible reason other than spite to wear that shirt?

    TRiG.

  31. 31
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, I think there’s plenty of chance. There’s also plenty of chance that she’s heard the DJ version of events only.

    But the shirt itself? Different story.

  32. 32
    Magicthighs

    @carlie, that’s a very valid question. I didn’t mean to imply to she’s “taken sides” with my first comment, she might just have been given the shirt by someone. If you’re not aware of the recent developments, it seems like a nice sentiment.

    @Timothy, like carlie said, she might not be aware what the text on the shirt refers to. I hope that’s the case.

  33. 33
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Harriet Hall blogs with David Gorski. It’s possible she doesn’t know the background but that seems unlikely.

  34. 34
    Magicthighs

    According to http://www.religionnews.com/culture/gender-and-sexuality/do-atheists-have-a-sexual-harassment-problem female attendance is down from 40% last year to 31% this year. I haven’t been able to find the source, but I didn’t really look to be honest.

    I just wonder what made them decide that, faced by such a steep decline, not having a harassment policy would be beneficial. Or maybe this really is just a big fuck you to everyone trying to get harassment policies in place.

    Your loss, JREF, again, you’re not seeing another dime from me.

  35. 35
    Robert M.

    @ Carlie 27

    As Ophelia pointed out she might have DJ’s version of events only, she also blogs with Orac at SBM, so her view on things may be skewed.

  36. 36
    screechymonkey

    The article linked @34 gives me a good idea for a T-shirt: “I do not deny that there is a problem with sexism at atheist or skeptics conferences” — D.J. Grothe

  37. 37
    carlie

    Ah, thanks for the info.
    Of course, if the shirt wasn’t her idea, that means someone there isn’t just spiteful enough to have made that shirt, but also slimy enough to get someone else to trick someone else into unknowingly shilling their message for them.
    I’m not sure which version would be worse.

  38. 38
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    No no, it’s Harriet Hall, and I know no ill of her. What I know of her is good.

    What I know of her is largely good but mixed. That’s probably true for all of the SBM group.

    Not knowing this woman, is there any chance that she missed the whole online thing altogether, was handed this shirt and doesn’t understand the background?

    It’s totally possible, though I’m going to assume it’s not the case so as to avoid another disappointment.

  39. 39
    carlie

    Argh, missed deleting the first “get someone else” when I replaced it with “trick someone else”. I no type good.

    screechymonkey, I think I like your style.

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh well if she blogs with Gorski he’s probably told her a bunch of crap about the pesky wimminz. (I’m assuming “blogs with” means on the same blog, not a network like FTB. The latter is entirely consistent with never talking to fellow bloggers at all, contrary to the myth of “FTB” as all one thing.)

  41. 41
    julian

    What I know of her is largely good but mixed. That’s probably true for all of the SBM group.

    Aye

    She’s a wonderfully clear writer and incredibly informative (favorite of the SBM group) but yeah I’ve noticed she has some blind spots and can be dismissive. (Never seen it with sexual harassment or the other issues surrounding Grothe, though.)

  42. 42
    Jadzia626

    Know what? I’m removing JREF from my google reader. Nothing interesting can come from there any more …

    The only thing that kept me interested in JREF was Sadie Crabtree anyway. She’s gone.

  43. 43
    carlie

    not a network like FTB. The latter is entirely consistent with never talking to fellow bloggers at all, contrary to the myth of “FTB” as all one thing.)

    Wait, you don’t all live in one giant house doing all kinds of wacky hijinks? Dammit, there’s a dream gone.

  44. 44
    Kausik Datta

    Perhaps we can ask Dr. Hall about the particular instance of her wearing that Tee Shirt. I am hoping that it was in a bag that all attendees (or perhaps only the speakers) got, and she donned it in good faith thinking that it was supposed to provide a positive feeling towards TAM.

    Honestly, it seems very out of character for her. As Julian said,

    She’s a wonderfully clear writer and incredibly informative

    She has written some excellent essays for her own blog as well as SBM championing the use of rational, Science-based medicine. I’m finding it rather difficult to accept that a rational skeptical science-oriented woman like her would buy into Grothe’s misrepresentations without adequate scrutiny.

    But… what do I know. Paula’s articles in the Washington Post were eloquently rational, too. And then…

    I know! Alien abduction!

  45. 45
    Jadzia626

    “I know! Alien abduction!”

    Nonono, it’s the lizard people. Srsly. Didn’t you watch “V”?

  46. 46
    julian

    Wait, you don’t all live in one giant house doing all kinds of wacky hijinks? Dammit, there’s a dream gone.

    I feel your pain…

  47. 47
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Ophelia, yes, literally the same blog. They both blog at Science Based Medicine.

  48. 48
    sparky_ca

    Why do I feel the urge to get a shirt that says “I feel safe at TAM because my hobby is dressing up in Medieval armor and hitting guys with sticks covered in duct tape”

    Not that I would ever go to TAM, much less after DJ opened his mouth.

    Sparky

  49. 49
    screechymonkey

    I’m curious (in a morbid sort of way) if there’s been a Dr. Buzz0 sighting.

  50. 50
    Kaoru Negisa

    @Sparky

    Did you know that that organization doesn’t have an official sexual harassment policy either? I’ve been emailing to BoD for about a month now with no reply trying to get one implemented. Might have to start in my kingdom and work my way up.

  51. 51
    Utakata

    Perhaps, the bottom part that’s been hidden by the podium states, “…if it wasn’t for the morons attending.”

    …I know, wishful thinking. :(

  52. 52
    sparky_ca

    @Kaoru Negisa

    No, but I live in the West Kingdom. That explains what happens when I go to wars and some guys refuse to take hits from me in duels. Of course, then the West Kingdom knights come in to ‘re-calibrate’ said gentleman.

    I’ll have a word with some of the BoD members I know and ask why that is.

    Sparky

  53. 53
    Ophelia Benson

    49 – Buzzo did a Facebook post last week solemnly saying he’d decided not to go and warning all the men of horrors if they went, telling them to bring a lawyer with them, etc etc etc. He underestimated DJ’s determination.

  54. 54
    TooManyJens

    That shirt looks homemade (or self-made on Cafepress anyway) to me. There’s no attempt at design. If I saw something with that style at a con I attended, I would assume that it was the wearer’s own statement rather than anything handed out officially.

    It’s amazing how something can be passive-aggressively in-your-face.

  55. 55
    Utakata

    @Ophelia Benson, 53:

    I bet he got a lot of sympathy, understanding and patting on the back…instead of indignant criticisms, angry rhetoric and Russell Blackford’s wagging fingers. Even though his reasoning is likely far more dubios than yours ever was. I guess he has the right gender.

  56. 56
    Ophelia Benson

    Actually he got nothing. His dramatic announcement was ignored. It was pretty funny.

  57. 57
    smhll

    Does the backside say “Doesn’t matter if you do”?

  58. 58
    Kaoru Negisa

    @Sparky

    I’m way down in Trimaris.

    I figured the re-calibration technique was in place, but I keep thinking that the ones most likely to do that are also the ones most likely to need it.

    The last time the BoD took up the issue was in 2003 (according to minutes from their meetings) and while they were supposed to revisit in April 2004, it never happened. If you talk to them, let them know that Adriano, the Trimarian who’s been emailing, would be happy to help in any way he can to get one in place.

  59. 59
    charles

    It seems this week in news has been all about bashing victims, from Tosh to Stanhope and this. I mean, more-so than usual. It’s all a bit much right now.

    “Victims”? Victims of what, exactly?

  60. 60
    Magicthighs

    @charles Victims of foot-in-mouth-itis?

  61. 61
    Utakata

    Oh well…I’ll take that back then. It was one of those rare instances where it gives me a bit of hope that I was proven wrong. Thanks Ophelia. :)

  62. 62
    M31

    Wait, you don’t all live in one giant house doing all kinds of wacky hijinks? Dammit, there’s a dream gone.

    That would be the TV show EVAR! I’m imagining the theme song right now.

  63. 63
    carlie

    I’m imagining the theme song right now

    Digital Cuttlefish should MAKE THAT HAPPEN.

  64. 64
    bad Jim

    Charles @ 59: Tosh and Stanhope are the bashers, not the victims.

    As for TAM, I’d say that being in Vegas in the summer is its own punishment.

  65. 65
    denature

    Picture seen on #tam2012 twitter claims the back of the shirt says “I’m a skeptic Not a “skepchick” Not a woman skeptic Just a skeptic”

  66. 66
    rorschach

    If twitter is to be believed, the rest of the t-shirt reads “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic”.

    I doubt very much that Hall doesn’t know what that is about.

  67. 67
    Joerg

    Well there’s another book I feel not like needing to read anymore. “Harriet Hall – Women Aren’t Supposed To Fly” is off the wish list.
    What is wrong with everyone??Well there’s another book I feel not like needing to read anymore. “Harriet Hall – Women Aren’t Supposed To Fly” is off the wish list.
    What is wrong with everyone??

  68. 68
    Lyanna

    From throwaway @ 11:

    It seems this week in news has been all about bashing victims, from Tosh to Stanhope and this. I mean, more-so than usual. It’s all a bit much right now.

    Yeah, do these incidents come and go in waves? Like, the past couple of months have been a wave of rape and sexual harassment apologia in our general pop culture?

    Or–a far worse possibility–is it just ALWAYS LIKE THIS?

  69. 69
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    Charles @ 59 – Go read this. Best response to Daniel Tosh’s Rape jokes

    I want a shirt that says “Went to TAM to bully bigfoot hunters!”

  70. 70
    brucemartin

    I didn’t notice anything wrong with Harriet Hall’s workshop talk at noon today. But nobody else here at TAM has a shirt like this.

    And there’s certainly no reference in the conference materials handed out to replicate last year’s statement.

    When it comes to policy statements, sometimes less is more, and sometimes less is just moronic.

  71. 71
    denature

    Except Harriet Hall is not just a skeptic, she refers to herself as skepdoc. Why would she find that play on words acceptable, but ‘skepchick’anathema to the skeptic movement?

  72. 72
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Crossposted from Pharyngula:
    A little funny math:
    There are 1200 people at TAM now. 31% of them are women
    There were 1672 people at TAM last year, 40% women
    There are 472 people less at TAM this year than there were last year.
    There were 668 women at TAM last year
    There are 371 women at TAM this year
    There are 297 women less at TAM this year

    There were 1004 men at TAM last year
    There are 829 men at TAM this year
    There are 175 men less at TAM this year

    Male attendance at TAM dropped by 11.9%
    Female attendance dropped by 45,4%

    ++++

    If twitter is to be believed, the rest of the t-shirt reads “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic”.

    I doubt very much that Hall doesn’t know what that is about.

    For all those complaining that clueless people get a harsh treatment: this is why benefit of bdoubt is in scarce supply

    And it’s all the fault of Stephanie, Ophelia and Rebecca

  73. 73
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Hehe, my own numbers don’t add up, that’s what you get when you round to have full people *gg*
    And sorry that I have to work in binaries here.

  74. 74
    Tim Harris

    This is doubtless me being very English – or Japanese, having lived in Japan for so long – as well as antediluvian, but I simply do not understand, or like, the American obsession with bumper-stickers and tee-shirts proclaiming to the world whatever you think you believe in at some time. It honestly seems to me utterly infantile, and I wonder at the sense or intelligence of people who indulge themselves in this way.

  75. 75
    julian

    @Tim Harris

    The world must know Rainbow Dash makes my T-shirt 20% cooler. It must, I say!

  76. 76
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    So TAM is shrinking BADLY, other groups and conferences are growing, new conferences are springing up, most of THOSE folks have anti-harassment policies in place… and this is evidence that the JREF and its misogynist supporters are winning? I guess losing a little over 25% of your attendance counts as a win for them, the same way calling people “feminazi” is reasonable debate, and objecting to “feminazi” is bullying.

    It is totally Bizarro World in Vegas this weekend, isn’t it?

  77. 77
    The Pint

    @ Jadzia626 #45

    I know! Alien abduction!”

    Nonono, it’s the lizard people. Srsly. Didn’t you watch “V”?

    Does that mean we just need to invite Michael Ironside to show up at TAM? Because every time he pops up in a series, the series ends up dying a sudden death.

  78. 78
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Does that mean we just need to invite Michael Ironside to show up at TAM? Because every time he pops up in a series, the series ends up dying a sudden death.

    Totally worth it, because MICHAEL IRONSIDE!

    Plus, if it is an alien, it is probably one of those ear-thingies from Wrath of Khan. KHAAAAAAAAAAN!!!

    …vodka for breakfast is a bad idea.

  79. 79
    Kaoru Negisa

    Joe,

    It’s like churches who claim that their shrinking attendance numbers are the result of them being too lax, not nearly bigoted enough, or not in accordance with what the invisible sky pixie wants. People who don’t want to be wrong will attempt to shift the blame in such a way that the issue is never that their ideas aren’t working, but rather that they haven’t done enough of the dumb thing. See also: the deficit is caused by taxes being too high and lowering them will bring in more revenue.

    TAM will either continue on this course and see its numbers decline even further or they’ll find some way to move into the 21st century with the rest of us. Whichever happens doesn’t much matter to me as I have no intention of going to a conference run by people who oversimplify problems to the point of ridiculousness, but I hope for the sake of the people who have gained a lot out of TAM that they go with the latter option.

  80. 80
    The Pint
    From throwaway @ 11:

    It seems this week in news has been all about bashing victims, from Tosh to Stanhope and this. I mean, more-so than usual. It’s all a bit much right now.

    From Lyanna @68: Yeah, do these incidents come and go in waves? Like, the past couple of months have been a wave of rape and sexual harassment apologia in our general pop culture?

    Or–a far worse possibility–is it just ALWAYS LIKE THIS?

    Honestly, I sadly suspect that it’s more “like this” than we think it is, and that rather than this being a larger-than-normal wave of apologia, we’re noticing it more because people are starting to push back at it more and call it out for what it is, rather than letting it crash and recede with an “oh well, that’s just the way it is” shrug.

    So erm, yay? Kinda?

  81. 81
    Ophelia Benson

    the same way calling people “feminazi” is reasonable debate, and objecting to “feminazi” is bullying.

    Yet another person making that claim…

    http://www.atheistrev.com/2012/07/freethought-bullying.html

  82. 82
    R Holmes

    Wow. An actual grown-up had this put on a T-shirt. That’s not at all petty and childish.

  83. 83
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Kaoru Negisa,

    It is actually worse than churches. At least churches admit that their numbers are shrinking and that they are losing the culture war. The JREF crowd are shrinking and they’re convinced that everyone else is marginalized and being shunned. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a top-down authoritarian group like JREF: as long as the people at the top tell you that you’re winning, you don’t have to look at any evidence to the contrary.

    Ophelia,

    For Satan’s sake, stop bullying and silencing people by posting links to their blogs and disagreeing with them relatively politely! What’s wrong with you?!?!?!

  84. 84
    Kaoru Negisa

    Ophelia,

    I took the liberty of reading the comments so you and your readers wouldn’t have to. It’s mostly useless, but my favorite was the one person who asked for specific instances of how the FtB crowd were being bullies other than crashing the #FTBullies hashtag. This is the response he or she got from the writer:

    Your request to provide specific examples is perfectly reasonable, and it is one I struggled with in writing the post. I considered inserting a bunch of links and quotes. My concern was that this is exactly what happens so often on FtB and makes people feel unsafe. In the end, I decided that calling out specific bloggers in this manner would be counterproductive and lend credence to accusations that I am the one doing the bullying. Additionally, my intent is not to dwell on this subject and fuel the fracture but to say what I felt needed to be said and move on.

    So, his response was “I could present evidence to support my claim, but I’m not going to. However you should totes believe me anyway.” What an incredible joke.

  85. 85
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Holy crap! They literally believe disagreeing while providing links and making an argument as to why you disagree is somehow evil bullying, while unfounded accusations and name-calling is reasonable debate! LITERALLY!!!!!

    Vodka for breakfast is awesome!

  86. 86
    Ophelia Benson

    I know. [sigh]

    It’s so classic (in the sense of “stupidly typical”). Make big sweeping claims about A Bad Few FT bloggers but don’t present any specifics, with the result that the meme gets enforced and entrenched yet more despite the fact that there is zero evidence offered. It’s so…low, yet so typical.

  87. 87
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    It is like someone created a series of “How-To” pamphlets for this stuff. It isn’t even “classic” or “typical” as much as it all feels scripted. Like there’s some evil monster sending out emails with instructions or putting subliminal messages into sitcoms with laugh tracks… some way to easily reach the world’s most trivially bad people with a consistent message of banality.

  88. 88
    Ophelia Benson

    I think a lot of that probably is because it really is scripted, in the sense of being the work of one obsessed person. All these shiny new Twitter accounts set up just to prod us, all these new blogs set up ditto, all these new Facebook pages ditto, all these sock puppets saying weirdly similar things – yup that sounds pretty scripted.

  89. 89
    Godless Heathen

    Is the decrease in total attendance at TAM part of a trend? Or is it just something that happened between 2011 and 2012? Or was 2011 a fluke and is this year more in line with historical attendance?

    We need to know that before we can argue that TAM is dying.

    I’m not sure where to find that data though.

  90. 90
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    … but once it hits critical mass, I guess the script takes on a life of its own.

    Here’s Day One of ElevatorGate:

    Certainly it made you uncomfortable: as I said, it’s a bad way to approach someone (especially a lone person on an elevator). I wasn’t there and so didn’t see body language etc, but I was just noting it’s very difficult to say he meant more than wanting to talk one-on-one to an interesting and important person in the skeptical world. You’re assuming he wanted to hit on you or was propositioning you (and that might in fact be a reasonable assumption), but an assumption is still an assumption. Perhaps he’d do the same awkward approach with PZ? Dunno.

    I’m not defending him, just muddying the water as to motives

    Here’s yesterday, from someone I know isn’t a sockpuppet, who I’ve talked to on Skype several times, and I don’t think is intentionally evil:

    There’s quite a difference between being “creeped out” and Sexual Harassment.
    I’m not acquainted with the situation in this regard, but did the guy attend the conference to know these things? And did he literally “solicit” her or make sexual advances on her, or was he flirting and she just being a cunt about it?
    Perhaps he simply has no social tact at all – everyone should know at least one person that lacks the ability to suave and woo women… Or hold a conversation without that awkward shifting of the topic onto weird and obscure things that only they know because they don’t know anything else.

    IT could be awkward, but I dare say that it’s nowhere in the ballpark of Sexual Harassment if the above quota is filled.

    The script is a moving meme that I think is deeper than this specific situation and is actually part of the larger culture in a blunt way, but then honed to a razor sharpness to fit specific situations. Nasty stuff… but we’re being bullies for suggesting that there’s a problem that doesn’t involve Bigfoot or pointing at Muslims or weird sects of Jews and Christians. Problems that include the larger culture that includes skeptics can’t exist, because not believing in UFOs makes you immune from other flaws. That’s why I want to live at TAM, I’ll bet it would make me thinner and younger and taller and able to dance and sing too!

  91. 91
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    And… I need to switch to beer if I screwed up the blockquote dealie that bad.

  92. 92
    Ray Moscow

    The t-shirt thing invites an infinite variety of slogans in response, for example:

    ‘I feel safe at TAM, because I carry a concealed weapon.’

    ‘I feel safe at TAM, because I know MMA.’

    ‘I feel safe at TAM, because I’m already sleeping with its organisers.’

    ‘I feel safe at TAM, because that’s one place the police are never going to look for me.’

    ‘I feel safe at TAM, and who gives a shit about those who don’t?’

  93. 93
    Ophelia Benson

    Sign here for your Internet, Mr Moscow.

  94. 94
    Kaoru Negisa

    “I feel safe at TAM because Harriet Hall does, and that’s enough for anyone, right?”

  95. 95
    Deepak Shetty

    When can we see
    “Homeopathy worked for ME”
    “I was really abducted by aliens”
    “MY personality matches my astrological sign”

    at skeptic conferences?

  96. 96
    Bernard Bumner

    We wish to demonstrate how safe and inclusive TAM is by pointing and laughing at all of those people who felt unsafe and excluded.

  97. 97
    carlie

    If twitter is to be believed, the rest of the t-shirt reads “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic”.

    Holy crap. And she has to know that’s not just a cutesy word, it’s the official title of an actual blog collective. She’s not just dissing a type of person who thinks differently than she does, but is targeting actual specific people. It’s the same as if someone walked up to her wearing a shirt that said “Respectful Insolence sucks”.

  98. 98
    Ophelia Benson

    Yeh. And she wore it while giving her talk. Yeesh.

  99. 99
    Sili

    If twitter is to be believed, the rest of the t-shirt reads “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic”.

    It’s not even a good slogan.

  100. 100
    carlie

    It’s not even a good slogan.

    And the punctuation is incorrect.

  101. 101
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    And she’s dissing an organization that just wrote JREF a decent-sized goddamned check. “Thanks Skepchick, we love your cash now STFU about all those woman issues that don’t really matter because it isn’t Bigfoot!”

  102. 102
    Cornelioid

    First-time commenter. Hi, B&W folk. I read Hall’s stuff on SBM from time to time and have a great deal of respect for that crew, as they’ve been phenomenal at making criticism of CAM unavoidable to Googlers and even gotten the attention of some major medical authorities. So, of course, this is disappointing; i don’t know what she’s been hearing or thinks has been going on, but she is doing exactly what so many feminists have been accused of, stoking the fire for no evident reason.

    I also read Atheist Revolution (#82), and i left the comment that garnered the response Kaoru Negisa quoted (#85). Essentially, i followed the links to get a better idea for the accusations of bullying that are being bandied about, as i have been for a while now. Having sought out several, the only thing i’ve found disagreeable has been the Twitter hashtag blitz. It did strike me as unhelpfully confrontational, though i have no concept of Twittiquette.

    I agree that vjack’s response was inadequate, given that they wrote an entire post on the topic, and i fail to see how citing sources that aren’t particularly convincing (as they did) would seem any safer than citing sources that are (as they declined to). I think vjack is expressing honest concerns, both in their post and in their reply, and i take it as a reflection of the impression many people are getting. I’ve thought a bit about bullying, and while i don’t see it coming from FtB, i am always ready to let someone express a feeling or worry without having to point fingers. So, i don’t mind vjack’s preference. I do mind their framing the post as an accusation rather than as an impression.

    I’ll keep following as i can, at both ends, and i appreciate the ongoing conversation.

  103. 103
    celticwulf

    Improbable Joe: But didn’t you notice that they specifically thanked Surly Ramics, not Skepchick…meaning that the fact Amy did it as part of Skepchick doesn’t matter, it’s only her Surly Ramics that does. Makes me glad that I was already involved in CONvergence before I ever heard of TAM, and at this point couldn’t be bothered to visit TAM unless something major changes in the future.

  104. 104
    Ophelia Benson

    Hi, Cornelioid, and welcome.

  105. 105
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Your request to provide specific examples is perfectly reasonable, and it is one I struggled with in writing the post. I considered inserting a bunch of links and quotes. My concern was that this is exactly what happens so often on FtB and makes people feel unsafe. In the end, I decided that calling out specific bloggers in this manner would be counterproductive and lend credence to accusations that I am the one doing the bullying. Additionally, my intent is not to dwell on this subject and fuel the fracture but to say what I felt needed to be said and move on.

    Now, let me tell you about this invisible dragon in my invisible garage.
    Funny thing is, they perceive links to blogs both as rewards, and as bullying

  106. 106
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    One other thing: how does quoting someone’s public blog postings and including a link make them feel unsafe? Unsafe from what? People reading what they said in their own words and coming to a conclusion about what points they were trying to make? Holy crapo, that’s really scary!

  107. 107
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    If twitter is to be believed, the rest of the t-shirt reads “I’m a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a woman skeptic, just a skeptic”.

    Gosh, if that’s true, I hope the back doesn’t read “And fuck you, too, Black Skeptics!”

    I am a woman skeptic.

  108. 108
    smhll

    There’s quite a difference between being “creeped out” and Sexual Harassment.
    I’m not acquainted with the situation in this regard, but did the guy attend the conference to know these things? And did he literally “solicit” her or make sexual advances on her, or was he flirting and she just being a cunt about it?
    Perhaps he simply has no social tact at all – everyone should know at least one person that lacks the ability to suave and woo women… Or hold a conversation without that awkward shifting of the topic onto weird and obscure things that only they know because they don’t know anything else.

    IT could be awkward, but I dare say that it’s nowhere in the ballpark of Sexual Harassment if the above quota is filled.

    First I want to scream — aaaaaarrrrrgggggh! And then I want to say a few things that might be helpful.

    Rebecca W. stated about 7-10 days after Elevatorgate started, near the end of the thread where the video from the talk from Dublin was posted, that the guy in the elevator was not awkward.

    Also, why are we so hurry to impose the frame “Guy – awkward; Woman – mean and lacking in empathy.” Not all women are mean. It’s not axiomatic that women become frightened or pissed off or both from straight-up awkwardness. I doubt that very much.

    I think I see two things underlying the comment above, and the two things overlap.

    Clearly the pursuit of sex is a hot-button issue for men. I think the logic between not wanting sexual harassment policies (in a stereotyped male mind) is “I have to go through a lot of crap to get laid, it’s unreasonable for you to expect to have a crap-free experience.”

    I don’t think some of the men still arguing against harassment policies get the idea that women they are arguing against are mostly against sexual proposals that are intimidating, persistent, wildly unexpected, or grossly graphic. People asking for sex politely are not the big part of the problem.

    I suspect that underlying all the pushback from men about these policies is the fear that what women are really saying is “Yuck, an ugly guy hit on me; how dare he!” Honestly, this is not an aesthetic issue.

  109. 109
    Kaoru Negisa

    Moreover, how does being awkward excuse somebody from bad behavior? Especially when all of the policies I’ve read would basically mandate that somebody would actually tell these guys what they did wrong. Isn’t that exactly what the anti-policy people have been saying is the problem: women don’t tell them what they did wrong? Now there’s rule in place that says that these guys will get instruction on their mistake so they don’t repeat it.

    Also, since when is “awkward” an excuse for doing something poorly? If I crash my car into a storefront, should I just shrug and tell the police I’m an awkward driver and crash into a lot of things, but nobody’s taken the time to hold my hand and teach me how to be a better driver? Does that somehow make it ok?

  110. 110
    Martha

    @Ophelia #89, yes, and then using sock puppets to leave the worst comments on FtB blogs, so that later sock puppets can stop by and crow to everyone that this is the way that FtBullies behave. Just as msironen and a later troll did to jamessweet earlier this week. :-(

  111. 111
    SallyStrange

    Moreover, how does being awkward excuse somebody from bad behavior? Especially when all of the policies I’ve read would basically mandate that somebody would actually tell these guys what they did wrong. Isn’t that exactly what the anti-policy people have been saying is the problem: women don’t tell them what they did wrong? Now there’s rule in place that says that these guys will get instruction on their mistake so they don’t repeat it.

    Right, which is exactly why it’s totally obvious that this protestation is completely disingenuous. It’s just entrenched privilege kicking up its heels. All the problems raised are either addressed or addressable by tinkering with the wording of policies.

    Remember, somewhere between 6% – 12% of men are actual rapists, depending on which surveys you credit. It stands to reason that a somewhat larger percentage of men grope, harass, and otherwise try to exercise power over women. It’s completely unbelievable that NONE of the reaction against these policies stems from actual harassers worrying about not being able to get away with their bullshit anymore.

  112. 112
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    @smhll #109:

    That little comment came after I had explained the whole ElevatorGate thing 2-3 times, posted links to various discussions and timelines, and here comes my buddy the douchecanoe with the whole “I didn’t bother to read any details, but bitches be lying psychos, amirite?” nonsense. I even included the part where Watson had clarified the lack of awkwardness, and it didn’t matter.

    It seems like there are a rather large number of men who don’t need to hear a woman’s story before passing judgment on her, or who will hear the story, reject it, and then make up their own story to reinforce the “women=crazy liars” belief system.

  113. 113
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Remember, somewhere between 6% – 12% of men are actual rapists, depending on which surveys you credit. It stands to reason that a somewhat larger percentage of men grope, harass, and otherwise try to exercise power over women.

    And when you add in men who stand by and watch their buddies do that stuff, laugh at their “jokes” about doing it, and otherwise participate in the culture without saying a word, we’re up over 95%.

    It’s completely unbelievable that NONE of the reaction against these policies stems from actual harassers worrying about not being able to get away with their bullshit anymore.

    And the rest is resistance to accepting complicity in a fundamentally harmful system. I speak from experience. If one in 10 men either rape, grope, harass, etc. and you’re in a room with 9 other people and you’re all laughing at some sort of sexist joke, the odds are that one guy in the room is both laughing and thinking “these guys really get me, I knew I was cool” and feels validated in his actions because he’s being validated in his attitudes.

  114. 114
    Ray Moscow

    Samstrange @ 112:

    Remember, somewhere between 6% – 12% of men are actual rapists, depending on which surveys you credit.

    Some references, please. Those figures seem surprisingly high.

    I don’t doubt that it’s a helluvalot higher than the desired figure of 0%. And with such a high percentage of people (e.g, about 25% of US women) getting raped at some point in their lives, obviously someone is doing it, but for some reason I assumed it was a relative few men doing a lot of harm.

  115. 115
    Pteryxx

    Some references, please. Those figures seem surprisingly high.

    Lisak’s and McWhorter’s research papers cited in “Meet the Predators” for a start.

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/

  116. 116
    Ray Moscow

    Pteryxx @ 116: Thanks. That is disturbing.

  117. 117
    Ophelia Benson

    Martha @ 111 – yes. Sigh. And I almost missed that one; would have missed it if one of you hadn’t pointed it out. I wonder how many others I’ve missed.

  118. 118
    Martha

    It’s a particularly insidious tactic, as it makes the pro-feminist side look much more dogmatic that it is to the anti-feminist side, especially to newcomers. Even worse, I doubt that it would even be visible from background if one of us stooped to that tactic. That says a lot about which side of the debate has behaved more reasonably!

  119. 119
    tigtog

    Martha #111 and Ophelia #118 – this is why I lurrrve the admin setting that screens all first-time commentors – if somebody who has commented before changes their name or their email or their IP number they then go into the automoderation queue, where any unacceptable content can be seen just by the admin(s) and dealt with prior to publication on the blog.

    This denies the sockpuppets at least one of the tools which they are currently exploiting. They have to be much sneakier then to get their comment published, and at least some of them won’t be bothered. The sneakier ones are likely to go on to some major breach of netiquette down the line, and then it’s time for banhammering at the very least.

    /my 2c

  120. 120
    theophontes

    @ OP [picture]

    The text on the T-shirt reminds me of an art project in New York by Les Levine (Link here). The title being “We are not afraid”.

    That seems to be pretty much the take-away message on the TAM T-shirt. But whereas the New York (subway) artwork would cajole people into thinking “But … who are they afraid of?”, we are only too aware of who is implied on the T-shirt. :(

  121. 121
    carlie

    Rebecca tweeted this morning that Surly Amy is getting IRL shit at TAM.

    Friends: please tweet some love to @SurlyAmy, who is dealing w/ IRL trolls for attending ‪#TAM2012‬ with the 22 women she paid to attend.

  122. 122
    jenniferphillips

    I saw that too, Carlie. So disappointing :(

  123. 123
    Ophelia Benson

    See? That’s what I was expecting. It’s also why DJ’s assurance to me was so absurd – people there who disagreed with me would still treat me with respect, because they treated other “controversial speakers” that way – for example, Dawkins and Krauss and Jillette.

    To point it out again – Amy and I are not Dawkins or Krauss or Jillette. We don’t get the same kind of treatment. We don’t get disagree-but-respect-you treatment. We get a bunch of shit.

  124. 124
    Ray Moscow

    ‘I got *****d at TAM, and all I got was this stupid T shirt.’

    Jokes aside, I hope nothing like that happens.

  125. 125
    Emil Karlsson

    Now I have not been following this too closely, but just as women who feel harassed at skeptical conferences should have the right to point this out without getting mocked, should the same courtesy not be extended to those that have experienced something else entirely?

  126. 126
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    Now I have not been following this too closely,

    Oh, good. We don’t get nearly enough uninformed opinions around here.

    but just as women who feel harassed at skeptical conferences should have the right to point this out without getting mocked, should the same courtesy not be extended to those that have experienced something else entirely?

    Nobody is denying that some people have different experiences. What we are fucking sick of is people who haven’t had a problem themselves acting like their experience trumps everyone else’s.

    In the unlikely event that you are posting in good faith, please go educate yourself before spouting off with any more ignorant “opinions”. Start here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/15/harassment-policies-campaign-timeline-of-major-events/

  127. 127
    clamboy

    Maybe I missed it, but, um alt attribute?

  128. 128
    Jenny Fern

    Was honored to see such a good article!

  1. 129
    Derangierte Einsichten - TAM und JREF können mich mal

    [...] Nun hat TAM begonnen. Es gibt keine Leitlinien für Übergriffe. Stattdessen gibt es T-Shirts für Frauen, auf denen steht: Ich fühle mich hier sicher. [...]

  2. 130
    More Than Men – You call it a controversy, I call it denialism.

    [...] that “skeptics wouldn’t do that” what do they do? Well, they bravely present irrelevant, anecdotes about women who haven’t encountered sexism in the hopes that it will somehow trump [...]

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