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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
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Posted - 06/01/2012 :  21:41:46  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I will not attend TAM this year, because I do not feel welcomed or safe and I disagree strongly with the recent actions of the JREF president, DJ Grothe.


She goes on to elaborate in great detail about this. Read it all here.

On one level I'm extremely unsettled by all the shit stirred up by Watson regarding sexism and the skeptic community. Part of me just wants her to shut up about it and not "ruin" this for me. But another part of me is cheering for her and feels a deep obligation to commend and support her for it.

After much "soul" searching (so to speak) I'm more and more convinced that the first part of me, the part that wants her to just shut up about this and not take it all so seriously, is the part that just got used to women being treated differently than men and then just took it for granted and pretended it wasn't a problem. The thing about being at a disadvantage is that thinking about oneself as disadvantaged can make that disadvantage even worse. So there is a reason to want to just forget about sexism, to ignore it. But the thing is, it is still there. If I stop and actually think about it, I've been harassed and objectified at conferences too. I just didn't let it bother me because letting it bother me would have made me feel obligated to do or at least say something about it, and that would have made me feel vulnerable and like an outsider in a community I so desperately wanted to feel accepted by.

This sucks. It just sucks. I'm bummed out. But Watson is doing the right thing. It has to change.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1265 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  02:25:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't think she gets threats because she's a woman, I think it's because she is a very unlikeable person. She seems obsessed with the idea that everyone wants to rape her.

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  02:45:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

I will not attend TAM this year, because I do not feel welcomed or safe and I disagree strongly with the recent actions of the JREF president, DJ Grothe.


She goes on to elaborate in great detail about this. Read it all here.

On one level I'm extremely unsettled by all the shit stirred up by Watson regarding sexism and the skeptic community. Part of me just wants her to shut up about it and not "ruin" this for me. But another part of me is cheering for her and feels a deep obligation to commend and support her for it.

After much "soul" searching (so to speak) I'm more and more convinced that the first part of me, the part that wants her to just shut up about this and not take it all so seriously, is the part that just got used to women being treated differently than men and then just took it for granted and pretended it wasn't a problem. The thing about being at a disadvantage is that thinking about oneself as disadvantaged can make that disadvantage even worse. So there is a reason to want to just forget about sexism, to ignore it. But the thing is, it is still there. If I stop and actually think about it, I've been harassed and objectified at conferences too. I just didn't let it bother me because letting it bother me would have made me feel obligated to do or at least say something about it, and that would have made me feel vulnerable and like an outsider in a community I so desperately wanted to feel accepted by.

This sucks. It just sucks. I'm bummed out. But Watson is doing the right thing. It has to change.
My two bits:

The main problem is male chauvinism, of course. Men have to learn not to consider skeptical conventions (or professional conferences) as sexual hunting grounds. Men have to accept that women make up more than half of humanity, and should have proportionate share in running its institutions, including TAM.

I do, however, think Rebecca Watson went off the rails on this matter. She says suggests women feel unsafe at TAM. But what happened in Elevatorgate was not in many manner an "unsafe" incident. It was a proposition from a man to come up to his room. After being refused, he gave up. No touching, crude language, persistence, or threats were involved. Surely, he was miles away from proper etiquette in making a clear sexual advance, but the come-on was not threatening or "unsafe" in any manner. Was it sexual harassment? Yes! In the context of a skeptical convention, certainly it was.

Watson was well within her rights and even responsibility in publicly bring up the incident. But how she did this, and followed up in the months to come was more of an attack on TAM than a cautionary tale with suggested solutions.

Dawkins then proceed to go off his rails in defending, using a bizarre analogous tale about abused Muslim women as though to pooh-pooh Rebecca's perceived sense of threat. Thus Dawkins with galloping insensitivity raised hackles and stirred the pot.

DJ Grothe weighed in with equal insensitivity, claiming there'd never been complaints filed with TAM for sexual harassment, when there clearly had been several. Pot, stirred again by a clumsy male cook.

Now PZ is writing about the "unsafe" atmosphere of TAM for women. I see harassment, I do not see a credible threat that exists outside people's imaginations.

All in all, a multilateral clusterfuck. We skeptics are lousy political animals.

Score so far: 0-0. Time everyone step back and consider a re-do.

Everyone who can should be going to TAM, and working hard to ensure women have a controlling influence on the gathering. Perhaps TAM should consider free memberships to all females, at least until more perceived equality is achieved. And it should certainly work toward insuring that sexual harassment (major or minor) has no place there.

In my opinion Rebecca Watson could have a positive influence at TAM, but not by staying away. That goes for all female skeptics. But I think Watson is so caught up in this that she considers her absence to be a kind of unfillable hole in TAM, and that this would leave her mark on TAM, even if in a negative manner. As it stands, I think she's doing a severe disservice to skeptical, and other, women by removing herself from the TAM environment.

I urge more, not less, women to go to TAM, and to take over!

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 06/02/2012 03:02:15
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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1265 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  03:16:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Elevatorgate didn't even happen at TAM so I don't see why TAM was safe last year and not this year, she's just milking this thing for publicity for as long as she can.

Rebecca Watson: Complains there aren't enough women at TAM. Chooses not to attend TAM.

I really don't even understand what this women is doing for the skeptical community.


Edited by - On fire for Christ on 06/02/2012 03:20:48
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  03:48:56   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Good for her, and good that the conversation keeps on going. Thanks, Marf.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13458 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  09:03:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
OFFC:
I really don't even understand what this women is doing for the skeptical community.

Yes. You made that clear when you wrote your hatchet job blog on elevator gate and left out important details to show how unimportant she is. You can have an opinion, but because of an obvious bias, it's not credible.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13458 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  09:51:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I have to agree with Mooner on the "unsafe" atmosphere of TAM for women thing. That has been blown out of proportion. Surely at any event with 1500 people in attendance, there will be a few jerks. And no, I'm not suggesting that even one is acceptable. What's unfortunate is that DJ kind of denied there were any, even after he ejected one from a dinner himself. Go figure. But all in all, my guess is as conventions go, TAM is one of the best at both dealing with the problem, and having a large segment on the male side of things mostly on good behavior. What DJ should have done was agree with Watson, and offer to do what he could to make it even better for woman. He shouldn't have blamed her for bringing down the attendance of woman based on her public comments expressing her concern.

I'm rather undecided if Watson should have pulled out at this point, the more I think about it. I would rather have seen a face to face meeting between the players to hash this out. But she's got to do what she's got to do, and being male myself, I suppose I see it from a male perspective. It seems to me that talk is always better. And it's not as though the Jref has been absent in bringing female representation and respect as one of their major pushes to TAM events.

It's extremely unfortunate that female attendance will be down this year. What I can say is that while I'm not everywhere and don't see everything, I have seen enough to know that most of the males there are on very good behavior. "Most" might not be good enough, but it's probably better than other conventions that have a large draw, probably because skeptics actually talk about these issues, even though they are not specifically skeptical issues. Perception may be trumping reality here, but DJ didn't help at all by digging in and becoming defensive about it. Clearly some harassment happened.

We should be working together to sort out these kinds of issues. But here we are doing what we always do. Taking sides in the strongest terms possible. (I'm speaking of blogs and some of the threads that I have read.) Once again, instead of finding a solution, we are creating a worse situation. And we should know better than to do that.

I'm up for saying that DJ was wrong. But I'm not up for vilifying him. For the most part, he has done more to make woman welcome to TAM events than any past Jref president has done. And up until this year, it showed. Even this year there are more woman scheduled to be on the dias than in any past TAM event. I'm still hoping he will see the mistake he has made and we can move on.






Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  19:39:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
OFFC:
Elevatorgate didn't even happen at TAM so I don't see why TAM was safe last year and not this year, she's just milking this thing for publicity for as long as she can.
This decision had nothing to do with Elevatorgate. Did you even read the post?

Rebecca Watson: Complains there aren't enough women at TAM. Chooses not to attend TAM.
Um, no, that's not what her complaint is in the post. Again, did you bother to read it?

I really don't even understand what this women is doing for the skeptical community.
If you actually read and comprehended what she wrote you might.

Mooner wrote:
Now PZ is writing about the "unsafe" atmosphere of TAM for women. I see harassment, I do not see a credible threat that exists outside people's imaginations.
Being harassed makes most people feel unsafe. They might in fact be safe, but they won't feel safe. That's exactly why harassment is considered a problem in-of-itself. I think many men have a hard time getting this partially because they would never hurt a woman themselves and because they've never been able to see this issue from a woman's point of view, but men are overwhelmingly stronger than us. A guy who is the same size as me can overpower me easily because biology makes him stronger than me. And most men are bigger than me. Also, most women know at least one woman who has been raped or molested, and a rather high percentage of women have been the victim of rape or sexual abuse. Again, why mere harassment needs to be both acknowledged and responded to seriously.

Watson said right in the article that the problem isn't that there is harassment. She accepts that harassment can't be controlled by TAM's organizers since it is committed by individuals. She's saying that the response to the harassment and the acknowledgement of past harassment and potential future harassment needs to be acknowledged.

Kil:
I have to agree with Mooner on the "unsafe" atmosphere of TAM for women thing. That has been blown out of proportion.
Are we really going to quibble over whether the unsafe atmosphere is blown out of proportion or not? How do we measure that? Is it blowing it out of proportion to talk about it at all in a public forum?

I'm up for saying that DJ was wrong. But I'm not up for vilifying him.

I agree that DJ shouldn't be vilified, but I don't see how Watson did vilify him. Instead she acknowledged the good things he'd done in the past, expressed her surprise over what has happened regarding this issue, and is saddened that she feels she must choose to not attend TAM because of DJ's current denials. It seems to me that she's using her writing and absence at TAM to bring attention to this issue. Where do you see her vilifying DJ? And if indeed he does "see his mistake" in the sense that he admits it publicly, do you think Watson would not change her mind and acknowledge that effort?

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13458 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  21:03:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Marf:
Are we really going to quibble over whether the unsafe atmosphere is blown out of proportion or not? How do we measure that? Is it blowing it out of proportion to talk about it at all in a public forum?
I'm in no position to suggest that woman don't face a real threat from sexual harassment, wherever they go, including TAM. I don't think it's quibbling to suggest that TAM is no more unsafe, and probably safer than most large conventions with a lot of men there. But because my sample size is very small, and I've never been the target of sexual harassment, I defer to the woman to decide on what is and isn't safe.

And of course it's not blowing it out of proportion to be talking about this on a public forum. That's what we should be doing. And unknown to most of the people who post here, we were already discussing this in the moderator area, because I'm going to TAM. It was a recent outgrowth of a previous discussion about funding my trip. (Still a very real concern.)

Marf:

I agree that DJ shouldn't be vilified, but I don't see how Watson did vilify him. Instead she acknowledged the good things he'd done in the past, expressed her surprise over what has happened regarding this issue, and is saddened that she feels she must choose to not attend TAM because of DJ's current denials. It seems to me that she's using her writing and absence at TAM to bring attention to this issue. Where do you see her vilifying DJ? And if indeed he does "see his mistake" in the sense that he admits it publicly, do you think Watson would not change her mind and acknowledge that effort?


I wasn't talking about Rebecca Watson's post. What I've seen is a bit of "DJ is a really nice guy and he's done a lot to improve TAM for woman, but Perhaps it is time that DJ Grothe resign as the President of the JREF. It could be that I overstated the case by using the word "vilify." But there does seem to be, in some quarters, this sort of "he's a great guy who should go" kind of thing going on when really, what people should be pushing for, in my opinion, is a more open dialog, which of course means DJ must participate, and drop this nonsense. It's way way too soon to be calling for his resignation.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25977 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  21:22:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

...but the come-on was not threatening or "unsafe" in any manner. Was it sexual harassment? Yes! In the context of a skeptical convention, certainly it was.
As marf notes, harassment makes a person feel threatened, whether or not there is any actual threat of physical harm. Beyond that, harassment necessarily entails attempts at emotional harm, regardless their intent or success. Listen to what she said:
Over the past several years, Iíve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told Iím a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told Iím too ugly to be raped, told I donít have a say in my own treatment because Iíve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesnít convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped Ė by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.
None of this is the result of a safe environment.
Watson was well within her rights and even responsibility in publicly bring up the incident. But how she did this, and followed up in the months to come was more of an attack on TAM than a cautionary tale with suggested solutions.
How she did it was to retell the incident and then say, "guys, don't do this." That was a reasonable and proportional response to the incident in question and it was all she did until some guys went off the rails and proved beyond any doubt to non-directly involved observers that sexism and misogyny are alive and well within our community.
Now PZ is writing about the "unsafe" atmosphere of TAM for women. I see harassment, I do not see a credible threat that exists outside people's imaginations.
And you called Dawkins insensitive?!
But I think Watson is so caught up in this that she considers her absence to be a kind of unfillable hole in TAM, and that this would leave her mark on TAM, even if in a negative manner.
I think you're ascribing an arrogance to Watson that she doesn't actually display. She has, after all, ensured that the TAM events at which she has been a major player will continue, and that the people she had partnered with for fundraising for JREF will continue to raise funds for JREF. She seems to be doing the exact opposite of what you claim she thinks she's doing.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Why not question something for a change?
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 06/02/2012 :  23:38:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave, first, I agree that my idea of Rebecca's motivations may be entirely incorrect. That was merely a guess, and I was wrong to make that guess public.
And you called Dawkins insensitive?!
Yes, of course I, too, am insensitive to the problems encountered by female skeptics. And certainly the perception of not being safe is a real problem. However, as we skeptics understand in other subjects, perceptions are inherently subjective, and are difficult to either convey, quantify or prove. (Yet another reason for long talks between the principles!) But the difference between an Elevatorgate type encounter involving sexual harassment in the form of an implied sexual hook-up and a real threat is not a minor distinction. A feeling of being unsafe is not being unsafe.
Over the past several years, Iíve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told Iím a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told Iím too ugly to be raped, told I donít have a say in my own treatment because Iíve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesnít convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped Ė by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.
That stuff goes far beyond Elevatorgate. I find myself incredulous. I have difficulty imagining all this happening to one woman, and done to her by skeptics. I have not been to a TAM, or any other large gathering of skeptics, so I don't know from personal experience what kind of drunken, rampaging mobs of sex-starved males they attract. If Watson's assertions are true, things are much worse than I thought. For now, I simply shake my head in disbelief.

Maybe I'll get back to this later, but for now I'm busy with family stuff.

[Edited to add:]

In fact, I now feel that my non-attendance of skeptical conferences probably makes me unqualified to comment. My previous comments should be considered in the light of that personal lack of attendance.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 06/03/2012 01:17:19
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25977 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2012 :  10:12:25   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

A feeling of being unsafe is not being unsafe.
No, but a feeling of being unsafe is enough to keep some people from attending conventions and other face-to-face meetings.

The question cannot be about whether these events are actually safe. Conventions and other face-to-face meetings with open registration (or none at all) will have some percentage of attendees who either are assholes going in, or who intoxicate themselves into such a state. These are not safe people, and almost every convention has at least one of them (the probability rises with the number of attendees).

So the question is what to do about this fact. And the answer must be to create an atmosphere which feels safe, by doing what the JREF has done: instituting a harassment policy and enforcing it.

What the JREF (embodied by DJ Grothe) has done wrong in this situation is to publicly dismiss continuing concerns of prospective TAM attendees and minimize the need for the policy by publicly proclaiming that it's never been used or even required.

(Now, we can get into a discussion about whether mere groping and/or verbal harassment constitute "threats," but that would hinge upon there being some sort of objective standard for threat assessment which women would be forced to adopt in making decisions on-the-fly in order for the discussion to have meaning. Would you be comfortable in declaring that women should have to endure some level of inappropriate touching, inappropriate speech or attempts to maneuver them into seclusion before they are allowed to feel actually unsafe?)
That stuff goes far beyond Elevatorgate.
Indeed! It has been and is a continuing problem. Elevatorgate wasn't even the first such incident at a skeptic/atheist convention, it just got perhaps the widest attention.
In fact, I now feel that my non-attendance of skeptical conferences probably makes me unqualified to comment. My previous comments should be considered in the light of that personal lack of attendance.
I haven't attended a skeptic/atheist convention, but I have gone to scifi/fantasy conventions and (as a child) conventions for the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA). Of the many scifi conventions I went to (upwards of six a year for several years), I went to perhaps three of the panel discussions, workshops, or lectures that the conventions are ostensibly for. Instead, I went for the party atmosphere, to see friends, and to get away from home for a weekend. And most of the people I knew at conventions went for the same reasons. The conventions were basically an excuse to check into a hotel for a few days and bend the rules of good behavior a little.

Obviously, there were people who liked the official convention events, too, or they wouldn't have been attended at all, or even scheduled. But I could walk by a room in which a very famous scifi author was having a Q&A session and easily see that the number of people in the room was only a small percentage of the total con population. There were always more people in the hallways, guest rooms or the party-type events than at the more "serious" events, put together. For some convention organizers, this was clearly an annoyance (the Disclave people, for example, are now having invitation-only conventions, if I remember correctly).

From what I remember from going to the NBFAA conventions (my mother worked for them, and so would take me to their annual convention), it must have been the same way. If you intend to have nothing but serious discussions about alarm systems, you don't hire belly dancers to roam the halls, promote pool parties or provide free booze. Yes, some actual business will get done, but the organizers knew what the real draw was.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13458 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2012 :  10:59:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Some might find this thread interesting:

http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,41904.msg9227443.html#msg9227443

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13458 Posts

Posted - 06/03/2012 :  21:37:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Mooner:
That stuff goes far beyond Elevatorgate.

My guess is a lot of that stuff was thrown her way as a result of Elevatorgate. (Certainly not all of it.) That episode didn't exactly bring out the best in some people.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Valiant Dancer
Forum Goalie

USA
4826 Posts

Posted - 06/04/2012 :  06:43:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Valiant Dancer's Homepage Send Valiant Dancer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wow. This is really unfortunate that DJ really tanked this response.

I have seen similar responses done much better. By singling out women, he missed the message. By denying that any such sexual harrassment occurred at past TAMs, he overly minimized the potential threat of sexual harrassment in a venue of that size.

What he should have said (and one I suspect Ms. Watson would have been more receptive to) is that some bloggers or e-mail groups in their attempt to raise consciousness for an issue or serve a personal vendetta against some speakers for past actions overrepresented the threat and thereby suppressed female involvement in TAM. In the past, TAM has worked dilligently to combat sexual harrassment and has been successful. TAM restates their commitment to combatting sexual harrassment and enforcing the policies which has made TAM a safe venue for all participants.

By acknowledging that the majority of dire threats were overreactions but reiterating the importance of the sexual harrassment policies, he could have defused quite a bit of this.

Cthulhu/Asmodeus when you're tired of voting for the lesser of two evils

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 06/04/2012 :  07:30:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Some might find this thread interesting:

http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,41904.msg9227443.html#msg9227443
That's worth a read! DJ Grothe comes off a lot better in his actual statements on the subject than he does when misquoted by others. He still should have said it better, but he never said it as badly as others say or think he did (including myself, above).

Primary sources, people, the only way to get to accurate history, including recent history.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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