DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman

while leaving several others under the bus, including sidelong stabs at the FtB bloggers in particular. I paste it in its entirety below, though I don’t have a lot of time to pick it apart right this second.

Rebecca: Sorry for not responding to this sooner; I was flying much of the day Friday and got to the hotel late, and Saturday was busy with skeptic events in the D.C. area.

First, let me say how sincerely and deeply regretful I am that I blamed you as the messenger. No woman – no person – should ever be blamed for being a victim or for speaking out about sexism or any social problem. I was wrong to write anything that could even be construed that way, and it was never my intent. I am sorry.

I should also say that I believe I understand why there has been so much vituperation, anger and emption surrounding these issues: we want to protect others from harm (indeed, this is a central motivation in skepticism) and if we think people are being harmed, it angers us. I hope that we may increasingly refocus that anger toward working together on solutions to these problems.

I believe strongly that women’s voices need to be taken seriously in the atheist and skeptics movements, that any reports of harassment or assault at atheist and skeptics events need to be taken seriously and recorded, and acted on effectively, and that those who make reports of such harassment shouldn’t ever be blamed for such. And I am mortified to find out that you have been “groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways,” etc. I had absolutely no idea. It disgusts me and makes me angry to hear it. I assure you that if any such offenses at TAM were reported, the offender or offenders would have been removed from TAM, and/or law enforcement called. I think it is very important that such incidents are reported to security or conference organizers or law enforcement, and that this is the most effective response.

I know that the atheist and skeptics communities have had serious problems when it comes to women’s issues, and this is something I have personally worked to combat over the last decade and a half I’ve been involved, including by making better hiring and programming decisions when it was within my power to do so. One way we worked to combat problems was by publishing a code of conduct for our particular event last year ( Other ways include focusing on these topics on the program: a few years ago, I asked you to moderate a panel on women in skepticism and also run a workshop on related issues, for which JREF was grateful. And we have grown in the direction now of TAM having the highest number and percentage of women speakers at any major skeptics’ conference (50% solo speakers last year were women).

When we ran reports this year and discovered that while 40% of attendees at TAM 2011 were women, but that at the time I made my initial comments in a discussion on a friend’s Facebook wall about these issues, only 18% of TAM 2012 registrants were women, we were deeply concerned. That Facebook wall comment on a friend’s wall was partially quoted and blogged and reblogged a lot last week, and I think this discussion is important, especially if it helps improve the situation at atheist and skeptics meetings – which is our common goal.

My concern was that the message going to women who are not already familiar with the skeptics movement and TAM in particular be balanced. I do not deny that there is a problem with sexism at atheist or skeptics conferences, nor any of the accounts blogged about in general terms by women who have attended TAM or similar kinds of events, but I would appreciate if such reports were balanced with an acknowledgment of the great effort the JREF goes to ensuring that TAM is a safe and welcoming environment for women.

I and the rest of the JREF team are passionately invested in skeptic outreach to diverse communities. Skepticism is for everyone, not just privileged straight old white men. My sharing survey data and other data from last year’s TAM was an attempt to suggest that despite many blog posts and other public messaging focused on how unsafe and unwelcoming atheist or skeptics events may be for women, the data suggest we have at least been partially successful in making TAM safe and welcoming for women. If this data is wrong, due to underreporting, then I think we should work together to correct that. (Unfortunately, the atheist movement has almost a universally bad reputation for being bad to women. Just a couple days ago on a popular non-movement website there was advice for readers about how not to be “creepy” at atheist conventions:

Talking about sexism isn’t the problem, sexism is the problem — I completely agree. But when trying to solve the problem, I believe reporting instances of being groped or grabbed (these may be criminal acts) to be the most effective way to help organizers make sure events are safe for everyone. This week, there were over twenty blog posts about TAM specifically, many containing misinformation. Many commenters on these blogs, mostly on one blog network, appear to believe that going to TAM or similar events in the skeptics or atheist world means they will be assaulted, harassed, or worse. Additionally, the week before that, there were around a dozen blog posts about how if you’re a woman, going to an atheist or skeptic con likely means you’ll be sexually harassed, and how many women have been warned about certain men on programs as likely sex offenders. Many solutions were proposed in these blog posts, even as no one entered into direct dialogue with organizations on these issues, preferring instead to engage in a kind of public messaging which I believe has the paradoxical and opposite effect of making our movements seem less welcoming to women than they are. (I concede that blogging may come more naturally to some folks than direct dialogue, or that vague public messaging about problems may feel safer than reporting incidents to law enforcement.)

Rebecca, you are a talented, funny, influential skeptic who has introduced skepticism to new audiences. I have always admired you for that in particular. Indeed, that is why I have featured you so prominently at TAM in the past. (And I believe that years before I came to lead the JREF, TAM was the first conference you ever spoke at.) You have contributed a lot to our communities of reason over the last few years. That’s why I regret not only how you have been treated over the last year especially, but how issues surrounding feminism in atheism and allied movements — issues for which in some ways you have become the standard bearer — have grown so divisive, with reprehensible behavior on all sides. Invective and enemy-list making. Bullying. Dishonest mischaracterizations. I have to remain optimistic that these are growing pains in our fledgling movements and that civility and honest disagreement over best strategies will eventually win out. People of good will may disagree on which strategies are best to address serious problems, and should be able to do so without being vilified. I believe we need more good will, and less us vs. them thinking, in atheism and skepticism.

Before I close, an important correction to a misstatement of fact in your post: no one reported to JREF staff or hotel staff any incident of assault or sexual harassment at our speakers reception last year, and no JREF staff were told about nor knew about any such incident until last week. In fact, someone was removed from the speaker reception because he wasn’t permitted to be there, and was apparently drunk. In her blog post and in further comments, Ashley says she didn’t feel like she needed to personally report the alleged harassment to JREF staff or hotel staff at the time because she thought someone else reported it, and that it had been taken care of. Unfortunately, neither she nor anyone else mentioned the incident of sexual harassment in one of the TAM attendee surveys, nor made any other report of it at the time. I find this regrettable, because without knowing about it, we (JREF, hotel security, etc.) were not able to do anything about it.

Let me be clear: If I or any of the other TAM staff or hotel staff would have known that someone (or possibly more than one person) had been sexually harassed, or assaulted or otherwise accosted at our speakers reception, we would have contacted security and removed the offender immediately from TAM, and/or called law enforcement. As it turns out, someone was just removed from the speakers reception because he didn’t belong there and seemed drunk. A complaint has since been reported and recorded (last week), and appropriate action will be taken to make sure the person won’t be able to assault or sexually harass again at one of our events.

In light of this new information JREF received this week, we can no longer say that there were no reports of sexual harassment at the event last year. This only motivates us to redouble our efforts to create a space where everyone is safe and welcome, so that we can focus on what brings us together at these events in the first place.


D.J. Grothe
President, James Randi Educational Foundation |
(323) 229-7771 cell | (703) 226-3784 voicemail | (703) 226-3785 fax

I have lots of problems with this apology. Many of them are covered in Stephanie Zvan’s reply. Most of them have to do with the “irresponsible messaging” that DJ’s actually engaging in, and the fact that while apologizing, he’s STILL being churlish about people who are actually trying to work on the problem of harassment in general as though the problem they’re working on is an indictment of TAM in particular.

I appreciate that DJ is apologizing to one of the women he’s mistreated in this. I really do. I don’t think it’s anywhere near broad enough, notwithstanding the “apologize to all women” line. Not where he repeatedly undercuts that part thereafter.

DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman

160 thoughts on “DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman

  1. 52

    An apology should consist of an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, a recognition that the other person has been hurt, a request for forgiveness, and a statement about future actions to be taken to prevent reoccurrence. It should not include statements along the lines of “yeah, I messed up but if you had done such-and-so then it wouldn’t have happened.”

  2. 53

    As a good friend of mine pointed out a couple of weeks ago: “An apology means nothing if the offensive behavior doesn’t change.”

  3. 54

    Ashley Miller has incredible patience. To the best of my recollection, she did not say in her original post that she didn’t report it. She says that to her knowledge she had reported it, and that she didn’t want to say more about it on her blog because she didn’t want to damage TAM’s reputation [and I will say no more about this so that steam stops coming out of my ears]. She reiterates this several times. She couldn’t possibly have meant that she didn’t report it to TAM for this reason, as reporting it to TAM wouldn’t have anything to do with their reputation. And clearly she wouldn’t have been so angry about Grothe’s claim that there were no reported incidents if she hadn’t thought it had been reported.

    Even if the situation had happened as he bullishly insists on thinking it did, that would still be evidence of a problem with TAM’s protocol and data and not a problem with her or any other victim’s actions.

  4. 56


    Also, does it strike anyone else that DJ habitually posts such long walls of text that it’s virtually impossible to pin him down on what he means?

    I think DJ’s got a couple of problems here. He seems to be trying to balance clarity with diplomacy, but he apparently sucks at both. I think he thinks that more text = more clearly-stated point, but if he thinks he’s been misconstrued, then he clearly sucks at stating what he’s thinking. On the other hand, he’s trying to do the political language thing of not naming names or providing specifics, and trying to do the “both sides” balance bullshit, and it only confuses matters and makes him look worse (not least of which is because he’s committing false equivalencies all over).

    I blogged about this after DJ’s last instance of sticking his foot in his mouth, where, long story short, his description of things he’d been told by anonymous sources about “controversialist blogs” ultimately bore no resemblance to any kind of reality I could see.

    The “let’s not discuss this in blog comments” bit, which echoes his previous apology’s “I wish people had reported privately to JREF rather than going to public blogs” is a nice bit of “do as I say, not as I do,” since D.J. aired this initial grievance on Facebook rather than, say, contacting Rebecca and Stephanie by e-mail and trying to hash it out privately. It’s something I see a lot from certain folks in the older guard of skepticism (i.e., folks who have steady jobs with the major magazines), where they’d rather conduct all arguments and disagreements out of sight.

    I think it comes back to the old accommodationist/dick argument, where some folks latched onto the notion that it was okay to express hateful, loathsome attitudes so long as you didn’t use swear words while doing it. In this case, it’s okay to have heated disagreements and concerns about safety and so forth, so long as they’re kept away from prying eyes. Very much “dinner table diplomacy,” as someone said at Skepchick (I think). Personally, I’d rather see this out in the open, so we can see what’s being done and have the truth laid bare.

    Even if the truth is that some of the people at the top are incompetent.

  5. 57

    Is it just me, or does “Would you like to communicate about this some day soon in way that isn’t as blog comments on your blog?” sounds just a few steps away from “Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” on the creep scale?

    Heh. This is a Perfectly Innocent Request to Discuss Things in Private, between Consenting Adults. It’s not as if the request were made late at night in a confined space from which the addressee had no instant means of escape. Course not.

    The out of sight thing? Well, yes, it begins to ascend the creep scale.

    (News to me that “someday” is all one word, but MS Word has it thus.)

  6. 58

    Fauxpologies, wrapped in privilege, with a slimy filling of ” Pleaaaaase come to TAM, Rebecca. Please! My 18% is shrinking by the day. You’re cool, not like those other bitches”.


  7. 59

    DJ could have *read the earlier comments* in that thread on what would constitute a proper apology and simply copied them, and done a better job. It sounds more and more like he doesn’t want to lose one of his fundraisers speakers than that he has any understanding of the problem.

  8. 60

    This may be OT but…

    It occurs to me that some of this mishegas may be due to the influence of some prominent libertarian leaning persons who may also be less than supportive of feminism. If this is the case it could be a bit ironic if the free market ends up selecting for those conferences that are more clearly attentive to the concerns of women.

  9. 63

    Ugh. The smartest move the JREF could make is to have a series of interviews with Edwina Rogers and ask her how pro-women, pro-gay, and pro-secularism the Republican party is. So everyone’s rage is directed elsewhere, at least for a while.

  10. 64

    I think he is missing one huge reality that women face all the time:

    Reporting is worse for us.

    Tell that to Grothe’s supporters over at Hallquist’s. A couple seem convinced allegations of sexual harassment are viewed as more credible than others accusations (like theft, literally that is the example they gave.)

  11. 65

    M. A. Melby: I’ve been thinking about that for some days now, because as a volunteer with no first-hand experience of the sexual harassment that women face, I’m one of those people that a victim can’t trust to take their story seriously. The only way to demonstrate that complaints ARE being taken seriously at an event is for someone to dare to make a report and then talk about how it was handled, as Elyse has done (positive report) and Ashley has done (negative report). And both of them are getting attacked now because of it.

    The only way I can see to have any modicum of trust for the organizers and volunteers responsible for enacting a harassment policy, besides having them report openly and honestly (and anonymously) the results of their actions, is for the underground network of women to pass along the reports of who can be trusted, just as they’re now passing along reports of who can’t. I’d ask that this network make suggestions as to who could be trusted with a position of power over harassment reporting within an organization.

  12. 66

    Improbable Joe: my understanding is that the JREF board of directors is largely made up of libertarian millionaires. I don’t know what kind of pressure the fellows (e.g. senior fellow Steven Novella) could bring to bear, if any. But I’m guessing DJ’s mostly answerable to them about the fund-raising, and TAM is largely a fund-raising endeavour. Why he’s acting so uncharitably to the women bloggers and giving lip service to the misogynist crowd who have no problem gaslighting and downplaying harassment, that’s another story altogether.

  13. 67

    Also, another commenter wrote about similar concerns here:

    I’m afraid that these anti-harassment policies are going to be turned into shields for abuser enablers. I’m afraid that the people who are charged with collecting the abuse reports will sneer at the women who want to make a report until the woman leaves, that the collector will convince the woman to leave by saying it wasn’t “that bad,” that the reports will get written up but then “lost,” that report will be written up wrong, and that kind of thing. Then when someone tries to indicate that bad things are happening at the conference, they will wave about their policy and declare that no one has reported an incident, or if someone did, it was a mild one that was quickly and efficiently dealt with . . . even when that’s not the case at all.

    I don’t have a good answer to this, except the thin comfort that SOME of us really do want to be supportive of victims and will be on guard for this sort of thing. That’s nowhere near enough.

  14. 68

    Yes, an anti-harassment policy ain’t a silver bullet. People will abuse it and use it to protect the villains. But it’s a hell of a lot better than *nothing*, which is what a lot of conventions still have. And once a policy is in place, we can work within the system to try to fix things.

    I really REALLY wish there was a silver bullet that didn’t involve asking everyone “hey, please don’t creep on one another”, because we’ve already had all the evidence we need to know that that won’t work.

    While we’re at it, TAM’s policy has evidently failed more than just that one time. Unless of course Emily’s just MAKING IT ALL UP. :/

  15. 69

    Why he’s acting so uncharitably to the women bloggers and giving lip service to the misogynist crowd who have no problem gaslighting and downplaying harassment, that’s another story altogether.

    Ultimately, I think it is quite likely to be the same story. Grothe answers to people, and if he’s not speaking for them he’s going to get yanked back hard. If he isn’t, that tells you that he isn’t just giving lip service to misogynists, he’s also working for misogynists or at least people who put money ahead of women… which is a very “libertarian” position, for a certain type of libertarian. At some point, you have to accept that people and organizations are more of less what they appear to be.

    And do we know how much overall attendance is down for TAM over last year? And is the number for men up or down, and by how much?

  16. 70

    While we’re at it, TAM’s policy has evidently failed more than just that one time. Unless of course Emily’s just MAKING IT ALL UP. :/

    I saw one commenter at Skepchick say that he’d been tapped to escort more than one woman to her room at TAM because some creepy guy had given them reason to fear being stalked.

    I’ve been tapped for this duty, too. I’m glad to do it, but damn.

  17. 71

    We have nonesuch statistics presently, Joe. We have only what DJ has provided us, which is that women’s registration percentage is 18%, vs 40% last year. Despite repeated attempts to ask what made him think women are avoiding the conference because of “irresponsible messaging”, no proof has been offered.

    I should note that the apology at Ashley’s was grossly irresponsible messaging as well. I’m so sorry that we’ve found out last week what happened to you last year, and wish you had just reported it to TAM officials sooner. Riiiight. Never mind that she, several times, said she reported it, and thought it was taken care of for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Beyond that, she didn’t want to elaborate on her blog, and he said that he understands why she didn’t feel necessary to report back then in his FIRST attempt at an apology.

    This dude needs to learn how to write an apology. If I was JREF president, I would have said something along the lines of, “we take our harassment policy very seriously, and it would appear that we have failed you here. Please accept our sincere apologies, and know that we will make every effort to improve data collection and staff training in the future.”

    And I’d stop the comment right there. I wouldn’t go on to defend myself poorly with sideways stabs at bloggers he thinks are too critical of him. I’d be short, conciliatory, and to the point without useless irrelevent sidebars about my own petty grudges.

    Those, I’d save for further comments. That I’d obviously need to apologize for later.

  18. 73

    Okay… as far as ensuring our convention organizers aren’t complete buttheads about this, I just found out that RAINN’s network of sexual assault response centers includes professional educators whose job is to give talks and training on sexual assault and harassment. They recommended that organizers call on the network to find educators local to them, for training and consultation.

    Tomorrow I’m going to call an educator local to me and ask for advice.

    The RAINN hotline:

  19. 74

    In all seriousness, what M. A. Melby said. I’ve asked about it a couple of times and no one has answered, but I want to know how the people who want to get anti-harassment policies in place plan to make reporting safe for women. What is the plan for making sure that when a woman is harassed and goes to the authority indicated in the anti-harassment policy, that she isn’t brushed off, shamed, ignored sneered at, mocked, belittled, and otherwise further traumatized by the people she is reporting to?

    If there is one thing that all this absurdity has shown, it is that women are not even generally safe to report in the skeptical movement. Even mild situations (“guys, don’t do that”) by established members of the community are met with nuclear grade hostility. How can we assure unknown women in serious situations that they won’t become the next Rebecca Watson on the rector scale?

    I think anti-harassment policies are good, but only if they will be enforced correctly. If the people who are charged with enforcing the anti-harassment policies are prone to reacting poorly to reports of harassment, the anti-harassment policy can turn into a silencing shield for the organization that wants legitimacy without actually taking heat for making people act appropriately or face the consequences.

  20. 75

    I am trying to be patient and level-headed about the whole thing, which has proven to be difficult, but I think I have, at worst, just been rather cold. So I’m going to side-step the part where I want to emphatically agree with the points everyone is making about nonpologies and express how very very angry I am. Instead, I’m going to go to a different thing here in response to some things said by Pteryxx and M.A. Melby

    One thing I have found encouraging is that even the people calling me a dumbfuck and suggesting that I have endangered the entirety of the female secular community for not reporting well enough think that what happened to me was unacceptable. This gives me hope that when someone reports they won’t be told it’s not a big enough deal. Although DJ’s negative comments about women complaining about the behavior of speakers show a certain lack of understanding there…

    Of course, in light of the fact that reporting is difficult for many reasons, the fact that people who think I didn’t report it also think that I am therefore the problem because I put other people at risk is why women don’t want to talk about this or report anything. As though the onus is on a woman not to be harassed rather than on the perpetrator not to harass – not reporting is a worse crime in people’s eyes than harassing, because women should know better and men apparently shouldn’t.

    As someone who has experienced far worse behavior than what happened at TAM and not reported it for a lot of reasons, this gets at me and hurts so badly in a way that I think people who haven’t been there can’t understand and I’m not sure I can explain. And when I, or people like me, see this happening to other people, it causes the same reaction. I didn’t ask for this so much as I posted the blog knowing what would be thrown at me and it’s still nauseating — but it is hurting TAM so much more than I think they understand because when they say it about me, they’re saying it about an awful lot of women who instinctively find this accusation deeply troubling.

  21. 77

    Yes, I think enforcement of the policy they implemented was seriously lacking at TAM, given the specific situations that came up. DJ’s attempts at damage control appear to have a component of victim-blaming to them, whether he intended it or not (and I’ll withhold speculation on that point). As a leader, his multiple failures at PR, attempting to defend TAM so hamfistedly as to do splash damage to one group of people (which others have speculated is a sop to another group of people) is probably what’s primarily driving this backlash against him.

    It’s an excellent reason for DJ to step down, if he’s going to. I’d personally rather he smarten up and learn that he’s fighting fire with kerosene, though. He’s a leader, he should start acting like one.

  22. 78

    Well, shoot. I took too long to post and got ninja-ed.

    And while I’m not an expert on this, I’m going to hazard that an inappropriately enforced anti-harassment policy is NOT better than nothing. An anti-harassment policy that is poorly enforced teaches people to not trust anti-harassment policies and not report.

    To bring up a personal example, my friend was raped. She reported the rape to the police. They called her a liar, shamed her, sneered at her, accused her, and all in all were awful to her. And she came out of that situation not trusting police and vowing to never report anything like that again. Hell, I came out of that not trusting police, and I was just a bystander.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t implement anti-harassment policies. I think they are incredibly important tools, and I think we clearly need them. But we have to do it right, because it only takes one terrible incident to have people vowing to opt out of the system for good. If a woman is abused by a conference goer or speaker and then abused by the conference organizers, it won’t just be the specific abuser she’ll be turned against.

  23. 79

    I think he is missing one huge reality that women face all the time:

    Reporting is worse for us.

    It might be better for everyone else in the long run – maybe. However, we all know what happens when we name names and tell our stories.

    Almost all rapist don’t go to jail. The going number right now is 97%. However, the person who reports goes to hell and back.

    I suspect that TAM and other conferences are not much worse than your average convention (such as gaming cons and other places I’ve been to) and women get groped, harassed and raped at those things. DAH! Seriously, how is this news?

    I’ve had to deal with unwanted touching at gaming conventions and I told other women about it so they could avoid being alone with the offenders. Calling Law Enforcement? Are you high?

    Even making the accusation within an organization or group of friends tends to lead to trying to stop one group of people from going vigilante while being dismissed and attacked by the other side who will blame you for not having the decency to shut up.

    No, this isn’t what always happens – but it is a REAL danger. For goodness sakes – look what happened to Rebecca when she had the audacity to simply ask that she not be hit on in an elevator? THAT is what happens.

  24. 80

    Tom Foss pegged it over at Stephanie’s:

    It is apparently the job of the victim, and not the employees and organizers, to know the procedures for proper harassment reporting.


  25. 81

    @ Pteryxx

    “I don’t have a good answer to this, except the thin comfort that SOME of us really do want to be supportive of victims and will be on guard for this sort of thing. That’s nowhere near enough.”

    Clearly the only serious solution will be implementation of policies and practices women can really trust.

    Our support can certainly help but as much as we want to fix things this is clearly no time for “Don’t you ladies worry your pretty little heads. Trust us. We’ll get it sorted”

    Fortunately it looks like there are some serious, capable and committed women on the case.

  26. 82

    There are some serious, committed and capable men on the case too, but it’s their job to prove it to the women. You’re never going to prove it by declaring the space safe by fiat. I hope DJ and others learn that lesson.

  27. 83

    Fortunately it looks like there are some serious, capable and committed women on the case.

    Hell, hire the frickin’ women! They’re the experts on who to trust! If I were running a convention the best move I could make would be to get the honest endorsement of these “troublemakers”.

  28. 84

    Hells yes. I see no reason why the entirety of the security shouldn’t be handled by the women who are most likely to understand what harassment is, and capable of lending a sympathetic ear and taking the claims seriously.

    Of course, there’s still also the memetics in play that you need some men as “muscle”, as horrid as the idea itself is. And sometimes you WILL actually need some more forceful enforcement of rules, so having some men will almost always be inevitable. But I would not mind at all having some ass-kicking buff females showing a drunk and handsy asshole the door.

  29. 85

    Jason: That’s something I can ask about, actually. Some of the jackasses won’t leave if a security woman tells them to, but they will if a man does. However, women often feel safer reporting harassment to other women (or so I’ve heard). (Who do harassed *men* feel safer reporting to, I wonder?)

  30. 86

    Consider the other meme of toxic masculinity. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable reporting harassment to a woman, because I’d be concerned the guy has that mindset, though I could see how some men would prefer not to show weakness to women but are okay with “complaining” to other men. Others might just not report harassment because as men, they’re supposed to be tough and take care of themselves — anything they can’t solve with their fists is a sign of their own weakness.

    It’s a tough call overall.

  31. 87

    Ashley, I missed this the first time around, or I would have responded immediately.

    One thing I have found encouraging is that even the people calling me a dumbfuck and suggesting that I have endangered the entirety of the female secular community for not reporting well enough think that what happened to me was unacceptable.

    I’ve seen one of those folks link to Stephanie, calling her and others part of the problem for not name-and-shaming. All things considered, that’s a particularly odious bit of victim-blaming, and I hate it. Underprivileged groups already have to deal with all sorts of “learned helplessness” in the face of a stacked system, and it’s horrid that anyone has to deal with that kind of nonsense from their own in-group. I’m sorry that you’re taking that kind of abuse from people who are in the same position as you.

  32. 88

    DJ admitted or claimed ignorance on several points.

    If it is an admission, it should be applauded, for it is not easy to admit that one has been ignorant, and blundered as a result. We can find fault elsewhere with his response, but should encourage the brave honesty of admitting ignorance where applicable.

    However, if it is a convenient lie, then it is reprehensible. A really disgusting, sociopathic kind of lie. The sort of lie that a real moral monster makes without a second thought because it is beneficial to themselves.

    Now the problem is this: nobody but DJ is REALLY certain which option (or a third, unstated one, if there is one) applies here. And given what is known about psychology, biases, and cognitive dissonance, I’m not sure we can even assume that DJ really knows which option is correct.

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but damn……

    WHAT. A. MESS.

  33. 89

    I’ve seen one of those folks link to Stephanie, calling her and others part of the problem for not name-and-shaming. All things considered, that’s a particularly odious bit of victim-blaming, and I hate it.

    That’s not even solely learned helplessness – it’s a completely rational decision to stay silent. Ordering victims to COME FORWARD and report, instead of confidentially or anonymously report, is putting them directly in danger. It’s reprehensible.

    Rebecca Watson’s the index case in this community. Any improvement will largely be because she spearheaded the discussion, but she’s still paying the price for it.

  34. 90

    Clearly we have some considerable number of volunteers for the men’s auxilliary. Perhaps we can make some appropriately symbolic badges. Flying monkeys come to mind considering what teh menz will probably think of the female chief of security anyway. Seems ok if the frame is from Wicked rather than the Wizard.

  35. 91


    That is almost certainly exactly why he can’t just talk with these women, or the rest of us, without stabbing every which way in the meantime.

    Don’t worry, you’re safe.
    It’s something noteworthy as well: DJG as well as Chris Hallquist are very consistent in only attacking female bloggers who write about those issues. Not you, PZ or the guys over at the Atheist Experience. Nono, it’s only Rebecca, Stephanie, Je, Greta and Ophelia.

  36. 92

    Giliell: Dang, I hadn’t noticed that. Nor have they gone after Crommunist. Oh, I saw a few folks calling PZ “mangina” but they’ve been doing that for, well, a year.

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    Emptyell, re the Gentleman’s Auxiliary: this from a commenter at Skepchick.

    I find it interesting that so many people are mentioning Dragon*Con as a safe space. Have any of the Dragon*Con-goers participated in the Backup Ribbon project? That was what made me decide to go back to Dragon*Con the year after I experienced a dangerous situation there. Yes, D*C itself didn’t respond fantastically initially to security concerns (though they responded better than D.J.), but enough other people did respond in grassroots manners like the Backup Ribbon project that eventually we ended up with a tightening of security at the con and a more significant harassment policy. A harassment policy, I might add, that I ended up having to make use of, and that worked to get someone kicked out.

    Now that’s interesting… a statement that *grassroots* safe space support caused a convention to tighten its own enforcement.

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    The commenters, yes. They hate PZ, probably because he’s already banned most of them. But I’m talking about the “leads”. I think that during the original Elevatorgate, what Caine calls 3d4k (or was it 2 days 4000 posts?), Pharyngula was every bit as much a battlefield as was Skepchick and much more so than almost diamonds. And so far I can’t remember any of the repeated fuck-ups where PZ hasn’t weighed in and come out clear and supportive of Rebecca, Jen, Greta, Ophelia and Stephanie. Yet he’s not an irresponsible but well-meaning blogger who discourages women from attending.


    What is the plan for making sure that when a woman is harassed and goes to the authority indicated in the anti-harassment policy, that she isn’t brushed off, shamed, ignored sneered at, mocked, belittled, and otherwise further traumatized by the people she is reporting to?

    Proper training.
    That’s, for example one thing DJG could have said:
    “I’m sorry, Ashley, we obviously fucked this up. This shows that we still have a long way to go. For next year we’ll try to make sure that our staff and volunteers have training in how to handle those complaints properly. We will equip specially trained people with turquois-coloured badges so victims of harassment can come to them and be sure to be treated with support and respect.
    We will furthmore instruct our staff and volunteers to actively note things themselves.”
    Sadly, it’s something I have said now and that didn’t cross his mind.

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    Ashley – I applaud you for your courage, and for not bowing to pressure from people who can’t quite grasp the radical concept that women aren’t public property.

    Now another depressing thought. I talked yesterday about women I know, including me, who don’t report harassment/assault/rape because the costs outweigh the benefits. Easier to just use each other as free therapy, and forget about it wherever possible.

    But this. has all brought some things back up for me, namely that some women literally do not realise they’re being harassed or abused. Some girls and women experience it so often that it’s a normal part of life to them. Why would they report it?
    [trigger warning . child abuse, sexual assault]

    Example – I was abused as a child. Physically and emotionally, beatings, mindgames, weird control issues. I’ve been asked “Why didn’t you tell someone?” and told “It can’t have been that bad. you’re exaggerating to get attention”

    I honestly did not know. I was very sad and angry, but that was my fault, I was evil. I had food to eat, clothes to wear, it was ungrateful and wicked to feel sad, I deserved to be punched and kicked for that.

    I didn’t talk about it because it was normal, everyday stuff. Abused kids on tv were dirty and thin, they had no clothes or toys. I was lucky, wasn’t I? if I didn’t want to be served up that meal I hadn’t finished, I should have eaten it yesterday. If I didn’t want to have my face rubbed into the carpet, I shouldn’t have wet myself in the first place, like a filthy, lazy brat.

    Why would I tell anyone? That’s like saying “Last night I went to bed, and I woke up this morning”, boring, ordinary stuff. Plus, I was ashamed, people would find out I was wicked and stupid, lazy too. Best to keep my mouth shut.

    I was a prime target for bullies, my parents said that was my fault too. When I was sexually assaulted by a gang of older boys it was my fault, I knew better than to not wear a bra under my baggy sweater, at 13 I shouldn’t have been doing stupid things like that. Stupid bitch, that’s all I was.

    New Year’s Eve, 19, when that guy pushed me onto the couch and kissed me, I should have stopped him. Instead I let him have sex with me, because I was a slut now too. I was disgusting, they were right.

    It took me till my thirties to find out this was all wrong, that my crushing depression about being a bad, evil person was not warranted. I’d swap childhood stories with my partner and she’d go pale, she’d. say “But that’s abusive” and I’d reply “Oh no, it was for my own good!”
    I’d lived my life,worked. got an MSc, and needed a stranger to point out that my parents had abused me

    That’s why I don’t doubt that there are girls and women out. there for whom harassment is so prevalent, so normal, that the only way it registers is as “Ugh he touched me. What’s wrong with me, why do I lead them on? I’m so nasty”. If a new friend offers to help her report it to con staff, imagine the reaction when she says “Well yeah, he touched my boob, and I feel gross for letting him, but I thought nothing of it until my friend said…”

    That’s the end result of a victim blaming culture, where harassment and abuse are as mundane as catching a bus.

    Sorry this got long.

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    A nym too, I’m so very sorry that all that happened to you. I can empathize, because I was sexually abused as a child, and I too did not realize that what was happening to me was abuse. I thought that all the negative repercussions I was facing (extreme social awkwardness, phantom illnesses, refusal to look “attractive” by buying properly fitting clothing or take care of my hair, etc) were my fault because I was weak and bad, not the inevitable wages of abuse.

    I think it’s all a lot like language; as someone who was raised speaking English, Chinese sounds odd to me. But had I been raised speaking Chinese, English would have sounded odd to me. It’s about your beginning point of reference. And for people who are abused as children, abuse is the beginning point of reference for normal.

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    Similar… everything done to me as a child was my fault for being a freak, and everything done to me as an adult was deserved, period, due to gaslighting by my abusive partner. It took me almost six months to progress from “…hang on, that was a trick abusers use” to making the phone call where I said “…I think I might be being abused, could you help me understand?”

    I suspect the single most helpful thing harassment policies could do is to include the number of a local (or national) sexual assault hotline, and a sentence something like “If you feel awful, “icky”, or ashamed, but you’re not sure if what happened to you was really sexual assault, call this number.” Only good can come from having that number and that question in the hands of every. single. person.

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