I’ve spent the past few days immersed in the latest furor over sexism in the atheist and skeptical communities. I haven’t yet read the transcripts for “The Great Penis Debate,” but I’ve read quite a bit else, including many comment threads, and I’m still amazed by the sheer volume of the screeching resulting from something so simple as saying, “Hey, this community can do better than background levels of harassment at conventions – why not encourage conventions to have harassment policies?”
The resulting backlash has sounded much like what happens when you take a toy away from a toddler – only the tantrum is combined with rape “jokes” and other unsavory vitriol. It’s amazing for its sheer volume. It appears the idea that people should be able to enjoy conferences without worrying about harassment, and that policies should be in place for dealing with harassment when and if it happens, will always be controversial to a certain subset of people. Whether those people are spectacularly clueless, despicable, hopelessly contrarian, or combinations of the three is left as an exercise to the reader.
I’ll be addressing some of this from my own perspective in the coming weeks. And I hope that those readers who come here for the geology and the birds and the flowers will stay for this conversation, because it’s important. Even if you never intend to attend a convention, it’s important. Even if you think your neck of the woods hasn’t got a problem, it’s important. Even if you think those of us speaking out are just shrill, strident harpies, it’s important – perhaps especially important if you’re trapped in that way of thinking. If you’re one of those women who thinks other women should just toughen the fuck up, this conversation is important.*
If you haven’t been a regular reader for some time, you’ve likely not come across many of my posts on related topics. I’m not one of the bloggers who’s made feminist issues a cornerstone of my blogging, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t important to me. I am a woman who has experienced both sexual violence and unwanted sexual advances, sometimes verging on harassment. I haven’t been through the sheer amount of crap other women have. I haven’t suffered the appalling abuse trans women suffer. But I’ve experienced some of what it means to be female in our society. And I believe we not only can do better, but must.
I am a woman who would like to make this world a better place for women. I believe it will also be a better place for men, and people who don’t quite fit either category, or eschew categories all together. The only humans that will be at all inconvenienced in this better world are the ones who don’t like having to behave in a manner that takes people’s value as human beings rather than conquests into account. I’m not sorry for that subset of people.
I want my friends’ grandkids to look at me like I’m absolutely mad when I tell them there was once a time when not harassing people was ever considered controversial. I’m blogging on a network full of people who are working for that world. I’ve got my little bit to contribute in support of their efforts. I know many of you are, in big ways and small, doing the same.
We can make it happen. Together.
A Brief History:
*Here are the ground rules for the conversation as it pertains to this blog. There are other places out there where people have been allowed to get away with bad behavior. This is not that place.
If you need to brush up on Feminism 101, this is not the place to get educated. We’re beyond that point. Do your homework, because this isn’t a remedial class. Asking about the basics again and again and again, then sniveling when people don’t spend their time educating the ineducable, has become a favorite derailing tactic of trolls. If you can’t make the effort to get up to speed, you are presumed to be derailing the conversation, and you’re out.
Victim blaming is not acceptable at any time. Don’t even try to engage in it.
Gendered slurs and insults, rape “jokes,” threats, or other such misbehavior will get you banned.
Keep the conversation respectful. You’ll get a warning if you look to be starting a flame war. One warning. Then you’re done.
Read the comment policy for this blog carefully before you comment.
I haven’t had a problem with the comments so far. Everything except for obvious spam (because a billion links to shoe stores is so relevant, right?) and one comment intended for another thread has made it through. The folks who have commented here so far have been fantastic, and I’m proud that this cantina has remained such a civil place through uncivil times. But seeing as how we’re about to get into much more contentious territory, I just want to be clear about expectations to newcomers up front. Anyone thinking those rules are too draconian should anticipate not wasting their time here.
Are we clear? Excellent.