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Jun 26 2012

The American Atheists’ Code of Conduct

The right way to do it: I was just in a conference call with American Atheists, in which they announced a specific policy on harassment that they will be implementing at all of their future conferences, starting with the Minnesota regional conference in August. Here’s the template: every conference should be using something like this.

Conference Code of Conduct

American Atheists is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion.

We expect participants to follow this code of conduct at all conference venues and conference-related social events.

Yes means yes; no means no; and maybe means no. Please take no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.

We have many different folks attending this conference: sexualities, genders, races, ethnicities, abilities, beliefs—these are just a few. Blatant instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, or other stereotyping and harmful behaviors should be reported to conference staff immediately.

Please do not wear heavy fragrances—including perfumes, colognes, scented shampoos, etc. Some of those attending have allergic reactions to scented products. No one will object to the smell of your clean body!

Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, take conversations and noisy children outside the session room, and move to the center of your row to make room for other attendees.

There are chairs and spaces at the front and back of the room that are marked “reserved.” The front row chairs are reserved for attendees with vision or hearing impairments. The back rows are reserved for attendees with mobility accommodation needs. Please leave these chairs and spaces free throughout the conference for those who may need them.

This conference welcomes families with children and expects all attendees to treat these families with courtesy and respect. Parents or guardians bringing children are responsible for the children’s behavior and are expected to remove disruptive children from the session. Parents or guardians should be aware not all language may be suitable for children.

American Atheists does not tolerate harassment of conference participants, speakers, exhibitors, volunteers, or staff in any form. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Conference participants violating this policy may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference (without a refund) at the discretion of the conference organizers.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/other ID.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

  • [Email address for organizers]

  • [Phone number for conference security or organizers]

  • [Phone number for hotel/venue security]

  • [Local law enforcement]

  • [Local sexual assault hot line]

  • [Local emergency and non-emergency medical]

  • [Local taxi company]

It was very clear in the conversation that American Atheists will be taking this issue very seriously — I would hope that other organizations will be doing likewise. And if they’re not, what the hell is wrong with them?

And if you’re one of the people who has been whining about dealing with harassment, suck it — you’re on the wrong side of history.

554 comments

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  1. 501
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    One person is enough for security?

    For how many attendees?

    Because, uh, you may be a bit off there…

  2. 502
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:

    But I believe that conference rules are not the right place to teach people common stuff.

    And the right place is where?

    To state that rule means: a) there are people attending who need this. I do not need these people. b) somone might mistake my actions in that way (see what just talking about Strauss Kahn have brought me here). I do not need this.

    There will always need to be rules in place to set a minimum standard of behavior. Proactively setting up rules before a problem is known helps to stop harassment before it even begins. This is commonplace in the corporate world– do you not have a job?

    If you were able to follow the rules instead of arguing against a pretty simple anti-harassment policy, then you would have no need to worry about anyone mistaking your actions for harassment.

    This is an honest question: Is English your first language? I’m getting the impression that you’re not meaning to contradict yourself as much as you are.

  3. 503
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:

    The minor questions could be answered by a Q/A at the website in a friendly manner, like how to make friends, what to expect, dos and donts, but more like an advice from a friend.

    Never mind. It’s pretty clear that you’re tone trolling a pretty mild written policy.

    Really, why do you think your precious feelings matter more than the con attendees?

  4. 504
    Momo Elektra

    @ Kriss

    My point is to have a good security. One person would be enough, I think. :-)

    Right, and when you bring your child (which you can but won’t) and it makes a ruckus, because sometimes kids do that, you wouldn’t either calm your child or leave the room with it, because apparently you don’t realize that’s standard behavior, but would not go to a conference that mentioned this in a policy to educate people like you.
    You want a security person to come up to you and tell you to please calm your child and leave the room, because you are to stupid to know that yourself and to arrogant to be told to do that should the need arise.

    You just solve that problem by not taking your kids.

    But you’d want a security person to tell you what to do instead of a policy.

    Because that is… nicer?

    Take a time out and breathe, and then fucking THINK!

    Because right now you’re such a stupid, stupid moron.

  5. 505
    Kriss

    Esteleth, “then why the fuck should we not have standards”, the discussion started about creeps, like the one forcing himself on others or the one possibly videotaping from his ankles. Things which cleary could be resolved by a good security. Now we are talking about standards. Like washing. You do notice there’s a kind of a leap here? That is my problem. Things are mixed up and they need to be separated. Harassing needs to be addressed by security and/or law. Common things like washing by your father/mother. If that does not help then by a friendly Q&A website. Emphasis on friendly.

  6. 506
    Momo Elektra

    @ Kriss

    Esteleth, “then why the fuck should we not have standards”, the discussion started about creeps, like the one forcing himself on others or the one possibly videotaping from his ankles. Things which cleary could be resolved by a good security.

    You’re assuming the conference where that happened didn’t have security. And you are assuming creepers creep when security people are close.

    I don’t believe you are really this dense.

  7. 507
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:

    Things which cleary could be resolved by a good security.

    And a decent anti-harassment policy. Sheesh.

    Why do you think security by itself which doesn’t necessarily have the same rules that you would like trumps written rules AND security?

    Now we are talking about standards. Like washing. You do notice there’s a kind of a leap here? That is my problem.

    So, you’re not in favor of making the con comfortable for all attendees. Got it.

    Common things like washing by your father/mother

    .

    So, instead of directly addressing that 40 year old who hasn’t bathed in a month, you’re just going to blame their parents and not do anything about it, despite the fact that their hygiene might be bothering other people? Are you fucking stupid?

    If that does not help then by a friendly Q&A website. Emphasis on friendly.

    For shit’s sake, why?? The policy as written isn’t particularly unfriendly, why the hell do you need someone to hold your hand? Are you that immature?

  8. 508
    Kriss

    Momo Elektra, Yes, just for a second assume that I am such a moron to bring my kid who is known to not sit still to a conference. Then clearly without the rules I would not know that a running kid is a problem. I would leave is running and running and ruin the conference or what?
    In my view the rules would not change a bit: whenever that happens somebody must do something, first possibly some friendly people, then the speaker, then security.
    You don’t need rules at a conference that say: we don’t want a disruptive child. It is clear to everybody except a few who wouldn’t read the rules anyway.
    A policy does not solve problems, people do. And for that they don’t need rules, it is clear.

  9. 509
    Kriss

    Audley Z Darkheart, well, actually we nerds sometimes do need someone to hold our hands. A long time in my life I did not use a antiperspirant, because my mother was against all unnatural substances. To put it in clear words: I was stinking. I would have been glad if somebody had told me. But not as a rule but as an advice. Not kicking me out but friendly explaining. Not mixed with threats about harassing.

  10. 510
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:
    Serious question: have you ever left your house? Gone to school? Attended a large gathering? Held a job?

    A policy does not solve problems, people do.

    A policy directs people as to what to do in any given situation.

    Jesus Christ, you’re talking like a sheltered teenager. Which,\ I suppose you could be, all things considered.

  11. 511
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:

    A long time in my life I did not use a antiperspirant, because my mother was against all unnatural substances. To put it in clear words: I was stinking. I would have been glad if somebody had told me.

    Really, stop contradicting yourself:

    Common things like washing by your father/mother

    Since your mother didn’t bother to teach you about common hygiene, why to you expect that every other parent would?

    Not kicking me out but friendly explaining.

    Which AA’s policy allows for. Here, let me quote the relevant bit:

    Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

    Did you bother to read the whole thing?

    I certainly don’t expect anyone to handhold an adult who should know how to behave in public. I do expect that the event organizers make their intentions clear and offer warnings to people who disregard the rules (as AA does).

  12. 512
    Merryl

    Every once in a while, I find it interesting that we get these kinds of people One. After. Another.
    It’s like a never-ending cavalcade of the clueless and willfully obtuse, and it’s enough to make me fantasize that there’s some organization out there directing them. In my fevered dreams, I see one of those darkened control-rooms with rows of consoles, glowing with menace, and a wall of large screens showing “the situation”, with a sample interaction going something like this:

    Underling A: Trollverlord, Sir! Our forces in comment thread #5164 at Pharyngula are being routed!
    Trollverlord: Dispatch reinforcements, stat! If we don’t keep the pressure up, the thread may become Productive and Entertaining!
    Underlings A, B, & C: Sir-Yes-Sir!

    It’s almost enough to make me want to design a Posters vs. Trolls tower defense game or something.

    Joking aside, it boggles the mind how anyone could have any substantive disagreement with the policy as posted.

  13. 513
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Things which cleary could be resolved by a good security. Now we are talking about standards.

    Actually fuckwitted idjit, written standards are needed for security to do their job properly; they must follow procedures themselves, much less what they are supposed to enforce. Don’t you know how things work? Do you ever get out of your basement? Do you ever take off your tin-foil hat? Do you ever think that we see you as nothing but a fool…

  14. 514
    Momo Elektra

    @ kriss

    Momo Elektra, Yes, just for a second assume that I am such a moron to bring my kid who is known to not sit still to a conference. Then clearly without the rules I would not know that a running kid is a problem. I would leave is running and running and ruin the conference or what?
    In my view the rules would not change a bit: whenever that happens somebody must do something, first possibly some friendly people, then the speaker, then security.

    A policy is an easy way to tell people who think about bringing their children that they can and that a short interruption is no problem because it can be solved.

    You don’t need rules at a conference that say: we don’t want a disruptive child. It is clear to everybody except a few who wouldn’t read the rules anyway.

    If you don’t need rules, then why would you need security? That doesn’t make sense.
    Everything needs rules. The more people involved the better to have a written form of it, easily accessible.

    A policy does not solve problems, people do. And for that they don’t need rules, it is clear.

    A policy itself can solve problems of confusion, when one doesn’t know what is to be expected and what could be enforced, so it’s handy to have one. One you can point to, if need be.

    But a policy helps also solve problems of the “but I didn’t know I was not allowed to do that” -kind.

    And you say people don’t need rules? WTF? They don’t need rules to solve problems?

    But hey, this is all not about you and your feelings. Considering your behavior you’re not exactly someone I would want to come to my conference. You are kind of the type to complain about everything, especially the things that shouldn’t concern you at all.

    What are you, trolling for kicks?

  15. 515
    Ing

    What are you, trolling for kicks?

    I think that was obvious after “gang rapist Straus Khan is a great guy just as I predicted!”

  16. 516
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Ing,
    Still allows for Kriss to be a fucking idiot.

  17. 517
    Momo Elektra

    You’re right, it was obvious.

    *sigh*

  18. 518
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    I’m not an export in law

    But I loove for you to be an unlawful export!

  19. 519
    Kriss

    Gnumann, right, maybe the typos make your day too ! When running out of arguments concentrate on the typos.

  20. 520
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:
    How’s about you reply to the substantive posts?

  21. 521
    Kriss

    @ all friendly Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?
    Last post for today, have a good time without me. :-)

  22. 522
    Ing

    @ all friendly Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?
    Last post for today, have a good time without me. :-)

    Yes.

    Duh.

    Also we’re not your friend. and I seriously doubt you won’t return.

    Still allows for Kriss to be a fucking idiot.

    I think one implies the other

  23. 523
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Kriss:

    Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?

    Yes because different rules apply to different situations.

    Fucking moron.

  24. 524
    SallyStrange

    Kriss is obviously a lying troll who is just making shit up as he goes along.

  25. 525
    Momo Elektra

    Kriss

    @ all friendly Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?

    Hey, stupid moron, do you really think trained police people need all those laws?

  26. 526
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    *looks back in*

    Here I am back from doing my surveys (no one opened the door in their underwear today, a nice change) and Kriss is still an idiot.
    No surprise there.

  27. 527
    Inaji

    but children are disruptive by their very nature

    There’s this whole notion of adults teaching sproglets how to behave in society. It’s called parenting. I’m not surprised you’re unacquainted with it.

    Stick with church, Cupcake. Seems like the ideal place for you.

  28. 528
    ImaginesABeach

    @ all friendly Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?

    This pretty much says it all. Everyone who has been dealing with Kriss is presumed to be “Ladies”. Hence the patronizing, goalpost-moving, who-cares-if-it-makes-people-more-comfortable-if-it-irritates-me, creepy bullshit.

  29. 529
    Weedless Monkey

    Kriss

    @ all friendly Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?

    Yes they fucking do. The codes of conduct, or what the fucking ever it’s called, in writing, is the book of rules the security personnel are supposed to enforce. If one doesn’t exist how the fuck are they supposed to do their job?

    Following the law? If they’re hired to provide security for a convention they’re supposed to be there doing more than law enforcement can.

    A step by step, unambiguous policy of what to do when anything at all happens is the basic requirement to have a functional security personnel. Many of them aren’t well trained, and even if they were they might not share the con’s (or whatever’s) values.

  30. 530
    opposablethumbs

    As someone whose documents are regularly poured over by lawyers

    What do they pour? Gerald is gone, so we may never know … It’s nicer here without Gerald JAQing off all over the place, though.

    Maybe those effusive lawyers he spoke of were just JAQing off too.

  31. 531
    Rey Fox

    I will not attend a conference where they try to teach me beforehand about behaviour.

    The Asshole Repellent is already working!

    Maye we need to write an anti-harassment policy for this blog.

  32. 532
    Muse

    Ladies, do you really think that a trained security woman/man needs those rules?

    I’ve run security for Cons before. I can answer that unequivocally yes. I need to know what rules my people are enforcing. I need to know that people know that my con cares about this sort of thing enough to have a policy. That policy tells people that there is a chance in hell that if they complain someone might listen to them.

    Regarding hugs, my best friend and my (now former) partners, along with every other one of my close friends ask me if today is a huggable day. The answer is usually, though not always, yes. They still ask. That doesn’t make the hug less good. It means they can always be sure that today is not a day that a hug will make me upset instead of happy.

  33. 533
  34. 534
    N.P.

    But that peaceful picture of people including all ages and crying babys does not materialize.

    Sorry to interject again but this doesn’t really conjure up a peaceful image in my mind. I believe most people attend conferences in order to hear the speakers. As long as the children are there for that purpose, too, I don’t see a problem.

  35. 535
    John Morales

    [meta]

    N.P. @5(34), whom do you quote?

  36. 536
    N.P.

    @John Morales

    Kriss. Incidentally, it’s good to see someone who still uses ‘whom’.

  37. 537
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    Gnumann, right, maybe the typos make your day too ! When running out of arguments concentrate on the typos.

    Tpyos is my motor!

    But Tpyos don’t make my day.

    Punning and making jokes at your expense you don’t understand on the other hand – that really makes my day.

    I haven’t run out of arguments, I’ve just not the will to make any.
    Partly since you don’t season rancid seal-blubber with saffron, and partly because I’ve lost all respect for you and only interact with you to the extent that it amuses me.

    This is a quite special position to be in, but you’ve really earned it.

  38. 538
    earwig
    I will not attend a conference where they try to teach me beforehand about behaviour.

    The Asshole Repellent is already working!

    Maye we need to write an anti-harassment policy for this blog.

    Well, of course there are the Pharyngula Standards and Practices.

  39. 539
    sc_35c267c004a51913836810b8c78b76cb

    Oh My !! They forgot to add looking to the list as well as hugging. Obviously one should have to ask permission before one looks at someone else no? Has the silliness of this entire issue become apparent to anyone else? Doesn’t identifying a hug as a possible case of sexual harassment only serve to devalue and trivialize the real problem? Almost Everyone agrees that sexual harassment is a serious issue but where are we going to draw the line. I have heard of cases where looking was considered harassment. But Hugs????

  40. 540
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    LOl wow. SC_ you just can’t stop lying long enough to NOT make yourself look like a completely ignorant asshole, can you.

  41. 541
    sc_35c267c004a51913836810b8c78b76cb

    I’m not sure what I’m lying about but if you think it’s the looking thing, here is an excerpt from the EEOC definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment:

    · Looking a person up and down (Elevator eyes)
    · Staring at someone
    · Blocking a person’s path
    · Following the person
    · Giving personal gifts
    · Displaying sexually suggestive visuals
    · Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements
    · Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips

    Perhaps you should educate yourself before the ad hominem attacks.
    No wonder no one wants to actually comment on how out of control this has become. The inevitable response is that of Illuminata.

    Hugs & Kisses !!!

  42. 542
    Sili

    To be fair to Kriss, I doubt there are many “friendly ladies” reading his post, so it was pretty much directed at the Æther.

  43. 543
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Perhaps you should educate yourself before the ad hominem attacks.

    Perhaps you should educate yourself on what an ad hominem attack is. And you made yourself look like a fool trying to funny and failing. Failing big time. You shouldn’t quit your day job.

    Hugs & Kisses !!!

    Proving my point. Not funny, not intelligent, not anything but pathetic and ignorant.

  44. 544
    julian

    Almost Everyone agrees that sexual harassment is a serious issue but where are we going to draw the line.

    You obviously don’t as you won’t recognize behavior that’s clearly sexual in nature and very off putting to a number of people as inappropriate.

  45. 545
    julian

    Hugs & Kisses !!!

    Creep.

  46. 546
    Ing

    Almost Everyone agrees that sexual harassment is a serious issue but where are we going to draw the line. I have heard of cases where looking was considered harassment. But Hugs????

    Everyone loves fire works right? Well accept Uncle Jeff due to being reminded of Nam.

    I’m willing to be we even have a high number of people on the Autism spectrum, who are not always comfortable around casual contact.

  47. 547
    Ing

    Forcing signs of intimacy on people (such as hugs) is a red flag btw

  48. 548
    Ing

    Oh not to mention if we get any cult survivors, who might not appreciate unwanted hugs which could remind them of the lovebomb stage.

    There are many many reasons where hugs would be in appropriate

  49. 549
    julian

    Forcing signs of intimacy on people (such as hugs) is a red flag btw

    Especially when the deliberate intent is to cause discomfort. It marks you as a callous human being largely indifferent to the person you’re interacting with.

  50. 550
    ImaginesABeach

    Doesn’t identifying a hug as a possible case of sexual harassment only serve to devalue and trivialize the real problem?

    What the hell is wrong about telling people to ASK before they grab and squeeze someone they barely know? As I said above, you call it “hugging,” I call it “battery.”

    Beyond that, please read for comprehension. The language about hugging is part of the code of conduct, just like the language about bratty children and cloying perfume. It is not specified in the paragraph describing harassment.

  51. 551
    julian

    It doesn’t even need to be specific. You’re wrong to assume you are more intimate with someone than you are. Why anyone would think they have the god given right to just hug a stranger or stare at their breasts while licking their lips is beyond me.

  52. 552
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Oh, and SC_JUMBLE, joking about things like hugs and kisses is a form of sexual harassment. You sexually harassed this blog with your idiocy. Report to HR for your reeducation. The Lilac Berets™ of the Pullet Patrol™ have the clue-by-fours at ready.

  53. 553
    earwig

    SCmess, let me guess: you are a cis white male?

  54. 554
    jnorris

    Without having read the code, and as a Southern Gentleman, I was not raised to be so crude to any woman, I want to know if the Code prevents gay men from hitting on those supermancho men who insists every female they see is hot for them (the supermacho male critters)? Just asking if these guys can take it as well as they give it.

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