Another conference and another bad experience by women at the conference followed by a backlash from men toward the women complaining. I am getting SICK OF IT! Knock the shit off now guys and show some respect for women. Right now some atheist men are no better than those on the religious right who want to return women back to the days when they were all barefoot and pregnant.
The atheist and freethought communities have gotten a black eye lately from a couple of highly publicized incidents where women attended some conferences and were harassed or treated unfairly by some men also attending the conferences or demeaned or outright dismissed in panel discussions.
Now the latest dustup is over the comments made about The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) run by the James Randi Educational Foundation and its President DJ Grothe:
Yesterday one of the other Skepchick contributors sent us a link to Stephanie Zvan’s site, where DJ was quoted as having said this:
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.
DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment. I found that claim astonishing, since I was only aware of women speaking frankly about their own experiences and their own feelings. I couldn’t imagine that DJ would be literally blaming the victim for speaking out. To be sure, I asked him in that thread to give us examples of what he was talking about. To my surprise, this was his response:
Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:
“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”
Over the past several years, I’ve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told I’m a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told I’m too ugly to be raped, told I don’t have a say in my own treatment because I’ve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesn’t convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped – by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.
We know why Grothe said the BS he did – groups and events that count on people to attend HATE bad PR and like some college campuses who don’t want to seem unsafe, Grothe attempts to cover up the bad press by shooting the messenger.
I’m so very tired of seemly intelligent men just not getting it – at all. The atheist/freethought community have a SERIOUS gender problem.
I’m with Rebecca Watson on this. From here on out I will refuse to support ANY organization that doesn’t respect women or who try and cover up incidents or blame the victims when they complain about being harassed.
*Message for Atheist/Freethought Men*
The world doesn’t revolve around you. Women are to be treated as you would want to be treated with dignity and respect. Misogyny is NOT cool nor rational. In fact Misogyny puts you in the same club as the religious right nut jobs who are trying to return this country back to the time when women were considered property. You don’t treat your mother or sisters like this so knock the shit off.
Trying to defend your asshat behavior toward women is irrational as well as lame.
If you think Misogyny is biological and should be ignored then remember so is masturbation. Maybe if you tugged one off before going out in public then you might not be such an ass toward women. Think about it.
Some people who’ve read this post weren’t happy with it – Shocker?? Maybe I shouldn’t write a post when I’m extremely angry???
One complaint is some feel a “Guy’s Stop it!” post isn’t productive in the discussion or that many “Stop it!” posts lends more importance to the gender issue than it deserves.
I agree that these incidents aren’t indicative of the general climate of atheist & freethought climates and yes it isn’t a good thing to go to the other extreme that some label as being “PC” where no personal interactions are allowed – EVER. Because some people have met at these conferences or group meetings and then later married, it has been suggested that going too far on this issue would interfere with people meeting and finding soul mates.
In case my position isn’t clear here is what I wrote as a comment on another blog:
From what I read, the issue is a fine line and unlike a lot of our beliefs there is not a firm formula to follow in personal interactions. We have a rough outline but it still comes down to a gamble. Mistakes will be made from time to time although we all know what is an honest mistake and someone being stupid because they don’t think women are people deserving basic dignity and worth.
The real issue is people or groups who fail to deal with the problems when they come up or try to ignore it. That is why this issue makes me upset. We are, for the most part, are all adults and we have all been exposed to how we are suppose to treat other people for decades – personally every job I’ve had included sexual harassment training of some kind so the idea that some people claim to be ignorant of the issue is upsetting to me.
We shouldn’t have to constantly point those facts out to seemly educated people.
And yes I wrote a “Stop it” blog post because that is that what needs to be said about it even though my post wasn’t just about that.