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Jun 01 2012

The DJ Grothe quote that sticks in my craw.

At the end of this comment, DJ Grothe said the following about the “rumors” of harassment at skeptical conferences:

So much of that feels to me more like rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers who are eventually deemed as “skeezy,” and whom they feel should be not allowed to speak at such conferences going forward.

Emphasis mine.

I know everyone else has taken him to task over this quote already. I just want to present a hypothetical in case DJ reads this. It’s entirely fictional, and as far as I know has never actually happened to anyone at any conference.

Let’s say, DJ, that someone — a stranger with whom you’ve had no previous interactions, but perhaps someone you know from the community in a vague and distant sort of way, perhaps because they were a speaker at some other convention or a member of a forum you frequent or are ostensibly responsible for — approached you at a convention. So you have a pretty good idea they have some idea who YOU are, even if you’re not really familiar with them.

Let’s say that this person suggested, entirely jokingly, that you were just tasty enough to eat and that they should taze you, stuff you in the back of a van, drive you to their home and lock you in their basement so they can rape you whenever they wanted. Let’s further say that this person appears to have the physical means to do it, and makes a point of being near enough to you the rest of the evening and tries to catch your eye and smile a toothy, evil grin every now and again.

I hope you’d agree that that scenario would constitute harassment and should be registered as an incident with the folks looking to collect data on harassment incidents. And yet you’re not actually physically harmed and are perfectly intact come the end of the evening, without further incident.

My question to you is: whose “sexual exploits” are those?

63 comments

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  1. 1
    Smhlle

    I’m glad you pulled up this quote. There’s an inconsistency in that someone’s right to proposition everyone s/he sees at a skeptical event is defended by many, yet to speak about attempted or completed sexual activity is unseemly or even “sinful”.

  2. 2
    A. Noyd

    DJ’s remark reminds me so much of the idea that women make up rape accusations when they regret having had consensual sex.

  3. 3
    karmakin

    Is there really anybody who would say that the above scenario is acceptable? Ok, that’s a dumb question, I’m sure that some people might say that, but generally speaking, most non-psychopaths would say that such a statement is beyond the pale.

    I think that A. Noyd’s analysis is much clearer. DJ seems to be bringing up the stigma of “regret rape”, which is a hell of a dogwhistle.

    Still, at the end of the day I think this is an argument that we’re going to lose. Horribly.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    karmakin: how do you figure we’ll lose this argument?

    I don’t intend to lose *anything* without a fight. We know harassment is happening, we know people are claiming that they’ve been harassed and we know the infrastructure for reporting and handling claims is insufficient. Taking these charges seriously might have gotten DJ

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    er. Hit submit early.

    …might have gotten DJ a lot of good will with the self-same women skeptics that are discussing the problem presently, especially in the face of all the harassment they DEFINITELY are receiving from self-proclaimed skeptics online. But he didn’t choose that route. He chose instead to say something that sounds a lot like “you women are just upset that you once had sex with someone that you now don’t like.”

    We know harassment is grossly underreported. So why all the surprise that the numbers don’t match what these women are suggesting? And why the demand for “evidence” for these claims (what, like video evidence? DNA analysis of the handprint on your ass?) when the claims are neither extraordinary, nor the response — solid anti-harassment policies that are taken seriously and practically shoved down everyone’s throats — is perfectly in proportion?

    Oh no. I’m not losing this argument unless these “skeptics” prefer to start throwing down logical fallacies like argumentum ad populum or duelling anecdotes. If we were suggesting slash-and-burn where an speaker caught staring at cleavage becomes persona non grata, sure. We’d be on the wrong side of that. Likewise if we demanded strict dress codes of burkas and beards. But this is HYPERBOLE, from the trollitariat who will not sock-puppet their way to victory. Not as long as I am able to throw down.

    Being a good skeptic doesn’t involve denying everything in the world, especially if there’s good evidence for it. Denying harassment happens is like denying climate change is happening. Hyperskepticism will get us nowhere.

  6. 6
    michaeld

    Yeah.. I had similar thoughts Noyd.

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    BTW: I do think A. Noyd is right, and thought so even before I posted this. What I’d really like is to get clarification that that is NOT what DJ meant. Because if it is…

    Um. If it is, I don’t know what then.

  8. 8
    karmakin

    Jason, it’s not a matter of not having the correct facts, it’s a matter of best presenting the argument, something that I think that by most fronts is being done very clumsily right now. It’s very unclear what the actual goals of this argument are.

    The goal SHOULD be to increase the number of currently marginalized people who feel that because of the general atmosphere of these conferences that they wouldn’t be safe. How can that best be done? By making it “easier” to report potential harassment? To be honest, to expect the person to take time out of a busy conference schedule might be unrealistic and might be a form of victim blaming. Should we set guidelines and then enforce them? We don’t really want to do that, because we don’t want to interfere with positive interactions either.

    It’s a VERY tricky widget, and as I’ve said, gender privilege isn’t the only privilege in this race. There’s also social privilege, something which by and large is being worse than ignored. (If you ask me it’s being outright claimed)

    That said, I think that you’re doing a good job on this, as well as a lot of commentators. Phyrexx in particular deserves a medal for this stuff. But a lot of the bloggers/blog posts themselves? Ugh. Confirming the MRA’s worst fears (which are by and large groundless) isn’t the way to do things.

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Agreed — we don’t need to give antifeminists and MRA goons ammo, when they’re so good at fabricating it themselves.

    Here’s the thing though — Stephanie’s doing something, and so am I. There are paths forward, there are actual goals.

    The actual fight with DJ owes largely to his own poor messaging and his apparent paranoia about feminists in the movement, and it is largely a distraction in context of getting conventions to take harassment seriously and actually make inroads on creating a safe space for yes, not just women, but everyone. Where we know harassment won’t be tolerated the way it is online.

    Also, yeah. Pteryxx is grand. :)

  10. 10
    karmakin

    Probably so…trust me, I’m not defending DJ here, not one bit. I just think the path forward and the actual goals should be the main focus, and not everything else. It feels like all that is getting lost in all the noise.

    If people were reassured that they’re not going to be kicked out of a convention for standing too close to someone some time, I think it would..not necessarily defuse the situation…I think the divide is basically gone tribal at this point…but I think there’s a much better possibility of switching people from neutral to supporters.

    Note that I do think that people in general, and that includes a lot of people on the “good” side of things in general tend to be unaware of the effects of their actions on people around them, and it’s why in the end I don’t expect the actual results of this effort, even if we got everything that we wanted, to be mostly symbolic. And to be honest, symbolic might very well be good enough. But I think if the problem is the general atmosphere, getting rid of the the worst of the “bad apples”, it’s going to change little.

  11. 11
    karmakin

    Err..I mean I expect the results to be mostly symbolic.

  12. 12
    sparky_ca

    Off topic a bit here, but you totally made me think of Bob Berdealla with your hypothetical there, Jason.

    That reference might hit a little closer to home with DJ.

    Or not. I grew up in KC so he did affect the gay community there to the point that he was still brought up in conversation when I was finally old enough to out to the bars.

  13. 13
    KarenX

    @karmakin #10

    The problem is one of goals, I agree, but so far as I can deduce, the JREF is sending out mixed messages about its goals, which is causing all its problems. I’m quoting your second paragraph.

    If people were reassured that they’re not going to be kicked out of a convention for standing too close to someone some time, I think it would..not necessarily defuse the situation…I think the divide is basically gone tribal at this point…but I think there’s a much better possibility of switching people from neutral to supporters.

    Is the goal to reassure men who attend conferences that they don’t have to worry about being labeled skeevy?

    Is the goal, pulled from DJ’s laments about the reduction in women attendees for this year’s TAM, to get more women to attend?

    JREF needs to make up its mind and announce what it actually wants the most, and then it will be perfectly clear to everyone what course of action they should take. People might debate what they consider appropriate goals for the JREF, but value judgments and priorities are already so personal that I don’t think it would be this morass of unmet expectations and surprises.

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    Fixed your link, sparky_ca. The point of the scenario was not actually about the harassment, but to present something that (hopefully) he’d rightfully deem harassing behaviour, so that I could hit him with the rhetorical punch asking exactly whose “sexual exploits” I’d just described. Because it really does sound a hell of a lot like he’s dismissing just about everyone who’s ever been harassed at conventions as making “regret rape” accusations.

    Funny, also, that nobody’s asking him for evidence for where exactly he got THAT idea! Is that a big problem at these cons, speakers being accused of rape and claiming they’d had consensual sex and they’re just trying to pin them down? Because that’s a step above spermjacking on the wacked-out things-that-rarely-ever-happen scale. I realize it’s a viable defense in he-said-she-saids (e.g. an actual rapist could probably get away with it — again, leading to the problem of underreporting), and I realize it actually does happen sometime that the person is just making things up, but still. If it’s such a huge problem, maybe DJ’s pattern recognition should kick in at some point.

  15. 15
    karmakin

    One of the problems is how we look at all of this. I agree that there’s a mixed message coming from JREF, just like you mentioned, but I don’t think most of the messaging is clear from either side…not one bit.

    One of the problems is that we’re talking about “skeevy” people and not skeevy behavior. So it becomes very unclear what we’re talking about, and people either assume either the best or the worst. Laying out what are more or less objective standards of behavior is what I think should be done, but depending on where the line is drawn, either we might be doing too much and stifling community and inter-personal connections or doing too little and maintaining a hostile environment to some degree. (I err on the side of the latter, personally, that as women (to genderify this for simplicities sake) are generally the acted upon party here, they get the lean here).

    The JREF do need to make a decision on what side they lean on..neutrality really isn’t an option here. That said, I don’t think it’s strictly an either-or thing, I think that the above, by making it crystal clear what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not will go a long way to both increase female turnout AND make all participants more comfortable with the various boundaries. But, as long as DJ and Co. want to engage in the tribal warfare, unfortunately it’s a one side or the other type thing.

  16. 16
    Pteryxx

    …d’aww, I was coming to spam you Jason and now I’m just embarrassed. Thanks, y’all. Research is just how I deal.

    Jason: I made a big research post about harassment reporting at Ophelia’s and also PZ’s, here you go:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/words-actions-or-attitudes/#comment-182066

  17. 17
    KarenX

    I don’t think most of the messaging is clear from either side…not one bit.

    I guess I’m just confused, then. One message to the potential TAM audience is: Misguided women bloggers need to stop spreading misinformation about what goes on at TAM because we need more women at TAM.

    (“Misguided” and “misinformation” being hotly contested terms, of course.)

    What’s the other message? And to whom? What’s the other side in the first place? There’s the TAM Organizers and…?

    A group of angry people upset by some contentious message from the TAM organizers isn’t a “side.” It’s a reaction from a crowd, with no particular message directed at anyone, except they are also speaking up about their reaction to the TAM Organizers’ message. It’s all reactive, and not proactive at all, whereas the TAM Organizers have been proactive with getting their very specific message out to potential attendees.

  18. 18
    Pteryxx

    karmakin:

    How can that best be done? By making it “easier” to report potential harassment? To be honest, to expect the person to take time out of a busy conference schedule might be unrealistic and might be a form of victim blaming. Should we set guidelines and then enforce them? We don’t really want to do that, because we don’t want to interfere with positive interactions either.

    Actually, this practical aspect is addressed in some of the material about how to deal with harassment complaints in the workplace, such as the NOLO link I keep tossing around:

    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/guidelines-handling-discrimination-harassment-complaints-29490.html

    From an event security standpoint (where my personal experience lies), “reporting” doesn’t mean the person making the complaint necessarily goes somewhere to sit down and fill out paperwork. As a security volunteer, most of the time that’d be MY job. Example: Someone comes to me and points to a person that’s been bothering them or others, and I as security make note of the person complaining, usually by badge number, and go on from there. I might go talk to the complainee, call in hotel security, ask for a supervisor to back me up or whatever the situation requires. For minor incidents, *I* would file the report: time, place, badge # complaining, badge # who was behaving badly, what the complaint was, my observations, and what my response was.

    For a serious infraction, or where the complainer’s testimony is very important, I or a supervisor might ask the person to write or verbally report a statement, and ask if we can contact them later for follow-up. Still, the bulk of the reporting actually falls on event staff.

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    Pteryxx@16: you’re not spamming at all. I’m working on a post for tomorrow about the requests for evidence about people’s individual experiences we’re seeing, basically about the hyperskepticism angle. Would you mind if I included that post verbatim in it? Because it ties together the problem of underreporting with a neat little bow. It would be credited appropriately, natch.

  20. 20
    Pteryxx

    Jason, go right ahead and use my whole post if you want, with thanks. (Technically I AM spamming my post, even if it’s acceptable spamming.) !;>

  21. 21
    Pteryxx

    Jason: when you quote me, would you fix this mistake I made please?

    Thus, the low reporting rate at TAM may be largely a RESULT, not a cause, of DJ’s (publicly articulated) perception that sexual assault harassment is not a problem under his purview.

    The two get conflated and overlap plenty without me making a screw-up like that. Thank you.

  22. 22
    John Horstman

    Dog bless you, Jason and Pteryxx (and others), for tackling this. I’m honestly shocked that DJ or any other ‘leaders’ in our various interconnected communities think placating misogynists is a higher priority than addressing the legitimate concerns of women skeptics. Seriously, did DJ learn nothing from this kerfuffle? It wasn’t that long ago…

  23. 23
    Kelly

    John, are you sure DJ didn’t learn anything from that? What if he learned that misguided feminist, atheist bloggers can get in the way of him doing whatever he wants? What would it look like if he decided he needed to do something about them?

  24. 24
    A nym too

    Yeah, him equating assault and rape claims with locker-room bragging made me ill. Does he think we enjoy being violated? He’s actively perpetuating the myth that women and girls are stupid, spiteful bitches who lie about our experiences to get attention/revenge, then laugh about it in our lairs.

    It’s why I said this: freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/05/shooting-the-messenger/#comment-180602

    Also, as a gay woman, I can honestly say that he’s not helping dispel the “gay men are wildly misogynist ” trope. I’ve experienced so much of that in real life. I feel physically safe around them, but not mentally. Hearing over 9000 “eurgh fish!*” comments on every night out is bad enough, but some stuff spouted is just
    so vile that I only really socialise with other women now.

    *in the drag world “fish ” means “woman”. Someone who looks “fishy” is someone indistinguishablm from a woman.

    KarenX – by “other side” they mean “evil, hysterical. humourless feminazis who want to ban sex cos they’re not getting any, and get jealous when we chat up total babes”

    Don’t forget that. the evil ones also want to ban eye-contact, standing next to women, and talking to them. Talibanesque.

  25. 25
    ischemgeek

    Not sure how many other places I’ve said something along these lines (at least 2, probably more), but: I don’t think women are being scared off by women talking about harrassment. Why? Because women know that harrassment happens everywhere.

    I’ve been sexually harrassed at every school I’ve ever gone to (yes, even elementary schools), at every workplace I’ve ever worked at, walking to or from work/school, at extra-curriculars, at social events, at conferences, at parties, at book stores, at game stores, shopping for clothes, at bars (every. single. time I’ve ever gone to a bar, I’ve been groped by people who I hadn’t even talked to at that point. Which is why I don’t go to bars anymore: I’m not going to pay a cover for a sexual assault), at get-togethers with my friends to which friends-of-friends had been invited. Even my home isn’t always safe because the times I’ve lived in apartment buildings or university residences, I’ve been harrassed there, too.

    If it can happen at a private get-together where everyone’s been vouched for with an attendance of less that 20, it sure as hell happens at a public conferance with thousands of attendees. If it happens when I walk to school in broad daylight, it sure as hell happens in secluded nooks and corners of a conference bar after dark.

    Information pages, studies, and articles like these invariably say that the vast majority of women have been sexually harrassed. Of the forms of harrassment, street harrassment – harrassment by strangers in a public area – is the most common, 87% of women experiencing it at least once by age 18. According to a study by MacMillan, Nierobesz and Welsh (Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 37(3) 2000. 318.) that studied over 20,000 women found that 80% of women in Canada experience street harrassment to the point that it has a “large and detrimental impact on their perceived safety in public.” A much smaller study in the bay area of California (Nielsen, License to Harass: Law, Hierarcy, and Offensive Public Speech) found that 100% of women interviewed had experienced street harrassment, of which almost 20% reported daily harrassment. Similar results were found for Indianapolis (Gardner Passing By: Gender and Public Harassment . This means that in North America, harrassment of women in public places like conferences and on the street is commonplace. My experiences are not an outlier.

    So, no, I don’t believe TAM does not have a harrassment problem. Sorry, DJ, but “We don’t have a harrassment problem!” is an extraordinary claim, and the evidence you’ve used to back it up is far from extraordinary. If TAM is serious about making the con a safe space, they have to stop pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

  26. 26
    ischemgeek

    ^ To correct the above: The Canadian study surveyed over 10,000 women, not 20,000. I must’ve hit one key too far to the right.

  27. 27
    Pteryxx

    ischemgeek: Thanks for the cites. I’ve added them to my hoard.

    *cackle*

  28. 28
    karmakin

    @Pteryxx My experience at a large event with making a report (for a lost wallet) was a big deal..had to wait for the supervisor to get there, had to lay out the contents of the lost wallet, etc. It took a substantial amount of time. Now, if the focus is on streamlining these reports, that’s a good thing, but I think really does rely, yet again, on creating clear consistent guides for behavior. To where basically a security person taking a report can check off a few boxes to explain exactly what the person was doing.

    It’s also why having security in place who can recognize problematic behavior and intervene automatically is necessary.

  29. 29
    xtog42

    I’d like to make a philosophical statement about this “blaming the victim” meme.

    Being a real and true victim of harassment does not make you immune to criticism about your response to that harassment.

    And criticizing a victim for their response to real and true harassment does not mean that the criticizer thinks that the harassment in not a real and true problem that needs to be dealt with.

    We can all think of incidents where real victims have responded to their victimization in complete outrageous and self-destructive ways.

    So let’s stop clutching our pearls at the fact that these complainers about the atmosphere at free-thought events (as real and true as those complaints may be) are being challenged a bit about their hyperbole and their exaggerations and their blindness to the simple fact that some feel that their response is way out of proportion to the offenses (perceived and real) and is actually a contributing factor as to why some females may be less inclined to attend such events.

    One thing the people who are criticizing DJ should do is focus on what should be done in the future and quit rehashing over and over again incidents and comments from the past and making unhelpful personal attacks at allies in the big picture. I have found in my review of this issue that the complainers are short on solutions and are obsessed with those who express any form of disagreement as opposed to working to find answers to this real and true problem.

    Ex: PZ saying let’s have something more than just a Do’s and Don’ts list. OK PZ what is your solution? Also PZ’s post makes this out to be DJ’s problem to solve, while ignoring the fact the the complainers including him could be more helpful in finding a solution as opposed to continually flaming the debate because others simply do not see this issue as something as high a priority as they do — with the understanding that in saying that I am not dismissing the issue, I believe the issue is real and true problem that does need to be addressed.

    I’ll now await all of the flamers who insist that I just said this is not a problem and that I am a misogynistic woman hating rape apologist.

  30. 30
    Pteryxx

    karmakin:

    To where basically a security person taking a report can check off a few boxes to explain exactly what the person was doing.

    I think, *in the case of sexual harassment specifically*, that’s a bad idea because it might interfere with being supportive of the complainant. Harassment complaints often can be vague or subjective, and labeled boxes might give the complainant an impression of being interrogated. There might be a way to do it reasonably on the database side alone, to quantify “followed to one’s room”, “cornered alone”, “inappropriate touching” and the like.

  31. 31
    Pteryxx

    xtog: still searching all over FTB for a bullshit-supportive environment, I see.

  32. 32
    Jason Thibeault

    xtog: see the two links I posted at 9 for just how “short on solutions” we really are.

  33. 33
    karmakin

    Wrong blog to be complaining on about a lack of solutions.

    Vague and subjective, I think at least to me screams potentially time-consuming and a big hassle. Especially if the person thinks that it’s a borderline case (which is probably much of what we’re talking about). Maybe a checklist could seem like an interrogation, but at the same time I think taking a few steps away from making it vague and subjective and making it more clear and objective will help the situation. This is all running off the idea that in the short-term more reports are a good thing because it means the system is working better to catch them. (In the long-term you want the number of reports to trend down)

    That said there might be better ways to do it, but I think minimizing the time and bother impact for the harassed party is essential.

  34. 34
    xtog42

    Pteryxx at least I don’t spend my time flaming boards for no apparent reason,…maybe this is just your form of masturbation or something.

    And yeah, I’d like to find a board in which I can have a debate as opposed to a board that doubles as an elementary school playground, is there something wrong with that?

    Jason,…I didn’t say ‘no solutions are being suggested by anyone’ — I merely made the obvious and true comment that many of the biggest blowhards firing away at DJ offer him no solutions.

    I realized though after I posted that my comments really are not on the topic of the initial post about the skeezy comment though and I apologize to the lousy canuck for diverting the board.

  35. 35
    Pteryxx

    karmakin: Again, I think this is a rather unique reporting situation compared to less emotionally loaded security reports.

    Vague and subjective, I think at least to me screams potentially time-consuming and a big hassle.

    Not necessarily. As far as I can tell, actual harassment incident reporting doesn’t have to be time-consuming regardless of its being vague and subjective. Mostly it’s “note what the complainant’s concerned about” even if that’s just “This person made me feel really uncomfortable”. Granted, that would be hard to *follow up on* but it’s not hard to report; and it’s still valuable information if there are a half dozen more vague complaints about the same person.

  36. 36
    Pteryxx

    xtog: I think you’re confusing me with someone else, perhaps that belligerent parakeet in your mirror.

  37. 37
    xtog42

    karmakin I am new to posting on bulletin boards and this is the first I am posting here at all — provoked by your post #8 that implies that blaming the victims is always wrong. It is refreshing to see some possible solutions to the problem, hopefully DJ will pick up on them.

    At least on this board I have yet to be sworn at or verbally abused as I was on PZ’s board and the Diamond board, and I appreciate that.

    Funny how the same people so concerned on those boards with making conventions more friendly and less threatening to female newbies, have no problem verbally harassing new posters on these boards, writing comments that if they were said to a person’s face would put them in the hospital or certainly get them an harassment report.

  38. 38
    xtog42

    Pteryxx says: Nothing

  39. 39
    julian

    As far as I can tell, actual harassment incident reporting doesn’t have to be time-consuming regardless of its being vague and subjective.

    It does require a combination of professionalism and compassion that can be hard to instill in people. You have to ignore instincts to fix everything or hunt down the culprit while making the person stepping forward feel confident about speaking up. And you have to be professional enough to actually note down what happened regardless of who those implicated are. Sometimes it’ll be people you know. When that happens you can’t grill whoever is in front of you anymore than you can not report what happened. You’ll have to do your job.

  40. 40
    Pteryxx

    julian: Oof. Good points. So basically, being able to properly enact and enforce a harassment policy requires the staff or volunteers involved to be able to calmly listen to women *in the first place*. I can see where this could get tricky in this community. At least it requires some training and screening.

  41. 41
    Stephanie Zvan

    xtog says now:

    At least on this board I have yet to be sworn at or verbally abused as I was on PZ’s board and the Diamond board

    xtog says then:

    Great cut and paste job LeftSide, but if I dispute the blather you just posted I’ll simply get banned so let me leave this incestuous crowd to itself by saying, “Thank goodness DJ is running the show.” and not a bunch of hysterical, presumptive, hijacking, hit-seeking flamers.

    For the record, these are blogs, not boards. This is also a community, so don’t expect what you do in one place to be invisible when you’re trying to say shit later.

  42. 42
    A nym too

    xtog – the thing about blogging is that it’s free. Using services like Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr etc. does not cost a penny. You’re then free to say what you want!

    xtogMRAnus.Tumblr.com

    or

    whydontwomenlikeme.blogger.com

    or

    reddit.

    Oh wait, that last one is taken. However, it’s right up your street. Men are men, and women are females. You should fit in seamlessly.

  43. 43
    xtog42

    Stephanie Zvan says: Nothing

    boards/blogs who cares, and as an ex-HS computer teacher, i think i am aware of my audience.

    did you actually have anything of substance to say or were you just flame-trolling?

  44. 44
    xtog42

    @A nym too

    First of all….I’m xtog42, not xtog, and you know that makes me made, kind of like people calling blogs boards,…

    and second of all,….well you didn’t really make a point so i’ll wait to respond when you do

  45. 45
    Jason Thibeault

    Stephanie Zvan actually very ably pointed out how you are a hypocrite, xtog42. And what YOU said in return was all heat, no light.

    So, you’ll have no further input in this conversation on this “bulletin board” unless you actually have something constructive to say.

  46. 46
    Stephanie Zvan

    Huh, I thought s/he’d changed his/her name after commenting at my blog and that I was using the old one. Nope. I’m just completely sleep deprived. Oops.

  47. 47
    mikmik

    Jason:

    But he didn’t choose that route. He chose instead to say something that sounds a lot like “you women are just upset that you once had sex with someone that you now don’t like.”

    Pot, kettle.

    You know what the problems here are? I’ve rarely seen so much psychoanalysis and mind reading since the last Psychic convention was held. I am sick of all the hysteria over what amounts to pure speculation.
    “‘X’ is really implying this” and “‘Y’ is really a that” opinions that become memes, and that then transform into some kind of gospel truth, are as far away from rational input as Christians fighting over who’s interpretation of the Bible are really God’s true feelings.

    Shut the fuck up already with all the bullshit. It’s all starting to sound, to me, like a bad soap opera plot.

    How is Grothe saying, “from just one or a few women” different from another person saying, “from one or a few speakers?”

    And what in the world, pray tell, does your little overblown fantasy have to do with anything? It is a grievous mis-characterization at best, and an implication of outright lying using a straw man analogy on the face of it.

  48. 48
    John Morales

    [meta]

    mikmik:

    Pot, kettle.

    You know what the problems here are? I’ve rarely seen so much psychoanalysis and mind reading since the last Psychic convention was held. I am sick of all the hysteria over what amounts to pure speculation.

    The irony is strong, here.

    Alas for you, there was no analysis anywhere in your quotation, but rather a statement of perception.

    “‘X’ is really implying this” and “‘Y’ is really a that” opinions that become memes, and that then transform into some kind of gospel truth, are as far away from rational input as Christians fighting over who’s interpretation of the Bible are really God’s true feelings.

    Not that your demolition of this straw-castle was properly executed, but it is showy enough.

    Shut the fuck up already with all the bullshit. It’s all starting to sound, to me, like a bad soap opera plot.

    Whining is whining.

    How is Grothe saying, “from just one or a few women” different from another person saying, “from one or a few speakers?”

    And what in the world, pray tell, does your little overblown fantasy have to do with anything? It is a grievous mis-characterization at best, and an implication of outright lying using a straw man analogy on the face of it.

    The fantasy, eh?

    :)

  49. 49
    Stephanie Zvan

    How is Grothe saying, “from just one or a few women” different from another person saying, “from one or a few speakers?”

    Because D.J. is saying that he knows that these few women are the extent of the people saying there are problems with speakers. He then uses that unfounded assumption to tell us that we should not be talking about these speakers.

    I, on the other hand, have spoken with people who have identified a few speakers as problems based on their personal experience with those speakers or interactions they’ve witnessed. I don’t claim that this tells me anything more than that the problem exists, which is, in turn, sufficient to tell me we need to handle it in a professional manner.

    Did you really need that explained?

  50. 50
    smhll

    So let’s stop clutching our pearls at the fact that these complainers about the atmosphere at free-thought events (as real and true as those complaints may be) are being challenged a bit about their hyperbole and their exaggerations and their blindness to the simple fact that some feel that their response is way out of proportion to the offenses.

    Well, I see you using the word “incestuous” to describe FTB, so it’s possible that you dabble in hyperbole yourself. (Hard to resist on the internet. It’s better than exclamation points for conveying one’s point vividly.)

    My recommendation for better conferences and better message boards is being more specific/precise in one’s criticisms.

    It’s hard for me to know quite what you meant in the paragraph I quoted above. My first guess is that you are referencing Elevatorgate (since it’s a popular lightning rod). And that you figure you wouldn’t mind being propositioned in a closed space and that therefore it is unreasonable for a tired woman to mind being propositioned in a closed space. And that since you and she disagree about what an appropriate reaction is, your preferred reaction is right and her reaction is overblown.

    If that was not what you wanted

  51. 51
    smhll

    (continued)

    …me to take away from your quoted paragraph, then your message would have come across more clearly if you had been more specific.

  52. 52
    mikmik

    John Morales says:

    Pot, kettle.
    You know what the problems here are? I’ve rarely seen so much psychoanalysis and mind reading since the last Psychic convention was held. I am sick of all the hysteria over what amounts to pure speculation.

    The irony is strong, here.

    Pot, kettle, mikmik.

    Alas for you, there was no analysis anywhere in your quotation, but rather a statement of perception.

    LOL @ myself! True enough, a purely emotional expression of frustration. I should’ve been more specific, I suppose, but I am trying to give my perception of things.

    Shut the fuck up already with all the bullshit. It’s all starting to sound, to me, like a bad soap opera plot.

    Whining is whining.

    I didn’t need the “STFUA” bit, that amounts to the same escalation of response that bothers me, in general, with many of the statements I find so irritating. It’s just the blaming and, sometimes, not so subtle innuendo about character and agendas that seem to become big issues in themselves.
    Now here is my speculation about some of it, and I’m not important or very knowledgeable in all the intricacies and sequence of events, but I feel extremely frustrated that saying “sorry, I misunderstood what you meant” or “Yes, I can see your point” is a lost art. Fuck, so much hassle that divides us could be avoided with a certain degree of mutual understand being expressed, and a willingness to take responsibility for our own actions.
    Instead of the ego thing where we defend and rationalize our own viewpoints and right to hold and say them in such determined manner, a little respect for, and latitude given for teh ‘benefit of the doubt’, a viable understanding and solutions built on such could be attained much quicker.

    IMHO, Watson could admit that here quote about her now not feeling safe does sound drastic when it stands on its own as a specific criticism of atheist men that seems to contrast with all the other situations where she, presumably, feels safe. That’s what it sounded to me like she’s saying.

    IMHO, Grothe could admit that his comparison to locker room banter is belittling and dismissive to a large section of the discussion and it sounds like he doesn’t take these women seriously. It sure came across to me like that.

    I am purposely trying to be non committal to any ‘side’ of the controversy, and IMHO, many of us could say that we are missing the general point of what these people are saying, and that these quotes, focused on and analyzed to fucking death, is not giving credit to other areas where these people, Watson and Grothe, for example, express much more reasonable understanding and intention to resolve the situation of sexual harassment with each other.

    Holy shit, I’m an accommodationist!! ;)

    “‘X’ is really implying this” and “‘Y’ is really a that” opinions that become memes, and that then transform into some kind of gospel truth, are as far away from rational input as Christians fighting over who’s interpretation of the Bible are really God’s true feelings.

    Not that your demolition of this straw-castle was properly executed, but it is showy enough.

    I have Monty Python hard wired into my pre-frontal cortex, and I have a bad habit of mixing ‘parody’ with ‘serious’ in my posts. Point taken about being showy – that is a problem with me.

    How is Grothe saying, “from just one or a few women” different from another person saying, “from one or a few speakers?”
    And what in the world, pray tell, does your little overblown fantasy have to do with anything? It is a grievous mis-characterization at best, and an implication of outright lying using a straw man analogy on the face of it.

    The fantasy, eh?
    :)

    Look, just because something is painfully obvious doesn’t mean I understand it. I am no stranger to blushing in embarrassment!

  53. 53
    Jason Thibeault

    That was almost appropriately conciliatory, mikmik. Thank you. I still have to take issue with some of your problems with this conversation though.

    First, we need to all be talking about the same thing when we say “safe space”. That’s paramount. Rebecca and others are talking about the skeptical community not being a “safe space” e.g. a place where the background harassment is not improved upon (notwithstanding the focused harassment she received for daring to say “guys, don’t do that”), not that they’re necessarily going to get harassed at any particular conference. The conflation of this argument about harassment policies with TAM in specific is DJ’s fault, I have to say.

  54. 54
    mikmik

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Because D.J. is saying that he knows that these few women are the extent of the people saying there are problems with speakers. He then uses that unfounded assumption to tell us that we should not be talking about these speakers.

    Yes, I don’t agree, so much. This is exactly what I mean about focusing on one very unfortunate sound bite, and then drawing mis-characterization and exaggeration from it. He never said we shouldn’t be talking about these speakers, not in the quote above.
    In fact, put into context:
    “Issues of sexism and homosexism and lack of diversity and racism and the like are very important and merit our attention, and demand our hard work to ameliorate. Indeed, we have worked hard to address such issues over the last few years, in some ways leading the way before any blogosphere attention was even given to the issues (I asked Watson, as an example, to run a Women in Skepticism panel a few years ago at TAM, and also a workshop on related topics, in addition to our deciding to program what I think was a productive conversation on diversity within the skeptics movement last year. A speaker or two will also likely address related issues this year, in all likelihood).

    But if our goal is to attract more gays or people of color or women to our movement(s) and our events, I believe it is counterproductive to concentrate mostly or only on the (inaccurate) message of how unsafe we think it is for gays or people of color or women if they chose to attend our events.

    Again, I think our survey data from last year’s TAM is pretty relevant to this point. People who attend do not feel unsafe or unwelcome, and that bears mentioning at least somewhere in all of these posts about supposed rampant sexual harassment and unnamed lists of certain speakers “victimizing” young women, and the like.”
    You disagree with this, Stefanie? It sounds more than reasonable to me, and I think accusing a few people, from a larger group they belong to, of grievous shit without specific names is fucking uncalled for and way the fuck over the line, okay?
    Way the fuck over the line, I hope you understand this one thing: it is way the fuck over the line.
    Now, you may ask, what the eff is your problem, mikmik? These guys are seriously over the effing line, way the eff over the line!

    And I would say, “No kidding, but that is the very exact wrong way to deal with this because:
    1. It casts suspicion onto innocent parties – it is slander and libel, and I quote“Slander and libel are false or malicious claims that may harm someone’s reputation.” That means the innocent speakers.
    2. If you can’t name names, and tie specific accusations to those names, it is chickenshit rumormongering intent on spreading anger onto whatever gets in the way, and not on containing damage.
    3. Hearsay shouldn’t be given the time of day, FFS.
    4. You are stating your opinion as truth, and assuming the premise is true in order to prove the premise.

    It chokes me just as much when others decide to ‘run with it’ instead of considering just exactly what type of information they are running with.

    I, on the other hand, have spoken with people who have identified a few speakers as problems based on their personal experience with those speakers or interactions they’ve witnessed. I don’t claim that this tells me anything more than that the problem exists, which is, in turn, sufficient to tell me we need to handle it in a professional manner.

    I stated my opinion on this “professional manner.” What you do is confront the individuals in a safe environment, e.g. with a neutral audience present, and warn said offender that if this continues, legal action will be taken.

    Did you really need that explained?

    Obviously not, but while we’re explaining stuff to each other, could you explain your problem with this?
    But I’m not talking about anyone requiring physical evidence of specific predation. Again, there have been zero reports of such harassment at the TAMs I’ve been a part of, and as I say above, while that doesn’t mean that such didn’t occur (it could have been unreported) we do have some data from last year’s survey, as an example:

    Of 800+ responses to this comprehensive survey, only two people reported feeling “unwelcome” at the event. Both of these respondents were men. One was a conservative who felt several speakers insulted his political beliefs. The other was a retiree who “hates” magic.

    11 respondents to the survey did report a problem with an interaction with someone else that made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe (this was a difference question on the survey). 3 of them were men who did not elaborate on the interaction and 3 were from women who did not elaborate on the interaction. Another was a woman who reported a speaker was rude to her when she asked for a photo. Another was a woman who was made fun of for not being an atheist. Another was a woman was ridiculed for being a vegetarian. Another was a woman who reported no specific incident but claimed her enjoyment of the event was negatively affected by the “drama surrounding elevator gate” and “having to hear everyone talk about it.” Finally, one person did report feeling uncomfortable around an attendee, fearing future possible sexual harassment, and while we are concerned about such concerns, there was no complaint of any actual activity that had happened that the hotel or security or law enforcement or others could take action on. Importantly, every one of these 11 respondents nonetheless reported feeling welcome at TAM. It is inaccurate to say that “women do not feel welcome” at these sorts of events, judging by the 40% women attendance last year at TAM and these survey results. Similarly, I think it is an irresponsible (and inaccurate) message to tell people that women should feel “unsafe” at these events.

    Please, explain to me, am I missing something here? Is there something severely wrong about his reporting of this survey, or the survey in question?
    Because, if it is presented dishonestly, or is fabricated, then I do not hold an opinion of what goes on at TAMs as being extraordinary compared to all conferences in general, and that perspective is necessary so that people don’t get the wrong impression.

    If you want people to feel safe, then come back with reports of your efforts to resolve the situation, and that TAM is the one place you expected better of the speakers and attendees.

    Racism and sexism I fucking hate, and especially when I comprehend how absolutely and rightfully women are being abused and terrorized in so many insidious ways. It is completely unacceptable, and I hope you get my double meaning here.

    (I somehow know that I’ll regret hitting the ‘submit’ button once again!)

  55. 55
    Pteryxx

    mikmik: re this:

    Please, explain to me, am I missing something here? Is there something severely wrong about his reporting of this survey, or the survey in question?
    Because, if it is presented dishonestly, or is fabricated, then I do not hold an opinion of what goes on at TAMs as being extraordinary compared to all conferences in general, and that perspective is necessary so that people don’t get the wrong impression.

    See the very next post. Short answer: Yes, there is a HUGE problem with the survey.

    That link:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/02/the-further-hyper-skepticism-stalling-our-conversation/

  56. 56
    Stephanie Zvan

    It sounds more than reasonable to me, and I think accusing a few people, from a larger group they belong to, of grievous shit without specific names is fucking uncalled for and way the fuck over the line, okay?
    Way the fuck over the line, I hope you understand this one thing: it is way the fuck over the line.

    No, I don’t understand any such thing.

    You’ve very concerned about innocent speakers. I hear that. What I don’t hear or see is any recognition of the fact that no one has been doing anything to help the people who have been harassed.

    What you do is confront the individuals in a safe environment, e.g. with a neutral audience present, and warn said offender that if this continues, legal action will be taken.

    Who does this? The conferences that haven’t even had harassment policies in place? They’re the only ones in a position to talk about “if this continues”. Have they done that? Are they in a position to do that now based on private discussion?

    No. The only way to fix this is to get harassment policies in place for events.

    Nor am I the first person to suggest this. Others have. Maybe not to the current leadership or to current event planners, but they’ve suggested it. It hasn’t happened, suggesting a strong institutional inertia. The only way to fix that is with open dialog.

    Fixing the problem is not fucking over the line.

  57. 57
    mikmik

    Sorry I’ve taken so long. I was wrong about Crothe, and I apologize to you, Stephanie, and you, my Canadian brother, JT.

    At first, i thought that losing women in such numbers was a blow to TAM credibility that ill advised, but now I think you are very much in the right when you say “Fixing the problem is not over the line,” Stephanie Zvan.

    It goes against my deepest morality that anyone should feel even uneasy, let alone physically threatened with violence, just for existing.

    J.T. and Stephanie, outrageous behavior demands outrage, and if TAM and the skeptical community are not held to accountability for the highest standards of human rights, then it is virtually worthless, politically and educationally.

    Again, I am grateful to have learned much from you. Thank you both, and you, Jon Morales, for your exceptional diplomacy in my respect.

  58. 58
    Pteryxx

    mikmik: you weren’t talking to me, but still. Thank you for apologizing, and more importantly, THANK YOU for being willing to learn.

  59. 59
    Jason Thibeault

    Yeah, I’m with Pteryxx. That’s twice now; you’ve acquitted yourself well.

  60. 60
    thunk: turmite city

    Well done, mikmik. I’m glad you learned to be reasonable, and you apologized for your previous deeds.

    I used to be a die-hard MRA as well; it’s not impossible to redeem oneself.

    THANK YOU.

  61. 61
    mikmik

    Pteryxx says:

    mikmik: you weren’t talking to me…

    I should have been, that was great of you to respond with the link, and very thoughtful the way you sort of said, “you want it; you got it” to my niggling feeling that there was more to that survey.

    d(thunk) over d(MQG) = SQRRAWK!, your name ≫ ∑ parts. Thank you, also, I hear you.

    Jason @59, and everyone: nothing feels better than kudos from people I respect. Two of the very most noble endeavors in life are to be teachers, and students. Got the bases covered at this blog!

  62. 62
    nathanaelnerode

    For reference, the scenario you describe would legally constitute *assault* (threat of bodily harm), not merely harassment.

  63. 63
    Jason Thibeault

    nathanaelnerode: Sorry, no, DOING that stuff would be assault, SAYING you’re going to do that stuff is harassment. (And in either case, it’s not the VICTIM’S “sexual exploits”.)

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    The campaign against Amy Davis Roth | Lousy Canuck

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    More names are named. » Lousy Canuck

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