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TAM’s harassment policy was secret. Why?

One of the biggest victories I was really, truly hoping for in the harassment policies campaign came to pass. But rather than crowing about it like I did with the American Atheists and CFI policies, I can barely fathom what’s going on and can’t bring myself to celebrate at all. TAM’s harassment policy appears to have come to pass in one of those strange “but you won’t like it” sort of ways, like we’d all been wishing on a Monkey’s Paw instead of making cogent arguments for these policies.

I honestly hoped that DJ Grothe and/or other powers-that-be at JREF would realize that the people DJ claimed are trying to hurt The Amazing Meeting by discussing the harassment they’d experienced, and proposing countermeasures, were instead trying to help TAM, and him, rectify the situation. I had hoped that DJ et al would come to understand that it was not about painting his specific convention as an “unsafe space“, but rather as a place that SHOULD be better than background levels of harassment but WASN’T.

But, until now, nobody has shown any indication that harassment was being taken seriously. In fact, it looked quite a bit like they’d decided harassment policies themselves were the problem, when they removed all mention of the weak-tea and toothless policy that had existed the year prior.

Then a tweet tipped us off.

[blackbirdpie id="224283317732777984"]

(@Maria_Myrback Yes. For others’ info, volunteers had training on proper process to follow if any kind of harassment is reported at ‪#tam2012)

The reply:

[blackbirdpie id="224281865090105344"]

(@ErikB120 Thanks Eric. People need to know we have a process in place for handling harassment ‪#tam2012)

An easier way to show people that a process was in place for handling harassment would be to include information about your harassment policy in the hand-out literature, on the website, or even mentioning in the introduction ceremony that harassment isn’t tolerated and to report harassment to TAM staff. That’s how you get the word out to people that you have a process in place — you tell them yourself.

As though that wasn’t enough, Surly Amy provided Ophelia with the following quote, with the relevant details bolded by me:

I think one of the most hurtful things I experienced while attending TAM was Harriet Hall’s Tshirt that she wore three days in a row. I told her through tears, in the speakers’ lounge, that it was dehumanizing and gender/color blind and very hurtful to me specifically as a person who does have to deal with harassment regularly. I said I was glad she felt safe and that I wouldn’t have sent 22 women to the event if I didn’t think it was safe for them either. So who was she talking to?

I felt that it was a personal attack (whether or not intended as such) since I was the main public representative of Skepchick at the event and it said ‘skepchick’ on her shirt and I told her that. I know she had a right to wear that shirt even though it was hurtful. But one day would have been enough when she was at the podium to send her message. To continue wearing it every single day, especially after I had expressed how upset I was with it, was cruel and shortsighted to say the least. That was very, very disappointing since I used to have a lot of respect for her. But there were so many detractors there that I’m sure she was getting a lot of love for slamming “skepchicks” everyday, and so my feelings were the minority and so became irrelevant.

It’s this kind of dehumanizing and angry sports-fan mentality that is driving people like me away from this group of skeptics. And I am one of the people actually doing something quantifiable with the grants (which I plan on continuing to do btw.) Seriously, imagine if half the energy used to make angry shirts and fake websites were dedicated to helping me send women to science events or to do any sort of good in this movement. We could change the world. Skeptics are supposed to fight back against psychics and scam artists, they aren’t supposed to make people like me cry and leave events early. We need to stop the harassment and hate and this sort of instigating should not be tolerated by a group of rationalists. It is certainly not going to be tolerated by me.

There was definitely an us against them feeling that I personally experienced at the event, with groups of people who wouldn’t get within 10 feet of my table. Many identifiable online FtB- and Skepchick-detractors and their friends. Oh and there were undercover harassment people, which just seemed so strange and creepy to me. I was told there were 19 people secretly monitoring the event for harassment but no public policy or message on how to report incidents other than some info hidden on the JREF website under FAQs that I never saw. I only found out about this after I was in tears in the speakers’ lounge with a few people and suddenly a super-secret harassment specialist team was brought in to talk with me. After I reported to them that the TAM twitter feed with the anonymous blogging from the event and Harriet’s shirt had upset me to the point of wanting to leave, I had security cameras trained on me and my table where I sat with my mother the entire time. A security/harassment person checked on me regularly. They said I was being monitored and recorded. It was intended, I was told, to help me feel safe but instead it just exacerbated the stress I felt. I changed my flight and left a day early.

That’s not how you deal with harassment. That’s — dare I risk Godwinning our conversation? — too much like secret police, too much like Stasi spies. Is this anything like what we asked for? Did we ask for people to be treated to their own personal SWAT team and 24/7 surveillance whenever they reported that they were being mistreated by someone? Well, I sure as hell didn’t at least.

And what did the JREF and DJ gain from this course of action, by proving that they’re taking harassment seriously while simultaneously creeping the harassed right the fuck out? Is it that they simply don’t want to admit that maybe they should have a code of conduct, or a harassment policy, in place after all, and all those people they’ve been yelling at and whipping furore up against were right? Is it that this would be too much of an admission that everyone at JREF, from the top down, fucked this one up way too badly and they just wanted to deal with the problem without admitting they were wrong to deny the problem in the first place?

I can’t even begin to speculate why some people in our community would twist themselves into knots to root for Pamela Gay’s inspiring anti-harassment speech at TAM, and try to ferret out harassment in our community though by the most secretive and creepy means imaginable, while simultaneously calling us Freethought Bloggers “bullies” and “stasi” out of the sides of their mouths. All because we dared suggest that we should all do something about the harassment in our communities. How do rationalists square that? How do you overcome that level of cognitive dissonance?

I’ll say it again: I can’t even begin to speculate. I’ve tried. I simply can’t.

Update: In the comments, UAJamie relates another incident that I strongly recommend you read.

Update 2: More clarity from Surly Amy over at Ophelia’s.

Comments

  1. says

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for anybody to communicate why the decision to keep it secret was taken either. Clear communication doesn’t seem to be JREF’s habit right now.

  2. says

    It was pretty strange. There were people wearing big yellow buttons reading “TAMbassador: Ask me anything!” I assumed they were there for questions like “Where are the restrooms,” “How do I get a ticket for the Carlin show,” or even stuff like “Where’s a good place to go for vegetarian food?” But another attendee told me on Saturday afternoon that he had talked to one of the people wearing these buttons who said that they had been trained in harassment issues and reporting them. But this was never explained to us, either in the booklet or in a public announcement. Honestly, if something had happened to me, it never would have occurred to me to go talk to the people with the buttons.

    And on top of that, the undercover stuff seems really strange to me. Were they hanging out at the bars? Were they eavesdropping in the bathrooms? How could they possibly see every incident?

    A lot of harassment is going to happen when there are no witnesses other than the victim and the perpetrator. If the victim doesn’t know where to go with his or her complaint, then the policies are useless. It needed to be clear to all TAMmers what was and wasn’t acceptable conduct and what to do if you had a problem.

  3. Pen says

    The really sad thing about this is that it ignores the prevention of harassment a publicised policy might bring about. People who see a written policy may be inclined to think more about what they are doing. Other people can issue a warning that they feel something is contravening the policy and potentially nip problems in the bud. A secret policy means that problems can only be tackled after they happen, not avoided in the first place.

  4. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    Is it that they simply don’t want to admit that maybe they should have a code of conduct, or a harassment policy, in place after all, and all those people they’ve been yelling at and whipping furore up against were right?

    I suspect this is the most likely option. I’ve never felt any of the major players, DJ included, wanted people to feel uncomfortable going to TAM (there are, of course, genuine creeper scumbags fighting against it, but they’re a small minority) – but rather than come out and admit that people like Rebecca Watson and Ophelia Benson were right, they chose to run it under the radar.

    How they thought it wouldn’t eventually come out I’ve no idea. I’m starting to think that a whole bunch of people in the skeptical movement seem to labour under the delusion that if they admit to being wrong about something it’ll ruin their credibility as skeptics, and hence go to great efforts to deny anything that might suggest the’ve screwed up.

  5. says

    This seems like a lot more trouble to implement than what people were asking for and it will give worse results since people who don’t know about it won’t feel protected and won’t know what to do if they get harassed. It’s like they took the straw-man idea of what a policy was and implemented it and it had all the problems straw policies were said to have. This is either stunning incompetence or an attempt to make the straw man look legit.

  6. woo_monster says

    Great harassment policy. Experiencing harassment? Seek out the unidentified people trained to deal with it, the ones that you weren’t even told exist.

    Is DJ so petty about criticisms he has received that he would institute a harassment policy LESS effective than the previous years? That is what I’m taking away from this.

  7. Pteryxx says

    …That’s completely backwards and disturbing, to have as a matter of policy *victims singled out for extra attention* by a team operating under its own rules. The person being harassed didn’t ASK for this. That’s not being supportive of the victim; that’s taking all agency away from them – they don’t get to ask for help, initiate contact with the team, or have any control over their own situation. Surveillance and guarding like that could conceivably BE harassment, for petes sake!

  8. woo_monster says

    Are they going to take down all of the posters showing emergency-escape routes in case of fire next year? We don’t want people to think that there is an abnormal danger of fires, so lets hide all of the information pertaining to what to do in case of fire.

    We will still have a procedure for dealing with fire, but we don’t have to bother letting attendees know that. Might scare em.

  9. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    woo_monster wrote:

    We will still have a procedure for dealing with fire, but we don’t have to bother letting attendees know that. Might scare em.

    I know – a secret undercover fire brigade! Not sure what we’ll disguise the big helmets, the axes or the Dalmatians as, though…

  10. says

    That’s — dare I risk Godwinning our conversation? — too much like secret police, too much like Stasi spies.

    I had the same reaction. Not that the harassment-police was actually behaving like the stasi, but that there was something broken about us being accused of being stasi-like, but them being the ones who implemented non-transparent, secret enforcement of unspecified (or at least, mostly unknown to participants) behavioral codes; with camera surveillance.

    also, how is finding out there’s secret harassment-police but no clearly stated code of conduct supposed to be less likely to freak people out about whether they’ll be dinged for doing something?

  11. LeftSidePositive says

    Another thing is that TAM’s harassment policy utterly fails to challenge our rape-culture (not just for skeptics, let me be clear, but our society at large) worldview that mistreatment of women is a problem centered ON THE WOMAN herself. This policy is White-Knighting in the feminist sense of the term that someone is so consumed with doing what they think is “noble” that they totally forget to consider the input of those actually affected by their actions. Frankly, if your actions make the person you’re supposed to be helping feel more intimidated and more alienated, you’re doing something wrong! And yet people wonder why women choose not to report…

    A good harassment policy goes: “Oh, you’re being harassed? Thanks for the details. We will approach the people responsible and make sure they stop, so you can go back to enjoying the conference and not have to deal with this shit.” THIS policy, on the other hand, treats the woman like the problem. YOU have to be reminded that you are being harassed. YOU have to feel awkward about being on camera the whole time you’re at our event. YOU have to interact with security all the time. Because you are The Other. You are The Harassed. You are the magnet that brings harassment to you. You are the reason we can’t say we have no reported harassment. There seems to be no acknowledgement that there are sentient beings doing the harassment–that this isn’t just some force of nature for which you can only build a retaining wall to protect affected parties. No, the harassed has to have her conference experience defined by being The Harassed One, whereas those doing the harassment seem to have minimal, if any, encumbrance from the organization.

  12. Erista (aka Eris) says

    I cannot figure out on what POSSIBLE world this kind of “secret anti-harassment monitoring” would go over better with either pro-harassment policy people oranti-harassment policy people. Is there anyonewho is more happy being secretly watched/listend to/recorded than they are being given an brochure on the anti-harassment policy? WTF?

  13. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    Erista(aka Eris) wrote:

    Is there anyonewho is more happy being secretly watched/listend to/recorded than they are being given an brochure on the anti-harassment policy? WTF?

    I doubt it – but that’s not going to stop the usual chorus from claiming it’s a) superior to anything anyone they consider one of the #FTBullies could come up with, and b) it’s all the #FTBullies’ fault for forcing DJ & TAM to do it.

  14. Robert B. says

    It’s like they wanted to prove anti-harassment policies are bad by instituting the worst one they could think of.

  15. Pteryxx says

    …The more I think about this, the worse it gets. Security cameras trained *on the person’s con table*? The single most public place she’s going to be for the entire con, barring possibly on-stage? Most harassment takes place privately, and much is verbal – how is surveillance video going to be any use unless some jackhole actually blatantly groped her across her own con table? It’s a tremendous waste of resources, besides being a disgusting imposition.

  16. says

    I dunno. Personally I get a “monitor and tape the complainer so if she decides to make any claims we can prove nothing happened” vibe from this.

  17. says

    I should clarify that I’m not accusing, just that that’s how it would feel to me, and what it feels like to read.

    Don’t they have anyone with any experience in PR? And by that I don’t mean Las Vegas style PR.

  18. karmakin says

    I agree with LSP, in terms of the “White Knighting” and how we focus on the victims of harassment/rape instead of the perpetrators of harassment/rape. It’s like when MRAs entirely miss the point of the problem of prison rape..yes, it’s horrible that men are raped in prison..but the point is that it’s men who are DOING THE RAPING, so how do we stop that.

    But I also think that a lot of this is simply that they can’t afford to “let us win”. Because if we “win” here then they fear that we’ll have additional strength when the next big issue comes around, be it global warming or dare I say it…economic reforms.

  19. karmakin says

    I should also add one more thing. There’s a possibility, that this is simply them “reacting in kind” to what they perceive us as doing. I’m not saying this is accurate (in fact I don’t think it is), but I’ll be honest, I do think that this is a sort of go-to “life trope” that we should be aware of. People tend to react to what they perceive as being as in kind. It’s just that we tend to over-exaggerate the other point of view and under-exaggerate our own.

    And I think everybody does this, to a point.

  20. brucemartin says

    I note that this blog post is indexed (among other topics) as relating to atheism. Yet, unlike in 2011, the TAM2012 conference was definitely NOT an atheist conference. I don’t mean that there was any theism. I mean that almost the only talks that could be characterized as explicitly atheistic were those put on by the speakers from the Secular Student Alliance and the Richard Dawkins Foundation. So, clearly, the JREF decided that there were plenty of other atheist conferences, and that the mission of TAM is to serve the other aspects of skepticism.

    I personally support both, as I imagine most of us do. But I don’t feel as much social pressure challenging my skepticism of ghost-hunting as I do challenging my atheism. In other words, I feel that I get positive reinforcement that is more significant to me at freethought conferences than at TAM, in the 2012 version. It’s good to have different types of gatherings with different areas of focus. But for those with my perspective, attending a TAM-type skeptics meeting is less important (and I probably won’t go in 2013). If others figured this out in advance, that might also have contributed to lower attendance at this year’s TAM. (Along with fewer headline atheist speakers, fewer female speakers, and more competing conferences this year.)

    I also have to say that I was chagrined to realize that there was neither a paper nor an on-line feedback form this year, unlike last year. I guess DJ doesn’t have time for more input.

    I wish TAM every success, but it doesn’t currently look like a priority for me.

  21. ivycannon says

    Face it– nothing DJ/JREF did would have been good enough–

    You have harassed him relentlessly even after he yielded to skepchick demands last year and now Amy cries foul when someone wears a shirt that supports him. You guys are blind to what you have done to others and unable to see how you look to the rest of the skeptical community.

    You have become such hypocrites.

    I think you skepchick-type-feminists better start planning conventions amongst your own, because fewer and fewer people want the hassle of dealing with the endless whining, bullying, never-satisfied, enemy-making, back-patting, humorless, petty, privileged, hypocrites you have become. Are there any grown up people left on PZ’s coterie who aren’t having fits because some convention they were at didn’t have a harassment policy that was to their liking? Do you think a harassment policy could have kept people from wearing clothing Amy cries about? Can it keep people from asking for coffee in elevators or writing mean things on the internet? Does any harassment Amy got at TAM begin to compare to the harassment you, PZ, Laden, etc. have dished out to Grothe and others?

    When will freethought blogs have an anti-harassment policy to keep them from harassing everyone who doesn’t yield to their bizarre demands? Thankfully,your newly made “enemies” are much bigger people than you are. (They are also funnier.) I hope that everything you have done to them comes back to you.

    Who will pay attention to you when you have no more fake dramas to moan over and you’ve banned everyone who ever hurt your precious tender feelings or alienated them by lying about them,or called them douchebags or shitbags or whatever slurs that you’ve deemed acceptable when said by you –but not about you?

    You all might want to lessen your harassment of others if you are so easily offended by t-shirts and not knowing what harassment policies apply to places you might go.

    You guys spend more time and energy making enemies out of skeptics like Grothe ad Harriet Hall than you do on the people who are supposedly doing some sort of sexual harassment that never is really clarified. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world thinks you are crying wolf? If a t-shirt is the big complaint about TAM, then TAM is VERY SAFE indeed! Is there anything that is really bad that actually happened at a skeptic’s convention? Because your indignant complaints make you all sound like professional victims. Given the fuss that has been made over t-shirts and and coffee invitations, I suspect that if there was any real harassment we’d all have heard by now– over and over and over with documentation instead of shouting people telling us that we must never question people who are known to lie or changing allegations about something that happened last year or some years before?

  22. embertine says

    So… let me see if I’m understanding this. TAM responded to a complaint of harrassment by…. harrassing the person who reported it? What the ever-living fuck?

    While I don’t particularly agree with Amy reporting someone wearing a T-shirt, this is not ever the best way to deal with the situation. Total fail, TAM. Total epic fail.

  23. psanity says

    Could I just state this very clearly? Putting someone under surveillance because she has complained about harassment is harassment. Businesses have been sued for that sort of thing.

    Whatever they are doing, it is not remotely about fixing a problem. It is not about responsible behavior, or responsible event management, it is about intimidating people who say things they don’t want to hear.

    At this point, I don’t know why Amy would continue to support this outfit. TAM has clearly labeled her victim/prey. She seems to have been under the impression that as a strong skeptic voice and financial supporter, she would have some level of respect from TAM. They obviously don’t give a rat’s ass about her or anyone else who rattles their comfortable little cage.

    There are probably better conferences to support, and many of them have a greater likelihood of being important conferences over the next few years. I hope Amy and the other Skepchicks transfer their support to more worthy organizations.

  24. says

    The problem remains, ivycannon, that skeptical/atheist/freethought organisations have been asking for quite a few years now how they can get more women to attend meetings. It’s just that at least some of their members really really really don’t like the answer that they’re getting.

    Obviously, the women who are *already* going have responded positively to things that the orgs are already doing, so asking the women attendees why other women aren’t coming is unlikely to be helpful. They’re not the target recruitment demographic, which is skeptical/atheist/freethought women who know that these meetings exist, who have been invited often more than once by their skeptical/atheist/freethought friends, but who persist in declining to attend them.

    Large numbers of this target recruitment demographic (the non-attendees) keep on telling the skeptical/atheist/freethought orgs that the main reason they decline to attend is that there is a persistent minority of men at these meetings who create a hostile environment (of which sexual harassment is simply the most blatant problem) sufficiently intrusive that these women find such meetings to be unwelcoming and/or stressful and generally not an enjoyable way to spend their time.

    Obviously, it is the orgs’ choice whether to believe that these women in the target recruitment demographic are describing a legitimately overlooked concern or not, and the orgs are the ones who must decide, based on the answers to *their questions*, what the orgs might do to redress the problem. If you’re right, TAM will go on from strength to strength without worrying about attracting the naysayers from that target recruitment demographic that up until now they’ve been very keen to attract. If we’re right, you get to enjoy hardly any change to TAM (except to wonder why it stopped growing after 2011) and the other skeptical/atheist/freethought orgs who listened to the current-non-attendees and thought “hey, anti-harassment policies are a really good idea actually” will be the ones who go from strength to strength over the next few years.

    So we’ll see, shall we?

  25. says

    embertine #26

    While I don’t particularly agree with Amy reporting someone wearing a T-shirt, this is not ever the best way to deal with the situation.

    From what I’ve read, Amy didn’t actually get to report anything. *Somebody else* reported to TAM staff that she was upset, and that’s when the secret anti-harassment team swooped in to find out what was going on and “reassure” her that she would be under continual video surveillance for the rest of the con.

    Please be careful about misrepresenting this, no matter how accidentally, as Amy reporting Harriet for the t-shirt. That simply did not happen.

    Total fail, TAM. Total epic fail.

    No disagreement there.

  26. says

    Given the surrounding furore, it is extremely hard to be in any way charitable towards DJ or JREF for “handling” the problem in such an Orwellian fashion. Especially not given that DJ has expressed, and not recanted in any form, the opinion that the problem is the harassed not the harassers.

    tigtog #29:

    *Somebody else* reported to TAM staff that she was upset…

    Er, this was not mentioned. For all we know the TAM Thought Harassment Police simply saw a problem victim and swooped in to rectify save it her.

  27. says

    You’re right, Amy doesn’t say that explicitly, it’s just clear that it wasn’t Amy, or anybody asked by Amy to do so, who reported that she was upset. I presumed that somebody on the TAM staff saw that she was upset and others were comforting her and called in the swooping specialist team, but I don’t know that for sure.

  28. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Haven’t had the chance to read all the comments yet but damn, DJ – what the fuck were you thinking? (aside from “let’s appease the misogynist creeps creeps so as to not lose their misogynist money)

    I was struck by this (maybe now deleted? I can’t find the original) tweet from @jref:

    There’s no special secret for how you talk to women/christians/ufo nuts. You speak to people respectfully. – Penn #tam2012

    Yes, speak to women reasonably – just like Penn does to theists and UFOlogists.

  29. michael says

    I just read a blog post about an islamic women who had hear vagina literally locked but thats nothing compared to this, I cant believe someone would wear a T-shirt that would upset one of the skepchicks. This is obviously a massive conspiracy by the JREF to make sure that they can continue to be misognynists, they didnt do this on good intentions at all, its was all part of a masasive conspiracy to make sure that no harrasment policies will ever be put in place in the future……thats was obviously all sarcastic, people need to get some perspective

    Did they handle thigns perfectly? No

    Did we expect them to? No

    Why did they fall short? It maybe linked to the fact that they are an inferior species, that is, they are human

  30. michael says

    To ” Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the FreethoughtBlogs Star Chamber”

    You are completely right, this is sooo bad, I cant even describe how upset I am at hearing this news

    Did you know they didnt even have a harrasment policy published at the Melbourne GAC this year? 4,000 people turned up and no harrasment policy, just tears me up when I think about it, ohhh and the shirts, the disrepectful shirts.

    Have you read Naslim’s blog post about the islamic women having her vagina literally locked? literally drilled holes in the side of the vagina and then put a lock through the holes and kept the key in his sock until he got home – 3 comments on that blog so far…..over 30 on this blog post……

  31. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    @michael Yes, “Dear Muslima…” If Dawkins couldn’t pull it off what make you think you can, shitstain?

  32. carlie says

    Have you read Naslim’s blog post about the islamic women having her vagina literally locked?

    Wow, an honest-to-goodness Dear Muslima II? I’m impressed. No, wait, I’m not.

    Did they handle thigns perfectly? No

    Did we expect them to? No

    Perhaps they could have listened to the dozens of people trying to give them advice, or, I dunno, just cribbed from any other harassment policy out there, because there are dozens of those too. It’s as if they were asked for a napkin, and instead of reaching over to the dispenser and getting one and handing it over, they spent two weeks crafting one out of silly putty and then presented that as a “napkin” instead.

  33. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    It’s as if they were asked for a napkin, and instead of reaching over to the dispenser and getting one and handing it over, they spent two weeks crafting one out of silly putty and then presented that as a “napkin” instead.

    And of course kept the flawless “silly-putty strategy” to themselves, lest anyone else get any ideas. “you don’t need a napkin, let me wipe that off your face for you without asking…”

  34. HS says

    This is like a late night infomercial, but only the first half where they pretend everyday things are really difficult. I’ve got a script, anyone got a camera?

    Announcer: “Having trouble writing a harassment policy for TAM? Just can’t seem to make one without Orwellian videotaping?”

    (cue video of exasperated organizer, fumbling with a video camera)

    Announcer: “Try our new Perfectly Standard Harassment Policy ™! It’s just like every single other policy at every convention you’ve ever been to! Just put “TAM” at the top, print it out, and announce that it exists!”

    (cue organizer throwing away camera and happily picking up a sheet of paper, cut to smiling people listening to a speaker or walking around with nametags)

    Announcer: “No secret harassment police needed! No video surveillance of victims of harassment! It’s like magic, except that it actually exists.”

    Fast talking disclaimer at the end: Original price 10.99/mo. but it turns out they’re free and readily available all over the internet. PSHP ™ makes no guarantees that it will make you better than other conventions, but at least you won’t be worse!

  35. says

    @ivycannon:

    You’re so wrong it’s not even funny.

    Know how JREF could’ve addressed the concerns of those who feel that TAM needed a clear anti-harrassment policy? By… posting a clear anti-harrassment policy. Like the one at CFI, for an example. Other cons got the clue and realized that anti-harrassment policies are a good idea.

    TAM’s anti-harrassment policy is hidden and secret to the point where you don’t even know it exists. It’s not addressing the problem at all of making women feel safe, and in this case I think I’d be more freaked out if their response was to sic a secret police on my arse. To watch over and be my bodyguard, of course.

    DJ Groethe could’ve solved this problem with a single sentence “we are evaluating an anti-harrassment policy at TAM.” He could’ve solved this problem by adding a few paragraphs to a brochure “this is how we’ll handle harrassment, this is who you can talk to, this is what will need to be provided, this is what will happen.”

    Instead, he solved it by calling out the women who thought it needed to be there, by implementing a creepy secret police, and by causing one of the sponsors to leave the event.

  36. Konradius says

    It’s incredible. First some idiot invents the term ‘femistasi’ then another group of idiots implement it.
    And all that was needed was to copy the policies others already made and to alert the attendees on it.

    Really, I didn’t even think someone could come up with an actual implementation of the ‘femistasi’ idea because it was so stupid… I’d be impressed if I weren’t depressed by this.

  37. dontcha know says

    “Is DJ so petty about criticisms he has received that he would institute a harassment policy LESS effective than the previous years?”

    yes, yes he is just that petty… maybe more so

  38. Dunc says

    Of course we have a harassment policy – it’s on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.

  39. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I sincerely hope that Amy and the rest of the Skepchick crew drop the TAM grant program and stop providing that piece of shit conference with any money or time whatsoever.

    She was a a big enough person to show up there, despite being made a target by Grothe, and the Bitchez Ain’t Shit Brigade, like lying ass ivycannon, as she agreed to do before all this shit went down.

    And they *still* made sure to treat her like shit. I was worried so juvenile stupid shit would be done to her, but I kept my mouth shut hoping that the impression I was getting of Grothe et al was wrong – as all his supporters and defenders kept insisting was the case.

    Clearly, that impression was not wrong.

  40. says

    Okay a few thoughts here.

    (1) Any criticism we have of TMA’s policy will be seized upon as evidence that TAM cannot do anything to appease us and that FTBers/Skepchicks are whiny bullies, meanies, etcetera, ad nauseam.

    (2) So I think it is important that we publicly give props to TAM for doing something right. Yes, there appears to have been a policy, supported by harassment training. Well done those people. Round of applause.

    (3) This should not stop us from criticising the specifics of the policy, because I agree it is a bit of a Bizarro World policy. There was no public announcement of policy, no strong signal that procedures would be in place, what they were or who people should go to. Instead we have some secret surveillance going on. Lack of transparency is the primary complaint.

    So, in summary.

    TAM had a policy. Let’s all go w00t! Thank DJ and Company for not completely ignoring the issue.

    Moving on, let’s look at the specifics of that policy. Was that really what we wanted? Or would the AA/CFI approaches have been far better? Did it contribute in any way to Amy’s sense of isolation and her early departure.

    As a strategy I suggest we be generous on the one hand and critical on the other. But start with generosity.

  41. carlie says

    What tigtog said at #28 is fantastic.

    And maybe that’s the way to go: they’ve made it abundantly clear now that they don’t get it and don’t seem to want to. Fine. Any criticism of them consistently gets heaps of abuse in return, fine. No more constructive criticism, then. No more wasting time and energy on it. It’s time to give up on it entirely and just switch to supporting other conferences instead. They’re by far not the only game in town, and at the bottom of the attractiveness list. Next year if attendance is down again and they wonder why, no need to even waste time explaining; just point them in the direction of everything that happened this last year and tell them to figure it out for themselves.

  42. jamessweet says

    It’s this kind of dehumanizing and angry sports-fan mentality that is driving people like me away from this group of skeptics.

    This touches on something I’ve been thinking about. So there’s this scenario, where a feminist says something that person X thinks is unreasonable. Oftentimes, person X feels that way because of privilege blindness or just not “getting it”, but sometimes what the feminist says really is unreasonable. (Contrary to popular rumor, us feminists, after all, are ordinary people rather than violent space aliens bent on world domination) And sometimes the response is for person X to express why she feels the point is unreasonable, but all too often the response is to double down, to call people nazis, to make tasteless rape jokes or engage in intentionally provocative name-calling, i.e. to just completely go in the opposite direction, rather than to respond to the point as if it were well-intentioned if unreasonable.

    This is bizarre and damaging. Hypothetically, let’s say someone is advocating for a program to provide a free college education to anyone who wants it, but their plan just isn’t remotely feasible given the federal budget (I’m not saying such a thing is infeasible; this is a hypothetical). The proper response is to explain that, while it’s a nice idea, it’s simply not realistic. The proper response is not to attack the very idea of a college education, to make jokes about the worthlessness of humanities degrees, etc.

    And yet that’s exactly how so many people respond to feminism. I’d speculate it’s a guilty conscience scenario… kind of like the vitriol against vegetarians. I am not a vegetarian, but I know those who choose to be vegetarians on an ethical basis are doing so out of a place of compassion, and that a lot of their arguments have some merit. I admit that I am unsure if my decision to eat meat is as ethical as it could be, and I am okay with that, at least for now — but I think for a lot of people, they don’t want to admit even the possibility that they might be doing something wrong. And so when the idea is even floated, they respond by with anger and by doubling down against the very idea that there is even something to discuss.

    I think the world would be a better place if people were more able to live with the fact that they are imperfect, that some of the things they do just might be wrong, and that admitting this possibility doesn’t make one a horrible person. At least then people could listen and think, rather than reject and hate.

  43. HumanisticJones says

    Secret policy? Hidden security? Ten years of working convention security says this is the worst possible way to run things.

    So your con security knows what to do if you spot harassment? That’s nice, but con-sec cannot be everywhere. I’ve worked a multi-building convention with tens of thousands of attendees. The attendees also need to know what the rules are… security often relies on people telling us something is wrong.

    Secret security? Hell no. Always be visible. We’ve found we actually take fewer badges for stupid shit when we have more security. Why? Because people that were maliciously considering something against con policy think twice when they see that radio headset/staff badge/security shirt combo standing near by. And I’ve found that people don’t feel the fun is ruined by visible con sec, unless their fun was breaking some rule or law. In fact, the lessened threat of sexual harassment has prompted people to tell us that visible security during some events has made them feel safe enough to let loose and have more fun.

  44. cassmorrison says

    Women like Harriet Hall are why feminism takes one step forward and half a step back. They benefit from the feminist movement but throw other women under the bus because they’ve so accept a society they’ve been successful within it.

    That a woman in my cohort (over 50 I’m guessing) feels safe is not a surprise. A professional gains confidence and appearing older takes you out of the target harassment age for the most part. That she needed to actually target groups of young women is just a dick move.

  45. Pteryxx says

    leebrimmicombe-wood: having no policy might have been BETTER than having a secret policy, secret training, secret enforcement, and a response that intimidates and discomfits *the person it’s supposedly protecting*.

    As far as looking at the specifics: what specifics? There’s ONE paragraph buried in the TAM FAQ, and what little information trickles out via a tweet on training and word of Amy’s situation.

    How does JREF handle safety concerns?

    The Amazing Meeting, while a private event, is held at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, which is open to the public. The safety of our attendees and speakers is a priority. If an attendee encounters a problem within the conference area, they should report the situation to TAM staff or hotel security. JREF has also engaged an independent consultant on these issues, with decades of experience handling security, boundary and safety concerns, to assist us in dealing with any matters should they arise at the event.

    Source: http://www.amazingmeeting.com/TAM2012/faq

    Quoted here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/26/huge-news-from-american-atheists-re-harassment/

    That doesn’t read to me like any kind of policy protecting against *harassment* below the level of actual physical danger or physical threat. Who the heck thinks camera surveillance is even useful against a hostile atmosphere? A person isn’t a trinket sitting locked under glass in a display case; they walk around the venue, they talk to folks, they go through hallways and back to their rooms. Besides, one function of a harassment policy is to DE-escalate the situation… how is secret surveillance going to deter a harasser who doesn’t know it exists? It’s not proactive, it’s REactive so that *after something sufficiently terrible happens* it’ll at least be on-camera. (So there’s evidence that doesn’t depend on those lying victims, I suppose…)

    Whoever their independent consultant was, it sure as heck wasn’t Gavin de Becker.

    footnote: What about all those calls for transparency and accountability when the supposed secret network was women privately warning each other? Now a secret network’s fine as long as it’s TAM’s network?

  46. says

    TAM attendee Bob on Ophelia’s blog said that the staff were ever-present and had ‘ask me’ badges and were trained to deal with harassment.

    Which is fine, except that another attendee commented that they didn’t know they could raise harassment issues with these staff (as opposed to ‘where is such-and-such event’ type questions) because there was no publicly stated policy or procedures.

  47. Pteryxx says

    TAM attendee Bob on Ophelia’s blog said that the staff were ever-present and had ‘ask me’ badges and were trained to deal with harassment.

    I’d like to know that ‘trained to deal with harassment’ meant more than ‘privately report anything you hear to the undercover harassment squad and they’ll take care of it’.

  48. CT says

    This appears to me to be a “let’s prove there’s no harassment by having people secretly stashed to prove there’s no harassment thereby proving harassment doesn’t exist at this conference.”. The logic of a 15 yr old.

  49. MyaR says

    JREF (and DJ, but I would like to make the request to not specifically blame all failure on DJ — there’s a bigger organization that had to be involved in the decision-making) still doesn’t understand the difference between being safe and feeling safe. They thought the big problem was the first, so they were going to catch them in the act or something.

    One of the other big problems I saw with TAM was the assumption that everyone knows how everything works. I was wearing a button that said “First TAMmer”, so everyone who met me should’ve known I wouldn’t necessarily know the culture of TAM. While I certainly wasn’t made to feel unwelcome (well, aside from Jamy Ian Swiss’s “don’t move my movement!!!!!” talk, which pretty much guaranteed my first TAM will be my last), I was also never made to feel specifically welcome.

    I was at TAM, too, and I have to agree with the commenter on B&W who said that they had no idea the “TAMbassadors” were given any training. And I’m totally creeped out by the secret harassment police.

  50. thetalkingstove says

    I’m starting to think that a whole bunch of people in the skeptical movement seem to labour under the delusion that if they admit to being wrong about something it’ll ruin their credibility as skeptics, and hence go to great efforts to deny anything that might suggest the’ve screwed up.

    I think they’re under the delusion that they *aren’t* wrong about anything. They’re special skeptical clever rational dudez. They’ve figured out that God probably doesn’t exist, and that homeopathy is nonsense, and so they’re awesome and superior thinkers.

    They can’t consider a scenario in which they might learn from quietly listening to, say, a woman’s experiences of harassment, because that would involve taking the focus away from their super-logical super-special skepticism. They know there’s no bigfoot, you guys! How can they be wrong about feminism!

  51. plutosdad says

    WTF? It’s like a comedy of errors. Secondly, why were people there for monitoring harassment watching over her because she was unhappy with the situation? As if they are stealth therapists or something.

    That is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard of. I mean, it’s one thing to have a few security personnel that are in “plainclothes”, it’s quite another to have a secret policy that no one knows. That is EXACTLY the problem that the detractors claim there is: with a secret policy or unknown set of rules, people don’t know when they are crossing the line.

  52. says

    There’s two main differences between TAM and all the many awesome conferences that have adopted anti-harassment policies:

    1) The other conferences simply adopted time-tested policies and techniques that have worked at other conferences for decades, and tweaked them to suit their specific needs. TAM decided to make up something new and secret, that didn’t prevent anything and that served as further harassment to any victims caught in their net, sort of like if you get hit by a drunk driver and the police respond by following YOU around.

    2) The other conferences and their supporters didn’t go into months-long temper tantrums, and actually expressed appreciation for helping them become more awesome. TAM and its supporters have been acting like angry, spoiled, and not very bright children told that they would have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

    Acting like you’re being bullied for being asked to adopt a boilerplate anti-harassment policy and let people know about it? That’s not what a professional organization does, let alone an organization that sees itself as the flagship group of a movement. The world is moving on, the movement is growing up, and JREF can either change or it will slip even further into irrelevance. If they think that they can stay the same while more and more groups sprout up and do more and better than JREF, they are as delusional as the UFO chasers they follow around.

  53. says

    “TAM! Because when I feel uncomfortable that a man has been following around or maybe taking pictures of me, nothing calms me down and makes me feel welcome like guys following me around and taking pictures of me!

  54. simonsays says

    I also placed this comment on PZ’s blog:

    ——

    OK I guess I’ll be a voice of disagreement on the matter of undercover security: there are good reasons why one would elect to employ them in this case. The obvious one being that people might change their behavior depending on whether they believe an authority figure is around. Naturally you’ll still want clearly marked staff to be nearby. By most accounts this is what they did.

    Retail stores do this all the time with a mix of both uniformed and non-uniformed security.

    Again, I am only addressing the specific undercover security aspect and I am going based on off published accounts since I was not there. I don’t want to discuss or opine on the other aspects.

  55. Denis Robert says

    And yet again, you keep making your opposition’s case for them. Harriet Hall’s T-shirt said:

    I feel safe and welcome at TAM
    I’m a skeptic, not a Skepchick
    Not a Woman Skeptic, Just a Skeptic

    It expresses a difference of opinion with Skepchick on the part of Hall, but I completely fail to see how it’s hurtful in any way. Are we so thin skinned now that we can’t bear any sort of difference of opinion on a subject like this, that even the mere mention of a difference of opinion is considered hurtful????

    I agree that harassment is a problem, but when this kind of thing is raised up as a sign of “hurtful behavior”, it destroys the credibility of the feminist movement. GROW THE F UP, PEOPLE!!!

  56. says

    What it reminds me of is how Las Vegas casinos (at least in all the TV documentaries) monitor players for cheating. Train the cameras on them, have security watch them closely, etc. That may be the process that’s informing TAM’s current bizarre policy. If I had to try to imagine what (assumed-to-be-reasonable) train of thought led to this, it was that they thought the main role of a policy was to prevent harassment or catch it as it happens (hence the security detail ‘on watch’), and that the best way to deal with the problems people have with reporting was to remove (as much as possible) reporting from the equation. Instead, harassment security officers would watch for harassing behavior and step in to stop it, and then take steps to protect those identified as harassment targets with increased surveillance and treating them like Fabergé eggs.

    It is, of course, a brand new comedy of errors that misses several points of a harassment policy’s purpose (to create a safe space, to record number of incidents, to assist victims, etc.). It’s bizarrely Orwellian, it further singles out the victims, I fail to see how this is somehow less intrusive and less “skeezy” than policies that potentially overreach with alleged “anti-hug” regulations.

  57. Pteryxx says

    Tom Foss: if DJ’s attitude towards the targets of harassment is any indication, you’re probably right. Reporting is difficult and surveys don’t capture the problem? Get objective data gathered in the wild by trained observers! No more dealing with those unreliable wimminz!

  58. bubba707 says

    The more I read this stuff the more convinced I am that my initial instincts to avoid these gatherings and to not associate myself with any skeptic or atheist community were completely correct. The utter stupidity is mind boggling.

  59. dianne says

    They said I was being monitored and recorded. It was intended, I was told, to help me feel safe but instead it just exacerbated the stress I felt.

    It was intended to “help [her] feel safe” in the same way the slogan “Big Brother is watching” is intended to make the citizens of Oceania feel safe. Sure, some people fall for it, but on average…it’s more of a threat than a reassurance.

  60. says

    bubba707: I’m sorry that you feel that way. Just know that some of us — whole communities of skeptics and atheists, in fact — are actually fighting this kind of nonsense. Actively.

  61. says

    It was intended, I was told, to help me feel safe

    Feel safe? What about doing more stuff to help people be safe? Recording people who are already upset, rather than taking preventative action like some of the other cons with good policies on file, just isn’t the same.

    Also, count me in with those who get the creepy vibe off of this. It’s almost as if the point is to make videos of nothing happening to complainers so they can claim the complainers were lying. “Oh, you say you were harassed? Well I’ve got 5 hours of video of you and there’s not one incident on it. There’s even a few frames where you smiled.”

    I hope, I really hope, that has nothing to do with it. But given DJ’s track record of seemingly blaming everything on vocal critics while claiming no harassment has ever happened at TAM, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s at least possible.

  62. says

    @denis robert

    I agree that harassment is a problem, but when this kind of thing is raised up as a sign of “hurtful behavior”, it destroys the credibility of the feminist movement. GROW THE F UP, PEOPLE!!!

    destroys the credibility of the feminist movement? because you think someone in it was too sensitive? lol, when will dudes get sick of saying that thing x (which makes them uncomfortable) is destroying feminism? Because it seems to keep going despite all of us constantly “destroying” the movement.

    what really destroys the feminist movement (which has never been given mainstream credibility in the first place, so why worry about it) is when women inside it fail to support each other. It is especially horrible when women throw each other under the bus in the name of gaining male approval, which men can arrogantly refer to as “credibility” instead of calling it what it is.

    When you are actually doing work for women at TAM and being crapped on from above by speakers for doing that work come talk to us about what its like. For now you just want everyone to say that surly amy isn’t a competent judge of her experiences and that how seriously we take her should hinge on if you would feel upset or not (in a purely speculative way). Try using some god damned empathy sometime, jackass.

  63. Dan L. says

    @ivycannon:

    You’re obsessing and it’s preventing you from rationally discussing these issues. If you want people to listen to you, you’ll have to try to understand their point of view. Unfortunately, you seem incapable of understanding points of view others than your own — pretty typical for the sort of angsty adolescent you give every impression of being. But it’s not helping. Time for an internet break, buddy.

    @Denis Robert:

    It expresses a difference of opinion with Skepchick on the part of Hall, but I completely fail to see how it’s hurtful in any way.

    “Context.” Are you familiar with that word?

    I suspect Surly Amy felt like the shirt was contributing to the “us vs. them” feeling she was getting at TAM more generally. I suspect the “us vs. them” “Skepchicks totally suck” vibe had more to do with why she was anxious and miserable than the shirt itself. But here’s the thing: the shirt endorses that attitude. The shirt doesn’t say “Skepchicks suck” but to me it does have a “Skepchicks get out” implication (would THAT shirt be hurtful enough for you?). The shirt also discourages reconciliation and compromise. It implies “I’m right and you’re wrong; agree with me or get out.”

    I can certainly understand anyone affiliated with the skepchicks getting upset about the shirt. The intention could not be anything but adversarial.

    And this has been a huge problem: I think from the perspective of people like PZ and Surly Amy they’re helping TAM and DJ Grothe by making reasonable, easy-to-implement policy suggestions that would make people feel safer and leave the conference open to less legal liability. But everyone arguing against them has painted them as enemies of TAM and DJ Grothe…look at ivycannon’s post above. It’s explicitly written from the perspective that PZ et al HATE DJ and TAM for some completely unspecified mysterious reason and that this is a purely vindictive campaign of censorship (I don’t know how ivycannon got this idea in his/her head…I suspect someone called him/her a nasty name at Pharyngula and he/she is having trouble getting over it).

    So context is important. I wasn’t offended by the shirt and I wouldn’t expect you to be offended either. But it doesn’t surprise me in the least that a skepchick who’s been right in the middle of this whole issue would be made uncomfortable by a shirt that’s clearly intended to promote ill-will towards the skepchicks.

  64. plutosdad says

    “It expresses a difference of opinion with Skepchick on the part of Hall, but I completely fail to see how it’s hurtful in any way. ”

    Perhaps you are thicker skinned. But from reading the accounts, I don’t read where she went and reported the woman wearing the shirt, but talked to the woman herself, and was upset, and someone asked about why she was upset.

    However, perhaps you are overreacting to her overreaction. “destroying” skepticism? no, it’s about people interacting and miscommunication.

    I am conflicted about “grow up” and other admonitions to not be bothered by things that are borderline like this. People are different, and have feelings. As far as I could tell, she did not tell anyone to force anyone to stop wearing t-shirts, she was just upset by the t-shirt. So why do you have a problem with her having feelings?

  65. plutosdad says

    Also regarding “watching” her, to be charitable as to their intentions I think they interpreted her being upset as a fear someone would do something to her, when it was not. So they watched to see if anyone was bothering her. This was probably the wrong reaction, since technically, she didn’t go to them complaining of harassment (from what I’ve read). If she did, then it would be the right reaction.

    For instance, yesterday my wife had to show up at a client’s unoccupied house to let the client’s roommate in to get his stuff (client’s roommate had not keys and was moving out). She called the police first and had them meet her there, since she was afraid the client’s roommate would get violent. They just watched, that was appropriate based on the information she gave them.

  66. says

    In some organizations, a “solution” is presented that is such a pain in the ass, that all discussion of the problem is disappeared, along with the PITA “solution” itself.

    I would say this resembles such an event, except for the fact that TAM’s attempt to take a page on surveillance from DHS goes way beyond creative sabotage and right into the land of “put down the goddamn pipe before I call the cops.”

  67. says

    This is so mind boggling it hurts. It’s almost like they’re trying to prove that harassment isn’t happening. From what I’m hearing, it was next to impossible to report anything because there were no clear guidelines for attendees regarding how to do so. Then, on top of that, when harassment was detected they made the person so uncomfortable that they may not say anything about being harassed again. Not to mention the fundamental flaws in the plan to secretly spot harassment instead of encourage reporting…. Volunteers can’t be everywhere all the time and harassment can (and I think often does) take place when few people are around. I don’t like being paranoid but I really can’t come up with any intelligent reasons to do this.

  68. male voice says

    Considering the fact that women don’t report harassment it is the logical consequence for an organizer to constantly monitor for harassment yourself. Not reporting harassment when it occurs because you assume that you are not going to be taken seriously and then publicly complain about your concerns not being taken seriously is the best way to guilt trip the others, have a worm feeling in your tummy, and ensure that nothing ever changes

  69. says

    @79

    Then, on top of that, when harassment was detected they made the person so uncomfortable that they may not say anything about being harassed again. … I don’t like being paranoid but I really can’t come up with any intelligent reasons to do this.

    Consider this thinking aloud for a moment. If what the new policy actions are trying to do is document that people who felt concerned about the issue are not/are no longer being harassed under the new policy (and to hell with the observer affect), this would be a logical way to go about it (if remarkably counterproductive in every possible other way than the one metric of reducing observed harassment).

    It would have been interesting to watch the results had she simply pointed a camera back at the security cameras and staffers watching her. It might have been amusing, and might have revealed the nature of the “observation” policy in the response.

  70. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    Geez, my heart goes out to Amy. She worked her ass off to send 22 women to TAM. The response could have been “Thank you!” or maybe “That’s 22 new people to provide fresh feedback, lets speak with them.” Instead she gets unnecessary hostility exacerbated by Harriet Hall (Who has already earned tremendous respect for her actual work and shouldn’t need the juvenile ego-boost of chill girl high-fives.)

    The security spy team pisses me off and simultaneously chills me to the bone. What if Amy had been actually harassed? No matter what happened, it would be argued that it wasn’t “real” harassment and any footage would be used to support that. Then Amy would have to deal with years of people (presumably including DJ) telling her that she’s over-reacting.

  71. RowanVT says

    @ mansplainer #80

    Not reporting harassment when it occurs because you assume that you are not going to be taken seriously and then publicly complain about your concerns not being taken seriously is the best way to guilt trip the others, have a worm feeling in your tummy, and ensure that nothing ever changes

    When I was 17 I was stalked. The guy eventually tried to break into my house, and the only reason he didn’t succeed was that he didn’t want to deal with my two large and very irate dogs. I hid in a closet for hours because of the terror I felt.

    After those hours, I called the cops.

    The cop told me that because I had waited so long, there was no way to tell if it was really a guy trying to break in, or if I’d just had a spat with my boyfriend so they weren’t going to do anything.

    If a bloody cop isn’t going to take me seriously, when that’s his *job*, why should I think anyone else is going to? Especially when time after time, the problems are NOT taken seriously?

    But nooooo, it’s all *my* fault for not continually reporting and not wanting to put up with being called a liar by those in positions of authority.

  72. says

    This seems like a lot more trouble to implement than what people were asking for and it will give worse results since people who don’t know about it won’t feel protected and won’t know what to do if they get harassed. It’s like they took the straw-man idea of what a policy was and implemented it and it had all the problems straw policies were said to have. This is either stunning incompetence or an attempt to make the straw man look legit.

    Yes. This.

    I suspect that the type of security TAM implemented is the type of security that makes sense for a threat of physical violence, not simply having hurt feelings. This is bizarre.

    I mean, this is so classic “what not to do” it could be placed in training materials for others.

    However, if this fight is ever going to get resolved (instead of a crew simply severing ties with TAM) it has to be dealt with diplomatically. In a diplomatic situation, you have to allow the other person to save face. If you back them into a corner you are done – even if you have all the evidence and good arguments in the world.

    One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to assume the best intentions of others. Explain what you appreciate about what they have done and focus on areas of agreement before making suggestions for change. (Oh yeah – and do this all without sounding patronizing.)

    I agree that harassment is a problem, but when this kind of thing is raised up as a sign of “hurtful behavior”, it destroys the credibility of the feminist movement. GROW THE F UP, PEOPLE!!!

    And for goodness sakes would people quit – please for the love of all that’s good and decent – accuse people of crying harassment or being thin-skinned or making others look bad – for simply expressing that something upset them?

    Please.

    It’s just so incredibly awful, and comes off as disallowing others to define their own experiences. Ironically, that sort of dismissal seems to be fueling the emotion behind these disagreements.

    Yeah, wearing a T-shirt that *proudly* proclaims that someone is NOT ONE OF YOU PEOPLE – is a harsh thing to do, especially for THREE DAYS.

    Explaining that this resulted in hurt feelings should not be met with attack.

    Saying that someone physically stronger than you, making a pass at you late at night, alone, in an isolated location is uncomfortable should not be met with attack.

    A panel discussion describing how various people have had to deal with abuse over the internet as well as threats to their families should not be met with attack.

    So – I mean – when you go about your daily life and you are tempted to attack someone for expressing their feelings about something or simply stating that something bad happened to them. Just don’t.

    If you feel the unrelenting desire to blame the person for how everyone else reacts to what they say, think for a moment, and then don’t do it.

    It’s really simple.

    And yeah, that behavior is what is driving people like me (supposedly the very group everyone is attempting to increase the involvement of) away.

  73. says

    I also had to deal with the secret anti-harassment consultants at TAM this year. On Sunday I was telling a group of people about an incident of harassment I’d dealt with two days previously and one of the 19 trained individuals overheard and soon after a man and woman showed up and brought me into a storage closet to question me.

    It was nice that they have been treating the incident of harassment seriously, even though it was relatively mild. They made it clear that all incidents are taken very seriously, no matter how small it may seem, and have been investigating it accordingly. This is exactly as it should be!

    However, their methods of interrogating me have been far worse than the original harassment incident. Put it this way: original harassment led to no crying. Being questioned about the incident by the anti-harassment people has led to three separate incidents of crying. It’s quite stressful and they seem to get lots of the things I say wrong. When I point it out in future conversations, I’m accused of “misrepresenting” what I told them previously. And when I say “accused” I mean they’ve actually yelled at me over the phone and told me “How dare you misrepresent me and my partner.”* And this from the people who are suppose to be helping me. They even told me “There were two of us there and one of you. We know what happened so don’t claim otherwise.”*

    Additionally, after the original interrogation, they told me many times not to tell anyone about them or the conversation we had. I was very upset and crying at the time and wanted to tell my friends and get support, but was afraid they might see it on the cameras they said they had pointed at me, so instead I waited until I was in a non-TAM area of the hotel. The secrecy seemed to just make everything worse.

    I’m glad they are taking my case seriously but the treatment by the anti-harassment folks has been so much worse than the original incident of harassment that I’ve really been regretting ever talking to them at all.

  74. says

    Sorry, just to be clear, the * was because I wanted to add a note.

    *Note: All quotes are paraphrased. I wrote everything down within about 15min following the conversation I had with them yesterday, but the quote are still from memory 15min following the event and may not be exact.

  75. says

    UAJamie: Jesus fuck, this is exactly why I’m gobsmacked that they’d think this is the right approach. I’m sorry that you’ve taken so much emotional damage over this.

    Another example of another person who’s done so much good in the skeptical community getting treated like shit for no discernible reason. The vax campaign is obviously an important contribution, and I’m sorry that they’re handling your harassment exactly wrong.

  76. MyaR says

    they told me many times not to tell anyone about them or the conversation we had… was afraid they might see it on the cameras they said they had pointed at me

    That is seriously fucked up. This might be appropriate if we were talking about death threats, in the interest of making sure that any plan to capture a physically violent and dangerous person who was on the run (i.e., in situations that pretty much only happen in movies) rather than harassment.

    Sorry you had to go through that.

  77. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    and brought me into a storage closet to question me.

    A fucking storage closet? Red Flag #1.

    And when I say “accused” I mean they’ve actually yelled at me over the phone and told me “How dare you misrepresent me and my partner.”* And this from the people who are suppose to be helping me. They even told me “There were two of us there and one of you. We know what happened so don’t claim otherwise.”*

    So, they treated you exactly the way cops treat women to try to press sexual assault charges.

    Color me completely unsurprised. Red flag #2 & #3.

    Additionally, after the original interrogation, they told me many times not to tell anyone about them or the conversation we had. … The secrecy seemed to just make everything worse.

    Warning the victim not to tell anyone what happened. Red flag #4.

    I’m glad they are taking my case seriously but the treatment by the anti-harassment folks has been so much worse than the original incident of harassment that I’ve really been regretting ever talking to them at all.

    I can’t help wondering if this was by design. They resisted so much the very idea that a policy would be a good idea, did they deliberately put in place the worst possible things they could think of just to pretend, later on, that they’re terrible methods are proof that polices don’t work?

  78. Robert B. says

    … victims should not be interrogated at all. Interrogation is for suspects. Victims should be allowed to make a statement. And they certainly shouldn’t be cut off from support structures by stupid secrecy rules because the security staff thinks they’re playing spy, or have their report misrepresented, or be yelled at by people who are supposed to help.

    UAJamie, I’m so sorry.

    And by the way, now I don’t feel that I would be safe at TAM, and I’m a 6’3″ white guy. Sexual harassment is only a danger for me if people know I’m gay, which strangers seldom realize, but a security staff that likes to secretly haul people into closets (!) and interrogate them? Fuck that noise.

  79. says

    @88 UAJamie: Not only does your description sound like an interrogation structured more to shape testimony or behavior than to get information (working solely from what you’ve said), but these words trouble me: “anti-harassment consultants”

    What does this mean? Did they hire an outside firm? Something on the order of “Bouncers ‘R Us?”

  80. Beatrice says

    UAJamie,

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. By that, I mean both cases of harassment – the original one and harassment by the super secret specially trained anti-harassment folks.

  81. Erista (aka Eris) says

    I don’t even know what to do anymore. “I was upset when you/she/he/they did X” is being met with “That just proves we shouldn’t care about your feelings” and “I’m not going to TAM because of X” is being responded to with “Good, we don’t want YOUR KIND here; the fact that you aren’t going is in fact a victory!”

    Is this really the skeptic/atheist movement? I always wanted to get involved in the skeptic/atheist movement because I thought that was the movement that was going to move human well-being forward. I thought that it would be the movement that treated people much better than average because it wasn’t held back by religion’s harmful sayings. But instead we’re spending our time frothing out about “Guys, don’t do that” and “Our conferences need to have anti-harassment policies.”

    These issues should have been easy. They should have barely caused a ripple. But instead, they’re causing hundreds of posts long flip outs even long after the actual event took place. Hell, it looks like we’re on the verge of actually splitting over them.

    How will a movement that can’t handle issues this easy get anything of more importance done?

  82. MyaR says

    I’ve just come to the conclusion that JREF is a completely unprofessional organization.

    1. DJ’s use of social media — no differentiation between him and the organization. (Which started a lot of the TAM-specific shitstorm.)
    2. Complete lack of transparency of donors/board and how decisions are made, but still attempting to be grassroots-ish.
    3. This complete and utter failure of a decision to hire secret private security thugs rather than implement a simple anti-harassment policy.

    I wish I’d stuck with my initial “con in Vegas — ewww” reaction, but I was enticed to go by some of the speakers (not all of whom were there, and some of whom seemed kind of marginalized — you had to pay more to see Leo Igwe, and he spoke at the very first event, before many people were even there). I ended up not even really attempting to meet anyone new, although I did have a nice, congenial talk with Chris Stedman.

    I still respect a lot of the people involved with JREF (but not all), and Randi in particular (I don’t have any reason to believe he’s either as incompetent or biased as some seem to be), but won’t be materially supporting them in any way. There are too many groups around doing it better, who really deserve my support.

  83. Robert B. says

    the super secret specially trained anti-harassment folks

    They keep using that prefix. I do not think it means what they think it means.

  84. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    To whatever blockquote-correcting gnome that keeps correcting my blockquoting borkification, THANK YOU!!

  85. says

    Reading some of the stories here I almost wish it were possible to start a campaign of women coming out about their horrible experiences when they dared to report harassment to shed some light on why so many of us don’t report.

    I was involved in a mild single incident case of molestation while in daycare as a child. The incident as perpetrated by another child and some how the police got involved. I remember them reducing me to tears because I didn’t know the date of the incident. They wouldn’t let me go until I told them something so I just made a date up. All the while they were trying to bribe me for information with a st. bernard puppet that was on the table.

    What was even more shocking was that my mother gave me strict instruction not to tell anyone about what happened. When a friend of mine pressured me to tell her where the st. bernard puppet, my mother found out, sent my friend home and slapped me across the face. All of this left me with an intense sense of guilt that some how this was all my fault that evokes strong emotions in me even as I’m typing this. I didn’t tell anyone for two decades.

    The shit I had to deal with afterward was far more traumatic than the incident itself by orders of magnitude. There’s a reason so many of us don’t want to report. I’ve been sexually harassed at other points in my life and I haven’t said a word to anyone with any authority because of my experience.

    The sad part is a campaign like this will never take off because it’s effectively asking women to paint a target on themselves when that’s exactly the opposite of what we want.

  86. Beatrice says

    They must have been really impressed with “what constitutes harassment” part of the training and decided to skip the rest. Then they just did what they learned best.

  87. omcdurham says

    I cannot begin to express how angry I am that people (not just men, not just women) can act like uneducated children. “Elevatorgate” was a year ago, and it seems like nothing has changed for the better. In fact, it seems worse!

    We all know how we like to be treated. Harassment for any reason is wrong, and sexual/gender harassment is even worse. Premeditated harassment is the worst of all kinds. Envision a gay guy bombing a lesbian bar.

    I once thought that the current freethought movement was way more progressive, but we are all human. We have our faults. I have gender-based insults stockpiled in a compartment in my male brain, but I don’t use them, because it’s wrong. Women are humans as well as men, and it’s wrong to denigrate either.

    Harassment in a conference setting is nothing new. I have been the creepy guy. But for any group or person to target another person/group is unacceptable. Allowing it to happen is absolutely detrimental to the supposed “progressive” agenda of the goal of the freethinkers.

    When we start a new job, we have to sign a “Harassment Policy”. TAM needs to adopt a similar policy. One cannot pick creeps out of a lineup, cannot respond to victims’ complaints, but can let everyone attending what the rules are!

  88. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    The part of me that still believes in the basic goodness of humankind wishes that victim-blamey clueless people, like ‘male voice’, would read posts like #99 and finally stop being insufferable assholes.

    The part of me that is now way too cynical for its own good knows that he’ll ignore it, because it doesn’t fit into his “Blame The Bitch” narrative.

  89. says

    Illuminata: I decided I didn’t like borked blockquotes and so I hired nineteen secret ninja unborkification gnomes to fix it for you. Hope that isn’t an imposition.

  90. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    LOL No, that’s awesome. Because I’m going to need them ALOT. I bork blockquoting like it’s going out of style!

  91. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Super secret specially trained anti-borkification gnomes?

    *tee hee*

    except, given the two examples, it’s clear who has the actually competent super secret specially trained staff. I mean, my blockquote borkification is fixed . . . .

  92. CT says

    It appears the entire goal was to keep any harassment as secret as possible. If the past is an indicator, we won’t be hearing of any events of harassment from that con and if someone blogs about one they experienced, the con ‘people’ will insist that nothing happened that they knew about.

  93. jackrawlinson says

    There was definitely an us against them feeling that I personally experienced at the event

    Well, how utterly surprising. Get used to that.

  94. says

    @Denis Robert… Context matters. For example the context of the heaping helpings of abuse the Skepchicks have taken for their stand on the issues, a lot of which has been aimed at Amy personally, all of should have been apparent to Ms. Hall if she has followed this kerfuffle at all.

  95. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    *points and laughs at jackrawlinson*

    Yeah. Driving away someone who, for years, has given out grants to INCREASE the number of people at TAM is a smashing strategy.

    have you gotten you “Bitchez Ain’t Shit” tattoo yet?

  96. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Illuminata, that’s just it: they* don’t care. You’ve been a supporter for years? You’ve invested all kinds of money, time, and energy to help out? You’re STILL trying to make things better? Doesn’t make a difference. If you aren’t acting like they want you to act ALL of the time (instead of MOST of the time), then making you feel so bad that you stop going is heralded as a victory because hey, who wants THAT KIND of people anyway?

    It really depresses me.

    *I don’t actually know that jackrawlinson is a “they” as I don’t understand their statement.

  97. bubba707 says

    All things considered, it would be better if those who don’t like the way TAM is being run just don’t attend. I have a sneaking feeling it would put a serious hurt on the morons running it. Frankly, all the comments against Amy and Watson and all the hate being spewed at those who simply expect civilized behavior instead of animal in rut fratboy escapades is going to kill any chance the skeptic movement has of surviving, much less advancing. I’ll just sit back now wearing my Go Lemmings, Go button.

  98. 'Tis Himself says

    JREF/TAM aka DJ Grothe seem to be going out of their way to show their disdain for anyone promoting a workable harassment policy.

  99. Marlo Rocci says

    “but rather as a place that SHOULD be better than background levels of harassment but WASN’T. ”

    I have yet to read one single authoritative report justifying this statement. The majority of the reports coming in from women appear to point in the other direction. It’s all been rumors and counter rumors. No one has collected the reports and performed a study to compare it against other conventions.

    But the key to security is not some policy anyway. The key is to have the conference in a secure location with a good security staff and cameras. Pretty much any place in Vegas is like that. Even the elevators have cameras there.

    The problem is people have been focussing on the policy debate only, and relying on the opinions of bloggers. They’d rather win the debate than actually see what protects people the best. If you want real security, ask a security expert, not some damn blogger.

  100. Randomfactor says

    They don’t have a policy to handle harassment.

    They have a policy to handle people who REPORT harassment.

  101. says

    a male voice: I’ve reported sexual assault/harassment four times: once as a child (to be beaten for being a slut and embarrassing my family), once as a teenager (to be told I just ‘make’ people misbehave/lead young men into lust by my unholiness), once in my twenties (to be told I should know better than to be alone with my colleagues during seminar breaks) and once in my early thirties, to be threatened by my professor and the OEO department at my college, in addition to being turned down by the ACLU and the Department of Education because I couldn’t get any of the other victims to file a complaint with me and because my college had ‘investigated’ it already and found that it was an isolated incident*.)

    Each time, it involved the same ‘we know you’re wrong and we’ll catch/punish you, don’t talk to anyone or we’ll have to sue you, we won’t investigate, evidence is your problem’ bullshit. And then there’s the snide comments from the people around you about how you were stupid to file, or how this is what you should expect because you just ‘look dirty.’**

    You know what’s really depressing? Reporting and realizing that nothing you do will make anyone in authority take it seriously that you were assaulted/molested/harassed because even starting at 6 fucking years of age, you’re still female, and nothing you say could possibly be true or accurate.

    So fuck you, asshole. FUCK YOU for thinking that reporting is easy, or that it results in anything being done about harassment or assault, or that it doesn’t intensify being harassed because people know nothing is going to be done about it. FUCK YOU for stating that it’s our ethical and moral duty to report, as if anything in the fucking world gets done about harassment or assault.

    FUCK YOU.

    *Which happened for three years to nine other people, who all wrote letters to the administration about it.

    **One of my profs in my previous department told me that I had slutty bangs. As in the fact that I had short hair up front meant that I was asking for the harassment I experienced. When I was a child and teenager, it was because I had been born morally deficient, as a child of Eve.

  102. says

    redgreen, you omitted the relevant part, the context:

    Surly Amy has been fundraising for years to get people to TAM who otherwise couldn’t afford it, she has been a speaker and she has promoted TAM, for free.

    That message essentially says: But despite all that I don’t want people to think I’m anything like you (because you’re bad).

    It’s the equivalent of a slap in the face.

  103. arbor says

    I think that having a camera trained on her table at the TAM is a form of harassment. I think the intent was to intimidate her and, possibly, to see who interacted with her.

    JREF’s goal appears to quiet harassment opponents, not to reduce harassment or offer some degree of protection from harassers.

    Despicable.

  104. Robert B. says

    Marlo, it doesn’t matter how good the security staff is, if they haven’t been told how problems should be handled. Which would be a policy.

    Also, in my con experience, venue security is pretty useless for most purposes. They care about protecting the venue, not the attendees. The people you need to go to for interpersonal issues such as harassment is generally con security – in this case, that would be TAM itself rather than the hosting hotel. I doubt TAM is even allowed to watch the footage from all those cameras you mention. (Not to mention, how are you supposed to catch a hostile environment on camera? Lip reading?)

    Oh, btw, there’s someone with 10 years experience with con security already in the thread. Maybe you should follow your own advice and see what he says.

  105. bananosecond says

    @Dan L.

    So context is important. I wasn’t offended by the shirt and I wouldn’t expect you to be offended either. But it doesn’t surprise me in the least that a skepchick who’s been right in the middle of this whole issue would be made uncomfortable by a shirt that’s clearly intended to promote ill-will towards the skepchicks.

    Agreed, but I’m wondering if it’s a little more than that. (Disclaimer: I am a woman in physics.) I don’t wish to imply anything about what Surly Amy was thinking or feeling, but given my own experiences, I wonder about the following.

    If I had been in that situation, having worked to bring more women to TAM and still having gone despite the controversy, I might have been relieved to think that at least there was one person close to TAM who would get it, who would understand, who would help. And then to find that one person wearing a T-shirt which could be construed as a personal attack? That would be more than just a slap in the face, but more of an “Et tu, Brute?” moment.

    You could claim that I shouldn’t have had those expectations about someone whom I maybe didn’t know well, and I’d agree. But even knowing that, I’ve been bitten myself more than once by the above scenario.

    PS: This is my first comment here. Please be gentle.

  106. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    No one has collected the reports and performed a study to compare it against other conventions.

    Bitchez be lyin amirite

  107. says

    Humanistic Jones at #51 has it right: con-sec would not have a hope in hell of monitoring incidents of harassment pro-actively. If they were two-dozen strong (someone mentioned 19 of them?) they would be powerless to monitor a thousand conference goers at the required level of scrutiny to observe all instances of harassment.

    Instead, it seems the TAM harassment policy is precisely a piece of ‘spin’ designed to silence criticism that there is anything going wrong at TAM, and is in fact designed to harass the people complaining of harassment to prevent them from speaking up, as now described by UAJamie.

    For the record I was at a small conference-type event the weekend before last (not TAM!) where I was physically harassed and the target of an unwanted sexual proposition. If that conference happened to have the same sort of secret surveillance policy as TAM it would almost certainly have failed to observe the harassment occurring, except if it already knew who the perpetrators were, and subjected them to 100% visual and aural monitoring. (The multiple instances of harassing behaviour towards me were each rather fleeting and would be missed by generic crowd observation. They formed a pattern immediately visible to me because it was the same guy harassing me in each instance.) Instead, it is apparently the victims who are being creeped out by being minutely scrutinised. That sends a message, TAM, and it’s the wrong one – you’re using the victims of harassment as human flypaper.

  108. says

    bubba707 :

    All things considered, it would be better if those who don’t like the way TAM is being run just don’t attend.

    So JREF’s policy worked! DJ Grothe and JREF have from the beginning of this fiasco seemed determined to drive people away from TAM, and it seems to be working as designed.

    My thought on the subject even before this year is that in general, you can tell an organization’s bias by who they side with when there’s a conflict. And unfortunately, the bias in the skeptical/atheist conferences has trended against women, against racial minorities, against LGBTQ people. Many organizations look out into a sea of straight upper-class white male academics and think “here is our target audience, let’s cater to them” and see anything that distracts from that to be detrimental. So sexual harassment, as an example, is problematic not because there’s a victim involved who needs to be defended, but because there are potential perpetrators who are “their kind of people” and who they want to protect. Better to drive away the victims, or at least those victims most likely to report problems, and not rock the boat.

    I’m not sure that it is thought about in those explicit terms, as much as it is the nature of large organizations to behave in ways that in human beings would be described as sociopathic, especially if the organization has libertarian or other immature, amoral leanings. So where people see incompetence born of good/neutral intentions, I see an organization that is happier driving people off to solve what they see as the real problem.

  109. says

    If they were two-dozen strong (someone mentioned 19 of them?) they would be powerless to monitor a thousand conference goers at the required level of scrutiny to observe all instances of harassment.

    And since they weren’t uniformed, we have no way of knowing. Could have just been 2 of them for all we know.

  110. georgebean says

    The administration at jref needs to pull their act together. They’re just poking holes in their own boat. Their incompetence at handling these issue is astounding. All this bad will, all the bungling…it was so easily avoided.

  111. says

    If you want real security, ask a security expert, not some damn blogger.

    Normally, I would agree with you. However, apparently TAM hired a security consultant that takes a traditional approach to dealing with security issues that completely takes agency away from the person experiencing either harassment or simply hurt feelings – because they don’t seem to understand the nuance of the phrase “taking it seriously”.

  112. scrutationaryarchivist says

    @ Improbable Joe wrote:

    And unfortunately, the bias in the skeptical/atheist conferences has trended against women, against racial minorities, against LGBTQ people.

    Slow down there, Joe. Don’t forget that around ten upcoming conferences and meetings have adopted real policies against sexual harassment. Many of them did so because of the recent discussion.

    While I’m glad that they have done so, I think we should be prepared for a certain kind of reaction if any harassment cases are reported from these other meetings. We shouldn’t be surprised if the anti-policy crowd gloat about the “failure” of such events, even when the policies work to the satisfactions of the harassed people.

  113. says

    @scrutationaryarchivist:

    Go back to my comment @#62, I certainly give credit to those groups that have instituted anti-harassment policies. It is the existence of those groups and their willingness to enact policies with a minimum of drama and attacks on the people pushing for policies that in part leads me to see JREF’s behavior as intentionally provocative and mean-spirited rather than simply clumsy and amateurish.

  114. bubba707 says

    Improbable Joe, if enough people who don’t like the way TAM is run stop attending and attend more congenial gatherings TAM is likely to wither away. All things considered in this fiasco, this might not be a bad thing.

  115. says

    JREF’s goal appears to quiet harassment opponents, not to reduce harassment or offer some degree of protection from harassers.

    However much I understand the reasons why someone might assume this. Intent is one of those things you can’t possibly know. It just isn’t. So making accusations related to intent just polarizes everything more.

    There is enough bad about this to focus on, that is possible to know.

  116. says

    bubba707, what I’m most afraid of is the couple of years between when TAM dies and now, where JREF has made it clear to predators that TAM is a safe place for them, but not every potential victim has abandoned TAM or knows that there’s no safety net if someone harasses or assaults them.

  117. John says

    i am torn concerning this blog. I agree the JREF have handled this harassment issue terribly. Adopting a simple and clear harassment policy made public to attendees with clear guidance on reporting problems would not have discouraged anyone from attending except perhaps, with luck, a few perverts and sexual predators.

    However I was puzzled about the lack of detail concerning this T-Shirt that Harriet Hall wore that was so upsetting to Surly Amy. What could Harriet have worn that was so offensive that it had Amy in tears.

    I went looking and I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone, thank you for all the help you give the skeptical community, but pick your fights, this was not it, This shirt was an inoffensive declaration of Harriets opinion on the current issue, it happened to disagree with yours but so what, we are allowed to have a difference of opinion and express that difference if we so wish.

  118. says

    *reads post*

    Jesus Mark and Jo-fuck, wouldn’t it have been easier to just implement a visible harassment policy and save everything this mental whatthefuckery?

  119. Matt Penfold says

    However I was puzzled about the lack of detail concerning this T-Shirt that Harriet Hall wore that was so upsetting to Surly Amy. What could Harriet have worn that was so offensive that it had Amy in tears.

    Do you have any explanation as to why you have totally failed to understand any of the context as to why Amy might be so upset ? If you want a clue trying reading the blog post above, and then when you have done that, maybe you can tell us why you did not do that in the first place.

  120. bubba707 says

    Improbable Joe, word spreads pretty fast. If enough people abandon TAM everyone who attends will know about it and why. My thought is leave it to the predators and they can prey on each other. Soon enough they’ll stop going as well. I’m a believer in voting with your feet just like I’m strongly considering voting with my feet and leaving the US for good.

  121. madscientist says

    Oh boy. People who don’t know how to deal with the situation are running the show. There’s obviously no advice from a lawyer on what to do either. Do people think they can simply make things up without learning about what’s going on in the world and everything will somehow work well?

  122. Dianne says

    I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone

    Because confronting a person who is an older, well established and respected member of the community you are part of when they act badly and asking them to explain their rationale and maybe amend their behavior is clearly an act that requires no backbone. And it’s the easiest thing in the world to face down the constant harassment and belittling of a community you have worked hard for. Definitely.

  123. julian says

    I went looking and I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone

    Mind if I tear yours out and give it to her?

    If enough people abandon TAM everyone who attends will know about it and why.

    It’d be nice if more atheists would. Obviously the TAM crowd (to say nothing of Grothe and the rest) aren’t particularly interested in having the wrong kind of atheists and skeptics there. So ditch the whole scholarship thing, ditch the donations and give to groups that aren’t trying to give you the boot.

  124. Utakata says

    @Improbable Joe, 142:

    It’s amazing they’re could call themselves libetarians after constructing themselves what amounts to a secret police force to monitor and interrogate those those who have been sexually harassed. Then again, this may also be a glaring sign of libertarianism’s short falls that could result in dictatorship after tripping up itself. I really don’t know what else to conclude after this…

    …other than this is highly unlikely a good way to handle sexual harassment. And that’s likely an understatement.

  125. julian says

    It just isn’t. So making accusations related to intent just polarizes everything more.

    Would it be fair to say that’s what this approach seems to be better geared for?

  126. julian says

    Then again, this may also be a glaring sign of libertarianism’s short falls that could result in dictatorship after tripping up itself.

    That’s a bit much…

  127. Utakata says

    So what else should I conclude, julian? I did say that as an option, one that nobody has to agree with.

  128. says

    -sigh- That’s fucking it. This isn’t some damn co-evolution of the assholes at TAM and a badly implemented policy.

    We have a policy that was done completely wrong. Exactly wrong. Wrong in every way possible. Wrong in every way that any article on chilly climate will tell you is wrong. Wrong in every way that every single other harassment policy in use does the exact opposite of this.

    Then you have Harriet Hall’s shirt, worn either for the duration, or (and this would be worse) not on the last day, which was the day after Amy left.

    And now an account of someone being full-out interrogated. I guess speaker status does convey some privilege, since Amy apparently didn’t quite get that. We hope.

    All of this, furthermore, falls perfectly in line with DJ’s original statements about the complaints being the problem, not the harassers.

    This reeks.

  129. says

    And what’s with the “you gotta grow a backbone and get over it” bullshit? Never mind the sheer sexist implications (cause bitches be havin’ emotions, amirite?), but when did it become a bad thing to be affected by a near direct – fuck it, a direct – slight against you?

  130. John says

    Matt Penfold asks me

    “Do you have any explanation as to why you have totally failed to understand any of the context as to why Amy might be so upset ? If you want a clue trying reading the blog post above, and then when you have done that, maybe you can tell us why you did not do that in the first place.”

    I did read the blog post above thank you. I understand Amy, as one of the Skepchicks, considered the shirt an attack on an organisation she is part of and by default an attack on her personally.

    Harriet Hall on the other hand, it would seem, wanted to put her support behind TAM and against what she may have seen as an attack on TAM by Skepchicks.

    Do I agree with Harriet Hall? no I don’t. I agree with the Skepchicks point of view, I would like to see a policy introduced by TAM against harassment of any kind at their conventions. I think this would only benefit the organisation. However I also support free speech and Harriet Halls right to express her point of view. I can to an extent understand that point of view, TAM has received considerable negative coverage from Skepchicks and FTB, understandably in my opinion, but I can understand that some may wish to throw their support behind TAM and against the skepchicks.

    If you are going to complain about an organisation then I am afraid you need to man up and accept that not everyone will agree with you and that they may even get t-shirts that attack your organisation.

  131. says

    *sigh*

    julian:

    I went looking and I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone

    Mind if I tear yours out and give it to her?

    Dude, I get where you’re coming from here — a place of righteous anger — but maybe it’s time you took that break you were suggesting.

    I’m pretty much going to call the harassment policies campaign an unmitigated victory and ignore DJ and TAM and JREF from now on. Let them fade into obscurity for all their concerted efforts to that end.

  132. Utakata says

    @Jason Thibeault, 152:

    “I’m pretty much going to call the harassment policies campaign an unmitigated victory and ignore DJ and TAM and JREF from now on. Let them fade into obscurity for all their concerted efforts to that end.”

    I think in the end, you’re quite likely right.

  133. says

    @Niki M:

    And what’s with the “you gotta grow a backbone and get over it” bullshit? Never mind the sheer sexist implications (cause bitches be havin’ emotions, amirite?), but when did it become a bad thing to be affected by a near direct – fuck it, a direct – slight against you?

    There’s a certain type of skeptic that pretends that having strong feelings about things they don’t care about automatically invalidates your viewpoint. Being personally emotionally involved means you’re automatically wrong, in a warped version of “skepticism” that can only exist from a place of false objectivity and ignoring the reality of other human beings as people.

  134. John says

    julian says: (in response to my “I went looking and I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone”)

    Mind if I tear yours out and give it to her?

    How civilised! Instead of a reasonable argument against my opinion, which I am perfectly prepared to accept may be wrong, I get threatened with physical violence. The art of debate is obviously not lost here.

  135. says

    I love that second tweet. “People need to know we have a process in place for handling harassment.” Do they? Do they really need to know? Because if they did, if it was something the attendees needed to know, it might be useful for that knowledge to be, I don’t know, posted somewhere. Somewhere other than, say, a Twitter feed.

    John @136:

    I went looking and I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone

    I’m curious: what’s the response of someone with “a backbone” in this case? Is it to sit in silence, suffering a chilly climate expressed explicitly on the back of a t-shirt worn (for multiple days) by someone you considered a friend, colleague, and hero? Is it to let people on the Internet dictate to you what you are and are not allowed to take offense at? Is it having your genuine feelings, emotions, and responses dismissed as weakness and hypersensitivity?

    I would think, and this is just me, that the response of a person with “a backbone” would be to confront the friend and colleague wearing the shirt that directly insults you and paints you as some kind of outside “other,” something shameful to identify as. I would think a person with backbone might tell the person wearing that shirt how it made them feel, and how hurtful it was, and what kind of message they were sending (and what kind of climate they were contributing to) by wearing it. I would think a person with “a backbone” might, while acknowledging the t-shirt-wearer’s right to wear such a t-shirt, explain that it was mean-spirited and kind of a jerk thing to do.

    Man, if only Surly Amy had done any of that.

  136. says

    You know… this is all sort of a shame. JREF has done some good things, and people have had great times at TAM. My wife and I have always wanted to go, you know? And now this is threatening to become their legacy, because of what? Because they can’t take criticism from their friends? Because they value their “freedom” from rules more than making people feel safe and comfortable? Because some few of them in power have maybe been honestly singled out as engaging in harassing behavior, and they’d rather sink the reputation of JREF/TAM than give up their privilege?

    Whatever the reasons, they have been given a dozen opportunities to turn things around, and they keep choosing to double down.

  137. says

    More related to the post: that has to be the single stupidest way imaginable to deal with harassment complaints.

    That is what happens when you don’t listen to people who are actually experiencing harassment! What a surprise, DJG didn’t understand the problem because he refused to listen to women about harassment, also refused to listen to women on how to solve it.

    He doesn’t think we are credible in all this, period.

  138. says

    John says:

    julian says: (in response to my “I went looking and I am sorry Amy but you need to get a backbone”)

    Mind if I tear yours out and give it to her?

    How civilised!

    How predictable! Instead of responding to any of the several reasoned responses to your tripe, you chose to highlight the one abusive response and treat it as if it was typical of all the responses you received.

    Nobody’s surprised by this, and nobody’s fooled by you.

  139. says

    @Improbably Joe

    There’s a certain type of skeptic that pretends that having strong feelings about things they don’t care about automatically invalidates your viewpoint.

    Oooh, the Vulcan brand of skeptics?

    Yeah, fuck a whole bowl of that.

  140. says

    Yeah, “Vulcan skeptics”… except that the dress their own extreme emotional reactions and obsessive hate towards their enemies in a mask of objectivity. Real indifference and lack of emotional involvement would preclude their need to constantly snipe at people.

  141. says

    If you are going to complain about an organisation then I am afraid you need to man up and accept that not everyone will agree with you and that they may even get t-shirts that attack your organisation.

    Man up?

    FFS

    Look – I “accept” that I’m going to have bad days at work or that someone might flick me off while I’m driving or that one of my children might pee on me when I change their diaper. That doesn’t mean I have to like it or shut up about it.

    “Man up” is just a stupid way of saying “suppress your feelings” – because y’know “Boys don’t cry”.

    It’s just another conflation of “male”, “non-emotional” and “rational”.

  142. says

    Right, seems like all the “get a backbone” and “she’s so hypersensitive” skeptics, just a few days ago, were all “what if someone falsely accuses me?” and “I like being looked at as a potential rapist!”

  143. John says

    Tom Foss (156)

    I am quite aware of what Amy did, exactly the right thing.

    She confronted Harriet and expressed her point of view. Harriet then had several options to choose from, she could have apologised and replaced the shirt as soon as possible, she could have said i don’t agree with what your organisation is doing but out of respect I will remove the shirt when I can or she could be obnoxious and say “stuff you, I don’t respect your point of view and just to rub it in I will continue wearing this shirt even if it does leave me smelling like a skunk at the end of the weekend”

    I think she made the wrong choice but in the end it was her right to make that choice.

    Unless you can convince me that the skepchicks have been completely uncritical of TAM then I have to accept that some supporters of TAM might wish to be critical of the Skepchicks. Amy should have accepted the criticism, ruled Harriet off her Christmas card list, and ignore her for the rest of the weekend.

  144. says

    Jason: thanks for the attempted fix – “How civilized!” is also quoting John though. Sorry for borkquote fail.

    John: yes, I did read #150. Should have known to quote the rest of your comment at #155 for specifics.

    Instead of a reasonable argument against my opinion, which I am perfectly prepared to accept may be wrong, I get threatened with physical violence. The art of debate is obviously not lost here.

    These two sentences are ambiguous, and could easily be inferred as assertions that there had been no reasonable arguments against your opinion “here” on this blog as a whole.

    It has been frequently observed that some interlocutors on blogs use such semantic deficits in clarity as features of their rhetoric rather than bugs, usually for the purposes of plausibly deniable obfuscation, and I’m reserving judgement right now as to whether you are one of them.

  145. says

    Would it be fair to say that’s what this approach seems to be better geared for?

    Oh yeah.

    This approach is the opposite of encouraging people to report harassment, doesn’t allow those who have experienced harassment to choose the level or type of support they might receive, and does nothing to prevent it in the first place.

    I’m just saying – it’s more helpful to focus on what actually happened, what was done, and what the policy is – than focusing on what people were thinking or what they might do in the future.

  146. says

    Amy should have accepted the criticism, ruled Harriet off her Christmas card list, and ignore her for the rest of the weekend.

    As far as I know that is exactly what she did. Please correct me if anyone knows different or if I missed something.

    In fact, the problem that a lot of people are pointing out here is that Amy was not given a choice as to how TAM responded to her being upset. She instigated nothing with the staff concerning the shirt, she was simply upset by it and doesn’t think that other people should think treating her badly is good.

  147. John says

    Tigtog, thank you for your clarification. I accept that my comeback against Julian could have been interpreted in the manner you state, however it was not intended as such.

    The bulk of the blog I agree with, I find the actions and attitudes of the JREF and their harassment policy at TAM deplorable. I hope DJ Grothe accepts that he has been wrong on this issue and corrects the matter before the next TAM and if not that Randi takes responsibility and replaces DJ as soon as possible.

    However I still consider Amy’s reaction to be overly emotional and feel she should have accepted the criticism, ignored it and got on with the conference.

  148. carlie says

    Instead of a reasonable argument against my opinion,

    You don’t get a reasonable argument when your opinion is “grow a backbone”. Make a reasoned opinion, and you might get a reasonable argument in return. GIGO.

  149. says

    John #171:

    However I still consider Amy’s reaction to be overly emotional and feel she should have accepted the criticism, ignored it and got on with the conference.

    You appear to be conflating Amy’s actual contained reaction to the t-shirt at TAM itself with the large online WTF reaction to the t-shirt.

    Amy has been very clear that HH’s t-shirt was simply the single hostile conduct incident which was clearly visible to everybody, and definitely was not the only, nor the most upsetting, hostile conduct incident she faced during her days at TAM2012.

    Amy did just “get on with the conference” for another two days after she discussed the t-shirt with HH. She admits to being in tears during that discussion, but there’s no indication that she stayed in tears for the whole rest of her time at TAM2012.

  150. bubba707 says

    John, if you considered that a threat of violence you’ve lead a very sheltered life. In the real world that was merely a somewhat sarcastic remark.

  151. John says

    Carlie

    My opinion was given in my original post, that Harriet Hall, under freedom of speech was perfectly at liberty to wear whatever she wanted. I have attempted to clarified my opinion in subsequent posts.

    I admit that I am an emotionless heartless male.

    I also accept that Amy’s reaction to the shirt is a very minor point in this blog and probably the least important aspect of it.

    My problem with Amy’s reaction being put out there is in my opinion it is detrimental to the main issue.

    Thunderf00t, (cursed be his name), has already linked to a video on this issue and to be frank it does not put Amy in a good light when you compare her tearful reaction, to the actual words on the shirt, which without any of the context, does seem completely inoffensive. Amy’s tearful reaction is in effect being used as an argument against her view on the harassment issue.

  152. John says

    bubba707

    I have lead a very sheltered life, but no, I did not take the “threat” seriously. I have seen some of the threats that many women bloggers have had to put up with and they make me ashamed to be male.

    My comment was intended to be a gentle nudge away from that sort of debate which can escalate to no useful purpose. however rereading my comment I accept it was misguided and would have been better not made.

  153. says

    John, perhaps you should take the lack of context up with Thunderf00t. It’s hardly Amy’s fault that his reaction to getting a copyright violation note from Amy is to try to smear her on video.

  154. carlie says

    John:
    1. Amy did not break down in tears solely because of that shirt. She has stated more than once that there were many people harassing her, and that although TAM attempted to do something about it, their actions just made it worse.

    2. Please see this comment for a nice rundown of the wearing of the shirt and what Harriet did and didn’t seem to know about it.

    3. It’s not just about that one incident. It’s the overall acceptance and encouragement of a chilly climate towards women in general.

    4. JREF was concerned in the first place about female attendance. They were told what to do, by women who were likely to go but hadn’t yet, what to do. They did not do it. In fact, what they did ended up driving one of their biggest supporters home early. You can argue whether you think she “deserved” to have that reaction or not, but the fact is that she did. If they wish not to drive big supporters like her away, they need to change what they’re doing. They can claim some kind of ideological purity and stand their ground and refuse to if they want, but then they shouldn’t complain if those big supporters take their efforts elsewhere in the future.

  155. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    John, #175, wrote:

    Amy’s tearful reaction is in effect being used as an argument against her view on the harassment issue.

    Which is handy in a way, since we can now assume that pretty much everyone who accepts that ‘argument’ as in any way valid is either a dishonest asshole or an ignorant fool who should be treated as such.

  156. says

    On top of the issues others have taken with what you’ve said, John, I must absolutely take issue with:

    I admit that I am an emotionless heartless male.

    Coupled with:

    Man up

    Nobody knows what kind of lie that is like a feminist who wants to end the falsehood of societally enforced rigid gender roles. Don’t do that again.

    And the disingenuous “cursed be his name” as though you can’t disagree with someone without also enacting some kind of jihad against them? Yeah, don’t do that either.

  157. says

    The original question in this post: “TAM’s harassment policy was secret. Why?”

    Again, just thinking out loud here, apologies for stating the obvious and re-stating what others have said. I am relying on what has been said on the Internet for these speculations, and we all know how reliable that can be, so get your bag of salt and keep it handy as you read.

    The only way this makes sense is to look at what a policy is. What most people think of when they hear “sexual harassment policy” is the general description of what is considered unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately, that’s not the case; those are the “policy goals,” or what the policy is hoping to prevent. The full policy includes the description of what situations are to be responded to with particular actions by the staff, and how those incidents are to be documented, and what the escalation paths are. The actual goals of the policy for the institution are not necessarily stated in the policy goals that are presented (i.e. the standards of behavior that are a no-no).

    The actions taken and the secrecy involved make sense if the institutional goals, or what JREF wants to accomplish strategically with a policy that focuses on observation of the person making the complaint* that I see connecting cleanly with the actions described above are twofold.

    1. To demonstrate that the “squeaky wheels” are not being harassed in order to stifle any attempt at litigation for negligence or discrimination (or whatever) by the amorphous mass of #FTBullies etc.

    2. To demonstrate that JREF is taking seriously its reputation and the charges leveled against it, and is not “taking this lying down.”

    In short, makes sense if you are coming from the perspective of someone who feels embittered, unappreciated, henpecked, slandered, and besieged. It makes sense if you feel you are the organizer and you feel you have been unjustly persecuted, and are acting to defend yourself. In short, this is a policy to prevent JREF from being harassed, not a policy to prevent its attendees from being sexually (or otherwise) harassed.

    This is majorly fucked up. I would appreciate it if someone could demonstrate that I am wrong, or (depressingly) confirm that my guess is right.

    * and again, I’m thinking out loud here, speculation disclaimer, etc., but this is insane.

  158. John says

    Carlie

    Thank you for the links.

    You will get no argument from me that the behaviour towards Amy was despicable or that Harriet Hall behaved like a jerk.

    But I still contest that Skepchicks and FTB have been critical of TAM. Rightly so in my opinion, but critical nonetheless.

    When you criticise someone they have a tendency to fight back. Harriet Hall appears to have decided to fight back in a particularly immature and spiteful way and unfortunately many others at TAM were similarly nasty.

    I am not condoning the behaviour of those at TAM towards Amy, but given the criticism Skepchicks have made against TAM Amy should have anticipated a backlash.

  159. carlie says

    I am not condoning the behaviour of those at TAM towards Amy, but given the criticism Skepchicks have made against TAM Amy should have anticipated a backlash.

    I just think it’s sad that they can’t see constructive criticism for what it is and take it like adults. Even if they do fundamentally disagree with the notion of harassment policies, or of making it a safer place to be, their arguments to the contrary have been nonexistent, consisting solely of “nuh-uh” and “it’s your fault” and “you suck”.

  160. Randomfactor says

    Based on this incident, I know which side I’m choosing. I won’t be attending any TAM events* and have done my best to dissuade friends from doing so.

    Let them twist on their own petard.

    *(I’ve only been to about four skeptic events in the past two years, most of them about as distant as this TAM was from me. I plan to attend more; just not TAM.)

  161. says

    …but given the criticism Skepchicks have made against TAM…
    Gosh I wish someone would criticize ME by helping support and publicize and fundraise for me.

  162. John says

    @ Jason Thibeault

    I am emotionless and heartless, and I happen to be male.

    Harriet Hall appears to be vindictive and heartless and is female.

    Amy is generous of spirit, giving her time and energy to a cause which then turned its back on her, perhaps she is too emotional. she happens to be female.

    We are all different, perhaps my heartlessness makes me unable to empathise with Amy and the treatment she received.

    I used “man up” to be deliberately provocative, Perhaps because I am cold and heartless.

    I used “cursed be his name” for no other reason than for humour given Thunderf00ts alleged islamophobic tendencies. However I accept that being emotionless my sense of humour may be lacking.

  163. Pteryxx says

    Surly Amy almost certainly DID anticipate backlash. Her fellow Skepchick, Rebecca Watson, withdrew from TAM and they discussed that decision and how to go about supporting the grant recipients. Anticipating it doesn’t make it tolerable; and she could not have anticipated TAM’s anti-harassment staff making her experience even more miserable.

    Saying ‘she SHOULD have anticipated a backlash’ is just a veiled way of impugning her competence while removing responsibility from TAM.

  164. says

    Fire DJ Grothe, hire competent people to run events, put a simple sexual harassment policy and reporting procedures in place.

    And please, people, do this soon.

    THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!

  165. John says

    Carlie said:-

    “I just think it’s sad that they can’t see constructive criticism for what it is and take it like adults. Even if they do fundamentally disagree with the notion of harassment policies, or of making it a safer place to be, their arguments to the contrary have been nonexistent, consisting solely of “nuh-uh” and “it’s your fault” and “you suck”.”

    I completely agree.

    I hope that as more skeptic conference’s introduce harassment policies TAM will find themselves forced to follow suit. If they don’t then I hope more of the Skeptical celebrities decide to boycott the event until they do so, as Ophelia Benson did this year.

  166. John says

    Pteryxx

    Saying ‘she SHOULD have anticipated a backlash’ is just a veiled way of impugning her competence while removing responsibility from TAM.

    Perhaps I am impugning her competence, or at least her decision to blog about the events in such detail. but am in no way removing TAM’s responsibility, read my previous comments, I don’t think you will find much support for TAM in them, quite the opposite I would hope.

  167. says

    John #193: That doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is you waltzing in on your high horse with this bit of obvious:

    I am not condoning the behaviour of those at TAM towards Amy, but given the criticism Skepchicks have made against TAM Amy should have anticipated a backlash.

    As if the Skepchicks and their defenders are just too stupid to have thought of this. Never mind of course that we’ve been seeing this sort of backlash ever since fucking Elevatorgate.

    It’s really fucking condescending and ignorant to say that, and it indicates that you still on some level think yourself superior because you have a penis. Try to remember that if it’s obvious to you it’s probably obvious to everyone who agrees with you, m’kay?

  168. Pteryxx says

    John: as I said, the disturbing response of TAM security could not have been reasonably anticipated or planned for. Therefore, by blaming Amy for not anticipating it, you’re eliding TAM’s direct contribution.

  169. F says

    So who the hell did the hire for these “trained anti-harassment personnel”? Was it Academi (formerly Blackwater)?

  170. John says

    Pteryxx says:

    John: as I said, the disturbing response of TAM security could not have been reasonably anticipated or planned for. Therefore, by blaming Amy for not anticipating it, you’re eliding TAM’s direct contribution.

    True, I agree that the absurd behaviour of TAM security and their arse about face secret harassment policy was worthy of being brought to our attention. I still don’t accept the tearful reaction to Harriet Hall’s offensive shirt needed to be raised though.

  171. Pteryxx says

    John: when security *came to her* because she was visibly upset, the shirt was *one of* the things she reported. The comment quoted in the OP spends two paragraphs explaining specifically why the shirt and Hall’s reaction were hurtful and dismissive, but you’re finding fault with the words “through tears” ? News: crying’s a perfectly normal stress response that actually exists in the world. I’m sure it’s more manly to have flashbacks (hi, PTSD) but mentioning her own emotions in passing is *part of* the account of harassment and how it was handled.

  172. says

    Crissa #200:

    Why would you let someone run around in a t-shirt personally degrading another attendee?

    This is a conference full of libertarians. If the shirt weren’t directly referencing Amy by her full name with an insult that is most certainly and definitely an insult and not something that might be a joke, it’s not personally degrading.

    Remember, we’re talking about people who can take plausible deniability and stretch it across the Grand Canyon.

  173. says

    “degrading” is not the necessary standard anyway.

    “disparaging”/”demeaning”/”dismissive”/”derogatory” are all sufficiently hostile when we’re talking about the chilling effect of marginalising microaggressions.

    Chilly climates rely on gaslighting, remember.

  174. jonathanray says

    I personally spoke with one person (not Surly Amy nor UAJamie) who was harassed this year at TAM and was very satisfied with the response from JREF. If Amy wasn’t comfortable with being watched or checked on for her protection she could have said so and they would be happy to accommodate. Her original complaint probably sounded like she was afraid someone would do something to her IRL, hence the eagle-eye. But the purpose of the program is to give the victim whatever help they need. Nowhere in either Amys or UAJamie’s account is there any assertion that TAM staff disregarded their stated wishes. When one is really bummed out and/or starting to think of someone as “other” it is easier to interpret their actions uncharitably.

    BTW, DJ told me early in the morning on the first day that he thought Harriet’s t-shirt was a terrible idea but that he wouldn’t impose a dress code.

    I can’t even begin to speculate why some people in our community would twist themselves into knots to root for Pamela Gay’s inspiring anti-harassment speech at TAM, and try to ferret out harassment in our community though by the most secretive and creepy means imaginable, while simultaneously calling us Freethought Bloggers “bullies” and “stasi” out of the sides of their mouths. All because we dared suggest that we should all do something about the harassment in our communities.

    You’re lumping a lot of different people together, then applying a lot of reductionism and essentialism. This kind of lazy thinking is not what skeptics are supposed to do.

  175. says

    I personally spoke with one person (not Surly Amy nor UAJamie) who was harassed this year at TAM and was very satisfied with the response from JREF.

    Hmm. How many times do you have to hear people stating that they 100% believe that the majority of attendees at TAM (or any other conference) don’t experience problems, but that doesn’t obviate the need for an EFFECTIVE policy to deal with it for those who do, before you believe it? Please tell me, so I can repeat it the requisite number of times.

    Richard Carrier has already pointed out that this faulty impression of the debate is a result of a cognitive error called the availability heuristic. Please explain why you prefer to allow your cognitive errors, rather than facts, to shape your perception of events.

    If Amy wasn’t comfortable with being watched or checked on for her protection she could have said so and they would be happy to accommodate.

    What if she felt more intimidated by her surveillance detail than she did by her harassers?

    Her original complaint probably sounded like she was afraid someone would do something to her IRL, hence the eagle-eye.

    This comments sounds like you are probably making stuff up to justify your predetermined conclusion. PROBABLY.

    But the purpose of the program is to give the victim whatever help they need.

    Citation needed. Here we have testimony from one victim explicitly saying that the policy HINDERED her getting the help she needed, because they wanted her to keep silent about the incident, even to her friends. There exist policies that are actually effective–and have been proven to be so–at providing help to victims. This policy does not resemble those policies. Why is that? And why is it that the policy seems focused on maintaining the illusion that there is no need for the policy?

    Nowhere in either Amys or UAJamie’s account is there any assertion that TAM staff disregarded their stated wishes.

    This is objectively false, regarding UAJamie’s account. Now that you’ve descended to telling obvious falsehoods, you should stop and consider whether the foundation of your argument is really that sound. WRT to Amy’s wishes, I suppose it’s her fault that she didn’t think to tell TAM ahead of time that she preferred not to be covertly surveilled? How careless of her.

    When one is really bummed out and/or starting to think of someone as “other” it is easier to interpret their actions uncharitably.

    Words of wisdom. Have you shared them with DJ Grothe?

    BTW, DJ told me early in the morning on the first day that he thought Harriet’s t-shirt was a terrible idea but that he wouldn’t impose a dress code.

    DJ framed it as a “dress code” issue? Wow, he shows himself to be ever more clueless. Libertarians are fucking stupid.

    I can’t even begin to speculate why some people in our community would twist themselves into knots to root for Pamela Gay’s inspiring anti-harassment speech at TAM, and try to ferret out harassment in our community though by the most secretive and creepy means imaginable, while simultaneously calling us Freethought Bloggers “bullies” and “stasi” out of the sides of their mouths. All because we dared suggest that we should all do something about the harassment in our communities.

    You’re lumping a lot of different people together, then applying a lot of reductionism and essentialism. This kind of lazy thinking is not what skeptics are supposed to do.

    The proposal to implement time-tested anti-harassment policies* at conferences is so utterly reasonable and the arguments against are so utterly lacking in logic and common decency, that I have no qualms lumping those who oppose anti-harassment policies together. If you think anyone obliquely referred to in that passage DOES support anti-harassment policies and has only given the impression of opposing them by mistake, or has changed their mind or whatever, feel free to point that out.

    *After all this nonsense, apparently I have to qualify this by reminding everyone that I am talking about EFFECTIVE, PROVEN, TIME-TESTED policies, not the bullshit policy JREF pulled out of their collective ass.

  176. pneumo says

    I went to a TAM where we were told from the podium that we should be nice to christian skeptics.

    Just saying.

  177. Svlad Cjelli says

    They were willing to go through all this evasive song and dance to protect their secret?

    No, wait, this doesn’t add up. DJ Grothe himself went out of his way to draw attention to specifically TAM in the prior discussion about harrassment-policies in general.

    Something is up, and I don’t know what. I can’t come up with anything plausible to explain it. But there’s more to this, or brain-damage.

  178. jennygadget says

    “So making accusations related to intent just polarizes everything more.”

    No, actually, that’s not true. In fact, it’s so not true that it’s actually a perfect illustration of why it is so important that harassment policies and procedures be as transparent as possible.

    I mean, it’s polarizing, yes. But it isn’t only polarizing.

    This is why women share stories in bathrooms and other places about who to avoid and why. In the absence of any ability to deal with harassment head on, it’s useful for people to know not only who is dangerous but who may be dangerous – and in what way. The speculation and sharing isn’t just a warning to avoid someone, it’s also used to formulate plans for escape. How you deal with someone who is merely deliberately not listening is different than how you deal with someone that is suspected of being manipulative – or nastier in private than they are in public.

    It may be polarizing to speculate on TAM’s reasons for doing all this, but it’s also a theory that the vulnerable may end up needing to put to use to prevent further harm to themselves when TAM’s secret police descends again next year.

    So, yes, it’s polarizing. It can also be useful.

  179. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Crissa:

    Why would you let someone run around in a t-shirt personally degrading another attendee?

    But but but it was a lower case ‘s’! Don’t you know that means it’s completely and 100 percent non-personal?

    Some man told me that. Yup.

    Seriously, If I had a dollar for every jackass on these threads who’ve been making the same stupid copy-and-paste ‘points’ that have already been answered a hundred times, I’d be rich enough to be a smug smarmy liberturd too!

    Jonathanray: Oh I see. You were personally satisfied, so obviously there is no problem… amirite dudebro?

  180. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Correction: Your -friend- was personally satisfied. My mistake, that makes all the difference of course.

  181. Kaylakaze says

    I’ve been to cons. I’ve been to big public events like festival style concerts. Never have I been to any event that does anything like hand out documents as you enter detailing their anti-harassment policy (or anti-theft policy, or anti-murder policy or anti-assault policy, etc.) I could be wrong, but from the reports I’ve read, historically, at any con, if there’s an issue of harassment reported, it’s dealt with, generally in a way that tries to keep things subdued and not cause a panic. That’s the main issue that’s causing this split, not that cons aren’t doing anything, but because certain people are not seeing the con publicly and openly make itself look bad and as a result, are causing panic. There’s nothing wrong with a con having a “secret policy” that you can only find out about by going to their website. That’s perfectly normal for a con.

    An easier way to show people that a process was in place for handling harassment would be to include information about your harassment policy in the hand-out literature, on the website, or even mentioning in the introduction ceremony that harassment isn’t tolerated and to report harassment to TAM staff. That’s how you get the word out to people that you have a process in place — you tell them yourself.

    Why don’t they just publish a book and pass it out of all the things you’re not allowed to do and detailed instructions on how to handle an incident if it happens? “In case something is stolen”, “In case a loved one is murdered”, “In case you’re set on fire”, etc. This is not how the real world works. This is not how CONVENTIONS work. And even if you did, you’d still have people complaining that there wasn’t enough done to make sure people paid attention to the hand outs and the next step would be making everyone sign a form stating that they read the anti-harassment policy.

    And having the speaker talk about it? Well, first you’d get people complaining that the speaker should announce it every few hours since some people would have missed to welcome speech. Second, you might as well go up on stage and be like “We will not tolerate anyone here molesting a child”. Doing so would a) make it look like children are being molested routinely and/or b) make the speaker look daft that they feel they need to point out something so obvious. Do you think this should be standard practice for ALL public gatherings of any type? Before a football game, should the announcer come on and discuss how anyone in the stands should react if they feel they’ve been harassed?

    It sounds like what happened at TAM this time was a direct result of squeaky wheel greasing (possibly too much so) and then the greasy wheels feeling “creeped out” by what they created with their squeaks when the squeaks weren’t specific about exactly what it is they wanted.

    I could be wrong, but none of the primary people I’ve seen being demonized as “anti harassment policy” have ever said there should be no harassment policy or that harassment shouldn’t be dealt with. The argument has simply and always been that harassment should be handled the same way as any other issue and that putting a banner outside your con saying “Now With Harassment Fighting Power!” just makes your con look bad from the start.

    Why is it so difficult for supposedly rational people to stop flinging mud and actually THINK about what they’re saying or what they’re asking for?

  182. says

    Kaylakaze #212, how long did it take you to compile that many strawmen, hyperbolic misrepresentations and baseless claims under your just-world banner atop a mountain of false balance?

    That sort of rhetoric requires effort even if you’re just making shit up and throwing it. But…

    Why is it so difficult for supposedly rational people to stop flinging mud and actually THINK about what they’re saying or what they’re asking for?

    It was rather nice of you to tell us exactly what you were doing.

    Gaslighting, projection, propaganda…do they have anything that’s not an obvious abuse or bullying tactic? Anything at all?

    SallyStrange #205:

    Libertarians are fucking stupid.

    -ahem- Good day, madam. I am an Independent Representative of the International Independency Assembly, the body established in 1966 in an attempt to restore balance to the face of politics.

    This statement is in violation of s. 3(3) of the Fair And Balanced Act 1968, which prohibits “any conclusion about a conservative party that is unfavorable to such party”, and of s. 1 of the Acceptable Skepticism Act 1970 which states that “with respect to the diversity of ideas, skepticism does not apply to the body of politics.”

    As such, per the Social Punishments Act 1980 a trained representative will be dispatched shortly to issue the mandatory lecture about diversity of ideas, assumptions, scaring the independents, talking about what we believe rather than pointing out that the opposition is wrong, the possibility of valid arguments for conservatism, the need to reach across the aisle and bring conservatives over to our side, and above all that despite how libertarianism has been turned into a right-wing machine there are leftist libertarians out there who are very very mad at YOU, and for some reason not at the righty assholes that stole libertarianism.

    Please, in future, remember that we live in a good capitalist society that is the best we’ve ever known, and that you shouldn’t be complaining about or denigrating the people who are being dishonest assholes in an attempt to prop up the worst aspects of the system because they’re just worried about how we might lose it all if we start fundamentally changing it. You need to understand where they come from and the magic of Sophisticated Abuse before you start criticizing it.

    Have a nice day. -doffs hat, twirls cane and walks off, ‘accidentally’ whacking indigent people with said twirling cane- lazy ungrateful leeches…they don’t know how good they have it…

  183. Dianne says

    I admit that I am an emotionless heartless male.

    Nonsense. If you were actually emotionless you would have admitted the illogic of your position long ago and stopped arguing. You’re an emotional human whose ego has become invested in being right on this issue. And if you were heartless you’d be dead now, so not buying that one either. I’ll take your word about male.

  184. says

    Much ado about nothing. Move on… There are REAL problems in the world that could benefit from all this wasted time and energy. It’s just a damned t-shirt people! *SIGH* Crying over it and leaving early? Way to be an empowered woman there Amy.

    And as for the harassment policy… TAM is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no pleasing you people.

  185. says

    @Wooly

    I think it’s funny you’ve tweeted that you’re so sure your comment is going to be moderated away when it’s so incredibly tame (yet still so woefully misguided) compared to other comments that are…still…here…

    You are just such a bastion of maturity and intelligence!

  186. Dianne says

    @Wooly: Then why are you wasting time commenting when you could be out there solving those Really Important Problems you’re talking about?

  187. bastionofsass says

    And as for the harassment policy… TAM is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no pleasing you people.

    As far as an harassment policy, TAM has done a lot of don’ting and not a hell of a lot of doing.

    I’d like to see TAM actually, you know, do some doing before I decide whether or not to damn them.

  188. carlie says

    It would be nice if the focus of their policy was preventing harassment rather than documenting every move the victim makes after the fact.

  189. says

    @Kaylakaze:

    There’s nothing wrong with a con having a “secret policy” that you can only find out about by going to their website.

    Then I’m sure you can tell us where on the JREF or TAM website the policy is described.

  190. says

    @Svlad Cjelli:

    They were willing to go through all this evasive song and dance to protect their secret?

    No, wait, this doesn’t add up. DJ Grothe himself went out of his way to draw attention to specifically TAM in the prior discussion about harrassment-policies in general.

    Something is up, and I don’t know what. I can’t come up with anything plausible to explain it. But there’s more to this, or brain-damage.

    Well…

    Sometimes we forget that what kicked off the current nastiness was Jen McCreight talking about “The List” of men who were prone to harassing behavior, and apparently some pretty prominent names were on “The List”. Maybe some of those names have a publicized close connection to JREF, and you can work from there.

  191. Pteryxx says

    Joe: in that case, DJ REALLY shouldn’t have run off his mouth. If TAM had simply adopted the boilerplate policy (or their previous year’s policy) right away, like so many other conferences did, and simply continued to disregard actual complaints of harassment that did occur on their watch, they could have… maaaybe dodged the issue for another year or so, until word started to leak out that they weren’t properly enforcing their own policy. Then the explosion would be happening somewhere over the next year, instead of the past two months. Whoever their troublesome major speakers are, their days are numbered.

    Hey creepers: women you victimize aren’t going to stay safely silent and isolated anymore. The game has changed and you’ve lost. Deal.

  192. says

    Well, Pteryxx… you have several competing/overlapping interests here. There’s JREF as an organization looking to preserve its reputation, there are speakers/organizers/donors who may be guilty of inappropriate-at-best behavior, and then you have DJ Grothe who needs to explain why TAM’s attendance suffered a 25% drop-off from last year. In light of that, let’s look at what DJ’s attack on women in general and women bloggers in particular, indifference/hostility towards anti-harassment policies, and implementation of obviously flawed security measures, what all those different things gain for those different levels of interest. There’s blame deflection for JREF and Grothe both, the attacks created an us-vs-them atmosphere where all claims from outside the organization were immediately and ruthlessly attacked by the in-group, there’s a communicated message to speakers/organizers/donors that their activities won’t come under additional scrutiny, there’s a chilling effect against the people who would tend to report and pursue harassment claims attending TAM (Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, etc), security personnel behaving in ways to discourage women from reporting future harassment (Surly Amy).

    So yeah, it seems to work out pretty well for DJ Grothe and JREF, once you drop the notion that they are acting in good faith to solve the problem of harassment, rather than what appears to be acting in bad faith to sweep the problem of harassment under the rug.

  193. John Horstman says

    My guess? They’re intentionally doing this poorly and making the harassment investigation worse than the actual harassment to try to prove that they were right all along. TAM lost the benefit of the doubt ages ago.

  194. John Horstman says

    To clarify, they’re enacting a straw policy that no one asked for in order to ‘prove’ that THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE AN ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICY!!!!!SCARY!!!! Secret police! Surveillance! Harassing interrogations! SEE, THIS IS WHY WE OBJECTED SO STRONGLY!!!

    Assholes.

  195. Pteryxx says

    Sure, except they claimed *innocent men* would be the ones surveilled and punished for transgressing invisible secret rules. This is all a case of “do to you what we IMAGINE you’re going to do to us except we did it first”.

  196. karmakin says

    And the Bronze Rule (Do onto others as you think they will do onto you…First) strikes again.

    I’m telling you. That rule explains a LOT of human interactions, and virtually everything that we see in this debate.

  197. arbor says

    M.A. Melby –

    Quit being a jerk.

    It is entirely appropriate to speculate about what the intentions of JREF and its goons were at when they placed someone who had complained of harassment under surveillance.

    I hope to ‘polarize’ JREF out of existence.

    I want DJ to be fired.

    I want JREF and all of its activities to be boycotted.

    I want the festering sore that is JREF cut out of skepticism.

    Your accomodationist positions are noted with all appropriate contempt.

  198. says

    I like the logic of “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.” Imagine, if you will, the JREFstaurant.

    MAITRE D’J: Welcome, sir, to the JREFstaurant.

    PATRON: Thanks, I read some reviews and–

    MAITRE D’J: Anything bad you’ve heard about our food is clearly the fault of some well-meaning food critics who are engaged in some distasteful cafeteria banter after they willingly ate their food and thought the price was too “steep.”

    PATRON: What I read was actually pretty positive, except–

    MAITRE D’J: Controversialist food bloggers, looking for better circulation! There has never been a report of food poisoning at the JREFstaurant!

    PATRON 2: Wait a minute, I got food poisoning here last week! You helped me to the bathroom!

    MAITRE D’J: I thought you just had the stomach flu. You didn’t think it was important at the time to say it was food poisoning.

    PATRON: Didn’t I hear about a food poisoning case here a couple of months ago? They even made documented reports.

    MAITRE D’J: Your table’s over there. I’m going into the back now, and you won’t see me for the rest of your meal.

    [PATRON sits and reads the menu. WAITER enters to serve them]

    WAITER: What would you like to order, sir?

    PATRON: Actually, your menu doesn’t seem to have any food information on it. Just this long welcome note.

    WAITER: I assure you, we have nineteen specially-prepared chefs in back to take care of your order.

    PATRON: Yes, but if there’s no food on the menu, how do I know what to order?

    WAITER: Putting food options on the menu might be a serious waste of time! Do you have any evidence that putting food options on the menu makes people more likely to order something?

    PATRON: But all other restaurants do it.

    WAITER: See, that’s just an argument from popularity. Surely you expect the JREFstaurant to have higher standards. Besides, what if we put these food options on the menu, and someone wants an item that’s slightly different? Or worse, what if they ordered the wrong thing?

    PATRON: That doesn’t seem like it’s much of a problem.

    WAITER: You’re just some kind of foodinazi! I mean, I’m not saying you’re a Nazi, but you know who puts food options on menus? Nazis.

    PATRON: Okay…can I get a sandwich?

    WAITER: Fine, I guess.

    [WAITER leaves, and returns a few minutes later with a sandwich on a platter.]

    WAITER: Your sandwich. Happy?

    PATRON: Wait, what is this? Why does it smell so bad? [Picks up one of the bread slices] Is this what I think it is?

    WAITER: It’s a sandwich, just like you ordered.

    PATRON: It’s shit!

    WAITER: What foul language!

    PATRON: No, this is a shit sandwich. It’s dung on toast!

    WAITER: Look, you ordered a sandwich. I gave you a sandwich. It’s got stuff between two slices of bread, therefore, a sandwich.

    PATRON: But it’s a shit sandwich.

    WAITER: Jeez, there’s just no pleasing you people!

    FIN

  199. says

    WoolyBumblebee, why does your Twitter account no longer link to this blog? Did you suddenly develop a sense of shame over that cartoon sneering at Rebecca Watson for not wanting to be harassed when she had done a nude calendar shoot in the past?

    You state on Twitter that you are a social worker and sex educator. Do you think it’s OK for women to be harassed if they have done nude calendar shoots before?

  200. julian says

    Crying over it and leaving early? Way to be an empowered woman there Amy.

    So everything else she listed as off putting and distressing behavior didn’t happen. The only thing that caused her any kind of distress was a T-shirt. Absolutely nothing else at all made Amy feel unwelcome.

    Right.

    I will never knowingly read another word by Harriet Hall so long as I live.

    There are REAL problems in the world that could benefit from all this wasted time and energy.

    Don’t pretend you care. You see the entire ‘feminazi’ group as harmful. You want them out. Sooner rather than later. You see no value in their arguments or work.

    TAM is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no pleasing you people.

    So you have nothing to say. No points to rebuke, no arguments that might counter the ones in this thread, nothing. So why comment? Why not just stick with the ‘right’ kind of skeptic and stop wasting your valuable time on a group of future fascists and thugs?

  201. qbsmd says

    When I first heard about the secret-surveillance harassment policy, I thought it sounded like a good idea, even though I’m opposed to hidden cameras in general. That’s because it had the potential to actually document evidence of harassment continuing after being reported, which could then be used in court, etc. Also, it allows for innocent until proven guilty; no one gets publicly accused or thrown out without video evidence. And it should have worked well against the kinds of harassment being discussed before TAM; they could have collected convincing videos of someone taking upskirt photos or following someone around after being told not to.

    I understand why it was a bad idea; I agree it’s creepy and does nothing to deter harassment or promote reporting it, but I disagree with those who claim it was a deliberate attempt to antagonize people who report harassment or to demonstrate how horrible harassment policies are. I think it’s the harassment policy you should expect a skeptic to come up with: it doesn’t rely on believing or not believing anyone’s report, or trying to figure out who’s telling the truth but just collecting evidence.

  202. says

    From Abbie Smith

    Ive seen no evidence to suggest that ‘TAMs Secret Harassment Police’ actually existed or worked for TAM.

    For all we know, Roths ‘protection’ were people on ‘her’ side hoping to document ‘harassment’ and get it online ASAP (before anyone notified DJ, of course), much like how Bensons ‘threat’ was really an overzealous supporter.

    These individuals have done enough to damage their credibility that I do *not* take their statements at face value.

    So basically, bitches be lyin. I have no idea what she even has against Amy except that Amy works for Skepchick.

  203. qbsmd says

    @Setar, 235

    I’d agree that Harriet Hall’s shirt was a deliberate statement meant to offend the Skepchicks. I haven’t read the other one yet. But neither one of those is the harassment policy. I don’t deny that there’s antagonism between people in the atheist-skeptics movement, I just don’t think the harassment policy was a deliberate attempt to antagonize people who report harassment. Which is what I actually said.

  204. says

    qbsmd: I’m also disinclined to think that the policy was a deliberate attempt to antagonize harassment victims, but that will be its effect — ask anyone who’s had to work with harassment, HR concerns, or rape trauma centres. Revictimizing people who already feel victimized is a damn sure way to dissuade reporting. Once the “irresponsible messaging” of people mentioning their experience with the less-than-empathetic interrogation setup gets around, people will not want to put themselves through something like that whenever someone tries to grope them or what have you.

    Being repeatedly propositioned by a drunk — for instance — is victimizing, and should be stopped. But it is significantly less victimizing than being interrogated and gaslighted over such an incident. It’s nonsense like this that leads people to say “just grow a thicker skin” to deal with the lesser complaints without reporting them. If you know the response to a relatively minor complaint, which a published harassment policy and a pain-free reporting process would have solved easily, will instead be a full-blown investigation of high crimes against humanity, that’s enough of a dissuasion in and of itself against reporting minor things.

    This entire harassment policy campaign has never been about creating witch hunts or secret tribunals or going completely apeshit over security. TAM, on the other hand, appears to have taken every bad part of every strawman argument AGAINST harassment policies, and meshed them all together into one uber-strawpolicy. This CAN feel like they did it deliberately. But I agree that there is no evidence that this completely ass-backward approach to harassment was deliberate. More likely it is the result of people completely misunderstanding the scope of the problem (consider DJ’s fears that we’re calling TAM “unsafe”), coupled with hiring consultants in Las Vegas where dollars-to-donuts they have to deal with some really serious shit as a matter of course.

    It’s all just one big failure, back to front. And it all could have been avoided if they’d listened to what the feminists and harassment victims were ACTUALLY asking for, instead of listening to what the trolls said we were asking for.

    I really think this should be my last word on the matter. I’m well past done with this. TAM wants to cater to the libertarians while creating grossly anti-civil-liberties policies? TAM wants to cater to the anti-Skepchick crowd, wants to cater to the people who honestly think that feminists were calling for Dawkins’ head? Fine.

    Fine, I say.

    Fuck ‘em.

    They’ve shrunk this year to about the size of Skepticon 4. I’d say there’s a new big dog in town anyway. The king is dead, long live the king.

  205. Bernard Bumner says

    From Abbie Smith…

    The paranoid fantasy that there is a conspiracy of people willing to make their own lives more miserable for the sake of? Exactly what?

    More cynicism as a substitute for substantive argument. And still no constructive or really tangible point to make.

    (Typical and unremarkable behaviour compared to the various and many denialists and naysayers.)

  206. says

    Has any one seen any of the people who have been against harassment policies angry at the JREF for making the policy a secret, having secret monitoring people or having cameras on people? These all seem like the sorts of things that if suggested (prior to TAM) to be a good way to combat harassment would have been the target of much criticism by not only people against policies but of course by those advocating for them.

    I did read some of the comments on various places where anti-policy people like to post as well as tweets, but only for a day or so after this post. I didn’t see anyone vehemently angry at DJ Grothe or JREF for allowing all this secret enforcemnt of an unknown code of conduct seemingly lacking in transparency. I’d be very interested to see any criticism of JREF by those who have been against the idea of more policies in the event I have confirmation bias.

  207. says

    ~G~ @240: I don’t know that you’ll see any condemnation. It’s easier (as the Abbie Smith quote above shows) for them to just play the “bitchez be lyin'” card and assume it’s all made up by the Skepchicks to further smear poor innocent DJ Grothe.

    Moreover, I had a conversation on Twitter with one of the anti-harassment crowd who’s been in various comment threads on the subject, where he lamented the terrible lack of data re: harassment policies, and if we wanted to convince the skeptical opponents, we needed to present information. Ultimately, it came down to the suggestion that we’d need to have a convention with a harassment policy, but without promoting/publicizing the policy, to see what effect that would have, because there are certainly no confounding factors there and it’s totally ethical to turn convention goers into unwitting human test subjects. But, other than introducing a bunch of other variables, it seems JREF decided that was an experiment worth running.

    I suggest they continue to run this experiment in future years, as the control group, while other conventions try a more conventional anti-harassment approach. It’s really the only way to be sure.

  208. says

    I think ultimately Jason’s got the best read on this. Whatever is motivating JREF and its supporters to make TAM a shitty thing to attend, it is clearly finished as the sole or main gathering of the year. Maybe all of their “us vs them” nonsense will keep a core group of loyalists going year after year, but the rest of the movement is going to keep on moving and growing beyond them. Skepticon is probably the same size or going to be bigger next time, the SSA leadership conference is growing year after year, CFI is going strong and their Women in Secularism conference is sure to grow… the list goes on.

    The truth is, we don’t need JREF or TAM… and they know it.

  209. Seymour says

    @222

    Well…

    Sometimes we forget that what kicked off the current nastiness was Jen McCreight talking about “The List” of men who were prone to harassing behavior, and apparently some pretty prominent names were on “The List”. Maybe some of those names have a publicized close connection to JREF, and you can work from there.

    The secret little list that is so secret and the people on it so powerful that it cannot be revealed.

    Is that the list you mean?

  210. says

    Seymour, does it really surprise you that serial harassers might wait until there were no independent eyewitnesses around before engaging in their hostile/intimidating behaviours? Serial harassers are not stupid, they know exactly how to maintain deniability.

    Without corroborating evidence, naming names can only result in a defamation action. Harassment targets are not stupid either.

  211. says

    I’m thinking this “policy” is more about protecting the JREF from lawsuits and less about providing a safer environment to attendees.

    There was someone who made me feel uncomfortable at TAM 9, but after hearing these stories, I’m so glad I didn’t report it. I’m sure it would have made things much worse. As it turned out, things got better on their own, and we’ve both moved on.

    TAM will go on, but unless there are major changes, it won’t be “The event” it used to be.

  212. Seymour says

    @245

    So what do they do with their list then?

    Hopefully they aren’t pursuing a whispering campaign against those they have on their little list. Why mention that you have a list at all?

  213. says

    So what do they do with their list then?

    Hopefully they aren’t pursuing a whispering campaign against those they have on their little list. Why mention that you have a list at all?

    What you call a “whispering campaign” is women sharing valuable information with each other so they can stay safe and stress-free.

    You’d prefer it if the bitches just shut up, I take it.

    I just spent an hour drinking wine with two older women who are professionally accomplished, whom I admire. The conversation was all over the place but the topic of sexual harassment by teachers in college or grad school came up.

    It happens literally everywhere.

    Sharing that information is a vital first step in pushing back against it.

    My suspicion is that that is the real source of your problem. Go ahead and prove me wrong. Please.

  214. says

    Also worth noting that I’ve seen no indication that there is any actual physical “list” of names – it’s a shorthand term for the knowledge women share with each other of those to beware.

  215. says

    madscientist, I hear the whole JREF board are libertarians, which explains a lot but not all of the detachment from reality.

    That would also explain their hostility toward any group that tends to be identified as “liberal;” like, oh I dunno, feminists and other women who seek to improve their society through collective action, rather than through good old fashioned personal work-ethic. To the libertards, “collectivism” is always evil, especially when it threatens the place, self-image or privilege of the RIGHT collective.

  216. says

    It is entirely appropriate to speculate about what the intentions of JREF and its goons were at when they placed someone who had complained of harassment under surveillance.

    If you are going for burned-Earth I suppose.

    There are enough enemies to attack without wasting your time and energy on me.

    As far as “accomodationist” – this is where, I, on cue accuse you of being unreasonable, making the “movement” look bad, making enemies out of potential allies, not understanding how to get stuff done politically – blah de blah blah.

    We know the anatomy of every movement ever, so why don’t we skip that?

  217. christo930 says

    So now we need dress codes too? This is childish, immature and this woman is acting just like a crying baby that wants attention. She has to throw that little dig in that she is the only one (or possibly one of an elite few) that are doing something productive with grant money. This person needs to grow up, you no right to go through life without being offended.

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