The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation

Last year, when the bugs crawling out from under the rock that had been overturned several months prior by Rebecca Watson continued unabated, and pretty much everyone was shocked that that many creepie-crawlies resided in our vaunted skeptical community, I wrote a series of posts on the whole ordeal called The Problem with Privilege. One of those posts dealt with the rampant and repeated demands for evidence regarding the incident that Rebecca had called creepy — as though recounting a story and saying “guys, don’t do that, it’s creepy” was some kind of misandrist clarion call, which must be rebuffed lest it result in fewer pick-up artists getting their dicks wet.

So these trolls, being part of the skeptical community (apparently), used our strengths against us by attacking the claim on its merits, since the claim “I was tipsy in an elevator at 4am and a guy followed me in and asked me to his room” doesn’t meet the high standards of evidence we use in the skeptical community when it comes to extraordinary claims. Never mind that it was a perfectly ordinary claim about someone’s experience with a slightly-offputting person that did not result in any physical harm. Specifically, I characterized this compulsion as hyper-skepticism, along the same lines as 9/11 truthers, birthers, and other conspiracy theorists.

We’re now seeing the exact same tactic being used again in the wake of a conflagration that Jen McCreight accidentally set off when she casually mentioned at the Women In Secularism CFI conference that female speakers occasionally warn one another of potentially creepy male speakers.

Since Stephanie called for real harassment policies to be implemented, and over half a dozen conventions started putting a very good template policy into place in response, real progress has been made on the issue. Progress involving building infrastructure that ameliorates the problem and provides harassment victims with real support. People have come forward with their specific complaints about harassment that had not been reported immediately, supporting the need for these infrastructures — and the hyper-skeptics replied in droves, “but where’s your evidence!?”

In the middle of all this, DJ Grothe, president of JREF, wondered aloud whither all the women were going, and why female TAM registration — while they had made such great inroads at TAM9, after implementing a harassment policy of their own — was way down. He wondered further whether all those women reporting harassment and working to try to get conventions to implement real support structures were, in actuality, driving people away from his vaunted convention.

When the conversation was not going his way, DJ made some very pointed remarks about specific women who’ve worked on the problem of harassment before; including some women who had taken him personally to task for attacking feminists as contra the skeptical movement, and defending some rather indefensible folks (including the Epstein/Krauss flap) in the past. The hyper-skeptics repeated their cries of “where’s the evidence!?”, aiming those cries at the women targeted.

They meant of course to ask where the evidence was that there was even any harassment that needed addressing, naturally. That was, after all, the point that DJ was trying to make — that point became especially obvious when he claimed that the complaints sounded like “locker room talk”, “rumors”, or discussion of “sexual exploits” that women thereafter regretted. But there’s a really good question that is raised when these folks ask that one in this context: where is the evidence that DJ Grothe used to make the leap that the problem this whole time has been those damned uppity feminists scaring everyone away?

Consider that Melody Hensley put together the apparently awesome Women In Secularism conference, and that those of us in the skeptical community who are not independently wealthy have to consider travel, expenses and vacation time. Single parents, predominantly but not always women, often also have to consider parenting issues — who to get to babysit the kids for the conference while they go get their skeptic on. This means there are large financial and personal hurdles to going to every conference if you’re not making money on the public speaking circuit or a member of an organization yourself, which limits the number or frequency of conventions you can attend. That has the knock-on effect that, when a new conference springs up with a high draw value for the demographic you’re looking to improve, you might see your own numbers erode. I am shocked that DJ did not consider this as a possibility before he decided to throw several women bloggers under that bus.

To the point the trolls are making, about where the evidence is that there’s even a harassment problem at all considering DJ’s “exit survey” from TAM showing no such thing, is a pretty good one. At least, if you only consider the data he’s providing, and do not question the data collection methods and the greater societal problem of harassment and underreporting. See, there’s a serious problem with that, which we can demonstrate (with scientific evidence, no less!), showing women simply putting up with harassment because it’s easier. We have some numbers specifically from the secular community, though there may be those same reporting biases at work there too. Regardless, the numbers show a significantly larger proportion of women than men experiencing harassment, and a very large amount of that being very serious and actionable harassment. So why isn’t it being reported?

Well, because we haven’t made this space safe yet, partly. Not “unsafe” as in you’ll almost certainly get assaulted, but “not safe” as in it is no better than background levels of harassment. The victims of harassment are not reporting it mostly for the same reasons that harassment in society as a whole is drastically underreported. And the reasons in just about every case are the same: power imbalance, fear of retaliation, belief that nothing will come of the report, embarassment.

Pteryxx proves that underreporting is a major issue in a comment xe left at Ophelia’s (with a minor correction in-line at hir request):

All righty… I did some research into the problems with using surveys to determine the prevalence of sexual harassment. Much of what I found was paywalled research. It’s not something that can be done with a general survey not designed for the purpose.

Basically, surveying sexual harassment is difficult *at all* because of pervasive underreporting. As with sexual assault and rape, only a small percentage of incidents are ever reported, for many reasons: the victims are too embarrassed or ashamed, they assume (often rightly) that nothing will be done to address the problem, or they’ve normalized the harm. Fear of retaliation or escalation, while also major factors, probably don’t have much effect on a truly anonymous survey.

This is from page 32 of a 2005, 72-page report on sexual harassment among US college students (it’s big but quite readable):

http://www.aauw.org/learn/research/upload/DTLFinal.pdf

Given the strong reactions to sexual harassment,
we would expect students to report incidents, yet
most do not. More than one-third (35 percent)
tell no one. Almost half (49 percent) confide in
a friend, but only about 7 percent report the
incident to a college employee.

Female students are more likely than male
students to tell someone about sexual harassment,
although they, too, have reservations about
discussing their experiences (see Figure 10).
A common theme among female students is a
feeling of nervousness or discomfort at reporting
something that might not be “a big enough deal.”
One young woman describes an incident that
made her feel “horrible” and “helpless,” but
she didn’t report it because “it didn’t seem to
be that important.”

Also, for a victim to report sexual harassment (or sexual assault, or rape), the person has to first admit that what happened to them WAS harassment, assault, or rape.

From a 2004 U of Iowa report:

http://www.uiowa.edu/csw/reports/sexual-harassment/2004Sexual-Harassment-Survey-012306-ExecSummary.pdf

Because research has shown that many people are reluctant or unwilling to label even serious unwelcomed behavior (e.g., physical assault of a sexual nature) as sexual harassment, this survey separated questions about respondents’ experiences with unwelcomed sexual behaviors from the question of whether or not they felt they had experienced sexual harassment. The intent was to capture more accurately the occurrence of behaviors without the stigma of the label.

This survey asked about eight types of unwelcomed behavior which may constitute sexual harassment. A majority–52%–of respondents indicated that they had experienced one or more of the eight categories of unwelcomed behavior. Yet, when these responders were asked explicitly about whether they had experienced sexual harassment in the past 10 years at UI, most responders (62%) indicated that they had not been sexually harassed, whereas 24% (805 individuals)) indicated that they considered the unwelcome behavior to be sexual harassment. This represented 26% of female and 19% of male responders.

It’s not just that DJ Grothe’s survey fails to capture the incidence of sexual harassment. ANY form of self-reporting will fail to do so, as long as sexual aggression combined with victim-blaming is culturally normal, particularly when internalized so that the victims blame themselves. Sexual harassment and violence can only be addressed in a supportive environment – otherwise, the vast majority of harassed persons will simply remain silent.

If a culture exists at DJ Grothe’s organization that is not supportive of victims, as may be indicated by his recent remarks, then that culture could have DIRECTLY contributed to the observed low reporting rate. One instance of a witnessed, publicly reported incident has already been shown to have gone unrecorded within TAM’s harassment reporting system.

Thus, the low reporting rate at TAM may be largely a RESULT, not a cause, of DJ’s (publicly articulated) perception that sexual harassment is not a problem under his purview.

*note: I decided (with reservations) to stay with the term “victim” throughout to keep focus on the concept of victim-blaming. Not all recipients of sexual harassment consider themselves victimized by it.

Underreporting is a problem because spaces aren’t safe. Declaring a space safe by fiat won’t work, even if you’ve attempted to enforce the policy really well during certain incidents, and if the data you’ve collected says nobody “felt unwelcome” because you never aggregated in those incidents in the first place — because you’re going to have a major problem with that data when someone comes forward to contradict it. Especially if you thereafter try to gaslight that person and convince them that there was never any such event. The data collection methodology was simply insufficient here, and incidents apparently happened and were dealt with in realtime that were never documented thereafter and thus never showed up in DJ’s numbers.

We have a manifold problem with harassment in the skeptical community, one that won’t be solved by ignoring the fact that they’re plugging their ears every time someone actually proffers evidence to meet the trolls’ demands. The only path forward, as far as I can see, is to steamroll the trolls by moving forward with implementing strong anti-harassment policies at conventions, leaving these trolls to deal with the consequences despite their cries that we’re implementing some sort of Taliban-like puritanism (heh), and doing so in such a way that everyone’s well aware that there will be consequences for violating those policies, and that victims will be protected.

THAT is how you make a space safe. Certainly not by answering every disingenuous call for evidence, despite that being our natural compulsion as a community — we’re skeptics after all — and especially not when you can legitimately say “Objection! Asked and answered!” Preferably with a link back to this post, if you could be so kind.

Of course, you could also take the tactic favoured by Stephanie Zvan — ask the trolls exactly what sort of evidence it would take to convince them that the person they’re trolling experienced what they say they experienced. When they inevitably clam up, THEN point them here.

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The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation
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129 thoughts on “The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation

  1. 2

    @ male voice: that is a stunning logic fail.

    Responding to survey questions as part of a study regarding sexual harassment has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the incidents were ever reported.

    And as an aside…you don’t see any irony in linking to a report about 90% of women experiencing harassment as some sort of refutation for a problem with harassment….?

  2. 4

    Seriously, male voice? You’re citing A) one single study, that B) specifically addresses workplace harassment. You can’t take what one study has to stay about workplace harassment and assume that it is representative of sexual harassment across the board.

    Also, your one study only examined two of the most male-dominated professions, the military and legal fields. It is completely within the realm of possibility that 90% harassment is accurate for those fields, and that even that number is underreported.

    This is not evidence against anything that Jason wrote.

    What the fuck is it with “skeptics” like you that disregard all notions of critical evaluation when it comes to addressing internal problems?

  3. 5

    @ male voice: You misrepresented the study. Case in point of the underreporting phenomenon.

    When you ask women if they have been sexually harassed 90 % say yes.

    The study did not “ask women if they have been sexually harassed”. The study FOUND that 90% of women have been sexually harassed. How? By asking them to report specific behaviors they had experienced, behaviors that qualify as sexual harassment.

    Sex-Based Harassment. To assess unwanted sexbased
    experiences in the military, surveys contained an
    updated version of the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire-
    Department of Defense (SEQ-DoD) developed by Fitzgerald
    and colleagues (1999; see also Stark et al., 2002).
    Participants described how often over the prior 12 months
    they had experienced various forms of unwanted, uninvited
    ‘‘sex/gender related talk and/or behavior’’ involving military
    personnel, civilian employees, or contractors. They
    responded on a 5-point scale ranging from 0 = never to
    4 = very often.

    http://www.lsa.umich.edu/psych/lilia-cortina-lab/Leskinen%20et%20al.%202010%20LHB.pdf

    Note to skeptics: Don’t try and win an argument by misrepresenting research from an easily located, openly available, full-text PDF.

  4. 6

    Women, if single parents, often also have to consider parenting issues — who to get to babysit the kids for the conference while they go get their skeptic on.

    I’m sorry to nitpick here, but could you change this to something along the lines of: “Single parents, the vast majority of whom are women, often also have to consider… etc.”

    I’m not trying to deny that women bear the brunt of this problem, and as such it was totally appropriate for you to bring it up in this context. But single-parent dads are a group that tends to get kind of fucked over too, and as written the quoted sentence kind of unnecessarily disses them. You can still make your point about how this is an issue which disproportionately effects women, without contributing to the invisibility of single-parent fathers.

    Agree other than that! 😀

  5. 7

    You’re right James. Just because we’re framing the discussion in terms of women doesn’t mean I get to sell single dads short, especially since I know a few of them. Sorry single dads!

    male voice: from one male voice to another, honestly, what did you think the survey was?

    Q1: have you been harassed? _yes_
    Q2: was it reported? _no_
    Q3: Did you say yes to Q1 and no to Q2? Because if so, GOTCHA. You totally just reported it!

  6. 8

    Q1: have you been harassed? _yes_
    Q2: was it reported? _no_
    Q3: Did you say yes to Q1 and no to Q2? Because if so, GOTCHA. You totally just reported it!

    I don’t often use this acronym, but: LOL. For reals.

  7. 9

    #1

    Think this through, friend: If between 80-100% of women have been sexually harrassed (depending on the study you cite) and if better-designed studies almost invariably end up with higher reports (according to links Pterryx has cited elsewhere), if between 15-25% of women report daily harrassment (depending on the study you cite – and again, the number increases as the design improves) why are the courts not swamped with harrassment cases?

    Simple: The overwhelming majority of these cases are not reported to the authorities. They might be reported to surveyors with special training to ask questions in a manner designed to get the most accurate response, but they overwhelming majority of sex crimes and sexual harrassment are not reported ot the authorities.

    This is supported by studies: According to this report by Statistics Canada, there were about 512,000 instances of sexual assault in 2004, compared with 24,200 reports by police in 2007. If we assume that rates of sex crimes are stable year-to-year (which I admit is a big assumption, but it’s one borne out by the report linked above), that works out to about 5% of sexual assaults being reported to police. In a given year, roughly 2% of Canadians will be subject to sexual assault, the majority of which will be women. Sexual harrassment statistics are harder to find because the area is not studied as much, but studies on street harrassment suggest that sexual harrassment is far more common than sexual assault, with the most common subset (street harrassment) being reported by 100% of women in some areas, and between 15-25% of women reporting street harrassment daily. Sexual harrassment is not its own crime in Canada, so it’s impossible to tell how many of these cases are reported to police (I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is that when it rises to criminality, it’s covered under existing criminal charges such as harassment, vandalism, assault, and sexual assault as appropriate, and this makes it pretty much impossible to get stats on police-reported sexual harassment). However, given known incidence rates and the fact that our civil and criminal courts are not overflowing with claims of harrassment, it’s reasonable to assume that even fewer cases of sexual harassment get reported to police than sexual assaults.

    Why? Because women rightly assume we won’t be taken seriously. Because women rightly fear reprisal, not just by the guilty party, but also by those who know the offender. Case in point: in my high school, two girls accused a teacher who had a rep for being a creeper of sexual harrassment and assault. Those girls had vicious rumors spread about them. They were made out to be sluts, liars, whores, prostitutes, etc. The school officials found excuses to keep them in for detention, and to suspend them. Eventually, the girls agreed not to press criminal charges, but the damage was done: Most of their friends had abandoned them, and their school record was hurt with low grades they didn’t deserve and suspensions assigned arbitrarily. I know that one of them was unable to get into university without taking a few years at a community college first because of it. I didn’t know the other girl as well so I’m not sure if she suffered career setbacks as a result. It didn’t just have a chilling effect on the female students: A year later, a female substitute was harassing male students in class, and nobody reported her (myself included, even though I was witness to her harassment of them) because they remembered what happened to those girls.

    Women also don’t report because we rightly assume the authorities we report to will be prone to middle-of-the-road fallacies and thus will want to blame us. Because we don’t want to deal with the stress of pressing charges. Because we rightly assume that third parties who weren’t there and don’t have our life experiences will second-guess our every action in response. Because we know that even if we report, odds are fairly substantial that nothing significant will come of it, given what we observe in the criminal courts regarding sexual assault (see the report above).

    There’s a lot of reasons why we don’t report stuff that happens, and none of them are because it never actually happened.

  8. 10

    Well, because we haven’t made this space safe yet, partly. Not “unsafe” as in you’ll almost certainly get assaulted, but “not safe” as in it is no better than background levels of harassment.

    And I’m confused as to how this came to be solely about harassment. These organizations, and the movement more generally, are not any sort of safe space when the attitude of organizational leaders is something like, “We have a policy now and we did a damn survey and that trumps your experiences so shut up women because you’re not helping.” It’s not a safe space when women publicly talking about the problems of harassment and misogyny are accused by prominent people in the movement of doing it as some sort of self-promotion or drama-stirring for attention or blog hits, or when the behavior cited in their examples is ignored, dismissed, or excused. It’s not a safe space when women who talk about these issues publicly then have to face a stream of vicious, misogynistic attacks and slurs. It’s not a safe space when women who show that claims about the absence of harassment are false and that the people making them should know that are treated to nonsense like “Had we known (had you let us know) we would have called security and removed him from TAM, not just removed him from the speakers reception because he didn’t belong there.” It’s not a safe space when people, including here, let their blog threads become a place where the pitizens (who could very well show up at events) can engage in more character assassination.

    Grothe has to realize that it’s not only harassment – which he doesn’t seem to regard with due seriousness and compassion, in any case – but the unsafe environment to which his words contribute that makes women see these spaces, including but not limited to TAM and other events, as unsafe.

  9. 12

    Yes – SC @ 13 (and 14!). It’s not just sexual harassment as specifically sex-related advance-making, it’s sexual harassment as sexist name-calling and all the rest of the special treatment.

  10. 13

    And it’s authorities never being willing to say, “You know what, I should have done better” instead of, “It’s your/women’s/feminists’ fault, and I will twist what happened til I look blameless.”

  11. 14

    Providing evidence doesn’t work anyway. I had a baffling conversation with a commenter yesterday who said that since Rebecca talked about her experiences with the atheist/skeptic movement in her interview she was also talking about TAM since TAM is part of the movement and her harassment (which is clearly evidenced in primary sources all over twitter, reddit, blogs, etc. and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection) is irrelevant because her experiences with the atheist/skeptic movement have nothing to do with TAM.

  12. 15

    Whoa. This discussion just got even more meta. (Thanks SC.)

    Stephanie Zvan in a comment exchange over at Skepchick:

    SZ: Which skeptical or atheist meetings did have any kind of policy up until two weeks ago?

    anon: TAM (links to the blog post)

    SZ: Of course. Any others?

    SZ: Also, it’s worth remembering that TAM put that policy in place in response to threats against Rebecca. You know, as long as you’re just trying to figure stuff out about how harassment policies and skeptic and atheist events interact.

    Link to start of quoted portion

    …My first impression is that maybe that harassment policy was just enacted as a knee-jerk response to solve/cover up the problem, without anyone actually training or studying how to carry it out. That would explain the lack of proper reporting.

  13. 16

    SC: You’re absolutely right that it shouldn’t only be about harassment. I assume it’s all about harassment because of the timing — WISCFI > Jen > Stephanie’s call for policies to be implemented > DJ’s request for why women are abandoning TAM > DJ gets the answer he doesn’t like.

    The fact that TAM’s harassment policy was put into place as a reaction to more harassment that Rebecca Watson faced is very telling indeed. I strongly suspect Pteryxx’s analysis of the reasons why at 18 is exactly right.

    If the goal is to make a safe space — where women can discuss this harassment without being gaslighted or victim-blamed or other such nonsense — then we have to take that into account as well. First step, though, is still to implement anti-harassment policies so we can put some teeth behind our demands that harassment end.

  14. 18

    Seconding Jason – then DJ’s screw-up might be Object Lesson #1 that just ganking a policy is not enough. It has to come with training and the will to follow up.

    I hope all those event organizers who enacted policies in the last two weeks are taking note. If any are local to me I’ll damned well be there to help.

  15. 19

    I work a company. Like many companies, we have ethics training on a regular basis. I shall paraphrase from the harassment policy: “it is harassment when someone feels it is harassment.”

  16. 20

    I’m wondering if the people who attacked Rebecca Watson as unprofessional and a bully for naming Stef McGraw by name will now do the same to DJ Grothe. After all, their only problem with Watson was the power imbalance between her and McGraw. With Grothe being the president of JREF and naming names to a national newspaper, he would be more powerful within the community than any of the women he named by name (as it’s been pointed out, there are men he could have named but didn’t).

    So either DJ Grothe is an unprofessional bully, or Rebecca Watson isn’t. Anything else from the people who attacked Watson for that is hypocrisy.

  17. 21

    There’s also the issue that accusations like DJ’s make it sound like women are bad skeptics. When he says shame on people like Rebecca for stirring things up with mere rumors, he’s also saying he thinks little of the reasoning of all the women who supposedly buy into those rumors. That women are easily led and panic rather than question dubious stories.

    DJ’s is not a position one arrives at by assuming most women interested in skepticism work to be critical thinkers. It’s not something that takes into consideration that women might be making rational decisions about staying away from cons based on more than “stories”—such as seeing for ourselves the reaction to Rebecca saying, “Guys, don’t do that.”

    It’s not like DJ is the only one with this attitude. Why would I want to attend a con for skepticism where just being a woman means I have to somehow climb up out of the pit of people’s disregard before my skepticism is acknowledged? That’s not a safe space, either.

  18. 22

    I suspect we will see conferences with strong anti-harassment policies and clearly welcoming and supportive environments for women succeeding relative to those that don’t. No amount of shouting and spitting into the wind is going to get women to go places they don’t want to.

    I also think most guys would prefer an environment with plenty of comfortable, relaxed and confident women to one with dwindling numbers who are always on guard. I know I do. And I’d just as soon not have to deal with the guy who don’t.

    The “skeptics” can nit pick the reports and play with statistics all they want. Anti-harassment and safe space policies will be gears in the spiral ratchet that inexorably moves us in the right direction. Funny thing is the more the trolls troll and the nitpickers pick nits the faster the ratchet turns.

  19. 23

    But that someone has to be a reasonable person for that to work. Otherwise you get Christians complaining that it’s harassment to say “Happy holidays” or some such crap. (Or atheists ditto “Merry Christmas” if you prefer. Either one; both.)

  20. 26

    So are you saying that there are are women and men being raped at these conferences? Or that there is a serious issue of groping or asking if people want to get laid?

    I’m actually confused of where the line is that constitutes harassment. And is inviting someone to come to your room harassment?

    Seems like ya have to follow the tired and true rules when talking to others. 1. Be Attractive, 2. Don’t be Unattractive.

  21. 27

    Pteryxx and Jason, the policy was put in place so they could actually deal with the idiot on Twitter who threatened to grope her in an elevator. They did implement it.

  22. 31

    I said I have no idea, I’m asking for clarification. Try again.

    No you’re not. If you had been you wouldn’t have said “Seems like ya have to follow the tired and true rules when talking to others. 1. Be Attractive, 2. Don’t be Unattractive.

    That’s a common way to dismiss complaints of harassment. Accusing the people making the complaint that if only the harasser had been prettier it wouldn’t have mattered.

  23. 32

    joe: Who is “Steph?”

    I think you’re fundamentally misunderstanding the problem, probably intentionally, and probably because you see a harassment policy as a threat to “hooking up”. Am I close here?

  24. 34

    argh, I missed “Steph”. Seriously, joejoe, if you can’t even figure out that other people (that includes women) get to keep all the syllables to their names, you’re really not qualified to decide what counts as harassment.

  25. 35

    @joejoe–

    If you have the capacity to understand the subtle (and often not so subtle) negotiation of basic social contracts regarding appropriate behavior in any other context, then you posess likewise the capacity to understand issues of harassment, and what does or does not constitute inappropriate behavior in that vein.

    There are multiple posts on FTB explaining this to you. Feel free to read them.

  26. 38

    SC: You’re absolutely right that it shouldn’t only be about harassment. I assume it’s all about harassment because of the timing — WISCFI > Jen > Stephanie’s call for policies to be implemented > DJ’s request for why women are abandoning TAM > DJ gets the answer he doesn’t like.

    Sorry – I didn’t mean to give the impression that I thought you specifically were narrowing it to that.

    The fact that TAM’s harassment policy was put into place as a reaction to more harassment that Rebecca Watson faced is very telling indeed.

    Yes, and it draws out a little more specifically what I was getting at. In addressing harassment, it’s good and necessary for these policies to be put in place, publicized, and enforced. But a safe space involves more than a reduced danger of physical, in-person harassment. It’s not just a space relatively free of harassment in that sense, but one that doesn’t feel hostile, in which women can feel comfortable expressing their views and talking about their experiences without worrying about having to deal with the sorts of reactions we’ve seen over the past year. Knowing that the policy was established because of and enforced for that guy doesn’t make what he said disappear, and it was just one example in a wave of misogyny. As A. Noyd alluded to above while making a different point, “It’s not something that takes into consideration that women might be making rational decisions about staying away from cons based on more than “stories”—such as seeing for ourselves the reaction to Rebecca saying, “Guys, don’t do that.”

    If the goal is to make a safe space — where women can discuss this harassment without being gaslighted or victim-blamed or other such nonsense — then we have to take that into account as well.

    I would think that is the goal, yes, but it’s about being able to discuss more than just harassment.

    First step, though, is still to implement anti-harassment policies so we can put some teeth behind our demands that harassment end.

    As long as it’s recognized that it’s only one step, only one part of what’s needed, especially if the statements from the people most responsible for enacting the policies are themselves contributing to a hostile and dismissive atmosphere that many women don’t want to put up with if they can avoid it.

  27. 39

    I was just saying this on Twitter last night to Stephanie and others, but to me, I just don’t understand why this is a big issue.

    Just implement a fucking policy, and train your staff and volunteers. Cover. Your. Fucking. Ass. This shit is very legal and very real. It doesn’t matter if there’s been 0 reported incidents, my experience is that we need to protect ourselves anyway.

    That only applies if you think Stephanie/Jen/all the other women who’ve reported on this are liars, AND if you think the statistics and evidence are wrong, you still need to have policies and training, because ONE incident is too many.

  28. 40

    It’s extraordinary claims that require extraordinary evidence, not totally humdrum ones.

    Yeah, and I think that’s part of the problem:

    One kind of harassment deniers, and I’ll count Grothe amongst them, is simply totally fucking unaware about the level of sexual harassment women actually encounter. Because they themselves never pinched a butt, they actually don’t think it ever happens.
    It happens so often that I’ll sometimes have forgotten before I get to mention it to my husband in the evening. Because it was just another guy who made a stupid remark, who “accidentially” brushed against me, who stared down my shirt.

    The second kind are those who deny that those things actually are harassment. I hope that Grothe at least isn’t one of them.
    By now he and hs pals should look very hard at who supports them and what those people write.
    Then he should weep a bit and then think hard.

    As for repoting: I can drill a hole into my knee: same amount of pain, same effect.

  29. 42

    joejoe

    Google is your friend. The link is to job-related sexual harassment, but the below will give you some idea of what is involved:

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

    Unwelcome is the critical word. Unwelcome does not mean “involuntary.”

    A victim may consent or agree to certain conduct and actively participate in it even though it is offensive and objectionable. Therefore, sexual conduct is unwelcome whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome. Whether the person in fact welcomed a request for a date, sex-oriented comment, or joke depends on all the circumstances.

  30. 43

    Jason only used “joe”. *shrugs*

    Stephanie, what is harassment? Apparently you want me to equate it to: “a feeling of intense annoyance caused by being tormented.”

    Tormented: “Cause to experience severe mental or physical suffering.”

    So harassment is according to the link Stephanie has given me: “a feeling of intense annoyance caused by experiencing severe mental or physical suffering.”

    Wow. Sounds like these conventions are terrible.

  31. 44

    No more terrible than your gainful employment or participation in society as a whole, joejoe. If you think it’s terrible to try to protect people from harassment, you are evidently neither participating in society or gainfully employed. Can you see why people are being hostile to your disingenuous questions intended to suggest that harassment is less important than your right to cold-proposition or corner people drunkenly.

    I dropped the first joe to make a point; I’m glad you got that point. Now could you get the other ones people are making, or do I need to end your participation in this as one of those self-same hyperskeptics who are trying to stall this conversation?

  32. 45

    ‘Tis Himself: And there is exactly the problem.

    I stare at people, directly in their eyes or mouth. One could say I leer at them, especially when they talk. I need to, there is no way around this as I have a compulsion to do it.

    Is this harassment? Even if they tell me to stop, I simply cannot without a severe detrimental effect to my enjoyment of the event.

    Why must I do this? Because I am deaf and I hide it pretty well (I can speak like someone who isn’t deaf apparently). I gain 80% of what is being conveyed through lipreading and body language. No way around it. I know some people find it unsettling, some have complained about it to event organizers. But what am I going to do about it?

    If events start applying some slippery slope, knee-jerk policies it wont take into consideration people like myself. But who wants the deaf guy who stares at people at these events?

  33. 46

    People can tell the difference between being harassed and having someone lip-read you. For instance, harassment usually involves actually mistreating someone. If you, personally, can’t tell the difference between lip-reading and harassing someone, you’re done here, joejoe. You can slippery-slope your way right out the exit. Thanks for playing.

    Peanut gallery, what have we learned from joejoe’s attempted derail?

  34. 47

    Aside from the fact that a strong anti-harassment policy would, obviously, provide documentation that the person who’s ostensibly leering at people’s mouths is actually deaf and lip-reading.

  35. 48

    I stare at people, directly in their eyes or mouth. One could say I leer at them, especially when they talk. I need to, there is no way around this as I have a compulsion to do it.

    Is this harassment? Even if they tell me to stop, I simply cannot without a severe detrimental effect to my enjoyment of the event.

    If you stare at me and I tell you to stop because it’s making me uncomfortable, then the onus is on you to stop staring at me. You, and that’s you, are the one doing the active act of staring at me. My dislike is purely passive and will stop as soon as you stop your action.

    If you were touching me and I asked you to stop, would you complain that my request had “a severe detrimental effect to [your] enjoyment of the event”?

  36. 49

    Oh for petes sake. joejoe, while I’m no expert I’ve been around a few deaf people, and we TALKED about eye contact and politeness, because I’m on the aspie spectrum and have a hard time making eye contact at all. The deaf women said they can tell just fine whether another deaf person’s staring at their faces or hands (which do most of the talking) or at their breasts.

    If someone actually made a complaint about you and it’s followed up, just say “I need to watch people’s faces to understand what they’re saying” and the situation should be handled. IF you’re using it as an excuse to stare below the face, well, there’s no rule that a deaf person can’t be a jerk too.

    Jason: you should know, accommodation policies for disability state that the disabled person is not generally obligated to provide proof of a disability *on site*. That’s to prevent harassing via intrusive requests for documentation. If disability status actually becomes part of a lawsuit or investigation, *only then* can a court or some such request proof of disability. Volunteers, restaurant employees and such should not be asking for proof.

    caveat: again, IANAL, this is what I know from reading brochures at my campus disability office.

  37. 50

    And that’s fine, Pteryxx, but the few conventions I’ve been to, I’ve seen deaf folks request front-row seats so they could lip-read. Con goers are usually happy to accomodate.

    But there’s still a fuckton of difference between someone lip-reading everyone who’s speaking, and someone running around reading male lips and only leering at women’s tits, then saying “but I’m deaf!” when confronted.

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