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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.

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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.

Ron Paul: Best of Comments as Interpreted by a Hippo

You may recall my post about why I think Ron Paul is a bad choice for secular voters and the horrific responses I got.  So did this hippo.  I could set it up more than that, but why?  Everyone should watch this.  It’s amazing.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Promotes Sexual Slavery?

I want you to go read the most absurd thing I’ve ever read in my life.  Here’s a brief glimpse:

So why is Disneyland still asking us to laugh at an overt depiction of sexual slavery in its popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride?

Disney has unparalleled power to shape young hearts and minds. If the Pirates of the Caribbean ride normalizes sexual slavery with humor, it can desensitize viewers to this heinous and very real gendered crime.

When will Disney learn that sexual slavery is no laughing matter?

I’m just going to back you up here a minute, because the PotC ride is supposed to be a scary ride with a bunch of villains doing awful things.  It’s not like, hey here are the moral pillars of our society, it’s more like, these people were really terrible people, look at all the horrible things they did — like sell weeping young women into sexual slavery.

If we’re going to yell at Disney for promoting sexual slavery, I think we also have to yell at them for promoting looting, pillaging, plundering, robbing, ravaging, drinking way too much, kidnapping, marauding, pyromania, extortion, property damage, generalized debauchery, being scary skeletons and really bad eggs.

AND there are still actually pirates in the world doing horrible things — and real pirates did horrible things, how dare they make entertainment out of real people who did horrible things?  When will Disney learn that piracy is no laughing matter?

I find this completely embarrassing, honestly.  It makes me want to run around screaming at people.  Has any young person ever come away from this ride going, gosh, I think it’s a really good idea to set my house on fire, steal my parents money, and buy myself a sexual slave?

Some people obviously never evolved beyond It’s a Small World.

Finding 24-year-olds sexy? Not Pedophilia

I am a huge fan of the show Glee. This is not necessarily because the show is that great, a lot of the episodes fall hugely flat, the plots are occasionally nonsensical, and the characters change to suit whatever the episode is doing. But, it’s a show about loser high school kids and they sing songs I know the words to. Plus, Jane Lynch.

So, Dianna Agron and Lea Michele, who are both 24, posed along with Corey Monteith, 28, in GQ and the Parents Television Council has said it “borders on pedophilia”. You know, I’m just going to let Classically Liberal do the talking because it’s less expletive laden than my response:

Pedophilia is a persistent sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV also says the adult partner must be at least 16 years of age and at least 5 years older than the child. Non-sexual photos of adults, even of adults who play teenagers on television, is not even on the borderline of pedophilia.

In fact, by definition, even if the photo shoot were of actual teenagers this would not be pedophilia. Notice what pedophilia is NOT. It is not the violation of age of consent laws. Age of consent is a legal definition for a status crime, it is not something that falls under the clinical definition of pedophilia.

Nor is pedophilia a sexual relationship with significant age differences, unless one of the individuals is a prepubescent child. A man of 50 who dates an 18 year old is not a pedophile since the 18 year old is not a prepubescent child.

Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to sexually immature children.

Go read the entire article. Really, this is meant to just be a link saying how well-written and thoughtful that article is, but I’m too irritated by the entire thing to leave it at that.

Because I do actually have a problem with the photoshoot — why isn’t Corey Monteith nearly naked too? Mary McNamara at The LATimes got this right:

But the problem isn’t so much the sex as the sexism. And the disappointing banality of it all.

One assumes that Michele, whose poses are much more aggressively suggestive than Agron’s, also wants a payoff for the hours she has clearly spent in the gym since the show premiered, or at least a bigger payoff than her recent Britney Spears number. And no one can blame a young actress for wanting to make it very clear that, the Broadway cred notwithstanding, she isn’t a theater geek but a sexually attractive young woman who shouldn’t be shoeboxed into Rachel roles.

But honestly, does a woman still have to strip down to panties and thigh-highs and straddle a bench to accomplish this? That’s not titillating or provocative or even retro. That’s just sad.

This is GQ we’re talking about, so the fact that anyone is at all surprised that there are women wearing little in the way of clothes while the men are fully dressed should come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever. I think GQ is pretty damn trashy, but if that’s what people want to do, it’s not like I can stop them. These are things this magazine has had in the past:


I included Borat because it’s the only nearly naked man I could find in the magazine, played for laughs, of course. Obviously the right-wing PTC doesn’t care about feminism or equality, but does care about Glee being too demented for children’s fragile little minds.  Now, why it thinks children should otherwise be allowed to read GQ to see the pictures in the first place remains a mystery.