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Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment

There has been a lot of discussion about why women don’t report sexual harassment (Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina) and what they’re up against when they do, including hyper-skepticism over claims that are routine, mundane, and unsurprising.

I would like to present to you a comment I got today, which you can go find if you want, but I have no intention of linking to it or encouraging people to respond to it.  I want you to read it and keep in mind a few things:

  1. Unlike most cases of sexual harassment, I had several witnesses
  2. Many witnesses were willing to make public statements
  3. Although the report was incomplete, it was made as the harassment was ongoing, not afterwards
  4. It was not a complaint about a named person, no one is on the defensive
  5. It was not a complaint about a well-known speaker
  6. Many people in the community know and respect me, I am not unknown
  7. I have a public platform from which to speak

These things are not always true for a woman who is being or has been harassed and the following is a response I got with all of those things on my side.  Take away one or two or all of these and tell me what kind of response the average woman might expect to get.  And then tell me whether you’d find it worth it to make a report when you can expect this treatment from many other people.

Miss Miller, is there any actual evidence that the alleged harassment took place? Is there any actual evidence that “some other women” were harassed? Did you submit a written report of the alleged harassment to the conference organizers? Did the alleged “other women” submit written reports? Did any of you report the alleged harassment directly to “DJ”?

If the guy was so obnoxious for so long, why didn’t you ask someone for help? Why didn’t you ask for help right away if you were so repulsed by and uncomfortable with the guy’s alleged behavior? You say that someone from TAM’s staff eventually (but “so quickly”) intervened but you don’t say whether you asked for help or if someone just happened to come along and deal with the alleged situation.

You say that someone from TAM “made it stop” and that someone kicked the guy out but you don’t say exactly who it was who first intervened and how they knew you were being harassed. You say that you were told that “DJ himself” kicked the guy out but you don’t say who told you that.

You obviously think that TAM should consider what you did as a “report of harassment” but you don’t actually say what you did, exactly who intervened, whether you asked for help, who you talked to (either to ask for help or otherwise), and there are a lot of other missing, important details.

Another thing you said is that you were ultimately impressed with and proud of TAM’s staff for so quickly intervening. If they intervened so quickly, how could the guy have harassed you from room to room for so long?

You also make it sound as though “DJ” must have known about the alleged situation at the time but you don’t actually know that he did because you didn’t actually talk to him about it at the time, did you?

Exactly how would it make TAM “look bad” if you had gone “into explicit detail of exactly how gross the guy had been to” you? Who exactly would you have gone into explicit detail to about how gross the guy was to you that would have made TAM look bad? If you had gone into explicit detail with TAM’s staff, how would that make TAM look bad? If you didn’t go into explicit detail with someone on TAM’s staff at the time, then why did they intervene and kick the guy out? How would they know for sure what they were intervening with?

And another question: Do you expect the TAM staff or “DJ” to be psychic and to know what’s happening to you and/or other people at the conferences at all times, and to know what has allegedly happened to you or other people even though you and/or those other people don’t properly report it to the people in charge?

According to your own words TAM’s staff  took care of the alleged situation “so quickly” and effectively. That speaks well of TAM’s staff, which should demonstrate to you and all others that TAM’s staff deals with problems quickly and effectively as soon as they know about them. TAM’s staff can’t reasonably be expected to be psychic or to personally babysit every woman (or man) at their conferences. It’s unreasonable for you to blame TAM or “DJ” for something that you could have ended a lot faster if you had asked for help quickly and had properly reported it to the people in charge.

Is it wrong for ‘skeptics’ to be skeptical of non-evidential claims that don’t add up, and that weren’t properly reported to the people in charge of the conference?

Are you making up the whole thing?

On its own, it might just seem like a bad apple not worthy of notice, but I’ve gotten dozens of other comments here, on other blogs, on Facebook, and in e-mails that reflect the same sentiment.  And I knew I would get them.  Every woman knows she will get them.  Every time she speaks up.  Every time.  And sometimes it’s just exhausting.  It hurts a little, having to relive it and be called names and a liar, but ultimately it just makes you tired, completely bone-weary, and a little heartbroken.

Ukulele Video Time! Adele

I have so much work to catch up so I’m just going to give you a ukulele video instead of real deep thoughtlike thoughts. I’m too loud for my microphone… to be fair, it’s for my Playstation 2. //ENDDORK

DJ Fact Correction

I generally don’t take the time to fact correct every random person who misrepresents what I say, because it’s a herculean task, but I’m surprised to find, after all the positive back and forth between us, that DJ went and said this:

All we knew about was that someone was removed from the speaker reception because he wasn’t permitted to be there, and was apparently drunk. In her blog post and in further comments, Ashley says she didn’t feel like the harassment was worth reporting to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time, nor did she nor anyone else mention it in one of the TAM attendee surveys.

No, absolutely not true, and an abhorrent misrepresentation of what happened.

From the man who reported the incident:

…he was rude and talking to several ladies with inappropriate language. I told you [DJ] about him and you took immediate action and talked to the gentleman and you took him from the room.

At that time, DJ only knew what I told him and he acted immediately and did the right thing. There is a chance that DJ does not remember this because he only knew that the guy was rude, drunk and needed to leave. DJ did not stop to think about it – he just took action.

I had been told it was already reported, because it was reported and dealt with by DJ, I didn’t know a second report was necessary. Had DJ himself not been the one who handled the issue initially, if I had thought that he’d totally forget, if I thought he would think that being alerted to a man bothering women translated to just a guy who wasn’t invited, or if I knew that he had not gotten complete information, I would have immediately made an additional report.

Because the issue was very much worth reporting to the JREF staff — which is why it was, it just turned out that the report was incomplete.

To say that I did not think it was worth reporting is a lie and an egregious one at that.

Furthermore, I did not think that DJ would ever be going around saying that no harassment was ever documented at TAM. I didn’t think DJ would be saying that the low attendance problems at TAM were from women talking about sexism they experience. I didn’t think that DJ would ever be saying that the only problem that TAM needs to correct is that victims just don’t officially report enough.

I am extremely lucky that there were other witnesses, I hate to think what other women who’ve been harassed are thinking right now. What would people be saying about me right now if I hadn’t had half a dozen other people there? I mean, considering what they’re already saying.

I hate posting about this stuff. I absolutely despise it, because it’s hard to deal with the comments and it’s hard to relive all the harassment — and not just that one incident, but the lifetime of cultural shame and guilt and horror and anger that comes with every incident. I think what some people are missing is how much that can hurt and how difficult it is to expose yourself like that. Should women report it?  Absolutely, but it’s really difficult to do so because it is painful and when people act the way DJ is acting right now, it makes it even harder.

11 Thoughts on TAMpocalypse 2012

I’ve been asked by a few different people to respond to Rebecca Watson’s post, so I’m going to be brief with my thoughts.  I think the first three are the very most important things that everyone who is writing about this needs to understand and, in their anger, some people seem to be forgetting.

1. Rebecca Watson is not a bad person, cares deeply about making TAM the best it can be, and has contributed greatly to making that happen.

2. DJ Grothe is not a bad person, cares deeply about making TAM the best it can be, and has contributed greatly to making that happen.

3. I care deeply about JREF and TAM and have been honored to speak there in the past. I owe TAM a great deal, and want it to be the best it can be.  I do not hate nor am I mad at DJ.  I continue to owe DJ a debt of gratitude for helping me last year and he’s always been nice to me, even through this.  I do not consider anyone in the skeptic movement my enemy.  I can’t say they all feel that way about me, but that’s OK too.

4. DJ has a habit of saying things poorly in comments and getting himself into trouble.  Telling Rebecca that it is partially her fault that women are not coming to TAM was a major misstep.  If I was told that I was the problem by the president of an organization that I had devoted that much time and support to, I would feel unwelcome and not want to participate.

5. Rebecca boycotting the event is likely to hurt TAM in the short run.  It’s possible that this will lead to the organization doing a better job of communicating in the future, it’s possible that it will weaken the organization longterm.  It is her choice and I understand it and I hope that even the Rebecca haters could put themselves in her shoes.

6. TAM is a safe event for women, but it is not a safe space.  These are two different concepts.  DJ has policies in place to protect women.  They are enforced.  There are problems with how TAM keeps tabs on what happens, but that does not mean women are in danger.

7. I believe DJ and his explanation of his recollection of events.  I also believe he had initially forgotten the event entirely, though I am surprised that he did not try to find the answer before publicly accusing me of making it up.  However, after seeing several other people verify the story, he did the research and confirmed the event.  The initial misstep was rectified and we worked through it amicably.

8.  I would not have used the term gaslighting to describe DJ’s immediate response, but I don’t know that Rebecca’s use of it was incorrect.  He was intentionally trying to make me doubt my own memory, but because his memory disagreed with mine.  I was very fortunate to have so many other witnesses that corroborated my story, many women do not.

9. I am surprised that when being alerted to bad behavior of a man towards women the only thing he remembered about the event, once he figured out what we were talking about, is that the guy wasn’t on the invite list.  The invite had nothing to do with why it was pointed out to DJ.  I can’t personally imagine being alerted to bad behavior of a man towards women and not thinking harassment immediately and not writing the incident down.  But I also am a woman who has been harassed by men, so my perspective is different from DJ’s.

10. DJ did the right thing when (re)alerted to this problem and located the guy to whom I was referring and asked me for a written report, which is now on file.  He has been very vigilant and polite to me — even when he thought I had no idea what I was talking about, he did it in the politest way possible and in an attempt to reach a conciliatory conclusion, not to create a fight.  He handled this with more grace than I would have.

11. The question DJ refers to on the survey is whether you felt welcome at the event or not, not whether you were sexually harassed by attendees.  These are massively different questions.

TAM9 Harassment New Information

First off: Anyone who has had an incident at TAM, however small, should write it down and send it to DJ (djgrothe@randi.org) ASAP.

DJ’s explanation of the event:

Hi Ashley, I was wracking my brains trying to place the incident you are blogging about. So we looked up in our database of last year’s attendees anyone fitting the description and location of the man you mention in your blog post, and I believe we now know who it was: someone who was being asked to leave the private speakers reception (he wasn’t a speaker, nor invited to the reception, and appeared drunk).

DJ goes on to say he was confused because I thought I’d meant the guy had been kicked out of TAM not just from the reception.  DJ e-mailed me the guy’s Facebook profile and I confirmed that it was the correct guy and DJ asked for a full report, which I have sent him.  I assume that with an official written report, at this point DJ will have to stop saying that there’s never been a report.  I suppose it will now be that there’s only ever been one report.

Phil Ferguson, of Skeptic Money, is the person who brought the guy to DJ’s attention:

This was at the speaker reception. There was one person that was not supposed to be in the room (i do not know if he was even at TAM) he was rude and talking to several ladies with inappropriate language. I told you about him and you took immediate action and talked to the gentleman and you took him from the room.

The guy was a TAM attendee, he was wearing his badge and was in TAM’s database.

I want to reiterate that my complaint is not about how DJ handled this, he handled it swiftly and efficiently and everyone in the room was impressed.  He also made the effort to find out who it was and get a report after I wrote my blog post.  He is absolutely to be commended, he is doing a great job of handling these things when they arise.

The problem is that he’s going around saying that women are making unfounded complaints because there has never been a report of bad behavior at TAM and women like me, who complain about bad behavior on blogs, are why other women aren’t going to TAM and that’s my fault.

TAM felt it was important enough to kick the guy out of the reception, but did not think it was important enough to get detailed accounts or write down what happened, even though several people congratulated DJ for doing the right thing.

Since there are a number of incidents, detailed after this, where JREF staff helped someone who complained about behavior but DJ has no knowledge of any reports of behavior, I recommend that when they help someone who complains verbally they make a note of it and make sure they understand what happened, so that DJ has a more accurate record of what his staff has actually done and what incidents have been acted upon. I think many people, myself included, made the assumption that telling someone on the staff what was going and them acting on it means that you’ve reported the incident, but apparently if you did not write it down, it doesn’t count.

From PZ:

someone had blown through the nearly empty hallways while a session was ongoing to make lewd remarks to someone sitting at the tables; it was reported, I heard, and I joined in with another fellow to look for the “gentleman”…he’d escaped, so it didn’t happen? There was also an incident on twitter in which a prospective attendee threatened to grope Rebecca Watson on an elevator at TAM; I thought his registration was revoked

From Kitty Mervine:

I had an issue at the Del Mar [pre-DJ], was handled very well by two members of the JREF staff and South Point. I’m not kidding, my hair was set on fire. So well resolved except he showed up at South Point at the Del Mar. I talked to the South Point security and they assured me ONE WORD from me and he would be OUT. (and they had no clue WHO I was, but this guy is in their “data base” as a bad one). They were even “do you want us to remove him now? Do you feel uncomfortable?” The man was NOT attending TAM, he was simply at the Del Mar with his wife and talking quietly, so I said “no”. But later a security person from South Point (she informed me she was a veteran) came over to check with me again. I was “no I’m fine”. I would say South Point security has as their first goal the comfort of all their guests. A person can just be making you feel uncomfortable, and South Point will react quickly. I admire them so much.

And what follows are several other people’s memory of the speaker event that I talked about in my previous post.

I was a little surprised, since the day before (or within a couple of days before) I tagged him in a comment where I referenced how well he handled that situation, and why I took that as a good sign for how well the JREF was handling policing TAM. … Well, it wasn’t just you. Jenn had the exact same experience as you with the same guy at the same time. And I’m relatively sure it was made clear that it was as much of an issue as it was because the guy was going from woman to woman.

This guy was being very
persistent in his attentions to you, and then to Jamila Bey. Possibly to
other women as well, although I didn’t witness that. I didn’t see him
grope anybody, but I did see him follow you around persistently and  be
very invasive of your physical space. I remember that he was drunk off his
ass. I didn’t personally witness DJ escort him out of the room, but I
heard second-hand that that’s what happened.

I remember the guy. He was definitely violating our personal space and hopping from woman to woman

I clapped DJ on the back and the other guy who helped kick creeper dude out. I can’t wildly speculate as to how insignificant was this event or how widespread were events similar such that none can be recalled, but it was memorable to me. And this wasn’t three women looking for something to bitch about- this guy was egregious enough to be obviously a nuisance (at LEAST) to the entire roomful containing both genders.

As I recall, DJ was approached because a drunk man was repeatedly bothering women, and it was my impression at the time that DJ either personally asked him to leave the reception, or saw to it that someone else escorted him out. I agree that he was ejected just from the reception and not from the entire TAM conference. I don’t recall the exact words that were used, so it’s possible that what DJ took away from the conversation was merely that someone was drunk and disruptive, but I know that it was clear to all of us that he was harassing women specifically, and we all believed that that was the reason this action was taken. As Jarrett said, we all were impressed at the time that the incident was taken seriously and we thought it was handled well.

To reiterate the specifics, I remember that he reached a certain level of extreme that had Ashley and Jen (I believe it was only the two of them standing together at that moment) that finally another gentleman (whose name I don’t recall) decided to go get DJ and explain the situation to him, as, in a way that’s not remotely surprising given everything we normally hear in these situations, Ashley and Jen were not comfortable stirring up MORE trouble on their own.

That said, I wasn’t privy to the conversation that this gentleman had with DJ, so it is purely ASSUMPTION on my part that he described the situation accurately. It’s possible he merely stated that the guy was drunk and obnoxious. I do recall overhearing DJ ask more than one person if they knew whose guest he was, implying he was trying to track the person’s validation for being at the reception, and shortly thereafter I noticed the man in question had been successfully removed.

So among a reasonable number of people it was known that this person was drunk, obnoxious, talking three inches from the faces of any women he could get near, and saying suggestive things to them. What I can’t say for certain is how well this was communicated back to DJ in the process of informing him that this man was harassing the women at the reception.

Harassment at TAM9

EDIT: More information in a follow-up post

So, Greg Laden has a post on FtB about DJ Grothe making some kind of horrible comments about how women who complain about harassment are making women afraid to come to conferences.  And that, as far as he knows, he is unaware of any reports of harassment.  Which is weird because I was sexually harassed by a guy last year at the TAM9 speaker’s reception, as were some other women, and the guy was kicked out for it. And I was told that it was DJ himself who made him leave.

From my recap last year:

That evening I went to a presenter’s reception, and got to spend some time hanging out with a lot of awesome people who were going to be speaking, including Debbie Goddard who I had not previously spent much time with.  But there was a drunk british guy from Shrewsbury who would not leave me alone.  I hate wine breath.  And I was not nice to him, but he kept following me.  He was so annoying that every time I tried to escape and enter a new conversation, everyone who was in that conversation would leave and leave me stranded.

He also kept touching me, which I found very disconcerting.  Fortunately, I was eventually rescued, and he was asked to leave, but it was pretty gross.

I guess it didn’t mean much to him at the time, or he forgot, or didn’t realize that it wasn’t just that the guy was annoying, it was that he was inappropriately touching me and backing me into corners and asking me to have sex with him after I told him to stop, or that DJ wasn’t who kicked him out and it was someone else on the TAM staff.  In fact, I was impressed with TAM so much for ultimately intervening that I didn’t want to go into explicit detail of exactly how gross the guy had been to me, for fear of making TAM look bad.

In any event, someone was harassing me and someone from TAM made it stop.  I’m sure part of it was that I was really upset, but I was touched that they’d fixed the problem so quickly and proud of them for doing so.  And, probably because it was very upsetting at the time, I am currently upset that apparently no one at TAM remembers or took note of it — like somehow it didn’t count because it happened to me?  Because I and the other woman harassed were speakers?  Or I didn’t write something down?  Like I should have written up a report?

But if that didn’t count as a report of harassment, I’m not sure what to think of DJ’s claims that there’s never been one, other than he’s playing with semantics.  Here’s his comment from FB (bolding is mine):

It is true that harassment issues are much discussed in some quarters of the skeptics and atheist and other allied movements (all generally for the better, to the extent the emotionally charged issues are tempered with evidence) but to my knowledge there has never been a report filed of sexual harassment at TAM 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, but of 800+ responses to our attendee survey last year, only three people said they were made to feel unwelcome by someone at the event: one, a man who didn’t like all the magic; two, a woman who was ridiculed for her veganism; and three, a conservative who didn’t feel welcome because of what he saw as an undue emphasis by speakers and attendees on progressive and leftist ideals. (One woman at the event did, however, complain to staff that she felt she may be harassed by someone in the future, and felt uncomfortable about the man, and while we are concerned about such concerns, she didn’t complain of any actual activity that had happened that the hotel or security or law enforcement or others could take action on.)

I believe I understand the impulse to protect people from harm (this is a strong motivation for skeptics, after all) but telling newbies that they need to be on guard against so-called sexual predators at our events, or that the movement or movements are “unsafe for women,” may be a sure-fire way of making some women feel unwelcome who otherwise would feel and be safe and welcomed. As for policies, I think Ben is on the right track. We are all against harassment or bullying of any kind, sexual or otherwise. Any incident of harassment or assault should immediately be reported to security and law enforcement, and JREF staff and the hotel staff stand ready to assist should any regrettable incident ever occur, God forbid. But again, no such incident has ever occurred at TAM to my knowledge, and I believe that bears mentioning in current discussions about how prevalent are the unnamed “sexual predators” at various atheist and skeptical events.

Last year we had 40% women attendees, something I’m really happy about. But this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed. (This is misinformation. Again, there’ve been on reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF, nor any reports filed with authorities at any other TAMs of which I’m aware.) We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

Women in Secularism: The Good, The Bad, The Awesome

Earlier this year I had to make a financial choice — I could either afford to go to DC for the Women in Secularism conference or I could afford to go to Vegas for The Amazing Meeting.  I say this not to denigrate TAM, but I could not have made a better decision.  The Women in Secularism conference is far and away the best atheist/skeptic conference that I’ve ever been to.  If you missed it, and you probably did, you need to not miss it again.

One of the things that I have trouble with in this movement is the lack of focus on issues that “matter”.  I came to the secular movement from the LGBT movement, fresh off of the Prop 8 loss, I discovered that out-and-proud atheists also had a movement, and I was eager to join a fight that I thought impacted everything, including LGBT and women’s issues.  So I went to the OCFA conference, to local skeptic and atheist meetups, I went to TAM, to Dragon*Con’s Skeptrack, to the SCA lobbying training, I wrote about it here, I wrote about it for secular.org, I gave speeches.  In short, I got involved.

Photo by Brian Engler

This month is my two year anniversary of being involved with this movement and, as someone who cares deeply about social justice, it has very often been a very difficult movement to be a part of.  For me the great appeal of secularism, the great tragedy of religion, and my own personal passion for this cause is all centered around the fact that religion is the source of many evils or used to justify those evils perpetrated against humanity.  As was said several times over the weekend, UFOs and Bigfoot aren’t that important to me, skepticism is much more interesting when applied to issues that impact people’s lives in serious ways.  Children, minorities, people of color, women, poor people, the disabled, the elderly, LGBT, and other marginalized groups would benefit so much from having the tragic consequences of religious bigotry removed from their lives.

So when people in charge of important organizations speak on a panel at TAM to say that social justice isn’t and shouldn’t be within the purview of skepticism, or people in my local atheist group leave because they think it is inappropriate that someone posted a link to a story about the Rally Against the War on Women because who cares about that feminist bullshit, or important people in the movement tell me not to bother submitting something to TAM if it has anything to do, even tangentially, with women’s issues, I start to doubt why I am even involved.

This conference was the antidote to that.  If you are someone in this movement who wants it to be about creating change in the world, this is the conference you should have been at.  If you are someone who thinks all that atheists and skeptics should do is talk about is why the bible is stupid and why UFOs aren’t real, then it really wasn’t for you.  I think that UFOs and critiquing the Bible and all of that are important discussions, but I think they are a reflection of an old, traditional, white male scientist way of thinking, and it’s not why I want to be involved.

I know why I am involved, and this conference was it.  In reality, it wasn’t the “Women in Secularism” conference, it was the “Secularism for Social Justice” conference.  I am proud to have been a part of it.

HIGHLIGHTS (all quotes paraphrased)

  • Typing 13000 words while liveblogging
  • I place as much value on anonymous comments made on blogs as I do on statements of eternal love made after a late night drinking at a bar. – Susan Jacoby
  • This conference is a good start, the first of its kind, but these panels BELONG in regular conferences. There are places for these issues at every conference we hold. Especially on science and education. Things have not changed enough, and women are the primary educators and caregivers. Secular organizations, if they want more women, are going to have to address this. The reason men aren’t here isn’t because the conference isn’t welcome, but because men in the movement don’t give a shit about this. – Susan Jacoby
  • Both religion and sexism are hard to give up. They’re ingrained and it’s tough to overcome, especially because it’s not conscious. Giving up religion feels freeing, but giving up sexist beliefs as a man isn’t necessarily freeing because it means examining, acknowledging, and confronting privilege. It feels like reentering a place where you’re made to feel guilty. But sexism impacts men too, and men don’t seem to realize it. Men get called girly as an insult and are driven away from being themselves if they’re not “man enough”. They don’t care about reproductive rights. As though they don’t have to deal with getting a girl preggo. – Jen McCreight
  • Sikivu and Ophelia disagreeing strongly, and talking about it rationally and pleasantly.
  • Recognition of the underground acknowledgement of the bad guys in the movement and how women are afraid to speak up about it because it will hurt them instead of the well-known man.
  • Panel arguments that were over details of implementation and how to fight, not over whether there was a problem in the first place
  • I have never found a trace of morality in my own religion – Wafa Sultan
  • The complete rejection of the Prime Directive and everyone agreeing that helping women in other cultures is a moral duty, not cultural imperialism.
  • It’s cultural imperialism to help these women? Tell the to the girl who had her clitoris cut off, tell that to the girls who had acid thrown on their faces for going to school, tell that to the women being stoned to death for the crime of being raped. Tell that to them and then FUCK YOU.  - Greta Christina
  • Having a military base in Saudi Arabia isn’t imperialism but opening a school is? If you can invade a country how can you not open schools? We need more secular schools, not more army bases! – Wafa Sultan
  • Wafa Motherfucking Sultan.  For many personal reasons, it was a very difficult and traumatic talk to sit through and I was nearly sobbing by the end of it, if I hadn’t been transcribing, I’m sure I would have been.  I hope that this talk goes up first, it needs to be seen.
  • A lot of people are talking about issues that apparently have nothing to do with secularism, should Catholic hospitals get public funding and refuse to give the morning after pill, should black boys be frisked without probable cause in NYC, we are skeptics, we’re good with numbers, we should care about it. These stories, we who are skeptical, we who believe that morality does not come down from on high, we who understand that it is our obligation as humans to first do no harm and make sure that others are not harmed, have to — HAVE TO — tell our stories. – Jamila Bey
  • We’re so foundational. If I can convince people to spend more time thinking about things, using critical thinking, it’ll fix a lot of these other problems I’m fighting for. Because our message is so basic and foundational, I think that it is a part of everything else. – Debbie Goddard

NITPICKS

  • Some of the talks were either too broad and not focused enough.  I say this with absolute love, because there was not woman who spoke that I didn’t want to hear more from, but many of the talks were so detail rich on such a broad topic that they were very difficult to follow.  Annie Laurie Gaylor was particularly guilty of this, I’m afraid I didn’t retain very much of what she talked about because it was basically just a list of names.  Her argument, which was that women have historically been freethinkers, could have been made in a way that wasn’t as hard to follow.  I just didn’t know any of the names or have any point of reference.  Susan Jacoby did a lot of the using names without explaining who they are thing as well.
  • Using cards to take questions was great, but I didn’t have access to any and would have had to interrupt the session or leave to get cards to be able to ask questions.  I think there needs to be a stack under each chair.  Especially since my neighbors all grabbed all of the cards immediately when they sat down so I had none!
  • The talks were too long, I’d rather have heard shorter talks from more people and some of them felt a little stretched out, I’m thinking of Bernice Sandler’s in particular, but just generally I think hour long talks are excessive when you’ve got so many other people who didn’t get to speak.  The panels were the perfect length.
  • Attendance.  I would have liked to see a lot more men and people of color in the audience.  I said it was the Social Justice in Secularism conference, and I think that’s how it should be advertised, because it wasn’t just about women and it wasn’t just for women and women’s issues are human rights issues.  So much of what we covered this year was new territory for these conferences, I hope that the conference continues and continues to expand into covering topics like prison reform and drug policy — things that impact women even though they aren’t traditionally thought of as “women’s issues” and were brought up several times over the weekend.
  • I admit that, because I work in media and I study media, I am unusually focused on this, but I wish that there had been more time spent on addressing the representation of women in the media.  And if you need someone to rant about that next year, I’m sure I’m only one of a whole lot of women in the movement who could go on and on for hours.

Readin’ a list; Photo by Brian Engler

And my final complaint, which is not a nitpick and not the fault of the conference, is the tragic performance of Edwina Rogers, who literally read a list from an old power point presentation over the course of 15 minutes and then left the conference entirely without taking any questions.  She had been there before the speech, available to be approached, so she wasn’t hiding entirely and I wouldn’t accuse her of that, she was just avoiding having to publicly answer questions.  And she clearly was not hired to be a charismatic public speaker and I never missed the overly enthusiastic rabble rousing of Sean Faircloth more.  This wasn’t just my response, I heard this from several people who didn’t know anything about her background.

I also had the opportunity to meet her and I was disappointed in that as well.  She just threw talking points at me about opening state chapters, and she and Woody, her handler from the SCA, both acted like they didn’t know who I was.  This despite the fact that I was recruited by the SCA to be one of the the first bloggers for their organization’s website, I spent hours and hours last year with Woody, led a panel discussion for the SCA last year, and have sent them much feedback and, admittedly unsolicited, advice about Edwina.  If they don’t know who I am, it’s insulting, and if they do know and they acted like they don’t, that’s even more insulting.

That said, Melody Hensley did an amazing job with this and deserves all of the credit in the world.  Conferences, especially first ones, are incredibly difficult to pull off.  This was so much better than I had hoped for, I have come away impressed by everyone involved.  Well, almost.

I will be adding a list of resources mentioned while I was taking notes over the weekend, for people who want to read more or watch videos that were recommended.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference VI

10:34 Any way to push women’s rights in politics?

Jamila: Until there are more women in office they will have to compromise everything to get anything. Run. Pay to play. Organize on the internet. Women do not right op eds, letters to the editors. Op Ed Project, google them, get in your local paper, pitch your stories, tell them it’s going on, tell them they need to know. It’s great to rant on reddit, you’ve got to get in front of people who can do something, those are journalism. Run for office if you don’t like it.

Many are apathetic even if they agree with us, how do we get them to care?

Jen: Visit the midwest or south. I use scare tactics. Lifelong secular person, I didn’t care at all until I moved to a conservative community in college and it scared the crap about me and they were trying to convert me. Many don’t realize because it’s not immediately impacting them. I moved to Seattle now it’s like atheist paradise. I try to bring up what’s actually happening in other parts of the country. If you’re not active you’re going to get screwed over eventually too.

What are the strategic advantages for our movement?

Greta: We rule the internet. We can mobilize the internet at a moment’s notice. Do you remember that we made the american cancer society’s life miserable for weeks? Anyone paying attention in the non-profit world knows don’t piss of the atheists. The Foundation Beyond Belief wanted to participate as a team member, initially they said yes, and then said no and lied about it and changed the story and lied. It got out, the atheists made their lives a misery for weeks. A lot of theists were also upset. They wanted to give you half a million dollars, my aunt died of cancer, what the fuck were you doing you don’t want their money. We run the internet and we should run with that. FBB found another cancer organization that was like we want your money and people and mobilizing and creating visibility.

Debbie: It’s called Light the Night, so keep an eye out. Doing it in Sep and Oct.

The role of pop culture?

Jamila: Tell our stories. Put an atheist in your movement, make them sympathetic. Come out. When people see you it’s really hard to hate you and oppress you.

Jen: That works. My favorite movie when I was 8 was Contact. The main character is a female strong willed scientist who is also an atheist. The more I watched it the more I thought she thinks like me and that’s OK. I read a study a week ago that looked at the top 100 films last year, 11 female leads, they were almost all stereotypes. It works when you have role models.

Greta: I would love an atheist equivalent of a media watchdog that points to bad depictions and patterns. And there are these patterns of depictions of atheists in the media. Put out a press release.

Today is the 15 year anniversary of Contact!

What is the future of secular interaction with the parties and politics?

Jamila: That’s a book. That I wish I could write right now.

Greta: I think it’s a long game. Traditional pols see us as toxic. And that was true of the gay movement in the 1970s. And they became powerhouse that the democrats couldnt ignore. But the republicans are screwing themselves because young people aren’t hostile. Doesn’t mean we should give up, to play the long game, we need to start now, but we shouldn’t expect huge payoff right away but in 5 years we can become.

Debbie: A lot of what we do is defined by what our enemies do. Right now it seems to be the religious right and they’re closely allied with the republican party. It forces most of us to side with democrats. If the religious right continues, I think default wise, we will be allied with democrats. However I think we will see a shift in that, the religious right will become less popular because young people aren’t interested. We’ll be into liberal progressives on social issues.

Is the secular movement trying to become all encompassing?

Debbie: We’re so foundational. If I can convince people to spend more time thinking about things, using critical thinking, it’ll fix a lot of these other problems I’m fighting for. Because our message is so basic and foundational, I think that it is a part of everything else.

APPLAUSE

Debbie: We see same sex issues, we have positions, you should look at science and data. You’re coming to the wrong conclusion because of bias. Let’s look at facts and history.

Greta: Anti-Discrimination Support System watch. That thing I talked about exists. Margaret Downey (sp)

JMH: Atheists have been traditionally progressive in a lot of fields. Elizabeth Cady Stanton knew she was risking her position in the women’s movement, but she thought religion caused the problems and so she spoke out. Black atheists working on socialism and civil rights. Hubert Harrison (?)

10:19 JMH: we don’t know our history, writing Doubt made me more hopeful for the future of our movement, there’s always been people questioning. The one suggestion I have is the Cold War seemed to shut down questioning, but we’re not there anymore and now our most murderous enemies are often on the fundamentalist side. Specifically, this history gives us reassurance about who we are, not just the facts but they addressed different things, what can do about forgetting our history? Annie Laurie Gaylor’s talk was amazing and showed us how much we forgot and these women addressed questions that we don’t always address now? Anyone want to take it.

Debbie: We spoke together about what we might discuss on this panel and also wanting to make sure we had interesting new things. Is there enough to talk about? There’s too much. I am going to try to have a contrary opinion even though I’m going first. Most people who get involved don’t need the history because it’s not why they’re getting involved. Why do people get involved in church? We make fun of people who are religious because they haven’t read the bible and don’t know their history. Because the purpose is to provide community. And then we kind of do that to, we might not know our history of freethought, that’s not why they’re coming to groups or arguing on the internet. Those in leadership should absolutely know, and about other social movements too, we should absolutely know the history. Things feel very new, maybe this is because the internet makes my attention span think everything is new. Pre-Youtube I don’t even know what was going on in the world. The whole world would benefit from learning knowing more history. Yes we would benefit, no it’s not why we’re coming to groups, maybe add more to venues and educate.

Jamila: Quickest answer: Yes, we should know more about our history. I’m a big fan of gifting biographies. We need to let it be know that there were always people who doubted. We need to make sure that those who are in league with the way we think that they’re aware of it. I’m going to go back to February, I love talking about, did you know they were atheists. That kind of thing. Letting people know. We can always share our wishlist on certain big internet retailers that oppress local bookstores. I wish we did more reading as a society, especially since I make my living as a journalist. But I’m a journalist on radio, so maybe there will be a Youtube meme.

Debbie: I just jotted down, if you’ve been in the bookstore, you’ve seen the banner we made for african american for humanism, we had banners with african american famous figures who were freethinkers. It is so important to people to know that there are people who look like them who think this way. To know that atheism is something that’s been present in black history, again, so important to people. In the black community people would say that atheism and freethinking is a eurocentric perspective and it’s an outside group telling them how to be, when we show the history and we’ve been part of it. Like in feminism, did you know all these people were freethinkers too? This is our history, it represents me and my history too.

Greta: What they said. Diversity work, this is nuts and bolts work, if you want to do events with black sororities or feminists, do a history of women and african american freethinkers. How diverse we’ve always been. I think there’s a divide between the old guard and the young who want to do everything differently. I think our history is important, especially learning other social change movements, but I also think that there’s a tendency that because we’ve always done something this way we must always do it that way. Like the skeptic movt has always been about ufos and bigfoot and can’t now be about the drug war and prison reform because that’s how it’s always been done. We’re changing quickly, we need to be nimble. I wouldn’t want a focus on history to become we have to always do things the way people in the movement are already comfortable with. One of the lessons from history is we can’t always keep doing things the way we always to do.

Jen: You made the one point I was clinging onto so I’ll say yes.

10:07 Greta: People who came out earlier tend to be people who are very independently minded and don’t care as much about social things. When it’s hard to come out the people who come out are people who don’t care so much about other people and don’t care as much about being social. But that’s changing because it’s becoming easier and we’ll be a community of people who are more social. We’re going to have more diversity of interests. The local groups that are strongest are the ones with most diverse range of activities. A lot of times what religious groups offer is a lot of different things, support, child care, guidance, food bank, charity, social justice, picnics. A huge variety of things. If you just activism or just skeptics in the pub or just service, there’s people you’re not reaching who might be interested. That makes a big difference.

Jen: It is hard going last! Sorry Debbie. I don’t have kids, I’ve never been religious, and I like to rage on the activities. I don’t want to sing or be social, I do like eating food and so there’s just basic things that your group can do to get a social network. It’s important to have some traditions in the group. Not rituals. Like my group at Purdue came up with this, they went out to dinner every Sunday night. Once they started doing this, the group became tight knit, they are closer, they feel like part of a group. Regular scheduled meals. Food is universal, they have to eat.

10:03 JMH: What do people, women and men and parents, get from religion? Music, singing, the quietness of periods of it, quietness with other people, and silly things like at the megachurch I once visited, they had parking for people who were coming the first time, welcoming. What do you think? How could we do some of that?

Debbie: Historically we’ve brought in people who are in science and philosophy, and not so much young parents. People who had time and had disposable incomes. There were a lot of people who didn’t like religion and we had humanists who liked to sing and the atheists wanted to talk about the bible and skeptics were hands off religion and let’s talk about the brain and ufos. They all seem to like to drink a lot. Sometimes we’re quiet together cuz we’re drinking so much. And what do people get from that, and religion cover a lot of important things. Social bonding and networks. African americans say when you move to a new city and you want to meet and get connected with new people and the black community, you immediately go to a church. Maybe those venues don’t exist for people to meet new people. The social aspects, we’re seeing that our movement is able to provide more of that, there are groups everywhere now because we are exploding. we’ll see more of that. It becomes a problem when we think we know what everyone wants. I think the debates between confrontationalists and accomodationists argue claim they know what everyone wants, some people like singing and holding hands but not everyone. The internet arguments people realize we’re diverse and have different needs. We have people on the autism spectrum, me too probably, which is cool, I’m good at math, but are less interested in community and hold handing.

Jamila: Black church and children. FINALLY. Here is my experience. I saw a speech at a center not too far from me, Debbie, talking about diversity. In February, the month when all black people events happen. Joke. Based in reality. I show up and there’s a center that’s headed by a woman and she goes I’m a hugger and me too and we hug, and I listen and look around. And there are people who look like me, and many people in this crowd, and I was told I should come to this parent thing. And I show up with my kid, no one’s saying don’t vaccinate and no one saying well, mine is an indigo child. But, I was literally embraced, my kid got playmates, we were sort of likeminded. There will be people who are like Jamila is loud and obnoxious and we will never hang out, and that’s fine, but others have gone to the zoo together, and just hung out when we were bored. I really think that when we allow people to organically seek each other out and say this is what I need and group up under the understanding that our birthday you will be proselytized or we will permit slut shaming. We see the world through a particular lens, so when we go to the movies about a God with a hammer and we go yeah that’s awesome. We don’t have to pray, we do not believe that Jesus is lord, we don’t have to assure people we don’t believe Thor is god. When I go to the hairdresser with my skeptical girlfriends our convos are much different from choir choir how’s your mama choir. It allows me to me and not on guard. And the community is stronger. Is Reba here? She rocks! When I visited I got to see her family group, I was blown away. Dads were leading activities. Whole families showed up, kids showed up alone. This community is there and available and they’re talking about science. Be who you are, be out, let people find you, because I genuinely have experienced that I know I will go to a thing where God ain’t gonna come up and I can find someone to get my hair done with and kids to babysit mine. We need to do more where the whole family is invited and kids can meet.

9:50 Debbie: A lot of times with activism you need to first define goals and then decide tactics. Like the election in Nov, you realize some goal is important, some group that is a competitor might be a group you need to work with right now to vote a certain way, that’s why coalitions exist. As we broaden and get new people, we realize that we have shared goals with some groups, but they don’t want is in there feminist group or LGBT group and that is tricky. And sometimes we overlap in goals, and these groups might be filled with woo. We have more people who are interested in working within groups to bring skepticism and atheists can be good feminists. It’s a kind of coalition building, but more overarching. I do outreach to coalitions of black sciences. Most black groups they love them some jesus, and they love science too, but let’s start with a prayer. So we ask why don’t you want us and don’t you want to help us advance science. We come in conflict with that religion, we still have goals of advancing critical thinking we need to communicate in those groups.

Greta: I think it’s assumed that if you’re confrontational and vocally opposed to religion, it’s going to be difficult, and I don’t think this is not necessarily true. They had a group that did everybody draw mohammed and it was controversial and will it be impossible after to do coalitions, they did and the muslim student group was unhappy and had a lot of conversations, and that was the beginning, and now they are doing alliance work together. It opened up a conversations and they explained why they were doing it, and discovered they had some things in common. We should not assume that if we criticize religion it shuts the door to alliances.

9:44 JMH: I want to ask about coalitions, with the religious, is it a good idea or should we keep it “pure”?

Jennifer: I thought it was very interesting when Greta said that when movements become mainstream they ally with religion and as we become mainstream we become more involved in interfaith. I don’t think working with religious groups is bad, even though I hate the term and a lot about interfaith. When I was in college, we were involved with the Episcopalians a lot because the only thing we disagreed with was the God question. Those sort of relationships work, you have a common set of values and you’re willing to set God aside to work on LGBT rights or separation issues. I do not like when atheist groups are asked to set aside their values and shouldn’t be offensive and should be more polite. The offensive thing is that we don’t believe, we can’t compromise those values. I don’t have faith, based on evidence and reason and faith is bad, I don’t want to be inter. It’s fine working with religious groups, they can’t tell us to shut up about things that make us uncomfortable.

Greta: What she said. The nature of alliance work is that you don’t agree on everything, you temporarily you set aside the things you disagree about — if you didn’t disagree, you would be in the same group. The question is are there people who we disagree with on so much that we shouldn’t work with them at all.

Jamila: It’s hard on the panel cuz I gotta follow that. Rule 1 of debate is that you define your terms. That’s also the rule I like to follow in all relationships. What do we want? Want to give a public shout out to the childcare upstairs that helps us mommies show up and bring our kids. Mine is going to have such wonderful memories of his first Surlyramics and the secularist women conference. He’s at a school in DC, 13% score at grade level in science. These are first graders. These are fifth graders. If those people who love science and maybe some who love Jesus and Allah and FSM wish to come together and go to that school and the parents who don’t have the luxury of showing up and helping, if they want to come together and do some experiments and talk about photosynthesis and talk about the world we all agree we live in actually does, I am willing to do that. I am willing to do that while wearing my FSM pendant, my evolve earrings. I will probably not wear the “show me on the doll where jesus touched you” shirt. When there is a goal, a task, an outcome we can see, I am willing to say OK, well, showing up, got your flair, pins on, go! But, there are times when the price is too high, there are times when you being there is going to be a problem. There are times where you’re going to be told if you don’t sign our declaration of faith, you can’t. You have to cover. I believe that every individual who wishes to do something, should, and bring all of themselves. If you feel I too suffer from OCD and I gotta come and do my thing or else the earthcore will cool with these people and then we’ll tap together and whatever we do. I am against a policy one way or another. Define your terms figure out the cost/benefit and go yes or no. Where a button, sing some John Lennon.

Audience : Not Cee Lo’s version

9:34 Jamila: I am a journalist, I’m going to talk about that perspective. I began writing for a black newspaper, minority media covers small things that happen in their communities and then it gets picked up by larger media and that’s how we got the civil rights movements. I was inspired by that history. I’ve always been inspired by getting stories that other people don’t have — that’s called a scoop. There’s a separation between activism and journalism, but when I find something that’s wrong, when people start to see, then people start to act. Now, am I an activist, that’s a whole other talk I give. Now the future should be informed by the past and other movements and now that we have the internet information fast. This is a return to an ideal of the founders, separation of church and state. You don’t want to use birth control, be quiverfull and get a show on the Discovery Channel. 2012 we have a bunch of elections that matter. A lot of people are talking about issues that apparently have nothing to do with secularism, should Catholic hospitals get public funding and refuse to give the morning after pill, should black boys be frisked without probable cause in NYC, we are skeptics, we’re good with numbers, we should care about it. These stories, we who are skeptical, we who believe that morality does not come down from on high, we who understand that it is our obligation as humans to first do no harm and make sure that others are not harmed, have to — HAVE TO — tell our stories. Preferable to a journalist who will listen and get it right. The future of this movement is the future of the world, it is younger, it is browner, it is a beautiful sight to behold, it is more similar than it is dissimilar and all it needs is a little care and feeding and kumbayah.

Debbie: I’m one of the people who’ve gotten involved because I did student groups and went to a CFI student leadership conference… 12 years ago. As I became an activist, I met people who had attended leadership conferences like Hemant, DJ Grothe, August, Stephanie LeRoy. Investing in the student movement is crucial. We didn’t have as many women 10 years ago who came out of the student movements who became the loudest and brash voices. Seculebrities are changing, we’re seeing shifts in what the movement is interested. The scope of the movement is changing and it’s a movement that’s hard to categorize. CFI has a broader mission, atheism, skepticism, philosophy. We call it the movement, but they are different sides. The humanist side we see a lot more young women involved, I’d like to see more of that in skepticism. Our interests are broadening. Historically it dealt with UFOs and Chubacabras, but there are a lot of people getting involved who care about vaccinations and mothers and children and things that people involved 20 years ago didn’t care about because it reflected who was involved, white scientist men. We see more women, people of color, and one of the core shifts we see is in class. A lot of these things are class issues, as the scope broadens, we’ll see more people involved. Instead of chupacabras we might focus on prison reform. Problems in education system, keep creationism out, but do we know what education is like in the south and in detroit? Most of the people in the movement don”t think about that. More people involved in social justice and service. It’ll be a hard shift because there are a lot of people who don’t think about that, there’s a focus on atheism that thinks we should focus only on why we don’t believe or what’s wrong with the bible. And we wonder why people with 3 kids and 2 jobs don’t come to these things?

9:21 This is on the future of secularism. The panel looks tired. Except Jamila, she looks totally awake. I’m guessing wrangling kids does that to you.

Jen: As a student I feel obligated to point out that I think students are the future of secularism. The one thing I have to point out is that I also think the students are the present. The SSA has been exploding recently, we have 350 groups, only a few years ago it was 100. When I founded the SSA at Purdue, that’s what got me involved in the movement was being involved on the campus. CCC is dropping in the opposite direction and they have millions of more dollars in their budget that we do, like 100 times, we have a staff member per 70 campuses, they have three per campus. Students are putting on conferences.

Greta: What she said. Want to shift gears, want to talk about the internet. The fact that we have the internet gives me tremendous hope for the future. I talk a lot about our similarity to the LGBT movement, one of the things I think about is damn if the LGBT had the internet in 1969. I want to talk about the big blowups that happen online. The fact that we’re having these fights gives me tremendous hope and optimism. I’m glad we’re having these fights now, looking at the history of other movements, in the early stages they did not deal with their stuff about race and sex, it took them a long time to get around to it. Even though it’s ugly, I’m given hope that whenever it blows up now, the conversation is different from what it was a year ago, 2-5 years ago. It was a lot more divided, split on gender lines, and that’s changing. There’s a lot more men calling them feminists and making feminist arguments. There’s more of a general assumption that sexism exists and matters. Gee is it really sexism if a 15 year old girl puts a picture of herself with a book on reddit and she gets rape jokes and comments about her appearance? More men are saying YES. Bloggers get emails all the time about you changed my mind about atheism, but I also get emails, you changed my mind about feminism. Everytime we have one of these frustrating I can’t believe atheists think this stupid shit, the fact that we’re having these arguments now, it’s going to be so much better in 5, 10, 20 years.

9:07 I will probably not be here all morning, but I will liveblog however long I’m here

From left to right: Jennifer Michael Hecht, Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, Jamila Bey, Debbie Goddard. This is the panel of all of my favorite people.

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Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference V

5:36 She has been accused of being hateful and spreading hate. She doesn’t know how to bridge the gap between left and right. And she’s been called racist for speaking out.

Forbidding burqas?

Very good, excellent, I hope they will apply it in every country in Europe

Are there resources to learn more?

Look for infiltration in America society. To learn you have to go to mosques and Islamic schools. They aren’t hiding anything. It’s easy to get the right information.

She heard a joke in Syria. A man asked for directions, and the response is you go, not the first tank, not the second, but the third you take a right. They use it to kill their own people. Who made the tanks and gave them? They can’t even make their own underwear.

Do you think we shouldn’t be worried here because it’s so much better than in the muslim world?

You should fight for your rights, you should fight, don’t take anything for granted. I didn’t mean to discourage you from defending your rights, I was trying to explain how terrible our situation is in the muslim world. But you need to defend your rights.

Is there a liberal version of Islam that you approve of?

There is only one islam, all “versions” are an attempt to be political correct.

Are muslim women able to get psychological help, are their organizations?

They are ready to accept this treatment in the west, but it’s hard in the islamic world to admit you need mental support.

Do you feel that most women are aware of the oppression against them? Why do they vote for muslim radicals such as the Muslim Brotherhood?

They are indoctrinated to believe they are free and their abuse is blessed by Allah. They need to be educated.

Do you worry that you get used by the right wing to stir up hostility and justify aggressive foreign policy?

No, I have very clear message. If people abuse my message it’s not my problem. I cannot prevent others from abusing my message. My message the problem is deeply rooted with Islam. We distinguish between muslims and islams. I am not against muslims, they are my people, I am against islam, i am against the belief system.

What do you think about the current fighting in Syria?

It’s very sad to see my people are being killed by their own government, but I still to some point blame the west, I blame the US for going into my country. For supporting the dictator, and now for supporting the islamicists. If the dictator goes, the islamicists are the only ones read to take over. Big mess in the Arab world and to be honest I feel that the US is involved in creating this mess.

5:25 How can Westerners help?

Reach out through the internet. It’s so dire, it’s beyond her ability to explain. The internet is changing things, they can see the rest of the world. It’s hard for her to see why women complain about small things, they don’t know how lucky they are. We have so many more rights, she feels free. She can walk to Starbucks to herself without being called a whore. Enjoy it, don’t take it for granted, fight for it. Reach out to the Muslim world, they need it.

The worst part of slavery is when a slave believes they are free, and this is the circumstance of Muslim women. They need more schools, more secular schools. They were brainwashed.

Mohammed hated women, and that’s why they still hate them.

What happens to open atheists in Islamic countries?

Oh. O_O the same that will happen to gay guys. They have to be killed.

Is Islam a threat to secular Europe?

Yes. I think it’s too late for Europe to fight back and establish their identity. When I went to speak in Paris I felt like I was in Gaza, 75% of my audience was covered.

Arabic countries used to be more tolerant and advanced ?

This is a huge myth. Took over a bunch of civilizations, and then claimed the civilizations as their own. Stole civilizations and claimed it as their own.

How did you become a doctor and others are prohibited?

Syria is different from Saudi Arabia. They have a relatively secular government, so they are more free than in some countries.

How widespread is sharia law among muslims in the US?

I believe extensively, yes. I think muslims in the US are provided Saudi money to promote islam. When she was new she was offered a lot of money to promote Islam here.

5:15 How can a muslim woman raise a fair minded child when she is oppressed herself? In the Western world, Muslim women have the opportunity to transform as she has. We as citizens of the free world must expose the totalitarian abuse of Islam against women. We must urge for moral clarity, for open discourse.

When she lived in Syria she cried often because she suffered, now that she’s free, she still cries for all other Muslim women in the world. She longs for a day when other muslim women can taste a little of her freedom, it’s a dream that should be available to all humanity.

Standing ovation. I think half the room is crying.

5:10 Lara Logan shared the sexual violence inflicted on her in the field in Egypt. They enjoyed her pain and suffering. It is a vivid opening to the shocking treatment to native as well as foreign women. Muslim mentality is that women are possessions and don’t belong in public. They blame the victim for failing to meet standards of dress. Logan submitted to political correctness and never used the terms muslim or islam in relation to what was done to her.

This is really fucking hard to listen to.

Her niece was forced to marry her cousin when she was 11 and he was over 40. Justified because Mohammed married his second wife when she was 6 and he was over 50. Her niece was abused and didn’t have the right to ask for divorce. She would escape to her father’s house, begging him to let her stay. He would send her back. At the age of 28, she committed suicide by setting herself on fire. Leaving four children behind.

A woman came in and was three months pregnant. She was a widow. Her husband’s brother raped her daily in exchange for feeding her children. If the rapist found out she was pregnant he would have her son kill her, and she didn’t care if she lived, but didn’t want her son to be a murderer. Wafa sent her to a gynecologist who performed an abortion but she was nearly killed in the process because she couldn’t afford to pay for the anesthetic for the surgery.

5:01 She was the first Muslim background person to say on television to say that Islam is the problem. Well-intentioned people in the West are ignorant of the treatment of muslim women and the cause.

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She is here to unmask the true face of Islam to women, it is a hateful ideology. The principles of Islam promote abusive practices. The abuse of women in Islam is legal, but comes from laws directly out of religious texts. People here deny the truth.

To say that the principles of Islam have no relationship with the treatment of women under Islam, is as as nonsensical to say that the constitution has nothing to do with the way America’s government is run. People live in denial of the reality of painful things. Death. It is the same with Islam. Mohammed said women are deficient in mind. She is thankful for the clarity of how wrong Islam is. “There is nothing more hateful for a man than a woman”.

4:56 Next up is Wafa Sultan, she was awesome on the panel. An interview with her from something (?) has 20 million hits. I’m guessing if I google it, with 20 million views, I’ll find it.

Her book is “A God that Hates”. In Arabic they don’t have the letter ‘p’, they pronounce it ‘b’, so heads up on her pronunciation. Disarming way to introduce herself.

She’s honored to be here. It’s her first time to speak at this kind of event, but also because she has survivor syndrome. She saw horrors in Syria as a citizen and as a doctor. Mistreatment of women that were supported by families and sharia. She escaped to the US. She had rights and dignity, unlike before. In her own country, she wasn’t considered mentally fit to be the guardian of her own children.

Over time she started to feel guilty, remembering the women left behind. Millions of women, not just in her country, but throughout the Muslim world, where liberty like hers wasn’t even imaginable. It paralyzed her. Even though she was delighted with her life. Guilt and freedom inspired her to fight back. First by writing, then by speaking out. Fighting for those who have no voice, those she left behind.

4:40

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4:38 She’s giving advice along these same lines to questions from the audience. Suggests asking people for advice, which is better at convincing them about the dilemma, so they’re on your side.

Are there gender differences in who gets called on? Yes, men are.

True story. It’s horrible. People just look at men more.

Do men get threatened with bodily harm like women are threatened with rape?

I think men are threatened with bodily harm. Women getting threatened rape shows the power differential. There are power differentials that we all recognize subconsciously. Men threaten each other for dominance. Women get name called, god you’re bitchy or whatever, there’s an attempt to say you’re not as nice as you used to be. What that person is trying to do is to make you angry? If they call you a name, you just say, it’s probably going to get worse, I’m getting older.

Just agree and say it’ll get worse. And when they get annoyed, you’ve won.

How do you respond to public forums to sexism?

Organizations need to think about it if the comments were inappropriate. The worst thing about bad behavior is that sometimes nobody says anything. That is the worst. Someone needs to say something. In the best of situations, someone might have said something, followed up. Someone in charge should have said it was inappropriate. When you ignore bad behavior, it gets worse.

4:20 Men can change a topic of a women’s conversation in under ten seconds, if women try to join a men’s conversation it’s almost impossible to join, much less direct.

Why is this happening? These are good people? She does it too. People intuitively think men are better and have produced better things than women. Same resumes get different responses, men get hired 2 to 1, same research gets different marks.

Women are devalued generally in society and that subconsciously translates into behaviors. The outsider is devalued. We like people who are like us, Others are devalued.

Intervening when you see these behaviors.

If someone says something wrong, Miss Manners recommends “I beg your pardon”.

Sometimes you can respond with “That comment is offensive to all of us.” (not to me) Some people aren’t that direct.

Jokes that are racist, sexist, etc. You don’t laugh, for one. And then say “I didn’t get the point of that joke. Could you say it again?” Ask them at least two or three times. “Why is that funny?” You don’t say anything for 5 full seconds. And then you just say “oh”. Lollercoasters.

Sometimes women make a suggestion and it is ignored, and then a man makes the exact same suggestion and they immediately pick it up.

The letter has three parts. The first part is very factual, because people usually agree with the facts. Separate facts from feeling. “I felt that I was not getting credit for my ideas.” I feel this, not blaming. Third part is what you’d like to happen. “I would like you to remind the group it was my suggestion initially if someone else is claiming credit.” Usually people say nothing and don’t apologize, but they change their behavior. If they try to talk, you say you don’t want to discuss it, you want it to change. Very effective.

4:10 Women do not get enough praise, we should give them more praise, specific praise about what you think they do well. Criticism needs to be feedback with suggestions, not tearing someone down. Instead of saying this is, put it in a scale. At meetings women don’t talk as much as men. Bring them in.

Listen attentively is importantly. I promise I’m only looking at my phone right now is because… yeah.

The rules of interruption. If someone who is more powerful than you, they are allowed. Obama can interrupt you. If someone has less power than you, you can interrupt them, but you are allowed. But what about people who are equal. You don’t have to stop talking when someone interrupts you if you’re equals.

Appearance importance in describing women but not men. Men and women have different styles of speech. Women speak higher, softer, and apologize before speaking. Assertiveness training. And then when women did that they were called bitches.

Who do you have lunch with? Apparently same sex lunches is normal? I can’t remember the last time I ate lunch with another human…

4:00 Small behaviors that individually don’t do much, but when they’re done repetitively they shut down women. We ALL do this, men and women. We do it to white women and women of color. These things happen to anyone who is an outsider. She’s talking about women, but it’s everyone “outside”. The other.

Everybody looks more at men than women. Women get much less eye-contact. We’re more responsive to men, more praise more criticism, more attention. Men get more coaching and tell me more and women get “uh-huh”. Women get much less feedback.

When women are speaking people are more likely to frown than for men. Men are called by their name more often. We wait longer for men to respond to a question before going to someone else. Men and women are asked different kind of questions, men get thinking questions, women get factual questions. The difference between when and why. Also in interviews.

www.bernicesandler.com has a large list of chilly climate behaviors.

3:53 Now is Bernice Sandler who I really don’t know, unlike the others who have spoken. But we’re getting a detail intro, so convenient.

40th anniversary of Title 9, which she had a lot to do with. Expert at equity issues for women, particularly in harassment. In the 1970s she filed the first charges of sex discrimination against 200 organizations. Coauthored three books, chilly climate, sexual harassment in colleges and in k-12.

She’s going to talk about how who women are seen differently than men. The “chilly climate”.

She watches TV during breakfast and she sometimes learns things from morning shows. Over thirty years ago, one morning they did an interview with a scientist who studied mixed groups, and saw that men interrupted women more than the other way around. Soon she was invited to a seminar for businessmen. By the end of the second day she realized women were getting interrupted more than men.

She took a piece of paper and counted interruptors and interruptees. Women were interrupted twice as much and a different kind. Women interrupted to be encouraging, men interrupted to ask what husbands would say on the issue.

Bernice decided to talk to the male co-leaders, and showed the chart. They denied it. She must have counted wrong, they’d never do that. She left dejected. The next day, there were no interruptions of the women. This is changeable behavior. I’ve got to get a grant to do something!

3:43 Well, I think that that panel we just watched needs to go on Youtube and be required viewing to everyone all the time.  It was fucking awesome.

I practically transcribe that panel, which was nuts. I don’t think I’m going to go quite so crazy on the speeches.

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