Author Topic: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year  (Read 67848 times)

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Offline Belgarath

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #330 on: June 03, 2012, 02:17:24 AM »
So now that I'm at a computer and I can type on a real keyboard,

Originally I thought that DJ's comments were a bit ham-handed, but now that I read them in the FULL context of that thread, DJ was responding to this comment:

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More to the question: How is the JREF's current policy (put in place last year) insufficient? How many complaints has the JREF received at TAM regarding sexual harassment and how has the JREF handled them? These are questions for the organizers of individual events and perhaps D.J. could answer the second one? The first requires expertise; I could certainly ask my husband, who designs events, for a referral, but I don't know anyone personally who could evaluate it. All of the lawyers I know have other specialties.

DJ replied with this:

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Barb: I think I see where Sophie is coming from with all of this, and as a gay man I feel I'm sensitive to issues of sexism and homosexism.

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.

Please note, he's not saying what Rebecca accuses him of saying here:

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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:

He did not say that women skeptics are creating an unwelcoming environment, but, unless he's lying about the e-mails he's receiving, he IS saying that there are women who are e-mailing him with concerns which are unfounded on their face.  JREF doesn't support child trafficking and it doesn't support harassment of any kind.  In addition, the JREF has specific policies against it.  Are the women e-mailing him making this stuff up?  No, they're getting it from somewhere.  Where are they getting it from?  From blogs is the only source DJ can find.

Now, Rebecca asks DJ to point out where he has seen such accusations, and he replies with a quote from Rebecca in the USA Today, SPECIFICALLY stating EXACTLY what he says women bloggers are doing.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-15/atheist-sexism-women/50416454/1

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Watson would like that too.
"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 and we have a lot of growing to do. The good news is there are a lot of people within the community who are interested in making it better and getting rid of our prejudices."

Rebecca then lists all of the things that have happened to her.  I have NO DOUBT that all of those things have happened to her, but I do wonder why they weren't reported to authorities?  Most of the things she lists are crimes punishable by multi year prison sentences.  Why aren't these people in jail?

It basically appears that DJ isn't saying 'shut up' he is saying that the METHODOLOGY employed by Rebecca is causing more problems than it is solving.  And all of this was started by a woman who wanted to have a panel discussion about harassment.  Another woman in the thread said that she didn't feel it was appropriate for a scientific skepticism conference, and DJ agreed.  Suddenly DJ is blaming the victim.  Not true, he IS saying that the way we are communicating about it, is making the problem of getting women involved worse. 

We need more women involved in skepticism.  We need more men involved.  Feelings are NOT reality.  I think it was Dara O'Briain who said this best:

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Zombies are at an all time low level, but the Fear of zombies is at an incredibly high level!

Many people have a fear of flying, but it's safer than riding in your car.  Is their fear justified?

If harassment is happening, then it should be reported and dealt with swiftly and harshly.  Rebecca has every right to express her feelings on elevator gate, but don't others have the right to say that her feelings could be wrong?  If I have a feeling that a ghost is in my room, it could very well be that there really is a ghost in my room, but it's unlikely.  And again, I'm not saying that Rebecca hasn't had all of those things happen to her.

Later in her blog post, Rebecca says:

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In addition to blaming victims of sexual harassment for being too open about their harassment, DJ has also insisted that there have never been any problems with harassment at TAM (a topic I have never actually commented on, actually, even when on Twitter last year a man told me he was going to grope me in an elevator; when others complained about him to the JREF, they did nothing more than ask him to please not molest me). Ashley Miller pointed out that a drunk man was harassing her and several other women at the speaker’s dinner last year at TAM, and she congratulated DJ for taking swift action when DJ himself had the man thrown out. This should be a wonderful example of JREF acknowledging the problem of harassment and taking the appropriate action to ensure that the man was removed and the women once again felt safe.

Instead, DJ is so committed to his idea that harassment never happens and it’s all just made up in order to drive women away from his conference that he gaslights Ashley, telling her that she isn’t remembering properly. He tells her that she only assumed it was a JREF member who removed the man, despite the fact that Ashley remembered DJ himself participating. There are at least six people who say they witnessed the event. One says she personally congratulated DJ after it was done. One says he tagged DJ on Facebook in a congratulatory comment. But despite the fact that DJ did the right thing, he would prefer it be forgotten so that he can maintain his new narrative. It’s truly jaw-dropping. And now Ashley is dealing with a flood of angry DJ supporters who are demanding she provide evidence that her harassment took place and that DJ threw the guy out and that she’s not secretly a filthy liar.

Hmm, lets go to the tape and see what DJ really said:

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Hi guys, I just want to clarify: are we saying that I kicked out an attendee from the speakers reception because he sexually harassed three women there, as Ashley says in her post and comment? It is a horrible story, and no one should ever go through such groping or harassment etc. at any event, skeptic or not, and I am mortified that Jamilla, Jen and Ashley experienced this at our private speakers reception. But I have to say that I never asked anyone to leave the speakers reception because of harassment. I appreciate Ashley giving me the benefit of the doubt in her post when she says that maybe "I 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."

Was someone asked to leave the private event because he wasn't a speaker or wasn't supposed to be at the reception? Jarrett, were you there? If you remember it, do you recall my asking a man to leave TAM for sexual harassment?

If someone at the private speakers reception sexually harassed you, Jen and Jamilla, as you say in your post and comment, again, it is absolutely horrible and I wish we would have known so we could have called security and removed the guy from TAM. That you say he was "inappropriately touching [you] and backing [you] into corners and asking [you] to have sex with him after [you] told him to stop" is gross and inexcusable. You identify him as a "drunk british guy from Shrewsbury." I sincerely wish you would have let hotel security or TAM staff know immediately about the incident, and we will certainly look into who the perpetrator could be (you say he was a TAM registrant?). Unfortunately, you and I never spoke about the incident, even if you were told inaccurately by others I had him removed for sexual harassment.

Despite the fact that no one was removed from the speakers reception last year for sexual harassment, if he groped you and insisted he have sex with you, and sexually harassed Jamilla and Jen as well, as you say, again, he should have been asked to leave by hotel security. Anyone who behaves like that at any events like TAM should similarly be asked to leave by security. As I said in my response to you, I am sincerely sorry to hear about this. JREF takes the security and safety of all attendees at our events seriously.

And a bit later he adds:

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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).

I am mortified to hear through this channel that he backed you into a corner, groped you and otherwise sexually harassed you (did he do this in front of the other people at the reception?), as well as reportedly harassing Jamilla and Jen.

If I or any of the other TAM staff or hotel staff would had known you had been accosted, we would have contacted security and removed him immediately from TAM, and/or called law enforcement. In your post earlier today on this, it sounded like you were suggesting I had someone removed from TAM. We in fact did not have anyone removed from TAM, and didn't know you were harassed, but again, had we known, he would have been.

And guess what?  Someone else backs him up by saying:

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@Ashley,
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. He did not have the details that you elaborated above. If you never gave him the details he would not have known that you were harassed. I was much closer to your side of the room and I did not know all of this information until today.

So the guy who told DJ about this incident ONLY told him that the guy in question was drunk and rude.  DJ was NOT informed that the guy was harassing women.  Does Rebecca correct her post to reflect this?  No.

Please go read this thread in context and see if I have it wrong:

https://www.facebook.com/mgafm/posts/394636350588993?notif_t=share_comment


Now, I'm going to go play a video game, but not with Panda.....
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Offline pandamonium

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #331 on: June 03, 2012, 02:22:31 AM »
Now, I'm going to go play a video game, but not with Panda.....
Great minds think alike.

I'm probably not going to be able to devote much of my attention this topic until my day off, anyway; that's assuming I don't get so frustrated that I give up and go back to video games.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #332 on: June 03, 2012, 02:28:19 AM »
I didn't interpret the remark the way you did, actually I can't see how you did that. AQB24712 said it was "I thought only physicists in James Bond films were that beautiful", I think should be taken as a compliment and gives huge room for there to be beautiful women who are also physicists. If you're upset for being told that physicists as a group aren't as beautiful on average as bond girls who are picked from actresses for their extraordinary beauty, you've got problems.

not paying any attention to this line of discussion, I guessed the issue might have been that it feels demeaning. like 'you're an amazing parent for a man', or 'I thought the only blacks competent to be president were movie characters--good for you, Mr Obama'.
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Offline Ajzzz

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #333 on: June 03, 2012, 02:52:48 AM »
I didn't interpret the remark the way you did, actually I can't see how you did that. AQB24712 said it was "I thought only physicists in James Bond films were that beautiful", I think should be taken as a compliment and gives huge room for there to be beautiful women who are also physicists. If you're upset for being told that physicists as a group aren't as beautiful on average as bond girls who are picked from actresses for their extraordinary beauty, you've got problems.

not paying any attention to this line of discussion, I guessed the issue might have been that it feels demeaning. like 'you're an amazing parent for a man', or 'I thought the only blacks competent to be president were movie characters--good for you, Mr Obama'.

Well that's something quite different. I don't think anyone has issue with saying bond girls are rare beauties, in particular Denise Richards, where as I certainly do have a problem with you saying black people as an exception to others are rarely competent to be president, to a point where they only exist in fiction. That's racist, and the equivalent of saying "I didn't think black people could be competent enough to be president." Does anyone really have a problem with the statement: "I didn't think physicists could be so beautiful they could be selected to be a bond girl".  That's if they actually meant it literally, maybe they were being factitious and it just meant they were beautiful.

Offline kikyo

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #334 on: June 03, 2012, 02:55:39 AM »
is any of this EG matter behavior that women have said keep them from attending TAM

No, it's not, so I'm not even sure why I'm so determined to continue discussing it when it's becoming more and more off-topic and ridiculous.

To be honest I'm not even concerned one or the other with Rebecca's reaction or decision, so I don't feel the need to participate in this thread, really, when there is now one called "What can JREF do?" which I think is the more important question and issue. My only reason to participate in the first place is because I don't think Rebecca's particular reaction is really important to the larger issue.

What concerns me about DJ's comments are basically the timing. I have no doubt his statements are a personal reactions to criticisms he himself has received on blogs. He feels those criticisms have attached to him and are now scaring people away from coming to his party. The problem is, that he is not specific about what the "inappropriate messaging" is and his statement comes at the same time as there has been a lot of really positive and reasonable talk about how to create and implement a sexual harassment policy at conventions and how to set guidelines so that on the one hand, people can have fun and socialize freely, but on the other hand feel safe and comfortable that if something were to happen that violated the rules, it would be dealt with appropriately.

The problem is that it is very easy to attach DJ's comments to this discussion even though, after looking into the whole history here, I don't believe he necessarily was referring to that discussion (although he may have been, given some of the people who were involved in the discussion were also people who have criticized him in the past). I wasn't aware of the past criticisms of him because I don't follow free thought blogs closely. I truly thought he was referring to the discussion on implementing sexual harassment policies when he made those remarks and I was really turned off by them. I don't think the way he went about his statement was the best way to encourage more women to attend TAM, regardless of what the details were or who said what in which blog post when.

Since that's what I'm mostly concerned about anyway, I'll be in that other thread.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #335 on: June 03, 2012, 02:57:34 AM »
Does anyone really have a problem with the statement: "I didn't think physicists could be so beautiful they could be selected to be a bond girl".  That's if they actually meant it literally, maybe they were being factitious and it just meant they were beautiful.

Does anyone really have a problem with the statement: "I didn't think presidents could be so black they could be selected to be a in a rap video"?


seems like it's demeaning the abilities of blacks/beauties.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #336 on: June 03, 2012, 02:59:19 AM »
I'm not even sure why I'm so determined to continue discussing it when it's becoming more and more off-topic and ridiculous.

science has yet to discover what force of nature causes this behavior on forum threads, but it seems to be universal.
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Offline Ajzzz

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #337 on: June 03, 2012, 04:01:53 AM »
Does anyone really have a problem with the statement: "I didn't think physicists could be so beautiful they could be selected to be a bond girl".  That's if they actually meant it literally, maybe they were being factitious and it just meant they were beautiful.

Does anyone really have a problem with the statement: "I didn't think presidents could be so black they could be selected to be a in a rap video"?


seems like it's demeaning the abilities of blacks/beauties.

I don't understand that statement, I don't know what you mean by "so black" and the relationship between being in a rap video.

Yeah, the original statement didn't have "could", that was my mistake, I didn't mean it as suggesting a limit but as a statement on rarity. It's not saying that's not possible, it's saying it's rare because being a female physicist is slightly rare, and being that beautiful is rare, so it generally doesn't happen that someone is both. Saying I didn't realise someone could win two Nobel prizes in different sciences, is not demeaning Marie Curie.

Offline pandamonium

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #338 on: June 03, 2012, 04:23:11 AM »
is any of this EG matter behavior that women have said keep them from attending TAM

No, it's not, so I'm not even sure why I'm so determined to continue discussing it when it's becoming more and more off-topic and ridiculous.

To be honest I'm not even concerned one or the other with Rebecca's reaction or decision, so I don't feel the need to participate in this thread, really, when there is now one called "What can JREF do?" which I think is the more important question and issue. My only reason to participate in the first place is because I don't think Rebecca's particular reaction is really important to the larger issue.

What concerns me about DJ's comments are basically the timing. I have no doubt his statements are a personal reactions to criticisms he himself has received on blogs. He feels those criticisms have attached to him and are now scaring people away from coming to his party. The problem is, that he is not specific about what the "inappropriate messaging" is and his statement comes at the same time as there has been a lot of really positive and reasonable talk about how to create and implement a sexual harassment policy at conventions and how to set guidelines so that on the one hand, people can have fun and socialize freely, but on the other hand feel safe and comfortable that if something were to happen that violated the rules, it would be dealt with appropriately.

The problem is that it is very easy to attach DJ's comments to this discussion even though, after looking into the whole history here, I don't believe he necessarily was referring to that discussion (although he may have been, given some of the people who were involved in the discussion were also people who have criticized him in the past). I wasn't aware of the past criticisms of him because I don't follow free thought blogs closely. I truly thought he was referring to the discussion on implementing sexual harassment policies when he made those remarks and I was really turned off by them. I don't think the way he went about his statement was the best way to encourage more women to attend TAM, regardless of what the details were or who said what in which blog post when.

Since that's what I'm mostly concerned about anyway, I'll be in that other thread.
First of all, because I neglected to say so earlier, but KIKYO HI. I don't know that we've had much interaction, but you are a welcome side effect of all this.

Second of all, I see that I have a lot of reading to do on my next day off.
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Offline Plastiq

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #339 on: June 03, 2012, 04:27:41 AM »
(click to show/hide)

Nice breakdown.

Offline mmmichael

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #340 on: June 03, 2012, 04:34:26 AM »
I think Rebecca's actions are appropriate. I'd like to hear the SGU panel address her reasons for being absent, too, but I would understand if they choose not to.

The issue with the elevator was controversial when it shouldn't have been. The fact that so many men within the community reacted the way they did was evidence, to me, that being respectful of women on a basic level is something many of them have issues with. So it's not surprising to me the way some men in the skeptical community are reacting to her current, rather tame actions.

This.

Only it seems that it's men AND women. I think a lot of people, with the current fiasco as well as last year's elegator shenanigans, started hearing about it from comment-threads of semi-related posts, so by the time they make it to the original statements and events, their minds are made up and all out of whack.

Myself included. The first I heard about this was through "The crazy feminists want DJ Grothe to resign for disagreeing with them!"  vs "DJ Grothe is a sex trafficker and he loves the rape!" types of statements. Needless to say, I don't like either straw-filled side of that kind of exchange, so I didn't know what to think.

What's a boy to do? =(

Offline pandamonium

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #341 on: June 03, 2012, 04:40:55 AM »
"DJ Grothe is a sex trafficker and he loves the rape!"
Dammit, I keep seeing this child trafficking BS. Where did this rumor start? I know Lawrence Krauss took shit for defending a friend of his who was caught with child porn or was involved somehow in trafficking (I forget, something reprehensible that Krauss probably should have avoided commenting on for PR reasons). Is that where this stupid rumor started? Because it's starting to annoy me.
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Offline stonesean

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #342 on: June 03, 2012, 04:45:58 AM »
"DJ Grothe is a sex trafficker and he loves the rape!"
Dammit, I keep seeing this child trafficking BS. Where did this rumor start? I know Lawrence Krauss took shit for defending a friend of his who was caught with child porn or was involved somehow in trafficking (I forget, something reprehensible that Krauss probably should have avoided commenting on for PR reasons). Is that where this stupid rumor started? Because it's starting to annoy me.

Best I can tell, the only mention of it is DJ's response to Rebecca in which he says JREF has gotten emails from women saying they wont attend TAM because they've heard that JREF is okay with sex trafficking.

Which is, of course, madness.

What I want to know is if some blogger has evidence that the JREF is somehow complicit in sex trafficking why are we hearing it from bloggers and not at a press conference in which the JREF offices in FL are raided by the police?

Perhaps because the accusation is bullshit?  RW seems to believe it, and mentions it in her TAM post.  I wonder why she hasn't called the police?
Well.  There it is.

Offline Zytheran

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #343 on: June 03, 2012, 05:39:11 AM »
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Nice breakdown.

Agreed. Now the ducks line up when we see the full story and understand what each party knew.
That's 3 times this has happened now and I'm seeing a pattern in hyperbole based on misunderstanding and assumptions by the same person.
Not impressed at all by DJ's treatment by 'skeptics', of all people, without any self doubt. >:(

If you claim to be a skeptic, practice what you preach. That's all I'm going to say. >:(

Offline stonesean

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Re: Rebecca Watson to Not Attend TAM This Year
« Reply #344 on: June 03, 2012, 06:14:48 AM »
I keep thinking about extraordinary claims requiring extraordiary evidence.

I keep hearing people claim the JREF is either complicit or okay with a lot of horrible things.

Still waiting for that extraordinary evidence.
Well.  There it is.