“Holy. Fucking. Shit.”: An Attempt to Discuss the Actual Issue


I’ve written two posts this week about the topic of sexual harassment at conferences: Holy. Fucking. Shit. and Update/ Clarification/ Correction on “Holy. Fucking. Shit.” Both posts were about a report that was made to D.J. Grothe/JREF at TAM, about incidents in which a male attendee of TAM was (a) persistently harassing women even after having been asked to leave them alone multiple times, and (b) was carrying a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod in a crowd at ankle height, which created a strong suspicion on the part of some observers that he was surreptitiously taking photos up women’s skirts.

Both posts were focused on two points:

a) in the conversations about sexual harassment, there is a tremendous amount of goalpost-moving when it comes to the question of reporting — such that, no matter how formally or through what official channels the reports are made, it is never seen as good enough;

b (and more relevantly): D.J. Grothe’s claim that there had never, to his knowledge, been a report filed of sexual harassment at TAM, and that there have been zero reports of harassment at the TAMs they’ve put on while he’s been at JREF, is clearly false.

And both posts have had their comment threads completely derailed by extensive and minute examinations of whether monopod guy really was taking upskirt photos, and whether it was reasonable for people to suspect that he was taking upskirt photos, and what possible other reasons someone might have for carrying a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod in a crowd at ankle height, and whether or not these discussions have unfairly ruined Monopod Guy’s reputation, and other similar questions which have clearly become the focus of the community’s conversation about this.

For a larger context for these derailments, I propose looking at two posts:
Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny on this blog,
The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation at Lousy Canuck.

So I am hereby creating a post that is specifically dedicated to discussing the actual points raised by the original post and its subsequent correction. Those points, again:

a) in the conversations about sexual harassment, there is a tremendous amount of goalpost-moving when it comes to the question of reporting — such that, no matter how formally or through what official channels the reports are made, it is never seen as good enough;

b (and more relevantly): D.J. Grothe’s claim that there had never, to his knowledge, been a report filed of sexual harassment at TAM, and that there have been zero reports of harassment at the TAMs they’ve put on while he’s been at JREF, is clearly false.

A couple of ground rules:

1: Discussion of these points needs to take as a given the fact that a report of harassment experienced at TAM was made to D.J. Grothe/JREF, and that this report included both (a) a report of this person harassing people and continuing to harasses them despite them asking him to leave them alone multiple times, and (b) a report of the fact that this person was carrying a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod in a crowd at ankle height, and was therefore strongly suspected of taking upskirt photos of women. Regardless of whether you think the former incidents happened or the latter suspicion was reasonable, the fact is that this report was made, and discussion in this thread must proceed based on that fact.

2: Discussion must stay focused on the abovementioned points, and must not change the subject onto yet another minute discussion of what monopod guy was actually doing, or anything related to that. If you want to discuss that topic, you may do so in one of the original posts. (I’m not happy about the derailment — especially since it’s now happened twice — but that’s where the community conversation has been going, and I’m not going to shut it down.) You may not do so in this new thread.

Relevant topics for this new thread might include (but are not limited to): what kind of anti-harassment policy and reporting procedures would be good to have in place at atheist/ skeptical conferences; what an appropriate response to this report from D.J. Grothe/JREF might have been at the time; what an appropriate response to these facts would be from D.J. Grothe and/or the JREF board now; whether having reporting procedures at TAM (in addition to their anti-harassment policy) might have changed how this report was dealt with; whether reports of sexual harassment really are held up to a more rigorous, scrupulous, goalpost-moving standard, both in terms of evidence demanded and reporting procedures expected to be followed; if reports of sexual harassment are held up to a more scrupulous and goalpost-moving standard, why that is, and what can be done about it. Etc.

I would like to have a conversation on these topics. Other people, I believe, would like to have a conversation on these topics. So please respect these guidelines. Any attempts in this thread to derail the topic from these original above-mentioned points, and to further chew over the details of what was or was not reasonable to suspect Monopod Guy of doing with his camera, will result in the commenter being banned from this blog. Thank you.

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    This post at Almost Diamonds (actually a comment from psanity, elevated to a post) is a must-read.

    Let’s draw a hypothetical where it turned out Monopod Guy was totally innocent, he explained the thing with the camera to the satisfaction of the TAM organizers, hotel security, and even those who reported him, and even the repeated requests to be left alone were cleared up. It all turned out to be a big Three’s Company-style misunderstanding. Lots of laffs.

    Even in that hypothetical, why the hell doesn’t JREF have a log of the incident? Supporting documents? At the minimum, a jotted note somewhere saying that there was an incident which involved hotel security, but turned out to be nothing?

    Here’s the thing: JREF needs to hire somebody who can manage this stuff, or else find somebody in the organization who knows how to manage this stuff and put her in charge of it.

    I don’t fault DJ and the rest for not knowing how to do it. I don’t know how to do that shit. I’d be terrible at anything even vaguely HR-ish. That’s why, somewhere roundabouts a few thousand years ago, people came up with the idea of “specialization”, where people get paid to do what they are good at, and pay other people to do what they are bad at or don’t want to do.

    Forget anything about the incident; the bare fact that the response from JREF about Monopod Guy has been along the lines of “Oh yeah, I kinda remember that”, as opposed to “Yes, here’s the incident report, here’s how it was resolved, any questions?”, that alone is a problem.

  2. eric says

    I think one lesson learned is the value of getting information out to the public. Specifically, even if conference-organizers have a limited ability to prevent someone coming on the property and harassing con-goers, they should at least inform folk of such events.

    I likened this in another post to finding out there was a robbery near the hotel. There may not be much the conference organizers can do about those. Its really in the hands of police and hotel security. I’m okay with that. But the organization does have in their power and should tell their con-goers that there was a robbery near the hotel. IMO that’s part of your responsibility as an event manager. Likewise with harassment and harassment policies: I’m not going to blame the organization if they don’t have the ability to put a stop to it altogether. I AM going to blame them if they don’t notify the con-goers of relevant incidents that occur around the con.

  3. Robert (SeraphymC) says

    Let me start by saying that a reasonable and well formed anti-harassment policy considers any honest attempt to report harassment to be through “Official” channels. It shouldn’t matter who you report to, or if you filled out the right form. If there aren’t multiple ways to report it, then your harassment policy sucks.

    If you ever say “well, it didn’t count because” then your harassment policy sucks.

    (I realize we could concoct a fictious example that proves this wrong, but here in the real world, this is how real anti-harassment policies work).

  4. says

    Let’s start with some statements:

    Harassment happens.

    It’s underreported.

    When it’s reported, the reporters are treated like they’re making it all up. Invariably.

    Yes? No?

  5. Pteryxx says

    Jason: not “invariably”, see Elyse and Skepticamp Ohio for one positive example; but commonly. (And that was just the *official* response – commenters and others haven’t been so supportive.)

  6. screechy monkey says

    I keep being amazed at what an own-goal this is by the JREF.

    Prior to DJ’s recent comments, I’m not aware of anyone singling out TAM as having been problematic. If anything, TAM was usually praised for having brought in more women speakers and being (one of) the first skeptical conventions to actually announce a harassment policy.

    I’m still not aware of anyone claiming that TAM has more harassment than other conventions (I believe all of the FtB bloggers who participated in the video discussion declined to make such an argument), but there is now a serious question as to whether the JREF is inclined and/or equipped to handle such incidents properly. Which, in the long run, could lead to TAM really being “worse.”

    As bad as DJ’s initial “blame the bloggers” pronouncements were, I think his “no sexual harassment at TAM” claim has been worse for the JREF. I was willing to give DJ a pass on the dispute with Ashley Miller, because I could see how perhaps DJ wasn’t aware of the sexual harassment component of Mr. Winebreath’s behavior, and since at least prompt action was taken. But there’s simply no way that any reasonable person could hear — and read, as there was a written report — the reports of “Monopod Man” and not construe it as an allegation of sexual harassment.

    Which means that DJ either (1) lied when making his claim; or (2) had forgotten about it. Obviously, (1) would be pretty awful behavior from a so-called leader. But (2) isn’t much better. If the JREF gets very very few such reports, you would think it would stick out in DJ’s memory (especially since it was reported to him personally). But such things shouldn’t be a matter of one person’s memory to begin with — that’s why you should have procedures for following up on reports after the event.

  7. says

    [jamessweet]: the response from JREF about Monopod Guy has been along the lines of “Oh yeah, I kinda remember that” …

    Wait, someone from JREF issued an statement on this particular issue? I thought they had gone into full stealth mode.

  8. jamessweet says

    Wait, someone from JREF issued an statement on this particular issue? I thought they had gone into full stealth mode.

    I might be wrong on that… I thought Grothe had at least said something about it, but maybe I am making that up.

    In any case, that of course only strengthens my point. If they were doin it rite, then this should be a simple matter of pulling up a document.

    I don’t entirely blame them for doin it rong, because, you know, I myself suck at that kind of thing. If I were in charge of running a major skeptics conference, there would most definitely be no such log. But you know, like I say, that’s why you hire people to do stuff like that…

    I keep being amazed at what an own-goal this is by the JREF.

    Prior to DJ’s recent comments, I’m not aware of anyone singling out TAM as having been problematic. If anything, TAM was usually praised for having brought in more women speakers and being (one of) the first skeptical conventions to actually announce a harassment policy.

    Yep. Huge screw-up.

    I’m still not aware of anyone claiming that TAM has more harassment than other conventions

    I am hearing a little bit of rumblings here and there that the atmosphere at TAM is a bit more freewheeling in regards to this sort of thing.. not that I would know.. but a) nobody’s really making a strong claim to this effect, and b) nobody was even rumbling in that direction before DJ’s disastrous shoot-the-messenger post.

  9. says

    James’ point is an excellent one.

    I have a job where sexual harassment complaints are made regularly. When they are made, the first step is to ask the person making the complaint to put it in writing. The next step is investigation, including giving the alleged offender an opportunity to tell his or her own side in writing. Some complaints turn out to be unsubstantiated.

    Following investigation, if the complaint is substantiated and it is the first regarding a particular offender, an opportunity is provided — if the victim agrees — for the victim and the offender to meet with a mediator present to attempt to resolve the problem. Subsequent acts of harassment by a particular offender are dealt with in a more punitive manner.

    In each case, substantiated or not, documentation exists and can be found. That may take some effort; things can get chaotic in a middle school.

    If we can document 9 months worth of harassment reports a year, JREF can damn well document a weekend’s worth. If that is too great a burden then harassment at TAM is a problem of monumental proportions and we should be talking about it even more.

  10. astro says

    Maybe it’s just time to jettison these older skeptics organizations. They were formed in the days of innocence where alien abductions and bigfoot were the fare. The new atheism, the one whose focus is on pressing social issues and civil liberties and secularism is maybe too new for the old crew. These issues coupled with my atheism is what drew me to FTB and those of similar bents. I couldn’t give a fuck about Bigfoot and Aliens even if I wanted to. They’re trying, but given the young groups of people that constitute the SSA and the inevitable organizations that will spring from those post -college, orgs like TAM and Skepticon are gonna come under some serious competition from folks with a better, more prescient product for sale. It is in TAM’s best interest fix this pronto.

  11. screechy monkey says

    As to what the JREF should do now, I’m probably repeating what a lot of others have said, but:

    1) Hire an experience HR consultant (the JREF probably isn’t big enough to justify a full-time in-house HR person) to develop proper policies and procedures.

    2) Apologize for making claims that weren’t true (the “no incidents on my watch!” claim) and claims that weren’t backed by sufficient evidence (that a drop in registration by women was due to particular bloggers). It should be possible to save some face by emphasizing that even the JREF’s critics seem to agree that TAM is not particularly problematic, without turning it in to a “notpology.” Promise in the future to be more prudent about making such accusations, especially towards people who have been good allies and supporters of the JREF.

    3) Educate DJ on communication strategies. In today’s environment, it’s good for an organization’s president to be accessible online without having every single tweet or comment be vetted and turned into a press release. But you can’t do things — like (a) reveal a major weakness (declining registration by women) in your showcase event; (b) attack your supporters and allies; and (c) make factual representations regarding serious issues — without some internal discussion with your new Communications Director. And if you do screw up, you need to fix it right away rather than digging deeper or withdrawing from the conversation entirely.

  12. says

    There should be at least one ombudsperson walking around with bright yellow badges. This person or persons are the first people to talk to if you are uncomfortable or concerned or fearful in any (almost) way. They can then direct you to the appropriate people. Someone stole your bag? Hotel security. You’re feeling harassed? They talk to you, help you fill out a report and possibly get you in touch with conference organizers. Then they, or someone who’s more in charge of this part, talks to the harassers, even if that’s just, “Hey, you didn’t mean to do this, but that kind of behavior isn’t being taken well.” That’s the go-to person, and they know what all the resources and appropriate actions are.

  13. ischemgeek says

    I’d say they should educate everyone working with them on how to respond to a complaint of sexual harrassment and adopt the attitude that any report to anyone working/volunteering for them should be treated as a report through proper channels. If it’s not your job to deal with it, by all means, hand it off, but hand it off personally, don’t just say “not my job, go away.”

    And saying, “You should go see [person] about that,” is in effect just a more polite way of saying “not my job, go away.” Because the complaintant might not know who [person] is, where to find [HR person], or feel entirely comfortable with divulging everything again to another complete stranger. And if any of the above apply, the complaintant might walk away feeling that you don’t give a shit and/or are stonewalling them.

    And speaking as someone who’s been involved in this sort of situation, it takes all of maybe two minutes to handle it properly. First, say, “Come with me. I’ll take you to [person], who can help you with that.”

    Second, lead [Complaintant] to [person].

    Third, say, “Hi, [person]? I have [Complaintant] here who had a problem with [brief description of incident]. [Complaintant], are you okay with me leaving you with [person] so [person] can help you with this? If you prefer, I can stay.”

    It takes about 2 minutes to do the above, and makes the difference between someone feeling stonewalled and someone feeling like you not only took them seriously but also gave a damn. And unless you’re a witness, your involvement can (and usually does) end right there.

    As a note, [person] here refers to the person whose job it is to investigate and deal with such matters. I originally had it as HR person, then remembered at my workplace, HR only deals directly if the situation is a really serious one or if the harrasser is making a habit of it.

  14. sisu says

    Maybe it’s just time to jettison these older skeptics organizations. They were formed in the days of innocence where alien abductions and bigfoot were the fare. The new atheism, the one whose focus is on pressing social issues and civil liberties and secularism is maybe too new for the old crew. These issues coupled with my atheism is what drew me to FTB and those of similar bents. I couldn’t give a fuck about Bigfoot and Aliens even if I wanted to.

    I agree with this statement 100%. If people want to believe in bigfoot, fine with me. I’m busy over here trying to make sure my public schools teach science and that the anti-marriage amendment on the ballot in November is voted down. Those are the kind of issues that affect my life, and those of my kids and my friends and my family, way more than someone else’s cryptozoology beliefs.

  15. says

    If anyone hasn’t seen The Century of the Self, a brilliant BBC documentary by Adam Curtis, I suggest you go to this link – http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6111922724894802811 – and start it at 26:20, and see what happens when there are no official channels for people to go to and be taken seriously when they’re being harassed, controlled, dominated, intimidated, or otherwise having their personal freedom and happiness destroyed by the will of another person: nothing happens. They continue to be miserable, and those willing to be cruel, underhanded, or perhaps even brutal, are all elevated to dominance in whatever society you’re talking about. Ours, in this case.

    I have tended to stay out of this whole debate entirely, most of the time, because of… you know, I was about to say how unnecessary it was, but I’m clearly wrong about that; obviously, this conversation needed to be had, and I’m glad it’s happening, and in the long run we’re all gonna get it right. You’ll see. Humans fuck up all the time, but when we really give a shit, we work our asses off and make beautiful things happen.

    In the meantime, apparently people have a problem with there being official channels at events, which is what this boils down to: when there is a problem, this is how to deal with it. For dog’s sake, people, we are organizing a bunch of picky little aspie-courting infants here. These conferences are made up of scientists, nerds, ideologues (yes, we have ideologues among us, just like everyone else – The Amazing Atheist, for instance, and even PZ could be considered a zealot if he wasn’t right about every damn thing that I’m aware of him having an opinion on), and while we are all dedicated to reason and rationality as our fundamental human ideal (You think we’ve got no fucking principles? Fuck you.), we are not reasonable or rational.

    We are not. We are all completely irrational a thousand times a day, about every damn thing, from what kind of sugar water we drink for an afternoon pickup (try to make a Coke drinker switch) to driving cars (a completely irrational activity in 99% of the instances where a car is used). For thousands of years, our survival depended on us cleaving loyally to group dogma. You don’t just get over that in a couple of decades. It really is not that far a stretch to assume that some of us are going to be irrational about our most basic survival urge – procreation – and that we need to have policies and procedures in place to deal with the problem. Because that’s how rational people do things: they think ahead and plan how to deal with *inevitable* problems.

    The Amazing Atheist can’t stop himself from being a pompous windbag (damn shame he’s wearing our team jersey though); some others can’t stop themselves from being inappropriate in other ways. It’s going to happen, and is in fact likely to happen more among our group than most, because women that openly identify as atheist are like unicorns, and every lonely science-loving geek at these conferences will be drawn to every one he sees like some kind of unpleasant metaphor I’d rather not employ, and in that pheromone-drenched atmosphere of rutting bull scientists, things can get chaotic. Sometimes shit happens and people lose their cool. It’s just how it goes, but when they do, those people gotta go.*

    Anyways… I’m kind of disillusioned right now, I think like most people. We have a lot more assholes among us than I thought. My thought is that every conference head should use their own faculties, talk to as many people as necessary to genuinely represent all possible voices, and just adopt a policy, and announce this yesterday. No matter what policy is adopted, no matter how it’s worded, every conference organizer will hear the howls of whoever gets butthurt about it, and *someone* *will* get butthurt. So just adopt the policy (cause they’re all basically the same), stand by the deicision, let the howls subside, and get back to the business of building our community.

    *I mainly included this bit for levity (and maybe that’s not appropriate yet), and because I love to use the phrase “rutting bull scientists”. I don’t mean to sound irreverent, but among my close female friends of a skeptical bent, I have pointed out the irony of all these women complaining when men are FINALLY starting to lust after them for their brains instead of their bodies. Men are very confused by women.

  16. Wendy Cohoon says

    Sexual harassment is against the law, isn’t it? Why would a legitimate complaint be reported to organizers and/or security and not to the police to investigate; isn’t that what the police are for? It boggles my mind every time I hear about harassment and even rape on campuses etc and the police are not called. That is who I would be calling first. I have no concern about an organizations reputation it really has nothing to with them unless it is one of their employees. They can’t be responsible for every person in a public event.

    Maybe it is your legal system that needs to be changed. In Canada if a complaint is made, police are expected to investigate and if certain claims cannot be immediately proved or disproved then the police are responsible for placing charges against the individuals and it is then up to the courts to decide. Individuals are not responsible for placing charges once a complaint is made it is up to the police. I believe some of the states do the same type of thing for spousal abuse.

    I realize that it is a farther nuisance to follow through and make sure that something is done, but at some point responsibility should be beyond just making a complaint and handing it off to organizers or security. I’d be insisting on seeing the images on that camera myself. Get angry, get involved. Make sure your complaint is put in writing. Refusing to attend an event the next time around doesn’t hurt an abuser it hurts the majority of good people who look forward to seeing you at the event.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to have to go through security checks like at the airports just to attend an event, or have to fill out a myriad of legal forms and checks to attend an event. What can organizers do, aside from investigate, and if monopod guy truly was innocently carrying his camera in a stupid way but proved beyond doubt to security that this was the case, why should his name be logged in to a report, especially if there was no follow through from the complainants. What more can organizers do?

  17. says

    Whatever JREF is going to do about this year’s harassment policy, they should make sure someone other than DJ is going to be in charge of it. Whether the report about monopod guy was lost or was just so unimportant to DJ that he forgot about its existence, he no longer deserves the trust needed to be responsible for upholding any anti-harassment program.

  18. jamessweet says

    Sexual harassment is against the law, isn’t it?

    No, not really. Or, more precisely, depending on the jurisdiction, what would qualify as criminal harassment is generally a subset of what a reasonable private organization (such as a workplace or a conference or what have you) is generally going to want to police in terms of harassment.

    (very mild trigger warning)

    If I go up to a woman in a bar and say, “Hey, that’s a really nice pair of tits you got there,” and she says, “Fuck you, asshole,” and that’s the end of the exchange, then almost certainly no crime has been committed, at least not in most any jurisdiction in a modern secular democracy. The bar might choose to throw me out if the woman complains. And if I did it repeatedly to the same woman, or otherwise subjected her to sustained harassment, in general that would rise to the level of criminal harassment (the applicable statute varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally speaking, if somebody asks you multiple times to leave them the hell alone and you don’t, that’s usually a misdemeanor).

    On the other hand, if I go up to one of my office mates and say, “Hey, that’s a really nice pair of tits you got there,” well, I probably wouldn’t get fired for a first offense… But I’d be in some seriously deep shit with HR. And I think we’d all agree that would qualify as sexual harassment, even if I only did it once and stopped when asked to.

    So no, I would not generally say that sexual harassment is illegal. Some harassment rises to the level of criminality (depending on the jurisdiction), but if the bar that event organizers are going to set for tolerable behavior is “as long as it’s (barely) legal”, well… that’s not very awesome.

  19. Greta Christina says

    Sexual harassment is against the law, isn’t it? Why would a legitimate complaint be reported to organizers and/or security and not to the police to investigate; isn’t that what the police are for?

    Wendy Cohoon @ #19: First of all, not all incidents of sexual harassment at conferences rise to the level (or sink to the level, I guess I should say) of criminal behavior. Conference organizers nevertheless have the right, and indeed the obligation, to create an anti-harassment policy that makes conference attendees (other than the harassers, obviously) feel welcome and safe — including creating and enforcing rules against behavior that falls short of criminal but that nonetheless should not be tolerated.

    Second: Even when harassment does sink to the level of criminal, there are myriad reasons why harassment victims don’t always want to report it to the police. Police are often sexist, they don’t take sexual harassment seriously, and engage in blaming the victim. Police are sometimes corrupt, and are more concerned about (for instance) a hotel’s reputation than enforcement of the law. Reporting to the police, and the ongoing process this often entails, often involves further trauma and re-living of the incident. Reporting to anyone, police or otherwise, often results in a shitstorm of hostility aimed at the victim. (Anyone else want to chime in on this topic? My battery is about to run out of juice.)

    Third: Even when harassment does sink to the level of criminal, and reporting to the police is appropriate and the victim is willing to do it, why should the choice be “report to the police OR the conference,” as opposed to, “report to the police AND the conference”? The conference organizers have a responsibility to create an environment that is safe and welcoming. It is their moral responsibility, and it may even be their legal responsibility.

    Analogy: If there were a known purse-snatcher at a hotel where a conference was being held, of course the police should be informed — but the conference should also be informed, so they can take appropriate action, such as warning conference attendees and stepping up their own security measures. And if one of the conferences attendees were the suspected purse-snatcher, and there were observations and reports of them snatching purses, of course the conference should keep a written record — even if it turns out later that the report was a misunderstanding and the person in question was really just running with their friend’s purse to give it to another friend.

    If you want to know why it’s important to have these reports in place, or what it is that some of us expect organizers to do, read this. It was linked to in #1 above.

  20. says

    I’m curious as to why DJ chose to draw this line in the sand. It’s not like implementing a policy would be expensive. You can lift one from some other convention and add it to the written materials given to staff for almost nothing. It also wouldn’t have negatively impacted the convention unless they chose a really stupid procedure, but as I said above, other conventions have already done the hard work of figuring out good policy. It sounds like he decided to focus on the issue of whether he had done a good job and giving an inch was like admitting he hadn’t.

  21. says

    The JREF has a communications director again, which is an excellent first step. Perhaps her primary duty will be to keep DJ from sticking his feet in his mouth. That is one thing that must be done. I have some concerns about her background, but that is neither here nor there.

    What is also clear is that the JREF needs somebody to do the hard work of acting as the equivalent of an HR director for TAM and the JREF’s outreach programs. I don’t think DJ is equipped to do this job based on his performance. From all reports except for his own, Monopod Guy should be on a persona-non-grata list for TAM, but he claims that DJ never even discussed his behavior, and that he has helped with past TAMs.

    Another serious move forward would necessarily involve DJ telling the MRAs and their enablers that their help is not wanted. We can’t bring those who have been turned off by the JREF’s missteps if their strongest defenders are working hard at intimidating and silencing the victims of harassment. Maybe we even need a speaker at TAM who can give a talk about the science behind many of the concerns that have been brought up by feminists in the skeptic movement. Clearly, some could use it.

  22. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    For dog’s sake, people, we are organizing a bunch of picky little aspie-courting infants here.

    Not. Acceptable.

  23. jamessweet says

    Second: Even when harassment does sink to the level of criminal, there are myriad reasons why harassment victims don’t always want to report it to the police. Police are often sexist, they don’t take sexual harassment seriously, and engage in blaming the victim. Police are sometimes corrupt, and are more concerned about (for instance) a hotel’s reputation than enforcement of the law.

    I don’t disagree with any of this, but I want to add to this point: In addition, even when police are doing their jobs exactly right, there are very good reasons for them to exercise a lot more restraint than, say, a conference organizer or the management of a hotel might. In most modern secular democracies, we have (quite rightly!) decided that the law should give people very broad leeway in how they are allowed to act, and especially in regards to what they are allowed to say. I don’t want to sound too libertarian here*, but there are good reasons why we don’t want to give government (or their agents) too much power over what private citizens are allowed to do and say.

    This comes at a cost of having the law tolerate certain behaviors that are just plain bad. Like in my previous example, making a (single) unsolicited lewd comment to a woman in a bar. That kind of behavior is not okay, but I also don’t really want to live in a world where the police can arrest me for that kind of behavior. At the same time, I don’t really want to work at a company where that kind of behavior is tolerated. Conferences probably fall somewhere in the middle, but closer to the workplace side of things. Hopefully the difference is clear.

    * I confess that ideologically I have a lot of libertarian ideals. I basically think that, all other things being equal, people should be allowed to do what they freakin’ feel like. As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve realized all other things are not equal, and have abandoned anything even remotely resembling libertarianism as hopelessly impractical. I admit that my ideological sympathies remain, however.

  24. Kevin says

    I promise this isn’t a thread derail — but is MP’s behavior (real or imagined) actually harassment? I’m not sure that it is, and therefore has implications for harassment policies.

    Seems to me that anyone wishing to take upskirt photos would do so surreptitiously. As far as I’m aware, half the “fun” (titillation value) for these folks is for the victim to not realize what’s happened.

    I agree that it’s a form of assault – akin to being watched by a Peeping Tom. But I’m not sure that’s “harassment”. Might boil down to how to define “harassment”. For me, it’s an unwanted intrusion into someone else’s personal/sexual space that bothers them.

    In any event — and here’s where it does get precisely on point — any policy that TAM or any other group comes up with will need to be broad enough to deal with issues like this. It can’t just be “some guy groped me” or “some guy keeps asking me to have ‘coffee’ with him.” It has to cover those things that, quite frankly, you cannot even imagine occurring. Because they will. And if the policy is hyper-specific, you’ve got a problem.

    Someone with mirrors on his shoes trying to see womens’ underwear is definitely creepy — but if the victim is unaware of the crime, what then? A third party report should be sufficient, but if a policy requires something else…I don’t know how you can reasonably react to such situations.

    Here’s the conundrum: First degree harassment is unwanted groping/physical contact. Second degree harassment is unwanted advances/verbal contact. Third degree harassment is … what exactly? Being creepy?

    I think that’s a big issue. Because a lot of “gray area” behavior is going to be in the latter category. Is just staring at a woman’s chest creepy enough to get someone ejected? Probably the answer is “depends”. And if the policy doesn’t allow for those “depends” moments, you’ve got an ineffective policy.

  25. jamessweet says

    @Kevin: Have you ever worked at a company with a strong anti-harassment policy?

    I can assure you that these sorts of hypotheticals don’t really become that much of an issue. I definitely do not walk around in constant fear of having some innocent comment being misinterpreted as harassment. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could throw in a dumb blonde joke here or there in a meeting, and probably not get busted for it as long as I didn’t do it habitually. And I work at a company whose harassment policy is award-winning.

  26. says

    There will ways be borderline cases. That’s part of why a policy is so important. Otherwise, people are just guessing about where the line is on a case-by-case basis.

  27. julian says

    just wanted to touch on this from the old thread

    The phrase “he’d be walking around pointing a camera up people’s skirts” takes as fact the point that this man has indeed been pointing a camera up people’s skirts.

    This is pedantry to an absurd degree. It’s the same thing that the other lawyerly commenter kept going off about. (The one who insisted it was unreasonable to say Mr. X had been walking with his camera in crowds because no one reported that.)

    Yes we should be careful when we describe events, actions and situations we have heard about. We should always bear in mind how much we can confidently say and what our sources are. And whatever my frustration right now, I do appreciate this as it helps me stay (a little more at least) honest by requiring to look at the situation again.

    But, to be frank, come off it. Seriously, the man was walking around people with a camera at the end of a stick hanging around his ankles. It would have to have been pointing in the general direction of up a woman’s skirt at some point because of where it was.

    Which is (one reason) hotel staff would ask someone in such a situation to find a different way to carry their camera.

  28. says

    I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once. And that includes a case where there was a video of the assault where the victim was clearly so intoxicated as to be unable to move—some people thought she was dead—and the rapists assaulted her so badly she peed herself. That girl was called a liar and the usual cries of “more evidence needed” were issued, resulting in at least one and possibly two hung juries before they could get a conviction. Women are considered guilty until proven innocent, and the trick is that there’s no level of proof sufficient to win the argument with the “skeptics”.

    Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for, but that’s true of many stereotypes that, no matter how ludicrous they are when you really look at them, are nonetheless widely believed. It’s also cross-cultural, thus the Muslim religious rule about rape not being believable without four male witnesses.

    Of course, the problem is that disbelieving accounts of rape and harassment as your initial stance is basically giving permission to rapists and harassers. Most of them know well enough to wait until they’re alone with the target to get aggressive. They know that when both they and the target walk away, the person whose account is given the benefit of the doubt—even past the point of ludicrousness—is theirs.

  29. says

    Does anyone recall DJ saying in an earlier comment on an earlier thread (possibly the one with the infamous denial) that they received a report about *potential* harassment that hadn’t quite happened yet? I cannot find it now, but it sounded like it could be about what happened to Lee. Either way, though, it sounds like he might be using a fairly narrow definition of sexual harassment, which probably could be seen as moving the goalposts, or at least unfairly making them narrower.

  30. scenario says

    I’m more concerned with what are they going to do next time. Management screwed up big time. Give a half assed apology, I don’t care as long as they fix it for next time. The proposed rules make sense and give the organizers some flexibility if needed.

    Of course there has to be some kind of investigation if there is an accusation. But this is a private event, not a government event. You can throw people out for breaking the rules.

    If 3 or 4 people make an accusation, its likely to be true. Especially if they are unconnected with each other. With cell phone cameras everywhere, there may even be a video of the incident.

    I would think most incidents would end up with a warning. If someone does something bad enough to get thrown out there’s probably going to be enough evidence to justify it. It’s not a court of law. You don’t have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. I agree there is way too much goal post moving. If the courts had to go by the proposed rules, that some posters have given, no one would ever get convicted of anything

  31. Daniel Schealler says

    My overall impression of this has been that JREF hasn’t committed to anti-harassment properly.

    They have a policy, which is great.

    But what has become clear is that they don’t have sufficient (perhaps don’t have any) processes in place around recording and reporting of harassment claims.

    That’s not good enough – but it’s also easy to see (from my end) how that could be overlooked in the eagerness to pat themselves on the back for having such a great anti-harassment policy and for getting the rate of female attendance up in previous years.

    I suspect the JREF is suffering from a bit of groupthink in this area: “We don’t need a process of recording and reporting harassment claims because we have an anti-harassment policy and our female numbers were up in previous years. There must be some other reason why our female attendance is down – it’s someone else’s fault. Mistakes were made, but not by us. Oh look, we have some critics over there that are getting a lot of attention. It must be their fault.”

    Couple that with a heavy dollop of: “We’re the skeptics, and therefore rational and clear-thinking. So we can’t be wrong. So our critics must have something wrong with them – no need to engage with their arguments, they must just be trying to harm our movement. They should stop doing that, and we should tell them so.”

    That’s my suspicion as to where all this is coming from. It’s not good enough, but it’s an explanation that (to me) fits. Even skeptics aren’t immune to bias.

    I think that what needs to happen is that a process needs to be designed around effective recording and reporting of harassment cases. DJ shouldn’t be expected to be familiar with all harassment issues. To go further, I don’t think DJ should be expected to remember all harassment cases (although he should remember that it happened, at least once).

    But I do think that DJ should delegate someone to put together processes and policies such that DJ can press a button somewhere and get an executive overview report of the harassment claims that have taken place over any given time period, as well as other relevant search criteria. He needs to put systems in place so as to arm himself with good information. And these systems need to be robust and reliable enough that his confidence in the system is justified.

    Mistakes will sometimes happen and incidents will sometimes fall through the cracks. But that might be forgivable up to a point so long as the system is in place and efforts are made to improve it any time a gap in the system is noticed.

    I’d recommend an IT solution (obviously) as that’s my job. But in the short run an effective job could be done with email, excel, and hand-filled paper reports.

  32. says

    I’m curious. Has TAM released any information at all on their procedures for taking reports and keeping records? The only reference I’ve heard about information gathering was about the exit questionnaire.

    Do they have any such established procedures at all? Given the number of incidents that have fallen through the cracks, I’m somewhat doubtful.

  33. Greta Christina says

    I promise this isn’t a thread derail — but is MP’s behavior (real or imagined) actually harassment? I’m not sure that it is, and therefore has implications for harassment policies.

    Kevin @ #28: ?????

    Are you saying that taking upskirt photos of women without their knowledge would not constitute a violation of any sane and rational sexual harassment policy/ code of conduct?

  34. screechymonkey says

    I think Kevin is trying to make some technical point along the lines of “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there, does is make a sound?” by suggesting that if the “victim” never knows that the photo has been taken, she hasn’t been harmed and therefore, without subjective harm or discomfort, there’s no harassment.

    I think that is a derail, and not a terribly interesting one. Because even if we grant the premise that there’s no harm done if the victims never find out, so what? Lots of times they will find out, during or after the fact.

    We’re not going to give a blessing to disgusting conduct because maybe, arguably, it might not cause harm if the perpetrator commits the perfect crime. It’s a little like asking if it was a bad thing if I drove home drunk last night but arrived safely — hey, nobody got hurt, right?

    And it has no implications I can see for harassment policies, because by definition those policies are only going to come into play if someone HAS complained, i.e. we’re not in the “perfect crime” scenario.

  35. says

    @Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven:

    Apologies for offense – I am not myself an aspie, but I have friends who are, and other friends with autistic children, and none of us consider the use of aspie in this slangy fashion offensive – it just refers to the odd-by-conventional-standards behavior of people with that kind of brain.

    There’s no hate behind the word’s use – indeed, I have a lot of friends, good people, whose odd behaviors put people off, and am constantly frustrated and dismayed watching their difficulty relating to norms (another word we throw around casually). What really disheartens me is when I think about things I’ve seen friends of mine do, with only good intent, and watched it blow up in their face – I think about putting them in the wrong social situation, their words or actions being misunderstood, and thinking about the possible results once tempers get involved. This, more than reason, is why we *need* policies in place for this, and why fighting against that idea is so insane; it gives everyone, victim and alleged perpetrator alike, a safe process by which to deal with the situation, whatever it turns out to be.

    Anyways, I didn’t consider the much wider audience than usual (for me) that Greta’s comment section would have, and who would be reading it; on facebook, it’s only people who know me that get to hear my pontifications, so I sometimes forget when I step out here that I’m in the wilds and am a bit freer with my words than I otherwise would be.

    So again, I apologize if that came across as hateful. But it’s a good example of how easy it is to unintentionally erect walls within this community – since we have no holy books to quote or altars to bow in front of, we have more easy ways to disagree amongst ourselves than we can even calculate. Sometimes I need to summon my courage just to open my mouth at all, because there’s so many people who will read my words with no context as to who I am, what I stand for, what occupies my thoughts in idle moments, etc., and yet it’s only by our speaking that the community exists in the first place, so here we are.

    Cheers.

  36. 'Tis Himself says

    JREF has only part of a sexual harassment policy. They’ve got a written policy (which I haven’t been able to find, so I can’t comment on it) but they’ve got no implementation system for this policy.

    There are professional consultants in this field. JREF should hire one to (a) establish a policy, (b) set up a support system for the policy, and (c) train people (including DJ Grothe) on the policy and its implementation. Furthermore this entire arrangement should be both visible and transparent. Then maybe JREF will be able to regain some credibility.

  37. says

    I think that is a derail, and not a terribly interesting one. Because even if we grant the premise that there’s no harm done if the victims never find out, so what? Lots of times they will find out, during or after the fact.

    Even if they never do, I’m not sure it makes it much better. Consider the situation (unfortunately not so uncommon) of a dude groping a woman who’s sleeping or passed out.
    I guess one could argue that if she never finds out, she doesn’t suffer for it, but is there really anybody who would claim that such an act would be OK simply because the woman never finds out?

    Another example might be a person who hacks into your computer and steals personal information about you. Obviously, using such information, revealing it to others or committing identity theft, would be illegal.
    However, if the hacker never revealed it, but only kept it for his own pleasure, would that magically make the act legal?

    Obviously not. In both cases, the fact that the victim is unaware of the crime and does not directly suffer for it is irrelevant. It’s still wrong.
    I don’t see what’s so special about voyeurism that this standard should suddenly be suspended.

  38. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Jimmy: The problem isn’t the use of the word “aspie,” it’s the use of the word “aspie” in that sentence. It’s the assocation of ASD traits immediately with various dismissive pejoratives, and more broadly with harassing behavior. It evokes a particular canard – scapegoating people with genuine social difficulties for sexual harassment and other PREDATORY ENTITLEMENT behaviors – that has plagued this entire discussion since at least elevatorgate and is very, very annoying as well as a derail.

  39. says

    And, if I can add a comment on the tail end, not only does it tar people with autism spectrum disorders, it also allows true predators to hide behind “I’m just socially awkward”.

  40. Daniel Schealler says

    And, if I can add a comment on the tail end, not only does it tar people with autism spectrum disorders, it also allows true predators to hide behind “I’m just socially awkward”.

    Socially awkward?

    So was Voldemort.

    :P

    (New variation on Godwin’s Law)

    Seriously though: I always resent the kind of justification that uses the perspective of the aggressor to excuse imposing negatively on the perspective of another. It’s ass about face.

    I do think that intent and background are valid parts to be considered… But they can never be excuses. Mitigating factors, maybe, if the context is right. But never an actual excuse.

  41. C Rowan says

    FRom Kevin @ 28:
    Someone with mirrors on his shoes trying to see womens’ underwear is definitely creepy — but if the victim is unaware of the crime, what then? A third party report should be sufficient, but if a policy requires something else…I don’t know how you can reasonably react to such situations.

    I might be wrong but I didn’t interpret Kevin as derailing or trying to say, “If the victim doesn’t know, then what’s the problem?” I got the impression he was saying the policy would need to address things like people witnessing an assault the victim is unaware of (like peeping tom/upskirt icky stuff). Also, depending on how the policy is worded, there might be hard-to-define problems/solutions.

    Perhaps I’m giving Kevin too much credit but that’s how I interpreted what he wrote.

  42. dandy_lion says

    I was thinking about what kind of harassment policies atheist/skeptic events should have, but realized that I’m limited to only knowing about anime convention harassment policies, so that’s where this comment is coming from. Metrocon, a convention in Florida, has, in my opinion, a great harassment policy that they fully enforce and it is really easy to understand and is in their general policy FAQ, so it is easy to find (I’ll link it below). I think it clearly spells out what is and is not harassment, and also includes the idea that if a person says no, you don’t get to keep hounding them. That is what I like so much about it! It just really is irritating that so much is not depending on the policy but on the enforcement.

    http://www.metroconventions.com/control.cfm?ID=1021

  43. C Rowan says

    dandy_lion @ 47- Yes! Enforcement is key. Also, record keeping… that seems to be one way the JREF dropped the ball this past TAM.

    From your link: Harassment is generally any behavior that intentionally annoys or alarms another person. This includes any unwanted physical contact, following someone around a public area without a legitimate reason, or otherwise infringing on their personal liberties.

    I think a description like this covers victimizing people w/o their knowledge, too. If staff/guests see somebody acting like Monopod Guy on an unsuspecting person , they can report it & get that creep thrown out.

  44. cyranothe2nd says

    I’m curious. Has TAM released any information at all on their procedures for taking reports and keeping records? The only reference I’ve heard about information gathering was about the exit questionnaire.

    Do they have any such established procedures at all? Given the number of incidents that have fallen through the cracks, I’m somewhat doubtful.

    I asked DJ this very thing (on Ashley’s blog, I think) and got chirping crickets for answers. No, I don’t think they have any procedure, which is a real failure on their part.

  45. says

    Greta Christina @22:

    “Police are often sexist, they don’t take sexual harassment seriously, and engage in blaming the victim.”

    Hell, they don’t even take domestic violence seriously. At least not until someone ends up dead.

    I was pretty much told to “calm down and stop provoking” my abuser. BY THE COPS.

  46. dandy_lion says

    Yeah it covers the unintentional stuff and, since I think I remember someone complaining about setting down some ground rules about what things are harassment, it gives pretty damn clear instances of what is considered harassment, but doesn’t limit it to just those things, because it includes making anyone feel uncomfortable. And they totally enforce it. IIRC, this year someone made a report that a man was making her feel uncomfortable and suggesting lewd things about her cosplay outfit and security took her statement and immediately acted on it. It’s the reason I will go to this con, they have shown they care.

  47. Wendy Cohoon says

    I guess I should just be glad that I live in a place where cops like the ones you described are not common and if they were we have avenues to have this type of thing investigated. I would never say there is no corruption here but I still feel safe reporting anything to my local police. I know of domestic cases here where the bully was arrested on the spot. I know of the lengths shelters go to, to provide safety to their tenants.
    Demanding a sexual harassment policy is reasonable before you participate in a gathering where you have knowledge of a history of harassment, but I don’t believe every event is expected to have a policy without knowledge of a problem in the first place. You can’t expect every eventually to be predicted and, again I believe that the majority of people are good intentioned and law abiding. We cannot allow the odd deviant to ruin any event. Most people have cell phones or cameras that can record things, be prepared to press record and then follow through with complaints, letters, blogs etc., and make sure organizers are aware. We also need to take responsibility for changing policy.

    Kevin @28, A person in a skirt should has a reasonable expectation of privacy up her skirt, in a bathroom or a hotel room, whether she is aware of it or not it is wrong! That is no different than those disgusting cases of children’s nude pictures taken at a daycare and then distributed to paedos. The children are unaware of it but a crime is committed against them just the same.

  48. Greta Christina says

    Demanding a sexual harassment policy is reasonable before you participate in a gathering where you have knowledge of a history of harassment, but I don’t believe every event is expected to have a policy without knowledge of a problem in the first place.

    Wendy Cohoon @ #52: If atheist and skeptical conference organizers didn’t know there was a problem with harassment, they sure do now.

    They should have known long before this latest conflagration. They should have known, because sexual harassment is a think that happens fairly often in the world, and that especially happens fairly often at conferences and other large crowded gatherings of relative strangers. Any conference is a gathering where you have knowledge of a history of harassment: if not at that particular conference, then at conferences in general. Every atheist and skeptical conference should have had a harassment policy, with reporting procedures, in place before now. But they definitely don’t have any excuse from here on out.

    As for this:

    We cannot allow the odd deviant to ruin any event.

    I really, really hope you’re not arguing that having a sexual harassment policy with reporting procedures in place would somehow ruin an event. I really hope you understand that having these policies and procedures exist for the exact opposite reason: to make conferences welcome and enjoyable for everyone. (Everyone who isn’t a harasser, anyway.)

  49. jenny6833a says

    From the blog

    … a report of the fact that this person was carrying a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod in a crowd at ankle height, and was therefore strongly suspected of taking upskirt photos of women.

    Sexual harassment certainly exists, but I’m not sure the above qualifies. In my circles, such actions would generate a lot of laughter and maybe a few odd looks, but that would be all.

    I mean, why would anyone care?

  50. dysomniak says

    Oh, look, it’s jennyvictimblamer. So you’ve shown up here to defend the rights of peeping toms now? You are one class act.

  51. Daniel Schealler says

    @jenny6833a

    I had to take a deep breath before replying. Will explain why in a second.

    Now: Perhaps for you and people you know, the camera-at-ankle-height thing wouldn’t be such a big deal. That’s fine. Perhaps even good! I’m glad such things don’t bother you.

    However, just because it’s not a big deal in your experience, doesn’t mean that the experience of others who differ from you is less real, relevant, or important.

    Your comment strongly implies that you don’t think the experiences of those who disagree with you are any of those things. And while I am neither a woman nor a skirt-wearer, I can still personally understand why the notion of having an up-skirt photo taken against my will would be a very upsetting invasion of my privacy – or the notion that it might happen and that I need to be aware of the possibility, taking steps to actively defend myself from it is itself distressing.

    Note that this is also an answer to your question: Because it is a distressing invasion of personal privacy. That’s why someone might care. Well – that’s the reason why I would care, if it were me. Others may have their own and equally valid reasons for being upset. But invasion of privacy is a good place to start as any.

    The reason I had to take a deep breath is because your comment came over thoughtless, casual, and dismissive. It implied – intentionally or not – that there was something wrong with all these people who were upset, because after all, you yourself are so shiny and brilliant as to not be phased by it, therefore nothing is wrong… Right?

    Wrong. If you do not find a given thing upsetting, this does not imply that other people are wrong if they find it upsetting.

    Furthermore: It’s really not that hard to figure out why someone might be upset at a reasonable threat of someone taking an upskirt photo of themselves. Again: I am a cis male and also a non-skirt-wearer. If I can empathize, suffice to say that the bar has been set low. You really should be able to meet it without having the explanation spoon-fed to you.

    The casual dismissive of your comment is insulting, regardless of whether or not it was intentional. Dysomniak is being fair and reasonable to read your comment as a form of victim blaming. I am having to give you an absolute mountain’s worth of generosity and benefit of the doubt in order to assume that there might have been a legitimate question in there.

  52. Greta Christina says

    Re jenny6833a @ #55: In all the discussion and debate that’s gone on about this issue, and in all the monstrous nonsense that’s been said, I had yet to see anyone make the claim that non-consensual upskirt photography wasn’t a problem, and wasn’t worth taking seriously.

    Until now.

    Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

    There is no place in this comment thread — or indeed in this blog — for trolls who think that having intimate photographs taken without one’s knowledge or consent does not qualify as an invasive sexual violation. jenny6833a has been banned.

  53. Erp says

    @52 Wendy

    A sexual harassment policy and implementation method is just one aspect of making the conference enjoyable for as many participants as possible. The same person/people who are responsible for documenting and handling sexual harassment complaints during a conference could also handle and document other complaints and problems (non-sexual harassment [e.g., racial, ethnic, homophobic, religious], complaints about the hotel, etc.).

  54. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    JREF just announced that they’ve hired Carrie Poppy as their new communications director: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1748-dj-grothe.html

    I would think that this means we’ll start seeing more of an organizational response from JREF, so discussions of what they can do now seem quite apt.

    Carrie Poppy is a pretty good choice. She’s intelligent, has terrific non-profit experience and has changed her mind about strongly held beliefs when presented with better evidence. (Which she discusses briefly in the article.) She’s well-spoken, presents well and her podcast is entertaining. Best of all, she seems blessed with a normal amount of human empathy.

    I don’t envy her for for stepping in now and I hope that any small missteps she might make while settling in are dealt with gently. I’m fairly optimistic about having her influnce at JREF and honestly, I never thought I’d say “JREF” and “optimistic” in the same sentence again.

  55. dysomniak says

    Well, it looks like she’s a vegan at least, which scores some points with me. Now let’s see if she can earn her feminist card. Being answerable to the same JREF board that has let DJ run amok for so long I’m not holding my breath.

  56. says

    Policies are worthless unless they form the basis of a contract: the expectation that something effective will be done if the policy is violated. It’s policy along with transparent mechanisms for dealing with violations and honest reporting of how those reports worked out that tend to engender trust.

    What’s missing with JREF at the moment is trust: it’s close to impossible to trust that reports of harassment will be properly dealt with, which is why TAM isn’t a safe place. DJ indignantly waving a harassment policy doesn’t work. His backing down and showing a commitment on recording everything and reporting outcomes – if not details – might go quite a long way to restoring some trust.

    A harassment policy shouldn’t just say what sort of behaviour won’t be tolerated. It should state how people who violate it will be dealt with and how the dignity of the harassed will be preserved. It should point to the procedures that will be enacted when complaints are made and to the history of changes of the policy or the related procedures.

    I haven’t seen the TAM harassment policy but my guess is that it didn’t go into these details. I think it must if JREF is to regain trust.

  57. says

    Gnu Atheism is one of the little boys obsessed with branding Feminism as “dogmatic” and has devoted his radio show to this macho delusion. It does not help the Atheist community to speak in alphabet soup. TAM & JREF… wtf? I worked at the Iowa Civil Rights Commission & complaints need to zero in on smoking guns & eye witnesses, not hear say accounts. I agree no woman should participate in a large conference without posted affirmative action rules & a sexual harassment policy WITH PROCEEDURES & DOCUMENTATION … Having attended Atheist events across the nation since 1978, our Atheist movement has used the excuse of our meager resources for not doing so. With online resources at the finger tips of half or more conference participants now adays, this excuse holds little water. Serve notice on predator males & those rare manipulative females like Ayn Rand that attendees have an instant complaint proceedure in place and witnesses & complainants WILL NAME NAMES

  58. says

    SORRY I’m not geek enough to post a specific modality of policy enforcement: Have a Conference “link” where specific complaints can be instantly recorded. Fill in the blanks cyberforms to cite time, place, perpetrator & complainant with any other witnesses, description of perpetrator if NOT WEARING A NAME TAG, any photographic evidence available & so forth…. INVITE COMPLAINANTS TO TELEPHONE A QUALIFIED INVESTIGATOR about THE COMPLAINT… this can be anyone of sufficient training such as a person like myself who has worked in a legal agency, a large company human resources administrator well coached by legal staff or civil rights enforcement agencies who’s mission it is to help corporations to comply with civil rights law OR A LAWYER member of our Atheist organizations who has evidentiary or prosecutorial experience in civil rights law 843-926-1750 Larry Carter Center … many paralegals are trained in interviewing & evidence gathering… we can survey our membership for such skilled personnel and the effort to array so many people in this committment to end sexual harassment HAS PROVEN OVER TIME TO PRE-EMPT many future perpetrators from feeling free to prey upon women…. it is the perpetrator with the most authority or enjoying isolation from enforcement visible efforts who seek elevators or corners or back rooms to prey

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