The Apple Blossom Parade »« The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation

DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman

while leaving several others under the bus, including sidelong stabs at the FtB bloggers in particular. I paste it in its entirety below, though I don’t have a lot of time to pick it apart right this second.

Rebecca: Sorry for not responding to this sooner; I was flying much of the day Friday and got to the hotel late, and Saturday was busy with skeptic events in the D.C. area.

First, let me say how sincerely and deeply regretful I am that I blamed you as the messenger. No woman – no person – should ever be blamed for being a victim or for speaking out about sexism or any social problem. I was wrong to write anything that could even be construed that way, and it was never my intent. I am sorry.

I should also say that I believe I understand why there has been so much vituperation, anger and emption surrounding these issues: we want to protect others from harm (indeed, this is a central motivation in skepticism) and if we think people are being harmed, it angers us. I hope that we may increasingly refocus that anger toward working together on solutions to these problems.

I believe strongly that women’s voices need to be taken seriously in the atheist and skeptics movements, that any reports of harassment or assault at atheist and skeptics events need to be taken seriously and recorded, and acted on effectively, and that those who make reports of such harassment shouldn’t ever be blamed for such. And I am mortified to find out that you have been “groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways,” etc. I had absolutely no idea. It disgusts me and makes me angry to hear it. I assure you that if any such offenses at TAM were reported, the offender or offenders would have been removed from TAM, and/or law enforcement called. I think it is very important that such incidents are reported to security or conference organizers or law enforcement, and that this is the most effective response.

I know that the atheist and skeptics communities have had serious problems when it comes to women’s issues, and this is something I have personally worked to combat over the last decade and a half I’ve been involved, including by making better hiring and programming decisions when it was within my power to do so. One way we worked to combat problems was by publishing a code of conduct for our particular event last year (http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/1354-with-tam-right-around-the-corner-some-important-announcements.html). Other ways include focusing on these topics on the program: a few years ago, I asked you to moderate a panel on women in skepticism and also run a workshop on related issues, for which JREF was grateful. And we have grown in the direction now of TAM having the highest number and percentage of women speakers at any major skeptics’ conference (50% solo speakers last year were women).

When we ran reports this year and discovered that while 40% of attendees at TAM 2011 were women, but that at the time I made my initial comments in a discussion on a friend’s Facebook wall about these issues, only 18% of TAM 2012 registrants were women, we were deeply concerned. That Facebook wall comment on a friend’s wall was partially quoted and blogged and reblogged a lot last week, and I think this discussion is important, especially if it helps improve the situation at atheist and skeptics meetings – which is our common goal.

My concern was that the message going to women who are not already familiar with the skeptics movement and TAM in particular be balanced. I do not deny that there is a problem with sexism at atheist or skeptics conferences, nor any of the accounts blogged about in general terms by women who have attended TAM or similar kinds of events, but I would appreciate if such reports were balanced with an acknowledgment of the great effort the JREF goes to ensuring that TAM is a safe and welcoming environment for women.

I and the rest of the JREF team are passionately invested in skeptic outreach to diverse communities. Skepticism is for everyone, not just privileged straight old white men. My sharing survey data and other data from last year’s TAM was an attempt to suggest that despite many blog posts and other public messaging focused on how unsafe and unwelcoming atheist or skeptics events may be for women, the data suggest we have at least been partially successful in making TAM safe and welcoming for women. If this data is wrong, due to underreporting, then I think we should work together to correct that. (Unfortunately, the atheist movement has almost a universally bad reputation for being bad to women. Just a couple days ago on a popular non-movement website there was advice for readers about how not to be “creepy” at atheist conventions: http://bigthink.com/daylight-atheism/the-ten-commandments-of-flirting-or-how-to-not-be-creepy-at-atheist-conventions).

Talking about sexism isn’t the problem, sexism is the problem — I completely agree. But when trying to solve the problem, I believe reporting instances of being groped or grabbed (these may be criminal acts) to be the most effective way to help organizers make sure events are safe for everyone. This week, there were over twenty blog posts about TAM specifically, many containing misinformation. Many commenters on these blogs, mostly on one blog network, appear to believe that going to TAM or similar events in the skeptics or atheist world means they will be assaulted, harassed, or worse. Additionally, the week before that, there were around a dozen blog posts about how if you’re a woman, going to an atheist or skeptic con likely means you’ll be sexually harassed, and how many women have been warned about certain men on programs as likely sex offenders. Many solutions were proposed in these blog posts, even as no one entered into direct dialogue with organizations on these issues, preferring instead to engage in a kind of public messaging which I believe has the paradoxical and opposite effect of making our movements seem less welcoming to women than they are. (I concede that blogging may come more naturally to some folks than direct dialogue, or that vague public messaging about problems may feel safer than reporting incidents to law enforcement.)

Rebecca, you are a talented, funny, influential skeptic who has introduced skepticism to new audiences. I have always admired you for that in particular. Indeed, that is why I have featured you so prominently at TAM in the past. (And I believe that years before I came to lead the JREF, TAM was the first conference you ever spoke at.) You have contributed a lot to our communities of reason over the last few years. That’s why I regret not only how you have been treated over the last year especially, but how issues surrounding feminism in atheism and allied movements — issues for which in some ways you have become the standard bearer — have grown so divisive, with reprehensible behavior on all sides. Invective and enemy-list making. Bullying. Dishonest mischaracterizations. I have to remain optimistic that these are growing pains in our fledgling movements and that civility and honest disagreement over best strategies will eventually win out. People of good will may disagree on which strategies are best to address serious problems, and should be able to do so without being vilified. I believe we need more good will, and less us vs. them thinking, in atheism and skepticism.

Before I close, an important correction to a misstatement of fact in your post: no one reported to JREF staff or hotel staff any incident of assault or sexual harassment at our speakers reception last year, and no JREF staff were told about nor knew about any such incident until last week. In fact, someone was removed from the speaker reception because he wasn’t permitted to be there, and was apparently drunk. In her blog post and in further comments, Ashley says she didn’t feel like she needed to personally report the alleged harassment to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time because she thought someone else reported it, and that it had been taken care of. Unfortunately, neither she nor anyone else mentioned the incident of sexual harassment in one of the TAM attendee surveys, nor made any other report of it at the time. I find this regrettable, because without knowing about it, we (JREF, hotel security, etc.) were not able to do anything about it.

Let me be clear: If I or any of the other TAM staff or hotel staff would have known that someone (or possibly more than one person) had been sexually harassed, or assaulted or otherwise accosted at our speakers reception, we would have contacted security and removed the offender immediately from TAM, and/or called law enforcement. As it turns out, someone was just removed from the speakers reception because he didn’t belong there and seemed drunk. A complaint has since been reported and recorded (last week), and appropriate action will be taken to make sure the person won’t be able to assault or sexually harass again at one of our events.

In light of this new information JREF received this week, we can no longer say that there were no reports of sexual harassment at the event last year. This only motivates us to redouble our efforts to create a space where everyone is safe and welcome, so that we can focus on what brings us together at these events in the first place.

D.J.

D.J. Grothe
President, James Randi Educational Foundation
http://www.randi.org | http://www.forgoodreason.org
(323) 229-7771 cell | (703) 226-3784 voicemail | (703) 226-3785 fax

I have lots of problems with this apology. Many of them are covered in Stephanie Zvan’s reply. Most of them have to do with the “irresponsible messaging” that DJ’s actually engaging in, and the fact that while apologizing, he’s STILL being churlish about people who are actually trying to work on the problem of harassment in general as though the problem they’re working on is an indictment of TAM in particular.

I appreciate that DJ is apologizing to one of the women he’s mistreated in this. I really do. I don’t think it’s anywhere near broad enough, notwithstanding the “apologize to all women” line. Not where he repeatedly undercuts that part thereafter.

Comments

  1. says

    That’s a big classic nonpology and Stephanie has covered most of it in her reply.
    He still makes untrue and unsupported statements like this:

    . This week, there were over twenty blog posts about TAM specifically, many containing misinformation. Many commenters on these blogs, mostly on one blog network, appear to believe that going to TAM or similar events in the skeptics or atheist world means they will be assaulted, harassed, or worse. Additionally, the week before that, there were around a dozen blog posts about how if you’re a woman, going to an atheist or skeptic con likely means you’ll be sexually harassed, and how many women have been warned about certain men on programs as likely sex offenders.

    It’s untrue, a distortion of everything written and reminds me a lot of the “Rebecca Watson cried rape after being offered coffee” hype.
    He still seems to ignore the fact the being harassed is the default.
    Combined with a good deal of victim-blaming “you should have reported it” and still misrepresenting Asley’s story.
    Meh.

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    DJG said:

    No woman – no person – should ever be blamed for being a victim or for speaking out about sexism or any social problem. I was wrong to write anything that could even be construed that way, and it was never my intent. I am sorry.

    How else can one construe?

    I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

    or

    Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:

    “I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

    Either DJ is incredibly bad at expressing his thoughts or we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

  3. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    DJ Grothe is a politician (a very bad one) and a liar. That wall of verbal grotesquerie was not an apology, it was an insult. By the time I got “bad behavior on all sides” I was looking for something to punch.

  4. julian says

    Many commenters on these blogs, mostly on one blog network, appear to believe that going to TAM or similar events in the skeptics or atheist world means they will be assaulted, harassed, or worse. – DJ Grothe

    Who are these people? Who’s been saying these things? Why can’t I ever find those quotes or authors despite almost neurotically reading through every thread on this topic?

    Does Grothe mean to say “some appear to believe the incidence of sexual harassment at TAM is comparable to that outside it?” Because that’s the closest I can find to what he’s saying.

    Maybe I just need to relearn to read….

  5. karmakin says

    Well, my understanding of the situation is that the low-level sexual harassment at these events is above what one would normally expect walking down the street, and is far too high for what we want as progressive, inclusive individuals.

    So he’s not exactly WRONG that it’s giving people that idea. The question is if that’s accurate or not. For what it’s worth I don’t think this actually has very much to do with skepticism itself, per se, and I think this is a more general problem with conventions as a whole.

  6. julian says

    @Josh

    I don’t think it’s fair to call him a liar. He’s definitely trying to be gracious and see other people’s points. He just can’t for whatever reason. Maybe he’s spent to much time reading his supporters and not enough time reading his detractors.

  7. julian says

    For what it’s worth I don’t think this actually has very much to do with skepticism itself, per se, and I think this is a more general problem with conventions as a whole

    Agreed but at the same time solutions are probably going to come from figuring out why skeptics would behave like this as opposed to why the general public would behave like this. At least that’s my thinking.

  8. says

    julian, what evidence do you see of effort on D.J.’s part, or are you operating under the assumption that someone in his position would do so? I’m a bit close to this, so tell me if I missed something.

  9. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    Julian, I disagree. I think he’s a demonstrated liar. It doesn’t matter if he’s consciously and deliberately doing so or if he just cares so little for anything but the reputation of JREF that his mind confabulates. It’s still lying.

  10. karmakin says

    @Stephanie: I do think that, by the numbers, there has been substantial effort in terms of what he thinks is necessary to make TAM more gender inclusive. Having a (even if clumsy) harassment policy and having more women speakers definitely helps things.

    BUT. I do think that he has blinders on regarding the sort of low-level background harassment (although I’m not sure if that’s the right word) that may make conferences less accessible for women. That said, I do think that this isn’t something that’s uncommon, and at the end of the day, I think that most people would make the same mistake.

    His big error was bringing the “tribal politics” into this. I do not believe that, for example, that his ideal position and your ideal position are that far apart. This isn’t a personal attack on you..I think that generally speaking, as someone who’s a bit of extremist on this (Although I don’t think that desiring professional level standards of conduct is really extreme) most people are generally in the same place.

    I’m the freak here, really. But, to be fair, I am what I am.

    That said, I think that DJ and others assume that you are where I am, or even further on this issue. Which I don’t think is the case. Which is why these things turn to World War III, so to speak. The other side is operating from the perspective that we’re more extreme than we really are.

    That’s what I think happened with Elevatorgate, where a simple statement of “Guys don’t do that” went insane because “That” became a placeholder for EVERYTHING, even though Watson was being quite specific and limited with that statement (again I think this should have been broader, but that’s my personal bugaboo)

    That’s what I see the problem is here. DJ brought Tribal Politics into this for some reason. And to be honest, I do think that a lot of the blog posts/comments could have been written clearer as well. I don’t think that things have to be ratcheted down THAT much…we are talking about a very serious issue and some degree of moral force is appropriate..but I do think that the there really is a line in terms of “not helping” that was crossed every once in a while. That said, I do think that in this debate DJ basically LIVED on the other side of the line, making his comments about that quite hypocritical.

    Just because you word something nicely doesn’t mean that you’re saying something nice.

    Anyway, that’s how I feel about it all.

  11. Emptyell says

    Josh, Julian,

    As a relatively naive outsider I’m not sure how much it’s worth, but my impression is that DJ’s problem is more one of cognitive dissonance and privilege blindness than outright lying and obfuscation. I think he feels unfairly attacked and is in damage control mode. That this occurs with such regularity among people in power is no excuse but may be the explanation. I am sorry to see the circling of wagons going on and hope that the JREF supporters can get over the butt hurt and just say “OK. We’re sorry. What can we do to fix this?”

  12. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    Emptyell—I think I allowed for that possibility in my second post above. Let me be clear: it doesn’t matter.

    DJ, unfortunately, has a much longer history of outright distortion, which there’s no reason for you to be aware of.

  13. says

    On whether DJ is lying, hopefully we can all agree that he’s continuing to propagate certain memes that others have at least tried to prove to him with evidence are completely incorrect.

    Just because you don’t know something’s a lie, doesn’t make it less of a lie.

  14. says

    Usually in a notpology, you don’t actually double-down on your offensive behavior. I’m starting to doubt the basic professional competence of the entire JREF since they are screwing this up so completely. I mean, no one over there could convince Grothe to not post yet another condemnation of women talking about sexual harassment as an “apology” for that very thing?

  15. says

    Improbable Joe: I’m not sure after Sadie Crabtree moved to England that the JREF filled the communications director position she vacated. However, previous ridiculous blow-ups when she was still there indicate that he didn’t pass many blog comments through her to begin with.

  16. Pteryxx says

    As others have noted, DJ also placed his apology in the comments on Rebecca’s post, instead of on the JREF page or similar where it would have implied he was speaking from his role as president of the organization. I’m not sure what that implies for any communications vetting but it seems clumsy to me.

  17. says

    I wonder how this could happen, and communications director or no communications director, THIS was the best that Grothe/JREF could come up with? It means that either Grothe isn’t listening to anyone, everyone he’s listening to agrees with him, or everyone he’s talking to agrees with him. I’m still more than half-convinced that JREF as an organization simply doesn’t want certain types of people attending or participating in their activities, and feminists are at the top of the list.

  18. says

    The irony, as should be obvious, is that his consistently putting his organization’s reputation above women’s concerns is doing tremendous damage to his organization’s reputation, and not only among women.

  19. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    Righty-O, SC. But that seems to be a universal (and hilarious) Achilles Heel for self-styled communications experts, doesn’t it? I mean “messengers.” Err, noo, “messagers.”

  20. says

    No, SC… the fact that you are pointing out the fact that he’s consistently putting his organization’s reputation above women’s concerns is doing the damage. Get with the script!

  21. LeftSidePositive says

    @Improbable Joe, #21

    That’s ultimately why I’m siding with Greg on the whole resignation issue. Not because I think DJ is a bad guy, but because I think he’s INCOMPETENT.

  22. Emptyell says

    Josh,

    I agree that it doesn’t matter. It’s the effects that count. I guess I was just being hopeful that they might come around, perhaps a bit less so now :-(

    I wonder if they get that TAM is a purely optional event for many of us. I’ve never been and was wondering if this would be the year to check it out. This stuff was enough to put it off my list.

  23. LeftSidePositive says

    Also, does it strike anyone else that DJ habitually posts such long walls of text that it’s virtually impossible to pin him down on what he means? I mean, I’m certainly no stranger to long comments myself, but pretty much EVERYTHING DJ writes is Gone With The Wind…it seems more like it’s tons of evasion and he’s hoping people won’t have the stamina to read all his justifications.

    I really like long-form arguments, and even I get worn down trying to slog through his stuff!

  24. says

    Righty-O, SC. But that seems to be a universal (and hilarious) Achilles Heel for self-styled communications experts, doesn’t it? I mean “messengers.” Err, noo, “messagers.”

    It does, and it is funny to watch, for senses of funny that vary over time.

    ***

    No, SC… the fact that you are pointing out the fact that he’s consistently putting his organization’s reputation above women’s concerns is doing the damage.

    Right, of course. I am a Skeptical Woman Blogger, after all. It’s my mission in life.

  25. says

    LeftSidePositive,

    A sincere apology would have been much shorter. A FAKE-sincere apology would have been somewhat shorter. There was a little bit of “I like YOU Rebecca, you’re one of the good ones!” along with a whole lot of “I still hate feminists in general, and I was completely correct in the general sense and most of the particulars” to satisfy his libertarian/misogynist base over from the JREF forums.

  26. says

    I really like long-form arguments, and even I get worn down trying to slog through his stuff!

    No kiddin’. That’s appropriate for a top-level blog post, but in blog comments, he should learn to stop trying to include every counterargument to every point he thinks was misconstrued when trying to *apologize*. And maybe to respond to people directly. So it’s more like a conversation, and less like a goddamn one-way data dump.

  27. 'Tis Himself says

    LeftSidePositive #26

    Not because I think DJ is a bad guy, but because I think he’s INCOMPETENT.

    I think you’re right.

    I’m sure DJ wants TAM to be a woman-safe meeting. But he isn’t sure how to go about it. He appears to be disregarding all the thousands of words written about how he can improve the situation because his back is up. He’s thinking damage control for JREF rather than womens’ safety at TAM. That’s the wrong emphasis. Once he shows that he’s taking positive steps to improve the situation at TAM, then JREF will start to regain their reputation.

    DJ’s apology to Rebecca reminds me of a piece of doggerel:

    When in danger or in doubt,
    Run in circles, scream and shout!

    He needs to stop running in circles and yelling.

  28. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    Leftside, yes, I have noticed. It’s hard to get through his text because it’s not quality. It’s heavy, wooden prose salted with buzz words and equivocations. It’s politician-speak, the purpose of which is not to argue a point but to be all things to all people and pack in as much deniability as possible.

  29. says

    to satisfy his libertarian/misogynist base over from the JREF forums.

    That is almost certainly exactly why he can’t just talk with these women, or the rest of us, without stabbing every which way in the meantime.

  30. Emptyell says

    LeftSide,

    Yes, I noticed that also but didn’t make the connection. It is certainly a common tactic for obfuscation and plausible deniability.

    From what I’ve seen your long form is generally clear, sharp and to the point. It’s just that what you are responding to is often rambling point after point after point the point of which are to point away from the point of the original point. You are whacking down the obfuscation. Not contributing to it

  31. says

    It’s just that what you are responding to is often rambling point after point after point the point of which are to point away from the point of the original point.

    That’s a good point, and it’s totally on point.

  32. Emptyell says

    Improbable Joe,

    Absolutely! The longer the apology the less of one it usually is. “I’m sorry” suffices for most occasions. “I’m sorry, but…” not so much (what’s the emoticon for sarcastic understatement?)

  33. says

    So I just noticed this part:

    You have contributed a lot to our communities of reason over the last few years. That’s why I regret not only how you have been treated over the last year especially […]

    Emphasis mine.

    That’s why, huh? Because she’s made valuable contributions? Not because she’s a human being and doesn’t deserve the treatment?

  34. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says


    Ashley, I feel like there is a complex set of misunderstandings here. Would you like to communicate about this some day soon in way that isn’t as blog comments on your blog?

    Hoo boy. It can’t be real.

  35. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    Nice catch, Jason. This is what happens when people become convinced that PR/image management and politicking is the answer to every problem. Oh, sorry, I meant “challenge.” They literally cannot think clearly about substance and content.

  36. says

    Josh: holy shit. Doubled up on the wall-o-notpologies one after another. Sure makes it hard to have a conversation with someone who thinks their turn to speak entitles them to a monologue.

  37. says

    To be clear: I don’t think DJ actually meant what I implied at 41, just that it sure sounds that way, and it would be really nice if he worked on his communications skills if he’s going to do it so voluminously.

  38. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    GROTHE-BOT 5000 IS A ONE-WAY COMMUNICATIONS INSTRUMENT. THIS MODEL HAS ONLY OUTPUT THERE ARE NO INPUT INTERFACES THANK YOU THAT CONCLUDES TODAY’S MESSAGING

  39. says

    Is it just me, or does “Would you like to communicate about this some day soon in way that isn’t as blog comments on your blog?” sounds just a few steps away from “Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” on the creep scale?

    Not in a sexual sense, or a harassment sense, but absolutely in the sense of “I want to get you alone where no one else can see and then if things go pear-shaped it is your word against mine and I can make up whatever CYA lies I need to later on.” If Grothe doesn’t have anything to say that he’s comfortable saying in public, he should try a steaming hot cup of STFU.

  40. Emptyell says

    Jason,

    I think it was Somerset Maugham who wrote in a letter, “I would have been briefer but I hadn’t the time” (paraphrased from faulty memory)

    Brevity and clarity require a lot of work and practice. As well as a clear and coherent position. The only positive spin I can see on this is that he may feel he’s caught in a political vice of trying not to offend one side while appeasing the other (and/or vice versa).

  41. Pteryxx says

    Improbable Joe:

    “Would you like to communicate about this some day soon in way that isn’t as blog comments on your blog?”

    absolutely sounds skeevy coming from someone whose *formal apology to Rebecca* was made as, guess what, a comment on her blog.

  42. 'Tis Himself says

    An apology should consist of an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, a recognition that the other person has been hurt, a request for forgiveness, and a statement about future actions to be taken to prevent reoccurrence. It should not include statements along the lines of “yeah, I messed up but if you had done such-and-so then it wouldn’t have happened.”

  43. MissEla says

    As a good friend of mine pointed out a couple of weeks ago: “An apology means nothing if the offensive behavior doesn’t change.”

  44. says

    Ashley Miller has incredible patience. To the best of my recollection, she did not say in her original post that she didn’t report it. She says that to her knowledge she had reported it, and that she didn’t want to say more about it on her blog because she didn’t want to damage TAM’s reputation [and I will say no more about this so that steam stops coming out of my ears]. She reiterates this several times. She couldn’t possibly have meant that she didn’t report it to TAM for this reason, as reporting it to TAM wouldn’t have anything to do with their reputation. And clearly she wouldn’t have been so angry about Grothe’s claim that there were no reported incidents if she hadn’t thought it had been reported.

    Even if the situation had happened as he bullishly insists on thinking it did, that would still be evidence of a problem with TAM’s protocol and data and not a problem with her or any other victim’s actions.

  45. says

    @LeftSidePositive:

    Also, does it strike anyone else that DJ habitually posts such long walls of text that it’s virtually impossible to pin him down on what he means?

    I think DJ’s got a couple of problems here. He seems to be trying to balance clarity with diplomacy, but he apparently sucks at both. I think he thinks that more text = more clearly-stated point, but if he thinks he’s been misconstrued, then he clearly sucks at stating what he’s thinking. On the other hand, he’s trying to do the political language thing of not naming names or providing specifics, and trying to do the “both sides” balance bullshit, and it only confuses matters and makes him look worse (not least of which is because he’s committing false equivalencies all over).

    I blogged about this after DJ’s last instance of sticking his foot in his mouth, where, long story short, his description of things he’d been told by anonymous sources about “controversialist blogs” ultimately bore no resemblance to any kind of reality I could see.

    The “let’s not discuss this in blog comments” bit, which echoes his previous apology’s “I wish people had reported privately to JREF rather than going to public blogs” is a nice bit of “do as I say, not as I do,” since D.J. aired this initial grievance on Facebook rather than, say, contacting Rebecca and Stephanie by e-mail and trying to hash it out privately. It’s something I see a lot from certain folks in the older guard of skepticism (i.e., folks who have steady jobs with the major magazines), where they’d rather conduct all arguments and disagreements out of sight.

    I think it comes back to the old accommodationist/dick argument, where some folks latched onto the notion that it was okay to express hateful, loathsome attitudes so long as you didn’t use swear words while doing it. In this case, it’s okay to have heated disagreements and concerns about safety and so forth, so long as they’re kept away from prying eyes. Very much “dinner table diplomacy,” as someone said at Skepchick (I think). Personally, I’d rather see this out in the open, so we can see what’s being done and have the truth laid bare.

    Even if the truth is that some of the people at the top are incompetent.

  46. anne says

    Is it just me, or does “Would you like to communicate about this some day soon in way that isn’t as blog comments on your blog?” sounds just a few steps away from “Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” on the creep scale?

    Heh. This is a Perfectly Innocent Request to Discuss Things in Private, between Consenting Adults. It’s not as if the request were made late at night in a confined space from which the addressee had no instant means of escape. Course not.

    The out of sight thing? Well, yes, it begins to ascend the creep scale.

    (News to me that “someday” is all one word, but MS Word has it thus.)

  47. A nym too says

    Fauxpologies, wrapped in privilege, with a slimy filling of ” Pleaaaaase come to TAM, Rebecca. Please! My 18% is shrinking by the day. You’re cool, not like those other bitches”.

    Fail.

  48. Pteryxx says

    DJ could have *read the earlier comments* in that thread on what would constitute a proper apology and simply copied them, and done a better job. It sounds more and more like he doesn’t want to lose one of his fundraisers speakers than that he has any understanding of the problem.

  49. Emptyell says

    This may be OT but…

    It occurs to me that some of this mishegas may be due to the influence of some prominent libertarian leaning persons who may also be less than supportive of feminism. If this is the case it could be a bit ironic if the free market ends up selecting for those conferences that are more clearly attentive to the concerns of women.

  50. Drivebyposter says

    Ugh. The smartest move the JREF could make is to have a series of interviews with Edwina Rogers and ask her how pro-women, pro-gay, and pro-secularism the Republican party is. So everyone’s rage is directed elsewhere, at least for a while.

  51. says

    I think he is missing one huge reality that women face all the time:

    Reporting is worse for us.

    It might be better for everyone else in the long run – maybe. However, we all know what happens when we name names and tell our stories.

    Almost all rapist don’t go to jail. The going number right now is 97%. http://www.rainn.org/statistics However, the person who reports goes to hell and back.

    I suspect that TAM and other conferences are not much worse than your average convention (such as gaming cons and other places I’ve been to) and women get groped, harassed and raped at those things. DAH! Seriously, how is this news?

    I’ve had to deal with unwanted touching at gaming conventions and I told other women about it so they could avoid being alone with the offenders. Calling Law Enforcement? Are you high?

    Even making the accusation within an organization or group of friends tends to lead to trying to stop one group of people from going vigilante while being dismissed and attacked by the other side who will blame you for not having the decency to shut up.

    No, this isn’t what always happens – but it is a REAL danger. For goodness sakes – look what happened to Rebecca when she had the audacity to simply ask that she not be hit on in an elevator? THAT is what happens.

  52. julian says

    I think he is missing one huge reality that women face all the time:

    Reporting is worse for us.

    Tell that to Grothe’s supporters over at Hallquist’s. A couple seem convinced allegations of sexual harassment are viewed as more credible than others accusations (like theft, literally that is the example they gave.)

  53. Pteryxx says

    M. A. Melby: I’ve been thinking about that for some days now, because as a volunteer with no first-hand experience of the sexual harassment that women face, I’m one of those people that a victim can’t trust to take their story seriously. The only way to demonstrate that complaints ARE being taken seriously at an event is for someone to dare to make a report and then talk about how it was handled, as Elyse has done (positive report) and Ashley has done (negative report). And both of them are getting attacked now because of it.

    The only way I can see to have any modicum of trust for the organizers and volunteers responsible for enacting a harassment policy, besides having them report openly and honestly (and anonymously) the results of their actions, is for the underground network of women to pass along the reports of who can be trusted, just as they’re now passing along reports of who can’t. I’d ask that this network make suggestions as to who could be trusted with a position of power over harassment reporting within an organization.

  54. says

    Improbable Joe: my understanding is that the JREF board of directors is largely made up of libertarian millionaires. I don’t know what kind of pressure the fellows (e.g. senior fellow Steven Novella) could bring to bear, if any. But I’m guessing DJ’s mostly answerable to them about the fund-raising, and TAM is largely a fund-raising endeavour. Why he’s acting so uncharitably to the women bloggers and giving lip service to the misogynist crowd who have no problem gaslighting and downplaying harassment, that’s another story altogether.

  55. Pteryxx says

    Also, another commenter wrote about similar concerns here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/05/31/conventions-are-workplaces-for-some-people-how-to-move-this-conversation-forward/#comment-63253

    I’m afraid that these anti-harassment policies are going to be turned into shields for abuser enablers. I’m afraid that the people who are charged with collecting the abuse reports will sneer at the women who want to make a report until the woman leaves, that the collector will convince the woman to leave by saying it wasn’t “that bad,” that the reports will get written up but then “lost,” that report will be written up wrong, and that kind of thing. Then when someone tries to indicate that bad things are happening at the conference, they will wave about their policy and declare that no one has reported an incident, or if someone did, it was a mild one that was quickly and efficiently dealt with . . . even when that’s not the case at all.

    I don’t have a good answer to this, except the thin comfort that SOME of us really do want to be supportive of victims and will be on guard for this sort of thing. That’s nowhere near enough.

  56. says

    Yes, an anti-harassment policy ain’t a silver bullet. People will abuse it and use it to protect the villains. But it’s a hell of a lot better than *nothing*, which is what a lot of conventions still have. And once a policy is in place, we can work within the system to try to fix things.

    I really REALLY wish there was a silver bullet that didn’t involve asking everyone “hey, please don’t creep on one another”, because we’ve already had all the evidence we need to know that that won’t work.

    While we’re at it, TAM’s policy has evidently failed more than just that one time. Unless of course Emily’s just MAKING IT ALL UP. :/

  57. says

    Why he’s acting so uncharitably to the women bloggers and giving lip service to the misogynist crowd who have no problem gaslighting and downplaying harassment, that’s another story altogether.

    Ultimately, I think it is quite likely to be the same story. Grothe answers to people, and if he’s not speaking for them he’s going to get yanked back hard. If he isn’t, that tells you that he isn’t just giving lip service to misogynists, he’s also working for misogynists or at least people who put money ahead of women… which is a very “libertarian” position, for a certain type of libertarian. At some point, you have to accept that people and organizations are more of less what they appear to be.

    And do we know how much overall attendance is down for TAM over last year? And is the number for men up or down, and by how much?

  58. Pteryxx says

    While we’re at it, TAM’s policy has evidently failed more than just that one time. Unless of course Emily’s just MAKING IT ALL UP. :/

    I saw one commenter at Skepchick say that he’d been tapped to escort more than one woman to her room at TAM because some creepy guy had given them reason to fear being stalked.

    I’ve been tapped for this duty, too. I’m glad to do it, but damn.

  59. says

    We have nonesuch statistics presently, Joe. We have only what DJ has provided us, which is that women’s registration percentage is 18%, vs 40% last year. Despite repeated attempts to ask what made him think women are avoiding the conference because of “irresponsible messaging”, no proof has been offered.

    I should note that the apology at Ashley’s was grossly irresponsible messaging as well. I’m so sorry that we’ve found out last week what happened to you last year, and wish you had just reported it to TAM officials sooner. Riiiight. Never mind that she, several times, said she reported it, and thought it was taken care of for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Beyond that, she didn’t want to elaborate on her blog, and he said that he understands why she didn’t feel necessary to report back then in his FIRST attempt at an apology.

    This dude needs to learn how to write an apology. If I was JREF president, I would have said something along the lines of, “we take our harassment policy very seriously, and it would appear that we have failed you here. Please accept our sincere apologies, and know that we will make every effort to improve data collection and staff training in the future.”

    And I’d stop the comment right there. I wouldn’t go on to defend myself poorly with sideways stabs at bloggers he thinks are too critical of him. I’d be short, conciliatory, and to the point without useless irrelevent sidebars about my own petty grudges.

    Those, I’d save for further comments. That I’d obviously need to apologize for later.

  60. Pteryxx says

    Okay… as far as ensuring our convention organizers aren’t complete buttheads about this, I just found out that RAINN’s network of sexual assault response centers includes professional educators whose job is to give talks and training on sexual assault and harassment. They recommended that organizers call on the network to find educators local to them, for training and consultation.

    Tomorrow I’m going to call an educator local to me and ask for advice.

    The RAINN hotline:

    http://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline

  61. Erista (aka Eris) says

    In all seriousness, what M. A. Melby said. I’ve asked about it a couple of times and no one has answered, but I want to know how the people who want to get anti-harassment policies in place plan to make reporting safe for women. What is the plan for making sure that when a woman is harassed and goes to the authority indicated in the anti-harassment policy, that she isn’t brushed off, shamed, ignored sneered at, mocked, belittled, and otherwise further traumatized by the people she is reporting to?

    If there is one thing that all this absurdity has shown, it is that women are not even generally safe to report in the skeptical movement. Even mild situations (“guys, don’t do that”) by established members of the community are met with nuclear grade hostility. How can we assure unknown women in serious situations that they won’t become the next Rebecca Watson on the rector scale?

    I think anti-harassment policies are good, but only if they will be enforced correctly. If the people who are charged with enforcing the anti-harassment policies are prone to reacting poorly to reports of harassment, the anti-harassment policy can turn into a silencing shield for the organization that wants legitimacy without actually taking heat for making people act appropriately or face the consequences.

  62. says

    I am trying to be patient and level-headed about the whole thing, which has proven to be difficult, but I think I have, at worst, just been rather cold. So I’m going to side-step the part where I want to emphatically agree with the points everyone is making about nonpologies and express how very very angry I am. Instead, I’m going to go to a different thing here in response to some things said by Pteryxx and M.A. Melby

    One thing I have found encouraging is that even the people calling me a dumbfuck and suggesting that I have endangered the entirety of the female secular community for not reporting well enough think that what happened to me was unacceptable. This gives me hope that when someone reports they won’t be told it’s not a big enough deal. Although DJ’s negative comments about women complaining about the behavior of speakers show a certain lack of understanding there…

    Of course, in light of the fact that reporting is difficult for many reasons, the fact that people who think I didn’t report it also think that I am therefore the problem because I put other people at risk is why women don’t want to talk about this or report anything. As though the onus is on a woman not to be harassed rather than on the perpetrator not to harass – not reporting is a worse crime in people’s eyes than harassing, because women should know better and men apparently shouldn’t.

    As someone who has experienced far worse behavior than what happened at TAM and not reported it for a lot of reasons, this gets at me and hurts so badly in a way that I think people who haven’t been there can’t understand and I’m not sure I can explain. And when I, or people like me, see this happening to other people, it causes the same reaction. I didn’t ask for this so much as I posted the blog knowing what would be thrown at me and it’s still nauseating — but it is hurting TAM so much more than I think they understand because when they say it about me, they’re saying it about an awful lot of women who instinctively find this accusation deeply troubling.

  63. Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner says

    Ashley, I don’t know you but I got your back, and so do a lot of other people who are fed the fuck up with sexist apologetics in our alleged community.

  64. says

    Yes, I think enforcement of the policy they implemented was seriously lacking at TAM, given the specific situations that came up. DJ’s attempts at damage control appear to have a component of victim-blaming to them, whether he intended it or not (and I’ll withhold speculation on that point). As a leader, his multiple failures at PR, attempting to defend TAM so hamfistedly as to do splash damage to one group of people (which others have speculated is a sop to another group of people) is probably what’s primarily driving this backlash against him.

    It’s an excellent reason for DJ to step down, if he’s going to. I’d personally rather he smarten up and learn that he’s fighting fire with kerosene, though. He’s a leader, he should start acting like one.

  65. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Well, shoot. I took too long to post and got ninja-ed.

    And while I’m not an expert on this, I’m going to hazard that an inappropriately enforced anti-harassment policy is NOT better than nothing. An anti-harassment policy that is poorly enforced teaches people to not trust anti-harassment policies and not report.

    To bring up a personal example, my friend was raped. She reported the rape to the police. They called her a liar, shamed her, sneered at her, accused her, and all in all were awful to her. And she came out of that situation not trusting police and vowing to never report anything like that again. Hell, I came out of that not trusting police, and I was just a bystander.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t implement anti-harassment policies. I think they are incredibly important tools, and I think we clearly need them. But we have to do it right, because it only takes one terrible incident to have people vowing to opt out of the system for good. If a woman is abused by a conference goer or speaker and then abused by the conference organizers, it won’t just be the specific abuser she’ll be turned against.

  66. Pteryxx says

    Tom Foss pegged it over at Stephanie’s:

    It is apparently the job of the victim, and not the employees and organizers, to know the procedures for proper harassment reporting.

    *fume*

  67. Emptyell says

    @ Pteryxx

    “I don’t have a good answer to this, except the thin comfort that SOME of us really do want to be supportive of victims and will be on guard for this sort of thing. That’s nowhere near enough.”

    Clearly the only serious solution will be implementation of policies and practices women can really trust.

    Our support can certainly help but as much as we want to fix things this is clearly no time for “Don’t you ladies worry your pretty little heads. Trust us. We’ll get it sorted”

    Fortunately it looks like there are some serious, capable and committed women on the case.

  68. says

    There are some serious, committed and capable men on the case too, but it’s their job to prove it to the women. You’re never going to prove it by declaring the space safe by fiat. I hope DJ and others learn that lesson.

  69. Pteryxx says

    Fortunately it looks like there are some serious, capable and committed women on the case.

    Hell, hire the frickin’ women! They’re the experts on who to trust! If I were running a convention the best move I could make would be to get the honest endorsement of these “troublemakers”.

  70. says

    Hells yes. I see no reason why the entirety of the security shouldn’t be handled by the women who are most likely to understand what harassment is, and capable of lending a sympathetic ear and taking the claims seriously.

    Of course, there’s still also the memetics in play that you need some men as “muscle”, as horrid as the idea itself is. And sometimes you WILL actually need some more forceful enforcement of rules, so having some men will almost always be inevitable. But I would not mind at all having some ass-kicking buff females showing a drunk and handsy asshole the door.

  71. Pteryxx says

    Jason: That’s something I can ask about, actually. Some of the jackasses won’t leave if a security woman tells them to, but they will if a man does. However, women often feel safer reporting harassment to other women (or so I’ve heard). (Who do harassed *men* feel safer reporting to, I wonder?)

  72. says

    Consider the other meme of toxic masculinity. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable reporting harassment to a woman, because I’d be concerned the guy has that mindset, though I could see how some men would prefer not to show weakness to women but are okay with “complaining” to other men. Others might just not report harassment because as men, they’re supposed to be tough and take care of themselves — anything they can’t solve with their fists is a sign of their own weakness.

    It’s a tough call overall.

  73. says

    Ashley, I missed this the first time around, or I would have responded immediately.

    One thing I have found encouraging is that even the people calling me a dumbfuck and suggesting that I have endangered the entirety of the female secular community for not reporting well enough think that what happened to me was unacceptable.

    I’ve seen one of those folks link to Stephanie, calling her and others part of the problem for not name-and-shaming. All things considered, that’s a particularly odious bit of victim-blaming, and I hate it. Underprivileged groups already have to deal with all sorts of “learned helplessness” in the face of a stacked system, and it’s horrid that anyone has to deal with that kind of nonsense from their own in-group. I’m sorry that you’re taking that kind of abuse from people who are in the same position as you.

  74. Jandorian says

    DJ admitted or claimed ignorance on several points.

    If it is an admission, it should be applauded, for it is not easy to admit that one has been ignorant, and blundered as a result. We can find fault elsewhere with his response, but should encourage the brave honesty of admitting ignorance where applicable.

    However, if it is a convenient lie, then it is reprehensible. A really disgusting, sociopathic kind of lie. The sort of lie that a real moral monster makes without a second thought because it is beneficial to themselves.

    Now the problem is this: nobody but DJ is REALLY certain which option (or a third, unstated one, if there is one) applies here. And given what is known about psychology, biases, and cognitive dissonance, I’m not sure we can even assume that DJ really knows which option is correct.

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but damn……

    WHAT. A. MESS.

  75. Pteryxx says

    I’ve seen one of those folks link to Stephanie, calling her and others part of the problem for not name-and-shaming. All things considered, that’s a particularly odious bit of victim-blaming, and I hate it.

    That’s not even solely learned helplessness – it’s a completely rational decision to stay silent. Ordering victims to COME FORWARD and report, instead of confidentially or anonymously report, is putting them directly in danger. It’s reprehensible.

    Rebecca Watson’s the index case in this community. Any improvement will largely be because she spearheaded the discussion, but she’s still paying the price for it.

  76. Emptyell says

    Clearly we have some considerable number of volunteers for the men’s auxilliary. Perhaps we can make some appropriately symbolic badges. Flying monkeys come to mind considering what teh menz will probably think of the female chief of security anyway. Seems ok if the frame is from Wicked rather than the Wizard.

  77. says

    Jason

    That is almost certainly exactly why he can’t just talk with these women, or the rest of us, without stabbing every which way in the meantime.

    Don’t worry, you’re safe.
    It’s something noteworthy as well: DJG as well as Chris Hallquist are very consistent in only attacking female bloggers who write about those issues. Not you, PZ or the guys over at the Atheist Experience. Nono, it’s only Rebecca, Stephanie, Je, Greta and Ophelia.

  78. Pteryxx says

    Giliell: Dang, I hadn’t noticed that. Nor have they gone after Crommunist. Oh, I saw a few folks calling PZ “mangina” but they’ve been doing that for, well, a year.

  79. Pteryxx says

    Emptyell, re the Gentleman’s Auxiliary: this from a commenter at Skepchick.

    I find it interesting that so many people are mentioning Dragon*Con as a safe space. Have any of the Dragon*Con-goers participated in the Backup Ribbon project? http://backupproject.livejournal.com/ That was what made me decide to go back to Dragon*Con the year after I experienced a dangerous situation there. Yes, D*C itself didn’t respond fantastically initially to security concerns (though they responded better than D.J.), but enough other people did respond in grassroots manners like the Backup Ribbon project that eventually we ended up with a tightening of security at the con and a more significant harassment policy. A harassment policy, I might add, that I ended up having to make use of, and that worked to get someone kicked out.

    http://skepchick.org/2012/06/why-i-wont-be-at-tam-this-year/#comment-150897

    Now that’s interesting… a statement that *grassroots* safe space support caused a convention to tighten its own enforcement.

  80. says

    Pteryxx
    The commenters, yes. They hate PZ, probably because he’s already banned most of them. But I’m talking about the “leads”. I think that during the original Elevatorgate, what Caine calls 3d4k (or was it 2 days 4000 posts?), Pharyngula was every bit as much a battlefield as was Skepchick and much more so than almost diamonds. And so far I can’t remember any of the repeated fuck-ups where PZ hasn’t weighed in and come out clear and supportive of Rebecca, Jen, Greta, Ophelia and Stephanie. Yet he’s not an irresponsible but well-meaning blogger who discourages women from attending.

    +++++

    What is the plan for making sure that when a woman is harassed and goes to the authority indicated in the anti-harassment policy, that she isn’t brushed off, shamed, ignored sneered at, mocked, belittled, and otherwise further traumatized by the people she is reporting to?

    Proper training.
    That’s, for example one thing DJG could have said:
    “I’m sorry, Ashley, we obviously fucked this up. This shows that we still have a long way to go. For next year we’ll try to make sure that our staff and volunteers have training in how to handle those complaints properly. We will equip specially trained people with turquois-coloured badges so victims of harassment can come to them and be sure to be treated with support and respect.
    We will furthmore instruct our staff and volunteers to actively note things themselves.”
    Sadly, it’s something I have said now and that didn’t cross his mind.

  81. Erista (aka Eris) says

    *nods to Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg*

    I think that is a good idea. Training won’t make it 100% safe, but it can really help.

  82. A nym too says

    Ashley – I applaud you for your courage, and for not bowing to pressure from people who can’t quite grasp the radical concept that women aren’t public property.

    Now another depressing thought. I talked yesterday about women I know, including me, who don’t report harassment/assault/rape because the costs outweigh the benefits. Easier to just use each other as free therapy, and forget about it wherever possible.

    But this. has all brought some things back up for me, namely that some women literally do not realise they’re being harassed or abused. Some girls and women experience it so often that it’s a normal part of life to them. Why would they report it?
    [trigger warning . child abuse, sexual assault]

    Example – I was abused as a child. Physically and emotionally, beatings, mindgames, weird control issues. I’ve been asked “Why didn’t you tell someone?” and told “It can’t have been that bad. you’re exaggerating to get attention”

    I honestly did not know. I was very sad and angry, but that was my fault, I was evil. I had food to eat, clothes to wear, it was ungrateful and wicked to feel sad, I deserved to be punched and kicked for that.

    I didn’t talk about it because it was normal, everyday stuff. Abused kids on tv were dirty and thin, they had no clothes or toys. I was lucky, wasn’t I? if I didn’t want to be served up that meal I hadn’t finished, I should have eaten it yesterday. If I didn’t want to have my face rubbed into the carpet, I shouldn’t have wet myself in the first place, like a filthy, lazy brat.

    Why would I tell anyone? That’s like saying “Last night I went to bed, and I woke up this morning”, boring, ordinary stuff. Plus, I was ashamed, people would find out I was wicked and stupid, lazy too. Best to keep my mouth shut.

    I was a prime target for bullies, my parents said that was my fault too. When I was sexually assaulted by a gang of older boys it was my fault, I knew better than to not wear a bra under my baggy sweater, at 13 I shouldn’t have been doing stupid things like that. Stupid bitch, that’s all I was.

    New Year’s Eve, 19, when that guy pushed me onto the couch and kissed me, I should have stopped him. Instead I let him have sex with me, because I was a slut now too. I was disgusting, they were right.

    It took me till my thirties to find out this was all wrong, that my crushing depression about being a bad, evil person was not warranted. I’d swap childhood stories with my partner and she’d go pale, she’d. say “But that’s abusive” and I’d reply “Oh no, it was for my own good!”
    I’d lived my life,worked. got an MSc, and needed a stranger to point out that my parents had abused me

    That’s why I don’t doubt that there are girls and women out. there for whom harassment is so prevalent, so normal, that the only way it registers is as “Ugh he touched me. What’s wrong with me, why do I lead them on? I’m so nasty”. If a new friend offers to help her report it to con staff, imagine the reaction when she says “Well yeah, he touched my boob, and I feel gross for letting him, but I thought nothing of it until my friend said…”

    That’s the end result of a victim blaming culture, where harassment and abuse are as mundane as catching a bus.

    Sorry this got long.

  83. Erista (aka Eris) says

    A nym too, I’m so very sorry that all that happened to you. I can empathize, because I was sexually abused as a child, and I too did not realize that what was happening to me was abuse. I thought that all the negative repercussions I was facing (extreme social awkwardness, phantom illnesses, refusal to look “attractive” by buying properly fitting clothing or take care of my hair, etc) were my fault because I was weak and bad, not the inevitable wages of abuse.

    I think it’s all a lot like language; as someone who was raised speaking English, Chinese sounds odd to me. But had I been raised speaking Chinese, English would have sounded odd to me. It’s about your beginning point of reference. And for people who are abused as children, abuse is the beginning point of reference for normal.

  84. Pteryxx says

    Similar… everything done to me as a child was my fault for being a freak, and everything done to me as an adult was deserved, period, due to gaslighting by my abusive partner. It took me almost six months to progress from “…hang on, that was a trick abusers use” to making the phone call where I said “…I think I might be being abused, could you help me understand?”

    I suspect the single most helpful thing harassment policies could do is to include the number of a local (or national) sexual assault hotline, and a sentence something like “If you feel awful, “icky”, or ashamed, but you’re not sure if what happened to you was really sexual assault, call this number.” Only good can come from having that number and that question in the hands of every. single. person.

  85. says

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but damn……

    Yeah, I was willing to give DJ the benefit of the doubt, but I wonder how many time I have to do that. After this notpology, I’m not sure I have much more left in the benefit-of-doubt tank.

    There are several points of his “apology” that strike me as highly problematic, like his emphasis on tooting his own PR horn, his constant implications that he’s been taken out of context or misrepresented, all the while himself misrepresenting the criticism he’s received and of course his continued equivocation on the matter of what constitutes a report.

    Despite apologizing for victim-blaming, he goes right on to do it again, laying the responsibility on gathering information squarely on the victims.

    He admits that he’s been unaware of the facts of previous incidents of harassment, but he also says things like “If the data is wrong…”
    What do you mean if, DJ? You know it is. You admitted that it was in this very same post!

    I don’t know if DJ is just being defensive, is truly this incompetent, or if he’s responding to pressure from elsewhere, as have been suggested. I don’t think it really matters either.

    I’m not sure we can trust him to work out this problem. Whatever the reason for his apparent obliviousness, I think it disqualifies him for doing this job.

  86. Pteryxx says

    According to that Backup Project site, the founder won’t be running it anymore (dang!) but as it was always grassroots, perhaps our communities could follow their lead.

    – They provided Backup Project ribbons or buttons, to raise awareness and help identify people willing to witness.

    – They ran information tables at conventions, explaining the Backup Project and sexual harassment and assault.

    – They provided resources for further study, such as this excellent short series by Jim C. Hines:

    “Boys will be Boys” and other minimizing comments
    http://www.jimchines.com/2011/12/minimizing-comments/

    Sexual Harassment: Bystander Intervention
    http://www.jimchines.com/2011/12/sexual-harassment-intervention/

    Supporting Victims of Sexual Harassment
    http://www.jimchines.com/2011/12/sexual-harassment/

    All of those seem viable. I’ve run info tables before; I can see bringing a stack of information and references to hand out. Maybe Sexual Harassment Fallacy cards with debunked excuses on them such as “But it’s just flirting”, “That only happens to women”, and “But this person’s an ally/friend/important.”

  87. says

    I previously commented on how DJ seems to think that reporting would help; and it makes sense that he would focus on this because if these incidence are not reported HE can’t do anything directly about them.

    And yes – it is true that sometimes when these things are reported, it is worse for the person reporting because of the scrutiny and attacks that they may receive.

    However, even if everyone is well-meaning and wants to do what they can about the situation; very often this just can’t be done. The type of unwanted touching that I’ve experienced had few or no witnesses other than myself, there was no physical evidence that this happened, and if I were to report I knew that whomever I reported to would only have my word that anything happened at all.

    So, who do I tell – only people who know me well enough to take my word for it. I don’t place it in the realm of public opinion and I certainly wouldn’t place the problem in the realm where I was compelled to show beyond reasonable doubt that it happened.

    That’s just a necessary evil, because yeah – sometimes people lie.

    The problems I have had (though disturbing) were relatively minor compared to what others have had to deal with. So, certainly it wasn’t worth it for me to formally report. I have no idea how I would feel if the situation were different.

    What I suggest is a policy and basic training for staff (not just for these types of occurrences, but other difficult situations that may arise.) I’m sure this has been suggested by others – even in this thread.

    However, at some point the problem is what the problem is and those that run the events cannot magically make these things never happen. The solution to the problem is a change in culture and that doesn’t happen over night and isn’t in any one person’s control.

  88. Sivi says

    Also, as someone pointed out on Ashley Miller’s blog, when DJ says no one reported the incident to TAM or JREF people, he ignores that fact that HE WAS THERE, and that as prez of the JREF one might expect him to FILL OUT A DAMN REPORT.

    “In light of the new information JREF received this week…”

    If it’s new information, then that’s evidence enough that he fucked up, and he ought to stop being a dick and start trying to make things right. I mean, you think he’d feel at least SOME shame for forgetting an incident like that, and would be trying to make up for it, not throwing around excuses and ass-covering.

  89. MyaR says

    Pteryxx, I’ve already offered to pay for buttons/ribbons/stickers and literature (up to a reasonable $$ amount), over at B&W, and have at least another friend who will be at TAM who’s willing to help out, too. I don’t have a good organizational space online to use for figuring out logistics and finding other interested parties, but am working on figuring that out, too.

    I believe there are also other materials on the Back Up Project livejournal community, but I haven’t waded in there yet. To say it’s hard to find things there is an understatement.

    Unfortunately, I do think that we (whoever would like to participate with me) need to do some research and figure out how to respond to someone attempting to abuse the Back Up concept and participants. I imagine there is a lot of good material from people who have used the system at other cons, if I can find it.

  90. says

    @Sivi

    Exactly. This incident is not about how women aren’t reporting enough. It’s about how the procedures at TAM are so lax that reports that are actually given, even directly to the head of the organization, aren’t followed up on or recorded.

    It’s quite simple really: if something is serious enough to expel a person from the venue, it’s surely also serious enough for the staff to follow up and file a report. This wasn’t done. It’s the fault of the staff, not the victim.

    Moreover, most instances of sexual harassment are at a level below what is legally actionable. You can’t get a guy arrested for string at your boobs. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant for the target of such behavior.

    DJ has previously been myopically focused on incidents requiring calling of security or law enforcement, so I’m wondering how seriously TAM staff would take a report about a guy leering at women’s chests. If they can forget to file a report about a guy who had to be evicted, what are the odds that they’ll remember to do so with someone who’s “just” staring?

    This is important because it speaks to the core problem regarding women reporting instances of sexual harassment, the question “will I be taken seriously?”
    If women have the (often correct) impression that their reports will be ignored, their feelings belittled and no action will be taken, then no bloody wonder they don’t report it. Who would?
    Who the hell would volunteer to be subjected to that kind of crap, knowing that most likely nothing will come of it? It won’t even be recorded or remembered. And who the hell would pay to go to a con where you know this kind of thing is likely to happen every goddamn day?

  91. Pteryxx says

    further digging: Here’s an example of supposedly low-level harassment (in each individual incident) that informal networking revealed to be a much more serious pattern.

    http://jaymgates.com/misc/wfc-2011-creeper/

    I think this is why it’s necessary to encourage reporting of minor incidents, even anonymously, even by witnesses or bystanders. Not everyone harassed can or should be expected to report, but just a subset might help identify patterns (and predators) like this one.

  92. Pteryxx says

    Reminder to nobody in particular: men do get sexually harassed (and assaulted, and raped) too, and are also unlikely to report for similar reasons. We’re seeing a huge public flood of hateful shit targeting women specifically, but when it comes to enacting policies, men who come forward need to be treated just as seriously and confidentially. That silencing message works on all victims. /publicserviceannouncement

  93. says

    @Pteryxx

    From the link you posted:

    I was, at one point, told that ‘we can’t handle this issue if people don’t report it’. But who do you report these incidents to? The police? The hotel security? The con-com? How do you get hold of them? Where are their numbers posted? What’s to ensure that you don’t suffer from repercussions? What if it was just ‘maybe accidental’? How do you track if something else, something ‘worse’ has happened? There are so many variables, so many loopholes.

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

  94. Pteryxx says

    Jason: re the Backup Ribbon project, my instincts say to be very wary of the huge and outspoken false-ally contingent in this community. Any darn fool can grab a ribbon, if they’re freely available, and many will. Similarly, some skeezy people can nod and smile through any amount of awareness training and come out the other side unchanged.

    I don’t have good solutions for this, just brainstorming: keeping watch on each other, making the ribbons themselves tough to subvert (1-making them overt reminders of the policy, 2-making them slightly embarrassing for creepers to wear…), and combining any Backup Ribbon project with a hallway table and extensive education on what being victim-supportive really entails. I hope someone with experience might speak out here.

  95. says

    I don’t know how to signal that the person who is designated as backup could be vetted in any way short of making it a different design of ribbon every year, and having them register as volunteer backup at a table after being briefed on how to go about BEING good backup.

    They’d also have to be clearly delineated in their responsibilities. We’d have to have a separate conversation about that. Leaving it out of that post, might make a new post discussing pros/cons of the idea.

    Just noticed this. Giliell@91: Sure, I’m not going to attract DJ’s ire with my recommendations against him this time around since he’s hyper-fixated on women bloggers, but we’ve crossed paths before during the Ryan Grant Long debacle and he’s demanded via email that I change things that I “mischaracterized” in an email where the mischaracterizations were blockquotes complete with context.

    Also, Chris Hallquist has gone after me once before for what he thought were specious arguments against misogynists, erecting a strawman of my argument and ably tearing it down. He used a Harry Potter fanfiction as a rhetorical club against said strawman. It was pretty brilliant.

    That’s not to say that either of them are going to turn their eye to me or PZ or Crommunist or any other guy saying exactly the same things. No, the bad guys this time are all girls, and DJ’s gonna stomp them all flat.

  96. Emptyell says

    So no one else likes the Flying Monkeys Gentlemen’s Auxiliary? Is it too insensitive and lighthearted?

    I can see how it might be. But it might also offer a way to diffuse situations in a good natured way, only getting serious as needed. Perhaps I am just too enamored of my mental image of a woman replying to some creep’s advances with “Don’t make me call my flying monkeys!” and the flying monkeys actually being there and “just checking” to make sure everything’s ok.

    If anyone else thinks this might be a good idea I’d be happy to make up some prototype flying monkey pins*. I’m thinking laser engraved and filled in strongly contrasting colors for easy identification but small and elegant enough to look like just a tasteful accessory (tricky with men’s apparel). Of course I’d also have to check whether there are any IP issues before ant large scale roll out.

  97. Pteryxx says

    …I went afk and had a thought (I know, right?)

    There IS one very important purpose that a Backup Project presence could serve (meaning, an education table and/or a few committed, publicly accountable representatives) – they could potentially serve as an alternative reporting system. As volunteers in their own right, they would not be affiliated with a specific event or its organization. Meaning, if someone DOES go report to the convention staff, and is marginalized or worse, that person could report *the mishandling* to Backup Project central volunteers. Similarly, Backup Project could report the anonymized stats that they receive to the event organizers, as a crude fact-check on their data – nobody could claim “zero incidents” with an independent body formally reporting incidents to them. It could be a way to hold organizers accountable, while taking on some of the burden of education and response.

    To Jason specifically: there’s no way to “vet” anyone for matters of trust and expect that to be a clean bill of health thereafter. People can change, they can be unaware of their own actions, and some few predators will go undercover for years to get into a position where they can finally, freely abuse someone. (I should know; I was abused by a beloved partner for over a decade.)

    Trust of anyone has to be ongoing with constant accountability, no matter how good an ally someone has proven to be in other areas, or in the past. That’s the ONLY way to smoke out potential abuses.

  98. smhll says

    he’s demanded via email that I change things that I “mischaracterized” in an email where the mischaracterizations were blockquotes complete with context.

    Along with the things he’s said to women bloggers whose ‘messaging’ he doesn’t like, I’m concluding that he has a bad case of trying to control the uncontrollable, namely the internet-published output of many, many people.

    He’d probably benefit from a brisk lecture from a PR professional. Because the best way to deal with customer-types who have criticism of your ‘product’ is NOT trying to shut them up or shout them down. And internal criticism is also worth a listen.

    I can understand him fixating on the issue of whether big name speakers are harassing and pressuring attendees/staff for sex as the big issue and general conference climate as the little issue (because of bigger legal ramifications attached to the former). That concern somewhat explains his emphasis on narrowing his focus to the most egregious problems. But, overall, his ability to look at clearly outlined issues from any point but his own has been overwhelmingly poor.

  99. Pteryxx says

    Emptyell: I think your logo’s adorable, but we’re in danger of jumping the gun here re women’s input. Nobody’s actually stepped forward to BE a female presence in security, that I know of; nor has the idea taken hold past here.

    I posted this over at Crommunist’s, but I think it bears repeating: Don’t be a creeper, but also don’t be this guy!

    (Warning: Flash cartoon AUTOPLAYS with totally necessary LOUD MUSIC)

    http://www.prequeladventure.com/this/KatiaDrinkUp.html

  100. Sivi says

    @Pteryxx

    That is usefully illustrative. Shame, yeah, about the music.

    Yeah, I’d worry about any guys too eager to be part of some kind of auxiliary security thing, as a dude who would have been really into that not too long ago. From reading comments, most of the time men get called to help someone they’re close friends of the person in question, and are asked. If it’s just some random dude with a ribbon, though, I can easily seem them either not being asked, or butting in awkwardly without knowing if they’re needed or wanted.

    Anyone know how this Backup Ribbon thing has worked in the past? Do people at least require a police check, or references, or something? Early vetting, to supplement the ongoing proof of decency thing?

  101. Emptyell says

    Pteryxx,

    I agree which is why I am asking for input. This is something that The Men can’t just step up and do. I’m wondering what is an appropriate way to show support. The FMGA pins could be a way to do this without taking over or imposing in any way on whatever formal arrangements are made and could also be incorporated in them as appropriate.

  102. Pteryxx says

    Emptyell: just remember that the *default* is going to be distrust. You probably can’t be trusted. I probably can’t be trusted. A pin or ribbon isn’t going to change that. Being over-enthusiastic is a danger signal, just as it is in flirting, really.

    Sivi: I have no idea but I’m hoping an educator can give me some advice, when I get back, darn RL.

  103. MyaR says

    The Back Up Project was conceived as a response to a specific incident — google Open Source Boob Project for context — and is meant to be open source in the same sort of way Occupy is.

    The project FAQ gives a good description of what the project goals are:

    To encourage ourselves to be aware of situations where women are being harassed, and to help those women out to the best of our abilities, rather than ignoring it as Somebody Else’s Problem.
    To actively provide assistance to women who need it and who want it.
    To promote an atmosphere where creepy behavior, random groping, and harassment will not be silently ignored or tolerated. It will not be considered “just the way cons are” or “just something women have to deal with.” In an ideal world, that would be the default atmosphere, but we all know we don’t live in that world.

    “Somebody Else’s Problem” resonated particularly with Ashley F. Miller’s description of her experience, where the harasser followed her around from group to group, and the group would disband, abandoning her to the harasser without recognizing what he was doing.

  104. says

    I don’t think this is something that men can get involved in, in the same way that women do. I don’t think men can or should step in as bodyguards/security for reasons of trust as well as white knighting and even legal issues. It doesn’t mean we can’t be supportive, but maybe just in different ways.

  105. MyaR says

    I don’t think the Back Up Project is meant to be additional event security. It’s meant to make us (the participants) more aware of what’s going on around us, and to break through the social taboos about noticing harassment and creepy behavior. It’s not meant to lead to confrontation, but of providing an out for a woman (or man) who’d like to get away from a harasser.

    I also think Pteryxx’s point above about providing a back up reporting mechanism is also good, and one that’s appealed to me from the moment I heard about it. It’s obvious that the current (or maybe just previous, as Stephanie Zvan noted) JREF “code of conduct” is insufficient in the processes needed to effectively deal with harassment, and having some easily identified people to approach who are also willing to help with official reporting is a very useful thing.

    I think there is a place for men to get involved, although it’s very much of the helping out and not leading sort of involvement. Back Up to the Back Up, as it were.

  106. Emptyell says

    Pteryxx,

    Emptyell: just remember that the *default* is going to be distrust. You probably can’t be trusted. I probably can’t be trusted. A pin or ribbon isn’t going to change that.

    Yes, I know. It’s still hard for me to accept. I am so accustomed to trust being the default that it’s very hard for me to really imagine the contrary. This is why I try to be clear about my own limitations and my (limited) awareness of them. It is also part of why I am here, to get a reality check. Though I am occasionally clueless and presumptuous the alternative is to just stay in my privilege cocoon, so I am trusting ( :-) ) that people will set me straight as needed.

    This poisoned atmosphere of distrust that is created by the abusers makes me very angry and is the source of my enthusiasm and eagerness to do something about it, which in turn makes my motives suspect and me presumed untrustworthy by default, which pisses me off more, which…

    FWIW I fully understand the distrust default* and do not in any way blame women for the situation. I blame the dickheads who create this environment and dream up the White Knight scenario of which I can be fairly accused**.

    So I guess my question is can I do anything constructive here or should I just back off and limit my activities and support to people who already know and trust me? I’m quite serious about this because if I can’t contribute then I don’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s.

    * Rationally and intellectually that is. I really can’t model the actual experience, or perhaps just don’t want to since it makes me I’ll just to think about it.

    ** Not in a creepy way but I do see how it’s nearly impossible to disentangle the motives and behaviors.

  107. Sivi says

    Oh ugh, the Open Source Boob Project. Ugh ugh ugh.

    I’m glad to see there was push-back on that stuff. Takes me back, and not in a great way.

  108. says

    I know I can’t get too involved, because I’ll just start shooting and stabbing people and then that’s sort of a PR disaster, right?

    On the other hand, there’s certainly a place for guys in this. We used to sort of do something vaguely related when I was young and partying on a regular basis, where we guys would police each other. Designate a few guys to be sober, and sort of pull other guys aside if they were getting loud, getting a bit aggressive, or seemed to be trying to corner women and make their move in private. My condo was one of the main party spots one summer, and we were really strict about making sure everyone was cool, and that included not letting guys corral women into private spaces.

  109. Godless Heathen says

    Pteryxx:

    Emptyell: just remember that the *default* is going to be distrust. You probably can’t be trusted. I probably can’t be trusted. A pin or ribbon isn’t going to change that. Being over-enthusiastic is a danger signal, just as it is in flirting, really.

    Bingo. I wouldn’t trust a man with a pin on if I didn’t know him or have any context for him. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe there are good men out there who actually do want to help, it just means there is no way for me to distinguish them from other men.

  110. Godless Heathen says

    On the other hand, there’s certainly a place for guys in this. We used to sort of do something vaguely related when I was young and partying on a regular basis, where we guys would police each other.

    Thanks for saying this, Improbable Joe.

    I was going to bring up the fact that men should definitely be watching out for other men engaging in or talking about harassing behavior. And then they should call those other men out. Make it so it’s not okay for men to voice those ideas in groups of men and it will help them realize that it’s really not acceptable. Otherwise, it ends up being one of those “don’t say when you’re around women, but it’s totally acceptable to say it around other men” things. When it really shouldn’t be.

    The other thing that men could do to help is to start conversations with the person doing the harassing rather than with the woman being harassed. That way the woman can escape the harasser and not be in the awkward situation of having to talk to another man whose motives she doesn’t know (assuming he’s a stranger).

  111. Emptyell says

    Improbable Joe:

    …where we guys would police each other. Designate a few guys to be sober, and sort of pull other guys aside if they were getting loud…

    This works among people who know each other. From what Pteryxx and others have pointed out it is much more difficult, if even possible, to apply in a more general way in an environment where trust is so badly broken.

    Perhaps the only way for it to work is by growing out of networks of people who know and trust each other in real life in ways similar to what you describe. To the extent that I can, I also do this within my own circles. I am beginning to get the feeling that there is little more that I can do.

    Godless Heathen:

    Bingo. I wouldn’t trust a man with a pin on if I didn’t know him or have any context for him.

    I know that slapping a pin on doesn’t make me or anyone else trustworthy. I have had my doubts from the beginning about the sticker, pin, ribbon idea, but got caught up in my fairy tale imaginings of empowered women and their minions creating a safe environment with a bit of serious humor. References to the Back Up project were also encouraging.

    It may be that the problem is intractable or it may be that it can be dealt with but that there’s little I (and men like me) can do to help. Nevertheless I will continue to look for opportunities.

  112. Godless Heathen says

    @Emptyell,

    It’s difficult to know what to do as an ally. Unfortunately, I don’t have any solutions either. It’s rather depressing, isn’t it? I know there are men out there who want to make things better, but it’s difficult.

    I think calling out other men is a great way to do something, although I know it’s hard to do so among strangers or acquaintances for the same reason it’s difficult for women to report harassment (social conditioning, being shunned/mocked/etc., fear of the person responding poorly and escalating the situation, etc.).

  113. Pteryxx says

    Can I just point out, you male guys, why is it when I say “Be careful of white-knighting” or plowing over women’s voices, y’all go straight to “But I want to Do Something!! eleventy!!” They’re not mutually exclusive, sheesh.

    Maybe this makes sense to me because I’ve volunteered so much. We’re volunteers in this fight. We don’t HAVE to be here. We’re the grunts, the rookies, the strong backs (as it were). Women (mostly) are the veterans who’ve been through the trenches and know this territory. They outrank us. LET THEM LEAD. There’s a FUCKTON of work to be done, plenty for everyone and to spare, without folks charging ahead with burning-bright rookie enthusiasm. Sexual victimization is not a game. Well-meaning mistakes can get real people trashed like Rebecca, stalked, injured or even killed.

    I can talk more about that but I think it might be a derail. For now, I’d suggest as a way to learn the field, use that RAINN website or hotline to find a sexual assault center local to you (in the US anyway) and ask if they have a volunteer course you can take. (Some of them accept male volunteers on the hotlines.) If they have fundraising events, help out at one. Listen to these people. Having experience can only help you know what to do when you’re at a conference and something suspicious goes down.

  114. Emptyell says

    Thanks Pteryxx,

    That pretty much says it. It’s always been frustrating (and infuriating, and…) for me but my frustration isn’t much compared to the problems other people are facing. So I think I’ll just shut up and learn for a while. I will continue to do my part IRL but I’ll leave the online activism to the veterans.

    Cheers, and thanks again for the insight.

  115. Emptyell says

    @ Godless Heathen,

    I think calling out other men is a great way to do something

    Yes, and I do it when I can but I don’t get much opportunity. The bubble I inhabit is not just privileged but pretty enlightened. The odd creep doesn’t get much traction in my circles.

  116. says

    Jason

    but we’ve crossed paths before during the Ryan Grant Long debacle and he’s demanded via email that I change things that I “mischaracterized” in an email where the mischaracterizations were blockquotes complete with context.

    That’s a noticable difference.
    Didn’t he also full publicly shame Greta and then tried to go for E-mail?
    But it seems like a pattern to me…

  117. Pteryxx says

    Okay… I talked to my local rape crisis center (located through the RAINN hotline) about the education they provide. Your local center MAY provide similar services, gotta ask them.

    Their educators do sexual harassment and assault education training as a presentation format and Q&A session, usually 60 to 90 minutes long. Presenters will come to your group’s event or meeting place, days or evenings or weekends. This is a free service and summer is a good time to schedule as it’s not very busy.

    My contact says the presentations will cover the definitions of sexual harassment, assault, and rape, how to recognize suspect or dangerous situations, what an escalating situation looks like, the basics of how reporting should be handled, and bystander training in how to intervene as safely as possible. She says they have never dealt with training event staff before, but it shouldn’t be much different from their usual presentation except possibly in scale.

    She also said (which I’m overjoyed to hear) that they RUN INFORMATION TABLES AT EVENTS. That means, if your group can arrange for a educator to run a table, the Backup Project volunteers can have a professional mentor! The educator’s there to teach and answer questions, not to handle reporting, but still.

    One more note – she said that a group should check with their local crisis center BEFORE listing the center by name on their harassment policy, in case it constitutes an endorsement.

    Printable materials can be requested or downloaded from local resource sites. I’m in Texas, so my local site is:

    http://www.taasa.org/resources/order_materials/

    which has lists of brochures (in English and Spanish) about non-stranger rape, sexual harassment (in the workplace) and lots of other topics.

    My two cents: y’all who are outraged, make a note to find your local center and either attend a training session or nudge your group, employer, bowling league or whatever to host one. Push this information to the organizers of any events you might attend – they too can probably have a training session for the asking.

  118. says

    Giliell: yes and yes. Though I just realized I made an error in that pullquote — the second email should be “blog post”.

    He emailed me a very long complaint, but I was at work at the time and couldn’t really deal with it immediately. Literally twenty minutes later he cut-and-pasted his request into a comment on the post, with about a hundred words added talking about how he emailed me but since I didn’t reply or action his request, he posted it in public.

  119. John Horstman says

    @Godless Heathen (#132): I think you hit it perfectly in comment #130. That is exactly How To Be An Ally Without Imposing Yourself: police the privileged group of which you are part, while taking cues about what’s helpful (and not!) from the group to which you’re offering help. Men at gatherings can work to create an environment hostile to harassment and harassers instead of indifferent, accepting, or even encouraging. Men: call other men out on harassing or assaulting behaviors. Make it clear that they’re not cool. Doing so is not unreasonable: acting in a public space carries an implicit acceptance that one’s public actions may be publicly scrutinized. That’s sort of the meaning of “public”.

  120. says

    @Pteryxx

    That’s great stuff. By all means, let’s take advantage of the people who already have experience in these matters. That can only be to our benefit.

  121. says

    @Godless Heathen #130:

    I’m glad you got my point. There’s a real place for men to say to other men “this is not cool” before, during, and after conventions and other public meetings. And I think that the guys who tend towards inappropriate behavior tend to knock it off when they know other guys are keeping an eye out, which is part of why simply having strong and strict anti-harassment policies in place is a great idea.

    @ Emptyell #131:

    I know the self-policing isn’t a perfect solution, but it is one more step in the right direction. The main point behind my idea and my experience is that it takes the burden off of women. Women shouldn’t have to make themselves safe from abuse, men should stop abusing women and where possible discourage other men from being abusive. It shouldn’t be up to women to avoid abuse, it should be up to men to avoid being abusive. And at every step, over and over, we need to listen to women for direction. As equals, as our friends and peers and family and loved ones.

    Every chance we all get, where it is safe and comfortable, and mostly and especially for us men, we should try to teach men to not be abusive asshats.

  122. says

    Pteryxx: I feel like my shooting/stabbing comment was interpreted as “going straight to eleventy”… which is fair because I actually go straight to eleven. I wasn’t trying to suggest that anyone else should, or that it has anything to do with guys trying to be allies or trying to be helpful. It is just that I’m not only a former Marine, but I also went through the basic instructor classes for marksmanship and unarmed combat. So my response tends to be at a higher level than other people’s, and I have to absent myself from that sort of thing.

  123. Godless Heathen says

    Also, everything I said in 130 and everything Improbable Joe said in 143 and Pteryxx said in 133 goes for white people working to combat racism as well.

    I know it’s not directly related to the topic at hand, but considering how white the atheist/skeptic movement is and the fact that there’s been a lot of talk about how to make people of color feel welcome, it’s worth remembering. My guess is that there is a lot of racism and/or unexamined white privilege among this group and it would be a shame to start at zero when that becomes a larger issue (although I’m sure we will).

    In general, I believe that the best way for privileged groups to be allies to oppressed groups is to challenge members of their own group.

  124. Emptyell says

    @ Improbable Joe:

    Clearly there are no perfect solutions at present. Ultimately self-policing would be the solution if everyone did it. Even then it only works when people are free to call others out when they fail.

    In the meantime we do what we can. It seems like the only response to the toxic distrust is to just keep slowly, diligently working to rebuild it wherever and however it’s possible. Trust is so much easier to destroy than to rebuild it doesn’t feel like a fair fight, but I’ve seen enough successes that I continue to be optimistic.

  125. Emptyell says

    @ Godless Heathen #145

    You’re right. There are lots of similarities between all the various class/power struggles. It does seem that it would behoove the skeptical movement to attack these problems to whatever extent is possible. Besides being the right thing to do, we can use all the members we can get and skepticism and rationality may be the only way to really get at the problems.

  126. says

    It is almost like… I don’t feel like I need to build trust. I feel like I need to act right and trust comes or it doesn’t, and I don’t need to make my acting right contingent on being trusted, you know? Because if I did, it would mean that I could excuse not acting right if I didn’t get enough pats on the back, and that would make me one of the bad guys.

  127. Emptyell says

    Yeah. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been thinking about it too much and it’s time to stop.

  128. says

    Emptyell: let it percolate, then. Take a day. Not everyone has the same stamina. You’ll find yourself back on the blogs to go over some new point again in no time.

  129. Matthew says

    Jason,

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s mostly that I’ve been overindulging a bit. Kind of diving into FTP at the deep end (and trying not to be too obnoxious or splash about too much). I probably will be slowing down for a while. It looks like I’ll be starting a big project tomorrow.

    The other thing is that the whole trust dynamic is a very complex one in the way it weaves through class, privilege, power and personal relationships. I’m finding it kind of fascinating but it’s too complex to get into here and now and I don’t feel ready anyway.

    Cheers.

  130. AnyBeth says

    @Pteryxx 138:
    I know you posted this comment elsewhere, too, but afaik I can comment closest here. Thank you for all you did calling RAINN, (and from there) your local rape crisis center, and for reporting what you found. The resources you discovered sound like they could be very helpful for training conference staff and more. I hope leaders take note.

  131. arbor says

    Grothe wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him.

    He’s saying whatever he thinks it will take to get us to shut up.

    The really insulting part is that he thinks we’ll fall for his slop.

    Boycott JREF entirely until they fire him.

  132. Pteryxx says

    AnyBeth, you’re welcome. Seriously, it was just a phone call that anyone could have made, y’know? (Well, two phone calls.) But I might have just happened to be the first, or the loudest, to go and ask.

  133. says

    I believe this apology is, at the very least, a good start; and DJ pretty much admits that. It may not be complete, but what there is, is sincere. It doesn’t sound like a notpology of the “I’m sorry you chicks are so thin-skinned” variety. I also think that it’s a bit harsh to say DJ is “leaving several others under the bus;” He addressed Watson by name because he had used her comments as a specific example to make his case.

    It’s up to Watson to accept the apology or not. I can’t tell her she SHOULD accept it, but I think she CAN accept it without giving up anything important, as long as all parties understand there’s still work to be done.

    …but I would appreciate if such reports were balanced with an acknowledgment of the great effort the JREF goes to ensuring that TAM is a safe and welcoming environment for women.

    As the leader and public face of the organization in question, that’s DJ’s job. Let’s hope he does it well.

  134. says

    I am getting sick and tired of reading conspiracy theories about why DJG’s assholery *must* be because he answers to misogynists. It seems like dudes are the ones mostly speculating about the role of JREF management in DJG’s actions.

    First hand experience in dealing with dudes (in the context of alleging harassment) makes me believe that he just doesn’t fucking understand the problem, but is so convinced that he does (he is a man, after all, and this feminism thing can’t be horribly complicated) that he continues to make an ass out of himself. Theres nothing calculated about saying “oh my we must be having some kind of horrible misunderstanding! now let me repeat the same position I had before…” over and over again. Why would DJG or men in general understand this problem well without a lot of serious study? It is virtually impossible to understand it without being willing to listen to women and believe them, something he is not currently willing to do. At this point it would be embarassing to say he doesn’t get it because he has insisted so often that he totally does.

    I would imagine that the management at the JREF doesn’t give too much of a shit about women in the first place, and probably doesn’t even have this problem on their radar. If they are aware of it they don’t think it is a big deal. Most people don’t care about offending feminists, even ones from their own conference. If they really cared I would imagine they would get someone from the PR industry to tell him how to deal with it properly instead of letting him make the same mistake countless times.

    Accusations that he answers to the people at the JREF forum are ridiculous. Why would he care?

  135. says

    I think there actually is a pandering component from which he derives his anti-feminist sentiments regarding the people who get his ear repeatedly (I’m trying to give him some credit here — if he came up with that ex nihilo, that’s significantly worse than just being clueless). I also think that why he’s wrong almost doesn’t matter in comparison to the fact that he’s wrong, and the further fact that he refuses to acknowledge that some of us aren’t letting go of the shitty statements he made throwing those bloggers and harassment victims under the bus.

    Ultimately, he answers to the JREF board of directors, who will obviously know what’s gone on here and see that he’s screwing things up bigtime. If numbers tank, both because the good people who recognize this situation and are pulling out are being vocal about it, and because the asshole contingent can’t make up the lost funds, then DJ will apologize. I strongly suspect that’s why he apologized to (only) Rebecca.

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