Serious Answers to Sloppy Questions, Part 1

Photo of about a dozen and a half questions marks stenciled onto black pavement in white paint. Alternating right-side up and upside down in three rows.
Crop of “What?” by Véronique Debord-Lazaro, CC BY-SA 2.0

Niki transcribed the latest video of “unanswerable” gotcha questions. No, this isn’t another one aimed at atheists by Christians, though it’s about as effective and as grounded in real attempts to understand another person’s position. This one is aimed at social justice warriors by the status quo warriors.

Niki’s answers were mostly snark. I love them. You should read them. But it’s also worthwhile to have a few people answer even questions like these seriously, so I’m going to take a stab at that. I’m technically a social justice assassin, so not all the warriors want to admit I’m in the guild, but whatever.

It’s going to be long and tedious, since there are plenty of assumptions to unpack along with the questions themselves and the list itself is long and repetitive. But if we’re going to adopt this kind of tactic from the Christians, we might as well gallop while we’re at it, right? In order to keep it from getting unreadable, I’ll break it into thirds.

  • Do you realize that your war on language through political correctness has made you bedfellows with true rape culture? In other words, Islam, the world’s most misogynistic ideology.

Let’s start with your assumptions. Continue reading “Serious Answers to Sloppy Questions, Part 1”

Serious Answers to Sloppy Questions, Part 1
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Summarizing the Current Allegations Against Richard Carrier

Skepticon has just released a statement saying that Richard Carrier will not be allowed to attend their future conferences because of inappropriate behavior. They had previously stopped inviting him to speak after he displayed a pattern of pushing a staffer’s boundaries.

In light of the recent revelations of sexual harassment, unwelcome attention, and/or unwanted behavior from more than one prominent atheist, Skepticon would like to renew our vow to keep our attendees, speakers, volunteers, vendors, organizers, and anyone else involved in Skepticon safe at our events.

The accusations specifically against Richard Carrier are, sadly, not so surprising to the Skepticon organizers. While he was a featured speaker for many years, we stopped inviting him to speak partly because of his repeated boundary-pushing behavior, including towards someone involved in Skepticon. What has been made clear by the recent discussions is that our attendees’ well being and comfort is put at an unacceptable risk by Carrier’s presence, and so we are officially prohibiting Richard Carrier from attending any future Skepticons.

In case you missed it last week, this is the third allegation of flatly unacceptable behavior from Carrier to be made public. Continue reading “Summarizing the Current Allegations Against Richard Carrier”

Summarizing the Current Allegations Against Richard Carrier

“Sexism and Harassment at Professional Events” Discussion Tonight

I’m doing an event tonight in Northeast Minneapolis with Women Who Code Twin Cities and Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers, but it’s open to all. We’ll be talking about harassment in professional contexts for people whose professional lives include a lot of non-office events. From the description:

Microsoft recently came under fire for hiring women in “tiny schoolgirl outfits” to interact with guests at an event at the GDC gaming conference. Unfortunately, these incidences are all too prevalent in tech.

As a developer, I’ve seen my fair share of inappropriate behavior at conventions, conferences, meetups, happy hours and other work-related gatherings. These incidences include anything from awkward situations to inappropriate comments to outright harassment and abuse. As a writer, I’ve also been involved in the Speculative Fiction community, which has had a number of harassment issues at conventions in the past few years. Since this is a problem both communities share, I’ve invited a local speculative fiction group, MinnSpec, to partner on this event.

Discussion Topics

I’ve had a number of women ask me for advice on handling various situations at professional events. We’ll discuss the following topics:

• How to escape an uncomfortable situation, especially ones with potential to become hostile

• Recognizing body language to understand when someone else is in distress

• Understanding consent

• How to help someone else out of an uncomfortable or potentially hostile situation

• Recognizing body language to understand when you might be making someone else uncomfortable

• How to escalate issues to organizers and/or authorities

• Understanding the potential backlash or criticism that may come from reporting issues

The Schedule

6:30 – 7:00 PM – Mingle and Network
7:00 – 8:30 PM – Panel/discussion
8:30 – 9:00 PM – More Mingling and Networking

For more information, see the Meetup event.

“Sexism and Harassment at Professional Events” Discussion Tonight

Providing Leverage

It started with Laura Anne Gilman:

I will be a Guest at Anachrocon this weekend, and there’s something I want everyone there to know.

I may look about as tough as a toasted corn muffin, but I lived and worked in NYC for two decades. I take no shit, and I give no shits. If you are at the convention and feel unsafe or harassed, you can walk straight up to me, no matter who else I’m talking to, and tell me you need Leverage (term in this usage suggested by the awesome Seanan McGuire).

I won’t be at Anachrocon, but you may do this at conventions and conferences I attend. Tell me you need Leverage, and you’ll have: Continue reading “Providing Leverage”

Providing Leverage

NECSS, Fallout, and Where the Fallout Falls

At this point, I think the major takeaway from the situation with NECSS and Richard Dawkins is “Don’t invite someone as relentlessly divisive as Dawkins to speak from your stage unless you want to be left with no good options when he does it again.” There are organizations that will refuse to learn this, and there are organizations that will learn this quietly, which is probably wise. There are a handful of organizations that will talk about it as appropriate, which is decidedly brave.

In the meantime, however, let’s look at who takes the hits in all this back and forth, shall we?

If there are problems with the Storify embedding, you can read it here. Continue reading “NECSS, Fallout, and Where the Fallout Falls”

NECSS, Fallout, and Where the Fallout Falls

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

Yesterday, I posted something about the race for the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t an endorsement of either candidate. It made no argument in favor of either candidate. It didn’t even express my preference for either candidate.

What I posted yesterday was a critique of the political process as it’s playing out this year. It pointed out that allowing our progressive selves to embrace decades of right-wing character assassination of Hillary Clinton harms more than Clinton. It pointed out that doing this harms me and other women who have been subjected to similar campaigns for being politically active and effective. And it pointed out that it’s nearly impossible to get people to pay attention to this problem.

It also said this:

Commenting note: If you think a personal reflection like this is a place to argue for or against your candidate, whoever that might be, think again. Think hard. Trying to talk about this problem–and having that treated as though I were campaigning instead of engaging in the same cultural critique I do every day as a feminist–has been exhausting and disheartening. My reserves of diplomacy are running low.

Here are the comments I received on that post that you won’t see there. Continue reading “No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition”

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

I was chatting with someone last night about politics, like you do, privately, like you do, so we could have a conversation instead of being interrupted by people telling us how Hillary Clinton is evil. Things get a little rough when politics turns people into sea lions. He mentioned appreciating a piece on the Democratic contest at Shakesville, so I went looking for it.

I don’t know whether “Expectations of the Monster” is the piece he was talking about, but I didn’t get past it. I got stuck instead, stuck trying to figure out how to share it. I got stuck trying to figure out how to get people to read it as it was, there on the screen, instead of as a piece of partisan propaganda. It was the same stuck I’d been trying to figure out how to share the “All-Caps” piece (warning: brief auto-play video at the bottom of page) from earlier.

I was still stuck when I went to bed. When I woke up, this is what came out.

When we’re talking about the Democratic presidential nomination, and I tell you that Hillary Clinton’s actual record shows continual movement to the left (which is not flip-flopping), some of you will tell me that you just don’t trust her. You’ll tell me Clinton is calculating, cold, evasive. You’ll point to “scandals” as though the existence of so many allegations proves there must be some core of fact.

You might as well call me “dogmatic” and “authoritarian” to my face. Continue reading “If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I”

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

Dawkins Goes Denialist: An Open Letter to the CFI Board

Let me start this by offering my sympathy. You have what was probably a tough decision just behind you. You have another ahead. You haven’t had much time to be comfortable that you made the right decision in between. You have no options that will please everyone or even any options that will not sadden and anger many people.

That said, I’m writing this to make sure you understand the full import of what’s ahead of you. When someone like Richard Dawkins conjures up a new storm on the internet every week or two, it’s easy to slip into the habit of thinking they’re all the same and they’ll all blow over. That isn’t the case here.

What Dawkins has done over the course of the last couple of days has ramifications for CFI that need to be considered carefully. I don’t want you to miss them. Continue reading “Dawkins Goes Denialist: An Open Letter to the CFI Board”

Dawkins Goes Denialist: An Open Letter to the CFI Board

My “Theory” of Codes of Conduct

Oh, good lord, we’ve got a “thinker” on our hands. Seriously, that’s how he describes himself in the bio for his self-published book about psychopaths (based on his personal experiences rather than psychological research, natch). Only now he’s thinking about codes of conduct.

Is there a problem with thinking? Nope. Is there a problem with this guy thinking? Not in particular. It sounds like he’s even pretty good at it when it comes to software. So what’s the problem?

It’s the same problem that continually happens with people who define themselves as smart or as good thinkers: They forget about GIGO. They come to think of themselves as experts without having done any of the work.

This guy, in true “thinker” fashion, has decided he knows how people who work on codes of conduct theorize and conceptualize them without apparently ever having talked to any of us.

And indeed, I think the mainstream Code of Conduct model is based on false assumptions. The mainstream theory of harassment (let’s call it “Model A”) has these assumptions:

  1. Anyone can be the harasser.
  2. Harassment is a motiveless act.
  3. Outlawing harassment will stop it.

Those are indeed false assumptions. They are also not even close to the premises I’m working from when I talk about codes of conduct. Here are mine. You’ll note some contrasts. Continue reading “My “Theory” of Codes of Conduct”

My “Theory” of Codes of Conduct

Secular Women Work: The Nonsense

Why am I posting this? I’d collected it all as it happened, then never bothered to publish it. I’m reminded in another venue, however, that unless I remind people that harassment is continual, they assume it’s all better now. So here, this is what it’s like to run a conference as an open feminist in this movement.

You know, of course, that neither I nor Secular Woman could be involved in running a conference without a load of nonsense being passed around and the conference hashtag flooded. It started with the Kickstarter.

He means I reported him to Twitter for harassment and Twitter suspended his account after agreeing with me. Continue reading “Secular Women Work: The Nonsense”

Secular Women Work: The Nonsense