Perhaps it is time that DJ Grothe resign as the President of the JREF

DJ Grothe has done some great things and he’s taken the James Randi Educational Foundation a long way; he’s made an important mark and we should all appreciate him and his prior efforts. Hell, we should create an award named after him and give it to people every year. Thank you DJ Grothe for all you’ve done for the skeptic movement.

DJ Grothe (photo from wikipedia)

But now it is, I suggest, time to move on. Over the last several months there has been an increasing realization that the Skeptics Movement has fallen behind much of the rest of thoughtful and progressive society in the area of women, anti-sexism, and feminism. As a new movement (new in comparison to, say, This or That Church, or Academia or whatever) it is actually fairly alarming to see things like Skepchick and the Women in Secularism conference not only form but also thrive and be considered vitally important. A modern movement should not need to counter all, or even any, levels of sexism and misogyny from within. Those problems shouldn’t have been there to begin with. But, as it turns out, large areas of the Skeptics movement are very unfriendly to women, and there is an overall anti-women undercurrent ranging from a simple lack of active feminism, which is bad enough, to a vocal denial that there is a problem, to downright intentional misogyny. And, against this backdrop, DJ Grothe has positioned himself, explicitly, right in the middle, which is exactly where a leader in this movement at this time should not be.

DJ has hit the Intertubes to make comments (See this, this, and this.) which essentially ask people to stop talking about women’s discomfort at skeptics meetings, which he refers to as bad messaging. He is alarmed, we are told, that the number of female participants in TAM seems to has dropped from about 40% to below 20%, based on current registration numbers, and that this is because various Skepchick bloggers, and those people over at Free Thought Blogs, and Ashley Miller, and all those other people have been blogging about the status of women in skepticism. DJ’s centerpiece…his conference, his baby, his brainchild…is apparently being shunned by women, and he is blaming those who are concerned about, and actively engaged in, the problem of sexism and misogyny in the Skeptics movement. (see also this post by PZ Myers at Pharyngula and comments therein: DJ, please fix this genuine problem and this older piece by Skeptifem, “when men rule feminism.)

The truth is that TAM was always a male oriented event, with mainly male speakers and panelists, and that pressure was applied to TAM to increase the number of women represented on the roster. That pressure worked and more women were added, and diversity was otherwise increased. But people may see some of the institutional stalwarts, both meetings like TAM and leaders like DJ Grothe, as still being somewhat out of touch with this problem. Now, it is quite possible, even likely, that the reduction in numbers of women at TAM is a result of a bit of random fluctuation combined with bleed-off from the Women in Secularism conference. It could be that at this critical moment in the Skeptics movement, TAM shoulda, coulda, but failedta make this the Year of the Women at TAM, instead of just having a Diversity panel or something. It is hard to say why the numbers of women signing up for TAM has dropped so abysmally, and it is unfair to attempt serious armchair quarterbacking about what TAM should or should not do.

(Added: This post is not about TAM, mainly. It is mainly about reactions to people speaking out to make conferences like TAM and the sketpics movement in general more women friendly; the specific reaction to suggest that speaking out in this manner is itself making it less women friendly is tantamount to victim blaming and shows a serious lack of understanding of the most important transition happening now in the Skeptics movement. Having said that, there is an issue with TAM itself closely connected to this conversation: As part of the broader conversation, DJ Grothe has made the comment that there has never been any serious harassment at TAM. Ashley Miller begs to differ.)

But I can tell you one thing with perfect certainty1: The skeptics movement is currently divided into two very distinct parts: 1) The part that wants women to be not only comfortable, but to lead, and this includes the majority of people in the movement, and 2) The part that wants the old timey conferences to retain their old timey charm as minor meat markets for nerds, that wants to keep its old white guy idols and icons, and that wants to move such marginal and suspicious entities as the Mens Rights Movement to the forefront, and this includes a minority of people in the movement. In his recent remarks about how women are fleeing TAM because of Rebecca Watson, the Skepchicks, and various anti-misogyny bloggers and commenters poisoning the water, DJ Grothe does not necessarily cast his lot with the latter, but he clearly disassociates himself with the former. He can not position himself outside the mainstream of the skeptics movement and continue to lead.

Thus, my suggestion. DJ, make the transfer of power smooth and easy. Make it a positive thing. Make it work for Skepticism and TAM. Later, we’ll make a nice award and name if after you. Either way. You get to chose now what sort of thing the award will be given for!

Messaging. Indeed.

____________________________—
1Added note: On further consideration, I can’t say this with perfect certainty. Too many individuals (all priv-o-guys as far as I can tell) have insisted that I can’t say this. They object to the idea of women in leadership roles. I can’t tell if they have simply over-interpreted my statement to mean that all the men should be slaughtered, or a least, neutered, and replaced with with big giant mace-wielding women from the island of Lesbos, or if they think of themselves as men with leadership roles and don’t want to share. So yes, maybe there is more sexism in the less sexist part of the community than I thought. Well, I knew the sexism was there, but I thought there was more of an overt embrace of the idea of reducing sexism across most of the Skeptics movement. But, alas, in the absence of evidence it is true that we can not assume that.

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215 Responses to Perhaps it is time that DJ Grothe resign as the President of the JREF

  1. martinrundkvist says:

    DJ has hit the Intertubes to make comments which essentially ask people to stop talking about women’s discomfort at skeptics meetings.

    Link please?

  2. Marnie says:

    So DJ is aware of a problem, a problem that is not an isolated case but has been confirmed by multiple sources on multiple occasions and is impacting an event he heads each year.

    His solution is to not discuss it because people who would be bothered if it happened to them, might not want to attend his event. How is that leadership of any sort? This isn’t even about feminism or diversity, this is about hiding your head in the sand when you find out there’s a problem and it’s an ineffective way to deal with an issue. Expecting that everyone else will burry their heads right next to you is just laughable.

    It kind of makes me think of the whole sex ed in schools debate. There are some people who truly (want to) believe that the only reason unplanned teen pregnancies happen is because people tell kids that sex exists and they get ideas in their head. Well, kids are going to have sex and people are going to do inappropriate things. You can either have a policy of educating people before hand and addressing problems when they happen and try to improve the situation for everyone or you can cover your ears and close your eyes and hope to avoid the issue. I think we all know which is more effective.

  3. Greg Laden says:

    Martin, see: “(See this, this, and this.)”

    (I revised to move the links closer to the sentence instead of at the end of the paragraph.)

  4. New England Bob says:

    A bold proposal, Greg. He could be replaced by a woman.

  5. bwe4 says:

    This is very difficult to parse. What position is it that DJ is ot supposed to take if he wants to be a good leader?

  6. Tim Farley says:

    I’m not going to comment on D.J.’s statements over in those blogs, because I haven’t been keeping up with the conversations they are part of, and I don’t have time to catch up this afternoon. Day job and all.

    However, a comment about the parts of your post that concern TAM…

    I’ve been to seven TAMs so far, six in the U.S. and one of the ones in London. I’ve spoken at three (mostly in the workshops and such, never on the main stage). I was on the volunteer staff one year, assembling badges and the like. I think I have a good feel for what TAM attendees are like, I’ve interacted with hundreds and hundreds of them.

    In your dichotomy of the movement that you describe in the third-to-last paragraph, 99% of the people I’ve ever met or interacted with at TAM fell into the (1) bucket. I’m sure some of those (2) people exist, as I see evidence of them online, but I’ve never run into them at TAM.

    Maybe I’m exagerrating, but this blog post and others which seem to paint a picture where the halls of TAM are dominated by raving MRA activists who vocally decry any women speakers and otherwise behave like asses don’t seem reality based to me. I’ve never seen any of that at TAM. And I understand you haven’t either, because you’ve never attended a TAM.

    Yes, we have a few Aspies and other personality-deficient folks who have on occasion made asses of themselves (and been rapidly scolded and sometimes thrown out as needed). I’ve personally intervened in a few cases like that. But I see that sort of thing at any event that attracts nerds & geeks, especially where alcohol is involved. For instance you get those types at Dragon*Con too, but they aren’t the majority by any means.

    As for the behavior of the speakers, what little bit I’ve seen of those other posts amounts to rumor. I’m not going to comment on rumors. I would point out that the speakers are a TINY percentage of the people who attend TAM, and hardly representative. Many of them don’t even stick around for the entire event, but fly out as soon as their part is done.

    FYI: the HTML TITLE tag on this page still misspells D.J.’s last name.

  7. He could be replaced by a woman.

    Can we nominate Rebecca?

  8. Melody says:

    That would probably be up to James Randi.

    It would take the board of directors, which includes James Randi. And it will never happen.

  9. Doug Alder says:

    You beat me to it New England Bob – I’d only change that could to a should.

    From everything I’ve read the misogyny is pretty bad at these conferences (never been to one and not likely to ever go to one) so it’s going to take a woman in charge to really fix it so that other women begin to feel comfortable going again.

    Besides that should really root out the latent misogynists in the pack – “the nerve appointing a woman to run a major secular organization” etc. ad nauseam

  10. Greg Laden says:

    Tim: …the halls of TAM are dominated by raving MRA activists who vocally decry any women speakers and otherwise behave like asses don’t seem reality based to me….

    As soon as you show me where this has been said I’ll take your concerns that this is being said seriously!

    Anyway, your points are understood. Mostly, you’ve set up a set of straw arguments that overstate or alter what other people are saying so as to make those arguments seem wrong. I can only encourage people to look at the current discussion about behavior at meetings and draw their own conclusions.

    Here, I am explicitly reacting to his comments that you tell us you don’t want to comment on, so while I welcome the broader discussion, I’m not sure what your point is.

  11. Tim Farley says:

    Doug Alder said:
    > From everything I’ve read the misogyny is pretty bad at
    > these conferences

    >(never been to one and not likely to ever go to one)

    There’s my issue encapsulated there. Doug has never been to TAM, but as far as he knows it is a misogyny festival.

    His opinion is based entirely on some blog posts, some of which were written by people who have never been to TAM either.

    Wow.

  12. Greg Laden says:

    Just to be clear: My point is not based on misogyny at conferences. DJ Gorthe did not cause misogyny at conferences to the extent that there may or may not be misogyny at conferences.

    What happened is this: A major discussion of women in the movement including women at conferences has developed and expanded among women in the movement and their male allies. At the same time, for as yet unknown reasons, the female attendance at TAM seems to be dropping significantly. DJ, as a leader in the movement, has reacted to this by saying that it is the conversation involving these women, and by (in part) these women, is causing people to move away from TAM.

    His reaction shows me that he is not at all in touch with this conversation or those engaged in it.

    By the way, there are plenty of people who have bee to numerious TAMs who can chime in here. Tim: Be careful about pinning your argument on “been there” vs. “not been there” regarding a TAM. (…can you even say “a TAM”??…whatever…). I am not making an argument about conferences. I’m making an argument about a rising embrace of feminism that DJ is resisting and not understanding. But if you want to talk about TAM, there are probably people willing to do that.

  13. Tim, you want more than rumors? What are you going to do to support the women who say, “Not a rumor. It happened to me”?

    Also, you’re already commenting on the rumors, in order to dismiss them as rumors.

  14. Doug Alder says:

    Tim you really should try and control your propensity for misstating overstating what others have said. I never used the term misogyny festival nor implied what one would normally associate such a term with. I said it seemed to be pretty bad. So, unless you are prepared to call all those women who have been the recipients of unwelcome, unrequested, touches, hits (as in hit on), verbal abuses etc at conferences liars – you owe them an apology – or maybe you just hate women who dare to speak out.

  15. Tim Farley says:

    Stephanie: Ask Rebecca or Maria or any of the Skepchicks, I’m a big supporter.

    But what specifically do you want me to do? If you want me to shun particular speakers, never interact with them again, I’m down with that. Frankly, you don’t have to ask me twice to avoid a douchebag.

    Insofar as I’m involved with planning conferences (which, unless you count local Skepticamps, is virtually nil) I’ll never invite them to a future one.

    But who the hell are we talking about? I can’t act without information.

  16. Greg Laden says:

    But who the hell are we talking about? I can’t act without information.

    Just so everyone knows, names will not be named on this blog.

  17. In fact, Tim, if you’re in that position, you can. You can adopt an anti-harassment policy and make sure that everyone knows what it is and what their part in it is. And that just happens to be what I was advocating when D.J. came along to tell me I was scaring women away from skeptic and atheist conferences.

  18. Eshto says:

    “large areas of the Skeptics movement are very unfriendly to women”

    Yeah right. I began seriously questioning that the skeptic movement had a terrible problem with sexism when it became obvious that Rebecca Watson and her pals had redefined “abuse of women” as “politely asking someone out for coffee”; and “misogyny” as “daring to have a difference of opinion, no matter how slight, with any FTB writer.”

    I’m a progressive atheist who believes in equality for all, but you can go ahead and label me an evil “misogynist” or “Men’s Rights Activists” or some other bonkers thing, because that’s what FTB does best. I’d expect nothing less.

  19. Tim Farley says:

    Stephanie: TAM had an anti-harassment policy last year. The same one is in place for this year. Did D.J. not make that clear? Is there an issue with the content of the policy?

  20. Marnie says:

    @Tim

    You seem to be making this about you. YOU never saw anyone being creepy and YOU don’t know who is being talked about therefore you cannot accept there is a problem. Take some time to read what’s being said. Women who are trying to establish themselves or attend events are experiencing harassment from some of the headliners. They know that naming names will get them banned. They fear that bringing up the issue will mean that they, not the harasser, will not be invited back and they worry that they’ll receive the same threats of rape and other violence that Rebecca experienced when she had the gall to say that someone made her uncomfortable.

    What can be done? If you care about this matter, if you don’t think the women who are saying this is a problem are lying, then tell event organizers that you won’t attend events that have no public policy regarding harassment. And that this policy include available resources to address problems and a commitment to being proactive on the matter. Demand that, even though names are not publicly named, if someone is a repeat offender, they not be asked back, no matter how big their name is. When women say that they feel uncomfortable, don’t make it about how guys feel, make it about addressing the problem. Don’t tell people they are overreacting or over inflating the problem just because you didn’t experience it first hand.

  21. Tim Farley says:

    Here is the TAM Code of Conduct from TAM9, as far as I know it is in effect for this year too. It will be printed in the program just as it was last year.

    Yes, we could do a better job of getting it posted over to the official site. I have nothing to do with the management of that.

  22. BJ Kramer says:

    I can think of three quick categories of explanations as to why the rate of women registering at TAM has dropped so precipitously:

    1) TAM is, in fact, an unsafe place for women
    2) Online discussions about TAM have convinced some people that TAM is an unsafe place for women
    3) something completely unrelated

    When DJ suggests the answer might be #2 because his data shows it’s not #1, I think his biggest mistake is eliminating the possibility of #3. But he’s at least cited data.

    Side note: Greg, your closing false dichotomy is deeply insulting to anyone who, like me, does not think that TAM should be a conference about feminism first and skepticism second. I suspect you’re OK with that.

  23. Tim Farley says:

    Marnie: I’m simply reporting what I observed, just as others are. Admittedly I see a different picture because I am a man.

    I do not doubt that harassment has occurred. I am not accusing anyone of misrepresnenting this.

    It should NOT be happening at TAM. We have a policy in place that clearly says this. (See link above).

    IF the policy is not being fully enforced at TAM2012, PLEASE feel free to COME TO ME, tell me privately what is going on, and I will personally intervene.

  24. Marnie says:

    @Tim

    Right, so I think that if you go back to what this post is about and read it, you’ll see that DJ’s public stance has been more about “please let’s stop discussing this issue, I don’t want it to drive business away” and less about “I wasn’t aware of the scope of the problem, let’s band together to make our events inhospitable to people who can’t respect boundaries.”

    This is not about what I can do, now that I’ve talked to you, it’s about the public face of TAM making it known that this is a matter he takes seriously. I don’t want to misrepresent Greg here, and I’m sure he’ll weigh in if I’m doing so but your coming here to his comments and saying that I can come talk to you is great but it is a band-aid on the more fundamental problem, namely that DJ is not handling it in a way that suggests he thinks it’s a serious issue.

  25. Bug Girl says:

    Here’s the problem Tim. Women who are the victims of harassment don’t want to come forward, for the reasons that Marnie detailed quite well above.

    So they talk to people they know are sympathetic. Like me, for example.
    But I can’t break their confidence and tell you what happened. *Because I promised not to.*

    This is the same bind I am in when students come and tell me Professors are harassing them. Until i have a student willing to go on the record, I can’t take any official action.
    However, when I have more than one student report the same prof, I know there is a problem. And the more I can make the environment safe, and demonstrate that I *will* protect the student if she’s willing to move forward with a complaint. But it’s a rare student that will make that jump, because she needs reference letters. or a grade.

  26. Greg Laden says:

    Greg, your closing false dichotomy is deeply insulting to anyone who, like me, does not think that TAM should be a conference about feminism first and skepticism second. I suspect you’re OK with that.

    I don’t remember making a false dichotomy. Please explain further.

    TAM is not a conference about feminism, though feminism is certainly a topic that could be addressed there. But feminism isn’t just at topic. It is also a basic political and social foundation and it should be part of any social enterprise in the sense that diversity and fairness should be. Surely, we are all feminists.

  27. Bug Girl says:

    Urg. Lost some words there. Should have been
    “the more I can make the environment safe, and demonstrate that I *will* protect the student if she’s willing to move forward with a complaint, the more likely I make it that official action can happen.”

  28. BJ Kramer says:

    I’m surprised you need this explanation, but here goes:

    You wrote: “The skeptics movement is currently divided into two very distinct parts: 1) The part that wants women to be not only comfortable, but to lead, and this includes the majority of people in the movement, and 2) The part that wants the old timey conferences to retain their old timey charm as minor meat markets for nerds, that wants to keep its old white guy idols and icons, and that wants to move such marginal and suspicious entities as the Mens Rights Movement to the forefront, and this includes a minority of people in the movement.”

    This is a dichotomy, and it’s false. I, for example, do not ‘women to lead’, just like I don’t want ‘men to lead’. I want the best qualified people to lead. So according to you I must want an old-timey meat market for nerds. This is insulting. [I also seriously doubt your assertion that 'this includes the majority of people in the movement', a statement I have difficulty believing has underlying data.]

    Someone to wants ‘women to lead’ at TAM rather than having the ‘best people for the job regardless of sex lead’ is putting feminism ahead of skepticism. I’m all for people having those priorities, but that’s not the JREF’s priorities.

  29. Tim Farley says:

    Bug Girl: I understand the situation. I totally get it.

    I think we have an appropriate policy in place for TAM. We had it last year.

    As I said above, if you need it enforced at any time during TAM2012, please feel free to COME TO ME and I will be that sympathetic enforcer. I’ve done it before.

  30. Bug Girl says:

    You aren’t actually getting it Tim. I’m going to repeat the important part that Marnie said above:

    Women who are trying to establish themselves or attend events are experiencing harassment from some of the headliners. They know that naming names will get them banned. They fear that bringing up the issue will mean that they, not the harasser, will not be invited back and they worry that they’ll receive the same threats of rape and other violence that Rebecca experienced when she had the gall to say that someone made her uncomfortable.

    It’s not about me.

    It’s about the way in which women will be vilified if they come forward.

    Which is an issue of CLIMATE. Policy is only a beginning.

  31. Blake Smith says:

    So…

    “Women who are trying to establish themselves or attend events are experiencing harassment from some of the headliners. They know that naming names will get them banned.”

    Is this true? Was there someone who named a name and got banned?

    I hope DJ responds.

    I agree with Tim that there was a policy last year and AFAIK there will be a policy this year that prohibits harassment.

    What would victory conditions look like for women concerned about this issue? I want TAM to be a place where everybody feels safe to come and talk about reason and science and critical thinking… What does DJ need to say or do to make that happen?

  32. Greg Laden says:

    BJ, don’t be nervous. Women leading does not mean that men don’t get to lead too.

    Someone to wants ‘women to lead’ at TAM rather than having the ‘best people for the job regardless of sex lead’

    I would hate any person who said that.

  33. Tim Farley says:

    Bug Girl: I don’t know how to fix that overall climate problem.

    However, I do know this. I am 6′ 4″ tall and weigh 250 pounds.

    My offer to enforce the TAM Code of Conduct EXTENDS TO SPEAKERS too. If you are harassed by a speaker, COME FIND ME, tell me what happened. I will keep your report in confidence, but I will go find that speaker and make it ABUNDANTLY clear to them that their behavior is not acceptable.

    I don’t know what else to offer.

  34. Willow says:

    But this year is is heavy on the women speakers. I will say TAM has evolved into more women and also been very welcoming to homosexuals in ways other conferences haven’t. Really haven’t. Is feminism the number one issue, or is inclusion the number one issue? Are women not coming because of fear of being “abused” or are they coming for perhaps the reason Harriet Hall mentioned in her email to the people that asked her to speak about “elevator gate”. Mainly, the women representing feminism and women is skepticism are frankly not people we might want to represent us and our work. Are they the most educated, the elder, the ones that have “paid their dues”? Frankly, a lot of women are “oh it’s them. Great. Not there.” I heard that from a women this weekend that probably makes a greater salary than any other woman that attends TAM. She’s a professional woman that is highly successful and is in a profession that is 80% male. She agrees there are problems. But she was “you are safer at TAM than you are walking the lobby in Vegas.”

  35. BJ Kramer says:

    But Greg, you DID say that. And if you meant ‘also have the opportunity to lead’ then DJ is doing a fantastic job, radically increasing female representation on the big stage. Your only remaining complaint then seems to be that he doesn’t want ‘women to lead’ because he’s interpreting an apparent reduction in female attendance this year differently than you are.

    How do you know you’re right? Do you not think there’s at least a possibility that he’s interpreting the situation at least somewhat correctly?

    I understand that, as Bug Girl points out, there are situations that go unreported, understandably. But DJ simply can’t make rules for everyone based on second-hand anecdotes, especially when he knows quite well that at least some of them are obvious nonsense. If we’re going by individual anecdotes, DJ can have other data on his side, like this comment a woman left on my Facebook wall:

    “The whole thing is just irritating. I’ve been to many Skeptic events and I always felt welcome. This would just make me back away from the whole mess. I teach Middle School kids all day, I don’t have the time or the patience for this juvenile, cliquey, adolescent drama.”

    We know there are asshats who treat women badly, and we know bad behavior ranges from mild cluelessness to seriously deranged misogyny. But we don’t know that skeptics have those problems in higher concentrations than other groups, and we certainly don’t have data to show TAM is worse than anywhere else (the data we do have implies the reverse). We also don’t know that we’re not exaggerating the problem, and we don’t know how much of a turn-off that might be for this year’s potential TAM attendees.

    We shouldn’t be calling for DJ’s ouster, we should be calling for ideas on how to get better data.

  36. John Moeller says:

    “However, I do know this. I am 6? 4? tall and weigh 250 pounds.”

    Tim — I would wager that Bug and other women aren’t looking for bodyguards. They’re looking for conferences where they don’t need them.

    So here’s what I think you *can* do. If you have DJ’s ear, use your influence to let him know that climate is a serious problem. That he needs to listen instead of encouraging silence. That he needs to stop feeling threatened for TAM and JREF, and instead start acting like the progressive leader that he says he is.

    The thing is, women probably *do* want to go to these conferences. But instead of being an ass, DJ needs to listen and be a force for change (and that goes beyond policy and enforcing policy).

  37. Kochanski says:

    I have been attending TAM since TAM 4, I have attended TAM on my own for every one of those years and I have NEVER, EVER felt uncomfortable being there as a woman alone. I find the men at skeptic conferences to be fine, geeky individuals who I mostly get along with.

    I have been attending events with mostly male attendees since I was 16 years old (some time ago) and do on a regular basis several times a year. I have NEVER let the fact that I was female stop me from attending. I have NEVER let anyone treat me in a way that I would consider disrespectful. I have had men occasionally try to dismiss what I say or not pay attention to me because they think that as a female my opinion might not count, but they don’t do it for long as I do not let them ignore my presence or treat me dismissively. My feeling is that if men have a problem with women attending that is THEIR problem not mine. I have not had these issues at skeptics conferences and have found in the 30+ years I have been attending events that this has diminished greatly.

    It is a long way from college when I had a professor that thought that women should not attend colleges as they were taking valuable spaces from men who needed to earn a good living for their wives and kiddies. Who thought that the “girls” at college would simply stop working when they found a man to support them.

    If you want to be involved in skepticism and are female you attend the events and don’t let people push you around.

    I don’t attend TAM expecting or insisting that large numbers of women are part of the presentations, I attend TAM to be involved in skepticism. At this point, skepticism as a popular movement is still very young, not so long ago it was mostly scientists and engineers and magicians, not groups known for large female populations. I see this changing, there are more females involved.

    I honestly do not care what the gender of the speakers is, what matters is what they have to say and contribute to skepticism.

    Frankly, I have seen more problems coming from Skepchick in their treatment of other women than from any non-gender based group. And YES there are women who have issues with Skepchick and their bullying. Far from being a safe place for women to gather, it is a safe place only if you agree with the main contributors on skepchick, you will be bullied and berated if you express a differing opinion.

  38. annesauer says:

    BJ, even if we did know that the skeptic community experiences the same amount of sexism as other communities, that would not be a valid reason to accept the amount that exists within our community. Hell, even if we had data that shows that skeptics are better on the whole than other communities, that would not be an excuse not to address the issues that are coming up. Unless you want to argue that there is an acceptable amount of sexism that we have to tolerate, but I don’t know anyone who would wittingly make that argument.

  39. BJ Kramer says:

    annesauer:
    Of course we should try to get sexism down to zero. But that’s not what this post is about; it’s about Greg calling out DJ for not being sufficiently pro-woman and recommending he be replaced, because DJ thinks it’s likely fewer women are registering for TAM because of the exaggeration of the problem of sexism. And while I think we don’t know that for sure, I think his position has far more merit than the position that TAM is some kind of misogyny-fest. Unlike Greg, I’ve actually been to TAM.

    I’m pretty sure everyone here is in agreement that the problem needs to be addressed as much as possible. But nobody seems to know what should be done, or even exactly what the problem is.

    Let’s stay on topic: With so much vagueness it’s ludicrous to call on DJ, the man who has done more concrete work for feminism in skeptical conferences than any other, to be fired.

  40. Maggie says:

    I agree with a lot of the underlying sentiment here, but for me, it’s not about DJ. For me, it’s just time to let the JREF, well, more specifically TAM, go as the Center Of Skepticism. Its time to move on. DJ had a game plan when he came on and he’s pretty much stuck to it. Its just that the eventual outcome makes for a different playing field when the dust settles. The ‘old guard’ JREF moved on (or were moved on, as it were, for better or worse and ‘hey let’s not talk about that either’) when DJ came on board and the JREF is a different, leaner, almost single-focus beast now. It’s still Randi, his legacy and the challenge at its core, but it’s also an ‘office’ in the more direct sense of the word.

    I have my own issues with the JREF’s performance and reactions, especially to the sexism issues, (not to mention the pit of despair that is the forums) which led to my changing where my support goes and then deciding not to attend TAM any more. In fact, the final straw actually resulted from my defending Tim Farley on the JREF site and getting completely shat on for doing so; realizing as a result, “wait, I’m not actually at home, or even comfortable, there… Why didn’t I notice that before?” But my reasons are still more tied to this whole shift in attitude from ‘the JREF is you and us’ to ‘the JREF will take your concerns into consideration’. It’s like that creeping feeling you get when you call your awesome credit union one day and, instead of someone picking up the phone, you hear “Your call is very important to us… Please remain on the line…”

    I’m looking more to CFI as to where to lay my activism money and this year I am not looking at TAM at all. Maybe it’s because I’m not as actively involved as a local organizer (TAM is, after all, populated primarily by the boots on the ground, not the general skeptics population) and maybe it’s not. Either way, my zeal for the JREF has diminished. No, that’s not right, it has necessarily been split and refocused elsewhere(s), because looking in one direction is only helpful when it’s the way forward, not when it becomes the way we’ve come from.

    In the end I think it’s good to spread things around a bit more. It’s true for other movements once they mature, and it may be true now for this one. Organizing and convening on skepticism is not something that can continue to be stirred in one pot in Vegas each year. The time has come for more kitchens and more pots. Especially if the head chef asks us not to talk about what’s in the soup because it hurts sales*.

    Maggie

    * – and that’s the only shot at DJ I’ll take because, for the most part, he’s been very clear as to what he’s about. But DJ’s mission and our mission are not necessarily completely aligned and we need to admit that.

  41. Renegade Master (1984) says:

    Should DJ Grothe resign from JREF

    No Greg, he shouldn’t. But you should retire to bed.

    Sweet dreams.

  42. This obsession with gender and color needs to end. Seriously, it’s getting old.

    Skepticism appeals to a certain kind of person. You start a skeptic event, certain kinds of people will show up. Now lets say you open the doors and 80% of those who come in are men. Is that a disaster?

    Skeptics tend to be a certain kind of person. They tend to be science geeks, technology buffs etc. We all know that science and engineering are more male-dominated fields. Why? I don’t know. Might be cultural. Might be something based on the message. Might be the way kids are raised. Whatever the reason, they are and they might be changing, but they have not (yet) reached the 50/50 level.

    The fact of the matter is certain events draw certain demographics and you don’t need to obsess over it. Monster truck events draw more men than women. Do-wop reunion tours draw mostly older babyboomers. Soul food restaurants draw more blacks than whites. etc etc etc

    Honestly I don’t care who comes in or how representative it is of the population. Everyone should be welcome and if it’s 50/50 or 90/10 or 10/90, whatever. It’s fine.

    If our “leaders” are male or female I don’t care. As long as they are qualified, I don’t care what the mix is.

    NOW HERE IS THE BIG PROBLEM:

    I’m white and male. I’m a skeptic and have been for a long time. Recently I’ve been getting a not-so-subtle message telling me I’m not very valued in the movement because the quota for male whites has already been exceeded.

    If the ratio of males to females is the most important thing, then by coming to an event I am driving the ratio up in the wrong way. IF I was female, I’d be welcomed barbecue they desperately need more females. But as a white guy, well, they already have plenty of my type, so I am making things worse by coming there.

    Sure, there will always be some infighting, discomfort and social issues in a group this large. You get one thousand people together and you are bound to have some people feel conflicted. We should make every effort to keep such things to a minimum, but they’ll never be zero.

    None the less, we should ditch this obsession over the male/female ratio. It’s counterproductive and I’m tired of being seen as being unwelcome because I hurt the ratio and contribute to the surplus. I’m tired of seeing women coddled simply because they are women and for no other reason than their balance of the ratio.

  43. charles says:

    The suggestion that DJ Grothe should resign his position is utterly ridiculous. DJ, you are doing a great job – please don’t let these shrill bullies affect you with their petty nonsense.

  44. JoeyH says:

    “In his recent remarks about how women are fleeing TAM because of Rebecca Watson, the Skepchicks, and various anti-misogyny bloggers and commenters poisoning the water, ”

    Yup. That is in fact exactly why I fled. I’m not worried about getting harassed by MEN. I can’t stand the harassment I get from women (and some men) when they find out I’m a skeptic feminist woman, assume I’m on “the right side” on these issues, and then very unskeptically rant, rave, insult, and unfollow me when it turns out I have different ideas. No asking about my thoughts. No weighing different ideas. I’m just WRONG and BAD. Why the hell would I want to deal with this in person?

  45. Emery Emery says:

    DJ Grothe may be the single most thoughtful, intelligent, kind and concerned skeptic I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

    You sir, are a liar and an insidious buffoon.

    Sincerely,
    Emery Emery

  46. Maggie says:

    Riiiiiight. All those women complaining that they don’t feel welcome should simmer down because now you don’t feel welcome and skepticism is clearly the domain of people just like you and they’re ruining it for you.

    Please tell me that was satire.

  47. Maggie says:

    PS – I didn’t make it clear that I was reply to Steve Packard (or the comedian known as Steve Packard if it is indeed satire).

  48. jonhendry says:

    “They know that naming names will get them banned. ”

    They *know*?

    Really?

    On what evidence?

  49. MichaelD says:

    For my 2cents I don’t know about resigning he seems to be doing a good job for the most part. I do think he should consider getting an assistant with a bit more public relations/marketing experience to help him out though. He really fumbled the hell out of this latest issue and I can’t help thinking having such a person couldn’t make things much worse.

  50. Greg Laden says:

    Daniel [7] I’ve heard that I nominated Rebecca and that there is a conspiracy between us that involved overthrowing DJ Grothe and taking over the skeptics movement. But this seems to be YOUR conspiracy! Either way, I welcome our new Philosophical Overlords.

  51. Greg Laden says:

    Eshto [20] “abuse of women” as “politely asking someone out for coffee”;

    Where did anyone say that?

    I’m a progressive

    Evidence?

  52. Greg Laden says:

    Stephanie: TAM had an anti-harassment policy last year. The same one is in place for this year. Did D.J. not make that clear? Is there an issue with the content of the policy?

    Tim, I think Stephanie meant YOU as a speaker. TAM does have a policy and it seems to even enforce it, though it sometimes forgets it enforces it.

  53. Greg Laden says:

    Tim: Yes, we could do a better job of getting it posted over to the official site. I have nothing to do with the management of that.

    Yes, we can and we will! (We meaning the entire skeptics movement, and the “it” we will do is not just getting a policy out there and known about at TAM but generally.

    Step one: Have a conversation.

    Step two: Identify some of the problems.

    Step three: Major leader of the movement notice that women are leaving the flagship conference of the movement, panics, and tells people following step one and two that they are the problem not the solution.

    Step four: Up to you. Up to all of us. There are a lot of possibilities.

  54. Greg Laden says:

    This obsession with gender and color needs to end. Seriously, it’s getting old.

    I know! Right? Someday it will. But we’re not at that Morgan Freeman moment yet.

    As to the rest of your comment, you could certainly use a bit more skepticism in your thinking!

    Also, if you really are THE Steve Packard, please don’t become a member of Congress. If you are impersonating a person running for office, Imma kick your ass all the way to the other side of the Internet.

  55. Marnie says:

    @jonhendry

    “They know that naming names will get them banned. ”

    They *know*? Really? On what evidence?

    Ok, they strongly suspect, based on the fact that a woman who, in passing, mentioned that an anonymous man followed her into an elevator and propositioned her and she felt uncomfortable about it, and now a vocal portion of the community spits her name like she’s the new coming of voldemort, plotting to overthrow the skeptic community with her evil feminism. She has since received threats and harassments and she’s considered a controversial figure. This was over an event for which she named no names and simply said it was annoying behavior, in passing as part of a longer video.

    if you are an up and coming potential speaker/panelist for skeptic/atheist events, you might have some misgivings about calling someone out publicly, based on those very recent events. You may worry that going to the event organizers, if they haven’t publicly vowed to directly address harassment, would result in the organizers viewing you as a trouble maker and just opting not to invite you back. Do you think that’s an unreasonable conclusion to draw?

  56. Greg Laden says:

    if you are an up and coming potential speaker/panelist for skeptic/atheist events, you might have some misgivings about calling someone out publicly, based on those very recent events.

    I know, like, I totally screwed myself out of ever getting invited to speak at TAM with this very blog post, and I wasn’t even sexually harassed by anyone. I’ve also received nasty notes already including those suggesting that me asking for this (admittedly) drastic action by DJ is a plot to get myself invited to speak at TAM. I’m still pondering that one.

  57. rlearn says:

    Isn’t being involved in the conversation what DJ is trying to do?

    I don’t see any reason why his contribution should be considered a separate and unnecessary phase in dealing with the issue of sexism in the movement.

  58. Geek Goddess says:

    I’ve been to 6 TAM, both UK TAMs, and numerous other skeptical conferences. I also go to conferences related to my industry where the men-to-women ratio is MUCH higher than skeptical conferences (5-10 women in 2,000 attendees). At one TAM, an acquaintance, who was very drunk, leaned over to give me what I thought was going to be a peck on the cheek and ended up practically licking my tonsils. He tried with a couple other of his ‘friends’, and as soon as we told Jeff Wagg, Jeff took action and got the guy out of the bar. The next year, he warned the guy to leave everyone alone, with a threat of being thrown out of the hotel. The said guy sat quietly in the bar and didn’t approach anyone.

    At a difference conference, a guy that I knew only slightly patted me on the bottom (not too much differently than I have experienced on subways in a hit-and-run manner). I told him that if he ever touched me again, I’d break his finger off and stuff up his ass. He left me alone.

    Those are my two experiences of conference-related harassment. I have never felt unsafe at TAM. I’ve stayed up until wee hours in the bar, I’ve walked back to my hotel room alone. Are there nerdy guys at the skeptics conference that have poor social skills and desperately want to meet women? Yes. Are there a few guys who are on the hunt? Of course (although you’d think they’d go to a quilting convention – better odds). Are some speakers – and we all know which one speaker we are talking about – absolutely assholes? Indeed. But as a female, I would not quit going to TAM or other conferences because I am afraid it’s a grope-fest, because that is not the case. I think the Code of Conduct was a good idea, and I think that informing a staffer or a hotel manager that someone is bothering you, no matter if you are at a conference or on a business trip.

  59. Maggie: skepticism is (or should be) the domain of whoever the hell wants to be a skeptic and is a skeptic and there’s no need to place some kind of counter at the door to make sure we have the proper ratio.

    All persons should be welcome and if that leads to it being skewed demographically, so be it.

    Harassment should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

    Look, you get a bunch of people together in a social situation with strong opinions, alcohol and differing backgrounds and people will be offended. That’s the nature of the beast. Deal with it and resolve your differences like adults.

    I might add that whether or not you agree with DJ Grothe, Rebecca Watson is hardly the best example of diplomacy or understated civility in the world. She likes to argue. She likes to stir controversy. Plenty of other people do too.

    Not that I totally dislike her or anything, there’s a time and place for being confrontational and she certainly does a good job of provoking up passions.

    “As to the rest of your comment, you could certainly use a bit more skepticism in your thinking!”

    I need to be more skeptical?

    As far as I can tell this idea that the culture of skepticism is somehow prone to encouraging harassment, especially of women is a pretty clear cut case of the individual versus collective fallacy.

    It does not take many harassing individuals within a large group to cause significant harassment. One should address the problem per individual and not the collective, as the majority are almost certainly not prone to harassment.

    If harassed, the person who does the harassing is the problem, not the group. They should be delt with accordingly. If it’s a very mild case, then it might be resolved by something as simple as stating “Excuse me, but the way you are acting made me feel a bit uncomfortable.” or “I found that joke to be a bit over the line.” In more extreme situations, more extreme measures (such as contacting the authorities) need to be invoked.

  60. I like DJ, though personality-wise he’s very much the gladhanding politician, and it can often seem difficult to winkle out the real person underneath. I actually think TAM is one of the better public venues out there in terms of being a safe space for both men and women, without so much the elevator-creeper factor. If I’m disappointed in anything about it, though, it’s that they’ve been throwing the door open a little wider for admitting selective woo, while closing it to the overtly and unabashedly atheistic among us. Last year’s conference had a workshop called, of all things, “Spirituality for Skeptics,” and had a talk from Pamela Gay, a devout Christian astronomer (she kept her religion out of her talk, but her own blog shows she’s very much in the Francis Collins school).

    So while I’m not wild about the direction TAM’s going in, I don’t think DJ necessarily needs to start typing his resume just yet. Let’s see what the next couple of years hold.

  61. If it’s a very mild case, then it might be resolved by something as simple as stating “Excuse me, but the way you are acting made me feel a bit uncomfortable.” or “I found that joke to be a bit over the line.”

    Mmm, yes. That always goes well.

  62. Mmm, yes. That always goes well.

    Not *always* but often. Of course it depends on the severity of the incident.

    Escalating the incident to go to law enforcement or something would be absurd if you’re just offended by a joke or think someone is coming on too strong.

    I can give a perfect example. At the Hoover dam, I asked one of the tour guides if there was a running gag about the word “Dam”

    He explained that a few years ago, yeah, they did that a bit. Tourists would joke about “taking dam pictures” and “A great dam tour” and the tour guides would joke back.

    Well… some woman on one of the tours found that offensive. What she SHOULD have done was said “pardon me, but I don’t appreciate hearing that word used like that.”

    But that’s not what she did. She said nothing. Then she went home and called her senator and congressman and wrote a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation and Nevada Tourist Department etc etc. Made a HUGE stink and the tour guide got in trouble, they had to have meetings about it. They had to have a formal policy telling tour guides never to use “DAM” as a pun for “DAMN” etc etc etc.

    Was that necessary? No, of course not. She should have just said it to the tour guide.

    But I think most women have more sense than to report everything that offends them.

    Obviously, inappropriate touching, being backed into a corner, being repeatedly berated with foul language etc etc is worth reporting. On the other hand, hearing someone say something that is ever so slightly off color, does not require reporting.

    Again, use your judgement. It’s actually pretty obvious in most circumstances.

  63. DJ Grothe has made the comment that there has never been any serious harassment at TAM.

    DJ said “It should be said that there has never been a report filed of sexual harassment at TAM to my knowledge and there have been zero reports of harassment at the TAMs we’ve put on while I’ve been at JREF. Of course that doesn’t mean such didn’t happen.”

    His concern is that gossip and rumours are having a negative impact. Gossip and rumour spreading is different from discussing or reporting concerns.

    As DJ notes “We have gotten emails from women on our lists vowing never to attend the TAM because JREF purportedly condones child sex trafficking, or condones violence or threats of violence against women, and the like.”

    Ridiculous. How can it be that a group promoting rational thinking takes rational discussions and blows them up to their most extreme reaction? A legitimate concern about how to deal with harassment at conferences turns into “TAM condones sex trafficking” and DJ expressing concern that these falsities are having a negative impact turns into “DJ doesn’t want TAM to be welcoming to women, he should resign!”

    Seriously?

  64. Michael says:

    I think I speak for everyone who’s not a left-wing extremist in the movement when I say, Good grief.

    This post has really taken this fringe view to a new low.

    I will add my name to the list of people who say you are warping what a TAM event is like. I’ve been to a three and do not recognize this caricature you’ve outlined.

  65. Greg Laden says:

    Sara, dj has never said that he wants TAM to not be welcoming to women.

  66. The whole “TAM condones sex trafficking” meme is being repeated a lot. Since we’re doing the super-skepticism thing, could someone kindly point out who claims this, and what their evidence proffered was? Because it really sounds like the kind of false flag claim that someone would make to discredit the *fact* that harassment happens and has happened, and has not been taken seriously enough.

  67. JoyaB says:

    Since most of you will not know me, I will introduce myself and give some context to my perspective, and then I will give my input.

    I have known Greg through Facebook for the past few years, and he has struck me as a decent person, committed professor, husband, father, friend, etc. He always has interesting and thought-provoking posts.

    I became aware of the skeptic community/movement through another person, a close friend since high school (which, since I’m 44, was a long time ago). Through her, I met Greg online, as well as many other online skeptics. I’ve even met a few offline.

    I have not considered myself a true part of the skeptic community, but more of a fringe participant/observer. I was considering going to TAM this year, but only to meet people, not to commit to the whole days-long conferences.

    My main reason for hanging back from greater participation has been the rather spectacular infighting I’ve witnessed online – and I’ve only skimmed a few of the many fights. One I followed a bit was elevatorgate, not surprisingly, but I’m sure I missed a lot about even that one.

    You see, I had experience with joining and leaving a socially minded progressive group before – one that I was active and even somewhat central in – which also rather spectacularly self-destructed due to internet forum flame wars. (It was a nontraditional religious group – I wasn’t a true believer, but I had found a lot of value in it.) The flame wars were over what direction the organization should take and included accusations of elitism, of racism that took a bit of a “thought police” form, insistence on political activism of a certain type (in my view, politics of any sort were tangental to the purpose of the group), and exclusion of those with certain political (as in actual politics) views, putting new requirements about attending indoctrination-style camps, etc. I saw a vibrant community of a few hundred people fall utterly apart. Something did rise from the ashes, I guess. But without many of the people, including me, who had formerly volunteered so much time and energy.

    I thought at that time that a government or religiously conservative plant couldn’t have done as effective a job at sowing dissent than we ourselves did. I didn’t think any of the people I knew there were actually plants, though I’ve heard of that sort of thing in history and movies. We weren’t big enough for anyone to care.

    Now, I don’t think that anyone I’ve met or read comments from in the skeptic community is really a plant of some sort – I ABSOLUTELY do not want to suggest that, as not only is it unlikely, but also paranoia would be even more destructive.

    I DO want to say that the way supposedly plants in groups operate is to sow dissent. So when you/we see people spreading conflict, I’m not saying you should question their loyalty, BUT I AM SAYING that we should all look at our own behavior, and realize that if we participate in encouraging divisions rather than bridges, such as through namecalling, exclusionism, etc., we are doing the sort of thing that will ultimately undermine the very movement we want to support.

    As to the leadership of JREF, I don’t know much about it, but it seems to me that JREF began as specifically involved in looking critically at paranormal claims, etc. This is a very narrow focus. However, over the decades, it has widened its focus. Is this accurate? Over the decades, I must assume, it has clarified its mission and values and scope, either by widening them or narrowing them, and perhaps both in turn, or it would not still exist. From what I understand, JREF has become a wider, umbrella organization for skeptics and skeptical thinking, beyond its original more narrow focus. Is this correct?

    If JREF is an umbrella organization, one that facilitates forums, such as TAM, for discussion on a variety of topics, then IMO it and its leaders need to be vague, toothless and inclusive. It needs to be the UN.

    Otherwise, if it takes sides in various debates, it will exclude this group or that group until there is no one left. Because no one agrees with everyone on everything, and arguing angrily will slowly siphon away all supporters.

    Of course, if JREF is NOT the umbrella organization, and if no other organization exists that can effectively step up to the plate to become one, then a new umbrella organization should be formed.

    Now, if there are those who feel that their concerns, such as sexism in the skeptic movement, are not being addressed, then they should absolutely form separate groups that address these specific concerns, WHILE REMAINING PART OF the umbrella organization, and while continuing to dialogue with others in the umbrella organization, both those in leadership and general-membership roles. Organize a presentation or discussion at TAM, or work with the umbrella organization to establish a task force including those who disagree, but those who have proven able to objectively assess data, and work together to establish consensus.

    Whether or not Grothe (forgive me if this is not the spelling of his name; I’m not aware) made a divisive comment could be argued, but if I’m understanding that the bigger concern of this blog and many who support it is that he is not active enough in combatting sexism head on, then I think that is evidence that he is in fact doing his job well – being impartial and therefore inclusive as the leader of an umbrella organization.

    If instead you call to be included more as one view among others at TAM and in other forums, and call to be listened to without acrimony, then this I would fully support. If those who want to address sexism in skepticism head on want to form a subgroup while maintaining close connections with JREF and other groups on the many, many things you DO agree on, then I would also fully support this.

    Only if we are willing to work together on those things we DO agree on, regardless of those things we DON’T agree on, will we ever achieve anything.

  68. karmakin says:

    Eh, I could imagine somewhere that there was a speaker who pointed out some of the myths/reality surrounding sex work, and that automatically means that they support sex trafficking. Seems likely enough. Not exactly a unique or an unheard of pattern.

  69. Marnie says:

    Ok, so some alleged women allegedly sent an email to someone saying that JREF condones sex trafficking and some woman allegedly was offended by some perceived foul language and convinced her representatives (who are overwhelmingly male, btw) to change policies on language in public parks.

    And we have actual evidence of men telling women, online they deserve to be raped or are too ugly to be raped, but these overt, public examples of misogyny don’t matter as much as these unsubstantiated claims.

    Men are referred to as being “aspie” or “lacking social skills” and we’re all supposed to cut them slack. Women should accept that that’s who they are and if they can’t manage the man’s behavior, they handled it wrong, aren’t strong enough, or allowed a man to upset them. But if women, some of whom may have been assaulted in the past, many of whom are saying they don’t like to have to confront someone who is being agressive or won’t take no for an answer, mention that these behaviors alienate them, they are told that they are being unreasonable.

    I don’t know, it sounds to me like people are implying that men are hapless fools and women are responsible for accommodating them but if they ask for others to be aware of their own personal boundaries, they are shrews.

  70. Greg Laden says:

    Michael, I’ve not said a word about heat a TAM event is like.

    joyaB, JREF is not an umbrella organization, though they do fund activities carried out by other organizations.

  71. “Sara, dj has never said that he wants TAM to not be welcoming to women.”

    No, Greg, you did. You are calling for his resignation because “he clearly disassociates himself with” the first camp of your false dichotomy “The part that wants women to be not only comfortable, but to lead.”

    This is untrue of DJ. Calling for him to resign as president of TAM is ridiculous and I find this extreme reaction to his legitimate concerns of rumours to be incredibly tacky.

  72. Tim Farley says:

    >Men are referred to as being “aspie” or “lacking social skills” and
    > we’re all supposed to cut them slack.

    I was the one who used those terms and nope, I never said cut them some slack. The very next sentences after I made that characterization I said:

    > (and been rapidly scolded and sometimes thrown out as needed).
    > I’ve personally intervened in a few cases like that

    I did say it happens at nerd events, and guess what I and others try to intervene in these situations at those events too.

  73. Marnie says:

    You said:

    Yes, we have a few Aspies and other personality-deficient folks who have on occasion made asses of themselves

    And someone else said:

    Are there nerdy guys at the skeptics conference that have poor social skills and desperately want to meet women? Yes. Are there a few guys who are on the hunt? Of course

    The implication being that the social shortcomings of men are to be expected though sometimes they are so over the top as to be overt. It feels like a lot of “aww, cut the guys some slack.” Instead of “how can everyone feel more comfortable at these events?”

  74. karmakin says:

    It’s not really my experience that the behavior that leads to people harassing others is what we’d usually call “shortcomings”, generally speaking being forthcoming is something that generally we value in society as a whole (although I don’t think that’s right, myself).

    Personally I think that a lot of the lashback against improving anti-harassment policies is about this, and not so much sexism per se, but that’s just my opinion.

  75. Melody says:

    I would like to clarify a comment I made.

    I said:

    It would take the board of directors, which includes James Randi. And it will never happen.

    This was a response to someone saying James Randi could fire DJ.

    Someone has privately told me that my comment was interpreted as I was telling people how to fire DJ. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense since I said that it would never happen.

    So to clarify:

    James Randi cannot fire DJ Grothe. JREF has a board of directors that makes those types of decisions. I believe the board of directors has full confidence in DJ and that he would never be fired (unless he did something horribly unethical or unlawful).

    The conversation to fire DJ is futile and I don’t think it’s worth spending time on.

    I hope this clears up any misunderstanding concerned parties may have had.

  76. karmakin says:

    As an example, see the whole “How to Flirt” post, where someone explains how COOL harassment can be.

  77. Jillian Baker says:

    I am a 31 year old woman. I have been to two TAMs (TAM 7 & 8). I attended both talks and parties (including ones where people drank too much). At no point did I feel uncomfortable. In fact, quite the opposite. I met a lot of very interesting and friendly people (male and female). I look forward to attending my next TAM, and don’t hesitate to recommend TAM to my female friends (or any woman interested in science and critical thinking).

  78. Tim Farley #6:

    Yes, we have a few Aspies and other personality-deficient folks who have on occasion made asses of themselves (and been rapidly scolded and sometimes thrown out as needed).

    No one picked up on this bit of ableism?

  79. Greg Laden says:

    Sara, please dont bore me with this game of making and then stabbing your own straw men.

  80. Greg Laden says:

    And now I would like to provideva spirited defense of Tim Farley.

    Oh wait … Isn’t he the guy who threw me under the bus a couple of hours ago?

    You’re on your own, Tim! :)e

  81. KarenX says:

    The whole “TAM condones sex trafficking” meme is being repeated a lot. Since we’re doing the super-skepticism thing, could someone kindly point out who claims this, and what their evidence proffered was? Because it really sounds like the kind of false flag claim that someone would make to discredit the *fact* that harassment happens and has happened, and has not been taken seriously enough.

    For what it’s worth, now at this late hour…

    My suspicions is that this comes from the blow-up about a TAM 12 speaker (the Skepchick article here is where I first encountered it), who took the side of a famous friend who was jailed for sex with underage women who reported they’d been recruited by his staff, some of whom may have been flown in from other countries. (There are links at the Skepchick site.)

    So… TAM isn’t condoning sex trafficking outright, but they’ve hired a speaker who condones it, at least so far as his friend might concerned. This speaker’s expertise on interesting topics matters more to TAM than that he took his friend’s side in a sex-with-underaged-women thing. Or else maybe he doesn’t take his friend’s side anymore, but if so no one is discussing that.

    The degree to which a speaker’s reputation affects an organization’s reputation is a topic for another post (and there was an FtB conversation along these lines right before the Reason Rally) and it’s a value judgment kind of conversation that relies on individuals’ priorities, but this business is where I think this particular meme is coming from.

  82. msironen says:

    It feels like a lot of “aww, cut the guys some slack.” Instead of “how can everyone feel more comfortable at these events?”

    I have the perfect solution. Every man coming to the events has to take a simple yes/no questionnaire: “Are you a potential rapist?”. If they check “Yes”, you turn them away (obviously). If they check “No”, you turn them away (and give them a Feminism 101 pamphlet). Result: no cases of men harassing women, ever. Mission accomplished.

  83. Tom says:

    FYI, speakers info:

    TAM2012 –
    15 Women
    15 Men

    NECSS 2012 –
    7 Women
    21 Men

    CSICon 2011 (2012 not posted yet)
    12 Women
    39 Men

    Skepticon 4
    4 Women
    12 Men

  84. Claus Larsen says:

    Greg,

    You wrote: “The skeptics movement is currently divided into two very distinct parts: 1) The part that wants women to be not only comfortable, but to lead, and this includes the majority of people in the movement, and 2) The part that wants the old timey conferences to retain their old timey charm as minor meat markets for nerds, that wants to keep its old white guy idols and icons, and that wants to move such marginal and suspicious entities as the Mens Rights Movement to the forefront, and this includes a minority of people in the movement.”

    How about a third part? The part that wants women to be comfortable in the movement, on the same level as men – period. That’s where you’ll find me.

    You claim that the majority of people in the movement wants women not only to be comfortable, but also to lead. On what evidence do you base that “perfect certainty”?

  85. Greg Laden says:

    Claus, as I say above, women in leadership roles does not exclude men, so you can relax.

  86. Claus Larsen says:

    Greg,

    I am very relaxed.

    I asked you for evidence. Do you have it?

  87. Greg Laden says:

    You want me to provide evidenvpce that the majority of men in the skeptics movement do not feel that women should not be excluded from leadership roles?

  88. Sara @ 69:

    D.J. was present at one of these incidences of harassment at TAM last year, as documented by Ashley Miller. I’m pretty sure he was president then. If he claims there were no reports of harassment, that is then because he didn’t do his job of reporting an incident that he, as staff at TAM, was aware of.

  89. Greg Laden says:

    NB: A couple of links and a clarification of my “certainty” about sexism in the skeptics community added to the OP.

  90. Claus Larsen says:

    Greg,

    No, I asked you for evidence of your claim that the majority of people in the movement wants women not only to be comfortable, but also to lead.

    I see you have now retracted your claim. You did not have the evidence, then.

    Thanks.

  91. Helpful and not at all tedious and pedantic, Claus!

  92. Greg Laden says:

    No, I asked you for evidence of your claim that the majority of people in the movement wants women not only to be comfortable, but also to lead.

    I see you have now retracted your claim. You did not have the evidence, then.

    I didn’t exactly retract it. I still think it is true that most people in the skeptics movement do in fact want women to be in leadership roles. But, you correctly pointed out that I don’t have solid evidence for this so I can’t call it anything like “certain.”

    On a thread about how a prominent male leader in the skeptics movement does not get “it” at all in a conversation mainly with and about an extended and intensive conversation by and about female leaders in the skeptics movement, it probably is important to not get too ahead ourselves and assume that most men in the movement are feminists, or at least, not sexist. I appreciate the course correction.

  93. Deen says:

    @Claus Larsen: did you seriously think he meant that women should lead instead of men, instead of women leading in addition to men?

  94. Sara Mayhew @ 67

    As DJ notes “We have gotten emails from women on our lists vowing never to attend the TAM because JREF purportedly condones child sex trafficking, or condones violence or threats of violence against women, and the like.”

    Ridiculous. How can it be that a group promoting rational thinking takes rational discussions and blows them up to their most extreme reaction? A legitimate concern about how to deal with harassment at conferences turns into “TAM condones sex trafficking” and DJ expressing concern that these falsities are having a negative impact turns into “DJ doesn’t want TAM to be welcoming to women, he should resign!”

    Seriously?

    I suspect those emails are fake, sent by people who want exactly this situation – reasonable claims tainted by association with crazy ones. There are sock puppets who do this all the time on blogs, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing with emails?

  95. Cory Albrecht (@Bytor) says:

    I don’t think Sara is saying there is no problem with sexism. I think she’s saying there’s a problem with how people are interpreting what DJ is saying. Sara specifically mentioned D.J. saying

    “We have gotten emails from women on our lists vowing never to attend the TAM because JREF purportedly condones child sex trafficking, or condones violence or threats of violence against women, and the like.”

    How many of you think that is actually true that the JREF does that? Anybody?

    It’s one thing to castigate the JREF for where they fall down – and they have fallen down – but it’s entirely another thing to falsely accuse the JREF of sex trafficking.

  96. Marnie says:

    @Ophelia

    There are sock puppets who do this all the time on blogs, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing with emails?

    And it doesn’t even matter if they aren’t sock puppets because apparently, if any woman ever has been unreasonable then all women’s claims can be dismissed (see, the whole woman who doesn’t like “dam/damn” jokes above) but incidents of men assaulting, harassing, excluding, insulting and threatening women are no big deal, even when we see it play out, publicly in comments or when there are multiple witnesses at an event as reported by Ashley, in the link that Greg provided above. http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/harassment-at-tam9/

    Frankly, I don’t really care if a few people jump to unreasonable conclusions on occasion. Men and women do this. When Banana Man says bananas are proof that god loves humans we don’t talk about how unreasonable guys are, we talk about how unreasonable that conclusion is and then we state why.

    People get excited about topics that are important to them. It’s this idea that women are hysterical and unreasonable and terrible buzz kills and men are men and also there is no problem here, let’s all just carry on, that really gets me.

  97. Claus Larsen says:

    Deen,

    I go with the actual claim, not what I think the claim is.

  98. Steve Packard says:

    Wow. This tempest in a tea pot seems to be getting even worse than last years elevator-gate BS.

    Let me see if I can get my statistics up to date (and please correct these if anyone has differences in their count):

    Number of rapes at TAM: 0
    Number of attempted rapes at tam: 0
    Number of murders at tam: 0
    Number of violent sexual assaults at tam: 0
    Number of violent sexual assaults attempted at tam: 0
    Number of times deadly force was required at tam to prevent a sexual assault: 0
    Number of persons left with permanent injuries due to sexual assaults at tam: 0
    Number of pregnancies as a result of rape at tam: 0
    Number of abductions from tam for sexual exploitation: 0
    Number of times a tam attendee was sold into slavery: 0

    Number of times someone needed to be expelled from an event at tam for harassing women: 1
    Number of times a man touched a woman repeatedly and without invite: a few, but apparently the same guy.
    Number of times that expelling someone from an event resulted in physical confrontation potentially with deadly weapons: 0
    Number of times an event turned into an all-out brawl or riot: 0

    Number of times a woman was made to feel uncomfortable or felt a guy was being inappropriate: A few
    Number of times someone didn’t like a joke, thought a comment crossed a line or otherwise was put off: quite a few
    Number of times that a guy came on way too strongly to a woman: Quite a few

    IS that about right?

    • Marnie says:

      @Steve Packard

      Would you be this flip about racism if no one were raped or killed and few people actually made official reports? How about homophobia? Is that fine as long as no one physically harms another person? Is something an irrelevant concern until a felony has happened? Do you genuinely believe that all bad behaviors get reported and logged in an official manner?

  99. Why does anyone think that DJ Grothe is not exactly who JREF wants in charge, and that he’s not acting in the exact way that JREF wants him to act? Isn’t it possible that JREF and DJ Grothe have decided that they WANT fewer women, and especially fewer feminists, and that they’d prefer more people like Claus Larsen?

  100. Deen says:

    @Claus Larson:

    I go with the actual claim, not what I think the claim is.

    Considering the claim leaves room for both interpretations, you are going with what you think it is.

  101. Greg Laden says:

    Steve Packard, I’m glad to see you are on board with the whole Ware on Women thing. How’s that working out for you election wise?

  102. Deen says:

    Or more accurately, you go with what you want the claim to be.

  103. Greg Laden says:

    The claim is clear, Claus missed the point and was all hot under the collar and his skeptic hat fell off and now he’s digging in.

    Claus, I forgive you. You can come out now.

  104. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says:

    I’m getting a kick out of Steve Packard. its been awhile since I’ve seen such a pristine example of clueless male privilege dipped in Dunning-Kruger.

    Thanks for the belly laughs.

    ++

    Improbable Joe – you might be onto something. Since every time Grothe posts he does more damage, at what point do we start assuming that this is in fact the goal? Drive away those troublesome women who think sexism exists, then pretend its all their fault fewer women are attending TAM completely without any evidence whatsoever. Then, you can just sit back and say, “hey, we tried to let you hysterical bitchez in, but you just didn’t want to!”.

  105. @Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle:

    Well… we have some facts on hand:

    1) Major speakers (named and unnamed) have been accused of being abusive and sexist publicly and behind the scenes.

    2) Prominent feminists in the community are pushing hard for real accountability and consequences for people who are abusive and sexist.

    3) Major speakers don’t want to deal with accountability or consequences, and the loss of those speakers might cost JREF attendance numbers at TAM.

    4) Men, especially older men, are likely to be the most comfortable with sexism and abuse (whether they are perpetrating it directly or not), and most uncomfortable with too many feminists questioning there privilege.

    5) Men make more money that women, and older men are most likely to have the kind of wealth that allows them to write big checks to organizations like JREF.

    And… I’m afraid that a certain type of person would consider the fact that the woman who will actively fight for her rights before an assault is the type of person who will sue JREF if they allow it to happen or try to cover it up.

    So, maybe easier and certainly more likely profitable to alienate all the feminists and keep those checks coming in and keep selling those tickets.

  106. Mark says:

    In all honesty I think the fixing of the main skeptical forums would do more to attract women (and more men) to these skeptical events. Harassment is an issue unfortunately and they should put in place procedures and educate. You can never prevent a few dick heads showing up in a group of 1,000. You can minimize the chances and make it into a big deal.

    The forums though. Christ what a horrible experience to spend time on the JREF forum or the SGU forum. Nasty, sexist, mean, close minded. That I bet keeps more people out than any “rumours”.

  107. KarenX says:

    Well… some woman on one of the tours found that offensive. What she SHOULD have done was said “pardon me, but I don’t appreciate hearing that word used like that.”

    But that’s not what she did. She said nothing. Then she went home and called her senator and congressman and wrote a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation and Nevada Tourist Department etc etc. Made a HUGE stink and the tour guide got in trouble, they had to have meetings about it. They had to have a formal policy telling tour guides never to use “DAM” as a pun for “DAMN” etc etc etc.

    Was that necessary? No, of course not. She should have just said it to the tour guide.

    But I think most women have more sense than to report everything that offends them.

    The moral of this story is not Women Should Speak Up Immediately and Chance the Consequences and It Will Totally Always Work Out in Her Favor and Protect All Women Henceforth.

    So let’s say the woman spoke up immediately and no one laughed at her or spent the entire rest of the tour grumbling obviously behind her back or to her face. Let’s say the tour guide placated her for the rest of the tour and kept doing it after she’s gone? What was the point of speaking up? She did the reasonable thing by addressing her complaint with people who had actual power over the situation. She voiced her displeasure and went on her merry way.

    You think someone was being unreasonable? Then blame the government officials who got involved over a pun, or blame the park managers who create policy. It’s their rule they created and enforced. Was that necessary? If they thought it was worth taking seriously and made a rule you think is stupid, take it up with them. Voice your complaint and write to the senators and park managers who capitulated to unreasonable rabble-rousing.

    But you might want to find out first if they were even being unreasonably, and if lots and lots of people were complaining about something you personally thing is no big deal, and this woman’s letter was the last one in a long line that finally convinced them to take action, and maybe it was necessary based on their internal records of donation or complaint management that you’ve probably never seen.

    And then apply all this to the suggested harassment policies, and women who report things, and conference attendance, and how arbitrary personal standards of tolerance are, and why you think if someone doesn’t meet your standards that they are unreasonable.

  108. slignot says:

    Re: the dam/damn anecdote, there’s another base flaw (whether from ignorance, misunderstanding or privilege blindness I don’t know) that troubles me.

    In the dam story, the person offended by a triviality was the majority, both in terms of literal percentage and power. She was a religious person, and based on the entitled attitude displayed, almost certainly a Christian. She is not oppressed or silenced in the United States in any way whatsoever.

    In real women’s daily lives and experiences at cons, we are not the majority in terms of representation or power. We live in a sexist society and these conferences take place within that social context. Women who speak out about sexism are punished most of the time. The only question is the degree.

    That is not a controversial statement, nor is it one where it is reasonable to ask for evidence.

    This power difference makes this comparison badly flubbed and best, and uselessly dishonest at worst. Women are marginalized, Christians are not.

  109. RickG says:

    Anyway, despite all of the kerfluffle, I potentially agree with you that DJG should resign. The potentially has very little to do with sexism, harassment, and/or the management or non management thereof.

    The potential has to do with a problem that DJG himself brought up: The portion of people who have signed up for the latest TAM and who are female is 18%, whereas it was 40% at the previous TAM.

    If this trend continues through the convention, then DJG should resign **for failing to deliver** that is, for recognizing a problem but not having the personal and managerial resources: “whatever it takes” to correct it.

    “Everything else,” as Leo McGarry once said on the West Wing, “is crap”

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  111. Jim Christensen says:

    I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning!

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  113. EveryMan says:

    Bug Girl,

    Those are some pretty lofty accusations. And until you (ahem) man up and name names, that’s all they are ever going to be. We are skeptics here, after all.

    And based on your collective past history; I’m going to go with Occam’s razor and assume this is probably nothing other a Watson-like overreaction to a non-event. Plus, keep in mind we already know Penn is a pig.

    slignot et. al.,

    Sexism is gender discrimination. The only ‘sexism’ at TAM re: women is in the form of affirmative action; e.g. allowing non-producing nobodies like Watson to share a podium with luminaries like Richard Dawkins. Given whats happened I hope you’ve all learned your lesson re: why AA is terrible idea.

  114. Marion Delgado says:

    I could not agree less. As long as people keep kissing the ass of that genuinely vile and moronic sexist pig Zuska, they have a lot of nerve disparaging DJ Grothe. So, no.

    At least since the Clinton era, people have really bought into a dreadful trade that involves the worst sort of pandering identity politics in exchange for the widow’s mite that was allowed to the poor and the middle class. It’s even a loser strategy in the most practical terms: the number of women you rope in to whatever you’re promoting by infantilizing them and flattering them endlessly won’t, typically, equal the number of men you lose by demonizing them. It’s not liberal, because it’s certainly not tolerant in the broad sense. And it’s not progressive – it’s not progressing towards anything but greater and greater inequality.

    Additionally, we still have a lot of Victorianism in the English-speaking world, which I think this is, frankly, an example of.

    Moreover, if you’re going to reform the Skeptic movement, why not tell the Brights that it’s not exactly the picture of Rationality to worship invisible, immortal, all-powerful Persons who have more rights than people and who can solve any problem with invisible hands and magic? Just a thought.

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  117. Zoltan says:

    Wow… I just read through several articles on this topic, lots of linked places, all the comments on those linked places, and so forth. About two solid hours of reading.

    I’m going to see if I can (unbiasedly) summarize.

    Some women at some previous TAMs have felt unsafe, and some have directly had negative experiences. It must be noted, “feeling unsafe” is a self-reporting situation and completely subjective, and as such there’s no hard data here.

    In some cases, the women who had negative experiences dealt with them directly, by themselves (or with the help of a friend) and did not report the incident to anyone official (and by “official” I mean connected with the JREF, the hotel, or the state). In other cases the women extracted themselves from the situation in some way, and chose not to report it (for whatever reason).

    There was an incident at last year’s TAM (TAM 9) during the opening party during which some jackass did number of bad things. He was pointed out to DJ, but – and this is an important ‘but’ – apparently DJ was only told that he was too drunk, or not actually registered, or something like that, *not* that he had been harassing women. DJ either asked the man to leave or had him escorted out, and the man left without further problem. DJ either never considered this a sexual harassment-related incident because during the chaos that is the opening night party, he may have forgotten (is this a forgiveable thing to forget? You decide), or quite possibly, he was never told that it was. Either way I think DJ deserves the benefit of the doubt when he says that, to his knowledge, there has never been a sexual-harassment incident at a TAM.

    Greg (the author of this post) states that women who do speak up are banned. This is, of course, incorrect. Greg later corrected in a comment to say that women who speak up are “virtually banned” due to the backlash that they receive for speaking up. And this was in fact corrected to actually mean that one woman, Rebecca, spoke up about an incident at another, non-TAM skeptical event, and received a lot of backlash. Though, not actually from DJ, as far as I can tell.

    Also, it must be noted, there are lots of women who, in the comments of lots of blog posts related to this topic, have said they have always felt perfectly safe attending TAM. (And as a trying-to-be diligent researcher I will report that there are fewer of these comments on the Skepchick site than on others – this is relevant as many commenters have said that the Skepchick community feeds or encourages the “women get a raw deal” view.)

    Conclusions? There are my personal conclusions.

    – as attendees at TAM, some women feel safe. Some women do not. In society at large, some women feel safe and some women do not. There are likely large overlaps between these two groups, but it’s impossible to say.

    – as with any large group, there are probably incidents of men behaving poorly at previous TAMs, on the continuum of “awkward social skills” to “bad touching and inappropriate comments.” No-one has commented about anything that could be considered an actual physical attack.

    – for a variety of reasons, there have been no official reports of any cases of sexual harassment. To be clear, no-one on either side of this argument has said that they’ve actually officially reported something to the organizers, hotel, or the police. As such, DJ is apparently being truthful when he says that to the best of his knowledge nothing has occurred (see my comments above regarding that one incident last year that DJ apparently dealt with personally).

    – there is already a sexual harassment policy in place for TAM, and security as well. In the absence of an real data, it’s difficult to conclude whether or not more needs to be done in this regard.

    – skeptics like to argue.

    Those are my comments; I toss them into the mix. Personally (I’m a white male) I’ve never noticed any problems, and have never heard/read/received any negative comments (in this regard) from any of my female friends/acquaintances, etc. that have gone to TAM. But, apparently, YMMV. One thing that will help the situation is, when a woman (or anyone, really) feels that someone has acted inappropriately towards them, that person NEEDS to report it to the TAM organizers. While Rebecca did, unfortunately, received a lot of backlash from the Elevator Incident, that would have been impossible if she hadn’t chosen to make the incident public (was this a bad choice? I’m not saying). If someone privately makes a comment to the TAM organizers that they’ve been treated inappropriately I feel damn near 100% certain that it will be dealt with as privately as possible, which means no backlash. And confirmation of the problem.

    • Greg Laden says:

      Zolan, this is a reply to you but Everyman would do well to read it as well.

      I’m going to see if I can (unbiasedly) summarize.

      doubtful

      Some women at some previous TAMs have felt unsafe, and some have directly had negative experiences. It must be noted, “feeling unsafe” is a self-reporting situation and completely subjective, and as such there’s no hard data here.

      This is not about TAM but about conferences in general, maybe not even mainly TAM, and about the broader internet community.

      Greg (the author of this post) states that women who do speak up are banned.

      Greg, the author of this post, did not say anything even close to that.

      This is, of course, incorrect. Greg later corrected in a comment to say that women who speak up are “virtually banned” due to the backlash that they receive for speaking up.

      Didn’t say that either.

      Also, it must be noted, there are lots of women who, in the comments of lots of blog posts related to this topic, have said they have always felt perfectly safe attending TAM.

      Again, it is not about TAM, but the truth is that the larger community of women and others have a valid concern about behavior at conferences. That is not even remotely in question.

      - skeptics like to argue.

      Yes, they do, and apparently many of them also like to make shit up as you’ve done and many like to maintain the too sexist status quo of the community as you have done as well!

      Personally (I’m a white male) I’ve never noticed any problems, and have never heard/read/received any negative comments (in this regard) from any of my female friends/acquaintances, etc. that have gone to TAM. But, apparently, YMMV.

      YMMV = CYP

      One thing that will help the situation is, when a woman (or anyone, really) feels that someone has acted inappropriately towards them, that person NEEDS to report it to the TAM organizers. While Rebecca did, unfortunately, received a lot of backlash from the Elevator Incident, that would have been impossible if she hadn’t chosen to make the incident public (was this a bad choice? I’m not saying).

      Right… you’re just implying that maybe life would be better for everyone if the chick had just shut up. Your interest in having people shut up about these things could explain why none of the people in your life mention these things to you. Think about it. In an unbiased way, of course.

      If someone privately makes a comment to the TAM organizers that they’ve been treated inappropriately I feel damn near 100% certain that it will be dealt with as privately as possible, which means no backlash.

      Very likely. Off topic, but important.

  118. EveryMan says:

    @120; this is your “evidence”? Out of 14 meetings, one guy gets drunk, acts like a jackass and subsequently gets thrown out?

    How is this anyone’s fault other than the perpetrator? What more should/can be done? Maybe you should have future meetings in a Mormon Temple (no booze) and make the ladies wear a burqa.

    I attended one of the early TAM meetings and while it was not my cup of tea (as I don’t particularly enjoy nerd culture) there were no issues like this that I witnessed. Even after-hours at the hotel bar. I’ve since asked some of my (normal, successful, attractive, non-gender-femmie) female friends that still attend these events how they felt about them. The reaction has been if anything that the men are better-behaved than usual. Abbie Smith (ERV) has even testified to this effect.

    Being a Security guy, I do understand that sexual harassment and assault are real problems. I also understand (as do others) that there are certain types of radical feminists that will (ab)use fear of the same in order to push their particular ideology/agenda. This is also a problem and from everything I’ve observed a much bigger issue here.

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  120. EveryMan says:

    I’ve been doing the critical-thinking thing for nigh on 25 years now, so lemme give ya’ll a taste how this works.

    For one to make the claim that there is a “problem” with sexism/sexual harassment at these conferences, one must prove that:

    1. Instances exceed that of the general population.
    2. The is a culture of tolerance/acceptance of these events by the organizers.

    I think it’s pretty clear that this isn’t going to happen. Of the one documented example; the guy was evicted so that’s that. And it’s patently unfair to hold the organizers of an event accountable for the behavior of a single individual.

    The ‘sexism’ charge is also provably false as incompetent, unprofessional women are allowed to present as equals to other competent professionals. Both male and female. Again, there is gender bias in *favor* of women going on.

    Re: the backlash against Rebecca Watson. You should take note that a large amount of that was from ‘net trolls reacting directly to her YouTube video. Narcissistic attention-whoring is blood in the water to these types. These are not people associated with anything more sophisticated than 4chan.

    Beyond that, funnily enough, the only rumor I’ve heard re: sexual misadventure by headliner was that Rebecca herself hooked up with one. So there is certainly some pot, kettle, black action going on here…

  121. Marnie says:

    For one to make the claim that there is a “problem” with sexism/sexual harassment at these conferences, one must prove that:

    1. Instances exceed that of the general population.

    Your argument is that whatever is true for the general population is fine. If the general public vaccinates at the rate of, say, 80% (made up number) then any group with an 80% or higher rate of vaccination is fine. I don’t see how one follows the other. Why should we expect the same rates of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, or any other intolerance in our group just because the general public accepts it at a particular rate?

    2. The is a culture of tolerance/acceptance of these events by the organizers.

    This does not follow from the original question: “is there a problem with sexism/sexual harassment”. School may not want bullies and they may not tollerate bullies but there may still be a bullying problem at schools. Having a problem and wanting a problem are not the same thing.

    Then you say:

    Of the one documented example; the guy was evicted so that’s that. And it’s patently unfair to hold the organizers of an event accountable for the behavior of a single individual.

    But up above you state:

    Plus, keep in mind we already know [name redacted] is a pig.

    Which means that you already offered up the name of another individual who is not only believed (at least by you, I honestly don’t know) to be sexually harassing people but who you have accepted will continue to do so and you don’t see a problem with it.

    Beyond that, funnily enough, the only rumor I’ve heard re: sexual misadventure by headliner was that Rebecca herself hooked up with one. So there is certainly some pot, kettle, black action going on here…

    So any rumors about men behaving badly, you ignore, but if there’s a rumor that rebecca hooked up with someone, ever, her claims can be discredited? It doesn’t matter that she’s welcome, as a grown adult, to choose to hook up with someone and still say that she finds someone else’s advances creepy? The implication of your statement is that she must either be chaste or she should accept all advances.

  122. delphi_ote says:

    Greg,

    First if all, a big THANK YOU for shining the spotlight on this issue on your blog.

    Second, I just want to add my perspective. Years ago, I was active in the skeptics community and the JREF. I attended a few TAMs. I stopped going. Why?

    I am a man, but a significant number of my skeptical friends happen to be women. Eventually, I found that having a normal, extended conversation with a woman at TAM is almost impossible without some awkward weirdo barging in and making everyone uncomfortable. I witnessed many instances of brazen harassment of people I respect.

    That all left me feeling uneasy, but the following event is what put me over the edge. At the last TAM I attended, rather than hanging out with skeptical “insiders” (I know a lot of people from the JREF forums,) I made it my mission to seek out new people and make them feel welcome. Whenever I saw someone sitting alone, made it a point to walk up and introduce myself.

    I met a woman who was new to the community. This was her first TAM, and she traveled there alone. No, she wasn’t dragged there by a significant other. This was her movement, and she was excited. I introduced her to other skeptics and worked to help her feel included.

    Later, I watched all that good will and potential go out the window when a bunch of jerks started hitting on her, despite her clearly communicating that she was married.

    I lost track of her after that. But even as a male skeptic, I’m tired of the sexism and general weirdness in the community. As a result, I don’t attend TAM anymore.

    We need leadership that recognizes that this is a serious problem.

  123. Pingback: The 21st Floor » Blog Archive

  124. kerfluffle says:

    I don’t think that’s congressman wanna be, Steve Packard but a joke using his name. The behaviour of the original at previous TAMs (semi-stalking, up-skirt photography, really inappropriate language) is well-known.

  125. EveryMan says:

    I’ll go a step farther and suggest that indeed we should strive to be better than average. As far as I or anyone else can tell, we are. One drunk British guy in a decade is pretty good from my POV. My female friends that are bartenders get sexually harassed literally every single shift.

    The problem folks like you and BugGirl have is that you are setting unreasonable goals. No one (male or female) is ever “safe” in any reasonable sense and the idea that we should be all things to all people is laughable. We can’t guarantee every one will be comfortable in all situations. And I can think of a cure for hysterical rape paranoia that doesn’t involve large doses of psychiatric drugs. Sorry.

    Re: Penn. I’ve said nothing about sexual harassment. He uses words like “fag”, “cunt” and “retard” freely, which some (not me) find offensive. And of course you may choose to be offended, but if that’s the case I’ll suggest the secular movements is not for you.

    On the topics of rumors and innuendo, I hope you understand that the plural of anecdotes is not data. I find it *highly* suspicious that all the claims of harassment are coming from self-identified gender feminists with an agenda. Are we supposed to believe the creeps are somehow passing up normal women?

  126. Greg, you have a very strange definition of “war” it would seem. I have no problem with women nor would I want to start a war with an entire gender.

    I suppose pointing out that a single drunk guy making some inappropriate moves does not mean tam is a bastion of woman-hating rapists is somehow a declaration of war?

    The relative few incidents that have happened, unacceptable though they may be, should not be used to slander the entire group.

    [quote]
    The moral of this story is not Women Should Speak Up Immediately and Chance the Consequences and It Will Totally Always Work Out in Her Favor and Protect All Women Henceforth.
    [/quote]

    NOPE. Not even close.

    The moral of the story is that the response should be based on the MAGNITUDE of the incident and not all incidents are of the same MAGNITUDE.

    An incident is escalated and made into a bigger deal than it is when it is dealt with in manner that is not appropriate to the magnitude of the situation.

    A woman (or a man for that matter) should use their own judgement, and in most circumstances they will be correct if they have some common sense.

    Lets take some possible incidents as examples:

    Incident number 1:
    A man is sitting at a bad with a woman and he keeps leaning toward her, getting into her personal space a bit. She’s not 100% sure if he’s coming onto her or if he’s just a bit tipsy or not paying attention, but it makes her uncomfortable

    Incident number 2:
    A man grabs a woman and shoves her into a service corrode where he holds her against the wall, covering her mouth and nose with a hand while he aggressively assaults her sexually.

    One of these incidents is of a GREATER MAGNITUDE than the other.

    In one of these incidents, it would be appropriate for the woman to attempt to defend herself by any means, possibly clawing at the man’s eyes or kicking him in the groin and then running away and immediately going to the police or security.

    The one in which that would be the appropriate response is number 2.

    Whether or not something is wrong is not the issue. The issue is how severe is the wrong. Is it a wrong that is worthy of a verbal reprimand or one that is worthy of judicial action.

    Making a snide comment that makes someone uncomfortable is wrong. Rape is wrong too. But they are not EQUALLY wrong. One is worse than the other.

    You should tell someone to stop (but not go to the authorities) if they do not touch you but say something you find ever so slightly off-color. Now if they continue to do so, then it might well be worth your while to go to the authorities, but this won’t always be the case.

    Now I’ll throw you a curve ball here. Suppose a woman does the same to another woman or even a woman to a man! Yep, it has happened to me. Not at tam, but at a party, a woman had way too much to drink and started to sit on my lap. I did not want her on my lap. I told her as much. That pretty much solved it right there.

  127. kerfluffle:

    I don’t know who you have been talking to. I did no such thing at any TAM. I don’t know what “semi-stalking” is. I suggest that might mean… not stalking? Hmm.. odd one.

    I suppose “really inappropriate language” is a judgement call, but I suggest you might not have heard some of the much worse things said at that conference (and elsewhere)

    The only thing there that I actually remember being accused of is the upskirt photography, which I certainly did not do.

    This goes back to TAM-7. Since tam has a lot of well known people with whom I want to get my picture, I purchased and brought a clever device called the x-shot. The device can be seen here. It’s a telescopic rod that connects to the tripod mount on a camera. It enables a person to be in the photo without a third party to take it (using the auto-timer)

    http://xshot.com/

    Pretty clever camera accessory for getting your picture with Dawkins, Dr. Tyson or someone else, isn’t it?

    As soon as I took it out someone commented “Oh that’s for taking pictures up girls skirts”

    No it’s not. Not sure how that became someone’s running gag, but it did. Ok, I admit it was a funny enough thing to say given the look of the thing, but that’s all it was.

    I never took an upskirt photo. I never tried to. I never intended to. Never would actually want to. Why would I?

    Now would you care to continue to claim that I was taking photos up a woman’s skirt? If so, I have a lawyer who would be happy to discuss the issue with you.

  128. Marnie says:

    One drunk British guy in a decade is pretty good from my POV.

    So you are saying that this is the only case of inappropriate behavior that has happened at TAM in 10 years. Just because something isn’t reported or isn’t made public, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

    The problem folks like you and BugGirl have is that you are setting unreasonable goals. No one (male or female) is ever “safe” in any reasonable sense and the idea that we should be all things to all people is laughable.

    I certainly didn’t say that and I don’t believe BugGirl did either though I’m happy to let her speak for herself. I support Greg’s original point. He said that DJ had requested that people not discuss the issue because it could hurt the event, which I think is a lousy way of dealing with an issue. If there’s a problem, whether perceived or real, talking about it, addressing it and determining the root of the problem, is more productive than covering one’s hears. Greg said that the leadership of TAM can do more to address and prevent harassment than they are now and I agree. It may be better at TAM than it is for a bartender, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it could be.

    We can’t guarantee every one will be comfortable in all situations. And I can think of a cure for hysterical rape paranoia that doesn’t involve large doses of psychiatric drugs. Sorry.

    Women, they’re so hysterical, amiright? For someone who fancies himself quite the critical thinker, you seem more reliant on silly strawmen and ad hominem attacks than actual discussion. Another case in point:

    I find it *highly* suspicious that all the claims of harassment are coming from self-identified gender feminists with an agenda. Are we supposed to believe the creeps are somehow passing up normal women?

    It seems to me that you consider women who report harassment “self-identified gender feminists with an agenda” and anyone who doesn’t report something a “normal woman”. One of those “no true scotsmen fallacies.” And you know what? It’s people who make those assumptions, that a woman has an agenda if she reports a problem, that make women reluctant to report those problems which makes it harder for events to track problems. It’s people who gossip about who a woman has slept with, simply because she had the audacity to say that someone did something creepy, that bully women into not talking.

  129. Greg Laden says:

    Steve, that you didn’t see it but many others have means there is a problem with what you are seeing!

    And again, TAM and DG’s management of TAM is not the issue here A soon as people started to tell him (or more broadly JREF) that they needed to start actively including women as speakers, etc. they he made sure that happened. Or so it seems. But I”m not going to clarify what this blog post is about because, well, you can just go read the thing it’s right up there near the top of the page.

    But yes, “things” happen at these conferences and conventions and it is a little embarrassing to see someone insist that they are totally unaware of this and therefore there must not be a problem. There are a lot of reasons, Steve, why you would not have seen things other people were experiencing them.

    A true skeptic woudl understand and investigate!!!!

    Jeesh.

  130. EveryMan says:

    delphi_ote,

    What you describe is not unique to TAM; rather its commonplace anywhere nerds congregate in large numbers. I really don’t think there is anything that can be done about it. You are asking the entirety of nerdom to simultaneously learn how to behave around women. Good luck with that.

    As Tim mentioned, he’s seen it @Dragon*Con, I’ve seen it at DefCon, ComiCon and pretty much every other “NerdCon” event I’ve ever attended. And I’ve seen ten times worse behavior by bros and douchebags at various bars, clubs and other non-nerd venues I’ve visited.

    I’m not saying any of it is “right”, but at least some of it is to be expected.

    And for the record; someone needs to point out that the fugly gender femmie with her hairy arms, bad teeth and rape whistle is simply the yin to the creepy nerd yang. We would be much better off if the creeps and the femmies both stopped showing up. Rebecca’s boycott is definitely a step in the right direction.

  131. Drivebyposter says:

    And for the record; someone needs to point out that the fugly gender femmie with her hairy arms, bad teeth and rape whistle is simply the yin to the creepy nerd yang. We would be much better off if the creeps and the femmies both stopped showing up. Rebecca’s boycott is definitely a step in the right direction.

    You’re right.
    Stop showing up to events. Hell, stop commenting on blogs.
    No one wants to be around creeps like you.
    I’m a male and I feel skeeved out by you.

  132. EveryMan says:

    “So you are saying that this is the only case of inappropriate behavior that has happened at TAM in 10 years. Just because something isn’t reported or isn’t made public, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”

    I hope you realize that this is exactly what every fraudster, charlatan, crank and woo-woo has claimed since time immemorial. It’s also the fallback position of every single claimant that has ever failed James Randi’s million dollar challenge.

    Here in the Land of Scientific Skepticism, we take an evidence based approach to everything. And so far we only have one documented case of an incident that escalated to the point of someone having to be evicted. Which again, is not bad.

    Before anyone calls me a hypocrite given my previous post; I don’t consider clumsy approaches (aka coffee in an elevator) as sexual harassment. Fugly girls ask me out on dates too, you know. I’m just polite enough to take the compliment and deal with it like an adult.

  133. Marnie says:

    I’m just going to second drivebyposter’s sentiment, which is about all that need be said.

  134. Drivebyposter says:

    Fugly girls ask me out on dates too, you know. I’m just polite enough to take the compliment and deal with it like an adult.

    Again. You are a disgusting creeper. Please stop interacting with us, both online and in person.

  135. EveryMan says:

    Driveby, keep pussy-begging man. See how that works out for you.

  136. Drivebyposter says:

    Driveby, keep pussy-begging man. See how that works out for you.

    In what way am I “pussy begging” and who am I begging to get it from?
    I’ve never been to a conference. Never met anyone here in person. Don’t really ever intend to.

    I just want you to act like a god damn human being instead of a form of slime-mold.

  137. EveryMan, your name is grossly incorrect. By my estimation, you represent only a very tiny fraction of men, specifically those men who think that trying to be a civilized human being is “pussy begging”.

  138. EveryMan says:

    You are the one calling me a creeper, dude. What audience do you think you are trying to impress and defend?

    The point remains that the creepy nerds/femmies each have their own agendas that are orthogonal to the goals and objectives of the secular/skeptic movement.

    ElevatorGuy was trying to get laid. ElevatorGirl is trying to build a (spurious) case that there is a sexist element to the secular movement.

    The rest of us are just trying to enjoy ourselves and are getting tired of the drama.

  139. Drivebyposter says:

    You are the one calling me a creeper, dude. What audience do you think you are trying to impress and defend?

    I just calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.
    And it is interesting how you project. People can’t do the right thing because it is the right thing? There’s always an ulterior motive? I think that speaks more to how you think and act than anything else.

    The point remains that the creepy nerds/femmies each have their own agendas that are orthogonal to the goals and objectives of the secular/skeptic movement.

    Getting pussy no matter what the cost vs. making the world a less shitty place for women. Those are the “agendas” of the two groups.

    I don’t see how making people’s lives less awful is orthogonal to the goals of the secular/skeptic movement. That’s why I am involved to the extent to which I am.

    ElevatorGuy was trying to get laid. ElevatorGirl is trying to build a (spurious) case that there is a sexist element to the secular movement.

    And you are making her case quite nicely, I might say.

    The rest of us are just trying to enjoy ourselves and are getting tired of the drama.

    Oh yes. I can see you really are the better person. You know…not starting shit. Saying nothing to intentionally piss people off. You are a true saint.

  140. EveryMan says:

    Am I the only one that noticed that “kerfluffle” falsely accused someone by name of taking “up-skirt” pictures at a TAM meeting?

    Besides the victim of that particular libel, that is?

    This is exactly why I don’t believe *any* femmie hysterics *at all*. Either show me documented evidence or it didn’t happen.

    So far you have one (1) event in ten years. What else?

  141. Drivebyposter says:

    This is exactly why I don’t believe *any* femmie hysterics *at all*. Either show me documented evidence or it didn’t happen.

    Because leering at someone’s tits or saying misogynistic crap leaves documents? And besides, you think the shit you are saying here isn’t misogynistic. You aren’t liable to believe anything else is either. Because you are a creeper.

    So far you have one (1) event in ten years. What else?

    People who are proud to be creepers. People like you.

  142. chexuma says:

    Everyman:

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

    That’s a fundamental skeptical tenet. And, oh yeah, there is actual evidence outside of filed reports.

    Possibility 1: As reported, some men are being dicks.

    Possibility 2: Women skeptics are conspiring to subvert the skeptical movement with spurious accusations of inappropriate behavior because…erm, feminazis or something. But no men are being dicks because…erm, feminazis.

    I’ll go with the one that sounds less like a conspiracy theory.

  143. dean says:

    Everyman, you have been making the case with every one of your posts, but 136 is the most damning. I cannot imagine a bigger asshole on this planet than you.Every

  144. Geek goddess says:

    Re the earlier comment, I was not defending “boys will be boys” at all, and if it ace across that way, I apologize. Some people are jets, and some are completely uneducated and clueless, and need to be instructed on how to treat other people. I blame their parents – my sons were taught how to be respectful.

    Second -Steven Packard. Weren’t YOU The one with the mirror, or at least claimed that you were up-skirting? You had a camera with a rod on it so you could take pics of yourself with the speakers? You were the one calling after a certain Canadian girl, comparing her to (iirc) a character from a sci if show, out loud, with her fleeing away. She told me about this. And a year or so ago, following around another woman at the bar, and when she’d walk away to talk to her friends, including her boyfriend, you’d follow her again? This happened at least three times that I witnessed. Put your hand on her shoulder for such a long time that *I* pulled it off because she kept looking at your hand, and you didn’t get that more tan a second was inappropriate? And one of the guys finally told you to go find someone else to talk to?

    And you have the audacity to insinuate that women are exaggerating being bothered?

  145. EveryMan says:

    chexuma,

    You are addressing someone that read all of Carl Sagan’s books when he was ten. I get this stuff on very fundamental and visceral level.

    I accept completely that some men are dicks. I’ve admitted as much in this thread, in fact.

    This, however, is not a problem with the conventions, their organizers or the various movements in general. In fact, its simply a byproduct of a few billion years of evolutionary pressure. I’ll recommend Dawkin’s excellent “The Selfish Gene” for a more technical description.

    I also agree that men in general and nerds in particular should be less pushy around women. But this is a “macro” observation and absolutely not exclusive to any particular group.

    I also agree with the various women posting in this thread and elsewhere that those with a gender-femmie agenda should take their business elsewhere. And women in general should be more tolerant of men expressing interest in a polite manner while respecting their boundaries. Even if they happen to not be interested in them.

    A creep is just a someone that is paying attention to you that you are not interested in. This happens to men as well (all the time in fact) and we would be better off as a society if we were more tolerant and accepting of the emotions of others.

    Regarding myself personally, I learned in high school to ignore girls in general and pay attention to the ones that notice you in particular. This simple algorithm has served me well for years. Kind of hard to “creep” when you don’t pay attention to girls at all.

    On the topic of conspiracies, this is the only one of I’ve noticed here:

    “Women who are trying to establish themselves or attend events are experiencing harassment from some of the headliners. They know that naming names will get them banned. They fear that bringing up the issue will mean that they, not the harasser, will not be invited back and they worry that they’ll receive the same threats of rape and other violence that Rebecca experienced when she had the gall to say that someone made her uncomfortable.”

    This is pure tinfoil-hat speak. Rebecca was dumb enough to allow anonymous comments on her stupid videos so the trolls had a feeding frenzy at her expense.

    I’m not saying what they did is excusable, rather that simply disabling anonymous comments would have kept the 4channers at bay. But I suspect at some level she is enjoying the attention; regardless of intent.

    And honestly, you are missing…

    Reality 3: Rebecca doesn’t have a job and therefore has nothing better to talk about than desperate nerds creeping on her.

  146. EveryMan says:

    Drivebyposter,

    I love beautiful, successful and accomplished women.

    I despise ugly, lazy and unproductive ones. Especially when their “career” consists of complaining about the guys that pay their speaking fees for asking them for coffee dates.

    Hope I cleared that up for you.

  147. EveryMan says:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/skepchick/3693226905/

    Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

  148. Zoltan says:

    Greg, let me reply to your response:

    >> I’m going to see if I can (unbiasedly) summarize.
    >
    > doubtful

    Ad Hominem attack. Unless, of course, you’re saying that no-one can be unbiased, which includes you.

    >> Some women at some previous TAMs have felt unsafe, and
    >>…
    >
    > Didn’t say that either.

    You’re right – Marnie said all that in response to your original post. I apologize for my error. I read through a number of posts and a great many comments when I posting my original comment.

    >> Also, it must be noted, there are lots of women who, in
    >> the comments of lots of blog posts related to this topic,
    >> have said they have always felt perfectly safe attending TAM.
    >
    > Again, it is not about TAM, but the truth is that the larger
    > community of women and others have a valid concern about
    > behavior at conferences. That is not even remotely in
    > question.

    Even though you tacked on an addendum to the origial post saying it’s not about TAM, I think it’s pretty clearly about TAM. TAM is the primary JREF sponsored event, the keynote event, and you mention TAM and DJ in the title of your post, your fourth paragraph mentioned TAM about eight times, and you don’t mention any other conference/gathering in the original post. I’m not sure how you can say it’s not about TAM.

    >>- skeptics like to argue.
    >
    > Yes, they do, and apparently many of them also like to make
    > shit up as you’ve done and many like to maintain the too
    > sexist status quo of the community as you have done as well!

    I think “make shit up” is strong – I accidentally attributed a comment in your blog to you. It’s not like I invented stuff out of thin air. And I’ve noted my mistake.

    And, how, by making my comments, have I maintained the sexist status quo of the community? By simply being a male (as you are)?

    > YMMV = CYP

    Five minutes of searching and I can’t find a relevant definition for this acronym, so I can’t respond to this.

    >> One thing that will help the situation is, when a woman
    >> (or anyone, really) feels that someone has acted
    >> inappropriately towards them, that person NEEDS to report
    >> it to the TAM organizers. While Rebecca did, unfortunately,
    >> received a lot of backlash from the Elevator Incident, that
    >> would have been impossible if she hadn’t chosen to make the
    >> incident public (was this a bad choice? I’m not saying).
    >
    > Right… you’re just implying that maybe life would be better
    > for everyone if the chick had just shut up. Your interest in
    > having people shut up about these things could explain why
    > none of the people in your life mention these things to you.
    > Think about it. In an unbiased way, of course.

    Wow. Uh, no. But nice conclusion-jumping, and also reinforcing your original ad hominem attack to paint me like a big, chauvanist bastard. Actually, a number of my female friends have turned to me for support in a number of situations where they had been treated unkindly (for various values of “unkindly”) by men in their lives. But none of those times ever happened to any of them at a skeptical event. So, to be clear, you are quite incorrect in this assessment of me. But please feel free to describe my personality in other ways, rather than just looking at what I’m saying.

    And continuing your doing that, rather than asking me what I meant, you just assume. It’s like you can read my mind. Actually, it’s quite unlike that. If I had meant to imply that women should just shut up, why would I, just a bit further down, recommend and stress that that women report these incidents as they happen?

    What I meant was, Rebecca is a blogger (amongst other things) – she chose to make the incident public, in the Skepchick blog. She did that knowing full well that people would comment on it, and that some of those comments would be negative ones, possibly even extremely negative from various asshats. Is it right that those asshats should make those comments? No. Should it attention be brought to the fact that there are bastards out there who make inappropriate comments to blog posts? Yes. Should we strive to fight them? Yes. Should we assume it won’t happen? How can we when we know it will? That’s simply naive. When you make a blog post on an open blog, you make a choice that anyone can comment. Good and bad. That’s the deal. Right or wrong, that’s the deal. And Rebecca is experienced enough to know that it’s the deal.

    [And if you're going to say: the fact that those asshats exist shows the sort of negative atmosphere that exists at conventions... that doesn't necessarily follow. Lots of people make comments on the internet that they'd never make in real like, because they can hide behind the anonyminity. And more importantly, there's no reason to assume that the asshats making the negative comments ever attend any of the events.]

    >> If someone privately makes a comment to the TAM
    >> organizers that they’ve been treated inappropriately I feel
    >> damn near 100% certain that it will be dealt with as
    >> privately as possible, which means no backlash.
    >
    > Very likely. Off topic, but important.

    Actually, quite relevant to the topic. Which is, do the TAM orgnaizers care about this sort of thing? And the answer is: yes. If they didn’t, then if/when women made reports, they would’t deal with those reports appropriately. But you and I agree that they almost certainly would. Hence, the organizers of TAM (which is to say, the JREF) do care about harassment (sexual and otherwise) at the TAM events.

    Also part of the topic: is the best way to deal with this situation by having a free-for-all via blog posts? Hard to say. Given what’s going on here, it doesn’t seem like it is. Other than people arguing via various blog posts and follow-up comments, I’m not sure what’s been accomplished.

    And since I’m commenting again, a thought unmentioned in my original comment and this follow-up… do we actually know why fewer women are attending TAM this year, or is everyone speculating? Has anyone taken the attendance data and asked the women who’ve attended in the past why they’re not attending this year? This would seem to be a somewhat important question…

  149. Greg Laden says:

    Zoltan, tl;dr AAYC

  150. Drivebyposter says:

    I love beautiful, successful and accomplished women.

    So you’re explicitly admitting that you think a woman’s value hinges upon their looks?

    You don’t see anything wrong with that?

    And all three of your characteristics you list are insanely subjective.

  151. Utakata says:

    …I was going to say, it seems like everything Zoltan objected too in his 3 million worded diss’ertation was an “ad hominem attack”. I mean if he/she is that sensitive, grow some?

    In the meantime, many of us still remain unconvinced DJ Grothe was remotely correct in his claims and assertions on this subject. Likely due to much turgid postulating with little in the way of concrete evidence from Mr. Grothe’s apparent large fandom base. /shrug

  152. EveryMan says:

    Looks absolutely contribute to a woman’s worth. As they do to a man.

    Same goes with wealth. This is not a novel or interesting observation.

    And for the record, all human experience is subjective. Best get used to it.

  153. Wow. The “bitch was asking for it” in here is awfully thick.

  154. Moma says:

    I don’t understand how someone can make the claim that sexism is not a problem in the secular/skeptic movement… do they not read the comments made on blog posts like this one? Especially the ones similar to what EveryMan has written here. EveryMan: you must know that what you have written is misogynistic. If you do not, then perhaps what is going on here is that men like EveryMan do not understand what sexism looks like and would therefore not recognize it if they saw it. In that case it would be easy to dismiss.

    EM, go back and read what you have written, and really try to see how sexist and hate-filled it sounds. Try to put yourself outside your own experiences and view your words as an outsider. You don’t sound like a very nice person at all; you sound downright hostile. I would not want to attend a gathering of skeptics if I knew someone who believed the things that you have written was going to be there.

    One other thing: you mentioned somewhere above that the “nerd element” doesn’t appeal to you. If this is true, why do you attend so many “nerd” conventions? I’m just curious.

  155. Marnie says:

    EveryMan isn’t a misogynist who clearly benefits from his privilege and doesn’t want to risk losing a scrap of it, it’s just that he’s so smart and educated (he told us,so it must be true!), he knows things viscerally and what he knows is that some men act creepy but it happens all the time and it’s just nature and women are either worthy of it and should appreciate the compliment or are fat uggos and should be glad if the person is even polite to them. As we have learned, any amount of harassing a woman receives is exactly equivalent to how bad it is when an unattractive woman flirts with EveryMan. It’s really bad, but he doesn’t plan to file any formal complaints.

    I mean, we all know it’s wrong to dislike someone because they are born with a different skin color, but it’s totally cool to hate someone because they were born looking a way, or with a figure we don’t find attractive, but only if they are women. Men have earned their status and thus can be taken seriously regardless of looks unless they are too effeminate, which would be totally the WORST.

    You know, I really need to rethink this feminism thing. EveryMan has made such a strong case for his views. I should definitely start worrying if I’m an uggo or too fat to be taken seriously. I really need to know what my place is in society. Please, no men agree with me, that might be pussy chasing and then you are almost as bad as a chick!

  156. chexuma says:

    EveryMan:

    You claim to know Rebecca’s motivation for speaking out without any evidence to support your position besides idle supposition.

    And based on this supposed motivation, you are either:

    a) Making judgements about the questions she raises based on this supposed motivation.
    b) Rambling on about something that is wholly irrelevant to the topics at hand.

    And that accusers would face repercussions is by no means unusual. It’s why there are “whistleblower” protections in law, and its part of the reason why rape victims don’t always speak out.

    But your claims that “looks” and “wealth” contribute to some nebulous, undefined metric of “worth” tells me that you really aren’t attacking this as a rational thinker. A person’s “worth” is a utterly absent of any meaning whatsoever.

    And you actually despise ugly women unless their productivity and success are sufficient to make up for their lack of attractiveness?

    You can’t be serious.

  157. Pingback: Men's Guide to Not Being Dicks | Tangled Up in Blue Guy

  158. EveryMan says:

    Moma,

    You do not even know what “sexism” is. Courtesy of WikiPedia:

    “Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is defined as prejudice or discrimination based on sex; or conditions or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.”

    Here are some examples:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexism#Examples

    …none of which are an issue in our community. As I’ve mentioned, many times, we practice affirmative action by giving speaking positions to incompetent women that haven’t earned it.

    There is, probably, some mild sexual harassment at various conventions. Lord knows I’ve been sexually harassed (and assaulted) by women at social events on numerous occasions. I just don’t get hysterical about it.

    But this is a problem “in general” (meaning it happens everywhere) and needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The JREF has a pretty standard policy in place, which they have enforced, so that’s that. I’m not sure what else you think needs to be done.

    And as far as “gender feminists” are considered, damned straight I’m a misogynist. They are the Female Taliban and have no place in a secular movement.

    Re: NerdCons. I’ve been to one TAM and one ComicCon and have not returned for the reasons I’ve mentioned. I got to DefCon yearly because I have to for my job, but I don’t particularly enjoy it. Computer nerd body odor in the Vegas summer can be hideous.

  159. EveryMan says:

    So last night I found the “smoking gun” for this mess…

    Marnie earlier made a particularly severe accusation earlier in the thread:

    “You seem to be making this about you. YOU never saw anyone being creepy and YOU don’t know who is being talked about therefore you cannot accept there is a problem. Take some time to read what’s being said. Women who are trying to establish themselves or attend events are experiencing harassment from some of the headliners. They know that naming names will get them banned. They fear that bringing up the issue will mean that they, not the harasser, will not be invited back and they worry that they’ll receive the same threats of rape and other violence that Rebecca experienced when she had the gall to say that someone made her uncomfortable. ”

    … which BugGirl reposted. As mentioned, I would need to see some details of what is really going on. Which DJ has recently provided….

    “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.”

    Welp, there’s your problem. Rebecca Watson and others tried to “fuck their way to the top” and it didn’t work out for them how they planned. So out comes the claims of sexism and sexual harassment. That’s all that is going on here.

    It’s also why they don’t want to tell anyone the details or names names, as their own bad behavior would get outed in the process.

    Ladies, there is noting more ‘misogynistic’ than this sort of behavior. Please knock it off. If you can’t deal with rejection or relationships like an adult then please stop fucking our headliners.

    Thank you.

  160. Drivebyposter says:

    Looks absolutely contribute to a woman’s worth. As they do to a man.

    Same goes with wealth. This is not a novel or interesting observation.

    And for the record, all human experience is subjective. Best get used to it

    This is a movement about thinking.

    “That cunt can’t contribute anything of value because I think she’s ugly”

    What. the. Fuck.

    Thanks for making it clear that you are a flaming dumbass.
    I’d like to point out that people like you are why people like Watson and Greta Christina are complaining, FYI.

  161. Marnie says:

    Lord knows I’ve been sexually harassed (and assaulted) by women at social events on numerous occasions.

    Oh, sorry, by your standard, first hand accounts cannot be believed unless an official claim has been filed with the event so I’m afraid that whatever you think happened is just a part of your own misogynist agenda. Good thing you didn’t mention anything about it publicly or else we’d need to start speculating on your love life and choice of partners.

  162. EveryMan says:

    Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina can’t contribute anything of value because they are unemployed, incompetent layabouts. That they are also unattractive is not relevant to the discussion.

    Neither of them have real jobs. Nor could they get them, as they have nothing to offer to any employer. They have also not achieved anything meaningful in the way of education, either.

    That they have managed to make a “career” of complaining about socially incompetent male nerds awkwardly propositioning them is as damming a condemnation of this movement as anything. We should be collectively ashamed of ourselves for giving these creatures a podium.

    All my female friends are graduate students, scientists, professionals, etc. Some of them are even smoking hot. Women can be smart *and* sexy, as Abbie Smith and Danica McKellar have proven.

    There are all kinds of interesting women in the world and only allowing frauds like Watson and Christina to speak at conferences is doing all of us a huge disservice. The only “misogyny” here is the perception is that these pigs are the best we can do. Which is of course laughable.

  163. EveryMan says:

    Marnie, I don’t care if you or anyone else believes me because I don’t consider ladies groping my package to be a huge social problem. Even if I don’t happen to find them attractive.

    It is at *most* embarrassing. That’s it. Unlike you, I’m not a professional victim.

    I also do not think being awkwardly propositioned by socially incompetent male nerds is a huge social problem (or sexist or sexual harassment if it only happens once). I agree that they would be more successful if they were less “pushy”, but this is largely self-correcting behavior.

    I also agree if they persist and do not take ‘no’ for an answer, that it *is* a problem and should be dealt with. And low and behold, we have evidence of exactly one case of this in ten years of Amazing Meetings. Where it was dealt with immediately.

    So, to that end, I’m going to ask you what exactly else you think needs to be done. We already have policy and a process that is being enforced.

    • Marnie says:

      It’s interesting how EveryMan wants us to believe he’s not a misogynist, yet he’s on a man’s blog, discusses comments a man is saying and is feebly attempting to discredit the actual claims, but when he talks about Rebecca, it invariably drifts back to her looks/sex life. EveryMan, why don’t you criticize the looks/qualifications/sex lives of men you disagree with?

      Do you know why? Because no matter how much you assure us that some of your best friends are women and you have SO MUCH respect for women, you do not. You enjoy the company of attractive, self sufficient women who know their place and anyone who doesn’t is beneath contempt to you.

      That is why you are a misogynist.

  164. But, of course, D.J.’s words don’t in any way create the hostile environment we’ve been talking about be encouraging assholes like “EveryMan” here. No, no. Not at all.

    D.J., would you like to come thank this guy for his support?

    Or, I dunno, maybe repudiating him and your words that he’s adopted would be a good start.

  165. chexuma says:

    So are professional male bloggers also lazy and unemployable? Or are they self-employed entrepreneurs? How can I tell one from the other? What about a guy talking about race issues more frequently than Rebecca Watson talks about feminist issues? He’s probably lazy, right? I guess it probably depends on how attractive he is.

    And you never answered my question about worth and attractiveness. Are you just going to ignore rebuttals to your “points” and continue to throw out unsupportable accusations in a valiant imitation of the Gish Gallop?

    I could make spurious accusations about your motivation here, but I think I’ll hold off for now.

  166. EveryMan says:

    Of course male bloggers *can* be lazy and unemployable (ahem).

    There are lots of successful scientist bloggers. Tim Lambert, Abbie Smith, the RealClimate guys, etc.

    The issue here is that the Watson/Christina clique are “exclusively” bloggers; hence their obsession with petty drama. It’s all they got.

    And to be clear, they are not “equity” feminists. They are gender femmies; aka Female Taliban. Did you miss the video where Rebecca made it clear that men are to speak to her only if spoken to? Inverting the patriarchy isn’t going to solve anything.

    Also yes, I’m going to ignore your histrionics. I have better things to do with my time.

  167. Utakata says:

    @ EveryMan

    So what does ones’ employment status have to do with thier views and opinions. Are you suggesting it’s immoral for anyone to speak publically why unemployed? And if so, do you feel government should legislate these people from speaking their views at all? I am curious as to know why class is a factor in this debate.

    @ Zoltan again:

    If you want to see what an actual ad hominem attack looks like, just read EveryMan diatribe at 168.

  168. Greg Laden says:

    Everyman, thank you for your comments. It’s been fun. Really.

    However, you have violated a policy we have here. By linking back to JREF as your URL you’ve given the impression that you represent them, which you don’t. That is impersonation and possible sockpuppeting.

    The penalty is that I post your identifying information and ban you forever. You have five minutes to explain yourself before I do that starting …..

    …now

  169. MadScientist says:

    Wow … after reading DJ’s post I’m going “WTF dude?” He spends a lot of words denying there’s a problem rather than simply saying “We welcome women, we don’t put up with that crap, and if anyone is harassed they can talk to us and we’ll help them deal with it.” I prefer Randi’s message last year – something more like “If anyone doesn’t behave appropriately, we’ll throw them out and they’ll get no refunds.”

  170. EveryMan says:

    I’ve been a supporter of the JREF for 12 years. Paid.

    I did not know that there was policy of having to represent an org to link to it. My apologizes.

  171. Greg Laden says:

    Is that all you’ve got? Do you think THAT is what you really need to apologize for? What about the misogyny you’ve been spilling all over the place?

  172. EveryMan says:

    Uh, what misogyny? I love women, I hate gender feminists. So do lots of other women.

    If you have a specific comment you would like me to apologize for I’ll explain my position *and* apologize.

    Fair, no?

  173. Greg Laden says:

    “So do lots of other women.”?

    So now you’re telling us you’re a woman?

  174. EveryMan says:

    Btw, lets define “misogyny”

    Misogyny (play /m??s?d??ni/) is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. According to feminist theory, misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.[1][2] Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of various religions. In addition, many influential Western philosophers have been described as misogynistic.[1]

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny

    I don’t hate or dislike women or girls.

    I hate/dislike women like Rebecca & Greta. That they happen to be women is irrelevant. There are lots of men I dislike just as much for the same reasons. Understand yet?

  175. EveryMan says:

    No, I’m telling you lots of women are just as sick of Rebecca Watson’s bullshit as I am. She doesn’t speak for an entire gender (and neither do you).

    Want me to quote some?

    • Greg Laden says:

      EveryMan, you do in fact have a lot to apologize for, but you are sadly incapable of even imagining why or what for. JREF should be less than proud to have you as a long term supporter. Clearly, you are part of the problem and nowhere near the solution. You can stop babbling now, as you are finished here.

      So, who might EveryMan be? I was wondering so I asked “him” and got this.

      EveryMan appears to be “Cooper Nelson” who has this Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/104464396591733731003/posts

      His IP address resolves to Atlanta, and his email address, in case you can’t read it in the screenshot is: drkewp@gmail.com

  176. chexuma says:

    Wow. I’ve heard Zach Braff was a dick, but I never thought he was this bad.

  177. Moma says:

    EveryMan is a very unpleasant person. Definitely part of the problem; if I was DJ I’d be mortified to have someone like this as a supporter.

  178. MadScientist says:

    Oh, I see … EveryMan loves women who know their place.

  179. Utakata says:

    Wow, supporting JREF for 12 years and hasn’t learned a bloody thing about skepticism. That’s like getting hit in the legs with a nailed spiked baseball bat for every day for a year, and not feeling a thing. Where do these people come from? O.O

  180. Greg Laden says:

    DrKewp writes:

    Classy move, dude. While you are at you should remove this comment:

    “I don’t think that’s congressman wanna be, Steve Packard but a joke using his name. The behaviour of the original at previous TAMs (semi-stalking, up-skirt photography, really inappropriate language) is well-known.”

    …which is libel.

    Cheers! -Coop

    Ah, the threats of law suits start again. Why is this sounding familiar?

    My answer:

    You can’t libel a congressperson, and that is not my comment.

    And yes, it was a pretty classy move, I agree. Among other things, it shows that misogyny is often associated with sub normal intelligence

    This is going to get old soon, but for now it’s kinda fun.

  181. Utakata says:

    PS: Sorry Mr. Laden if my comments are of any egregious nature. I normally lurk. But the stuff that has been stated around this issue in the name of skepticism by those who disagree with you has been draw dropping stupid’fying. I feel the compulsive urge to suddenly comment. My apologies for this. I should contribute more regulary and perhaps sensibley. :(

  182. arbor says:

    From the nether lips of Tim Farley:

    Yes, we have a few Aspies and other personality-deficient folks who have on occasion made asses of themselves (and been rapidly scolded and sometimes thrown out as needed). I’ve personally intervened in a few cases like that. [excerpted from comment 6]

    As a person with Asperger’s, you can go to hell.

    Only good people get to use ‘Aspies’. You are not a good man.

    The rest of your words are beneath contempt and are unworthy of comment.

  183. arbor says:

    I gave up long ago on JREF as an organization that I wanted to have anything to do with. The organization has betrayed James Randi’s principles, has enabled some aspects of woo, and has become a self-congratulatory jerkfest at several levels.

    I continue to like and admire James Randi, but I think he has left his child in the hands of the wrong people.

    CJ Grothe appears to be yet another self-promoting politician who is using JREF as a means to an end – his own power. I have no patience for this type of creature. JREF would be far better without him.

    I have Asperger’s – I would never willingly go to a large gathering of people for any reason. I will never go to TAM. Many of my favorite people that I encountered in JREF Forums have left or been banned from the forums.

    I am a man who enthusiastically supports Rebecca Watson’s drive for real equality. I have no use for the many people who have been attacking her and her allies for their views and actions. That is a nice way of saying that I wouldn’t feed them to my cats.

    I would support a boycott of JREF and all of its activities until it gets its act together. I don’t think it every will. So it goes.

  184. Raging Bee says:

    Here in the Land of Scientific Skepticism, we take an evidence based approach to everything. And so far we only have one documented case of an incident that escalated to the point of someone having to be evicted.

    And a whole shitload of anecdotes, as well as several people stating well-known reasons why incidents of sexual harassment tend to be underreported; all of which you’re either minimizing or completely ignoring, like the faux-skeptic denialist asshole you are.

  185. Raging Bee says:

    No, I’m telling you lots of women are just as sick of Rebecca Watson’s bullshit as I am.

    “Lots” of women support Rick Santorum too. That doesn’t make Santorum right.

    She doesn’t speak for an entire gender…

    Did she ever claim she did? AFAIK, she speaks for no one but herself and maybe others she knows. You got a problem with that?

  186. Raging Bee says:

    Yeah, EveryMan, and lots of plantation owners didn’t hate black people either — they just hated blacks who got uppity — but that had nothing to do with them being black. So we can’t ever call them racist, right?

  187. nameshame says:

    In #33, Blake Smith asked: “Is this true? Was there someone who named a name and got banned?”

    But apparently no one was actually banned after naming anyone.

    So why not name someone?

  188. MissMarnie says:

    @nameshame

    But apparently no one was actually banned after naming anyone.

    How did you establish that from Blake Smith asking the question? If someone did so publicly, there seems no evidence for it and if someone did so privately, how would anyone here know?

    I think if you just look around at the vitriol lobbed at Rebecca (there’s plenty even in the comments here) you’ll notice that simply mentioning that some anonymous person did something creepy will garner you hate fueled diatribes and constant harassment. I’m sorry, but this community is not welcoming to women who speak up about harassment. It may be a few bad apples and a whole bunch of internet trolls who love to pile on but it’s clear that women who speak up publicly do so at the risk of being barraged with harassment and threats. So blithely asking people to “name names” shows a lack of regard for the type of risk you are asking someone else to take.

  189. ischemgeek says:

    Gonna jump on the “Can we please stop referring to creepers as aspies?” bandwagon here.

    A lot of my good friends are aspies. I’ve been told by colleagues who have relatives who are aspies to get myself evaluated for it (I also have ADHD and a few other conditions highly comorbid with it plus I have a family history so it wouldn’t be unexpected). I have relatives who are aspies. And none of the aspies I know would ever knowingly act in a way that would make someone else uncomfortable. Ever wonder why people on the spectrum always seem so nervous in gatherings? In part because they’re scared shitless of pissing someone off and/or hurting someone’s feelings by mistake.

    They are, in general, good people who can’t pick up on others’ feelings very well, not people who act with willful disregard for others like those who engage in harassment are. Don’t conflate the two.

  190. Raging Bee says:

    What ischemgeek said. The MRAs aren’t just trying to conflate aspies with assholes (there’s a BIG difference, and not that much overlap); they’re also trying to conflate “let’s show some respect for geeks/nerds with social-developmental disorders” with “you chicks should be easier for us men and stop expecting us to act like civilized adults when we only want to get laid” (again, big difference, not much overlap).

  191. sdhsd says:

    “Surely, we are all feminists.”

    Is this true? Do I have to turn in my atheism card and skeptic card if I am not a feminist?

    Full disclosure: I was a feminist from 1972 to about the mid 90s when my skepticism started asking some questions.

  192. Stu says:

    All you need to know, in one handy sentence:

    I don’t consider ladies groping my package to be a huge social problem.

    Ow, I just sprained my eyes from rolling them too hard.

  193. Stu says:

    I was a feminist from 1972 to about the mid 90s when my skepticism started asking some questions.

    Oh do tell, sweetheart.

    *popcorn*

  194. nameshame says:

    @MissMarnie, so are you saying that someone was banned for naming names? If so, do you have any evidence that this happened?

    That random people on the web are being mean isn’t relevant. We’re talking a claim about people in an official position banning people from certain events for certain things. It would be nice if you could try not to change the subject. Thanks.

  195. MissMarnie says:

    @nameshame

    See my comment @59 which addressed your question.

  196. nameshame says:

    @MissMarnie

    No, you did not. In fact, I addressed your #59 with the following comment:

    “That random people on the web are being mean isn’t relevant. We’re talking a claim about people in an official position banning people from certain events for certain things. It would be nice if you could try not to change the subject. Thanks.”

    Random mean people on the web do not have the authority to ban anyone from events.

  197. MissMarnie says:

    @nameshame

    I can go from my own personal non-skeptic experience with harassment. After college, I took on a freelance desktop publishing job at a small Spanish phonebook in Boston. As I was working in an office alone, one day, one of the salesmen came in and propositioned me. I smiled and said that I had a boyfriend and declined very politely but without any ambiguity, This man who was easily a foot taller than I and blocking my exit began petting my hair and started offering me money to be “more than friends” with him.

    Personally, I found this not only creepy but incredibly insulting and a bit frightening. I called the owner that night, explained what happened and that I wasn’t interested in working in the same office as that individual. He explained to me that he knew the man was a problem but he brought in so many customers that he had to keep the guy.

    I wasn’t banned from the business. The owner would have been happy for me to come back and work with this guy, but left to choose between the guy who brings in the money and the new freelancer, the owner was going to choose the money maker.

    As I said above and as other women have mentioned, if you are not an established and well known personality it is more fiscally sound for event organizers to invite back the big name harasser than it is to invite back the woman who won’t work with the big name harasser. The woman may not be banned, per se, but if she’s perceived to be someone who might cause trouble, it is pretty easy to justify not inviting her back.

    And as many other people have pointed out and as was the case in my instance, harassment generally doesn’t occur where people can see it. I’m not worried about someone being a dolt where there are hundreds of witnesses, including event staff, to assess and deal with the situation, it’s the people who will follow you to an isolated place, wait for you to be alone or follow you up to your room that are worrisome. Knowing that I’ll be accused of “hysterical rape paranoia” (quote from this thread) or of being a “gender feminist with an agenda” (also from this thread) or that I’ll be accused of over-reacting to an individual who is just too shy to approach me publicly or any of the other numerous assumptions people have jumped to about women who express discomfort with someone’s behavior, makes for a situation where reporting harassment seems less effective than just not going to events.

    But my guess is that you are going to go down the same route that everyman did and talk about how you don’t believe that any of this is a valid concern and that it’s not a problem if women aren’t reporting it. It won’t matter than mine is just one of countless examples of women reporting harassment and worse and someone sweeping the whole thing under the rug, leaving the women free to either continue working with the harasser or GTFO. That may not be an official “ban” per se, but it’s as good as one.

    How does this reflect on TAM and other skeptic events? This is the tone of life outside the community. Only when the event organizers make it clear that they will have none of it, will women build some confidence that their concerns will be taken seriously. During the course of this particular conversation, DJ made comments to the effect that maybe women were just regretting their hook ups and maybe women were making a big deal over nothing. In other words, status quo. We should not expect that our concerns will be taken any more seriously at TAM than they will be outside of TAM.

  198. nameshame says:

    @MissMarnie

    That seems to be a very long reply basically saying that you don’t have any examples of anyone being banned or any evidence that this has happened.

    Of course, you once again tried to change the subject and avoid my questions, but I think it’s pretty clear by now what the answer is.

    So why are people making claims about someone being banned if it never happened and there’s no evidence that it ever happened?

  199. Marnie says:

    @nameshame

    That seems a very short dismissive email ignoring the fact that multiple times I agreed that there is no evidence of an actual official ban of any sort. I’ve also explained what I meant when I used that word, and what women are worried the repercussions of reporting will be. There have also been countless references of not just random internet people being dismissive of women’s claims, but an event organizer dismissing the claims and slut shaming the women who made them.

    You and EveryMan and people like you can play all the semantic games you like. You can sit here and focus on a single word in a long string of posts, a word I clarified 150 comments ago and that is only a minuscule part of the larger conversation. It’s like a creationist talking about the definition of “theory” while everyone else is talking about actual evidence for evolution. It’s tiresome and it suggests you don’t have an argument you are just being argumentative.

  200. Sally Strange says:

    self-identified gender feminists

    This is not a thing that exists in the read world. Nobody self-identifies as a “gender feminist.”

    Some people who call themselves “equality feminists” or whatnot because they think it’s unfair and sexist to focus on women more than men on the path to equality for all genders. These people call other feminists “gender feminists.” As far as I know, no feminists have voluntarily claimed the label “gender feminists.”

    Just thought I’d mention.

  201. Samantha Vimes says:

    This may seem trivial but–

    –EveryMan keeps incorrectly using the term gender feminist! I don’t like gender feminists either, because those are the ones who insist that men and women are *inherently* different in terms of personality. Gender feminists don’t believe men can help acting like misogynistic pigs (and women can’t help being nurturing goddesses). Whereas I do believe Watson and Cristina believe that men can be civilized human beings, and women can be aggressive human beings. We are all human beings and different in minor biological ways and more serious differences in how we are raised.

    Don’t use terms you do not understand.

  202. Caraleisa says:

    You know, most of us know the names of specific men who are especially obnoxious at these events. At least one who is a sought-after speaker, others who are in positions of power in the movement. Isn’t it about time that they be told their behavior isn’t welcome, rather than trying to attack everyone else who is, for whatever reasons, trying to make a point (either side).

    Not every woman is strong enough to tell someone off who is being offensive. Especially when they see other women who have tried to stand up for themselves, for personal dignity, excoriated because they did speak out.

    Because I write about Freethought and try to hear what’s going on across the board, I belong to a number of women’s online discussion groups. There is very little crossover between them, yet this topic is important in all of them. Three of the groups are comprised of such different demographics that about the only thing connecting them is atheism. One group is mostly older women activists. Another is mostly younger women with a few men. The third is a group of women for a number of whom sex is a huge part of their lives, even, in some cases, their careers.

    In EACH of these groups, the same men’s names are repeated. I don’t attend conferences (for other reasons, not this). Yet I, arguably a peripheral member of the activists, know who we’re talking about. No, I have no personal experience with any of these men and it would not be appropriate for me to name anyone based on hearsay. But when I hear their names again and again, in such different groups, with -firsthand- details of exactly what they do also being the same across these groups, I am inclined to believe that it’s true that these men are predatory jerks.

    So folks, AT LEAST in private, please tell the people running all of these organizations who these people are. And demand they not only write a policy saying it’s not okay – but they find a way to enforce it, regardless of the stature of the offender. I see no need to publicly humiliate anyone unless after warnings they continue their offensive behavior. Then, well, sorry, they’ve asked for it.

    OF COURSE, the majority of attendees aren’t seeing this insider bullshit. So percentage wise, this doesn’t affect a majority. That, however, doesn’t justify sweeping it all under the rug. But just as other groups had to stand and fight for their rights, so too must we stand by our women. We are all outraged when we hear of this sort of thing in religious organizations. Well, look homeward, angels.

    I dunno, this is simple to me. People who want to get together, will still get together. No one is advocating otherwise. In fact, I’m inclined to think that those who behave so obnoxiously are often shot down. A respectful seduction technique is far more successful. So what gives?

    We can keep arguing about theory, or percentages, or other generalizations, or we can take these bulls by their literal horny balls and deal with it. (And any women predators, too…)

  203. MrOginist says:

    This whole thing sounds like the behavior Catholic or Evangelical Churches.
    I have never believed in any god and am keen to see a reduction in religiosity which has invaded the entire globe.
    I am also a conventional family man – a kind of Atheist Republican – a “Milton Friedman” (who was an agnostic/atheist) sort of chap.
    I am sad to predict that, unless there is a change of direction, the “New Atheists” will always just remain a small group of academics, angry feminists that are desperate to be offended by a man and proponents of homosexual marriage.
    I and I believe a huge percentage of people have nothing against homosexuals but I can see nothing wrong with having a word in the English language that refers a man a woman living together in what we now call marriage. I have nothing against 2 men or 2 women doing exactly the same and subject to the same laws – but please find another word for it!
    While the New Atheists follow the present path, many middle of the road people will always view the movement as a bunch of deviants and weirdos.

  204. Ed says:

    Since only 25% of women self identify as atheists the amount of women at TAM is actually quite high. If “sexism” really were the reason for why it wasnt at least equal in men and women attending, we should expect this figure to, at the very least, be LESS than this. Instead we have a much higher figure than expected considering the demographics, but attendance also appears to rise if more female speakers are on the guest list suggesting again that more women will come if female speakers are there to represent them NOT because of this perceived “sexism” theory as proposed by Watson

  205. Ed says:

    Continued from previous comment…

    If there is some portion of women who have a sexist experience/s that “put them off” going to these events evidently they are insignificant enough to blame on the attendance figures, as despite there being significantly MORE men that identify as atheists than women, a GREATER percentage of those women that do are serious about it than their male counterparts. We also cant be sure that the women who do feel they are affected by sexism at conferences like TAM arent overly sensitive feminists like Watson that can see an arguably mild inappropriate exchange with a man in an elevator as something to write home about equating and conflating it with assault or abuse or just misogyny.

    The lack of females participating in the skeptic community is sufficiently explained by the demographics, yet Watson clings to the idea that the only reason there are more men that women at these events is because they have sexist misogynistic experiences with men despite a more rational explanation to the contrary that actually has data to back it up. She claims there has been no legitimate criticism of her position and that sexism is the only reason why people criticise her, even when its from other women. As if she will claim to be speaking for all women in the community and at large, except when they disagree with her, and then they must be sexist gender traitors themselves otherwise why else would they be saying it.

  206. Greg Laden says:

    Ed, you may be right, and Rebecca may be right. The point here, though, is that the response to a conversation about potential causes is not to tell the ladies to quiet down.

    You are also missing the point, it seems, that there may be a link between a male bias in numbers and discomfort by women leading to a male bias in numbers leading to …. well, you get the point.

    Please cite where Rebecca claims that all disagreements with her are sexist. You say that she claims that. Prove it.

    Please cite where Rebecca claims that she speaks for all women in the community. You explicitly say that she claims it. Prove it.

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