I can’t keep up with everyone, so my apologies if I don’t address every tasty bit of information that has been put before me over the last few days. In fact, maybe you should be glad I didn’t, because it has all gone too far and properly responding to everything would take a very thick book. It has been an interesting few days and in the midst of it all, I’m getting ready for a trip to San Francisco, I’m sewing and designing clothing and hats for people, counseling people who need me and trying to also get work done. I have failed to read everything related to the latest scandal, even though it seems I’m considered, by some, to be to blame.
My intentions in suggesting a sexual harassment panel for TAM to D. J. Grothe was just me trying to do what I felt was the right thing. I had heard some people voice concern, I’ve personally talked to a few women who shared their stories (yes, anecdotes) of things that happened at TAM and other conventions and I had witnessed the battles over the last couple years over how to deal with sexual harassment. The thing that occurred to me was that people were taking action, but they weren’t taking enough action and I felt that we needed more for the sake of effectiveness. So, I wrote a request that I knew would probably be turned down. I knew it was late, I knew it wasn’t necessarily in line with what everyone felt should happen, but I felt it was important and because I didn’t see what I thought would help expressed by others, I stepped up and asked about what I thought would help.
I had no idea that it would cause a storm of … whatever ugly kind of thing this is, with the throwing uglies and the talking about uglies and the bumping of uglies in both consensual and non consensual way. This suggestion led to people publicly stabbing each other in the face, throwing red herrings and generally getting ridiculous and I just kinda sat in confusion while I got a little hate mail and was talked about and to by people who I’m pretty sure had no idea that I was anything more than a fart on someone’s facebook notifications until just this week. But this isn’t really about me – I just wanted to do something I felt was important. That attempt resulted in accusations that I wished harm on D. J. Grothe, that I’m not a true feminist ™, that I shouldn’t talk about these things because I’m nothing more than a sex worker, that I don’t have valuable input and what do I know about sexual harassment, anyway?
This spread beyond that, too, there’s the ressurection of Rebecca Watson’s elevator problem and a few other stories that some people would like to not be made into a public spectacle and then there’s so-and-so hates so-and-so and so-and-so is a meanie and why won’t anyone point out that the biggest complaint is about that one speaker, anyway?
I know that was confusing to read, but that’s about how confusing it is to see people with whom I try to engage in conversation with turn into … whatever it is they turned into that I can say that won’t come across as an ad hominem but also embodies the current social battle that is going on, where words have become weapons of mass destruction, people are trying to figure out why others are pissed at them and a few are stomping off in a huff. Quite frankly, I don’t understand the whole thing. I don’t think most other people do, either. What should have been a public discussion about a social issue became a bash fest and a whirlwind of comments and personal vendettas against certain people.
So, I’ve tried writing about it multiple times. I tried to figure out how I could address the problem without turning into one of the beasts from the mess I was witnessing. I wrote things and deleted them, several times. How do I fix this? I can’t walk away quietly, because I feel like now I’m connected to the problem, right or wrong. So, I’m going to look at what I think is important, as well as defend myself (where I think it is necessary), and hope that I can make enough sense for people to care. I hope you’ll focus more on the issue, and only look at my self-defense if you’re one of those peoples who still think I’m totally worthless and a bad person, or something.
I don’t hate D. J. Grothe or anyone else, really. Yes, there are people who don’t like me and who make it very clear, within the community, that they think I’m some hedonistic, awful, person who’s crotch will probably send the whole world to the torturous, simmering, painful, miserable, fanged, carbon-infested, stinky, and perhaps mildly unpleasant, depths of hell. I don’t even hate those people. In fact, I still tend to like most of them because they have good things to say, sometimes, and I just accept that they won’t ever get to know me and they will probably always find me repulsive (that’s OK, maybe I am repulsive -insert overly perky shrug, here-). D. J. isn’t one of those people. Even when I’ve been uncertain of how I felt about D. J., even when I didn’t like something going on in the JREF, I never felt D. J. was a bad person. Besides, D. J. barely knows me. Also, D. J. is a human being with similar goals to my own. He seems like he would be a great ally, even if we disagree. I don’t want him fired or for him to resign. All I ever wanted was for him to listen to and acknowledge an idea – an idea that I was aware was already possibly outside of his capacity to do very much about. In fact, I even implied I thought it was not likely in my facebook post. In fact, my facebook post was about that exact doubt of ability for something to be done.
Yes, I did feel that D. J.’s response wasn’t what I wanted and it was unreasonable. BUT, D. J. can be talked to and that is probably what I would have done, had that moment on facebook not turned into harassmentstorm 101. But, before I jump into my take on D. J.’s comments, let me address harassmentstorm.
I don’t believe that there is a more than average instance of harassment at TAM as compared to other conventions. I don’t believe other conferences have handled it better or worse. My hope was that the people of TAM would simply be (again) ones who took early action on an existing problem. This problem, by the way, saturates many American social groups. it happens often and it is ugly. I don’t feel that people going to TAM or other conventions are destined to get raped. Though, simply because there is the number of people there that we see, it could happen. This is not because every skeptic male is incapable of being sexually responsible, this is because some people are asshats. I also don’t feel that people working for the JREF or people at TAM should be held accountable for things that aren’t related to or don’t happen at TAM (like things that have happened at other conventions or the howlers I got because I dared to say something). I will repeat: I just want the topic talked about because I think it is important and it is something we can work on.
I will defend D. J. from the masses of hate, but I also don’t think he’s correct in his assessment of what’s going on. TAM is a large conference. 1600 people is a huge number of people in a small space. It would be pretty unlikely that harassment doesn’t happen at TAM. In fact, if sexual harassment didn’t happen at TAM, I would be absofuckinglutely shocked. Yes, I’ve heard stories, so I know things have happened at TAM, but I can’t share those stories with others. I’m a firm believer in confidentiality. It isn’t my place to share the stories of others. So, when people keep asking me for hard numbers and evidence, I can’t share my anecdotes. D. J. posted information from his survey, but I hardly think his survey is objective evidence of anything beyond what people are willing to self-report. People suck at self-reporting, for many reasons (this link explains one of the main reasons why self-report in this situation is likely to fail). Victims of abuse, no matter the abuse, also tend to under report what is happening. In situations where the law comes into play in an employment environment they have whistle-blower laws to protect the person who reports the crime. But, these conferences aren’t work for most of the people there and for most of the people there, there is no protection from their peers. If you have an issue in which people are already not prone to discussing their experiences and, on top of that, there are additional social pressures, and on top of that they can see how others have responded to what stories have been openly talked about, it would take a very brave person to report something on the survey D. J. cited, even if they’re trusting that it will remain confidential (note: I would hope that if someone did report sexual harassment on that survey, that their story would not have been shared without their consent). That being said, I’m pretty sure that if someone bothered to talk to D. J. about the flaws in the survey, without attacking him, he might have been more open to reconsidering what they had to say. Maybe, maybe (I can’t guess at something like that, but I tend to be optimistic about some people, I’ll probably keep nagging until I find it).
Also, I agree, Sexual Harassment isn’t about the paranormal or any other exciting topic that usually gets addressed at TAM. But, I think talking about Sexual Harassment with the goal of teaching people how to properly behave is in the best interest of the organization, anyway. I also think that skepticism shouldn’t have pet topics and that there should be no topic that it is too taboo to critically assess.
I agree that most people at skeptic conventions and other places are not bad people and are not going to sexually harass people. I don’t feel that everyone at the convention is going to be improper and harmful, Addressing these issues is not because society deals with regular rape-mobs at conventions or that this is even a major problem at skeptic conventions. Instead, these things are important because there are is a minority of people who don’t understand they are doing something wrong OR, if they know they’re doing something wrong, they’re just enough of an asshole that they will do something wrong, anyway, if they think there is no consequence. Raising awareness for an issue like this is not to keep the majority from harming each other, it is to keep a minority in check so that people aren’t harmed. I think that is an important distinction that is being ignored.
So, in summary, I think we need to do something to deal with the minority of cases where people are misbehaving at TAM. I don’t think D. J. is correct in his view of the problem, but I don’t want harm done to him, I would just like to have a conversation with him about it and I would like it to be calm and reasonable and not full of piss-tossing. I don’t think that there are masses of uncontrollable sexually-charged men at TAM, waiting to turn every tasty lady into a snack. I also feel that this whole thing blew up in the strangest of ways and many of you people confuse me. Stop making this about your personal issues with others and let’s discuss this.