The DJ Grothe quote that sticks in my craw.

At the end of this comment, DJ Grothe said the following about the “rumors” of harassment at skeptical conferences:

So much of that feels to me more like rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers who are eventually deemed as “skeezy,” and whom they feel should be not allowed to speak at such conferences going forward.

Emphasis mine.

I know everyone else has taken him to task over this quote already. I just want to present a hypothetical in case DJ reads this. It’s entirely fictional, and as far as I know has never actually happened to anyone at any conference.

Let’s say, DJ, that someone — a stranger with whom you’ve had no previous interactions, but perhaps someone you know from the community in a vague and distant sort of way, perhaps because they were a speaker at some other convention or a member of a forum you frequent or are ostensibly responsible for — approached you at a convention. So you have a pretty good idea they have some idea who YOU are, even if you’re not really familiar with them.

Let’s say that this person suggested, entirely jokingly, that you were just tasty enough to eat and that they should taze you, stuff you in the back of a van, drive you to their home and lock you in their basement so they can rape you whenever they wanted. Let’s further say that this person appears to have the physical means to do it, and makes a point of being near enough to you the rest of the evening and tries to catch your eye and smile a toothy, evil grin every now and again.

I hope you’d agree that that scenario would constitute harassment and should be registered as an incident with the folks looking to collect data on harassment incidents. And yet you’re not actually physically harmed and are perfectly intact come the end of the evening, without further incident.

My question to you is: whose “sexual exploits” are those?

The DJ Grothe quote that sticks in my craw.

67 thoughts on “The DJ Grothe quote that sticks in my craw.

  1. 51

    (continued)

    …me to take away from your quoted paragraph, then your message would have come across more clearly if you had been more specific.

  2. 52

    That was almost appropriately conciliatory, mikmik. Thank you. I still have to take issue with some of your problems with this conversation though.

    First, we need to all be talking about the same thing when we say “safe space”. That’s paramount. Rebecca and others are talking about the skeptical community not being a “safe space” e.g. a place where the background harassment is not improved upon (notwithstanding the focused harassment she received for daring to say “guys, don’t do that”), not that they’re necessarily going to get harassed at any particular conference. The conflation of this argument about harassment policies with TAM in specific is DJ’s fault, I have to say.

  3. 53

    John Morales says:

    Pot, kettle.
    You know what the problems here are? I’ve rarely seen so much psychoanalysis and mind reading since the last Psychic convention was held. I am sick of all the hysteria over what amounts to pure speculation.

    The irony is strong, here.

    Pot, kettle, mikmik.

    Alas for you, there was no analysis anywhere in your quotation, but rather a statement of perception.

    LOL @ myself! True enough, a purely emotional expression of frustration. I should’ve been more specific, I suppose, but I am trying to give my perception of things.

    Shut the fuck up already with all the bullshit. It’s all starting to sound, to me, like a bad soap opera plot.

    Whining is whining.

    I didn’t need the “STFUA” bit, that amounts to the same escalation of response that bothers me, in general, with many of the statements I find so irritating. It’s just the blaming and, sometimes, not so subtle innuendo about character and agendas that seem to become big issues in themselves.
    Now here is my speculation about some of it, and I’m not important or very knowledgeable in all the intricacies and sequence of events, but I feel extremely frustrated that saying “sorry, I misunderstood what you meant” or “Yes, I can see your point” is a lost art. Fuck, so much hassle that divides us could be avoided with a certain degree of mutual understand being expressed, and a willingness to take responsibility for our own actions.
    Instead of the ego thing where we defend and rationalize our own viewpoints and right to hold and say them in such determined manner, a little respect for, and latitude given for teh ‘benefit of the doubt’, a viable understanding and solutions built on such could be attained much quicker.

    IMHO, Watson could admit that here quote about her now not feeling safe does sound drastic when it stands on its own as a specific criticism of atheist men that seems to contrast with all the other situations where she, presumably, feels safe. That’s what it sounded to me like she’s saying.

    IMHO, Grothe could admit that his comparison to locker room banter is belittling and dismissive to a large section of the discussion and it sounds like he doesn’t take these women seriously. It sure came across to me like that.

    I am purposely trying to be non committal to any ‘side’ of the controversy, and IMHO, many of us could say that we are missing the general point of what these people are saying, and that these quotes, focused on and analyzed to fucking death, is not giving credit to other areas where these people, Watson and Grothe, for example, express much more reasonable understanding and intention to resolve the situation of sexual harassment with each other.

    Holy shit, I’m an accommodationist!! 😉

    “‘X’ is really implying this” and “‘Y’ is really a that” opinions that become memes, and that then transform into some kind of gospel truth, are as far away from rational input as Christians fighting over who’s interpretation of the Bible are really God’s true feelings.

    Not that your demolition of this straw-castle was properly executed, but it is showy enough.

    I have Monty Python hard wired into my pre-frontal cortex, and I have a bad habit of mixing ‘parody’ with ‘serious’ in my posts. Point taken about being showy – that is a problem with me.

    How is Grothe saying, “from just one or a few women” different from another person saying, “from one or a few speakers?”
    And what in the world, pray tell, does your little overblown fantasy have to do with anything? It is a grievous mis-characterization at best, and an implication of outright lying using a straw man analogy on the face of it.

    The fantasy, eh?
    🙂

    Look, just because something is painfully obvious doesn’t mean I understand it. I am no stranger to blushing in embarrassment!

  4. 54

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Because D.J. is saying that he knows that these few women are the extent of the people saying there are problems with speakers. He then uses that unfounded assumption to tell us that we should not be talking about these speakers.

    Yes, I don’t agree, so much. This is exactly what I mean about focusing on one very unfortunate sound bite, and then drawing mis-characterization and exaggeration from it. He never said we shouldn’t be talking about these speakers, not in the quote above.
    In fact, put into context:
    “Issues of sexism and homosexism and lack of diversity and racism and the like are very important and merit our attention, and demand our hard work to ameliorate. Indeed, we have worked hard to address such issues over the last few years, in some ways leading the way before any blogosphere attention was even given to the issues (I asked Watson, as an example, to run a Women in Skepticism panel a few years ago at TAM, and also a workshop on related topics, in addition to our deciding to program what I think was a productive conversation on diversity within the skeptics movement last year. A speaker or two will also likely address related issues this year, in all likelihood).

    But if our goal is to attract more gays or people of color or women to our movement(s) and our events, I believe it is counterproductive to concentrate mostly or only on the (inaccurate) message of how unsafe we think it is for gays or people of color or women if they chose to attend our events.

    Again, I think our survey data from last year’s TAM is pretty relevant to this point. People who attend do not feel unsafe or unwelcome, and that bears mentioning at least somewhere in all of these posts about supposed rampant sexual harassment and unnamed lists of certain speakers “victimizing” young women, and the like.”
    You disagree with this, Stefanie? It sounds more than reasonable to me, and I think accusing a few people, from a larger group they belong to, of grievous shit without specific names is fucking uncalled for and way the fuck over the line, okay?
    Way the fuck over the line, I hope you understand this one thing: it is way the fuck over the line.
    Now, you may ask, what the eff is your problem, mikmik? These guys are seriously over the effing line, way the eff over the line!

    And I would say, “No kidding, but that is the very exact wrong way to deal with this because:
    1. It casts suspicion onto innocent parties – it is slander and libel, and I quote“Slander and libel are false or malicious claims that may harm someone’s reputation.” That means the innocent speakers.
    2. If you can’t name names, and tie specific accusations to those names, it is chickenshit rumormongering intent on spreading anger onto whatever gets in the way, and not on containing damage.
    3. Hearsay shouldn’t be given the time of day, FFS.
    4. You are stating your opinion as truth, and assuming the premise is true in order to prove the premise.

    It chokes me just as much when others decide to ‘run with it’ instead of considering just exactly what type of information they are running with.

    I, on the other hand, have spoken with people who have identified a few speakers as problems based on their personal experience with those speakers or interactions they’ve witnessed. I don’t claim that this tells me anything more than that the problem exists, which is, in turn, sufficient to tell me we need to handle it in a professional manner.

    I stated my opinion on this “professional manner.” What you do is confront the individuals in a safe environment, e.g. with a neutral audience present, and warn said offender that if this continues, legal action will be taken.

    Did you really need that explained?

    Obviously not, but while we’re explaining stuff to each other, could you explain your problem with this?
    But I’m not talking about anyone requiring physical evidence of specific predation. Again, there have been zero reports of such harassment at the TAMs I’ve been a part of, and as I say above, while that doesn’t mean that such didn’t occur (it could have been unreported) we do have some data from last year’s survey, as an example:

    Of 800+ responses to this comprehensive survey, only two people reported feeling “unwelcome” at the event. Both of these respondents were men. One was a conservative who felt several speakers insulted his political beliefs. The other was a retiree who “hates” magic.

    11 respondents to the survey did report a problem with an interaction with someone else that made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe (this was a difference question on the survey). 3 of them were men who did not elaborate on the interaction and 3 were from women who did not elaborate on the interaction. Another was a woman who reported a speaker was rude to her when she asked for a photo. Another was a woman who was made fun of for not being an atheist. Another was a woman was ridiculed for being a vegetarian. Another was a woman who reported no specific incident but claimed her enjoyment of the event was negatively affected by the “drama surrounding elevator gate” and “having to hear everyone talk about it.” Finally, one person did report feeling uncomfortable around an attendee, fearing future possible sexual harassment, and while we are concerned about such concerns, there was no complaint of any actual activity that had happened that the hotel or security or law enforcement or others could take action on. Importantly, every one of these 11 respondents nonetheless reported feeling welcome at TAM. It is inaccurate to say that “women do not feel welcome” at these sorts of events, judging by the 40% women attendance last year at TAM and these survey results. Similarly, I think it is an irresponsible (and inaccurate) message to tell people that women should feel “unsafe” at these events.

    Please, explain to me, am I missing something here? Is there something severely wrong about his reporting of this survey, or the survey in question?
    Because, if it is presented dishonestly, or is fabricated, then I do not hold an opinion of what goes on at TAMs as being extraordinary compared to all conferences in general, and that perspective is necessary so that people don’t get the wrong impression.

    If you want people to feel safe, then come back with reports of your efforts to resolve the situation, and that TAM is the one place you expected better of the speakers and attendees.

    Racism and sexism I fucking hate, and especially when I comprehend how absolutely and rightfully women are being abused and terrorized in so many insidious ways. It is completely unacceptable, and I hope you get my double meaning here.

    (I somehow know that I’ll regret hitting the ‘submit’ button once again!)

  5. 55

    mikmik: re this:

    Please, explain to me, am I missing something here? Is there something severely wrong about his reporting of this survey, or the survey in question?
    Because, if it is presented dishonestly, or is fabricated, then I do not hold an opinion of what goes on at TAMs as being extraordinary compared to all conferences in general, and that perspective is necessary so that people don’t get the wrong impression.

    See the very next post. Short answer: Yes, there is a HUGE problem with the survey.

    That link:

    http://the-orbit.net/lousycanuck/2012/06/02/the-further-hyper-skepticism-stalling-our-conversation/

  6. 56

    It sounds more than reasonable to me, and I think accusing a few people, from a larger group they belong to, of grievous shit without specific names is fucking uncalled for and way the fuck over the line, okay?
    Way the fuck over the line, I hope you understand this one thing: it is way the fuck over the line.

    No, I don’t understand any such thing.

    You’ve very concerned about innocent speakers. I hear that. What I don’t hear or see is any recognition of the fact that no one has been doing anything to help the people who have been harassed.

    What you do is confront the individuals in a safe environment, e.g. with a neutral audience present, and warn said offender that if this continues, legal action will be taken.

    Who does this? The conferences that haven’t even had harassment policies in place? They’re the only ones in a position to talk about “if this continues”. Have they done that? Are they in a position to do that now based on private discussion?

    No. The only way to fix this is to get harassment policies in place for events.

    Nor am I the first person to suggest this. Others have. Maybe not to the current leadership or to current event planners, but they’ve suggested it. It hasn’t happened, suggesting a strong institutional inertia. The only way to fix that is with open dialog.

    Fixing the problem is not fucking over the line.

  7. 57

    Sorry I’ve taken so long. I was wrong about Crothe, and I apologize to you, Stephanie, and you, my Canadian brother, JT.

    At first, i thought that losing women in such numbers was a blow to TAM credibility that ill advised, but now I think you are very much in the right when you say “Fixing the problem is not over the line,” Stephanie Zvan.

    It goes against my deepest morality that anyone should feel even uneasy, let alone physically threatened with violence, just for existing.

    J.T. and Stephanie, outrageous behavior demands outrage, and if TAM and the skeptical community are not held to accountability for the highest standards of human rights, then it is virtually worthless, politically and educationally.

    Again, I am grateful to have learned much from you. Thank you both, and you, Jon Morales, for your exceptional diplomacy in my respect.

  8. 58

    mikmik: you weren’t talking to me, but still. Thank you for apologizing, and more importantly, THANK YOU for being willing to learn.

  9. 61

    Pteryxx says:

    mikmik: you weren’t talking to me…

    I should have been, that was great of you to respond with the link, and very thoughtful the way you sort of said, “you want it; you got it” to my niggling feeling that there was more to that survey.

    d(thunk) over d(MQG) = SQRRAWK!, your name ≫ ∑ parts. Thank you, also, I hear you.

    Jason @59, and everyone: nothing feels better than kudos from people I respect. Two of the very most noble endeavors in life are to be teachers, and students. Got the bases covered at this blog!

  10. 66

    nathanaelnerode: Sorry, no, DOING that stuff would be assault, SAYING you’re going to do that stuff is harassment. (And in either case, it’s not the VICTIM’S “sexual exploits”.)

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