There’s been a lot of talk in the atheist/skeptical community lately about the need for harassment policies at conferences, led by some of the bloggers here at FTB. And then this happens and just leaves my jaw on the floor wondering what planet these people are from. Elyse at SkepChick tells the appalling story:
This past weekend, I flew out to Columbus, Oh, to attend Skepticamp Ohio as the keynote speaker. I was honored to be invited and I want to thank Carl Tracy, Ashley Paramore and everyone involved for putting together a great event and a fun weekend. One thing that I really want to commend them for was their harassment policy, which only had to be enforced one time, and was done so swiftly and respectfully. I applaud them.
Well, technically, it needed to be enforced twice. But the second time, no one was given the opportunity to act. And it’s a big deal. And days later, I’m still really angry about what happened.
After lunch, I gave my talk about vaccines. I talked about my experiences as a mother, how I came up with the concept of Hug Me, showed photos of my kids, did a fake Q&A, and utterly shamed the audience for not being vaccinated, which I only half apologize for. And I did this talk while on Vicodin… which I also only half apologize for.
The rest of the conference went beautifully. No inappropriate comments. No more Vicodin-infused talks. Or at least no more talks that started with “So… I’m on Vicodin.”
Then, at the very end, when everyone was preparing to leave, and I was packing up the Hug Me table, answering questions, and generally socializing with other speakers and attendees, thinking about how fat my check is going to be from Big Pharma when one man and his wife, whom I’ve become vaguely acquainted with on Facebook in the last week, approached my table. He said, “Here’s a little something to remember us by” and handed me an upside-down card. I turned it halfway over, glanced at it peripherally, then thanked them.
A minute or so later, I had a “wait… what?” moment, then flipped the card over and looked at it not peripherally to discover I had not been handed a business card, but a card with a naked photo of the two of them, with their information on how to contact them should I want to fuck.
Elyse talks about this from the framework of turning women into sexual objects and making them feel unwelcome at such events, and that’s entirely valid. But this goes even beyond that. What they did would be incredibly inappropriate even if they had handed their card to me instead of her. What planet do these people live in?
I have nothing at all against the swinger lifestyle; I have friends and even family members who are into swinging and I’m obviously no prude. Have sex with any consenting adult who agrees to have sex with you, in whatever configuration you agree to participate in. But how about getting to know someone first? How about having some conversation first that might give you a clue to whether they might be interested in such a request? How about having some fucking dignity and treating others as though they have some too? Elyse continues:
It’s not okay to assume that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything. But to reduce your keynote speaker to a thing you want to fuck, and not respect that she’s there as a professional is so much more than offensive to her personally. It’s disrespectful to the conference and its organizers.
It’s not okay to assume a stranger welcomes your nakedness. I was never asked if I was interested in this couple. Not explicitly. Not implicitly. This couple obviously knows that it’s not acceptable to just go around flashing your sexy nudie pics at people since they’re adults functioning in society, but they also waited until the conference was over to give it to me and they handed to me upside down. A clear indication that there’s an understanding that sex cards are not handed out the same way as business cards are.
Quite so. She didn’t identify the couple who did this; she did put up a picture of the bard, but blurred out the faces and names. But I sure hope I never run into them at a conference. They clearly have no concept of what is and is not appropriate and no understanding of context at all.