andythenerd said: And for people to start naming names, they need to be assured that people will believe them and not tell them to shut up.
The first person to say something will inevitably encounter this. They should not be discouraged. Keep telling people. Encourage other victims to speak up too. Speak up on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. The more people who come out, the stronger their story.
There seems to be something that everyone is talking about, but no one is actually saying it out loud. It seems that are a number of “male speakers behaving badly towards women at conferences” and yet they keep getting invited back because they’re big names and conference organizers can’t afford notto invite them. But it’s the other way around, they have to opt out of inviting them because these speakers are doing real harm to our movement.
Anyone who is making members of our community feel unwelcome at conferences must not be invited to our conferences. One of our core missions is to make our community a welcoming place, a place of landing for non-theists. If we’re catering to speakers who are working against that goal, we are failing. These are not the stories that should be floating through the hallways of our events:
Both female friends and strangers confided in me, telling me stories of speakers that talked only to their chest, groped them against their wishes, followed them to their hotel room, or had goals to bag a young hottie at every speaking gig they did. Once after I had publicly criticized someone on my blog, people made sure to warn me that this person had a skeevy record. I had to request friends attending the con to be extra diligent about making sure I wasn’t alone.
I understand why conference organizers keep inviting these guys. I’ve organized big events before and I know how important a big name is for an event. But that’s a cop out excuse and we can do better than that. As our community has grown, more and more extraordinary voices are popping up everywhere.
I also understand why people who’ve been told about The List aren’t sharing it. Jen summed it up perfectly:
Look at what happened to Rebecca Watson when she simply said “guys, don’t do that” about an anonymous conference attendee. Imagine the shitstorm if there were public accusations of sexual misconduct of some very famous speakers. I’m not ready for the flood of rape and death threats. I’m not ready to be blacklisted and have my atheist “career” ruined by people more powerful and influential than me. I’m not ready to be sued for libel or slander. I’m not ready for the SSA or other organizations I’m affiliated with to also be harmed by association.
So what do we do to fix this? Many great ideas have already been suggested including conferences adopting prominent anti-harassment policies, creating a list of speakers who will not attend events unless there’s a strict anti-harassment policy with them, and committing as individuals to making our spaces safer and welcoming. Those are all important steps. But we also have to confront these men.
We were outraged when the Catholic Church kept predator clergy in the priesthood. We are hypocrites if we continue to invite speakers who go beyond the pale of acceptable behavior and don’t take no for an answer. If what Jen listed is true, we have predators in our midst. Of course, we have to be skeptical of extraordinary claims like these, but because of their severity, we can’t let these accusations go ignored.
Naming and shaming should certainly not be the first step. Private conversations with these people have to come first. There will be resistance because it’s not easy being called out on doing something wrong. But these are our allies and we have to give them a chance to make amends.
But if none of those efforts work, then we have to start naming names. Not to shame them but to protectwomen in our community. I’m now in a place where I can help decide which speakers are invited to big events in my area and I don’t want to accidentally invite anyone who will make my community members feel unsafe.
I have an idea… and it goes contrary to some of this post… but it has some more immediate effects than anything I’ve seen proposed yet. Fighting harassment should never be a slow process. Shut it down as soon as it happens.
If at any time during an atheist convention someone starts misbehaving, immediately start yelling their name and waving your arms. Spread the word around so their other targets do the same. Nothing works better than public shaming. Can you imagine? People are milling about at a conference and you hear, “SAM HARRIS* PUT HIS FINGER DOWN MY ASS CRACK!” You look toward the sound of the voice and see a woman waving her arms above everyone’s head and, “SAM HARRIS PUT HIS FINGER DOWN MY ASS CRACK,” again. You see the diminutive celebrity shuffling away from the commotion and trying to hide in the crowd.
Five minutes later you hear another voice, “SAM HARRIS SHOVED HIS HAND INTO THE CUP OF MY BRA!” You look around and see another woman waving. Again, you see Sam slinking away in shame. “SAM HARRIS SHOVED HIS HAND INTO THE CUP OF MY BRA!” Now it’s looking less like a coincidence.
Suddenly, on the other side of the room, another woman who has been followed and repeatedly harassed is able to muster courage enough to wave her arms above the crowd and yell, “ADAM SAVAGE SHOWED ME HIS PENIS IN THE ELEVATOR!”
Sure… it’s not a perfect system, and it’s wide open for abuse, but it’s a fuck-lot better of a system than staying quiet and letting fame shame you out of justice. Conventions are crowded places. If something happens, make a lot of noise and attract a lot of attention. If something happens where you are alone, find a place where people are congregated (They’re everywhere, all the time, and nearby. Find them.) and immediately tell everyone there what happened and use enough detail to establish the story and the evidence immediately to all present. Don’t let the crowd make you anonymous. Make the crowd a witness.
* I’m using Sam and Adam’s names as placeholders for famous atheists. I don’t think either of them has it in him to be a serial creep, but it seems the article insinuates perpetrators of at least their level of fame.