Getting disturbingly touchy-feely with women


Oh, so it happens in the UK too, eh. Michael W Story says it does, at least.

I like going to public lectures; I’ve met some great friends and friends who became colleagues there, many of whom I saw last weekend at the post Pod Delusion Live drinks. I’ve spoken at Ignite, done the odd Skeptics in the Pub as part of a double act with Martin Robbins and will be giving a solo presentation about my own hobby horse at Leicester in January, but I don’t feel that my attendance at things like Skeptics is an identity that represents me the way that some of the hardcore members do. So maybe it’s not my place to join in with the current schism, and plenty of very knowledgeable people have already written on this topic, but it seems like recently everyone has been having their say over the latest atheists/skeptics contretemps  so I’m going to demonstrate the levelling power of the internet and stick my oar in.

It’s the atheism/skepticism v atheism/skepticism plus social justice contretemps he’s talking about. He had some anecdotal eyewitness testimony to offer.

Skeptics, you can dismiss this as an N=1 anecdote, but please at least read it. I have personally witnessed a prominent person getting disturbingly touchy-feely with women and getting away with it, despite the knowledge of nearly everyone who knows him. What’s more I’m willing to bet that you know who I am talking about from just reading the previous sentence.

Emphasis his.

I certainly don’t know who he’s talking about, but apparently lots of UK atheists/skeptics will.

I first became aware of this at the beginning of last year, though since I voiced my concerns to others I have been hearing that the behaviour in question has been going a lot longer than that. I was at a Skeptics in the Pub, chatting to some friends and getting a drink at the bar (I am a teetotaller, so you can be assured that none of my account has been blurred by intoxication). I heard a bit of a commotion, turned round and saw this fellow (who had had a few drinks) giving an unwilling woman a hug- not a friendly hug, but one which led crotch first, grabbing her around the hips/bum and leaning in as the she bent right back to escape his advances. It was the sort of thing that could have been a joke but as it went on it became clear that she wasn’t playing.

Emphasis his, again.

Note that this is widely known. Heave a huge sigh. It’s widely known, but that doesn’t stop it.

 Over time, as his power and influence grew I noticed that he could go further and further and get away with it. Once someone’s prominence gets to a certain point it becomes very hard to criticise them. You think that if they were a predator someone else would have noticed or complained – surely some of those prominent feminist women (and men) in the media with whom he associates would have said something? I don’t know whether they are intimidated or what, but not one has commented in public.

In private, a number of stories have been circulating for years, many of which are more serious than the incidents I have described. I can’t verify any of these accounts, but the fact that they are readily accepted is telling.

So what to do? If you think this post might be about you, then take responsibility for your behaviour and apologise where necessary. If you see this behaviour, don’t stay silent.

For all the fact that this has pissed me off a huge amount, I am wary of naming the offending person. He’s someone with a lot of clout, someone who could make life very difficult for anyone who identified him. I feel it’s up to someone whom he has victimised to make that call, but if that’s you and you are reading this then I will absolutely back you up.

My guess? No one will speak up.

Comments

  1. raymoscow says

    And that, my friends, is main cause of the ‘great rift': tolerance of this sort of behaviour by those who should know better, coupled with insults and abuse for those who object to women being treated like this.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    Also symptomatic of the philosophical/epistomological problems that are stirred up by alcoholism.

    Wet drunks behave badly. If they don’t drink, they don’t act like that. The jerk we are ‘just supposed’ to recognize MAY be a predatory jerk by nature, at all times and in all lands. He may also be an alcoholic, whose personality and behavior decay to reptilian standards under the influence.

    An awful lot of Progressive folks still have trouble grasping these notions. A drinking alcoholic is a cult of one, he/she will revert to a childish faith in booze despite thousands of negative demonstrations. Atheist and skeptics SHOULD grasp this problem better than the general public, but the contrary seems the case.

    Since our knowledge of anyone’s inner workings is limited; it is the behavior itself that must be opposed.

    ‘Send not to know for whom the bell tolls..’ and all that.
    AND
    Name names. If this ‘well known’ individual had his hand in the till would you be so squeamish? Why do we accept ‘separate but equal’ standards whenever sex is involved?

  3. says

    Ray – exactly. There’s a lively discussion on Twitter already, and I think at least part of it is heading in exactly that direction. Veering into…”witch hunt.”

    sigh

  4. says

    I worry that another factor is simply obliviousness. I’m male, I sort of tune out to these behaviors because I’m never ever subject to them (nor do I perpetrate them). So if I hadn’t heard of this sort of thing from women of my acquaintance, I’d be blithely unaware and might even react the way some of our opponents do…with denial.

    I’m far more clued in on sexist behavior in the scientific community. When I was a grad student/postdoc, we were far more conscious of abuses by our superiors, because we were far more acutely aware that our career advancement was dependent on those guys.

  5. says

    @ 2 – why? I’ll tell you why. Because we get shit no matter what we do. Name names; get shit. Don’t name names; get shit. Say nothing; get shit in the form of continued harassment.

    We lose no matter what.

  6. says

    In this case, the person noticing it is not naming names himself and thinks that the victims should be the ones to call it off. Also, the author points out that he hasn’t had anything to drink, so his version of events is totally reliable. Which points to the problem…

    The victims would call it off if it ever worked, but generally victims of this behavior are criticized themselves when they name names. And what are the chances the victims haven’t themselves had drinks in these settings where this perpetrator is already intoxicated? It’s so easy to blame these victims, and to repeat what Ophelia just said…

    We lose no matter what.

    Michael W Story says that if you see this behavior to not stay silent, but he stays silent, too.

    (Mostly. I don’t live in the UK either, and don’t know if the clues he provides are sufficient to condemn and/or change behaviors.)

  7. says

    OK. I would my comment if I could, so here’s another one.

    I can see why Story wouldn’t want to name names in a blog post. But he could certainly confront behavior while it happens (and maybe already has now that he’s written about it) and he could certainly confront the perpetrator privately, perhaps via email or telephone call, to tell him to knock it off or else (and maybe he has already). But waiting for someone else to be victimized until a victim he promises to support comes forward eventually with all the attendant risks isn’t really what I call #gotyourback. And it’s not really clear from his blog post what he plans to do to help people victimized like this.

    Someone who has my back does what he can to warn me in advance and steps in to stop easily anticipated problems from happening in the first place in addition to supporting me after the problem occurs. But only the first part of that is solving problems; the second have is just coping with problems. Identifying the issue is important, but it’s an issue everyone already knew about before he said anything (which he acknowledged). The hashtag sounds nice, but I’m, well, skeptical.

  8. says

    Edit my comment. By which I mean completely retype after letting my thoughts organize instead of rushing to post with them all fragmented. So I made a new one!

  9. Beatrice says

    Wait, am I reading this right?

    He’s someone with a lot of clout, someone who could make life very difficult for anyone who identified him. I feel it’s up to someone whom he has victimised to make that call, but if that’s you and you are reading this then I will absolutely back you up.

    The witness doesn’t want to name this person because he’s afraid of getting in trouble, but feels one of the victims should risk herself? And this victim should believe him when he says that he’ll support her? Right.

  10. Beatrice says

    KarenX,

    Yeah, it’s not really #gotyourback. More like “I might have your back if I don’t find that too risky”.

  11. says

    Regarding Michael Story’s supposed cowardice: A more charitable interpretation is that he’s planning to out the person, but first wants to get a feel for how much support he will receive. Not wanting to face the hater army alone is understandable.

  12. Rodney Nelson says

    I am wary of naming the offending person. He’s someone with a lot of clout, someone who could make life very difficult for anyone who identified him.

    What could this person do? Hold his breath until he turns blue? Turn Story out of the skeptics community? Disinherit Story? Threaten legal action? According to his website, Story is a freelance film maker. Is he afraid this unnamed sexual predator will hurt his professionally?

    I suspect Story just doesn’t want to name names because it would make him feel uncomfortable.

  13. Beatrice says

    Oh Jesus so everyone knows who this guy is, but no one wants to tell because the guy can ruin their lives. At the same time, these people expect his victims to fearlessly spill the truth.

    Seriously, if I were this guy, I’d be laughing my ass off. You all know, you can all confirm who that is… but you won’t. He must feel like the king of the world right now, if he’s reading this shit.

  14. Beatrice says

    Please tell me it was Michael W Story who advised you not to tell. The irony might kill me, which I would consider merciful at this point.

  15. says

    The worst part for the fourth party is wanting, desperately, to know who it is, while recognizing that the reason the answer to that question is not forthcoming is completely legitimate, at least as it comes from the victims.

    As far as Story not naming names… I get the impression that, since this is written primarily for a UK readership, the hints he drops are good enough for a UK readership to pick up on, so in a way he doesn’t have to. I’m not picking up on them because I’m from the US. So I’m lost.

    It’d be interesting to note how many of Ophelia’s UK readers actually did pick up on the clues and know who it is (without, of course, saying who it is)…

  16. says

    Original_cindy @ #22:

    Oh I told @mwstory and other skeptics that I have no fear in naming him, mainly because I think he’s a complete smug prick and dislike him greatly but I have been advised to not say who it is

    What?

    Who advised you?

  17. says

    NateHevens says:

    It’d be interesting to note how many of Ophelia’s UK readers actually did pick up on the clues and know who it is

    This one didn’t.

  18. raymoscow says

    Well, I live in the UK, and I don’t know either. But apparently we have several too many such people over here.

  19. says

    Well, if the haters have succeeded in one thing it is to teach everybody quite well what will happen to them should they decide to speak up.
    Seriously, at this point in time I really can’t blame anybody for not speaking up and not naming names. I can understand why people are standing around, shuffling their feet, glancing sideways at each other, not knowing what will happen if anybody actually says something. Please, please be the one to make the first move. Let it be you, I really can’t…

  20. says

    Original Cindy – I told you: you harassed me repeatedly on Twitter, and told lies about me in the process. You’re lying about me on Twitter right now. I don’t have a “beef” with you, I just want nothing to do with you. I don’t care what you know. Leave me out of whatever it is you’re doing.

  21. says

    Giliell – I know. I was trying to explain that to Tracy King earlier. It’s just not…rewarding to name names. Look what happened about the camera-upskirt guy – people screamed the place down that he was being slandered and it was an outrage yadda yadda yadda. There were several witnesses, but noooooooo, that wasn’t good enough.

    So why the fuck would anybody name anyone?

  22. Beatrice says

    At this point, it looks like people are bragging about knowing who this is. Ooooh, all the cool kids know who the sexual predator is. And they won’t share their secret. *nudge nudge wink wink*

    Am I the only one who finds this seriously disturbing?

  23. says

    I don’t think she does know. I think she’s making all of it up. I had a look at her Twitter feed: she tweeted at a lot of people but nobody replied. It’s Original Walter Mitty.

  24. Beatrice says

    I wouldn’t be this angered if it wasn’t for this

    I feel it’s up to someone whom he has victimised to make that call, but if that’s you and you are reading this then I will absolutely back you up.

    and #gotyourback.

    In addition to Original_cindy.

    And the fact that Original_cindy was apparently advised not to tell. I thought people were just shifting that responsibility out of fear, but would actually support anyone brave enough to tell. #gotyourback, remember?

  25. Beatrice says

    I don’t think she does know.

    In that case, that last reason for my anger would be false. I didn’t know she was a known liar.

  26. raymoscow says

    Hmmm … if one ‘names names’, doesn’t one need to have proof that will hold up in court? The penalties for libel can be severe, especially in the UK.

  27. says

    Beatrice, I don’t know that for sure, but it’s noticeable that no one replied to her many tweets. It looks as if she’s trying to be a player but having no luck.

    I do know she’s told whoppers about me on Twitter in the past; also Rebecca. She’s a very determined harasser. Weird; I don’t know her from Adam.

  28. Stevarious says

    I am going to have to assume you’re not approving my tweets (if it’s not because I’m conservative) because I’m black and I’ll just have to express this opinion in the video I make tomorrow. You and I both know I told no lies

    My jaw just literally dropped. Is this what it comes to? Really?

    @Original_Cindy 39 minutes ago
    Fuck everyone ant Skepchick and that includes you

    @Original_Cindy 19 minutes ago
    Fucking femi-nazi bitch

    But you think she blocked you because you’re a black conservative. Are you completely insane? Or just literally incapable of honesty?

  29. says

    Ray @ 48 – quite right. Michael updated the post to say that.

    For readers coming here from the States: we don’t have a First Amendment here, so I would be in legal danger if I named the person I am talking about. My father is a Barrister and looked over my post- this is as far as I can go. Don’t like it? Join me in supporting Index on Censorship.

  30. says

    Wow. That’s kind of douchey, telling us, “Hey, there’s this one guy who goes about assaulting women, but I WON’T SAY WHO IT IS!” And childish. Seriously, man, if the guy is assaulting women, he NEEDS to be outed for the predatory perv he is. Now.

    Sexual predators, whether they’ve gone so far as rape or have “only” groped women, have no place in civilized society. Neither do those who protect them.

  31. says

    If every person who knows who this predator is contacts him personally and tells him to knock it off or else, and threatens to ostracize him and make it known that he won’t be welcome at events anymore, would that be libel? It would probably go a long ways towards solving this problem, and someone this prominent should be easy to track down contact information for.

  32. No Light says

    Another Brit here, I’m clueless about this.

    Cindy’s word salad is only making things more confusing. Maybe some croutons or dressing would help?

  33. says

    I think we cross-posted, Ophelia.

    I get why he can’t do it… but what — beyond the usual victim-blaming and bullshit that is heaped on women for speaking out — is keeping the victims from speaking out and saying, “So-and-so assaulted me”? Is there some law preventing them from pressing charges?*

    *Yes, I do understand why some victims don’t report, I’ve been there and done that myself. But, in retrospect, I wish I had reported my abuser.

  34. arthur says

    The appearance of “Original Cindy” during this case is curious.

    Examining her timeline, and comments elsewhere, she has been insinuating an individual is “the groper” (as she calls him) for days. Before Michael Story’s blog. She hasn’t named him. But has tried hard to drop massive hints.

    The “groper” is known within UK skeptics circles but isn’t particularly well known publicly.

    Cindy was goading a well known friend of the “groper” recently.

    Michael Story’s face appears on “Original Cindy’s” twitter feed, smiling next to “Original Cindy”.

    The internet is full of strange goings on. Very curious, this one. Very curious.

  35. says

    She’s incredible. She apparently took the trouble to find out who my friends on Twitter are, so that she could reply to one of them totally randomly saying what a horrible witch I am. No doubt she’ll spend the night doing it to as many friends of mine as she can find. I don’t know her from a fucking hole in the ground.

  36. arthur says

    “Original Cindy” appears to be at the heart of these accusations, in some way.

    While Michael Story goes to pains not to reveal the name of “the groper” in his post, “Original Cindy” has dropped enough information through overt innuendo (before Michael’s blog post was even published) to make public who it is.

    Take a look at Cindy’s Twitter page again. That’s Cindy (left). That’s Michael (right).

    It might the case that Michael has been sincere throughout, is genuinely trying to highlight a real problem here with an individual, and has no connection to “Original Cindy” beyond a brief photo-op.

    I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.

  37. says

    Rodney Nelson says:

    What could this person do? Hold his breath until he turns blue? Turn Story out of the skeptics community? Disinherit Story? Threaten legal action?

    The last one, the UK has very stringent anti-libel laws. Basically if Story outs the person and none of the harassed / assaulted women stand up to back him up, with solid proof that the attacks were happening and multiple eyewitness accounts – and sometimes even that’s not enough, the un-named guy would likely sue him for libel.

    Because un-named guy is so well connected that means he’s probably rich, or knows someone who is that would back him, meaning un-named guy would likely win because of his prominence and the he-said / he-said nature of the suit. Who’s the court going to believe, a blogger and journalist or a well connected individual with character witnesses from all his rich and / or connected buddies?

    If Story lost his suit, which is likely if no-one stands up with him, he’d be on the hook for a large sum of money based on the perceived damage to the un-named guy’s reputation – it could literally bankrupt him to do the right thing by naming names.

    So I’m thinking, if this guy is so prominent and well known he’s got to be some kind of pseudo celebrity in the community. As a celebrity it wouldn’t be the least bit unreasonable to have a camera in his face everywhere he goes at the conventions / conferences; we love our celebrities. Constantly record this guy so there is always a record of what he’s doing, if he’s stupid enough to harass or assault women on camera there isn’t much he can do when the footage leaks out. Its hard to prove people are committing libel against you when its you on film doing what they’re accusing you of.

    Unfortunately it wouldn’t do much for when he’s in private, but it might help out at the conventions / conferences in general?

  38. says

    Ophelia Benson @ #63:

    She’s incredible. She apparently took the trouble to find out who my friends on Twitter are, so that she could reply to one of them totally randomly saying what a horrible witch I am. No doubt she’ll spend the night doing it to as many friends of mine as she can find. I don’t know her from a fucking hole in the ground.

    Yeah… I feel somewhat responsible for that, actually. I never had any interest engaging her at all… I was just asking that guy to not use the c-word (I’m working to keep gendered insults off my timeline these days), and then Cindy started tweeting me about you, using gendered insults herself…

    That was some weird shit…

    So sorry about my part in that.

  39. says

    Ack! Hit submit before finishing!

    [redacted]

    I’m gonna defend Story on not naming names, since he literally has no protection if he does so (unlike us here in the States… it’s amazing how much we take our Bill of Rights for granted… we forget that other countries don’t have all that).

  40. rrede says

    @Beatrice says: Sorry, was in the midst of grading, and zooming through things too fast.

    I was struck by this (admitted local to the US) offical institution (Department of Justice) laying out definitions of harassment, including on the internet (in previous years, the idea that stalking or harassment on the internet did not count), and I connected it to all the harassment in the atheist communities (on and offline).

    Sometimes get a bit too hyped up when stressed!

    I was harassed by what turned out to be a disgruntled colleague: gave my work address and telephone and email out to a gazillion web sites (marketers, bankruptcy counseling groups, conservative political groups, online universities)–unlike an earlier incident of online harassment years earlier, the campus police were able to get warrants and get the IP and bring charges.

  41. permanganater says

    Going back to the OP, there is a description of sexual assualt in the presence of other people.

    “I heard a bit of a commotion, turned round and saw this fellow (who had had a few drinks) giving an unwilling woman a hug- not a friendly hug, but one which led crotch first, grabbing her around the hips/bum and leaning in as the she bent right back to escape his advances”

    Whichever way you dice it, that is sexual assualt, in any part of the UK.

    Given the public nature of, adn the immediate commotion surrounding, what happened, as a practical matter the libel or defamation risks of attaching a name to that depiction would have to be very low in the UK, and vanishingly remote in Merka.

  42. xmaseveeve says

    Cindy could be sued for libel through constructive identification. She’d better be careful. We have daft libel laws, and it may be that Cindy bears a Nazi-grudge against the individual and is the source of the rumours. We don’t know yet.

    They may all have been assaulted by different men, and each assuming they’re all the same man – their scumbag!! Yes! Murder on the Orient Express! (Great score.) Probably there are gay predators too. It’s an unequal relationship, and an abuse of power and reputation. Apart from being sexual assault.

    If there is evidence against the person, including eyewitnesses, he can’t sue for libel. He’d be doing an Oscar Wilde.

    If there is no evidence, Cindy couldn’t claim veritas.

    If several victims give similar accounts, the Moorov doctrine of similar pattern kicks in, and the evidence of his sexual assaults can all corroborate each other. The weight of evidence then makes it much easier to get a conviction.

    I would have gone straight to the police. There has been a whiff of rape accusation here. Please, if any woman (or man) has been raped, come forward. If this bogeyman exists, he must be stopped.

  43. permanganater says

    @ 70 – xmaseveeve

    “If there is evidence against the person, including eyewitnesses, he can’t sue for libel. He’d be doing an Oscar Wilde.”

    You put it better (and more succinctly) than I did. And I’ve only just finished re-reading The Ballad of Reading Gaol(!)

  44. JE Hoyes says

    If I was concerned about someone’s behaviour, I’d speak to them directly if that was possible, and the closer to the actual event the better. If the behaviour is continual, I’d contact either the local authority involved in arranging the event and get them to have a word with the person, privately. Or, if the behaviour could be classed as any kind of attack or infringement, I’d report it to the police. Posting vague assertions online is next to useless.

  45. ismenia says

    I have no idea who this person is but of course it happens in the UK. I have had no problems so far at any atheist events but I frequently get harrassed in public places.

    I have seen how this works in other social groups. A person can get away with a lot if they have a high status within the group and everyone accepts it as something they do. It may be laughed about, “Oh X, he’s a lad, he’ll get into trouble one day etc.” but no-one will want to do anything about it. It’s also difficult without a complaint from a victim but many victims are afraid to complain.

    I’ve noticed that people will often condemn this sort of behaviour from an outsider or someone who is new to the group or unpopular while simulataneously excusing it from a person with a higher status.

  46. Timon for Tea says

    “For readers coming here from the States: we don’t have a First Amendment here, so I would be in legal danger if I named the person I am talking about. ”

    The first amendment doesn’t come into it for the first part of the complaint.If you can prove it’s true (and the testimony of the aggrieved woman would probably be enough)then you will be OK. The gossipy part about how there are lots more stories and, you know, no smoke without fire, would be hard to defend, but libel is libel in thee states too.

    What I don’t understand is why the writers of these sorts of anecdotes never intervene at the time. I cannot imagine standing by and watching someone being sexually (or otherwise) harassed. What is up with that? A friend of mine was recently beaten stupid by three youths when he stepped in to stop them harassing a fourth on the street, it just didn’t occur to him not to intervene despite the obvious danger. How could he have walked past? And when there is no physical threat? I know it happens but I do find it pathetic: all these free thinkers bravely standing around in a pub, at a social, passively watching while someone gets sexually abused just because the abuser has a higher status? It doesn’t say much for the vigour of their free thought. Just step in and worry about the consequences later. Who cares about your career, do the right thing.

  47. Timon for Tea says

    Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think that a change of tack may be wanted to sort this problem. Maybe, instead of the emphasis on prevention (or in addition to) there should be more emphasis on helping bystanders of good will to know how better to intervene.Perhaps some training in what to do. Is uncertainty what is stopping people from stepping in? Or fear? Very often, all that is needed is to quietly ask the victim of the abuse if she is all right? She will usually laugh it off but just asking bursts the bubble and the abuser backs off embarrassed.

  48. Pteryxx says

    A friend of mine was recently beaten stupid by three youths when he stepped in to stop them harassing a fourth on the street…

    Maybe, instead of the emphasis on prevention (or in addition to) there should be more emphasis on helping bystanders of good will to know how better to intervene.

    *facetalon*

    If you can prove it’s true (and the testimony of the aggrieved woman would probably be enough)then you will be OK.

    *double facetalon*

  49. Timon for Tea says

    Pteryxx, unless your point is that stepping in to object to the kind of abuse described in the op ed as a problem in the atheist community will likely lead to extreme violence, I can’t see that you have a point. If the writer of the article is claiming that he didn’t step in because he was terrified of being beaten up, he should say so.It makes the situation even worse.

    But anyway, if you will not risk physical violence to defend a woman who is being attacked, what kind of a feminist are you?

  50. Timon for Tea says

    No one need make any such assumption, Pteryxx, but if a woman is being abused, or sexually assaulted, the right thing to do is intervene to support here.Surely you don’t disagree with that? And better do it at the time than complain about it on the internet afterwards.

  51. Pteryxx says

    No one need make any such assumption, Pteryxx,

    But anyway, if you will not risk physical violence to defend a woman who is being attacked, what kind of a feminist are you?

  52. Beatrice says

    Pteryxx,

    Is this really a case of white knighting?

    Since the community is too scared of libel suit to name this sexual predator, all these people who are in the know should do something when they see this man harassing women. It really is shameful that they talk about seeing it happen and no one says that they jumped into the conversation to try and distract him or something.

  53. Timon for Tea says

    Helping someone who is being assaulted does not mean making any assumptions about who is the better feminist, Pteryxx. But if you stand by and watch while a woman is sexually assaulted, I don’t think your feminism means very much. Are you saying you would watch passively while a woman was sexually assaulted? Because if not, I don’t see what you are arguing about, you are simply trolling.

  54. Beatrice says

    what kind of a feminist are you?

    Ouch. Well, that is pretty damning.

    *I should pay more attention while reading*

  55. Timon for Tea says

    ” It really is shameful that they talk about seeing it happen and no one says that they jumped into the conversation to try and distract him or something.”

    That is my opinion too. And it needn’t be a man that intervenes, so the ‘white knight’ rubbish is silly. An intervention often only needs be a polite question ‘are you all right/enjoying yourself?’ or a comment ‘not sure X is enjoying that very much person of influence/that doesn’t look like a lot of fun to me’.

  56. Timon for Tea says

    “Ouch. Well, that is pretty damning.”

    Why is that damning Beatrice? What kind of feminism does tolerate sexual assault on women? We should hold ourselves to high standards.

  57. Beatrice says

    Timon,

    Example: you have a woman noticing another woman being groped. She wants to interfere, but is afraid to do so for much the same reasons the groped woman probably won’t report the groper.

    I really wouldn’t question either of those women’s feminism.

  58. Timon for Tea says

    Beatrice, they should ask themselves what kind of feminists they are. That is not to judge them necessarily, but I think if you take the view that you are a feminist (or anti-racist, or socialist or whatever) only insofar as it incurs no negative consequences for you, you should be honest about that. In general, I think a woman or man should intervene if they see a sexual assault happening. A fear of violence (unless that violence is likely to be deadly) should be no excuse for a woman or a man. A concern for your career (if that’s what you meant) … well!

  59. says

    So, Timnon, <ou have figured it all out again.
    Let me ask you: How many times have you personallyintervened?
    Or are you claiming that this doesn’t happen amongst people you know?
    You are, of course, completely missing the point of this: The subtle dynamics, the power difference and the actual fears and concerns of people. Believe it or not, but the world isn’t divided into heroes and cowards.

  60. Timon for Tea says

    No Giliel I haven’t ‘got it all figured out’ but I do think there are things that can be done. I haven’t intervened often because this sort of thing isn’t common in my world, but I think I have whenever I have come across racism and sexism, except once and that was a lesson to me. I am shocked that commenters like you are hostile to the idea of intervention to stop sexual abuse when people come across it. Do you really say or do nothing if you see women being assaulted or otherwise maltreated because of their sex? Why? Whose feelings are you trying to spare? If you do intervene, what are we arguing about?

  61. Beatrice says

    To clarify my position:

    I’m not expecting everyone to intervene. What I find troublesome is that there is seemingly so many people who have witnessed the harassment happening and none of them did anything. With so many witnesses, I would expect at least someone would jump in with a question about something or in some other subtle way diffuse the situation, if they don’t want to confront the man with accusations.

    I hope that’s not white knighting or being feminister than thou.

  62. Timon for Tea says

    “I hope that’s not white knighting or being feminister than thou.”

    How on Earth could it be? We have here an article written by a man who watched a woman being sexually assaulted in crowded pub, surrounded by his friends, with no doubt in his mind that an assault was taking place (it apparently endured for some time)and who was so outraged he wrote an article about it that will (we are told) make it clear who the prominent individual doing the assault was (to those in the know) and went so far to check with a barrister (his father) the legality of the post but who, it seems, never thought for a moment to do anything about it at the time, nor seems to think he should have. Why not? Because because, it seems, the assailant was ‘influential’ in some sense. How is that not comment-worthy?

  63. says

    Timon

    I am shocked that commenters like you are hostile to the idea of intervention to stop sexual abuse when people come across it.

    I am less than shocked to see that your reading comprehension is quite bad. Nobody is hostile towards the idea of intervention. But other people are able to recognize more than one thing at play at the same time.

    Do you really say or do nothing if you see women being assaulted or otherwise maltreated because of their sex? Why? Whose feelings are you trying to spare? If you do intervene, what are we arguing about?

    Well, sometimes the one person I’m trying to spare is myself. If you’ve been threatened once or twice you become careful, especially if that happened in front of your small children. So, yes, sometimes I’m a bloody coward and put my own safety first.

    beatrice

    I’m not expecting everyone to intervene. What I find troublesome is that there is seemingly so many people who have witnessed the harassment happening and none of them did anything. With so many witnesses, I would expect at least someone would jump in with a question about something or in some other subtle way diffuse the situation, if they don’t want to confront the man with accusations.

    It’s actually more likely that nobody will do anything with many people around than with few.
    Have you ever been in that situation when something like that happens and like everybody looks around, shuffling their feet, waiting for somebody else to speak up? So, nobody says something? Well, then probably I was wrong in thinking that somebody should do something, gosh I’m glad I didn’t put my foot in…
    HUmans have the well-known tendency to find excuses for not doing something. This has been tested time after time again. People are more likely to stop for a car that crashed at the side of the road on a lonely road than on a busy one. On the busy one everybody will assume that somebody else will stop. On a lonely one people think that nobody else will come by soon and therefore make it their responsibility to stop.
    Doesn’t mean it’s OK not to stop (or at least call somebody with your mobile), but it’s not surprising.

  64. Timon for Tea says

    Gilliel, good then we agree, there is moral obligation to intervene although there will be circumstances when that isn’t possible (eg children may be endangered) or when we fail to do the right thing out of cowardice.

  65. says

    beatrice
    I think it’s more important and helpful to focus on societal dynamics and changes in culture rather than to focus on “personal responsibility”.
    I actually find it rather annoying and disturbing how quickly the discussion turned to the wrongdoings of the bystanders rather than on the actual crimes of the harasser.

  66. Timon for Tea says

    Gilliel, you are creating a false dichotomy, because in these cases the problematic ‘societal dynamic’ is precisely the unwillingness of individual bystanders to make their displeasure known and/or their inability to recognise the problem.

  67. says

    I had to do some deleting and redacting; sorry. Nothing personal.

    Tessa Kendall has a post on all this which is highly relevant. She’s one of the hosts of London Skeptics in the Pub.

    We’ll deal with this in an adult way and we’ll deal with it together. It will get sorted, we promise.

    Carmen, Sid and I really strongly encourage you to tell us if you see or suffer from the Offender. We will back you up and anything you tell us will be treated in absolute confidence. You can leave comments here (which in no way implies that you’ve been directly affected unless you make that explicit), you can email us, DM us on Twitter or tell us face to face. That’s @tessakendall, @carmenego or @sidrodrigues.

    But DO NOT name him publicly.

    http://tessera2009.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/bullies-and-predators.html

  68. says

    Hayley said “it’s clear nobody is going to name the person who was written about, yet people speculated and threw names around that weren’t even involved. That muddies the reputation of people who aren’t at fault and that is unfair and irrational.”

    Cindy threw a name around yesterday. I don’t consider her the most reliable source in the world. Keep that in mind.

  69. Beatrice says

    Yeah, I realized that after you cleaned up the thread.
    No worries, I considered the information with its origin in mind.

  70. arthur says

    I should also add, Ophelia, that today “Original Cindy” has made a video attacking you for all manner of imagined crimes.

  71. Aratina Cage says

    Perhaps I should sue her for libel.

    Oh no, it’s all about HERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!! Not anything there to sue over, just letting you all know that she absolutely lurvs Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Whodathunkit?

  72. johnthedrunkard says

    Sheesh, has this exploded.

    The general reluctance to call out evil behavior, with extra-special dispensation for sexual misconduct, is THE thing which makes naming names more difficult than it should be. It is a working part of the oppression involved here.

    Back to my example, if the groper had been rifling through purses, would he have been given this extra protection? At present, whoever breaks the glass wall of silence puts themselves at risk. The madness of British libel law is a subcategory of this lunacy.

    Of course, Ophelia, trolls will continue trolling NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. In this terrible situation, there is a moral responsiblilty for anyone positioned to reveal ‘the man behind the curtain’ to do so.

    I went after a troll, who had set up a fake web site in my name. Only to find that the service provider’s policies ‘protected the privacy’ of a criminal who was actively violating mine. I couldn’t ‘win’ in this matter, but I took as hearty a swing at the bastard as I could.

  73. says

    The thing to take from this is that anyone there at the time needs to speak out. If the person is ‘prominent’ then us plebs should speak out as we have nothing to lose. I’d like to see anyone use the ‘Don’t you know who I am’ line when this is such a focus.

  74. says

    Aratina – I know, I broke down and took a look, and there’s nothing. Quite funny really. Just how I’m lying about why I blocked her on Twitter; she somehow knows for certain that it’s because I saw she’s right-wing. It’s not! It’s because I didn’t know her at all and she simply popped up to rant at me about Rebecca. I’m not interested, so goodbye.

    Honestly it’s as if there’s some rule that you shouldn’t block people on Twitter! There is no such rule! Blocking people on Twitter isn’t necessarily personal or insulting. Sheesh.

    Mind you, I do think it’s rude to accost a stranger with insults and then instantly block. That’s what Booly Wumblebee’s husband, whatsisname, did to me. That’s just infantile. But blocking a total stranger who’s ranting at you? Nuh.

  75. Aratina Cage says

    Mind you, I do think it’s rude to accost a stranger with insults and then instantly block.

    Yes. It is kind of like yelling something (mildly to extremely) insulting at a stranger walking down the street as you roar by in a car full of friends; a juvenile way to get a self-congratulatory laugh at the expense of another.

    That’s what Booly Wumblebee’s husband, whatsisname, did to me.

    I think that represents one of the more extreme cases since you are not really a stranger to him as much as you are someone his wife has been Boolying. I can only imagine the personal nastiness he would have had to endure at home if he had simply blocked you.

  76. says

    Waiting for a victim to speak up (and encouraging it) is the right thing to do, not just because of the libel issues. She may not want people online to know what happened to her, and that is her choice. Not everyone is ready to speak about these things right away and she will probably get harassed more if she comes forward.

    anyway, ophelia seems to be a weirdo magnet these days. She is really mild in her message and delivery, I can’t figure out why so many people get obsessive about her.

Leave a Reply

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

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