This Is How It’s Done, Round 2: American Atheists Updates Code of Conduct for Conferences

I announced earlier today that American Atheists had adopted a code of conduct for its conferences. One of the thumbs-up points I made was that they are presenting this policy as a living document, open to being changed as needed and in response to feedback.

They have already lived up to this. In response to comments and requests, they have added “gender identity” as a category for anti-harassment. They have now posted the complete, updated conference code of conduct to their website.

Once again, I say: This is how it’s done, people.

This Is How It’s Done: American Atheists Announces Code of Conduct for Conferences

This is how it’s done, people.

American Atheists Logo1) Two days after the discussion of sexual harassment at atheist/ skeptical conferences began, American Atheists president David Silverman posted a tweet, pledging that AA would have a harassment policy before AACON 2013.

2) In crafting this code of conduct, American Atheists consulted professionals.

3) The policy they created is based, in large part, on the code of conduct at the OpenSF polyamory conference, as well as on templates from the ACLU, NOW, and the Geek Feminism wiki. Their intention is to foster conferences that are fun for everyone, and that are both sex-positive and harassment-negative.

4) They presented a draft of the code of conduct in advance to a number of people who have been heavily involved in the public conversations about this issue — including me — and invited us to participate in a conference call to discuss the policy, ask questions about it, and give feedback.

5) They are presenting the policy as a living document, open to being changed as needed and in response to feedback. They are rolling it out at their regional conference in Minnesota.

This is how it’s done, people. Code of conduct after the jump. (This is the original version, as presented before the conference call — the final version may be slightly altered from this.) (UPDATE: They have now posted the complete, updated conference code of conduct to their website, which now includes “gender identity” as a category for anti-harassment.)

Conference Code of Conduct

American Atheists is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion.

We expect participants to follow this code of conduct at all conference venues and conference-related social events.

Yes means yes; no means no; and maybe means no. Please take no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.

We have many different folks attending this conference: sexualities, genders, races, ethnicities, abilities, beliefs—these are just a few. Blatant instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, or other stereotyping and harmful behaviors should be reported to conference staff immediately.

Please do not wear heavy fragrances—including perfumes, colognes, scented shampoos, etc. Some of those attending have allergic reactions to scented products. No one will object to the smell of your clean body!

Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, take conversations and noisy children outside the session room, and move to the center of your row to make room for other attendees.

There are chairs and spaces at the front and back of the room that are marked “reserved.” The front row chairs are reserved for attendees with vision or hearing impairments. The back rows are reserved for attendees with mobility accommodation needs. Please leave these chairs and spaces free throughout the conference for those who may need them.

This conference welcomes families with children and expects all attendees to treat these families with courtesy and respect. Parents or guardians bringing children are responsible for the children’s behavior and are expected to remove disruptive children from the session. Parents or guardians should be aware not all language may be suitable for children.

American Atheists does not tolerate harassment of conference participants, speakers, exhibitors, volunteers, or staff in any form. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Conference participants violating this policy may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference (without a refund) at the discretion of the conference organizers.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/other ID.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

[Email address for organizers]

[Phone number for conference security or organizers]

[Phone number for hotel/venue security]

[Local law enforcement]

[Local sexual assault hot line]

[Local emergency and non-emergency medical]

[Local taxi company]

So Much Wrong, Part 2: thunderf00t and Sexual Harassment

So here’s Part 2 of my new series on thunderf00t’s horrible post about sexual harassment.

As some of you may know, videoblogger thunderf00t has recently joined the Freethought Blogs network — and has weighed in on the conversation about sexual harassment at conferences. Saying, essentially and among many other things, that:

*THIS REALLY ISN’T A BIG PROBLEM*

and that:

Put simply, YES talking about sexual harassment can sometimes be a bigger problem than sexual harassment.

There is so much wrong packed into this one post, I could write an entire novel-length systematically dismantling everything that’s wrong with it. But I don’t have time or energy for that today… and I can’t imagine anyone having it in them to read it anyway. So I’m going to look at one piece of this wrong at a time, until I get bored or otherwise sick of it.

Today’s piece of wrong:

Further it’s my personal experience that sexual harassment affects only a very significant minority of attendees. Indeed I personally know prominent women who went to TAM last year who said from a harassment point of view, it was the cleanest TAM yet (battle fought and game won?). So the full scope of the problem is a minority of a minority. As such do you really think this is the priority target where you will get best bang for your buck in terms of focusing hard won resources, or focusing the attention of the online community?

Where to begin? So much wrong, packed into just one paragraph. [Read more…]

So Much Wrong, Part 1: thunderf00t and Sexual Harassment

As some of you may know, videoblogger thunderf00t has recently joined the Freethought Blogs network — and has weighed in on the conversation about sexual harassment at conferences. Saying, essentially and among many other things, that:

*THIS REALLY ISN’T A BIG PROBLEM*

and that:

Put simply, YES talking about sexual harassment can sometimes be a bigger problem than sexual harassment.

There is so much wrong packed into this one post, I could write an entire novel-length systematically dismantling everything that’s wrong with it. But I don’t have time or energy for that today… and I can’t imagine anyone having it in them to read it anyway. So I’m going to look at one piece of this wrong at a time, until I get bored or otherwise sick of it.

Today’s piece of wrong:

Now first let me say from a strategically point of view sexual harassment at conferences really is a non-issue (and if reading that has just pushed some buttons, I want you to calmly unplug those emotions and put them in a box, then take a deep breath, relax and read the rest of this reasoned argument)… breathing calmly yet? good!, then we can continue….

…… indeed to a large degree the conference scene is mostly redundant. A large conference is a couple of thousand people. In terms of viewership, a mediocre channel such as mine would pull in several tens of thousands of views for a video. Then of course many of these lectures are repeated from conference to conference, and virtually all of them are available online. Put simply if your primary focus is on the conference scene, then in the internet age, it’s probably misplaced.

Where is the wrong? Well, for starters: Nobody is saying that sexual harassment at conferences is the single most serious problem facing the atheist and skeptical communities. Nobody is even saying that conferences are the single most important gathering place, virtual or physical, for the atheist and skeptical communities. Contrary to what thunderf00t seems to think, it is not our primary focus.

It just happens to be what we’re talking about right now. [Read more…]

“Hysteria”: What the New Movie About the Fascinating History of the Vibrator Leaves Out

This piece was originally published on AlterNet.

A romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator. Set in Victorian England. With references to feminism, socialism, class privilege, phone sex, prostitution, harm reduction, science, evidence-based medicine, and steampunk. What could be bad?

A fair amount, unfortunately.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed “Hysteria” quite a bit. I found it funny (generally), charming (usually), intelligent (mostly), and entertaining (often). But I wanted so much more than to just like it. I wanted to love it. I wanted to be shouting about it from the rooftops. I wanted to be stopping strangers on the street, grabbing them by the lapels, and pleading with them to run out and see it right this minute. It was a movie about the invention of the vibrator, for fuck’s sake. I didn’t want to leave the theater thinking, “Yeah, that was pretty good — but it could have been so much better.”

And far too much of what was wanting from the film had to do with its treatment of the central topic — female orgasm. [Read more…]

Atheists at San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade — Pictures!

We had a ball marching with the atheist contingent at the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade yesterday! Lots of love from the crowd — a little hostility here and there, including one woman who Booed us and gave us the thumbs down (who does that at the Pride Parade?), but mostly a lot of cheers and hoots and waves and thumbs-up. Some from people who were clearly cheering and hooting at anything that went by, and would probably cheer and hoot at a contingent of gay exterminators (although come to think of it, that’d be pretty cool, I’d probably cheer and hoot at a contingent of gay exterminators)… but a lot from people who saw our signs, saw who we were, and lit up with happiness. It was awesome. Visibility in action.

Here are pictures. I’d say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but if I really believed that I’d be a photographer and not a writer — and besides, most of these pictures are of signs and T-shirts with words on them. (Even when I take pictures, I take pictures of words.)

One of my very favorite signs. It has an image of a fifties housewife talking on an old-style phone, and it reads: “My son told me today that he is gay. I was so relieved. I thought he was going to tell me he wanted to be a priest or some perverted shit like that!”

More pics below the jump. [Read more…]

Godless Perverts Panel on YouTube!

Back in April, I participated in a super-awesome panel discussion at the Center for Sex and Culture: “Godless Perverts: Atheism and Alternative Sexualities.” The panel was with me, Maggie Mayhem, Charlie Glickman, and Chris Hall, talking about being atheists in the queer, kinky, and alt-sex communities, and taking questions from the audience. The event was very well-received — lots of people there wished it could have been seen by more people, and lots of folks who couldn’t be there said they wished they could have been.

Well, the event is now on YouTube! Not quite the same as being there, but a damn sight better than nothing. Here’s the summary of the event, as it was promoted:

What’s it like to be a queer or kinky atheist? Alt-sex communities might favor calling the goddess or tantric rituals instead of a church revival, but the belief that a spiritual life makes you a better person is as common as in Middle America. The reality is that for nonbelievers, dungeons and Pride Parades can be as unwelcoming as the neighborhoods they grew up in.

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, come join us at the Center for Sex and Culture on Thursday, April 26 for a dynamic conversation exploring the role of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics in alternative sexuality. The panel features Greta Christina, Charlie Glickman, Chris Hall, and Maggie Mayhem speaking about how to be a good perv without God(dess), community attitudes that privilege religious and spiritual beliefs, how science can be ecstatic, what atheists call out when they come, and much more.

And here’s video, in two parts!

Godless Perverts, Part 1:

Godless Perverts, Part 2:

Enjoy!

Fashion Friday: Age and Sex

How can you use the metaphorical language of fashion and style to say, “sexy woman over age fifty”?

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fashion Friday post. It’s not because I’ve lost interest in the subject, or because I’ve run out of fashion topics to write about. Far from it. It’s because I’ve run through the easy, light-hearted topics that I could toss off in an hour (for the time being, anyway), and haven’t had the time or energy to get into the more serious, meaty topics I’ve been chewing over in my head. And it’s because I’ve been putting off one particular serious topic: one I’ve alluded to in passing in several other fashion posts, one I’ve been chewing over for a long time, one I keep promising to write about and keep putting off.

I want to talk about fashion, age, and sex.

I want to talk about how, as a woman over age fifty, I am trying to use fashion to express my sexuality. I want to talk about some of the difficulties I’m running into with this project. I want to talk about some of the ideas I’m chewing over on how to deal with this… and I want to solicit ideas that I might not have thought of.

I’ve written before about how I see fashion and style as a sort of metaphorical language, in which different pieces have different meanings (assigned/ evolved somewhat arbitrarily), which we choose and combine in our own personal style to express who we are and how we see our place in the world. (And no, I don’t want to re-hash that “fashion as metaphorical language” argument here. If you feel compelled to re-hash that argument, do it in the original posts.)

So here’s the situation. I’m a woman. My sexuality is important to me: it’s a central part of my identity, a central part of how I experience myself and my body and how I relate to the world. I have recently turned fifty. I want to express all that, using fashion and style, in how I carry myself in the world.

And I’m finding it difficult to find a way, using the metaphorical language of fashion, to say, “sexy woman over fifty.” [Read more…]

Welcome Cristina Rad and thunderf00t to Freethought Blogs!

Freethoughtblogs has two new bloggers: videobloggers Cristina Rad and thunderf00t, now blogging at… um, at Cristina Rad and thunderf00t. (Apparently they went to the same “how to name your blog” seminar that I did.)

Here’s what they say about themselves in their bios.

Cristina Rad: Romanian Atheist blogger and video maker, Cristina Rad, (cybername ZOMGitsCriss – pronounced “Zoh My God, it’s Criss!”), likes to address the conflicts between secular and religious views, as well as discussions on philosophy, current events and science matters. She is the author of the online published audio-book «The Unreasonable God» and she’s an outspoken supporter of civil rights for gays and lesbians.

thunderf00t: The true beauty of a self-inquiring sentient universe is lost on those who elect to walk the intellectually vacuous path of comfortable paranoid fantasies. -That is all.

Please welcome them, and go say hi!

“Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” – Print Copies Available for Pre-Order at Richard Dawkins Foundation!

My new book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, will be in physical print very soon! And you can pre-order your print copy now, through the Richard Dawkins Foundation bookstore!

The ebook of Why Are You Atheists So Angry? has been available since March — in a Kindle edition on Amazon, a Nook edition on Barnes & Noble, and in multiple formats on Smashwords (including iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, Kindle [.mobi], Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, any other reader that takes the Epub format, Palm Doc (PDB), PDF, RTF, Online Reading via HTML, and Plain Text for either downloading or viewing.)

But lots of people want physical, printed-on-paper, dead-tree copies. They want to give copies to friends and family. They don’t use e-readers. They just prefer physical books. And for all of you, the wait is almost over! Print copies of Why Are You Atheists So Angry? will be landing in July. The official publication date isn’t until fall — but advance copies will be available in July, through Pitchstone Publishing and select atheist organizations. And you can pre-order your copies now through the Richard Dawkins Foundation bookstore, and get yours shipped to you as soon as they hit the ground!

Here is the description, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs. Watch this space for future announcements!

*

Why are atheists angry?

Is it because they’re selfish, joyless, lacking in meaning, and alienated from God?

Or is it because they have legitimate reasons to be angry — and are ready to do something about it?

Armed with passionate outrage, absurdist humor, and calm intelligence, popular blogger Greta Christina makes a powerful case for outspoken atheist activism, and explains the empathy and justice that drive it.

This accessible, personal, down-to-earth book speaks not only to atheists, but to believers who want to understand the so-called “new atheism.” Why Are You Atheists So Angry? drops a bombshell on the destructive force of religious faith — and gives a voice to millions of angry atheists.

Wonderfully flattering blurbs below the jump. [Read more…]