Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events

This is a chronological timeline of major events in the campaign to get major secular and skeptical events to enact harassment policies, to protect convention-goers from needless harassment and encourage women who might otherwise avoid what they perceive as a gender-imbalanced chilly climate to join the community. It is presently a work-in-progress, and a living document. It could be edited at any time.

I’m beginning from an excellent blog comment by Pteryxx that tries to organize this timeline more contextually rather than purely chronologically, and pulls out blockquotes. I’m rearranging everything and summarizing the contents of the links. Please let me know if I’ve misinterpreted the contents or missed any notable events. This is meant to be a companion piece to the 101-level post In Media Res, where I opened the comments to general questions about this campaign. Please direct those questions there.


May 20th

Almost Diamonds
Zero Intolerance: Stephanie Zvan discusses Jen McCreight’s off-handed mention at CFI’s Women In Secularism event (video available June 6th), of the existence of an informal network of women speakers warning one another privately about male speakers who have been problematic with regard to sexual harassment in the past. She makes recommendations about what can be done, and explains why “name and shame” is a bad idea.

Richard Dawkins Foundation
Women in Secularism Conference- Washington DC: A write-up of the conference that is notable mostly for the anti-feminist sentiment running through its comments, especially involving names who would make themselves more vocal later in this debate.

May 21st

Women In Secularism conference: a summary, part 1: PZ Myers’ daughter Skatje mentions Jen’s remarks, and advocates bringing some information forward so the speakers involved can either deny, defend, or admit they’re wrong and apologise. Commenters point out that Stephanie’s previous Zero Intolerance post largely disagrees and it’s more problematic than PZ’s general name-and-shame tactics.

Butterflies & Wheels
Here It Comes: Ophelia observes that we are already starting to see ridiculous levels of pushback in comments about the Women In Secularism conference, and prognosticates that it will only get worse.

May 22nd

Blag Hag
Dealing with Badly-Behaving Speakers: Jen explains why she brought the issue up, and her trepidation about naming names because she feels that without solid evidence, it’s not her place, and she’s likewise not prepared to weather the onslaught of rape and death threats from misogynist and anti-feminist trolls.

Almost Diamonds
Making It Safer in the Meantime – Stephanie makes the case that any convention needs a harassment policy, not only for sexual harassment but for harassment on any other grounds. This policy is not expected to END harassment, but provide a prophylactic effect and a framework to arbiter complaints and support victims. She links to a very good sample policy from the Geek Feminism wiki, which has been successfully implemented at geeky conventions, and further suggests that conventions can use that as a template to get started. She also suggests that an appropriate after-convention reporting scheme would say something like “X number of harassment cases reported, all documented” as opposed to actually naming those names publicly.

Greta Christina’s Blog
Men behaving badly at atheist conferences: Greta Christina does a link round-up on the harassment topic as relates the Women In Secularism conference. Notable for some “witch hunts” trolls suggesting that if we name names and create blacklists without evidence and trials, we’re destroying innocent men’s lives. (Note this was preemptively rebuffed in Stephanie’s original post on May 20th.)

In response to the “Making it Safer” post at Almost Diamonds:

May 23

Almost Diamonds
Real Progress: Stephanie reports that five major conferences and two people who run conferences frequently have come out in support of, have adopted, and/or have improved on existing harassment policies in direct response to the conversation that Jen and Stephanie sparked. First (chronological) sighting of “witch hunts” trolling in the comments, possibly?

Friendly Atheist
It’s Almost Time to Start Naming Names: While this post is supportive of the idea of harassment policies, it also calls for naming names, despite the aforementioned problems. Thread is notable for a “name being named”, e.g. a noteworthy secular speaker being accused of sexual harassment, but nobody has confirmed or denied or shamed the name.

Blag Hag
“Oh Yeah? Well You’re UGLY!”: Some tenured skeptical community members with a hatred of feminism declare Stephanie, Jen, Ophelia and Rebecca Watson all too ugly to have to worry about being sexually harassed. THE GREAT RIFT BEGINS.

In response to the “Making it Safer” post at Almost Diamonds:

May 24th

Butterflies & Wheels
Deep Rifts: Ophelia replies to some of the attacks (e.g. online harassment) mentioned in Blag Hag’s post from yesterday.

May 25th

post on Steve Zara’s wall: Russell Blackford, prominent Australian skeptic and blogger at Metamagician, says: “There’s also the small issue of some people wanting to introduce Talibanesque codes of conduct that go far beyond any legal requirements into the atheist/skeptic/secularist movements. I’m glad these people don’t have any actual political power.”

Almost Diamonds
On Witches and the Hunting Thereof: Stephanie responds to the “witch-hunting” trolls explaining that harassment policies are the literal, definitional opposite of a witch-hunt.

May 26th

comment on Sophie Hirschfeld’s post: DJ Grothe says that TAM (The Amazing Meeting) registration for women is down from 40% last year, to 18% this year. He also preemptively starts the comment with “as a gay man I feel I’m sensitive to issues of sexism and homosexism”, and goes on to claim that no incidents of harassment were reported at TAM that he is aware of. He wonders why registration is down, and claims that some women have emailed the JREF list indicating that they aren’t going to TAM because of some “messaging” by people on the blogosphere describing harassment incidents, which he characterizes as misinformation and irresponsible. This is the first mention of the harassment policy debate in relation to TAM outside of Kimbo Jones asking TAM for their current policy.

May 27th

May 28th

Butterflies & Wheels
The Taliban Comes to Foggy Bottom: Ophelia discusses the existence of harassment, the characterization of anti-harassment policies as being like the Taliban, and some of the trolling distracting from the real issues.

That Weird Atheist Girl
A First Step to Ending Harassment at Conferences: The Humanists of Florida Association’s new director recommends, and the HFA’s president EllenBeth Wachs enacts, a harassment policy for all their future conventions. It has yet to be voted in permanently by the board, but the policy will be in place until it comes to a vote.

May 29th

Lousy Canuck
On the “Talibanesque”-ness of harassment policies: I disassemble the origin of Blackford’s and others’ referring to the Geek Feminism Wiki’s sample policy as “Talibanesque” by enforcing “dress codes”, pointing out that the specific language in the sample policy forbids employees and vendors from using oversexualized displays. This is effectively a ban on the practice of “booth babes”, a convention issue that’s largely only problematic at geek conventions moreso than secular ones.

Sex and the Keynote: Elyse recounts how, after speaking on a panel and running a “hug me I’m vaccinated” table at Skepticamp Ohio, she is approached by strangers who’d had some small amount of cordial interaction on Facebook the week prior, and handed a “business card” that has a nude photo of the two of them which offers sex if she’s interested. Elyse hails the convention’s handling of the event and the strong harassment policy they had in place.

Butterflies & Wheels
It was a joke, huh huh huh: Ophelia reacts to Elyse’s encounter. Notable mostly for the expansive debate in comments of whether or not handing someone who is at work a card propositioning sex is harassment which becomes the genesis for the next post.

Godless Bitches podcast
Episode 212: The Atheist Community of Austin commits to a harassment policy

Dangerous Talk
Why I Don’t Do Atheist Conventions: Staks Rosch characterizes all atheist conventions as meat markets where everyone’s either too sensitive or too insensitive, and regrets all the “drama” that goes on.

Emily Has Books
Tensions Are High: Emily rebuts Staks’ post from earlier in the day, stating that issues of sexual harassment, which normally happen in private rather than public, need to be brought to light and not brushed aside as “drama”.

May 30th

Butterflies & Wheels
Do you at least agree with the principle?: A fantastic guest post by Daniel Fincke arguing that social conventions preclude offering sex to people with whom you’ve had no prior contact. These conventions also preclude the default assumption that everyone at a convention is there as a potential sexual plaything.

Perhaps it is time that DJ Grothe resign as the President of JREF: Greg Laden suggests that DJ step down after his latest failure to communicate effectively, noting that there has been a string of such incidents and that perhaps the problem is DJ himself.

Ashley F. Miller
Harassment at TAM9: Ashley Miller links to a post from last year about some harassment she experienced at TAM despite DJ’s protestations that no harassment was ever reported. DJ Grothe says this is the first he’s heard of it, but Ashley replies that the event itself actually directly involved DJ’s personal intervention. She had discussed the event previously in 2010 and alluded to it in 2011.

Token Skeptic
Why Would Women Choose Not To Return To An Atheist And/Or Skeptical Convention?: Kylie Sturgess picks up DJ Grothe’s earlier Facebook comment and asks whether people are actually avoiding the conference due to the “backchannel rumours and hearsay” as DJ characterizes it. She discusses the misogyny that happened on-stage at the Global Atheist Convention with Jim Jefferies in the comments with various commenters who bring it up. Commenters cite a wide variety of reasons to attend or not attend certain conferences, TAM in specific, including money, travel, other more interesting conventions. Notable as a turning point in the focus of the conversation toward TAM specifically.

Almost Diamonds
Where are the women?: Stephanie links back to Token Skeptic, asking people to please explain to DJ why they’re not going to TAM if not for the “messaging” from the blogosphere. Stephanie points out in the comments that TAM did have a harassment policy last year, when someone says TAM doesn’t have a current policy on their site or anywhere associated with their current year. She also links back to a post where she previously took DJ to task for other blow-ups where he was the catalyst.

More ^than Men
Harassment Policies: Sasha Pixlee begins curating a list of conventions that have harassment policies, linking to them directly, and noting new additions inline. Please send Sasha an email if there is a convention with a published harassment policy that needs to be included, especially if the policy was adopted in response to this campaign.

Harassment Policies are a Good Thing: Sasha Pixlee extolls the virtues of harassment policies.

May 31st

Almost Diamonds
DJ Grothe Tackles the Problem of Harassment: Stephanie recounts DJ’s response to Kylie’s post at Token Skeptic, as he had cross-posted it at Almost Diamonds. She takes issue with DJ repeating his characterizing the discussion of harassment in the skeptical community as “misinformation” and “irresponsible messaging”, and particular issue with the characterization of these harassment issues as “locker room banter” and women later regretting their “sexual exploits” with someone they “later deemed ‘skeezy'”.

Ashley F. Miller
TAM 9 Harassment New Information: Ashley discusses DJ’s mischaracterization of the various reports of harassment as “new information” and explains how DJ should have remembered some events that directly involved him.

DJ please fix this genuine problem: PZ points out that, in the complaint made by DJ on Facebook, he actually lists the problem as well as the cause, though he asks for the cause. That women are complaining about harassment isn’t CAUSING the low attendance, it’s a SYMPTOM of the cause: that harassment isn’t taken seriously.

SkepchickCON Harassment Policy: Skepchick releases their initial harassment policy. Comments suggest changes.

Atheist Experience
No, DJ Grothe should not resign from JREF: Martin Wagner weighs in on DJ Grothe’s dire problem with messaging, but disagrees with Greg Laden’s call for his resignation.

June 1st

Why I Won’t Be at TAM This Year: Rebecca Watson withdraws from her obligations as a member of Skeptics Guide to the Universe to be on the SGU panel at TAM. She cites DJ’s comments regarding harassment, wherein he names her as one of the women causing the problem of low female registration, as making her directly feel unwelcome.

Almost Diamonds
How Big is the Problem?: Stephanie covers the American Secular Census study released the day before, which confirms that there is a problem with harassment (though not much worse than background society), which is skewed toward women being more likely than men to be harassed.

Butterflies & Wheels
Rebecca Explains: Ophelia’s coverage of Rebecca’s announcement that she won’t be attending TAM. Notable in that a somewhat clumsy analogy between people blaming the victims of harassment for the problem of low female turnout, and people blaming the Jews for reporting the mistreatment they received at the hands of their government in 1936. The idea was to say one shouldn’t blame the victim of harassment for any escalation in harassment. The meme morphed extremely quickly into “Ophelia says TAM is like Nazi Germany”, after Orac of Respectful Insolence (another speaker at TAM) attacks her for the analogy.

Lousy Canuck
Rebecca Watson won’t be at TAM: I point to Rebecca’s post at Skepchick, some trolls appear to call her decision “unprofessional”.

The DJ Grothe quote that sticks in my craw: I take DJ to task over the specific quote, which he has still not walked back at time of writing — “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.”

Ashley F. Miller
11 Thoughts on TAMpocalypse 2012: Ashley attempts to correct some common misapprehensions about her position on DJ, TAM, and a number of peripheral concerns to the topic of harassment in general, and the harassment she encountered.

Emily Has Books
Perseverance Policies: Emily discusses the range of options available to a person in absence of a harassment policy from personal experience with sexual harassment she received at TAM, and how it is imperative that women affected by harassment not only “vote with their dollars” but also demand proper harassment policies.

Edinburgh Skeptics
Anti-Harassment Policy: The Edinburgh Skeptics implement a harassment policy for their meetings/conventions.

June 2nd

Lousy Canuck
The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation: I make an effort to refocus our conversation on the topic of harassment policies in general, pointing out various troll silencing tactics that boil down to hyperactive skepticism which will not accept any amount of evidence that there is even any harassment to be dealt with. I advocate steamrolling these trolls and moving on with the conversation without them. I also publish Pteryxx’s research on the problem of harassment under-reporting, and how it makes what evidence we do have about harassment somewhat underwhelming.

note on Rob Tarzwell’s profile: Rob discusses two more anecdotes about harassment at TAM with which he was directly involved, including one repeat offender attempting to use a camera on a telescoping monopod to take pictures up their dresses. This upskirt photographer has apparently been discussed by participants in previous years and kicked out of previous TAM events. The photographer is also evidently running for Congress. Said photographer was mentioned a day before at XBlog in comments, and defended his actions claiming to have had the monopod for the sole purpose of taking pictures of himself with famous people. This is notwithstanding the multiply substantiated claims of harassment.

Ashley F. Miller
DJ Fact Correction: Ashley corrects a grievous misinterpretation on DJ Grothe’s part where he says that Ashley “didn’t think it was worth reporting” her original incident of harassment. She did, in fact, and thought DJ was directly involved in kicking her harasser out because of it. Turns out DJ threw the guy out for unrelated reasons.

June 3rd

comment on Why I Won’t Be at TAM This Year: DJ Grothe apologizes to Rebecca Watson for his misconstruing her intentions. He repeats a number of accusations of bullying, misrepresentation and dishonesty leveled at the other women he’s previously blamed for the low TAM female registration.

Almost Diamonds
What a Strange Creature: Stephanie covers the apology and makes a few quick notes with regard to whom he did not apologize (e.g. Jen, Stephanie, Ashley Miller), and points out that he claims in the apology that Stephanie has not contacted conference organizers.

Lousy Canuck
DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman: I blockquote the apology in full in a post and link to Stephanie’s reply at Skepchick, and discuss problems with the apology in the comments with various other commenters.

Butterflies & Wheels
Degodwinization: Ophelia corrects the clumsy analogy about women reporting harassment being blamed for it, which has so far served as a distraction and a means to bully her. Orac apologizes for the parts he thinks he went off the rails, but trolls regardless press the advantage and the meme that Ophelia said “TAM is like Nazi Germany” takes hold.

June 4th

Lousy Canuck
The Grothebot 5000 Meme: Commenter Josh, Token SpokesGay uses MemeGenerator to skewer DJ Grothe. I post about it, and in doing so, describe DJ’s actions as “running around being a douchebag to those women who are identifying the problem and working to solve it”. In comments, I obliquely reference DJ’s preemptive reference to his being gay from the Facebook comment on the 26th. Trollish elements manufacture outrage from this and call me homophobic on Twitter while sending @-replies to dozens of well-placed skeptics. This goes on for several days. Russell Blackford calls for my being kicked out of FtB.

Almost Diamonds
What did DJ Apologize For?: Stephanie itemizes the parts of DJ Grothe’s original offenses that he’s apologized for, and what he expressly reiterated or doubled down on. Characterizing his apology to Rebecca as an apology to all the women he’s dismissed is demonstrably wrong, and this post demonstrates.

About that TAM harassment policy…: Stephanie refers to every time anyone has mentioned TAM’s harassment policy from 2011, and the fact that it has always been referred to in “past tense”. She also points to Kimbo Jones’ asking for clarification on the current year’s harassment policy, and the silence thereafter.

Surly Women Grants: 6 More Winners: Surly Amy announces six more winners in the initiative to send women to TAM via the various fundraisers that Skepchick has organized and participated in over the past year. It is important to note that Skepchick was founded almost expressly for the purpose of raising money to send women to TAM, and it has done so every year since inception. Amy makes clear the point that nobody has ever said that TAM is any more or less safe for women than any other convention or the background societal harassment you might encounter. (The question of “safe spaces” is a different one altogether.)

June 5th

Greta Christina’s Blog
Sexual Harassment, and What “Not Naming Names” Does And Does Not Mean: Greta discusses the Catch-22 of taking reports seriously and the troll meme that this is a “witch-hunt”. She directly confronts the trolls on this point.

June 6th

Lousy Canuck
An apology, a mea culpa, and my stated opinion of DJ Grothe: After Natalie Reed pointed out a legitimate grievance with the comment I had made that trolls used to call me a homophobe, I revised the comment to avoid accidentally incurring splash damage with the meme that gay men are misogynistic as a matter of course. The very first comment is about how I’m a misogynist. People are still upset that I called DJ a douchebag, but I stick to my guns because he still hasn’t apologized adequately for his offensive “locker room talk” and “regret” of “sexual exploits”.

Ashley F. Miller
Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment: Ashley displays a very telling sort of troll where, despite multiple lines of corroborated evidence that the harassment she described previously really happened, asks very pointedly “are you sure you aren’t just making it all up?”

CFI’s Women in Secularism Conference | The Intersection of Non-theism and Feminism : The panel at WIS that started this conversation — video uploaded to Youtube. Sikivu Hutchinson, Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson and Rebecca Watson.

June 7th

Ask an Atheist radio show
SEXISM! IT EXISTS AMONGST AND BETWEEN ATHEISTS!: AaA telegraphs that they’re going to do a show about “dogmatic feminists” in the community, the fight regarding sexism, and that they plan on making it pretty much about how both sides are equally bad.

June 8th

Lousy Canuck
You Must Always Be Nice: Why I’m not being nice to DJ Grothe: I summarize the manufactroversy around my calling DJ Grothe a douchebag, why it is not in fact out of character or hypocritical of me to use naughty words while simultaneously telling people not to use slurs, and why preventing splash damage while focusing attacks on only those people who have made offensive remarks is important.

Almost Diamonds
Those oversensitive, lying women: Stephanie describes and tears apart two breeds of trolls — those who claim harassment victims and potential harassers face a problem of defining what “counts” as harassment, and that the harassers often just have different definitions; and that the bigger problem of harassment policies is the possibility of false accusations. The fact that the concern on the trolls’ part that they might not be believed mimicks the very real concern that women won’t be believed if they come forward with their assault cases is telling.

June 9th

June 10th

Almost Diamonds
Doing away with “drama”: Stephanie discusses the frequent dismissal of this harassment campaign as merely interpersonal ‘drama’ (read: conflict) between several individuals, rather than an actual legitimate conflict.

Ask an Atheist radio
The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism: The AaA podcast put together a show talking about how people in the feminist sections of the secular movements who are trying to encourage harassment policies apparently “don’t tolerate dissent”. The evidence provided is that they have banned people who have mistreated them elsewhere. Stephanie Zvan asked to be part of the show via email since they were going to be talking about her (among other so-called “dogmatic” feminists), and was told what the call-in hours for “all listeners” are, as though she was just another listener and not the topic of conversation. She manages to call in as a guest, and corrects them on what they’re actually trying to say — that the feminists are stating things forcefully. Notably, the comments are filled with the usual misogynist suspects calling FtBers names. Yes, the same ones that were banned on Stephanie’s and Ophelia’s blogs, which Becky believes shows that the feminists are being dogmatic.


June 11th

Sexual Intelligence
Sexual Harassment or Unwanted Sexual Attention: [trigger warning for dismissiveness of sexual harassment] Dr. Marty Klein recounts Elyse’s encounter with the couple soliciting sex from strangers, gets a number of major facts wrong including conflating Elyse with both Rebecca Watson and Surly Amy. He edits it to read that it’s a “composite” story, but the original is reblogged to Psychology Today unaltered.

June 12th

Ask An Atheist Takes On Dogmatic Feminism: Greg covers the Ask an Atheist podcast’s complete failure to engage on the actual issues, and their lack of evidence that anyone involved in this discussion has a central dogma.

SkepchickCON Harassment Policy (New and Improved): Skepchick updates their harassment policy to improve coverage, taking into account feedback from commenters.

June 13th

Almost Diamonds
The Great Penis Debate: For the Ardent Atheist podcast, a number of men and two women who’ve come out against feminist activities in the skeptical movement in the past record a Google Hangout where for an hour and a half they get basically everything about this fight wrong. I can’t be more charitable than that. Noteworthy for Emery Emery (co-producer of The Aristocrats) saying [ROT13 for sex act trigger] Fgrcunavr Mina fubhyq fhpx uvf pbpx.

CSICon – Harassment Policy (PDF): More ^than Men reports that CSICon has adopted an official harassment policy and sent it to them to host as part of their project itemizing those policies

June 14th

Lousy Canuck
In Medias Res: How to find the plot if you’re just tuning in: Trying to combat a trend in commenters joining discussions late and getting things desperately wrong, I prepare a how-to guide (with specific advice to this discussion) on how to learn what came before this.

Almost Diamonds
Those Meddling Kids: Stephanie links to the Facebook post on Rob Tarzwell’s wall and the subsequent discussion over the several days since he posted it. The number of reported-but-since-forgotten TAM harassment incidents is growing!

It’s Always the Coverup: PZ weighs in on the newest harassment incident reports, suggesting that DJ Grothe, JREF and TAM are actively engaging in covering these incidents up so they can say it’s a “safe space” by pointing to a zero on their record. PZ also points out that nobody’s saying harassment happens MORE often at TAM than at other conventions.

Greta Christina’s Blog
Sexual harassment and the OpenSF Conference code of conduct: Greta discusses a polyamory convention — a community that is defined by sexual openness and a desire for its members to “hook up” with one another — that has adopted very strong anti-harassment policy that includes rules like “no touching without verbal permission”.

June 15th

Lousy Canuck
I create and begin curating this link farm timeline.

Greta Christina’s Blog
Holy. Fucking. Shit.: Greta reacts to the further reports of harassment that DJ has subsequently forgotten as reported at Almost Diamonds yesterday.

Butterflies & Wheels
Squicked again: Ophelia reacts to Dr. Marty Klein getting all the salient facts wrong with regards to the Skepchick Elyse “Sex and the Keynote” issue in June 11th’s Sexual Intelligence blog entry.

June 16th

Blag Hag
No I won’t be going to TAM: Jen explains why she will not be attending TAM. She notes that it is not because of how she fears being personally harassed or otherwise accosted, but rather a combination of factors that includes DJ Grothe’s dismissive attitude and blaming her directly as one of the reasons female attendance is down.

Almost Diamonds
“The Great Penis Debate” Transcript, Part I
“The Great Penis Debate” Transcript, Part II
“The Great Penis Debate” Transcript, Part III
Kate Donovan’s transcription of the Ardent Atheist Google+ hangout Stephanie posted on June 13th.

Butterflies & Wheels
This thing is different from the other: Ophelia discusses the Ask an Atheist podcast and Becky’s evident quote-mining and deceptive synopses of what was said by whom.

June 17th

Greta Christina’s Blog
Update/ Clarification/ Correction on “Holy. Fucking. Shit.”: Greta hosts clarifying comments by one of the people who pointed out the potential upskirt photographer to TAM and hotel security.

Google+ Hangout
FtB and Rebecca Watson have a Google+ hangout (runtime: 1h10min) to discuss the harassment debacle and how it intersected with DJ Grothe’s irresponsible messaging and TAM. Video is posted at:
XBlog (and followup comments)
Butterflies & Wheels (and followup comments)
Lousy Canuck

Almost Diamonds
Harming TAM: Stephanie Zvan responds to the parts of the “PenisGate Debate” that involved the participants repeatedly claiming we on the pro-harassment-policies side of the debate “just want to hurt TAM” by itemizing exactly how DJ Grothe has hurt TAM in his attempting to throw women bloggers and people reporting harassment under the bus.

Monopod Man and other matters. An update: Greg Laden discusses the “potential upskirt photographer” who had been reported repeatedly for harassment and kicked out of at least one TAM. A commenter explains that this person posted enthusiastically about voyeur photography on JREF’s forums, and could be responsible for upskirt photographs posted in another forum under the same name.

June 18th

Victim Blaming 101: PZ eviscerates someone’s post where he declares by fiat that TAM is a safe space by virtue of there being hotel security to deal with harassment. This is, of course, missing the larger point of enacting strong harassment policies, because “telling hotel security” has been recommended in most of the posts on this topic since the beginning, and it’s still happening. Policies provide a prophylactic effect as well as provide a framework for the convention staff to not only support the victims but prevent the abusers from repeating their actions year after year.

Safe Space: WilloNyx has a great discussion up explaining the difference between “safe space” and “unsafe space” and “not a safe space”, which are distinct and easily mistaken in this conversation. DJ and his supporters are especially guilty of these errors, thinking “not a safe space” means you’re going to get harassed or molested as a matter of course, and that the messaging that the secular community is no better than the background levels of misogyny somehow condemns us as evil raping monsters.

Jeremy Stangroom: Greg covers Stangroom’s accusations on Twitter that Freethought Blogs is full of bullies, and that bullies sometimes end lives.

June 19th

JREF Welcomes New Communications Director: DJ Grothe posts a short interview with their newly-hired communications director Carrie Poppy, who fills the position abdicated by Sadie Crabtree in February 2012.

Butterflies & Wheels
I’m Out: After receiving more than one email suggesting she would be shot and killed at TAM, Ophelia bowed out. The response from JREF amounts to “thanks for letting us know.” Notable also for a troll in comments [ROT13 for victim-blaming] gryyvat jbzra jub qba’g ercbeg be pna’g pbaivapr ynj rasbeprzrag gung gurve ercbegf ner frevbhf, gung gurl’er cnegyl erfcbafvoyr sbe nal shegure encrf pbzzvggrq ol gurve encvfgf.

Lousy Canuck
Safe: I was writing a piece on the difference between “unsafe”, “safe space” and “not a safe space” when I heard about the threats Ophelia received. The piece took a turn toward outraged but ultimately tries to synthesize a lot of the language problems in these fights.

Greta Christina’s Blog
“I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar”: Guest Post by Amanda Marcotte: As the title says, Marcotte discusses how frequently they are doubted when a victim comes forward with a claim of harassment or sexual victimization.

June 20th

En Tequila Es Verdad
How not to handle harassment: While Dana Hunter has been link-farming the conversation previously, this is the first time she’s drawn conclusions as to exactly how DJ has mishandled the entire debacle. Thorough documentation of what went wrong where.

Almost Diamonds
Why #ididnotreport: [trigger warning] Stephanie and many commenters share their stories of molestation and rape, and why they didn’t report them or how they reported but were not taken seriously. One gets the impression that the reasons for the underreporting problem are completely valid, not just misperceptions on the parts of the victims.

Dubito Ergo Sum
Pascal’s Reporter: Tom Foss describes the decision matrix that led to the troll on Ophelia’s I’m Out thread and their victim-blaming, and explains what’s broken and missing and what assumptions are invalid in that matrix.

June 21st

Greta Christina’s Blog
Why I Have Hope: Greta explains why, despite how bad it all might seem, she feels the fight to import social justice values into the secular and skeptical movements is winnable.

Schroedinger’s Threat: Greta laments the threats that forced Ophelia from speaking at TAM, and discusses how a threat need not be “credible” to be threatening, as every threat is a mystery as to its actual credibility until it’s carried out.

Lousy Canuck
The FtB Conversation about TAM: transcript, pt. 2: Second half of the transcript for the Google+ Hangout conversation we had on Sunday.

Are harassment policies “sex negative”?: WilloNyx challenges the myth that a harassment policy would eliminate all consensual sexual activity at any convention where it’s implemented.

Feminism – The Other F Word
All is Not Well in Viagraland: Misogyny, Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Atheist Community: Jacqueline S. Homan compiles a list of pointed questions which she’s posed to JREF regarding the ongoing harassment in the community, and the evident lack of will to do something about it.

June 24

June 25

Richard Carrier’s blog
On Sexual Harassment: Richard Carrier outlines what points people should agree to before discussing harassment policies, and if you’re not agreeing to those points, you’re being unreasonable. He weaves an excellent case for harassment policies, and as someone who attends a good number of atheist conferences, his insights are valuable.

June 26th

American Atheists
American Atheists hosts a conference call announcing their new harassment policy, which I’ve posted here on my blog. PZ posts it too. Stephanie Zvan was on the call and adds a good deal of context, focusing on the sex positivity and harassment intolerance. Dana Hunter also got to be on the call and adds her thoughts. My own thoughts are that this is easily the strongest and best harassment policy proffered in this discussion, combining many of the strengths of the OpenSF and GeekFeminism policies, as well as policies from the ACLU and a few other sources. HUGE WIN.

As of June 21, 2012, I’ve mostly stopped adding daily blog posts, as this timeline is getting unwieldy and therefore less useful than I’d originally envisioned. As fascinating as watching the various troll tactics morphing in realtime might be, the campaign was largely won, given the large number of conferences that have taken it seriously and implemented strong policies. I’ll pretty much from here on out only be adding major movements, like new conventions building policies or DJ Grothe cluing in on what he did wrong and correcting his mistakes.

Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events
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138 thoughts on “Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events

  1. 51

    Yeah, I ended up collecting all the links I could find, and you probably want to focus on the important links.

    I hope my descriptions help a little in determining the importance of various posts.

  2. 54

    Matthew Morse wrote,

    As a result, there are certain parts of the conversation I may be missing. In particular, I found no links making accusations of black lists or comparisons to the Taliban, but there are some posts which respond to those accusations. I’m not clear if I missed the original posts, if these accusations were made in some medium I wasn’t following, or if they were in comments on posts I have already listed.

    The timeline points to one example of “Talibanesque” on Facebook (which is not a medium I follow). Others may also exist there.

    (Because when I think “Taliban”, I think “viewing women as equals instead of objects!” …yeah, that “Talibanesque” insult doesn’t make sense to me, either.)

  3. 55

    I was expecting to have to do updated posts with additional links, but I wasn’t expecting to have to do them this soon. Anyway, I’m starting with some older links from More Than Men which I had previously overlooked, and following those with links from this weekend.

    http://www.morethanmen.org/2012/05/28/making-casual-bigotry-cost-with-minimal-splash-damage/ Repost of Jason’s post on Lousy Canuck

    http://www.morethanmen.org/2012/05/30/harassment-policies-are-a-good-thing/ Sasha supports harassment policies

    http://www.morethanmen.org/2012/06/01/we-need-to-talk-harassment-and-hookups/ Sasha asks whether having harassment policies creates a chilling effect on consensual sex at events, and whether this should be a concern of event organizers

    http://www.morethanmen.org/2012/06/13/help-us-find-harassment-policies/ More than Men requests help in finding harassment policies for various secular/skeptic/science events. This is a followup on their earlier post listing events that have policies

    https://the-orbit.net/lousycanuck/2012/06/15/ssa-blogathon-ssa-adopts-a-harassment-policy-for-conferences-4-of-9/ Jason posts on the new SSA harassment policy

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/16/the-great-penis-debate-transcript-part-i/ Part 1 of Kate Donovan’s transcript of the Great PenisGate Debate video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/16/the-great-penis-debate-transcript-part-ii/ Part 2 of Kate Donovan’s transcript of the Great PenisGate Debate video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/16/the-great-penis-debate-transcript-part-iii/ Part 3 of Kate Donovan’s transcript of the Great PenisGate Debate video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/06/no-i-wont-be-going-to-tam/ Jen explains her reasons for not going to TAM this year
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/naming-the-problem/ Ophelia states that she is being bullied
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/this-thing-is-different-from-the-other/ Ophelia responds to Ask an Atheist’s use of the phrase “dogmatic feminism”
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/06/16/dogma/ Greg posts definitions of “dogma” and related words, including “dogmatic feminism”
    http://skepticalteacher.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thoughts-on-the-skeptical-movement-sexism-and-misogyny/ mattusmaximus discusses how online discussion of harassment tends to bring out the worst in some people

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi_OsT7frPg Video of discussion with FTBloggers and Rebecca Watson about TAM
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/17/harming-tam/ Stephanie refutes the claim that she has been harming TAM with this discussion and looks at the harm DJ Grothe has done
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/06/17/feminism-privilege-and-learning-about-humility/ Guest post by Patrick Mitchell on learning about feminism
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/06/17/a-conversation-about-tam/ PZ posts the FTB and RW video, with a transcript of his introduction
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/some-ftb-peeps-talking-about-tam/ Ophelia links to the FTB and RW video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/not-a-plan-but-a-background/ Ophelia responds to Greg’s comments about this being a cultural issue with the leadership of JREF
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/06/17/i-participated-in-a-video-conversation-on-the-tam-controversy/ Daniel posts the FTB and RW video, with followup comments
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/17/update-clarification-correction-on-holy-fucking-shit/ Greta follows up on the upskirt photo at TAM9 post, with comments by Lee, one of the people reporting the harassment
    https://the-orbit.net/lousycanuck/2012/06/17/ftb-and-rebecca-watson-want-tam-to-succeed/ Jason posts the FTB and RW video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/06/17/a-conversation-with-some-bloggers/ Greg posts the FTB and RW video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/06/17/followup-comments/ Greg posts followup comments on the FTB and RW video
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/06/17/monopod-man-and-other-matters-an-update/ Greg posts an update about the upskirt photos report

  4. 57

    Wow, Just, Wow!

    I was totally and absolutely clueless this had gotten so extensive. I will be reading this for a while to attempt to get up to speed.

    Thanks, ALL, for being so “on it” to help the dolts and gits like me…it is very helpful that all the information is laid out like this.

    Jason, Big, Huge, Fat Kudos, Brother!

  5. 58

    I am blown away by the level of awesome here – both in the timeline and the collaboration in the comments. Thank you to Jason and to everyone who has contributed to this project.

  6. 60

    A couple friendly suggestions for revisions:

    In several of the entries regarding blog posts, it might help to make more clear the border between your descriptions of (1) the statements made in the post itself and (2) the statements made in the ensuing comment thread. For example, the comments on Stephanie’s May 23 post may or may not contain the chronologically-first invocation of “witch hunts,” but Stephanie’s post itself certainly doesn’t. Would it make any sense to add an “In comments,” signal in the middle of each entry paragraph in which you’re discussing the content of both post and comments?

    As another minor quibble, it seems to me that the synopsis of Elyse’s May 29 “Sex and the Keynote” post should mention the event at which the incident in question took place (Skepticamp Ohio), especially since (a) Elyse mentions it herself and (b) this is the opposite of a “name and shame” context, at least WRT conference itself.

    Honestly hope this is helpful….

  7. 61

    Re Ophelia’s June 1 post: rather than “the Jews for reporting the mistreatment they’re getting,” “German Jews for reporting the mistreatment they had suffered”? (And perhaps “…at the hands of their government”?) I think that more clearly conveys what she was saying; Ophelia was explicitly referencing Germany, not “the.”

    I can stop this if it seems too anal.

  8. 63

    No, it’s fine. The synopses aren’t exactly the point of the timeline, but they do need to be at least relatively accurate. Thanks Rieux. I need to do some more work on this, got lots of catch-up to do yet.

  9. 66

    ‘Nother background note, thanks to Dana Hunter over at En Tequila Es Verdad. This was earlier in the Facebook thread where DJ did his drop-in-women-attendance blaming; because in context, the discussion was about potentially running a panel on sexual harassment.

    Observe this Facebook thread, wherein the possibility of a panel at TAM on sexual harassment was raised, and he [DJ] responded thusly: “Hi Sophie, sounds like an interesting topic. But as you guessed, it is too late to add a panel to this year’s show. (The program is largely set many months out.) Also, I tend to agree with Barb that the topic seems sort of unrelated to JREF’s mission and the focus of TAM, scientific skepticism. Do you aim to debunk junk science in the field of sexual harassment or merely to educate folks and raise their awareness about the important topic?”

    Please do take especial note of that “merely.” The hastily-appended “important” doesn’t balance it. “Mere” education and consciousness raising about the harassment and harm women endure has no place in D.J.’s organization.


  10. 67

    I’m a few days behind, as you can well see. Most of yesterday’s blogging time allotment was spent almost exclusively on that Safe piece, and on fighting with Sarah Mayhew (over unrelated issues to the post, of course!) over at Ophelia’s in the thread about her email death threats.

  11. 68

    np, there are now a dozen or so ACTIVE threads at any one time and it’s all I can do to find them, much less read all of them. Much of the current discussion reiterates earlier points and elevates observations.

    Most important for now, IMHO:

    Guest post by Amanda Marcotte (trigger warning for graphic rape description):


    “I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once.”

    Stephanie Zvan’s personal account of not reporting:


    I had no resources for coping with the results of telling my friends, my mother, or the authorities. The only thing I had the strength to do was put the whole thing aside and refuse to look at it at all for ten years. It was another 15 before I could write about it. I’m still not sure I can talk about it out loud.

    That was what I could do. That and somehow survive, despite being exceptionally vulnerable.


    I have hope because, every week, I get emails or comments from people — in particular, from men — saying, “I’ve changed my mind about this because of you.” Every week, I get emails or comments from people — in particular, from men — saying, “Because of your writing, I get it now about feminism, and sexism, and the toxic environments that women live in.” Every week, I get emails or comments from people — in particular, from men — saying, “Because of your writing, I understand now why I have to speak out about this, and not just let it slide.” And in fact, I specifically get emails or comments from people saying, “I get it now because of Elevatorgate.” Or because of some other horrible conflagration that made us all want to hide under the blankets and drink/ cry/ scream ourselves hoarse. The conflagrations work. They raise consciousness. They make people recognize that sexism is real, and is fucked-up, and is worth fighting.

  12. 72

    Heh, thanks michaeld. Notice the summaries were unique, too? Comes from curating large lists of links and not noticing duplicates.

    (This is a lot of bloody work. 🙂 )

  13. 74

    Tom: thanks! I’m not only looking for “major” events now, since everyone’s tossing every bloody link in the galaxy at me, but also looking for unique perspectives and messaging that directly counters the most prevalent kinds of trolls.

    It does lead me to believe I need to build that “executive summary” too. Pare all of this down to the straight-up MAJOR stuff with less reaction-to-reactions and vicissitudes of the battle. But that would depend on what focus I take — the executive summary of the harassment battle would be a different one than an executive summary of the DJ/TAM debacle that DJ made so utterly entangled.

  14. 75

    Well, after the first ten days or so (by the time DJ’s foot-in-mouth hit) the harassment policy discussion was pretty much completed, right? A few posts have detailed exactly how the process should work, such as the “Organizational Perspective” post; but that’s about it.

    Everything since then has been DJ/TAM and, well, harassment of the women who spoke up to solve the problem initially.

  15. 78

    […] should have harassment policies and how they ought to be enforced. There’s a timeline here: Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events. It’s… complicated. But not so complicated that there is ever good reason for […]

  16. 79

    This timeline is great. It takes hours per day to keep up with all the major atheist blogs so no one who isn’t a professional blogger can be expected to keep up with it all, yet it’s so common in comment threads for people to bite the newbies.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:BITE). Especially on Pharyngula. They tend to pile on with abuse to whomever is does not suddenly and miraculously change their mind to the majority view after one dismissive reply. There are more huge dicks among Pharyngula regulars than a pornstar convention (but I <3 PZ).

  17. 86

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for your work to collate all the discussion. It’s very helpful. Since you seem dedicated to the synopses being relatively accurate (comment 64), could I ask for a few corrections?

    -Ask an Atheist releases as a podcast, but we are a local commercial radio program.

    -In your summary of June 7, you suggest that my piece uses the words “both sides are equally bad” by putting that in quotes and stating that we pretty much plan to show that. I didn’t write that. It’s misleading to seemingly quote someone.

    -You write in your June 10 summary that “Stephanie Zvan surprises [Ask an Atheist] as a call-in guest and corrects them on what they’re actually trying to say”. As even Stephanie has noted, she emailed us beforehand about when she could call in, and we replied. Stephanie’s call was not a surprise–we regularly seek questions and encourage callers with questions during every live show.

    It’s clear that you don’t look upon my posts or editorials favorably, and that’s ok. I’d just like to be represented accurately. Again, I’m appreciative of your work in collecting the info and maintaining it as more things develop.

  18. 87

    I didn’t suggest your piece uses those words, I’ve mentioned the “both sides are equally bad” argument elsewhere. Those quotes are scarequotes because it’s obvious that on the one side, you have people working to fix a problem with harassment, and on the other side, you have people screaming Taliban and dogmatic, making strange bedfellows with those calling women cunts and bitches and liars. (These people with their differing tactics are on two different sides of the equation, but they’re both against the people in the middle, those trying to get harassment policies in place.)

    But I’ve removed the quotes nonetheless.

    I have corrected the “surprise” aspect of the second post with your clarification, that she asked to be part of the show as she was one of the people you were going to be talking about, and was told what the call-in hours were for all listeners as though she was just someone on the outside of the conversation as opposed to one of the people you were going to be talking about. To be perfectly clear, I find that to be a reprehensible tactic, and that’s where most of my opprobrium for your show comes from. You can dissent, you can even call us dogmatic, but if you’re going to talk about someone, and you’re going to call them dogmatic, and they say “say it to my face”, your answer should absolutely not be “get in line and hope you make it through the screener”.

  19. 89

    Hah, thanks Pteryxx. Both go on the timeline as soon as I get a sec. (Hard enough stealing a few moments right now to post that thing, and post comments!)

    I need to meter out what goes on from the last few days’ whargarbl though. For instance, I don’t know that any of the Thunderf00t ridiculousness or Chris Hallquist’s latest attack on me merits a mention.

  20. 90

    With all due respect for you getting trashed, Jason, none of Thunderfoot’s or Hallquist’s stuff is new material for the harassment discussion. It’s the same old arguments. DJ is far more important as a conference organizer.

  21. 92

    Heh – again with all due respect, Dana Hunter’s and Stephanie Zvan’s posts on the new AA policy are up, and both of them are better posts than yours and PZ’s, giving bullet points of the conference call (Dana) and background of this policy’s development, training and communication (Stephanie).



  22. 94

    Pteryxx — all due respect, but don’t mollycoddle my ego. They’re generally awesomer than me, and I’ve come to terms with that. 🙂

    I’ll add them in shortly now that I have a few seconds. Then I hope to add some actual analysis to the comments on my post, to make it actually worth reading (rather than merely “first to post it”).

  23. 95

    I would like a suggestion… I’m attempting to start a branch of the SSA at Florida Atlantic University. I would like to include an anti-harassment policy in our constitution. I don’t think a policy worded for conferences would work in a general constitution, so any suggestions on how I should go about wording one that is comprehensive for our constitution?

    It’s not an issue about need, BTW. Just about all the people who’ve shown interest so far have also intimated, either directly or indirectly, that they are feminists or support feminist causes. It’s an issue of wanting to be safe rather than sorry; heading off any future problems with a policy already in place.

  24. 96

    Nate, Sarah Moglia at SSA put together the new policy for SSACon. She might have some thoughts on what would be appropriate for a group with less centralized activities. Also, the Minnesota Atheists are working on a policy to cover all of their events, if you can wait a month or two for that to be finalized.

    Another consideration: How difficult do you expect it to be to update the constitution? If it’s something that takes some time, you might want to consider putting a statement of principle in the constitution itself–something that says the group is committed to being open and welcoming to all and thus promises to maintain and enforce an anti-harassment policy–and treating the policy as a working document that can more easily be updated for your needs.

  25. 97

    Thanks for your reply, Stephanie. Changing the Constitution is exceedingly easy right now as the group isn’t official yet, so the Constitution itself is obviously not yet an official document.

    I expected numerous roadblocks to setting up (mainly pushback from religious types), but the only one roadblock so far happened after the original… erm… person who handles this stuff… up and quit and, in the process, lost all the paperwork for over ten potential groups. They are searching for the paperwork over the summer semester, but there’s a chance we’ll all have to start over again… which would kinda suck.

    I’ll contact Sarah for her thoughts. The Constitution already has the standard anti-discrimination clause, but I’d like to be much more specific.

  26. 98

    Starting in december 2011 I started compiling a bookmark folder of “atheist/skeptic misogyny roundup” — it’s over 150 posts now. _That I know of_. And that was before this timeline of yours. Great.

    If only I went back in time to all the crap thrown at rebecca watson in July and harvested more bookmarks. Could I top 300 bookmarks? Most of them from freethoughtblogs? I think so.

  27. 99

    Aerik: I’ve seen a good number of your links back to my blog specifically over on Reddit, and I appreciate it, since I never post my own stuff there myself. Thanks for that.

    This particular timeline isn’t anywhere near complete, either. Just look at all the posts in the comments here that aren’t up on the timeline. Most of them are from Freethought Blogs because we’ve built a stable of atheists here that all happen to be primed on social justice, and while we get the occasional person here and there that thinks privilege and social justice aren’t worth examining, as I said in Mission Creep, there’s a lot of good reasons we should be — because every social justice movement overlaps every other to an extent, and skepticism and atheism are both social justice movements.

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