This is what always blows my mind: that sexual harassment affects people I’d never imagine having to worry about it. Karen Stollznow is a big name, popular on the skeptic conference circuit, and has always given the impression of being strong, poised, and confident — which means that I cluelessly took it for granted that no one would ever mess with her. I was wrong. This is never a problem with the victims, but always in the nature of the perpetrators.
Stollznow has opened up about her years of harassment at work, and it’s shocking. It’s the usual combination of shame and peer pressure that keeps women silent (exactly as the abusers like it), and when they reveal that ugly history one begins to get an awareness of how ubiquitous the problem is.
I know who her abuser was…and I feel a weird combination of being appalled and being totally unsurprised. It’s another of those big name skeptics, popular with some on the lecture circuit, and also (the totally unsurprising part) with a history of belittling women’s concerns. I’ve talked with Stollznow a bit about revealing that name, and I’m holding off a bit because she was very circumspect in that article…but I’m of two minds about it, because the other thing we see over and over is that it’s the women who have the courage to step out and speak and face the usual torrent of disparagement and dismissal, and the abusers who get the privilege of lurking in the shadows.
Something strange happened after I posted this. People started emailing me. They all said the same thing: they knew exactly who the harasser was, and they named him, and eerily, they all named exactly the same name, and they were all 100% on the money. I’m starting to believe in psychic powers.
The accused harasser was Ben Radford.
Wait. Maybe it’s not psychic powers, it’s privileged ignorance. Almost all of the people writing to me are women, and some of them also tell tales of their husbands or boyfriends not believing them at first.
Is there such a thing as Male Pattern Blindness?