The FtB Conversation about TAM: Transcript Pt. 1

Here’s the first half hour of the transcript for the big FtB Conversation from yesterday, done once again by the indefatiguable Kate Donovan. She’s the poor soul who did the transcript for the “PenisGate Debate”, who volunteered for this as I guess a sort of palate-cleanser.

If you’re just joining in, read these two posts first:

In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in
The harassment policy campaign timeline

Transcript below the fold. Part two as soon as she’s done.
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FtB and Rebecca Watson want TAM to succeed

A Google+ Hangout with ten of us uppity feminists whose irresponsible messaging have been destroying the secular movement. The takeaway is that we want TAM and the secular movement to improve. We want us all to be better.

I’ll tell you the truth, I was nervous the entire time. If I’m chattery or stupid, I’m sorry.

The harassment policy campaign timeline
In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in

Same video on Pharyngula.

An apology, a mea culpa, and my stated opinion of DJ Grothe

yes, actually he SAID: "ALL OF THESE POSTS ABOUT SUPPOSED RAMPANT SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND UNNAMED LISTS OF CERTAIN SPEAKERS “VICTIMIZING” YOUNG WOMEN, AND THE LIKE. SO MUCH OF THAT FEELS TO ME MORE LIKE RUMOR AND DISTASTEFUL LOCKER ROOM BANTER"

So, I have this problem. A vacuous shitbag troll is running around telling everyone that I’m a homophobe based on a reading of my comment here:

DJ Grothe is not LITERALLY a douchebag, as he does not store vinegar or other potentially harmful chemicals in his person for the purposes of “cleansing” a woman’s vagina. In fact, I hear he wants little to do with women’s vaginas.

When people who have shown every intention of manufacturing controversy just happen to be right about something, I have this tendency to not believe them because of all the dross they’ve spat out before. I sometimes trust my pattern recognition all too much. The fact that this troll is presently spamming both DJ and all my compatriots, and has been for two days, is galling, but must not blind me to the fact that some people could find that offensive.
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The GrotheBot 5000 meme

So one of our commenters who shall not be named unless xe comes forward used memegenerator.net to create a meme generator to parody DJ Grothe’s latest bout of intractability.

It’s crude, it’s crass, it’s even gross mischaracterization in many cases, and I’m willing to admit that I’ve participated in creating at least one. I’m honestly hoping it’s enough of a slap in the face to wake DJ the hell up to the fact that he’s running around being a douchebag to those women who are identifying the problem and working to solve it, instead of actually fixing the problems people are having with harassment.

He can start by listening to the recommendations of the community and implementing a strong harassment policy that covers this year and all future years. Because there’s a lot of questions floating about regarding his, and JREF’s, willingness to do either. The fact that they haven’t yet is telling.

Update: Before you get all up in arms about “douchebag”, read this.

DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman

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

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

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

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The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation

Last year, when the bugs crawling out from under the rock that had been overturned several months prior by Rebecca Watson continued unabated, and pretty much everyone was shocked that that many creepie-crawlies resided in our vaunted skeptical community, I wrote a series of posts on the whole ordeal called The Problem with Privilege. One of those posts dealt with the rampant and repeated demands for evidence regarding the incident that Rebecca had called creepy — as though recounting a story and saying “guys, don’t do that, it’s creepy” was some kind of misandrist clarion call, which must be rebuffed lest it result in fewer pick-up artists getting their dicks wet.

So these trolls, being part of the skeptical community (apparently), used our strengths against us by attacking the claim on its merits, since the claim “I was tipsy in an elevator at 4am and a guy followed me in and asked me to his room” doesn’t meet the high standards of evidence we use in the skeptical community when it comes to extraordinary claims. Never mind that it was a perfectly ordinary claim about someone’s experience with a slightly-offputting person that did not result in any physical harm. Specifically, I characterized this compulsion as hyper-skepticism, along the same lines as 9/11 truthers, birthers, and other conspiracy theorists.

We’re now seeing the exact same tactic being used again in the wake of a conflagration that Jen McCreight accidentally set off when she casually mentioned at the Women In Secularism CFI conference that female speakers occasionally warn one another of potentially creepy male speakers.
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The DJ Grothe quote that sticks in my craw.

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

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

Working on a secret project, so I don’t have terribly much to say today. So I’ll report on the news and throw in a few quick thoughts.

I can’t say I blame Rebecca for deciding not to participate in The Amazing Meeting this year — not because TAM is particularly unsafe for women, but because TAM is not a safe space for women. (Do you get the distinction? It’s really important that you do.)

She quotes DJ Grothe:

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

DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment. I found that claim astonishing, since I was only aware of women speaking frankly about their own experiences and their own feelings. I couldn’t imagine that DJ would be literally blaming the victim for speaking out. To be sure, I asked him in that thread to give us examples of what he was talking about. To my surprise, this was his response:

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

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

( http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-15/atheist-sexism-women/50416454/1 )

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Hits vs comments, controversialism, and a reception metric

DJ Grothe, in the wake of a bit of pattern recognition by Stephanie Zvan that made him look bad enough to evidently cause him to forget that he has a JREF communications director, recently made a claim in his reply (link to Greta’s sur-reply with blockquotes) to Greta’s two questions that certain blogs are under orders to write contrarian and controversialist blog posts in order to drum up hits. He hasn’t yet substantiated that claim with some actual specifics, so while we’re waiting, I thought I’d look at some statistics for the other major component of that claim, that controversial topics drive hit counts.
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