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Jun 12 2012

A con with an anti-harassment policy

Both Freethoughtblogs and Skepchick are going to be represented heavily in the science and skepticism track at CONvergence on 5-8 July in Bloomington, MN (you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?). Both of us are going to be hosting party rooms on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, which will be fun and welcoming, but you should be prepared: there is a policy in place, and both party rooms will be staffed with polite, friendly people who will call the con staff to take care of you if you get out of line.

By the way, it’s not just skeptic/atheist conventions that have problems with a few rude assholes who try to ruin everything for everyone; CONvergence last year experience several harassment incidents and are taking strong steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I was very impressed in conversations with ops the other day; they aren’t in denial, they aren’t pretending this stuff goes on, they are going to actively try to prevent bad stuff from going down. Women should feel safe and comfortable attending!

56 comments

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  1. 1
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?

    …lack of money?

  2. 2
    Pteryxx

    It’s only a two-day drive from Texas, if I could maybe scrape together the money, strength and a place to stay. Four nights is a long time to sleep in the car in summer.

    Anyone interested in traveling super-cheap along the Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas-Missouri-Iowa route, at least at the brainstorming level?

  3. 3
    cswella

    Finally a convention close enough where I can go without getting a hotel or skipping work.

    Will be fun!

  4. 4
    Momo Elektra

    “you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?”

    Wrong side of the planet?

  5. 5
    frankb

    My wife and I were faced with the prospects of not having a room in the hotel for the first time since attending CONvergence. We got on the waiting list and hoped. But hurray, we now have a room reserved in the Sofitel next door. So it is party time.

  6. 6
    'Tis Himself

    I looked at the Guests of Honor and the list of other attendees. DJ Grothe’s name was conspicuous by its absence.

  7. 7
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    (you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?)

    I’m very poor and have to work that weekend. :(

  8. 8
    Anthony K

    you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?

    I think it’s a side effect of the medication.

  9. 9
    Sili

    (you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?)

    It’s in Minnesota, yah.

  10. 10
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith

    •peeks around•

    What, teh Menz! haven’t shown up yet?

  11. 11
    Cuttlefish

    It’s much too far from the ocean for me to come.

  12. 12
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    The important thing to know is, what’s the policy on “inching”? Because we want to make sure teh poor awkward dudez can try to get some pussy. Otherwise they might not be our allies anymore.

    If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?

    Anxiety at large gatherings.

  13. 13
    DrMcCoy

    you’re all coming, right? If you’re not, what’s wrong with you?

    I lack the > $1000 for plane tickets half across the world, you insensitive clod.

  14. 14
    Dabu

    I too would like to plead being located on a remote island and not being able to afford the four-figure cost of visiting.

    Besides, in situations like those, my back has burrs and the walls have velcro.

  15. 15
    petzl20

    Was the Policy instituted as a result of Elevatorgate?

  16. 16
    PZ Myers

    No. Big conferences with diverse crowds (SF cons really put the atheist/skeptic cons to shame — there will be 5000+ people at CONvergence) have had to deal with these issues longer.

  17. 17
    realitysarnia

    I’ll be in Vegas for TAM instead.

  18. 18
    Steve Caldwell

    The writer – marriage and family therapist – sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein was at last weekend’s American Humanist Association’s conference New Orleans.

    His writing about sexuality, society, and ethics are pretty much spot-on:

    “Sex, Public Policy and Humanism”
    http://sexualintelligence.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/sex-public-policy-and-humanism/

    However, I think he’s over-simplifying the discussion about sexual harassment in atheist/freethought communities by considering recent events not harassment but rather “unwanted sexual attention”:

    “Sexual Harassment or Unwanted Sexual Attention?”
    http://sexualintelligence.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/sexual-harassment-or-unwanted-sexual-attention/

    Any thoughts?

  19. 19
    thunk: turmite city

    I know I’m coming. *easily-convinced parents*.

    (Psst. Remember me paeaning you at FTF, PZ?)

  20. 20
    DLC

    I know. I’m weird. I can’t teleport across the country to be there. Some of us have to work on our ‘porting.

  21. 21
    pentatomid

    I would come, honestly… It’s just that there’s this thing called the Atlantic Ocean and it’s located between CONvergence and me at the moment.

  22. 22
    littlewoman

    Why, THANK you, big strong Mr PZ Myers! How would I ever have managed without you, me just being a timid little woman and all? How can I ever thank you enough for telling me I can feel safe and comfortable attending this conference because they have a POLICY? Without that reassurance I just wouldn’t have dared set foot in that place!

    Thank goodness for policies! After all, as a mere woman, I cannot be expected to venture out into the big wide world without special protection, can I? I am far too timid and delicate for that. Mr PZ might be able to stand on his own two feet, deal with any issues that arise, take the occasional arsehole in his stride, but he’s a MAN. We weak and feeble women can’t be expected to do that! No, we need to be shielded from such unpleasantness – it’s just too easy for those nasty bad naughty men to take advantage of us while we’re fluttering in our handbags for our smelling salts. This is why Mr PZ is my hero and will have my undying adoration and gratitude.

    Now, if only he would come and live where I live. That way I might dare to leave my own home. As it is, I see from peeping fearfully through my windows that there are MEN out there, and who knows, if I were to venture outside some of them might, you know, LOOK at me, or make an off-color joke or something. And then where would I be? I should have to have hysterics at the very least. We women cannot be expected to just cope with life, not without the protection of those big, bold men like Mr PZ. We ARE the weaker sex, after all, as Mr PZ’s writings keep making clear. We need POLICIES. So I am very very grateful to the wonderful Mr PZ for protecting us delicate little ladies better than we could EVER hope to do ourselves. Mere words can never express how I feel about him, but happily this painting conveys it perfectly:

    http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/the-sinews-of-old-england-george-elgar-hicks.jpg

  23. 23
    Pteryxx

    As witness to the ongoing efforts of multiple women bloggers to get those policies instituted and upheld, and on behalf of sexual assault and harassment victims of all genders: go fuck yourself. Deceased porcupine optional.

  24. 24
    celticwulf

    As I said on the Skepchick blog, my wife and I will be there for sure with our son. Just frustrated by my own normal work life schedule starting so early (4:30am most days) that the party rooms starting at 8 may make for a not so awake me ;) But will be fun this year at least stopping by and meeting everyone from blogs I read pretty much every day.

  25. 25
    littlewoman

    Oh dear, oh dear. Someone just said ‘fuck’. In my hearing, as well. I feel sexually harassed and I am sure no one here would dream of telling me my feelings don’t count. I cannot believe that nice Mr PZ doesn’t have a policy about this sort of thing on his site. I am going to have to go and lie down in a darkened room now. I feel an attack of the vapors coming on. Oh big strong protective Mr PZ – where are you when I need you?

  26. 26
    myeck waters

    So: are you just new here, and kind of clueless, or are you trolling?

  27. 27
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    So: are you just new here, and kind of clueless, or are you trolling?

    I’ll chip in 10 $ on the “troll” pool – no-one can be that dense. And made-for-comment-nym is rather damning IMHO.

  28. 28
    keenacat

    That whole ChillGirl(tm) thing got old quickly. I like my chew toys more creative than that. This one is not quite the squishiness I prefer.

  29. 29
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    22. littlewanker

    0.5/10

    You’re not even phoning it in, dude.

  30. 30
    littlewoman

    Just expressing my deep gratitude to a man who understands that I, as a mere woman, cannot be expected to look after myself. It’s not, after all, as if women have ever been known to have successful careers, be independent, serve in the armed forces, run countries even. Not as if any woman had ever been known to deal effectively with adversity, stand up for herself or put a man in his place if he needed it. No, we need to be looked after. Protected. Kept supplied with lace handkerchiefs and preferably not allowed out without a chaperone. Treated as the pathetic weaklings PZ realises we are. The idea that we might just be able to deal with anything we’re likely to encounter at a conference, of all places, is clearly just absurd! It’s not as if we were MEN, after all. Thank heaven for PZ – our knight in shining armor! PZ understands just how helpless we women really are without big strong men like him to look out for us. If only there were more men like him around: we ladies could retreat from the scary world altogether and just leave it to the men to get on and run things. SO much more suitable than being expected to engage as sensible, capable, independent adults, don’t you agree?

  31. 31
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Lame chewtoy is lame.
    Guess we should do away with laws against murder and such, too, because you can always pull the trigger yourself…

  32. 32
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Urgh, sorry for using lame. I shouldn’t have.
    Boring chewtoy is boring

  33. 33
    littlewoman

    Oh, but PZ understands it’s not enough for there merely to be a LAW against murder. We need POLICIES against it too. Otherwise conference organisers are clearly not taking the threat of murder seriously enough and are secretly siding with the murderers. And while a potential murderer will obviously not be deterred by the existence of a law against murder, he will of course drop the idea immediately in the face of a POLICY.

  34. 34
    keenacat

    Sarcasm – you’re not as good at it as you consider yourself to be.

  35. 35
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I guess that coffee houses and such are also wrong in setting up policies about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

  36. 36
    julian

    Won’t be at convergence or whatever it’s called. Other plans and, honestly, kinda not interested in visiting skeptic/atheist cons anymore.

    Sarcasm – you’re not as good at it as you consider yourself to be.

    She does seem talented at being annoying.

  37. 37
    Dabu

    littlewoman

    ERV just called. They want their idiot back.

  38. 38
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I knew education was faltering in the U.S., but I didn’t realize it was that bad.
    ‘littlewoman’ completely fails on reading comprehension skills. There’s a place for morons like you. Check out TZT. Hang out with Joey. You kids talk stay down there until you:
    A: learn to STFU, listen and learn
    and
    B: grow up

  39. 39
    teresalhotka

    CONvergence rocks, and the volunteer staff is very professional and proactive about creating a fun, safe environment. The Skepchick panels are fun and awesome.

  40. 40
    bovarchist

    Women should feel safe and comfortable attending!

    Oh goody, PZ Myers of all people is telling me how I should feel. Just what I always wanted.

    Please don’t imagine that I need anyone’s help to feel safe and comfortable. We don’t all need blinders and safety goggles to ride in elevators.

  41. 41
    myeck waters

    You’re a few hours late, bovarchist. That card was already played.

  42. 42
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    Does anyone else find it depressing that a convention that represents people I thought were on the right side of things needs a harassment policy? I guess socially inept asshats are a universal symptom of the patriarchy, even in some of those that profess to being rational thinkers. Still, depresssing.

    It also makes me feel for those who may have met with chance for a genuine romantic involvement and how awkward everything will seem with the things that have gone on. They don’t stand a chance of going beyond a mere few seconds blushing glance now. The jerks have ruined skepticon love.

  43. 43
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Mc Cthulhu

    Does anyone else find it depressing that a convention that represents people I thought were on the right side of things needs a harassment policy?

    No. Harassment policies and such should be an inventory like toilets and first aid stands: Nobody loses if you don’t need them but they’re making a lot of differnce when you do so.

  44. 44
    curtisnelson

    An anti-harassment policy that is a con job

    Does anyone else find it depressing that for some to feel safe at an event as tame as a skepticism conference, there needs to be a policy in place that defines inappropriate behavior so broadly that romantic attraction between attendees must be squelched because it might be unwanted? If mind reading was possible, thoughts would no doubt also be monitored for their appropriateness. But I think the professional victims would still feel unsafe, and continue to answer points of view like mine with “fuck you” and similar arguments related to hate and nothing more.

  45. 45
    Cipher

    Not as if any woman had ever been known to deal effectively with adversity, stand up for herself or put a man in his place if he needed it. No, we need to be looked after. Protected. Kept supplied with lace handkerchiefs and preferably not allowed out without a chaperone

    Hey, slime? It’s your type that told me that maybe I shouldn’t be allowed out in public because of my personal history. Because apparently, having been repeatedly and brutally victimized by several different men over the course of my life makes me a danger to poor innocent Menz. I don’t appreciate your disgusting and pathetically ignorant implication that not being willing to accept sexual harassment from people at a con makes me or other women weak, and that wanting the help of allies like PZ to reduce the amount of sexist shit we’re subjected to means we’re being “protected” and not standing up for ourselves. You feel patronized, like your Important Special Toughness isn’t being respected because, what, you now have an additional resource to deal with sexual harassment and it’s not to your liking? Poor baby. Do you have any idea what happens when a woman reports this shit to the police? Do you have the slightest fucking clue of why we might prefer not to deal with it on our own, of the dangers we face in doing so? No, because if you did you wouldn’t be here rubbing your repulsive privilegeblindness and your contempt for other women in our faces. You, and people like you, are why I and other women like me are dropping this movement. Fuck you.

  46. 46
    Cipher

    But I think the professional victims would still feel unsafe, and continue to answer points of view like mine with “fuck you” and similar arguments related to hate and nothing more.

    I’m not sure I qualify as professional, since I never got paid, but here’s a real live woman who doesn’t feel safe at atheist conferences due to attitudes like yours. Wanna talk about why? Wanna get real, personal insight into what’s behind that feeling?

  47. 47
    kamsly...

    @curtisnelson #44:

    Care to describe how you think “romantic attraction between attendees” will be affected by this policy?

    I’ll give you a hint: It won’t. It’s really very simple. Unless your idea of expressing romantic attraction involves continuing to talk to or follow around someone who’s asked you not to. Then of course, it would affect your pathetic and inept attempts at getting laid. The policy is pretty clear. There is nothing in it that stops anyone from flirting and possibly gaining consent for the craziest sex of their life. Just don’t be a creepy asshole by continuing to make overtures after you’re asked to stop. I realize that might be hard for you, given what you’ve said here.

  48. 48
    Ing

    But I think the professional victims would still feel unsafe, and continue to answer points of view like mine with “fuck you” and similar arguments related to hate and nothing more.

    Fuck you

  49. 49
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg @43:

    I completely agree with you. I am just bothered by the fact that the micro-mentalities that create the problem of women feeling unsafe in regular public spaces oozed their way into these get-togethers where I formerly held the opinion they were all better people at these things. It’s a little disheartening.

  50. 50
    littlewoman

    “You, and people like you, are why I and other women like me are dropping this movement. Fuck you.”

    My god. You’re like a bunch of hecklers at a lecture threatening to leave if you don’t get your own way.

    Please – do us all a favour and just do it. Leave. Then the rest of us might just possibly be allowed to get back to doing what the movement is SUPPOSED to be about: challenging antiscientific claims and opposing the unjustifiable influence of religion in society.

    If you think you’re advancing those causes by constantly deflecting attention onto your own pet issues and by trashing the movement and your fellow (male and female) activists in the process, you have a very strange notion of activism.

    So please. The door’s right there. Do us all a favour, walk through it. Become activists for feminism by all means. Campaign to ban the bomb and protect the puppies. It’s all fine. But stop acting as though that’s what THIS movement is meant to be about, and let the rest of us get back to promoting skepticism and secularism for a change.

  51. 51
    Cipher

    If you think you’re advancing those causes by constantly deflecting attention onto your own pet issues and by trashing the movement and your fellow (male and female) activists in the process, you have a very strange notion of activism.

    I’m curious. Who do you think you’re talking to? What do you think I’ve been doing? What do you think my “pet issues” are?

    Please – do us all a favour and just do it. Leave.

    I did, you fucking dumbass. I don’t attend conferences. I don’t attend meetings. I have no intention of doing so in the future. I’m glad you’re so open about encouraging women who aren’t like you to leave the movement; maybe next time someone like DJ Grothe wonders why women are disappearing, I’ll just point them to you.

  52. 52
    littlewoman

    maybe next time someone like DJ Grothe wonders why women are disappearing, I’ll just point them to you.

    And I’ll point them to you. It’s people like you who have made the conferences worthless exercises in whinging and divisiveness. Who have sabotaged their real purpose with self-serving posturing. Who have had directly relevant topics cleared off the agendas to make way for panels talking about YOU instead. Who have deflected conference organizers from focusing on making their programmes interesting and relevant and constructive, to having to waste time drafting stupid policies saying they don’t approve of grown women being expected to interact with other delegates like grown-ups. Who have actively DISCOURAGED women from attending conferences whose organizers haven’t surrendered sufficiently to the gun you are holding to their heads. Who have kept the blogs alive with outpourings of hatred and vitriol for anyone who dares to voice dissent from your position, and have kept distracting from what the movement is meant to be about.

    You and others like you have been seriously BAD NEWS for the movement. Don’t think for one moment the only people turning their back on it are people like you. There are plenty of the rest of us – many of us women – who used to be inspired by the vision of the movement and now see only ugly abuse and determined victimhood. Congratulations. Haven’t you done well.

  53. 53
    Cipher

    You and others like you have been seriously BAD NEWS for the movement.

    Again, seriously, who do you think you’re talking to?

    There are plenty of the rest of us – many of us women – who used to be inspired by the vision of the movement and now see only ugly abuse and determined victimhood.

    I refer you to my earlier post about your ignorance and privilege. You are pathetic; you have no idea what you’re talking about, but you still feel free to shoot off your mouth. Have fun with that, uh, skepticism of yours.

  54. 54
    John Morales

    littlewoman:

    It’s people like you [Cipher] who have made the conferences worthless exercises in whinging and divisiveness.

    Let me get this straight: the conferences are worthless exercises in whinging and divisiveness.

    (Interesting contention)

    Who have actively DISCOURAGED women from attending conferences whose organizers haven’t surrendered sufficiently to the gun you are holding to their heads.

    You mean like this: Please – do us all a favour and just do it. Leave. Then the rest of us might just possibly be allowed to get back to doing what the movement is SUPPOSED to be about: challenging antiscientific claims and opposing the unjustifiable influence of religion in society?

    (When you accuse someone (absent evidence) of something whilst doing that very something, it looks less than admirable)

  55. 55
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Please – do us all a favour and just do it. Leave. Then the rest of us might just possibly be allowed to get back to doing what the movement is SUPPOSED to be about: challenging antiscientific claims and opposing the unjustifiable influence of religion in society.

    Lie back and think of secularism, baby!

    . Who have had directly relevant topics cleared off the agendas to make way for panels talking about YOU instead.

    You’ve heard it, ladies, your concerns are officially not important.
    War on women?
    Abortion restrictions?
    Rape?
    All. Not. Important.
    Talk about Bigfoot. You’re allowed to talk about rape if it was an alien.

  56. 56
    Stardrake

    julian@36:

    Won’t be at convergence or whatever it’s called. Other plans and, honestly, kinda not interested in visiting skeptic/atheist cons anymore.

    Just FYI, CONvergence is a general SF/Fantasy convention–but is very skeptic-friendly.

    A note to our chewtoys–we’re going to have 5,000+ attendees, of all ages, genders, preferences, and levels of socialization. We want everyone to have fun–but NOT at the expense of others! After hearing about skirt-cam guy on another thread, we don’t WANT people like that–no matter how much they know about Doctor Who! So we’re trying to do something about it. It won’t be perfect–but we’ll damn sure work at it. (I say “we” because I’m a Gaming Co-Head at CONvergence, so I’m part of the staff)

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