The blogosphere is once again in turmoil. Someone figured out that female attendences at TAM (a skeptics event, where some might say cognitive dissonance is applied to matters of skepticism for fun and profit) are down, and now everyone has an opinion on why that is. Some, like DJ Grothe or Kylie Sturgess, think it may be due to those who have felt unsafe at events like this before having gone public in pointing this out, like for example Rebecca Watson, Elyse Anders or Ashley Miller. Then there are those, like myself, who see this argument as complete bullcrap, a little bit like saying if we wouldn’t constantly complain about racism, there would be less racists.
But in the wake of this pileup, some good suggestions are actually being made. It needs to be pointed out apparently that sexual harassment is not something that leaves behind a lot of evidence, unless there is CCTV footage or a pregnancy results, the odd groping, touching, propositioning and feeling-up may in fact go entirely unnoticed in a room of a thousand, or fifty, people.
I read that TAM implemented an anti-harassment policy, well good on them. But what we need to do, and what I suggest we introduce as soon as possible, is mandatory reporting of these incidents. The only reason DJ Grothe can claim that there have to his knowledge been no cases of harassment at TAM ever, despite Ashley Miller and others pointing out to him that he is in denial, is that we have no good documentation.
We need to treat harassment at atheist or skeptic conferences the way it is done in the corporate world, you do it, you get reported, you lose your privileges and entitlements, you get kicked out. We must make it easier for people to report sexual harassment, be that men or women, we must collect data from conference attendees after they attended, to see what the problems were and how we can address and fix them. When I see Tim Farley saying something like “I weigh 250 pounds, if you have any problem, just come to me” on I think Almost Diamonds, it makes me shake my head. The whole point is really that women should not need any knights in shining armor, aka bodyguards, at any of our conferences in the first place.
I will consider any future conference i might attend by the way they implement an effective anti-harassment policy, and anyone who suggests that the way to deal with misogyny is to offer writing an email to those who organised the misogynistic event in the first place and after the fact, as happened with the Jim Jefferies debacle at the GAC, will not be getting my money in the future. References :