TAM’s harassment policy was secret. Why?

One of the biggest victories I was really, truly hoping for in the harassment policies campaign came to pass. But rather than crowing about it like I did with the American Atheists and CFI policies, I can barely fathom what’s going on and can’t bring myself to celebrate at all. TAM’s harassment policy appears to have come to pass in one of those strange “but you won’t like it” sort of ways, like we’d all been wishing on a Monkey’s Paw instead of making cogent arguments for these policies.

I honestly hoped that DJ Grothe and/or other powers-that-be at JREF would realize that the people DJ claimed are trying to hurt The Amazing Meeting by discussing the harassment they’d experienced, and proposing countermeasures, were instead trying to help TAM, and him, rectify the situation. I had hoped that DJ et al would come to understand that it was not about painting his specific convention as an “unsafe space“, but rather as a place that SHOULD be better than background levels of harassment but WASN’T.

But, until now, nobody has shown any indication that harassment was being taken seriously. In fact, it looked quite a bit like they’d decided harassment policies themselves were the problem, when they removed all mention of the weak-tea and toothless policy that had existed the year prior.

Then a tweet tipped us off.

[blackbirdpie id=”224283317732777984″]

(@Maria_Myrback Yes. For others’ info, volunteers had training on proper process to follow if any kind of harassment is reported at ‪#tam2012)

The reply:

[blackbirdpie id=”224281865090105344″]

(@ErikB120 Thanks Eric. People need to know we have a process in place for handling harassment ‪#tam2012)

An easier way to show people that a process was in place for handling harassment would be to include information about your harassment policy in the hand-out literature, on the website, or even mentioning in the introduction ceremony that harassment isn’t tolerated and to report harassment to TAM staff. That’s how you get the word out to people that you have a process in place — you tell them yourself.

As though that wasn’t enough, Surly Amy provided Ophelia with the following quote, with the relevant details bolded by me:

I think one of the most hurtful things I experienced while attending TAM was Harriet Hall’s Tshirt that she wore three days in a row. I told her through tears, in the speakers’ lounge, that it was dehumanizing and gender/color blind and very hurtful to me specifically as a person who does have to deal with harassment regularly. I said I was glad she felt safe and that I wouldn’t have sent 22 women to the event if I didn’t think it was safe for them either. So who was she talking to?

I felt that it was a personal attack (whether or not intended as such) since I was the main public representative of Skepchick at the event and it said ‘skepchick’ on her shirt and I told her that. I know she had a right to wear that shirt even though it was hurtful. But one day would have been enough when she was at the podium to send her message. To continue wearing it every single day, especially after I had expressed how upset I was with it, was cruel and shortsighted to say the least. That was very, very disappointing since I used to have a lot of respect for her. But there were so many detractors there that I’m sure she was getting a lot of love for slamming “skepchicks” everyday, and so my feelings were the minority and so became irrelevant.

It’s this kind of dehumanizing and angry sports-fan mentality that is driving people like me away from this group of skeptics. And I am one of the people actually doing something quantifiable with the grants (which I plan on continuing to do btw.) Seriously, imagine if half the energy used to make angry shirts and fake websites were dedicated to helping me send women to science events or to do any sort of good in this movement. We could change the world. Skeptics are supposed to fight back against psychics and scam artists, they aren’t supposed to make people like me cry and leave events early. We need to stop the harassment and hate and this sort of instigating should not be tolerated by a group of rationalists. It is certainly not going to be tolerated by me.

There was definitely an us against them feeling that I personally experienced at the event, with groups of people who wouldn’t get within 10 feet of my table. Many identifiable online FtB- and Skepchick-detractors and their friends. Oh and there were undercover harassment people, which just seemed so strange and creepy to me. I was told there were 19 people secretly monitoring the event for harassment but no public policy or message on how to report incidents other than some info hidden on the JREF website under FAQs that I never saw. I only found out about this after I was in tears in the speakers’ lounge with a few people and suddenly a super-secret harassment specialist team was brought in to talk with me. After I reported to them that the TAM twitter feed with the anonymous blogging from the event and Harriet’s shirt had upset me to the point of wanting to leave, I had security cameras trained on me and my table where I sat with my mother the entire time. A security/harassment person checked on me regularly. They said I was being monitored and recorded. It was intended, I was told, to help me feel safe but instead it just exacerbated the stress I felt. I changed my flight and left a day early.

That’s not how you deal with harassment. That’s — dare I risk Godwinning our conversation? — too much like secret police, too much like Stasi spies. Is this anything like what we asked for? Did we ask for people to be treated to their own personal SWAT team and 24/7 surveillance whenever they reported that they were being mistreated by someone? Well, I sure as hell didn’t at least.

And what did the JREF and DJ gain from this course of action, by proving that they’re taking harassment seriously while simultaneously creeping the harassed right the fuck out? Is it that they simply don’t want to admit that maybe they should have a code of conduct, or a harassment policy, in place after all, and all those people they’ve been yelling at and whipping furore up against were right? Is it that this would be too much of an admission that everyone at JREF, from the top down, fucked this one up way too badly and they just wanted to deal with the problem without admitting they were wrong to deny the problem in the first place?

I can’t even begin to speculate why some people in our community would twist themselves into knots to root for Pamela Gay’s inspiring anti-harassment speech at TAM, and try to ferret out harassment in our community though by the most secretive and creepy means imaginable, while simultaneously calling us Freethought Bloggers “bullies” and “stasi” out of the sides of their mouths. All because we dared suggest that we should all do something about the harassment in our communities. How do rationalists square that? How do you overcome that level of cognitive dissonance?

I’ll say it again: I can’t even begin to speculate. I’ve tried. I simply can’t.

Update: In the comments, UAJamie relates another incident that I strongly recommend you read.

Update 2: More clarity from Surly Amy over at Ophelia’s.

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258 thoughts on “TAM’s harassment policy was secret. Why?

  1. 201

    “degrading” is not the necessary standard anyway.

    “disparaging”/”demeaning”/”dismissive”/”derogatory” are all sufficiently hostile when we’re talking about the chilling effect of marginalising microaggressions.

    Chilly climates rely on gaslighting, remember.

  2. 202

    John #193: That doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is you waltzing in on your high horse with this bit of obvious:

    I am not condoning the behaviour of those at TAM towards Amy, but given the criticism Skepchicks have made against TAM Amy should have anticipated a backlash.

    As if the Skepchicks and their defenders are just too stupid to have thought of this. Never mind of course that we’ve been seeing this sort of backlash ever since fucking Elevatorgate.

    It’s really fucking condescending and ignorant to say that, and it indicates that you still on some level think yourself superior because you have a penis. Try to remember that if it’s obvious to you it’s probably obvious to everyone who agrees with you, m’kay?

  3. 203

    I personally spoke with one person (not Surly Amy nor UAJamie) who was harassed this year at TAM and was very satisfied with the response from JREF. If Amy wasn’t comfortable with being watched or checked on for her protection she could have said so and they would be happy to accommodate. Her original complaint probably sounded like she was afraid someone would do something to her IRL, hence the eagle-eye. But the purpose of the program is to give the victim whatever help they need. Nowhere in either Amys or UAJamie’s account is there any assertion that TAM staff disregarded their stated wishes. When one is really bummed out and/or starting to think of someone as “other” it is easier to interpret their actions uncharitably.

    BTW, DJ told me early in the morning on the first day that he thought Harriet’s t-shirt was a terrible idea but that he wouldn’t impose a dress code.

    I can’t even begin to speculate why some people in our community would twist themselves into knots to root for Pamela Gay’s inspiring anti-harassment speech at TAM, and try to ferret out harassment in our community though by the most secretive and creepy means imaginable, while simultaneously calling us Freethought Bloggers “bullies” and “stasi” out of the sides of their mouths. All because we dared suggest that we should all do something about the harassment in our communities.

    You’re lumping a lot of different people together, then applying a lot of reductionism and essentialism. This kind of lazy thinking is not what skeptics are supposed to do.

  4. 204

    Crissa #200:

    Why would you let someone run around in a t-shirt personally degrading another attendee?

    This is a conference full of libertarians. If the shirt weren’t directly referencing Amy by her full name with an insult that is most certainly and definitely an insult and not something that might be a joke, it’s not personally degrading.

    Remember, we’re talking about people who can take plausible deniability and stretch it across the Grand Canyon.

  5. 207

    They were willing to go through all this evasive song and dance to protect their secret?

    No, wait, this doesn’t add up. DJ Grothe himself went out of his way to draw attention to specifically TAM in the prior discussion about harrassment-policies in general.

    Something is up, and I don’t know what. I can’t come up with anything plausible to explain it. But there’s more to this, or brain-damage.

  6. 208

    “So making accusations related to intent just polarizes everything more.”

    No, actually, that’s not true. In fact, it’s so not true that it’s actually a perfect illustration of why it is so important that harassment policies and procedures be as transparent as possible.

    I mean, it’s polarizing, yes. But it isn’t only polarizing.

    This is why women share stories in bathrooms and other places about who to avoid and why. In the absence of any ability to deal with harassment head on, it’s useful for people to know not only who is dangerous but who may be dangerous – and in what way. The speculation and sharing isn’t just a warning to avoid someone, it’s also used to formulate plans for escape. How you deal with someone who is merely deliberately not listening is different than how you deal with someone that is suspected of being manipulative – or nastier in private than they are in public.

    It may be polarizing to speculate on TAM’s reasons for doing all this, but it’s also a theory that the vulnerable may end up needing to put to use to prevent further harm to themselves when TAM’s secret police descends again next year.

    So, yes, it’s polarizing. It can also be useful.

  7. 209

    I personally spoke with one person (not Surly Amy nor UAJamie) who was harassed this year at TAM and was very satisfied with the response from JREF.

    Hmm. How many times do you have to hear people stating that they 100% believe that the majority of attendees at TAM (or any other conference) don’t experience problems, but that doesn’t obviate the need for an EFFECTIVE policy to deal with it for those who do, before you believe it? Please tell me, so I can repeat it the requisite number of times.

    Richard Carrier has already pointed out that this faulty impression of the debate is a result of a cognitive error called the availability heuristic. Please explain why you prefer to allow your cognitive errors, rather than facts, to shape your perception of events.

    If Amy wasn’t comfortable with being watched or checked on for her protection she could have said so and they would be happy to accommodate.

    What if she felt more intimidated by her surveillance detail than she did by her harassers?

    Her original complaint probably sounded like she was afraid someone would do something to her IRL, hence the eagle-eye.

    This comments sounds like you are probably making stuff up to justify your predetermined conclusion. PROBABLY.

    But the purpose of the program is to give the victim whatever help they need.

    Citation needed. Here we have testimony from one victim explicitly saying that the policy HINDERED her getting the help she needed, because they wanted her to keep silent about the incident, even to her friends. There exist policies that are actually effective–and have been proven to be so–at providing help to victims. This policy does not resemble those policies. Why is that? And why is it that the policy seems focused on maintaining the illusion that there is no need for the policy?

    Nowhere in either Amys or UAJamie’s account is there any assertion that TAM staff disregarded their stated wishes.

    This is objectively false, regarding UAJamie’s account. Now that you’ve descended to telling obvious falsehoods, you should stop and consider whether the foundation of your argument is really that sound. WRT to Amy’s wishes, I suppose it’s her fault that she didn’t think to tell TAM ahead of time that she preferred not to be covertly surveilled? How careless of her.

    When one is really bummed out and/or starting to think of someone as “other” it is easier to interpret their actions uncharitably.

    Words of wisdom. Have you shared them with DJ Grothe?

    BTW, DJ told me early in the morning on the first day that he thought Harriet’s t-shirt was a terrible idea but that he wouldn’t impose a dress code.

    DJ framed it as a “dress code” issue? Wow, he shows himself to be ever more clueless. Libertarians are fucking stupid.

    I can’t even begin to speculate why some people in our community would twist themselves into knots to root for Pamela Gay’s inspiring anti-harassment speech at TAM, and try to ferret out harassment in our community though by the most secretive and creepy means imaginable, while simultaneously calling us Freethought Bloggers “bullies” and “stasi” out of the sides of their mouths. All because we dared suggest that we should all do something about the harassment in our communities.

    You’re lumping a lot of different people together, then applying a lot of reductionism and essentialism. This kind of lazy thinking is not what skeptics are supposed to do.

    The proposal to implement time-tested anti-harassment policies* at conferences is so utterly reasonable and the arguments against are so utterly lacking in logic and common decency, that I have no qualms lumping those who oppose anti-harassment policies together. If you think anyone obliquely referred to in that passage DOES support anti-harassment policies and has only given the impression of opposing them by mistake, or has changed their mind or whatever, feel free to point that out.

    *After all this nonsense, apparently I have to qualify this by reminding everyone that I am talking about EFFECTIVE, PROVEN, TIME-TESTED policies, not the bullshit policy JREF pulled out of their collective ass.

  8. 210

    Crissa:

    Why would you let someone run around in a t-shirt personally degrading another attendee?

    But but but it was a lower case ‘s’! Don’t you know that means it’s completely and 100 percent non-personal?

    Some man told me that. Yup.

    Seriously, If I had a dollar for every jackass on these threads who’ve been making the same stupid copy-and-paste ‘points’ that have already been answered a hundred times, I’d be rich enough to be a smug smarmy liberturd too!

    Jonathanray: Oh I see. You were personally satisfied, so obviously there is no problem… amirite dudebro?

  9. 212

    I’ve been to cons. I’ve been to big public events like festival style concerts. Never have I been to any event that does anything like hand out documents as you enter detailing their anti-harassment policy (or anti-theft policy, or anti-murder policy or anti-assault policy, etc.) I could be wrong, but from the reports I’ve read, historically, at any con, if there’s an issue of harassment reported, it’s dealt with, generally in a way that tries to keep things subdued and not cause a panic. That’s the main issue that’s causing this split, not that cons aren’t doing anything, but because certain people are not seeing the con publicly and openly make itself look bad and as a result, are causing panic. There’s nothing wrong with a con having a “secret policy” that you can only find out about by going to their website. That’s perfectly normal for a con.

    An easier way to show people that a process was in place for handling harassment would be to include information about your harassment policy in the hand-out literature, on the website, or even mentioning in the introduction ceremony that harassment isn’t tolerated and to report harassment to TAM staff. That’s how you get the word out to people that you have a process in place — you tell them yourself.

    Why don’t they just publish a book and pass it out of all the things you’re not allowed to do and detailed instructions on how to handle an incident if it happens? “In case something is stolen”, “In case a loved one is murdered”, “In case you’re set on fire”, etc. This is not how the real world works. This is not how CONVENTIONS work. And even if you did, you’d still have people complaining that there wasn’t enough done to make sure people paid attention to the hand outs and the next step would be making everyone sign a form stating that they read the anti-harassment policy.

    And having the speaker talk about it? Well, first you’d get people complaining that the speaker should announce it every few hours since some people would have missed to welcome speech. Second, you might as well go up on stage and be like “We will not tolerate anyone here molesting a child”. Doing so would a) make it look like children are being molested routinely and/or b) make the speaker look daft that they feel they need to point out something so obvious. Do you think this should be standard practice for ALL public gatherings of any type? Before a football game, should the announcer come on and discuss how anyone in the stands should react if they feel they’ve been harassed?

    It sounds like what happened at TAM this time was a direct result of squeaky wheel greasing (possibly too much so) and then the greasy wheels feeling “creeped out” by what they created with their squeaks when the squeaks weren’t specific about exactly what it is they wanted.

    I could be wrong, but none of the primary people I’ve seen being demonized as “anti harassment policy” have ever said there should be no harassment policy or that harassment shouldn’t be dealt with. The argument has simply and always been that harassment should be handled the same way as any other issue and that putting a banner outside your con saying “Now With Harassment Fighting Power!” just makes your con look bad from the start.

    Why is it so difficult for supposedly rational people to stop flinging mud and actually THINK about what they’re saying or what they’re asking for?

  10. 213

    I admit that I am an emotionless heartless male.

    Nonsense. If you were actually emotionless you would have admitted the illogic of your position long ago and stopped arguing. You’re an emotional human whose ego has become invested in being right on this issue. And if you were heartless you’d be dead now, so not buying that one either. I’ll take your word about male.

  11. 214

    @Wooly

    I think it’s funny you’ve tweeted that you’re so sure your comment is going to be moderated away when it’s so incredibly tame (yet still so woefully misguided) compared to other comments that are…still…here…

    You are just such a bastion of maturity and intelligence!

  12. 215

    @Wooly: Then why are you wasting time commenting when you could be out there solving those Really Important Problems you’re talking about?

  13. 216

    And as for the harassment policy… TAM is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no pleasing you people.

    As far as an harassment policy, TAM has done a lot of don’ting and not a hell of a lot of doing.

    I’d like to see TAM actually, you know, do some doing before I decide whether or not to damn them.

  14. 217

    It would be nice if the focus of their policy was preventing harassment rather than documenting every move the victim makes after the fact.

  15. 218

    @Kaylakaze:

    There’s nothing wrong with a con having a “secret policy” that you can only find out about by going to their website.

    Then I’m sure you can tell us where on the JREF or TAM website the policy is described.

  16. 220

    @Svlad Cjelli:

    They were willing to go through all this evasive song and dance to protect their secret?

    No, wait, this doesn’t add up. DJ Grothe himself went out of his way to draw attention to specifically TAM in the prior discussion about harrassment-policies in general.

    Something is up, and I don’t know what. I can’t come up with anything plausible to explain it. But there’s more to this, or brain-damage.

    Well…

    Sometimes we forget that what kicked off the current nastiness was Jen McCreight talking about “The List” of men who were prone to harassing behavior, and apparently some pretty prominent names were on “The List”. Maybe some of those names have a publicized close connection to JREF, and you can work from there.

  17. 221

    Kaylakaze #212, how long did it take you to compile that many strawmen, hyperbolic misrepresentations and baseless claims under your just-world banner atop a mountain of false balance?

    That sort of rhetoric requires effort even if you’re just making shit up and throwing it. But…

    Why is it so difficult for supposedly rational people to stop flinging mud and actually THINK about what they’re saying or what they’re asking for?

    It was rather nice of you to tell us exactly what you were doing.

    Gaslighting, projection, propaganda…do they have anything that’s not an obvious abuse or bullying tactic? Anything at all?

    SallyStrange #205:

    Libertarians are fucking stupid.

    -ahem- Good day, madam. I am an Independent Representative of the International Independency Assembly, the body established in 1966 in an attempt to restore balance to the face of politics.

    This statement is in violation of s. 3(3) of the Fair And Balanced Act 1968, which prohibits “any conclusion about a conservative party that is unfavorable to such party”, and of s. 1 of the Acceptable Skepticism Act 1970 which states that “with respect to the diversity of ideas, skepticism does not apply to the body of politics.”

    As such, per the Social Punishments Act 1980 a trained representative will be dispatched shortly to issue the mandatory lecture about diversity of ideas, assumptions, scaring the independents, talking about what we believe rather than pointing out that the opposition is wrong, the possibility of valid arguments for conservatism, the need to reach across the aisle and bring conservatives over to our side, and above all that despite how libertarianism has been turned into a right-wing machine there are leftist libertarians out there who are very very mad at YOU, and for some reason not at the righty assholes that stole libertarianism.

    Please, in future, remember that we live in a good capitalist society that is the best we’ve ever known, and that you shouldn’t be complaining about or denigrating the people who are being dishonest assholes in an attempt to prop up the worst aspects of the system because they’re just worried about how we might lose it all if we start fundamentally changing it. You need to understand where they come from and the magic of Sophisticated Abuse before you start criticizing it.

    Have a nice day. -doffs hat, twirls cane and walks off, ‘accidentally’ whacking indigent people with said twirling cane- lazy ungrateful leeches…they don’t know how good they have it…

  18. 222

    Joe: in that case, DJ REALLY shouldn’t have run off his mouth. If TAM had simply adopted the boilerplate policy (or their previous year’s policy) right away, like so many other conferences did, and simply continued to disregard actual complaints of harassment that did occur on their watch, they could have… maaaybe dodged the issue for another year or so, until word started to leak out that they weren’t properly enforcing their own policy. Then the explosion would be happening somewhere over the next year, instead of the past two months. Whoever their troublesome major speakers are, their days are numbered.

    Hey creepers: women you victimize aren’t going to stay safely silent and isolated anymore. The game has changed and you’ve lost. Deal.

  19. 223

    Much ado about nothing. Move on… There are REAL problems in the world that could benefit from all this wasted time and energy. It’s just a damned t-shirt people! *SIGH* Crying over it and leaving early? Way to be an empowered woman there Amy.

    And as for the harassment policy… TAM is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no pleasing you people.

  20. 224

    Well, Pteryxx… you have several competing/overlapping interests here. There’s JREF as an organization looking to preserve its reputation, there are speakers/organizers/donors who may be guilty of inappropriate-at-best behavior, and then you have DJ Grothe who needs to explain why TAM’s attendance suffered a 25% drop-off from last year. In light of that, let’s look at what DJ’s attack on women in general and women bloggers in particular, indifference/hostility towards anti-harassment policies, and implementation of obviously flawed security measures, what all those different things gain for those different levels of interest. There’s blame deflection for JREF and Grothe both, the attacks created an us-vs-them atmosphere where all claims from outside the organization were immediately and ruthlessly attacked by the in-group, there’s a communicated message to speakers/organizers/donors that their activities won’t come under additional scrutiny, there’s a chilling effect against the people who would tend to report and pursue harassment claims attending TAM (Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, etc), security personnel behaving in ways to discourage women from reporting future harassment (Surly Amy).

    So yeah, it seems to work out pretty well for DJ Grothe and JREF, once you drop the notion that they are acting in good faith to solve the problem of harassment, rather than what appears to be acting in bad faith to sweep the problem of harassment under the rug.

  21. 225

    My guess? They’re intentionally doing this poorly and making the harassment investigation worse than the actual harassment to try to prove that they were right all along. TAM lost the benefit of the doubt ages ago.

  22. 226

    To clarify, they’re enacting a straw policy that no one asked for in order to ‘prove’ that THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE AN ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICY!!!!!SCARY!!!! Secret police! Surveillance! Harassing interrogations! SEE, THIS IS WHY WE OBJECTED SO STRONGLY!!!

    Assholes.

  23. 227

    Sure, except they claimed *innocent men* would be the ones surveilled and punished for transgressing invisible secret rules. This is all a case of “do to you what we IMAGINE you’re going to do to us except we did it first”.

  24. 228

    And the Bronze Rule (Do onto others as you think they will do onto you…First) strikes again.

    I’m telling you. That rule explains a LOT of human interactions, and virtually everything that we see in this debate.

  25. 229

    M.A. Melby –

    Quit being a jerk.

    It is entirely appropriate to speculate about what the intentions of JREF and its goons were at when they placed someone who had complained of harassment under surveillance.

    I hope to ‘polarize’ JREF out of existence.

    I want DJ to be fired.

    I want JREF and all of its activities to be boycotted.

    I want the festering sore that is JREF cut out of skepticism.

    Your accomodationist positions are noted with all appropriate contempt.

  26. 230

    I like the logic of “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.” Imagine, if you will, the JREFstaurant.

    MAITRE D’J: Welcome, sir, to the JREFstaurant.

    PATRON: Thanks, I read some reviews and–

    MAITRE D’J: Anything bad you’ve heard about our food is clearly the fault of some well-meaning food critics who are engaged in some distasteful cafeteria banter after they willingly ate their food and thought the price was too “steep.”

    PATRON: What I read was actually pretty positive, except–

    MAITRE D’J: Controversialist food bloggers, looking for better circulation! There has never been a report of food poisoning at the JREFstaurant!

    PATRON 2: Wait a minute, I got food poisoning here last week! You helped me to the bathroom!

    MAITRE D’J: I thought you just had the stomach flu. You didn’t think it was important at the time to say it was food poisoning.

    PATRON: Didn’t I hear about a food poisoning case here a couple of months ago? They even made documented reports.

    MAITRE D’J: Your table’s over there. I’m going into the back now, and you won’t see me for the rest of your meal.

    [PATRON sits and reads the menu. WAITER enters to serve them]

    WAITER: What would you like to order, sir?

    PATRON: Actually, your menu doesn’t seem to have any food information on it. Just this long welcome note.

    WAITER: I assure you, we have nineteen specially-prepared chefs in back to take care of your order.

    PATRON: Yes, but if there’s no food on the menu, how do I know what to order?

    WAITER: Putting food options on the menu might be a serious waste of time! Do you have any evidence that putting food options on the menu makes people more likely to order something?

    PATRON: But all other restaurants do it.

    WAITER: See, that’s just an argument from popularity. Surely you expect the JREFstaurant to have higher standards. Besides, what if we put these food options on the menu, and someone wants an item that’s slightly different? Or worse, what if they ordered the wrong thing?

    PATRON: That doesn’t seem like it’s much of a problem.

    WAITER: You’re just some kind of foodinazi! I mean, I’m not saying you’re a Nazi, but you know who puts food options on menus? Nazis.

    PATRON: Okay…can I get a sandwich?

    WAITER: Fine, I guess.

    [WAITER leaves, and returns a few minutes later with a sandwich on a platter.]

    WAITER: Your sandwich. Happy?

    PATRON: Wait, what is this? Why does it smell so bad? [Picks up one of the bread slices] Is this what I think it is?

    WAITER: It’s a sandwich, just like you ordered.

    PATRON: It’s shit!

    WAITER: What foul language!

    PATRON: No, this is a shit sandwich. It’s dung on toast!

    WAITER: Look, you ordered a sandwich. I gave you a sandwich. It’s got stuff between two slices of bread, therefore, a sandwich.

    PATRON: But it’s a shit sandwich.

    WAITER: Jeez, there’s just no pleasing you people!

    FIN

  27. 232

    WoolyBumblebee, why does your Twitter account no longer link to this blog? Did you suddenly develop a sense of shame over that cartoon sneering at Rebecca Watson for not wanting to be harassed when she had done a nude calendar shoot in the past?

    You state on Twitter that you are a social worker and sex educator. Do you think it’s OK for women to be harassed if they have done nude calendar shoots before?

  28. 233

    Crying over it and leaving early? Way to be an empowered woman there Amy.

    So everything else she listed as off putting and distressing behavior didn’t happen. The only thing that caused her any kind of distress was a T-shirt. Absolutely nothing else at all made Amy feel unwelcome.

    Right.

    I will never knowingly read another word by Harriet Hall so long as I live.

    There are REAL problems in the world that could benefit from all this wasted time and energy.

    Don’t pretend you care. You see the entire ‘feminazi’ group as harmful. You want them out. Sooner rather than later. You see no value in their arguments or work.

    TAM is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There is no pleasing you people.

    So you have nothing to say. No points to rebuke, no arguments that might counter the ones in this thread, nothing. So why comment? Why not just stick with the ‘right’ kind of skeptic and stop wasting your valuable time on a group of future fascists and thugs?

  29. 234

    When I first heard about the secret-surveillance harassment policy, I thought it sounded like a good idea, even though I’m opposed to hidden cameras in general. That’s because it had the potential to actually document evidence of harassment continuing after being reported, which could then be used in court, etc. Also, it allows for innocent until proven guilty; no one gets publicly accused or thrown out without video evidence. And it should have worked well against the kinds of harassment being discussed before TAM; they could have collected convincing videos of someone taking upskirt photos or following someone around after being told not to.

    I understand why it was a bad idea; I agree it’s creepy and does nothing to deter harassment or promote reporting it, but I disagree with those who claim it was a deliberate attempt to antagonize people who report harassment or to demonstrate how horrible harassment policies are. I think it’s the harassment policy you should expect a skeptic to come up with: it doesn’t rely on believing or not believing anyone’s report, or trying to figure out who’s telling the truth but just collecting evidence.

  30. 235

    @Setar, 235

    I’d agree that Harriet Hall’s shirt was a deliberate statement meant to offend the Skepchicks. I haven’t read the other one yet. But neither one of those is the harassment policy. I don’t deny that there’s antagonism between people in the atheist-skeptics movement, I just don’t think the harassment policy was a deliberate attempt to antagonize people who report harassment. Which is what I actually said.

  31. 236

    qbsmd: I’m also disinclined to think that the policy was a deliberate attempt to antagonize harassment victims, but that will be its effect — ask anyone who’s had to work with harassment, HR concerns, or rape trauma centres. Revictimizing people who already feel victimized is a damn sure way to dissuade reporting. Once the “irresponsible messaging” of people mentioning their experience with the less-than-empathetic interrogation setup gets around, people will not want to put themselves through something like that whenever someone tries to grope them or what have you.

    Being repeatedly propositioned by a drunk — for instance — is victimizing, and should be stopped. But it is significantly less victimizing than being interrogated and gaslighted over such an incident. It’s nonsense like this that leads people to say “just grow a thicker skin” to deal with the lesser complaints without reporting them. If you know the response to a relatively minor complaint, which a published harassment policy and a pain-free reporting process would have solved easily, will instead be a full-blown investigation of high crimes against humanity, that’s enough of a dissuasion in and of itself against reporting minor things.

    This entire harassment policy campaign has never been about creating witch hunts or secret tribunals or going completely apeshit over security. TAM, on the other hand, appears to have taken every bad part of every strawman argument AGAINST harassment policies, and meshed them all together into one uber-strawpolicy. This CAN feel like they did it deliberately. But I agree that there is no evidence that this completely ass-backward approach to harassment was deliberate. More likely it is the result of people completely misunderstanding the scope of the problem (consider DJ’s fears that we’re calling TAM “unsafe”), coupled with hiring consultants in Las Vegas where dollars-to-donuts they have to deal with some really serious shit as a matter of course.

    It’s all just one big failure, back to front. And it all could have been avoided if they’d listened to what the feminists and harassment victims were ACTUALLY asking for, instead of listening to what the trolls said we were asking for.

    I really think this should be my last word on the matter. I’m well past done with this. TAM wants to cater to the libertarians while creating grossly anti-civil-liberties policies? TAM wants to cater to the anti-Skepchick crowd, wants to cater to the people who honestly think that feminists were calling for Dawkins’ head? Fine.

    Fine, I say.

    Fuck ’em.

    They’ve shrunk this year to about the size of Skepticon 4. I’d say there’s a new big dog in town anyway. The king is dead, long live the king.

  32. 238

    From Abbie Smith

    Ive seen no evidence to suggest that ‘TAMs Secret Harassment Police’ actually existed or worked for TAM.

    For all we know, Roths ‘protection’ were people on ‘her’ side hoping to document ‘harassment’ and get it online ASAP (before anyone notified DJ, of course), much like how Bensons ‘threat’ was really an overzealous supporter.

    These individuals have done enough to damage their credibility that I do *not* take their statements at face value.

    So basically, bitches be lyin. I have no idea what she even has against Amy except that Amy works for Skepchick.

  33. 239

    From Abbie Smith…

    The paranoid fantasy that there is a conspiracy of people willing to make their own lives more miserable for the sake of? Exactly what?

    More cynicism as a substitute for substantive argument. And still no constructive or really tangible point to make.

    (Typical and unremarkable behaviour compared to the various and many denialists and naysayers.)

  34. ~G~
    240

    Has any one seen any of the people who have been against harassment policies angry at the JREF for making the policy a secret, having secret monitoring people or having cameras on people? These all seem like the sorts of things that if suggested (prior to TAM) to be a good way to combat harassment would have been the target of much criticism by not only people against policies but of course by those advocating for them.

    I did read some of the comments on various places where anti-policy people like to post as well as tweets, but only for a day or so after this post. I didn’t see anyone vehemently angry at DJ Grothe or JREF for allowing all this secret enforcemnt of an unknown code of conduct seemingly lacking in transparency. I’d be very interested to see any criticism of JREF by those who have been against the idea of more policies in the event I have confirmation bias.

  35. 241

    ~G~ @240: I don’t know that you’ll see any condemnation. It’s easier (as the Abbie Smith quote above shows) for them to just play the “bitchez be lyin'” card and assume it’s all made up by the Skepchicks to further smear poor innocent DJ Grothe.

    Moreover, I had a conversation on Twitter with one of the anti-harassment crowd who’s been in various comment threads on the subject, where he lamented the terrible lack of data re: harassment policies, and if we wanted to convince the skeptical opponents, we needed to present information. Ultimately, it came down to the suggestion that we’d need to have a convention with a harassment policy, but without promoting/publicizing the policy, to see what effect that would have, because there are certainly no confounding factors there and it’s totally ethical to turn convention goers into unwitting human test subjects. But, other than introducing a bunch of other variables, it seems JREF decided that was an experiment worth running.

    I suggest they continue to run this experiment in future years, as the control group, while other conventions try a more conventional anti-harassment approach. It’s really the only way to be sure.

  36. 242

    I think ultimately Jason’s got the best read on this. Whatever is motivating JREF and its supporters to make TAM a shitty thing to attend, it is clearly finished as the sole or main gathering of the year. Maybe all of their “us vs them” nonsense will keep a core group of loyalists going year after year, but the rest of the movement is going to keep on moving and growing beyond them. Skepticon is probably the same size or going to be bigger next time, the SSA leadership conference is growing year after year, CFI is going strong and their Women in Secularism conference is sure to grow… the list goes on.

    The truth is, we don’t need JREF or TAM… and they know it.

  37. 243

    @222

    Well…

    Sometimes we forget that what kicked off the current nastiness was Jen McCreight talking about “The List” of men who were prone to harassing behavior, and apparently some pretty prominent names were on “The List”. Maybe some of those names have a publicized close connection to JREF, and you can work from there.

    The secret little list that is so secret and the people on it so powerful that it cannot be revealed.

    Is that the list you mean?

  38. 244

    Seymour, does it really surprise you that serial harassers might wait until there were no independent eyewitnesses around before engaging in their hostile/intimidating behaviours? Serial harassers are not stupid, they know exactly how to maintain deniability.

    Without corroborating evidence, naming names can only result in a defamation action. Harassment targets are not stupid either.

  39. 246

    I’m thinking this “policy” is more about protecting the JREF from lawsuits and less about providing a safer environment to attendees.

    There was someone who made me feel uncomfortable at TAM 9, but after hearing these stories, I’m so glad I didn’t report it. I’m sure it would have made things much worse. As it turned out, things got better on their own, and we’ve both moved on.

    TAM will go on, but unless there are major changes, it won’t be “The event” it used to be.

  40. 247

    @245

    So what do they do with their list then?

    Hopefully they aren’t pursuing a whispering campaign against those they have on their little list. Why mention that you have a list at all?

  41. 248

    So what do they do with their list then?

    Hopefully they aren’t pursuing a whispering campaign against those they have on their little list. Why mention that you have a list at all?

    What you call a “whispering campaign” is women sharing valuable information with each other so they can stay safe and stress-free.

    You’d prefer it if the bitches just shut up, I take it.

    I just spent an hour drinking wine with two older women who are professionally accomplished, whom I admire. The conversation was all over the place but the topic of sexual harassment by teachers in college or grad school came up.

    It happens literally everywhere.

    Sharing that information is a vital first step in pushing back against it.

    My suspicion is that that is the real source of your problem. Go ahead and prove me wrong. Please.

  42. 249

    Also worth noting that I’ve seen no indication that there is any actual physical “list” of names – it’s a shorthand term for the knowledge women share with each other of those to beware.

  43. 250

    Face it– nothing DJ/JREF did would have been good enough…

    Wow, talk about a predictable response. Predicted @16, prediction fulfilled @25.

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