Todd Stiefel, atheist activist/ writer/ philanthropist, has written a guest post on Friendly Atheist about sexual harassment policies/ codes of conduct, in which he voices some concerns about some of the specific codes of conduct that have been adopted by some atheist/ skeptical conferences.
I don’t have time or energy today to discuss which parts of Stiefel’s post I agree with and which parts I don’t. What I want to say instead right now is this:
This is a conversation I can have.
1) Stiefel makes it clear that he recognizes the reality of sexual harassment at conferences, takes it seriously, and agrees that action needs to be taken.
2) He accepts the basic principle of having some sort of code of conduct at conferences, and makes it clear that he’s critiquing specific details of some of these codes of conduct — not the very idea of having any code of conduct whatsoever.
3) He praises the codes of conduct in general, and makes it clear that he’s suggesting revisions and improvements.
4) When he presents a critique, he clearly explains why he thinks this particular language is problematic.
5) When he presents a critique, he proposes a specific alternative that would fix the problem he’s addressing.
6) He does not spin off into ad hominem attacks on the people raising the issue, accuse them of group-think or silencing dissent, bring up old disagreements with them that are barely relevant (if at all) to the topic at hand, or say that their online handles are stupid. He does not tell victims of harassment that this isn’t really a big problem, demand absurdly high levels of evidence that their harassment really happened, or blame the people raising the issue for making the community look bad.
7) His tone throughout is clear, calm, reasoned, and respectful.
I agree with some of Stiefel’s specific critiques, and disagree with others. But if you have concerns about codes of conduct at atheist/ skeptical conferences, this is an excellent model for how you might voice them. This is a conversation I can have.