Creeper, no creeping!
September 10, 2012 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Three conventions compared in the great geek sexism debate.
posted by Artw (316 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post title.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:41 PM on September 10, 2012


Another creeper incident on the fringes of PAX.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So hey, I was at Readercon.

I was happy to see from their program that they were participating in "The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project" (have been surprised not to hear this discussed much in discussions of the Valentine harassment incident). However, my first night I mentioned how glad I was to see that and some dude showed me that he had a "BACK UP" ribbon (which was weird, because I thought it was just women) but then also mentioned that he'd been part of the Open Source boob project and continues to be part of similar projects and then went on to talk about what amazing massages he gives and how women have solicited him for sex based on his massages.

It was weird. It definitely made me feel a little less convinced that the organizers or broader culture were really concerned about women's safety and comfort. I honestly feel like the more meat markety aspects of settings like that just inevitably kind of . . . ruin it for me. The weird thing is, in those settings I often feel so pressured (from who? I have no idea) to talk about sex and appear "cool" with these conversations when, deep down, I'm really not. Which makes me complicit, too, of course. It happened at Readercon. I laughed and joked with the guy, when I was really feeling a deep discomfort inside. Usually I'd just rather remove myself from those settings than feel those pressures at all.

Not sure what the fix is. I hope there is one, though. I like hanging out with geeks and having deep conversations about geek things but the other stuff makes me not even want to participate.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:53 PM on September 10, 2012 [28 favorites]


Artw: "Another creeper incident on the fringes of PAX."

That's a bit more than creeper, I'd say, that's well into sexual assault territory. And I'm someone who thinks that term tends to get overused, but definitely not in this case. Pulling out your penis in public unprovoked is bad enough, but grabbing her hand and placing it on his penis before she can react, that's sexual assault.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wait, so DefCon's security staff was complicit in sexual harassment? Did anything come of that clusterfuck?
posted by maxwelton at 6:00 PM on September 10, 2012


Jesus. I hadn't heard about the Amazing Meeting stuff until I read this article, but digging into the linked blogs for more info basically made me sick. I want off the planet now.
posted by palomar at 6:09 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm really glad this stuff is getting talked about openly. Nothing cleans like daylight, and as long as it stays secret and shameful it will fester and grow. Change is hard, but it's past time.
posted by Forktine at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


Previous atheism.
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2012


The weird thing is, in those settings I often feel so pressured (from who? I have no idea) to talk about sex and appear "cool" with these conversations when, deep down, I'm really not.

We all know who, it's the people who will talk shit about you and try their best to ostracize you for what an uptight mean snobby bitch reading-things-into-nothing that you are. (Which pop culture tries to convince us is something only done by women, to the extent that it's called "Mean-Girling," but all kinds of men do it all the time). The problem is that it's sometimes hard to tell who those people are until they react the way they do.

If you feel uncomfortable with directly stating that you don't want to talk about boobs and massages (which I think is totally understandable because women do get blowback for doing that) then I suggest just abruptly and firmly changing the topic, when it starts to veer in creepy directions. Like -

Creeper: I give fabulous massages, by the way.
Creeped-upon: Hey, so did you go to XYZ panel earlier?

And if he persists, then I do not think there will be blowback from just ending the conversation -

Creeper: Sure, yeah I checked it out, but anyway, you look really stressed. Like you could use a massage.
Creeped-upon: I have a bunch of things to check out, but I hope you enjoy the rest of your day, see you around.
posted by cairdeas at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


The consent rugby cards seem great, and I'm surprised they went over as well as they did (even considering the face punching). Calling people out publicly for harassment is one of those things that can easily go sour.

Speaking of which, ugh, the Amazing Meeting. It doesn't even seem like they're making the effort to correct the issue, even while they're hemmorhaging female congoers.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Valentine blogged about the Readercon fallout today.
posted by Zed at 6:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


stoya had a pretty good post on harrassment this week.

[just words, but it is the tumblr of a pornstar]
posted by nadawi at 6:22 PM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, Artw. I'm on the organizing committee for a fairly large technical conference (2500+ attendees) and hopefully these sorts of "lessons learned" can help us avoid being the venue where yet another jerk decides to be a turdmuffin.
posted by jacobian at 6:25 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's a bit more than creeper, I'd say, that's well into sexual assault territory. And I'm someone who thinks that term tends to get overused, but definitely not in this case. Pulling out your penis in public unprovoked is bad enough, but grabbing her hand and placing it on his penis before she can react, that's sexual assault.

Yeah, and the security staff saying, "What do you expect me to do?" should be fired.
posted by corb at 6:25 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


The TAM thing is appalling, as is the antiquated stance that you can support rights for atheist dudes, but not women. How 19th century can you get? "Tut tut my good woman, take your suffrage chatter away, we menfolk have serious issues to discuss about human rights!"

If they're so worried about rights/consent issues taking over the skeptic conversations, well, it's a damn convention; make another panel. Set up some rules and enforce them. It's really not that hard to not be a douche. Really!

Or here's an idea; realize that excluding half the human race from your cause is a bad longterm strategy, and join the 21st fucking century.

One thing this group does not seem to realized (but that, hey, feminism talks about all the time) is intersectionality of oppressions. The oppression an atheist faces for being out about his or her beliefs intersects with racism, homophobia, and sexism, and some atheists will of course experience more of these oppressions than others.

By being so dismissive of any oppression that doesn't affect him directly, Dawkins gives the impression of an entitled twit who wouldn't know real oppression if it bit him in the ass. Which does not help his cause one iota.
posted by emjaybee at 6:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [38 favorites]


I am reading the OP with dread waiting to see what the comments look like.
posted by bq at 6:38 PM on September 10, 2012


Wait, so DefCon's security staff was complicit in sexual harassment? Did anything come of that clusterfuck?

Besides women getting sexually harassed by security staff? So far, not much except lots of douchecanoes defending this as "just how guys are in a hacker space" (see some of the commenteers on this very good Bruce Schneier post, for example).

Apparently, the DefCon board is still reviewing the issue.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:39 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Annalee Newitz did a great job with that io9 post. Thanks for bringing it here, Artw.
posted by mediareport at 6:39 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god, never read the comments.
posted by Artw at 6:39 PM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


From Zed's link:
(I won’t link to the worst of these, but it’s not hard to find if you search Readercon and “they take people like you and kill them with rocks” together. Trigger warning for pretty much everything. It’s not a fun read.)
Wow. Dawkins really did start something, didn't he?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:40 PM on September 10, 2012


Also, about what Dawkins said -

Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and...yawn...don't tell me again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Dawkins is pretty explicitly drawing the line of what he considers to be objection-worthy behavior from men towards women. So, in his opinion, objection-worthy behavior from men starts at genital mutilation by razor blade, execution by stoning, beatings, and prohibition from car-driving. Anything less than that and women should STFU and get over it.

Someone should tell Dawkins and his friends that THOSE attitudes are what is terrifying to women - not the posts of a bunch of feminist bloggers - and women are not going to feel safe around a convention of men whose leaders are implying that acceptable behavior by men extends to those extremes.
posted by cairdeas at 6:40 PM on September 10, 2012 [94 favorites]


However, my first night I mentioned how glad I was to see that and some dude showed me that he had a "BACK UP" ribbon (which was weird, because I thought it was just women) but then also mentioned that he'd been part of the Open Source boob project and continues to be part of similar projects and then went on to talk about what amazing massages he gives and how women have solicited him for sex based on his massages.

That is shitty and I hope you will share this with the people who are the leaders of the Back Up Project, because that's exactly the opposite of what the Back Up Project is about.

Either this guy got into it under false pretenses, in which case he needs to be tossed out, or he got the ribbon somehow and lied about being part of the project. In either case, the project needs to know about this. I promise that this won't be a "I don't believe you because it's my friend" situation if you share this information.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:42 PM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Internet: Oh god, never read the comments.

He said, in a comment, on the Internet.
posted by dumbland at 6:43 PM on September 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


Hey, I like io9, but it's still in the Gawker-network-of-the-comments-will-be-shitty. At best we're talking equivalent to one of the less-controversial subreddits on a good day.
posted by Artw at 6:46 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing this group does not seem to realized (but that, hey, feminism talks about all the time) is intersectionality of oppressions. The oppression an atheist faces for being out about his or her beliefs intersects with racism, homophobia, and sexism, and some atheists will of course experience more of these oppressions than others.

Yes, exactly. That the head of the skeptic conference and James Randi himself (I had no idea) are both gay makes me feel a little disgusted inside. The overreaction of Dawkins and other TAM folks to Watson's reasonable, relatively gentle poke of a video spoke volumes about the work that still remains to be done on male privilege in even the most oh-so-enlightened spaces.
posted by mediareport at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


stoya had a pretty good post on harrassment this week.

Thanks for linking that. From her post:
Before you try to tell me that it’s because I take my clothes off for a living, let me tell you that this started way before I was 18. Let me tell you that every single woman I know has at least one truly terrifying story of street harassment and a whole bunch of other stories that are merely insulting or annoying. Let me remind you that in a room of pornography fans, who have actually seen me with a dick in my mouth and who can buy a replica of my vagina in a can or box, I am treated with far more respect than I am walking down the street.
Men say that shit to my partner fairly routinely and it sucks. It needs to be way more stigmatized, especially by other men, but also by their girlfriends (because, weirdly, it's not all that uncommon for a guy to say things like that with a girl on his arm), just like the corrosive behavior at conventions needs to be stigmatized.
posted by Forktine at 6:50 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


oh crap - i thought she linked to part 2 at the bottom, lets try that again.

stoya talks about harassment - part 1, part 2

again, clicker beware - just words, still a tumblr of a pornstar.
posted by nadawi at 6:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, that Rugby card solution was outstanding. My concern trolling response would be to wonder if whether there might be certain assholes our there who would be jerks just to get a card, as if it were a douchebadge of honor, but that didn't seem to happen at all, so its a good thing I wasn't around to concern troll it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:57 PM on September 10, 2012


I saw douchebadge of honor mentioned in it - but it was good anyway, cos they wore the card with pride - basically showing off how useless they were.
posted by b33j at 7:03 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, and the answer to Dawkins is so easy: Oh, you weren't burned to death for apostasy? STFU about atheism then.

Fucking numbnuts.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [89 favorites]


dinty_moore : The consent rugby cards seem great, and I'm surprised they went over as well as they did (even considering the face punching). Calling people out publicly for harassment is one of those things that can easily go sour.

I think such a message going sour in public counts as the best possible outcome with someone who actually intended to behave like an ass.

Personally (and I say this as one of MeFi's chronic "harassment apologists", in that I sincerely believe that most guys in no way mean to come off as a creeper), if a woman gave me a yellow card (or god forbid, a red card), I would feel mortified, apologize profusely, then leave her the fuck alone.

I consider this a great idea, and would like to see it adopted everywhere.
posted by pla at 7:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


With noscript, the entire comments section of any gawker site is just...not there. It's great.
posted by rtha at 7:07 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That article is great, and I'm a fan of Annalee Newlitz's work as a whole. But it rankles me that the article is titled "The Great Geek Sexism Debate."

I mean, what's to debate? That behavior is wrong, and it needs to stop. This isn't a debate, and I grr at the thought of it being framed as such.

The article itself doesn't follow up on that premise, thank goodness. I choose to believe that one of Newlitz's editors insisted on shoehorning the "debate" word into the title in order to draw traffic and "encourage conversation."

LOVE LOVE LOVE THE CARDS, by the way. I hope this is something that catches on, and spreads to other cons. LOVE IT.
posted by ErikaB at 7:08 PM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm all for geeks, seeing as I consider myself one. But these guys have to stop going to these cons. I really believe some of these guys have no fucking clue what is going on, probably don't understand how they are upsetting people, but as 4chan puts it they should go into "cocoon mode" till they figure this shit out.

Readercon? Is that really the venue to go get your freak on?
posted by Ad hominem at 7:12 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another creeper incident on the fringes of PAX.

From the very top of that link:
Everyone: I'm seeing a lot of comments on twitter and elsewhere blaming PAX for this incident and the security guard's reaction. This party was NOT held by PAX, it was not even in the same venue, hell it wasn't even on the same street. It was not affiliated with, sponsored by or organized by PAX.
Trying to associate it with PAX seems crappy. It was on the fringes of PAX in the same way I'm on the fringes of the Los Angeles Lakers.
posted by Justinian at 7:13 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think such a message going sour in public counts as the best possible outcome with someone who actually intended to behave like an ass.

Oh, no. Not going sour on the harasser's part. I don't care that much about them. I mean the harassee getting harassed more, bullied, threatened, and publicly humiliated. You know, the way that TAM thing went down (and the Readercon thing, up to a point).

Which reminds me, if I ever get the chance to meet Ms. Valentine in person, I'm going to have to thank her. She's taken a lot of shit to try and make SFF better for all women.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:13 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Personally (and I say this as one of MeFi's chronic "harassment apologists", in that I sincerely believe that most guys in no way mean to come off as a creeper), if a woman gave me a yellow card (or god forbid, a red card), I would feel mortified, apologize profusely, then leave her the fuck alone.

I consider this a great idea, and would like to see it adopted everywhere.


I don't know about this. I mean yes, I support the idea of the cards and the people who want to use them. But I would hate to see them used as another way to blame women and make creepy behavior all about what a woman did or didn't do. "I made that very same comment to 30 women and not a single one of them gave me a card, so how was I supposed to know there was anything wrong with it?"

Not all women are going to feel comfortable or safe being that confrontational, in the spur of the moment, about someone's bad behavior, even if the extent of the confrontation they have to do is handing someone a card.

I think it is important that we remember people are responsible for examining their own behavior and making sure it stays with in respectful bounds. And I think it is important that we stay away from kind of situation where women are expected to police other people's behavior for giving out cards, and treated like they brought the behavior on themselves or should have expected it, if they don't give out cards.
posted by cairdeas at 7:15 PM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


Readercon? Is that really the venue to go get your freak on?

I haven't been so this is not from personal experience with Readercon, but cons are without question traditionally hotbeds of getting your freak on. Back in the day when reading SF was grounds for ostracization they were one of the few places where people felt comfortable and among their own kind. FIAWOL and so on.
posted by Justinian at 7:16 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


But these guys have to stop going to these cons.

It may not be possible, but isn't it better if these guys go to cons and, while they are there, they learn how to better interact with others?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:17 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It may not be possible, but isn't it better if these guys go to cons and, while they are there, they learn how to better interact with others?

It sounds great, but I'm kind of sick of being some guy's beta tester for human interaction. I go to cons to enjoy myself.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:18 PM on September 10, 2012 [68 favorites]


With noscript, the entire comments section of any gawker site is just...not there. It's great.

Can we just create a sub-section of mefi that IS the articles from Io9? Annalee and Charlie Jane have put together one of my favorite pop-culture/nerd blogs anywhere (not to mention that they are awesome themselves) but I wish every article had Mefi level discussion to accompany it.
posted by sendai sleep master at 7:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


but cons are without question traditionally hotbeds of getting your freak on.

Ok, I've only been to trade shows. I did not get any freak on.

It may not be possible, but isn't it better if these guys go to cons and, while they are there, they learn how to better interact with others?

Well ok. Staying home and going into some intense training in order to act like a human being may not be possible.

There should be some kind of Big Brothers and Sisters type operation where someone who can read social cues tells the geek to back off after the first time he nuzzles someone.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:23 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Big Brothers and Sisters

"The Dork Brotherhood."
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:27 PM on September 10, 2012


I mean, what's to debate? That behavior is wrong, and it needs to stop. This isn't a debate, and I grr at the thought of it being framed as such.

The debate includes such questions as whether cons need to take (more) proactive measures against sexism, or whether women are being oversensitive.

Assuming that you are not only right but inarguably so does not generally increase understanding in people you are attempting to convince to change their behavior (viz abortion).
posted by Etrigan at 7:27 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


education doesn't have to come at the cons. (mefi's own) john scalzi talking about how to not be a creeper.
posted by nadawi at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, I've only been to trade shows. I did not get any freak on.

Ah, yes, trade show folks get their freak on outside the show. There is the story of Westercon XIX or XX (I forget which) back in 1967 or so to consider.

Briefly, the manager of the hotel where it was being held was used to trade shows and the like where the attendees were enthusiastic about, ah, working girls. So he brought in a bunch of hookers when he learned a con was being held. But the hookers are supposed to have spent the entire weekend lounging around the pool tanning because they had so little custom. Karen Anderson, author, originator of the term "filk", and wife of Poul Anderson summed up the situation by saying, "Fen bring their own women."
posted by Justinian at 7:31 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Trying to associate it with PAX seems crappy.

I dunno. On one hand, yes, PAX can't be expected to have a presence at afterparty events, nor could they have done anything directly at this event to stop it. On the other hand, saying that sexism in the community that brought us Dickwolves is somehow unrelated to the general tone of that community isn't right, either.

When people talk about "Rape Culture", this is what they're talking about. A community that finds Dickwolves unoffensive and defends its right to make jokes at the expensive of women encourages a worldview that sees women as existing soley as an object to be used by men. This in turn moves the line of acceptable behavior in a way that sexual harrasement and violence doesn't seen so far out of line.

You can sort of think of it as an Overton window of acceptable behavior: if community A sees rape jokes as unacceptable, then grabbing someone's ass is pretty clearly well beyond the pale. But if mocking women is OK, if rape is something funny, then that ass-grabbing doesn't seem as far out there.

So while I agree that blaming PAX directly for this event isn't fair, neither is it fair to absolve the Penny Arcade community. Sexism is gaming is really shitty, and Penny Arcade isn't helping.
posted by jacobian at 7:32 PM on September 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


This reminds me of how I used to be *that girl* in certain geek circles. You know, the one who is cool and likes men and can joke around with them, not like those easily offended Feminazis. I cringe when I think back to that time. Really, I was feeling just as uncomfortable as the women who complained felt. And while the approval and coolness felt good for some time, in reality, the way women were treated and how it was joked about wore down on my self esteem too. And at some point, I just stopped going to things I used to enjoy, I stopped participating. I stopped going to cons and hack nights. I didn't want to be there anymore, to feel that way.

I think about that whenever I read something by a woman about Watson being too sensitive or bringing it on herself...I wonder if they are feeling the same way, and I don't feel angry, I feel sad.
posted by melissam at 7:33 PM on September 10, 2012 [42 favorites]


I just want to grab so many of these dudes by the shoulders and shake them, screaming, "The trade-off for being able to talk to women who are geeks is not being a fucking harassing asshole!" Like, the stereotype when I was a young nerd was so far into the, "You'll never taste a tit after your mom's" level of social exclusion that I am overjoyed by the fact that women want to get into this stuff — they broaden the appeal, the audience, the acceptance, the EVERYTHING GOOD about geekdom so much! Why do you want to keep nerdy interests in a shitty little ghetto?

And fuck, creeping on chicks has such a low success rate that it's like, why do you want to do this for no fucking benefit at all?! Why do you want to make this all worse for all of us?

Or, to put it in language that (might) be better understood: This is fucking GURPS, not D&D! Charisma is not a dump stat!
posted by klangklangston at 7:43 PM on September 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


This reminds me of how I used to be *that girl* in certain geek circles. You know, the one who is cool and likes men and can joke around with them, not like those easily offended Feminazis. I cringe when I think back to that time. Really, I was feeling just as uncomfortable as the women who complained felt. And while the approval and coolness felt good for some time, in reality, the way women were treated and how it was joked about wore down on my self esteem too. And at some point, I just stopped going to things I used to enjoy, I stopped participating. I stopped going to cons and hack nights. I didn't want to be there anymore, to feel that way.

YES. That's exactly what I was talking about, and my guilt over falling back into that behavior had a lot to do with my not speaking out about it.

Incidentally, a friend saw this thread and mentioned that the Readercon guy was aggressive with her at another con. I'd thought they were friends, was worried about seeming a prude and all of that. Turns out it wasn't the case. So, emailing the back up project people.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:43 PM on September 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


melissam: "I think about that whenever I read something by a woman about Watson being too sensitive or bringing it on herself...I wonder if they are feeling the same way, and I don't feel angry, I feel sad."

I'm not at all trying to invalidate your experience, and I'm very sorry that other people's expectations made you do something you were actually uncomfortable doing.

But I think it's important to note that there are women who are openly sexual and actually enjoy sexual attention in public from random strangers. Some might even enjoy being grabbed or groped. I'm not saying it's common, and it's definitely not something anyone should assume about anyone they don't know well, but this exists. And very likely a huge spectrum in between.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:46 PM on September 10, 2012


I am a man and this kind of stuff makes me want to avoid these communities.
posted by grouse at 7:47 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I think it's important to note that there are women who are openly sexual

You can be openly sexual and still understand concepts like consent and still be harmed by guys bashing women who bring up complaints about sexism.
posted by melissam at 7:50 PM on September 10, 2012 [37 favorites]


melissam: "You can be openly sexual and still understand concepts like consent and still be harmed by guys bashing women who bring up complaints about sexism."

Oh, definitely, I was in large part talking about your mention of "being that girl, who is cool and likes men and can joke around with them", which I took to mean accepting people making unprovoked sexual comments to/about/around you, for instance. This was a role you played because of external pressure (if I understand you correctly), and that sucks.

My point was that there are women who don't play that role, that's how they are.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:54 PM on September 10, 2012


That guy blogging about how Genevieve needs to STFU because in places like Saudia Arabia they stone women like us to death with rocks. Wow. I know it's just some dumbass on the internet and any dumbass can have a blog, but... still. The RAGE. It's kind of overwhelming.
posted by crackingdes at 7:55 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


But I think it's important to note that there are women who are openly sexual

That is the problem, these guys have no way of figureing out who those women may be. Obviously between two consenting adults sexual attention is often desireable. But some people just can't navigate the social cues.

My own hard and fast rule is that I won't touch someone unless they touch me first. So no hugging, backrubs, touching their arm. Obviously I'm talking social situations. In a professional setting anything besides a handshake is inapropriate 99% of the time.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:56 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like men, and can joke around with them, and can joke about sex with male friends. I can also identify sexual harassment when it happens to me, and believe the accounts of others. This is not difficult.

Similarly, I let friends borrow my car a lot, but I don't go around calling shenanigans when other people report auto theft.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:59 PM on September 10, 2012 [36 favorites]


And I am pretty openly sexual. Being openly sexual doesn't mean that other people can't harass you.

Kink conventions have, as a rule, excellent sexual harassment policies which are generally enforced vigorously.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:01 PM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Of course. I just know women who enjoy types of attention from strangers that actually falls inside the general definition of sexual harassment. Sometimes well inside. But I'm not going to keep hammering on this point, because they're definitely a small minority, small enough that I don't think their existence actually confuse the general issue for would-be creepers, and I feel like I'm distracting the discussion.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:05 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, this has really been the Summer of the Creepers.
posted by graventy at 8:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this might just be the summer of calling out the creepers. They've been there for a while.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:08 PM on September 10, 2012 [27 favorites]


because they're definitely a small minority, small enough that I don't think their existence actually confuse the general issue for would-be creepers

I admit, I am confused as to why it was brought up when it's a vanishingly small-to-the-point-of-being-non-existent demographic.
posted by smoke at 8:08 PM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


Man, this has really been the Summer of the Creepers.

Alas, I think the creepination is pretty much at the same level as always, BUT to me it seems like it's the summer that we're finally not going to take it anymore, and not going to stop talking about the creepers, and shockingly we are actually making some headway and a lot of people are paying attentino who weren't before.
posted by cairdeas at 8:09 PM on September 10, 2012 [28 favorites]


I just want to grab so many of these dudes by the shoulders and shake them...

Text me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:13 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a bit more than creeper, I'd say, that's well into sexual assault territory. And I'm someone who thinks that term tends to get overused, but definitely not in this case. Pulling out your penis in public unprovoked is bad enough, but grabbing her hand and placing it on his penis before she can react, that's sexual assault.

Yeah, and the security staff saying, "What do you expect me to do?" should be fired.


I have to wonder, in this situation, what do you expect the security guard to do? The victim had dealt with the situation by leaving the con entirely, by the time this got to security, and they had only a secondhand account from her friends, who could not identify anything about anybody. It's a terrible situation but, again, what should the security staff do with that information?
posted by kafziel at 8:17 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


smoke: "I admit, I am confused as to why it was brought up when it's a vanishingly small-to-the-point-of-being-non-existent demographic."

My mistake. I guess my point was that there is a spectrum of what people will accept or even enjoy, which can make the boundaries somewhat more fuzzy. But the solution is pretty obviously to play it safe anyway.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:17 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know it's just some dumbass on the internet and any dumbass can have a blog

That wasn't 'some dumbass on the internet', btw, that was Richard Dawkins.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 PM on September 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


kafziel: "I have to wonder, in this situation, what do you expect the security guard to do? The victim had dealt with the situation by leaving the con entirely, by the time this got to security, and they had only a secondhand account from her friends, who could not identify anything about anybody. It's a terrible situation but, again, what should the security staff do with that information?"

Say "Show me the guy", find him, throw him out?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:19 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: "That wasn't 'some dumbass on the internet', btw, that was Richard Dawkins"

It's becoming obvious that Dawkins is, indeed, some dumbass on the Internet.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:20 PM on September 10, 2012 [73 favorites]


Say "Show me the guy", find him, throw him out?

Nobody still at the con knew what the guy looked like.
posted by kafziel at 8:20 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


kafziel: "Say "Show me the guy", find him, throw him out?

Nobody still at the con knew what the guy looked like
"

She says "My friends tried to find him, and tried to tell security (and got a "Okay? What do you expect me to do?" response).", this was pretty clearly while she was still at the party and her friends were comforting her.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


And while the approval and coolness felt good for some time, in reality, the way women were treated and how it was joked about wore down on my self esteem too.

That reminds me of a section I just finished reading about 2/3 of the way into Joanna Russ' 1970 feminist scifi classic The Female Man, at the beginning of Part Seven where one of the main characters talks about turning into a man after first turning into a woman:
For a long time I had been neuter, not a woman at all but One Of The Boys, because if you walk into a gathering of men, professionally or otherwise, you might as well be wearing a sandwich board that says LOOK! I HAVE TITS!...If you get good at being One Of The Boys it goes away. Of course there's a certain disembodiment involved, but the sandwich board goes; I back-slapped and laughed at blue jokes, especially the hostile kind...
Then she grabs two naked electrical wires in her hands, stands in a puddle and reconciles all the contradictory forces in one huge explosion:
...you are making yourself a conduit for holy terror and the ecstasy of Hell. But only in that way can the wires heal themselves. Only in that way can they heal you...if you let yourself through yourself and into yourself and out of yourself, turn yourself inside out, give yourself the kiss of reconciliation, marry yourself, love yourself--

Well, I turned into a man.

Like I said, I'm only 2/3 of the way in, but it's an incredibly interesting read: funny, sarcastic, experimental, harrowing and exasperating, in spots barely counting as a novel at all (yes, that's ok by me), an angry, sad and completely clear-eyed look at various experiences of woman-ness (characters jump into and out of various futures and alternate pasts), written at a key moment in the history of feminism. Recommended for folks who want a deeper context for discussions like this. Had to share that derail, sorry.
posted by mediareport at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2012 [23 favorites]


This shit is not okay and has progressed beyond being annoying. It has always been harmful to gamers as a whole (not to mention, uh, women?). I cannot speak for women, but as a man I can say this aspect of gamer culture terrifies me and has actively driven me away from consorting with what should be my peers

I have never had anyone mash my hand into their junk before. Yeah, that is sexual assault. But I have to say that whoever did that did it for a reason ... the gaming culture really doesn't discourage that. If you don't have a good upbringing, and you rely on your peers to teach you right from wrong, things can go bad fast. Especially if your peers are all hardcore gamers who call each other fags, demand women either show their tits or get back to the kitchen. If you don't have positive role models all you have are role models.

I still dabble in MMOs. Mostly beta testing (and subsequently abandoning) games. Sometimes crawling back to see what swtor has done to wow my inner nerd. I have long since abandoned live FPS or the like. X-box live is (or was) a nice window into the bigotry that gaming subculture can create. The women I know in real life who play MMOs play male avatars. It just takes the whole gender issue out of the equation. No one questions that a male avatar is run by a male in real life. Female avatars are challenged constantly, and there is a mantra that they are run by men unless you can hear their voice (or, see other, more insulting evidence.)

Why does any of this matter? Video games do not care how much testosterone your body produces or your lung capacity. A girl can beat a boy at a video game and it shouldn't be surprising. Ultimately, to be good in an MMO you need to listen to Morpheus. Video games are like that. None of the physical limitations you have in real life apply.

But why do insecure gamer boys constantly assault gamer girls? I know the how, I just still don't understand the why.
posted by chemoboy at 8:45 PM on September 10, 2012


Text me
< yellowcard.gif >
posted by persona at 8:46 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


That wasn't 'some dumbass on the internet', btw, that was Richard Dawkins.

I'm talking about this guy, and his commentary on the ReaderCon debacle. Warning: proceed with caution.
posted by crackingdes at 8:50 PM on September 10, 2012


But yes, what's uncanny is the resemblance between his remarks and Dawkins'. There seems to be a party line emerging among the misogynists and creepers: if you're not getting violently murdered or mutilated, then stop whining.
posted by crackingdes at 8:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Joakim Ziegler, everybody gets to set their own boundaries. Only a jerk would say "That wouldn't bother me, so it shouldn't bother you."

This is why your comment was so irrelevant, because it doesn't matter what is cool with those women of your acquaintance; they need to respect other people's boundaries even if they're different from their own.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:56 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Geeks harassing women at geek conventions? As a former football player, I would happily shove these fucks into a locker. Let me show you what harrassment looks like. Klingons would write poetry about the swirly I would give you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Another take on the same subject, by MetaFilter's own keeo.
posted by 256 at 9:24 PM on September 10, 2012


Aww, dudes, I love Brandon. I think he knows this. We joke.
posted by klangklangston at 9:26 PM on September 10, 2012


Let me show you what harrassment looks like.

perhaps the proper response to people claiming they were harassed, regardless of your opinion toward their reaction to it, is not to be all "I'll fucking give you something to cry about" at them
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:37 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Geeks harassing women at geek conventions? As a former football player, I would happily shove these fucks into a locker. Let me show you what harrassment looks like. Klingons would write poetry about the swirly I would give you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell


/This may be a derail.

CPB, while I admire your desire to punish obnoxious idiots, you might want to re-think your methods. As someone whose bullying explicitly took the form of being shoved into lockers, "physically larger guys shoving geeks into lockers" would trigger me so hard I'd probably freak-out and beat the shit out of you. Seriously.

If you think using your greater size to enforce your standards is the best way to handle these situations, well, fuck, I don't know what to say.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:44 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sidhedevil: "Joakim Ziegler, everybody gets to set their own boundaries. Only a jerk would say "That wouldn't bother me, so it shouldn't bother you."

This is why your comment was so irrelevant, because it doesn't matter what is cool with those women of your acquaintance; they need to respect other people's boundaries even if they're different from their own.
"

This is obvious, I agree. I guess what I was getting at was that since people indeed get to set their own boundaries, and all people are different, the boundaries will vary, and thus it's conceivable that what's appropriate and what's not is not always clear-cut and obvious for the other party. I guess it annoys me slightly that everyone's acting like all this is always obvious and clear-cut all the time, when it's not.

Most (or possibly all) of the examples given here are pretty obviously crossing the line. I don't think the elevatorgate incident was quite so clear-cut, for instance. Not that she wasn't right to be uncomfortable, or didn't have a right to, but I don't think that kind of thing is obviously crossing the line.

I'm arguing for a gray area, I guess. Which might not be popular in these cases, I know, but gray areas are a fact of life, people are different, and so on. But yeah, definitely play it safe if you're unsure, and learn to read people.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:46 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, that Rugby card solution was outstanding.

Which is why with KC's permission, I printed 20,000 of the yellow card on red paper and distributed them at Burning Man this year. They were well received at poly camps, gay-friendly spaces all the way up to the top folks in the ORG.

Next year I'm going to figure out a way to get them inserted with the handouts you get at the gate.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 9:54 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not just geek cons, if anything I'm seeing this as a positive step that other kinds of cons need to follow. I used to go to aquarium cons, and I used to go without my husband because he's not interested in fish (plus someone's got to feed the seahorses.) But I was always hit on to the point of feeling uncomfortable, and after the one where I was cornered by two creepers and later in an elevator, I decided I can't go alone anymore.

I feel hurt and disappointed because something I love is cut off to me but also because of my gender, I'm not treated as an equal but an object. And looking back I remember that always the men could talk fish at parties, but the moment women were involved, things went creeper. I remember early on, an author I respected invited me to visit him in Hawaii. I was young and niave and didn't get the implication at the time, but now my view if him is forever tainted. I'd love to see this topic tackled but it's such a boys' club that anyone trying would be ridiculed. Maybe I'm just not brave enough to do it.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


But I think it's important to note that there are women who are openly sexual and actually enjoy sexual attention in public from random strangers. Some might even enjoy being grabbed or groped.

Wait, what? I really hope you have a wire crossed between what you mean and what you are saying, because this sort of statement is dangerously close to saying that there are women out there who want to get sexually harrassed or assaulted because they are just *asking* for it by the way they act or dress.

Let me be clear. Regardless of how a woman acts or dresses, IT IS NEVER OKAY to grab, grope, fondle or have sex with a woman unless she gives you a VERBAL green light.
posted by empatterson at 11:18 PM on September 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


But I think it's important to note that there are women who are openly sexual and actually enjoy sexual attention in public from random strangers. Some might even enjoy being grabbed or groped. I'm not saying it's common, and it's definitely not something anyone should assume about anyone they don't know well, but this exists. And very likely a huge spectrum in between.

Hmmm, maybe if we're talking more about situations like going out drinking or clubbing and where there's some flirting deliberately with strangers and the sexual attention is going both ways or at least is kind of fun and lighthearted - and lots of other subtler individual unique factors that cannot be generalised but would contribute to an atmosphere of fun, relax, silliness, sexyness, comfort - yeah in such a situation even a grope might be given and received as lighthearted, and not harassing.

But what's this got to do with conventions? Even conventions about fun hobbies and not necessarily super serious stuff?

I've been following these posts and discussions on the sexism at such events and it seems to me it's always rather big official events, where there is often a marketing and commercial presence, so I would consider them in the same category as trade fairs. And a lot of the cases talked about didn't involve women simply in attendance or working as hostesses for a stand - not that this would excuse the harassment but it's more typical - but women who were there are speakers and contributors to the event.

What does their being more or less sexual in general, in private life, have to do with participation as speakers and contributors to such events? Zero, in my view.

They may be the most sexual and flirty women in their private life but still not want to be approached inappropriately in public. That's not a contradiction!

Then again, it might be surprising to some but not to me that even sex workers at erotic trade fairs do not really enjoy being groped out of the blue by strangers in the audience - they put up with it for money. You'd be an idiot to think that's how they get their kicks. Even if they're there stripping and performing and demonstrating sex toys. yeah. And they at least are working in an overtly sexual context and have an exhibitionist streak. But even there, how much fun can it be to be groped by some leery random man.

Social norms, boundaries, manners, respect, all these things are treasured by everyone and they do not prevent flirting where flirting is appropriate and welcome. I get tired of reading stuff that confuses different things and oh the horror if we have too many rules about harassment then there can be no flirting anymore. Heh, no, lots of sensible men with a minimum of manners somehow manage to be flirty without being harassing. A clue would be not to start by groping someone but maybe start talking to them, and if you're at a convention you don't start talking to people like you'd start at a bar, you know, there are degrees of signalling interest; not handing them card about swinging with you and your wife without even saying a word; not approaching them out of the blue, without having spoken to them at all, at night in an elevator to ask them to come back to your room (how sexy and suave that one!) or following them around and grabbing them from behind. I mean these things are so, so clearly beyond the scope of 'enjoying being sexual and flirty' that it's a laugh.

Also, maybe even the most sexual flirty women like to go to these events just because they are interested in what the events are about, and not to attract sexual attention anyway because they prefer to do that elsewhere...

Sorry didn't want to get longwinded on such obvious stuff, or, stuff that should be obvious to everyone but isn't always, for some weird reason.
posted by bitteschoen at 11:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Most (or possibly all) of the examples given here are pretty obviously crossing the line. I don't think the elevatorgate incident was quite so clear-cut, for instance. Not that she wasn't right to be uncomfortable, or didn't have a right to, but I don't think that kind of thing is obviously crossing the line.

being propositioned at 4am while you're alone in an elevator by someone you haven't been flirting with is not a grey area for most women. it's firmly in the "don't get stuck in that situation b/c women get raped there" category of horror stories that women are constantly being warned about. i understand if there are people who don't know that, but after being informed that that is the case, i'm not sure what the point is of giving the woman a hard time for being skeeved. i'm not saying *you* are, but the reaction from TAM is disappointing to the point of stupidity. one step forward...

I'm arguing for a gray area, I guess. Which might not be popular in these cases, I know, but gray areas are a fact of life, people are different, and so on. But yeah, definitely play it safe if you're unsure, and learn to read people.

i'm a fan of the grey area myself, but only around people who respect the grey area. dawkins helped turn what watson was intending to be a gentle teaching moment into open season on the skepchick community. it started out as a grey area and turned into serious online harassment. it started out as a grey area, and instead of using that opportunity to shine some light, TAM basically lowered the profile of the issue of sexism as it affected *their community* (by removing sexual harassment policy from their 2012 con), which in my mind is sweeping an obvious festering sore under the rug.

people who send death threats to those they disagree with aren't ready for respectfully discussing the grey area. they are exactly the type of people who also won't "play it safe" and have yet to learn how to "read people."

again, i understand you're not supporting any of the resulting shitfest, i'm just saying, that's the community we're talking about, and they ran the visible feminist atheists out of the con.

on preview, i'm totally not trying to pile on here. jus' sayin'.
posted by twist my arm at 11:34 PM on September 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


y'all, i mean say what you need to say, but Joakim Ziegler has already amended his previous statement as being an edge case and slight derail of the issue.
posted by twist my arm at 11:41 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if conference misconduct less a problem of socially inept geeks and more a symptom of gender imbalance. Do Fantasy Football Conventions* have a harassment policy? Apparently ESPN's convention has Hooters as a sponsor.

*Really having a hard time figuring out what a non-geek convention would be.
posted by pwnguin at 11:57 PM on September 10, 2012


Another take on the same subject, by MetaFilter's own keeo.

256: thanks for posting that link, this is the bit that struck me:

However, it is important to acknowledge that some people are not socially awkward, they are socially predatory. These are people who know better. They recognize and understand the cues that mean “no” but they ignore them when a “no” does not line up with their own desires. Unfortunately, these people go to cons specifically for the accepting environment. They go to cons because they think they can get away with harassing behaviour.

as it does resonate with all the stories I heard from other women working at trade fairs - official commercial fairs of a big kind. They may be different kind of events from these cons, very different kinds of audiences, but still. Seems to me there is something in common about the guys who get creepy with women at official events, be it events for fans or for business people or vendors of a certain produce etc..

It's like these events are a space free of all social norms, you're away from home, it's like a holiday setting, you get to meet lots of people from all over, etc. For most people this would be fun in itself. For some men it seems it's like a neanderthal mating call or something, and all basic social norms go out the window. You hear stories of aged businessmen at trade fairs behaving like they were twenty year olds in a club in Ibiza. They could be the most different kinds of men from geeks but there is a similar switch going off in their brain there.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


pwnguin: "*Really having a hard time figuring out what a non-geek convention would be."

Car shows, major sporting events, Sturgis, Spring break?
posted by the_artificer at 12:07 AM on September 11, 2012


Remember, the jock elites foment this kind of discord to keep the nerd classes divided, so they can retain their grip on the levers of power.

Bibliography:
Das Kapital
1980s USA Up All Night movies
posted by dgaicun at 12:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sounds like some of these communities need their own version of the Guerilla Girls.

As for those hacker cards, she might take a cue from Adrian Piper who created something similar back in the day.

Although, now that I've written this comment I'm saddened by the fact that people still have to do this kind of thing 20+ years on.
posted by brookeb at 12:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Out of curiosity I started googling for any kind of policy Strurgis might have. I'd tend to ignore car/gun/boat shows, that is business. I'd really like to get a handle on the various "lifestyle" cons are, let's say, Sturgis, Gathering of the Juggalos, Spring Break at Fort Lauserdale, And PAX.

I'd say harassement, assaults,and rapes are massively under reported at Sturgis, The Gathering and Spring Break. Nothing could really hurt Biker's, Juggalos and Frat Bro's reputations at this point though. You could tell me they use puppies for target practice at Sturgis and I would believe it.

Fellow Geeks, do we really want to be like those guys? People locking the doors when we roll into town? Do we want to be knows as a hybrid gang by the FBI? Shit guys, we are halfway there, we are harassing people at a thing called Readercon. Readercon for gods sake, a con for people that like books.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I kind of promised myself I wouldn't post on this anymore, because I feel like I'm derailing, but I'll just sum up what I meant, and leave it at that.

I did mean that there are some women, very few, but some, who actually enjoy attention that's usually considered sexual harassment. I don't mean women who "dress like X and thus ask for it", I mean women who actively enjoy being groped in public, for instance, and might seek it out. I know this because I've known a few.

Now, that wasn't really my point, it was just to illustrate that there's a huge spectrum of what people enjoy, tolerate, consider acceptable, and so on, and thus my comment about the gray area. I'm not talking about conventions specifically, by the way (which may be another mistake, and another reason why I feel like I'm derailing), but in general.

It just seems to me that there is a gray area, there's a huge amount of difference between people (and between cultures, which gets into really problematic areas), so that the limits are not always clear-cut. And it also seems to me that there's a lot of ignoring of these individual differences going on, and a lot of stating personal (or cultural) opinion as fact as to where boundaries are or should be. What about women whose boundaries are different? Are they "wrong"?

Generally, I don't see anything hugely problematic about propositioning someone, maybe even out of the blue (although that's unlikely to work, so probably stupid). In fact, I think people should proposition each other more often and more honestly. If you're going to do it, alone in an enclosed space is probably not the greatest place to do it, though. But, what's important here, more than propositioning or not, is to respect the other person's response. If someone says no, or tells you to fuck off, you should politely fuck off, not complain. But that's just my opinion, obviously.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah I wouldn't even go so far as to say it has to be the non-geek equivalent of a "convention." I've been hit on, propositioned, and suddenly found older mens' arms around my shoulders or waist on a very regular basis at professional conferences and trade shows, where I am there in a professional context, often even as a speaker. Whoever described it as a "neanderthal mating call" is absolutely right -- something about "I'm away from home and my significant other" brings out the absolute worst in a lot of people, and yeah, it's pretty much always men. I've seen men I work with whom I normally respect quite a bit, who to all appearances are happily married, suddenly turn into idiot teenagers hitting on women at the bar or trying to find ways to get out to strip clubs with other colleagues without letting the female coworkers know. (Fun fact: we always know. Another fun fact: I don't care if you go to a strip club. If you invited me, I might even go with you. It's when you're acting like a dumb kid who just hit puberty sneaking girly mags that I'm judging you.)

I mean look, when I'm on travel by myself or with female coworkers, yeah, I'll flirt a little, I'll dance, but it's not because I'm desperate to regain some lost glory days and sadly, that is exactly how it looks to an outside observer when they pull this shit. The only people who are impressed by it are the other men trying to do the same thing.

This stuff is exactly why I started wearing a fake wedding ring to conferences. I hate that I have to do it but it does make a difference. It doesn't prevent the most desperate ones from trying, but it does cut down on some of the crap at least. I am sorely tempted to get myself a set of the rugby cards for the next conference I go to...
posted by olinerd at 1:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about women whose boundaries are different? Are they "wrong"?

As a bloke, the way to bet is not "oh, I wonder if this woman is one of the ones who actually like to be groped by a stranger in public, I guess now that we are both at this sf|atheist|hackers convention, I can try it and see".

Of course there are women who like a bit of sex play in public, perhaps there are even women who like a bit of sexplay with strangers, in a non-sexual environment. But I bet they're hella rare and the vast majority of women, or men for that matter, are not this way inclined. I have the funny feeling that most women who do enjoy this sort of thing, only enjoy it with their friends or partners, not initiated out of the blue by strangers.

It also reeks of excuse seeking of course, of trying to find a hypothetical situation in which groping a woman in public would be all right.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:18 AM on September 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


Propositioning someone out of the blue (even at a geek convention) runs a relatively high risk of alienating them from the culture, particularly if they already feel somewhat alienated on broader social grounds. Many people consider it an extreme gesture, and it can create a sense of vulnerability based on sexualization (regardless of intent, there can be a sense of being rudely put in your place as a woman which is sometimes quite jarring). A friend of mine (who I'd known for several months, through "geek culture") propositioned me out of the blue once at a social function to engage in some hobby sex activities with him (in this case, rope restraints) and it was the abrupt end of our friendship. I didn't want to end the friendship, but it took a big bite out of my ability to trust him to respect my boundaries, and I just felt uncomfortable around him from then on. It sucks to be put in that position. If this happened to me more than once from strangers at a particular event, I would not return to that event. I think this is a relatively common response (and I know men who would also feel the same way-- who have-- were the tables turned).
posted by stoneandstar at 1:24 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


MartinWisse: "As a bloke, the way to bet is not "oh, I wonder if this woman is one of the ones who actually like to be groped by a stranger in public, I guess now that we are both at this sf|atheist|hackers convention, I can try it and see"."

Ok, so that didn't go so well. Yes, I know this, in fact, I wrote basically exactly the same thing a bit further up. I'm using this (extreme, very rare) example to try to talk about the large variation in people's boundaries.

MartinWisse: "It also reeks of excuse seeking of course, of trying to find a hypothetical situation in which groping a woman in public would be all right."

And this feels almost like a personal attack. I've also written several times in this discussion that I don't think it's alright, in fact, in one of the first comments here, I called the PAX party incident sexual assault.

However, my point about different boundaries for different people stands. And it's not actually all about people who have more liberal boundaries than the norm, some people might have much more strict boundaries, and that's just as difficult to know.

I guess what I'm getting at is, how do we negotiate the gray area? My starting point is being respectful and nice to people, which very much includes respecting it when someone tells me no (verbally or not). But I don't know if that's enough.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:31 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


yeah, and this conversation has been done and done.

It also reeks of excuse seeking of course, of trying to find a hypothetical situation in which groping a woman in public would be all right.

fucking thank you. no one is saying these women couldn't POSSIBLY exist, just that basic sexual harassment rules don't need to be written with them in mind. i've never met a woman that would fit under this "grope me anybody" rubric, but i doubt they'd be very subtle, so i would go ahead and wait for her to throw herself at me first. call me old-fashioned.
posted by twist my arm at 1:32 AM on September 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


Jesus. I hadn't heard about the Amazing Meeting stuff until I read this article, but digging into the linked blogs for more info basically made me sick. I want off the planet now.

Some of the women int he Atheist and Skeptical community responded by forming A+, an offshoot of atheism, to specifically combine atheism with social justice. BlogHag, person who suggested the idea, has left the internet for now due to harrassment (for those who think online harrassment isn't enough, yes it went offline), but other people are taking up the banner and there's a forum. It looks like they're working out ways to include anti-racism, anti-homophobia, even anti-ableism, into the structure of the movement. The Skepchicks aren't overtly involved, I don't think, but Surly Amy has a series on Men in Atheism who support Feminism, and Watson is awesome like always.

So I can understand feeling sick, but there are things to do to make it better, and people to support.

And I adore the Rugby cards. I actually want to make a chunk of them and just carry them around and hand them to my female friends. It's confrontational without being confrontational, which I love. I can understand the worry about it becoming another way to blame women for our not-actions which somehow are more important than the actions of others, though.

Charisma is not a dump stat!

I once played a char in D&D with Charisma as my high stat, and I would end up charming my way out of problems. It was a total blast.

Most (or possibly all) of the examples given here are pretty obviously crossing the line. I don't think the elevatorgate incident was quite so clear-cut, for instance. Not that she wasn't right to be uncomfortable, or didn't have a right to, but I don't think that kind of thing is obviously crossing the line.

She spoke at the con about not hitting on women being part of making more women come to atheism. He went to her talk. He never spoke to her while she was in a group of people at the bar. At 4am, she said she was going to bed. He followed her into the elevator and asked her to come back to his room.

Where, exactly, ARE your lines? Do you commonly follow strangers form a public area to an enclosed space and ask them to have sex with you right then after they indicate they're going to do something alone? If so, you might want to think about that line, and about moving it more toward "don't follow people into enclosed spaces and then proposition them for sex." I would even suggest, "Don't proposition strangers for sex" might be a good line to have.


As to the whole, "Some women enjoy this," thing.... again, I'm not sure it's the gray area people seem to think it is. Women are socialized to be nice, to smile, to smooth things over, and to make the other person feel comfortable. A lot of mens' "gray areas" are women's "share to my friends to never sit next to him and stay with someone else while he's around".

I'll give an example from my life. I've recently started going to a non-sexual fetish gathering, and I've met two men who have show the sort of minor sort of interest one expects at a first meeting. The first, after a long conversation and when I said I was leaving, asked for a hug. I assessed him a moment, then gave it, and he is someone I would seek out in the future based on his behavior, because I distinctly got the impression it would be all right if I said no. The second started touching me, shoulder and back only but still, and I sure as fuck will never be alone with him. I have smiled and been pleasant to both of them, so I'm sure the second person thinks his actions are in a "gray area" but to me they were a huge "does not respect physical boundaries" red flag and I will act accordingly.

And no, I won't tell him. I'm the newcomer and I don't know if people have my back yet; I'm not stupid.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:39 AM on September 11, 2012 [21 favorites]


oops, sorry, that was in response to MartinWisse.

I guess what I'm getting at is, how do we negotiate the gray area? My starting point is being respectful and nice to people, which very much includes respecting it when someone tells me no (verbally or not). But I don't know if that's enough.

respecting "no" is a good first step. if you want a black belt in reading people, then honestly, listen to what women are telling you. completely forget the 4am elevator, i don't care if you'll take "no" for an answer, it's already tipping your hand that you don't know the appropriate time to ask (this seems like an important distinction that you're kind of discounting). any time a woman might be there for professional reasons, tread extremely carefully.

and as Deoridhe has just demonstrated, a man's (potential) fear of slap-in-the-face, blow-my-rape-whistle, ban-his-ass rejection is probably unfounded. because most women will convince themselves to give you another "chance" even when they don't want to.
posted by twist my arm at 1:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Deoridhe: "Where, exactly, ARE your lines? Do you commonly follow strangers form a public area to an enclosed space and ask them to have sex with you right then after they indicate they're going to do something alone? If so, you might want to think about that line, and about moving it more toward "don't follow people into enclosed spaces and then proposition them for sex." I would even suggest, "Don't proposition strangers for sex" might be a good line to have."

I do not. I have never done this, and I doubt that I would, both because I see how it could make someone uncomfortable, and because it's unlikely to actually get a positive response. I do think the main problem with it was the location, though, if the guy had done it somewhere open and with lots of people around, it would probably fall within what I consider ok (but not particularly productive).

Deoridhe: "As to the whole, "Some women enjoy this," thing.... again, I'm not sure it's the gray area people seem to think it is. Women are socialized to be nice, to smile, to smooth things over, and to make the other person feel comfortable. A lot of mens' "gray areas" are women's "share to my friends to never sit next to him and stay with someone else while he's around"."

This, though, is actually nearer to what I'm talking about. You're dismissing someone elses boundaries because they're different from your own, and you're hinting that another person's boundaries are actually invalid, or not really that person's choice, because you don't like them. I brought this up because it's the case with someone I know well and have mutual trust with, who has told me a lot about this, and I asked this person if it'd be ok to use her as an anonymous example before mentioning it here. Now I'm kind of regretting it anyway, because I wanted to use it as an example of one extreme of a large spectrum, but everyone's focusing on it like I'm saying all women are like that.

And we're back to my point. People's boundaries differ. Some are more liberal, some are more strict than your own. How do we negotiate them in a shared social space? Communication seems key, but a lot of people here seem to be saying to just assume a particular set of boundaries. Which is what I currently do, but it hardly seems optimal. On the other hand, talking about boundaries runs the risk of itself overstepping boundaries in some cases. So it gets complicated. I don't have an answer, so I will continue to assume.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:56 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


but everyone's focusing on it like I'm saying all women are like that.

we're really not. we're saying so what if you know a few women like that? the friend that you're talking about is not a good counterpoint to Deoridhe's quote. she's not discounting your friend's experience, she's saying even those things that look like cordial behavior might be hiding turmoil and fear underneath. you have an insider's perspective on your friend's behavior, but not that of other women. now, are you discounting Deoridhe's own anecdote in favor of your own?
posted by twist my arm at 2:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not at all. In fact, as I've been saying repeatedly, there's a spectrum because people are different. Thus my question, how do we negotiate boundaries?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:06 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


but a lot of people here seem to be saying to just assume a particular set of boundaries. Which is what I currently do, but it hardly seems optimal.

no, assume a general set of boundaries unless or until other data is presented. and i'm not sure how you rate optimizing your own needs, but i think not tripping a woman's red alert and sending her scrambling for the nearest exit is more important than efficacy. you can actually think of it as long-term optimization. every woman who doesn't think you're a creeper is someone who could, in the future, vouch for your decency.
posted by twist my arm at 2:08 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


then i don't know what you're asking. you don't negotiate other people's boundaries, you respect them. unless you mean in the sense of navigate? then--carefully.

(i'll check back after sleep.)
posted by twist my arm at 2:14 AM on September 11, 2012


That last one is a very good point, actually, though a bit roundabout. I guess it'll do until we do away with sexism, at which point the elimination of the power imbalance should make frank discussion of subjects such as sexual proposals less fraught. Which actually makes me think of something interesting. Randi and the other con guy mentioned are both gay. That might be why they don't get it, the power imbalance doesn't exist between gay men, so sexual proposals are less problematic as a rule.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:17 AM on September 11, 2012


Yeah, I meant negotiate in the sense of navigate.

I'm sleeping too, thanks for the discussion, it's been enlightening.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:19 AM on September 11, 2012


I think "how do we navigate a spectrum of boundaries" is a good question, and the answer to my way of thinking is very simple. Assume everyone's boundaries are in a "no touching apart from greeting handshakes" until you find out otherwise from that person; if your boundaries are different from the majority (in either direction) then please let people know what you're comfortable with by saying so, not by demonstrating.

I started out at the 'no touching except for handshakes' level with every single person I now have a more intimate relationship with, even though I'm a touchy-feely person by nature. Some of them progressed to friendly hugs and punches and kisses on the cheek, a very few of them to more than that, and with a few creepers I now go out of my way to avoid even shaking hands in a business setting. I travelled to a country where women were not expected to shake hands with men, and my outstretched hand was met with a little wave instead, so I stopped offering it. When I see a group of people who greet each other with hugs or kisses on the cheek, I assume that's because they already know each other well enough to do that, not that I should also join in with more contact.

A default setting where you assume people don't want physical contact with you is not a hardship, and will not doom anyone to a life without human touch. Deciding to find out where people's boundaries are by testing them with physical contact is not going to get any relationship to progress. Even flirting starts verbally and with eye contact before it gets to a light touch on the arm. It's a safe starting point that can be adjusted as you get more information about each unique situation.
posted by harriet vane at 3:01 AM on September 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


assume people don't want immediate physical contact with you

Fixed that for me! Previous version sounded depressing.
posted by harriet vane at 3:05 AM on September 11, 2012


Yeah, I think logic is a good guide. Of the women who would like to be groped by strangers (a minority), there are probably none who would be angry, insulted, frightened, traumatized or revolted by someone not groping them... and furthermore, not-groping would not be a choice that perpetuates and reinforces a sexist cultural paradigm.

On the other hand, groping women who don't want to be groped by strangers (the majority) is extremely likely to result in anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust, plus it perpetuates sexism – and is in most cases probably illegal. All good reasons not to grope without an explicit invitation. So, to me, the question is not whether there is a grey area, but whether that is a good reason to engage in the questionable behavior, "just in case."

For a pretty crass (but easily understood, I think) analogy: Some people (not the majority) genuinely enjoy giving money away to strangers, but if one were to ask everyone they meet (or even just the ones that look like they are probably pretty well-to-do, and so might not mind sharing with an unknown person) to give them money, they'd definitely be a social outcast – even though there's a lot of grey area about how much, to whom, and under what circumstances some people might be willing to give money away. On the other hand, almost nobody is ever upset or angry that a stranger didn't ask them for money.
posted by taz at 3:24 AM on September 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


Yeah, I think logic is a good guide. Of the women who would like to be groped by strangers (a minority), there are probably none who would be angry, insulted, frightened, traumatized or revolted by someone not groping them... and furthermore, not-groping would not be a choice that perpetuates and reinforces a sexist cultural paradigm.

I am going to go one step further and say that even in this most likely hypothetical subset of women that enjoy being groped by strangers: because a woman might enjoy being groped by a stranger does not mean she would enjoy being groped by YOU.

The idea that women love them the groping and we should take any action based on that premise makes baby jesus cry.
posted by corb at 4:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would really like to hear from women who do enjoy being groped randomly by random strangers, in general situations, and maybe more specifically in a situation like the one in the linked article where the woman was followed around by the groper at the con?

Because even as someone with a very high tolerance for unwanted attention, for cultural habit too, I find it a bit hard to think another woman, with different boundaries in personal situations, would have enjoyed being groped in that kind of situation. Context matters...

And I do agree that boundaries can differ a lot individually and culturally, and I do think it's perfectly possible to enjoy flirting and verbal attention that for other women would be too much, but it depends so hugely on which context we're talking about. Random groping by random men in public? That's not even flirting as such. I'd love to hear the public context where that becomes enjoyable and desirable, other than maybe sex clubs or the like (where one would knowingly and deliberately go for that).

Also for some reason, despite all these variations, things like sexual harassment guidelines and policies are pretty much the same in different countries. So it's not all grey areas when it comes to maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for everyone at some public commercial event, rather than when it comes to flirting in private. Those two context are very, very different.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:08 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


After some well-publicized incidents at tech conferences, there is been a growing movement from groups like the Ada Initiative to encourage conference organizers to adopt and enforce anti-harassment policies. O'Reilly promised to develop a code of conduct for their conferences going forward, and many other organizers(pdf) have done so as well, both for technical and other geek conferences.

Of course, not all harassment at a convention is sexual harassment and not all harassers are men.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:09 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the sensible response to a woman who says she likes being groped is the same as the sensible response Louis CK has to his non-hookup in this video.
posted by Acheman at 5:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I knew Rebecca Watson and the Skepchick folk were still getting some hassle on Twitter for the Elevator Incident, but I assumed it was one or two isolated trolls - I had no idea it was this mainstream or this vicious. What the fuck is this that happened to Amy Roth?
Harriet Hall wore a shirt saying she was “not a skepchick” and that she feels “safe and welcome at TAM”; some people wore obvious imitation Surly jewellery saying “you should be embarassed” or “that’s not funny” (referencing something she said about rape jokes and the Angry Skepchick Twitter account once! So clever!); the #TAM2012 live-tweeting hashtag was at some points inundated with more vitriol about Amy and Skepchick and the anti-harassment campaign than it was actual live-tweeting the convention; the Satiristas did a song about how the feminists have a stick up their asses about coffee and elevators; one of the grant recipients proclaimed herself “not a Watsonista” and apparently snubbed Amy and the other grant winners; people loudly and roundly proclaimed that Amy was part of an “axis out to destroy TAM”.

Amy rightly sensed her pariah status and cried in the speaker’s lounge. And that was her next big sin, which later became the focus of a new dozen lies about her.

[...]

People now ask if it’s immoral to rape a Skepchick because they’re annoying. They call Skepchick and Freethought Blogs ‘feminazi’ and ‘femistasi’ because we point out when people in our movements are horrid to one another and take them to task over it. They tell Amy to self-immolate because there’s no policy against it at TAM (“The Other Atheist” is one of Franc Hoggle / Victor Ivanoff‘s pseudonyms, by the way.)

But Amy weathers those storms. She keeps on plugging away at improving the movement, both through her art and through her activism.

Then the trolls get the bright idea to wreck her art at the same time as going after her personally.

First Thunderf00t posts a copyrighted image of hers in order to make fun of her, and the very idea of harassment policies. Amy tells him he does not have permission to use the image, and asks that he takes it down. He does, but replaces it with an image mocking her.
And it goes on and on and on. And all of this because Rebecca Watson said that women were sometimes treated poorly by people in that community. Well, that's certainly proved her wrong!

It's also a great example of just why "we would have taken your concerns seriously if only you'd said them in a nicer way!" is such a bullshit line in these debates. Rebecca Watson didn't accuse Elevator Guy of being a rapist, didn't describe his behaviour as sexual harassment, didn't even describe him as a bad person - all she said was "this makes me incredibly uncomfortable" and "guys, don't do that". The only way she'd have avoided this flak is if she hadn't said anything in the first place. "Be nice" doesn't mean "let's have a civilised conversation about this" - "be nice" just means "shut up."
The Skepchicks, including Amy Roth, as of this writing have no plans to attend TAM again.
Yeah.
posted by Catseye at 5:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [56 favorites]


On the other hand, groping women who don't want to be groped by strangers (the majority) is extremely likely to result in anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust, plus it perpetuates sexism – and is in most cases probably illegal.

So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question. I don't support men acting in these ways towards women. I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? I've always taken these incidents as compliments and really thought nothing more of them.

Again, I'm not trying to justify anything, I am trying to understand. Would a woman have the same feelings of anger, fear, ect. if propositioned or harassed by a lesbian? Or is it literally the fear associated with maleness and/or rape?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:42 AM on September 11, 2012


Jesus Christ. Two things:

1. I'm an academician. In my world, lunatic over-reactions to anything that can in any way be construed as sexual, and patently false charges of sexism and sexual harassment are far more common than actual sexual harassment. According to the rules at our institution, if a female feels harassed by you then, no matter how unreasonable her feelings, you are guilty of sexual harassment. I've never been accused, but I've seen people accused and charges threatened over utterly, completely, entirely and unequivocally innocent things that no reasonable person could complain about.

Ergo:

2. When I hear stories like these...a guy actually went up to a girl at a party and *took his penis out in front of her*????? I can hardly believe them. In my world, you'd be drawn and quartered for that...there probably exists no known punishment severe enough on this scale...scaphism, perhaps...

Surely there is a happy and reasonable middle ground between all-out, Lord of the Flies anarchy and a totalitarian state of terror in which accusations equal conviction...right?

And, finally:

3. How is it that guys let other guys get away with the kind of harassment described in some of these pieces? Some of the descriptions of incidents on the street should result in immediate punchings in the head by male bystanders. I've never lived in a big city...perhaps it's a big city thing...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:42 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question.

Well, as a straight woman I've been at parties where I was groped by a stranger and didn't feel those things, and I've been at parties where a groping from a stranger would make me feel those things.

The difference in my mind is that in the first case, I was at a party with friends where I felt safe enough to assert my boundaries. In the second case I was at a party with mostly strangers or, even worse, coworker acquaintances.

What if you were groped in the course of doing your job? I think one reason this is such a big issue at cons specifically is that many people there are there for work, some are there purely for recreation, and others are a confusing mix of both. I don't think un-asked-for groping is OK in any of these three situations, but if I was a woman trying to do my job and I was treated like a sex object, I know I would experience an extra zing of anger, insult, fear, and disgust. Because I would feel like I was never safe.
posted by muddgirl at 5:57 AM on September 11, 2012


I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question.

Because you're not female? Because you were raised in a particular way that sets up a particular kind of response to actions like that? Because culturally and socially, men groping or patting each other (think sports) takes on a very different meaning? I have no idea. You know yourself better than anyone here.

Just because you are not frightened, and just because you can't quite imagine being frightened, doesn't mean that other people (women) in similar situations are wrong for feeling differently. You take those actions as a compliment. That works for you. Just don't assume that anyone who *doesn't* take it the same way as you is wrong or is making up their feelings.
posted by rtha at 6:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question. I don't support men acting in these ways towards women. I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? I've always taken these incidents as compliments and really thought nothing more of them.

I would wager it's because you never had any of the guys who propositioned you then turn angry and threatening when you refused them. Which is something that happens to women a lot. I once had a guy follow me out a bar and chase me down the street shouting at me simply because I hadn't noticed he'd been checking me out; he chased me a half a block shouting "why didn't you come talk to me?"

Not every guy does, mind you. But enough do. I have a hunch that if about 15% of the guys who hit on you got angry and aggressive like that and all up in your face shouting "why'd you say no? Am I not hot enough for you, you fucker? How about if I just do you anyway?" or something, you'd start to get scared of guys hitting on you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [32 favorites]


Again, I'm not trying to justify anything, I am trying to understand. Would a woman have the same feelings of anger, fear, ect. if propositioned or harassed by a lesbian? Or is it literally the fear associated with maleness and/or rape?

I think this is a hard question to answer because of some underlying things, but I'm going to try.

The short answer, for me, is no, but it's a not exactly kind of no. Because there really is no one-to-one comparison with the way that lesbians attempt to pick women up, and the way men try to pick women up. Even socially awkward lesbians compared to socially awkward men. And in part, that's because of how socialization tends to happen.

So I've never been openly propositioned, groped, or harassed by a lesbian. I've had lesbians ask me out, or test the possibility of the subject, but I've never had anyone be as offensively blatant as the general, average, quality of male harassment I've received on a daily basis.

For the sake of argument, however, I'm going to try to imagine (even though it defies probability) that I was propositioned or harassed in the same way by a lesbian. Even then, I cannot imagine myself feeling frightened. I would probably become angry, but I also wouldn't be as much danger of a few things, in various ways. I wouldn't be afraid of her physically overpowering me, because our relative size would likely be much closer. I wouldn't be afraid of her coming back with friends, both because that has literally never happened in the history of the world, and because that sort of situation is not a situation where intimidating friends tend to be associated with it. I also would not be afraid of being raped, both because again, forcible stranger non-prison lesbian rape is not something I've ever even heard of.
posted by corb at 6:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question. I don't support men acting in these ways towards women. I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? I've always taken these incidents as compliments and really thought nothing more of them.

The fact that most men are bigger than me has something to do with it.

(For what it's worth, I've been groped a lot when I've gone to gay bars with friends . . . by dudes . . . and I always found it weird and pretty much just as upsetting as when it happens in any other venue. I know these guys aren't going to rape me. I still really don't want to be touched by people a foot taller and with a hundred pounds on me.)

Basically, I don't like feeling as if my body belongs to someone else for the groping and I don't like feeling the sense of being physically overpowered or reminded of the fact that I could be. With gay men, you don't have the same cultural context. But really, it could be the same sort of problem. Just because you're not upset by it doesn't mean that no gaymen are, but there might be significant social ressures to just shut up and act like they're cool with it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


AELfwine, I would say that it is, as you say, just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? In that you're not subject to the same power differential - that it's very unlikely* that you'll be harassed further or attacked if you refuse; that if you refuse the other people (or I guess other gay guys in this case) deride your concerns or your desire to just be out with your friends and not get hit on all night. That it's not part of a long-standing pattern, day-in, day-out, of only being valued for your attractiveness.

I'm in roughly the same boat as you - when I get hit on by a guy, I shrug it off, tell him I'm not interested, and essentially that's the end of it. But it's always out at a party / dance club, places where there a reasonable expectation of hookups/propositions already, and when I say no that's the end of it. And I'm never threatened by those guys - the ones who are more dangerous are the straight douche-bros anyways.

Does that make any sense?

[On preview, whoops didn't mean to join the pile-on. Count me as +1ing muddgirl, rtha, EmpressCallipygos and corb anyways, since it was through earlier Mefi discussions which, I think, included them that I've come to somewhat understand the subject.]

*I'm not saying it doesn't happen, by any means. But it's not the first thing that you have to worry about, if only because you're probably about the same size as the guys propositioning you & there's no long-standing tradition to think of you as weak.

posted by Lemurrhea at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2012


I did mean that there are some women, very few, but some, who actually enjoy attention that's usually considered sexual harassment. I don't mean women who "dress like X and thus ask for it", I mean women who actively enjoy being groped in public, for instance, and might seek it out. I know this because I've known a few.

Great! Once you've identified one (which is to say, she has herself told you that she is one of these special few and has given you a green light), go get your grope on.

Meanwhile, anyone who sees "these women exist" and tries to normatize that subset of people (by, for instance, repeatedly bringing them up to derail a conversation about how in general it is not an OK thing to do), or who extrapolates to "I bet I can identify them on sight," is a giant fucking asshole.
posted by Mayor West at 6:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Would a woman have the same feelings of anger, fear, ect. if propositioned or harassed by a lesbian?

Just the other night a lesbian started hitting on me when I was at a karaoke bar with my friend. I am straight and just wanted to hang with my friend, so I have her a bunch of polite "no thanks" signals (just not really engaging with her, answering her questions with one-word answers, staying focused on my friend). She got the message, but instead of moving on with her life (and hanging with her own friend), she started periodically interjecting increasingly hostile remarks into my night. It started with an explanation of how I should never point at a biker, then that bikers have heavy helmets that they can use as weapons, then something about how she doesn't even put her helmet on the floor to keep it near her (or something, it was a bit hard to hear over the music). At first I was like, whoa, usually it's not a woman telling me I'm "wasting" the fact that I'm "kind of pretty" because I'm not reciprocating flirting. But as the night went on and she kept saying these things to me and as they kept having this weird subtext of "I can beat you up/I am dangerous" I was just like, wtf random lesbian biker lady! Do not make me fear lesbians!

So yeah, in this case I felt something like what I would feel if a man were aggressively hitting on me or responded badly to a rejection, but it's a total outlier, so it would have to happen a lot more for me to feel uncomfortable around women/lesbians generally.
posted by prefpara at 6:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cards?

I'm starting to wonder if we should just give all women attending a con three 9mm frangibles and a silenced pistol.

Due to the frangibles we get minimal collateral damage, so the hotel is happy and bystanders are happy. Due to the silencer we don't have sudden outbreaks of deafness so the other attendees are happy. Due to all of the above the world has a few less creeps, so society is happy.

Everybody wins. Except the creeps, but I'm honestly not sure I really care about that any more.
posted by aramaic at 6:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question. I don't support men acting in these ways towards women. I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women?

A drunk woman once groped me in the crotch in a snackbar. In front of her daughter. The daughter felt ashamed, I felt humiliated.

The same groping (if not the same woman) in a different context would've led to fun sexy times, frex if we'd both been at a party and mutually attracted to each other. But when you're just getting some chips, no.

Now as a bloke, that is literally the only unwanted physical contact I'd ever had to experience (save for the cat's habit of licking my elbow, that is), so it's much easier for me to not feel threatened or slightly wary of being propositioned in other situations. Rape is not something I worry much about, nor is physical aggression if I don't respond to somebody's flirting.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:41 AM on September 11, 2012


3. How is it that guys let other guys get away with the kind of harassment described in some of these pieces? Some of the descriptions of incidents on the street should result in immediate punchings in the head by male bystanders. I've never lived in a big city...perhaps it's a big city thing...

Oh god, if there is one thing I am tired of (though accept is well-meaning) it's the old trope about how if a Real Man saw something like this, they would immediately punch the guy in the face.

Because you know what? I want to punch these guys in the face. When it happens, I want and are capable of punching many of these guys in the face. But if I do, I will wind up on charges of assault, and if I try to defend myself by pointing out that he groped me, the law will point out that the groping was already done, I could have just walked away, etc. etc. The guy will undoubtedly press charges.

But men, by virtue of their privileged status as the enforcers of societal norms in these kinds of situations, they can get attention! They can hit back, to protect the women! They (and only they) can defend righteousness and goodness!

It is just really frustrating. What I want from men who see this situation is to stand up, acknowledge the problem, and give me my own agency.

"I saw what you did, Creeperguy, and it is not okay. I stand with this lady in whatever she chooses to do, and will lend myself to her assistance, including physical force if necessary." would be a lot better than "I am her white knight and know exactly what needs to happen."
posted by corb at 6:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [34 favorites]


I think the cards are a really interesting idea, although I lack much sympathy for the Schuyler guy who got punched for yellow-carding another man that tried to high-five him. It seems clear to me that the intent of the cards is to give women an easy avenue to express when they are being creeped out, and this guy sounds like he was just trying to score feminist brownie points. It also seems a little patronizing for men to hand out the cards to each other, because it carries the implicit assumption that we know enough about the female condition that we can dictate when they should or shouldn't be creeped out. I think it would have been more respectful to simply ignore the high-five and let the woman he was dancing with decide for herself whether it was card-worthy.

On an unrelated note, this was a really great article, by the way. Interesting read, unbiased reporting, and a very thorough analysis of each situation and the results. Thanks for posting!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Like I said, I'm only 2/3 of the way in, but it's an incredibly interesting read: funny, sarcastic, experimental, harrowing and exasperating, in spots barely counting as a novel at all (yes, that's ok by me), an angry, sad and completely clear-eyed look at various experiences of woman-ness (characters jump into and out of various futures and alternate pasts), written at a key moment in the history of feminism. Recommended for folks who want a deeper context for discussions like this.

I was going to avoid commenting in this thread because I was afraid it would turn into yet another horrible upsetting clusterfuck, but since it's going amazingly well, I'll poke my head in and strongly second this. The first time I read The Female Man, I considered myself a feminist but had barely begun to figure out what that meant and how it might impact real life, not to mention I had read a couple of the (shitty, ignorant, smug) reviews in sf magazines so was primed to dislike it, and while I found parts of it powerful—in fact, unforgettable—I put it down with that consdescending "nice try, little woman, now go back to writing real sf" feeling the reviewers worked so hard to instill. The next time I read it, a decade or so later, it blew me away, and I try to read it every few years to remind and refresh myself. Really, if you care about feminism, try to get hold of this incredible book.

(MeFi obit post for Russ.)
posted by languagehat at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


think the cards are a really interesting idea, although I lack much sympathy for the Schuyler guy who got punched for yellow-carding another man that tried to high-five him. It seems clear to me that the intent of the cards is to give women an easy avenue to express when they are being creeped out, and this guy sounds like he was just trying to score feminist brownie points. It also seems a little patronizing for men to hand out the cards to each other, because it carries the implicit assumption that we know enough about the female condition that we can dictate when they should or shouldn't be creeped out. I think it would have been more respectful to simply ignore the high-five and let the woman he was dancing with decide for herself whether it was card-worthy.

Could not agree less. I extend my e-support to all the male allies who back up women and put themselves out there to try to make sexist and harassing behaviors socially unacceptable.
posted by prefpara at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my world, lunatic over-reactions to anything that can in any way be construed as sexual, and patently false charges of sexism and sexual harassment are far more common than actual sexual harassment.

*headdesk*
posted by kmz at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


I've never been accused, but I've seen people accused and charges threatened over utterly, completely, entirely and unequivocally innocent things that no reasonable person could complain about.

I think the key point here is how many times people actually pressed charges, and how many times they succeeded, or how many times an academic was dismissed as a result of a complaint based on an unequivocally innocent thing. Only, surely the establishment would be as wary of a wrongful dismissal suit as a sexual harassment suit...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:10 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


wolfdreams01: this guy sounds like he was just trying to score feminist brownie points

This is rather insulting to male feminists, FYI.

wolfdreams01: it carries the implicit assumption that we know enough about the female condition that we can dictate when they should or shouldn't be creeped out

It's not as hard as you think. After actually listening to women describe what they find comfortable or uncomfortable, one can become not unjustifiably, although not wholly, aware of what is and is not appropriate. For instance, in this thread many women have voiced their support and appreciation of men who participated in the card program.
posted by gilrain at 7:13 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I dunno, gilrain, seems to me there's a distinct shift when a guy getting a card that says "You should be happy you got a card and not a punch in the face" is getting that card from another guy and not a girl. This shift, is of course, a product of sexism, but it's there, and a guy who hands another guy a card like that should probably be aware of the different social context. I'd never do it, anyway.

That said, this:

The first time I read The Female Man, I considered myself a feminist but had barely begun to figure out what that meant and how it might impact real life, not to mention I had read a couple of the (shitty, ignorant, smug) reviews in sf magazines so was primed to dislike it

reminded me of this great look at the early reception of Joanna Russ' queer feminist scifi at tor.com.
posted by mediareport at 7:35 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That phrasing is unfortunate and was a bad choice. However, I don't see anything at all wrong with men participating in pointing out sexist behavior. The implication above that it's motivated by a desire to curry favor is very insulting. The behavior hurts us all, and we all should take part in stopping it.
posted by gilrain at 7:39 AM on September 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


I agree.

Oh and in exchange for that horrible use of commas in my last comment, there's a fabulous section in The Female Man where Russ gleefully and savagely anticipates the critical reaction:
...needs a good lay...this shapeless book...of course a calm and objective discussion is beyond...twisted, neurotic...some truth buried in a largely hysterical...of very limited interest, I should...another tract for the trash-can...burned her bra and thought that...no characterization, no plot...really important issues are neglected while...hermetically sealed...women's limited experience...another of the screaming sisterhood...a not very appealing aggressiveness...could have been done with wit if the author had...
posted by mediareport at 7:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That phrasing is unfortunate and was a bad choice. However, I don't see anything at all wrong with men participating in pointing out sexist behavior. The implication above that it's motivated by a desire to curry favor is very insulting.

In my experience, self-proclaimed male feminists can be creepers just as easily as any other man. It's just that when they do it, they claim they were misinterpreted and it's impossible that they'd do anything creepy, because hey - they're feminists! It's a unique type of behavior located at that intersecting sweet spot between hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

Schuyler's action smells of hypocrisy to me because the fact that he believes he's enough of an authority about what's creepy that he has the right to card other men suggests that he's one of those kinds of guys - the type who see creepy behavior everywhere else but would never in a million years believe they're capable of inappropriate behavior themselves. Self-righteousness like his is very off-putting to me because it often accompanies a corresponding lack of self-examination.

I strongly prefer Corb's suggestion - if you want to support a woman, simply give her the agency to make her own decision, and let it be known that you've got her back if she needs assistance.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:45 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow I really need to focus and get my hands on The Female Man (I've been meaning to for years).
Russ’s own address to the reader begins: “We would gladly have listened to her (they said) if only she had spoken like a lady. But they are liars and the truth is not in them.”
We've made so much progress since 1972!
posted by muddgirl at 7:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


> reminded me of this great look at the early reception of Joanna Russ' queer feminist scifi at tor.com.

Thanks for that; it's a great post (and reminds me to mention that great story “When it Changed”). Sadly, this (a response to Russ at the time) could be a MeFi comment today:
The hatred, the destructiveness that comes out in the story makes me sick for humanity and I have to remember, I have to tell myself that it isn’t humanity speaking—it’s just one bigot. Now I’ve just come from the West Indies, where I spent three years being hated merely because my skin was white—and for no other reason. Now I pick up A, DV [Again, Dangerous Visions] and find that I am hated for another reason—because Joanna Russ hasn’t got a prick.
But slowly (too slowly) the learning happens...
posted by languagehat at 7:48 AM on September 11, 2012


> In my experience, self-proclaimed male feminists can be creepers just as easily as any other man. It's just that when they do it, they claim they were misinterpreted and it's impossible that they'd do anything creepy, because hey - they're feminists!

This is a nice parallel to the "women who actively enjoy being groped in public, for instance, and might seek it out" cited by Joakim Ziegler earlier in the thread. Both are vanishingly tiny segments of humanity trotted out to make a vaguely relevant point that in fact muddy the waters and make discussion of the important things more difficult. Well played!
posted by languagehat at 7:51 AM on September 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


I've been talking about this stuff with my boyfriend a lot lately, and it's been interesting. He is a Good Dude who respects people's boundaries, but he doesn't necessarily get the mindset that a most women have to live with, the constant wariness of strange men, the assumption that any guy you don't know is a potential creeper. When a friend of mine made a comment that she assumes the worst of strange men, he got really offended.

I talked about how much harassment women live with on a day-to-day basis, and he noted that he had once been groped by a stranger on a bus, and had been wary of strangers on buses for a long time afterwards.

"Okay," I said. "Now imagine that happened to you once a month. How would you feel about strange men then?"

He got really quiet. I don't think he understood that it really is that pervasive.
posted by nonasuch at 7:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Schuyler's action smells of hypocrisy to me because the fact that he believes he's enough of an authority about what's creepy that he has the right to card other men suggests that he's one of those kinds of guys - the type who see creepy behavior everywhere else but would never in a million years believe they're capable of inappropriate behavior themselves.

But wasn't Schuyler doing what we have been asking men to do - when they witness sexism in their friends, say something? That silence is collusion? Schuyler himself was uncomfortable with the implication that he deserves a high five for dancing with an attractive woman. Why does the woman have to give Schuyler permission to express that discomfort?

I'm not going to give Schuyler any Feminist Cookies, but my understanding is that he didn't really ask for any.
posted by muddgirl at 7:53 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


wolfdreams01: the fact that he believes he's enough of an authority about what's creepy that he has the right to card other men suggests that he's one of those kinds of guys

Maybe it takes one to know one, because you seem to believe you're enough of an authority on male feminists to know what their motivations are from a third-hand account.
posted by gilrain at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a nice parallel to the "women who actively enjoy being groped in public, for instance, and might seek it out" cited by Joakim Ziegler earlier in the thread. Both are vanishingly tiny segments of humanity trotted out to make a vaguely relevant point that in fact muddy the waters and make discussion of the important things more difficult. Well played!

No, there are a lot of male "feminists" who are creeps but who claim they cannot be because they are feminists. It's not the vast majority of men who identify as feminists or feminist-friendly, but it's not some bizarre, vanishingly tiny number either. (If you look at the men who take really major leadership positions in feminist organizations, that's where you find them a lot.) People are better at calling this out lately, though, so I think (hope) the number is dropping a bit.
posted by jeather at 8:01 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


(I'm not justifying Schuyler's use of the creeper cards to express that discomfort - I'm not familiar with Defcon and the cards enough to make definitive statements about their implication. But I think Schuyler did the right thing in telling his friend that his behavior was objectionable, and it's something we ask allies to do to show real, actionable support.)
posted by muddgirl at 8:01 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question. I don't support men acting in these ways towards women. I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? I've always taken these incidents as compliments and really thought nothing more of them.

Again, I'm not trying to justify anything, I am trying to understand. Would a woman have the same feelings of anger, fear, ect. if propositioned or harassed by a lesbian? Or is it literally the fear associated with maleness and/or rape?


I see that a bunch of people have already responded to this, but I feel compelled to as well.

1. Did this ever happen to you as a child or as an adolescent? If so, how many times did it happen? When you started developing secondary sex characteristics, at age 11, 12, or 13, did you ever think about the best way to disguise them before you left the house? Because otherwise you might get adult men shouting at you from garbage trucks about sexual things they would like to do to you, in your own suburban neighborhood where you had previously felt totally safe. Because a couple of male teachers and a couple of your friends' fathers had started making you feel a bit uncomfortable in a way you didn't totally understand?

2. In general, how frequently has this happened to you OUTSIDE of these parties? Specifically, how many time has it happened to you in a classroom? How many times has it happened to you in your workplace? If you can, try to think of specific numbers for those two. How many times has it happened to you in a place of worship? How many times has it happened to you in a hospital where you were a patient?

Do you feel like this behavior is largely confined to these parties and once you step out of them, this doesn't really happen to you very much?

3. How many times has this happened to you while you were physically injured, crying, or obviously in some other kind of distress, which was totally ignored?

4. How many times in life have you felt like getting something you needed (a job, a professor recommendation, or even records you are requesting from a file clerk) was contingent upon going along with, or at least not objecting to, this behavior?

5. How many times has this behavior come from an "authority figure" with real power over your life? Police officer, boss, teacher, parent, relative, etc.

6. How many times have you tried to get away from someone who was doing this, and they followed you, or otherwise persisted? How many times have you reacted negatively to this behavior, and had the person turn around and scream curses and threats at you? How many times have you reacted negatively to this behavior and have the person physically assault you?

7. How many times has this behavior been or appeared to be the lead-in to a physical assault on you?

8. How many times have you been raped?

9. How many times have you genuinely feared for your life after or while being groped/propositioned?

10. How large are these people relative to you? What percentage of them would you say are at least a foot taller and at least 50 lbs heavier than you? What percentage of them would you say are at least two feet taller and at least 100 lbs heavier than you.

I have taken you at your word that you just don't understand and have given you 10 things you could ask yourself. But trust me, there are a million more.
posted by cairdeas at 8:05 AM on September 11, 2012 [58 favorites]


So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question.

It hasn't been happening to you since puberty. Physically and socially, you're on a more level playing field with the groper (in general). You aren't constantly told of being afraid of being raped and being sexually harassed, haven't had to have classes on 'safety' about how not to be raped or sexually harassed.

I'm assuming! It's possible that you have dealt with it since puberty, but it's a lot more common for women than for men.

Fear of sexual harassment is a constant background noise for a lot of women. It's not something I think of all the time, not consciously, but I (and a lot of other women) have been socialized to understand that I am, in part, responsible for keeping men's hands off me, and that we should practice constant vigilance (tm mad eye moody) against it, for fear of becoming a victim.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:12 AM on September 11, 2012


This is a nice parallel to the "women who actively enjoy being groped in public, for instance, and might seek it out" cited by Joakim Ziegler earlier in the thread. Both are vanishingly tiny segments of humanity trotted out to make a vaguely relevant point that in fact muddy the waters and make discussion of the important things more difficult. Well played!

You know, it's sort of unpleasant of you to just assume that I'm making an argument in bad faith, simply because I don't agree with your viewpoint. As jeather pointed out, there are indeed a lot of male "feminists" who are creeps but who claim they cannot be because they are feminists. Perhaps you haven't run into them personally (and for that you should be thankful) but for you to assume that they don't exist simply because they are outside of the range of your experience seems like willful ignorance to me. Maybe you feel they don't exist because you don't want them to exist - the fact of their existence would undermine your views so you turn a blind eye to it. But ignoring reality simply because it doesn't coincide with your views is a substandard way to go through life.

You should take an example from Gilrain - she disagrees with my views but she is being entirely respectful of me personally (and hopefully I am doing the same for her). It's entirely possible for people to disagree without getting nasty, and you should consider using that approach.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:21 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the cards are a really interesting idea, although I lack much sympathy for the Schuyler guy who got punched for yellow-carding another man that tried to high-five him. It seems clear to me that the intent of the cards is to give women an easy avenue to express when they are being creeped out, and this guy sounds like he was just trying to score feminist brownie points. It also seems a little patronizing for men to hand out the cards to each other, because it carries the implicit assumption that we know enough about the female condition that we can dictate when they should or shouldn't be creeped out. I think it would have been more respectful to simply ignore the high-five and let the woman he was dancing with decide for herself whether it was card-worthy.

So, here's the thing. I'm white, but I'm still capable of recognizing racism and being made uncomfortable by it when it happens next to me. The most common example is when a friend of mine asks a question to a salesperson, the salesperson will often decide I'm the 'real' authority and direct the answer back to me. I don't get as frustrated I do when I'm the focus of it at, say, Microcenter, but it does make me uncomfortable.

If I call them out on this or correct them, it's not because I want to score brownie points with my friend. It's because it makes me uncomfortable for random strangers to treat my friends like less than they are, and I'm willing to give that guy the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was also made uncomfortable by it.

Yeah, I can imagine the woman in that situation having different boundaries in that example, and welcoming the idea that strangers think she's something to be congratulated over. She might be embarrassed over him making a scene over it. Okay, but that's between that woman and the guy who got punched.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, yeah, there are creepy faux-feminist men out there, but I don't assume all men who claim to be feminists are like that any more than I assume that all men are creeps.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth:


I am a woman. I am on the ConComm of a small (~500 members) sci-fi convention in the American South. I am in charge of Programming, and for the last two years at my con I have been leading a discussion panel about sexual harassment at science fiction conventions. My aim is to raise awareness of the issue, to educate the attendees on what to look for, and how they can work against it.


I am urging other women involved involved in the convention scene to do the same thing. Volunteer at your local convention (sci-fi, RPG, anime, skeptic, tech, I don't care), get on the program, and talk about this issue. The response that I've had so far has been favorable, and I'm hoping to present this at other sci-fi conventions next year.


I am constantly polishing my presentation, and I hope in the next few months to have something available for download so that other women can use it (and alter it as needed) to present at conventions. Writer Jim C. Hines was gracious enough to grant me permission to use information he had gathered, and people here were kind enough to point me towards some resources, as well as make good suggestions.


If any cares, you can see me stumble through my first-time presentation (done on Sunday morning to a whopping seven people) here. I apologize for the quality of the audio--you can mostly hear me, although you can't hear the participants. (And in the middle of the video writer Peter David shows up to say goodbye to me; he had a flight to catch). The woman to the far right is artist Kristen Kest, who was our Art Show Guest of Honor that year, and the two gentlemen are volunteers in our Gaming Room. Don't know the name of the woman in the middle with the knitting. You don't see, over to the far left, Jay (my con's web master), Kathy (a friend of mine for many years), and a young lady whose name I didn't catch.

The presentation isn't brilliant, I make some mistakes, but I promise my next one was better. If you're a registered member over at RPG.net, you can see some of the resources used in this thread. I'm also using the thread to archive incidents that occur and other resources people may find useful in putting together presentations.

Please: if you're a woman and you go to cons, please consider presenting on this topic. I'm not saying men can't present, but I think it's more powerful coming from a woman, and I commit to doing it every year because I'm not just a woman but a member of our ConComm and the Programming Director, so people know the con isn't dicking around on this topic.

PM me if there's anything I can do to help.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2012 [28 favorites]


"I guess what I'm getting at is, how do we negotiate the gray area? My starting point is being respectful and nice to people, which very much includes respecting it when someone tells me no (verbally or not). But I don't know if that's enough."

I have met women that enjoy being groped by strangers in public. I feel fine using them to generalize that I have never met a woman who enjoys being groped by strangers in public who did not tell me within five minutes of meeting her.
posted by klangklangston at 8:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


""I saw what you did, Creeperguy, and it is not okay. I stand with this lady in whatever she chooses to do, and will lend myself to her assistance, including physical force if necessary." would be a lot better than "I am her white knight and know exactly what needs to happen.""

Thanks so much for that, Corb. I came here to ask "What should I do if I observe creepiness firsthand?" This is a great answer.

I admit, my instinct is 'ragepunch' but I know that's neither appropriate nor wanted (probably) by either party in a creeper situation.
posted by Tevin at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


[If you think this is a good place to make "mansplaining" jokes or personal attacks on other users, you are sadly mistaken.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Schuyler's action smells of hypocrisy to me because the fact that he believes he's enough of an authority about what's creepy that he has the right to card other men suggests that he's one of those kinds of guys - the type who see creepy behavior everywhere else but would never in a million years believe they're capable of inappropriate behavior themselves. Self-righteousness like his is very off-putting to me because it often accompanies a corresponding lack of self-examination.

Hey, here's a novel idea: Maybe Schuyler was actually made uncomfortable in that situation! Maybe he wasn't trying to prove what a feminist, cool guy he is! Maybe he wasn't "white-knighting" or "trying to score feminist brownie points" or other reductive, dismissive terms anyone would like to use!

Isn't it entirely possible that he was enjoying dancing with someone, and was made uncomfortable when High-Fiving Guy came up, saw he was dancing with an attractive woman, and tried to high-five him? Isn't it entirely possible that he was not handing out the yellow card to make himself seem so perfectly feminist and above it all to the woman he was dancing with, or to show her that he could protect her from creeps, but because he felt creeped out himself?
posted by palomar at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Readercon harrassment and perceptions of reality

We Don’t Do That Anymore - Oh man, Asimov...
posted by Artw at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


You know, it's sort of unpleasant of you to just assume that I'm making an argument in bad faith, simply because I don't agree with your viewpoint.

Don't worry about it, everyone sees things through their own filter and of course everyone makes mistakes with that. Just be honest in your assessments and ignore attacks that assume the worst.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


aramaic: I wouldn't go that far, but I've been thinking that a few incidences with pepper spray might start changing the expectations some people have about who they can assault and where.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2012


corb: I stand with this lady in whatever she chooses to do, ...

Wonderfully said, corb.

AElfwine Evenstar: So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust?

Aelfwine, it's lazy for me to re-paste a MeFi comment of mine from an earlier thread, but it so perfectly answers the question you asked that I'm going to do it anyways:
Do dudes who harass women in this sort of way not do it when I'm around?

As a guy who looks very much like a guy, except for that one night back when I had hair and was wearing it long, and it was a pretty dark moonless night, and I was between street lamps, and there were six guys hanging out together, and I was walking alone, I can promise you that men will say things to "women" that you would not believe, in the degree to which they presume on the "woman". The words may have just been something like "Hey, baby, why don't you come over here?" but the tone made me immediately wonder if they were going to attack me, waver between immediately running or walking confidently to show my strength, and question whether I should turn in at my apartment building, which was just a few houses down, because that way they would know where I lived.

Now I'm 5'10', 5'11", usually weigh between 160 and 200 lbs., and grow a convincing 5 o'clock shadow, so it took a pretty special set of circumstances for that mistake to be made. But despite any stories I'd heard before I could not have imagined the feeling of being targeted that I felt then. These days I basically assume that women in America live in a different world than I do.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Re the only one of these three I actually know a lot about:

Though some would cast this as a war between sexism and feminism, it isn't that simple.

You can say that again. And the only people casting it in that way are those on the Watson/Skepchick side.

There are women and feminists on both sides of the debate.

Aye, and plenty of them on the non-Watson/Skepchick side, too. And the numbers are increasing as Atheism+ spins ever further out into la-la land.

The divide is between people who believe feminism is integral to skepticism (Watson) and those who think it's irrelevant (Dawkins).

No, it really isn't. That shows an incredibly superficial reading of the situation.
posted by Decani at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How would you describe the divide, then?
posted by rmd1023 at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a new Bay Area con coming up in November called Con-volution. Unlike the old new Bay Area con, FOGcon, which was conceived as being committed to social justice, and took a lot of inspiration from (and shared some concom with) Wiscon (disclosure: I've worked on FOGcon), Con-volution did not lead with talking about these things in public. But they recently tweeted:
Staffer Susie Rodriguez brought this summary & analysis of recent Very Unfortunate Events to our attention. [link to the io9 article from this FPP]. Incidents of sexism, harassment & general toolery have been on our radar for a while, since even before we'd settled on our name. Discussions, consultation & reading have led to what we believe are firm, unambiguous policies addressing such unacceptable behaviors. We intend for these policies to be finalized & publicly available no later than Friday, September 21st.
I'm guardedly optimistic that things are getting a little better, and harassment is starting to be something that cons recognize they can't ignore.
posted by Zed at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Atheism "movement" is always going to have a harder time adapting to the modern world because its addicted to always being right and being assholish to anyone that disagrees. Which, when it's not actually right, makes it extremely toxic.

But I'm a natural atheist, not some convert with a chip on his shoulder, do of course I'd say that.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Artw, can you clarify what you mean by "the Atheism 'movement'"?

Because I was on the verge of retorting that I have a couple of atheist friends who aren't anything like that, but then I got the sense that you're talking about a much more specific subset anyway to which they don't apply.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2012


I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? I've always taken these incidents as compliments and really thought nothing more of them.

I keep thinking about this AElfwine Evenstar, and am going to have to deliberately step away from it mentally after this. But in addition to the questions I gave you to think about up above, I want to give you a few more. (Again, these are just a fraction out of MANY that could be asked.)

-How many times have you been groped/propositioned by someone who was deliberately trying to frighten you or make you uncomfortable with that behavior? A powerful person toying with you/bullying you, or a sadistic person, or someone who was hostile, angry, or enraged? How many times, when you have been groped/propositioned, have you perceived that the person doing it was trying to put you in your place?

-How many times has you found yourself in a situation where someone is engaging in this behavior, you are trying to stop it, and you find yourself surrounded by the person's friends who are egging them on or joining in?

-How many times have hostile racist or otherwise bigoted remarks been made towards you by the person engaging in this behavior, before, during, or afterwards? How many times has the person engaging in this behavior, without irony, called you a whore or a slut, in a way that was not intended as a compliment?

-In your estimation, when you are alone in public (riding public transit, in a coffeeshop, in the grocery store), what percentage of the time do you expect to be on the receiving end of this behavior?

-In your estimation, when you encounter a male stranger for the first time, what percentage of the time do you expect that they will proposition you?

-If you were trying to get work done in a coffeeshop, a man started hitting on you, and you directly told him you were not interested and were busy, would you assume and expect that he would leave you alone after that?

-How many times in your recent memory have you not been able to complete a task you wanted to complete, because you could not get the other people involved to stop treating you as a sex target and just treat you as a normal human being? This includes work projects.

-How many times in your recent memory have you had to bow out of an activity or other fun thing you wanted to do, because the other people would not just participate with you normally instead of treating you as a sex target?

posted by cairdeas at 10:16 AM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


Isn't it entirely possible that he was not handing out the yellow card to make himself seem so perfectly feminist and above it all to the woman he was dancing with, or to show her that he could protect her from creeps, but because he felt creeped out himself?

Oh, of course! I'm sure it was solely because Schuyler was so completely creeped out by the high-five that he posted on Twitter later about how he personally took a punch because he was trying to be a good feminist and stand up for women. After all, I'm sure we all agree that the effectiveness of his taking a stand on feminist principles would be utterly lost if he hadn't managed to include a little shameless self-aggrandizement... right?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I looked at the links, Decani, and I don't see what's so far out about them. One is asking for input into what the best way to deal with harassment at cons is, one is discussing a symbol for atheism+, one is discussing what kind of forum rules if any should deal with bad behaviour on other sites, and one is an asshole acting really badly in a comment section on a blog.
posted by jeather at 10:18 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I know your left hand is not supposed to know what your right hand is doing, but sometimes people fall short of that ideal and they talk about good things they've done. This doesn't mean they did those good things for "the wrong reason" or make them shameless self-aggrandizers.

It's also good that people are motivated to behave well by the knowledge that they will get approbation from their friends.
posted by prefpara at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uh. It's possible that you're reading this very different than I was, wolfdreams01. It seemed less like self-aggrandizement and more like WTF some dude just punched me because I handed him a sheet of paper.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


On the other hand, Wolfdreams01, how can *you* possibly know he was doing it solely for self-aggrandizing reasons?

It's you making the challenge here. It's you saying "no, things are not as this person says they are." The burden of proof, really, is on you.

And honestly it seems like what you're doing here is looking for a convenient way to dismiss this guy's position.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


I looked at the links, Decani, and I don't see what's so far out about them.

It's bad, divisive behavior that is destroying a movement! But when non-atheist+ atheists send hate mail and rape threats and impersonate atheist+ bloggers on other sites, well, that's just jerks being jerks what are you gonna do oh well. hamburger
posted by rtha at 10:28 AM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


Artw, can you clarify what you mean by "the Atheism 'movement'"?

Oh, you know, snotty Dawkins-worshipping types who treat it like some kind of evangelical religion with a mandate to be pissy to all outsiders and, clearly, internal dissenters.
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, the jerks, then. Got it. (I lump all jerks into a separate category independent of what they're being jerks about. Because what they believe isn't the problem, the problems is that they're jerks.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


But when non-atheist+ atheists send hate mail and rape threats and impersonate atheist+ bloggers on other sites, well, that's just jerks being jerks what are you gonna do oh well.

As the old saying goes, apologists gonna apologize.
posted by kmz at 10:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I lump all jerks into a separate category independent of what they're being jerks about. Because what they believe isn't the problem, the problems is that they're jerks.

If a community either turns a blind eye to the jerks within and its leaders (e.g. Dawkins) actively oppose efforts to reduce the jerkiness, the problem is no longer limited to just the "jerks."
posted by grouse at 10:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


snotty Dawkins-worshipping types who treat it like some kind of evangelical religion with a mandate to be pissy to all outsiders and, clearly, internal dissenters.

Artw, at least one group recognizes there might be a problem with that (excerpt from American Atheists' Code of Conduct):

American Atheists is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion.
posted by twist my arm at 10:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


If a community either turns a blind eye to the jerks

but like metafilter, they're evolving.

(ha! see what i did!)
posted by twist my arm at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2012


wolfdreams01, do you know Schuyler personally? Have you ever interacted with him in any way? Or are you jumping to conclusions about his actions and refusing to see any other possible intention behind them because to acknowledge that his intention might be different from what you are seeing would undermine your worldview? You know, sort of the exact same thing you are accusing others of doing to you?
posted by palomar at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


If a community either turns a blind eye to the jerks within and its leaders (e.g. Dawkins) actively oppose efforts to reduce the jerkiness, the problem is no longer limited to just the "jerks."

Oh, I'm not saying one should turn a blind eye in the slightest. In fact, one should call out that jerkishness with extreme prejudice. Just call it out as jerkishness rather than as atheism (in this example), is what I'm getting at. (And as for the people who are loath to call them out because they happen to be on your team - that bugs me too, but I'm not so sure "jerks" is right for them either. "Enablers," maybe?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2012


I say this as an atheist tangentially involved in the "Atheism Movement":

If two very prominent members in the society of Atheists are jerks, and we allow them to continue to be Prominent Atheist Jerks, what does that say about the Atheism Movement?

I honestly don't know the answer to that question.
posted by muddgirl at 11:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How would you describe the divide, then?
posted by rmd1023 at 5:54 PM on September 11


It would have to be at greater length than I probably should to really do it justice, but for many of us it started to become serious when those who didn't immediately take some of the more dubious accusations of harassment at face value (based on highly questionable "evidence" and at least one case of proven overreaction) were instantly dismissed as misogynists, MRAs, CHUDS, gender traitors, sister-punishers, scumbags, fuckwads and similarly tolerant, rational and not-at-all abusive remarks. The divide became sealed when this treatment was casually handed out to good people like Paula Kirby, Russell Blackford, Miranda Celeste Hale and many, many other decent people in the atheist community. The Skepchick/Atheist + crowd drew some really fierce battle lines, really deep in the sand, really quickly, and regrettably they started to really earn some of the initially hyperbolic accusations of hypersensitivity that had been levelled against them by the more intemperate people on the other side.

The attitude has been (broadly) "If a woman makes an accusation of harassment, the default position must always be to believe her. Demands for evidence are excessive. Assume guilt. No smoke without fire." All dissent from this and other declarations on their part, even the most polite, has been met with abuse along aforementioned lines, and including many comments such as the "No, I really mean it. Die in a fire" one I linked above. The whole thing now reeks of intolerance and zealotry and people are deserting it in droves. Even one of the FtB-ers is now speaking out against it.

Like I said, I have been heavily involved in this from the outset and it is about so very much more than Watson's comments about the elevator pick-up artist. Even at the start, most of the more reasonable disagreements were not about that. Many of those who now stand against Watson et al freely agreed that Elevator guy had been a clumsy ass and rather creepy. I did. It is, however, in the interests of her supporters to keep pretending this is not the case, so this is why they keep doing that.

What I must stress is that this has been boiling along for almost two years now. I will say the same thing I said when this came to Mefi before, not long after the original Elevatorgate thing happened: if you have not been following this, you are not getting the whole picture. You are probably getting one side, or part of one side of the picture. Yes, probably even from me. It's that long and complicated. It would be a mistake to jump to conclusions.

I looked at the links, Decani, and I don't see what's so far out about them. One is asking for input into what the best way to deal with harassment at cons is, one is discussing a symbol for atheism+, one is discussing what kind of forum rules if any should deal with bad behaviour on other sites, and one is an asshole acting really badly in a comment section on a blog.

And this is a better reflection of where the divide lies. It isn't that those of us who oppose A+ like sexism, or dislike feminism. Many of us have long track records that give the lie to that lazy suggestion. It's that we see overreaction, a suspension of reason, and a rush to condemn. We see divisive, unhelpful behaviour. Perhaps you don't thing "Creeper Cards" and "Backup Ribbons" are a really, really bad idea that could be misused in all sorts of ways all too easy to imagine given the frayed-nerve rage and resentment that is currently festering around this schism. We do. We see people who have lost their sense of proportion. We see something that is fracturing and dividing any semblance of a movement that we thought we had. And when we say that, we get this sort of sarcasm by way of response:

It's bad, divisive behavior that is destroying a movement! But when non-atheist+ atheists send hate mail and rape threats and impersonate atheist+ bloggers on other sites, well, that's just jerks being jerks what are you gonna do oh well. hamburger
posted by rtha at 6:28 PM on September 11


See, none of us are saying anything like that about rape threats etc. We're trying to say please calm down for a second and consider that just maybe, you are not helping. But the response to this is now consistently dismissiveness, sarcasm, insult and a scarily zealous With us or Against Us attitude.

And some of us are thoroughly sick of it, and want nothing more to do with these people. They're unreasonable and divisive. Some of them actually celebrate the fact (PZ "I'm ready to be divisive" Myers being a prime example) Saying that in no way excuses rape, or harassment, or sexism, or misogyny, and it's utterly bloody ridiculous to suggest it does. Or that we don't care about those things.

Ah, the jerks, then. Got it. (I lump all jerks into a separate category independent of what they're being jerks about. Because what they believe isn't the problem, the problems is that they're jerks.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 PM on September 11


You know, I just got a time-out warning from a mod for posting exactly this sort of general insult to a general group of people. Hey ho.
posted by Decani at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I honestly don't know the answer to that question.

I don't know either, but I do know it's possible for people to stop being jerks without also having to stop being atheists. Whether you are or are not personally a jerk depends on your conduct, and I'd have to see more of it in action. (You haven't consistently come across thus to me - aside from the occasional jerk tendencies that EVERYONE has now and then so they really don't count anyway.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I would add about that suggested A+ symbol. I linked it because it reminds me of this. And so do the A+ people.
posted by Decani at 11:27 AM on September 11, 2012


muddgirl I think it says that the masses don't hold their leaders accountable for reflecting the core values of the movement.

It's the group, as a whole, unwilling to say 'don't be such an ass, Dawkins, because that doesn't reflect who we all are."

To me, as not-an-atheist, it just says that your group has the same problem a lot of groups have with leaders and the way they are (or are not) held accountable for their words and actions.
posted by Tevin at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know either, but I do know it's possible for people to stop being jerks without also having to stop being atheists.

But we're not talking about atheists - we're talking about the Atheist Movement, which is (presumably) an organized group of atheists with a particular set of values and goals.

I think it says that the masses don't hold their leaders accountable for reflecting the core values of the movement.

One could argue (and many non-Movement critics do argue) that one of those values is abrasive assholishness. I think we've done more with recent events to prove them right, and I'm not surprised at all that many atheists want to start a movement that's explicitely not for assholes.
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


We're trying to say please calm down for a second and consider that just maybe, you are not helping.

To whom are you saying this? To the assholes making the threats? To the assholes who are no-grey-area-about-it harassing women at cons and online? Or does the "please calm down" only ever get said to the people who are reacting to being harassed and threatened?

This is a thing that's become really clear to me in recent discussions here on mefi: "divisive" is an accusation that gets flung most often at people who are saying "Hey, this shit is making me really uncomfortable/feel unwelcome/is not okay behavior among adults", and I have not yet seen it used about people who send rape threats and so on. It's just a teeny bit enraging.
posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2012 [19 favorites]


But we're not talking about atheists - we're talking about the Atheist Movement, which is (presumably) an organized group of atheists with a particular set of values and goals.

Right, I get that. But that seems to be the group that Artw was specifically targeting, and it is to them I have been confining my remarks.

And moreover, Decani - I gathered that he was using the term "Atheist +" as a term he had coined, much as I would use the term "nut-bag religious zealot," as opposed to being the name the group had used to describe itself. and the remarks I've made about "jerks" are based on that assumption. If I am incorrect in that assessment, then I apologize for the error.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2012


But that seems to be the group that Artw was specifically targeting, and it is to them I have been confining my remarks.

No, Artw's comment is exactly what I'm talking about. There is a prevailing opinion that the Atheist Movement is a bunch of jerks. They are not doing much to change that opinion, and in fact They are doing a lot to prove that jerkishness is indeed a value and a right that they hold dear.
posted by muddgirl at 11:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're trying to say please calm down for a second and consider that just maybe, you are not helping.

To whom are you saying this? To the assholes making the threats? To the assholes who are no-grey-area-about-it harassing women at cons and online?


In the context of trying to reason with members of FtB, Skepchick and A+ who are telling us that we are misogynist scumbags and privileged white males who just don't get it, and who are condemning people out of hand on the flimsiest of evidence, we're saying it to them. That was the context of my comment. If I see someone harassing anyone at a convention, or if I see clear evidence that someone has done so, I will be saying far worse than "please calm down" to them.


"Or does the "please calm down" only ever get said to the people who are reacting to being harassed and threatened?"

No, it does not. See above. But in the context of my comment, those are the people I was referring to. I'm also angry about Mitt Romney fans, but I wasn't talking about them.

This is a thing that's become really clear to me in recent discussions here on mefi: "divisive" is an accusation that gets flung most often at people who are saying "Hey, this shit is making me really uncomfortable/feel unwelcome/is not okay behavior among adults", and I have not yet seen it used about people who send rape threats and so on. It's just a teeny bit enraging.
posted by rtha at 7:35 PM on September 11"


In my case and that of those of us standing against A+, that is because "divisive" is not really either appropriate or strong enough a word to apply to harassers and people who issue threats of violence. There are more appropriate words, like "criminal", for example. We use those.
posted by Decani at 11:49 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


And moreover, Decani - I gathered that he was using the term "Atheist +" as a term he had coined, much as I would use the term "nut-bag religious zealot," as opposed to being the name the group had used to describe itself. and the remarks I've made about "jerks" are based on that assumption. If I am incorrect in that assessment, then I apologize for the error.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 PM on September 11


Atheism + is a term coined by Jen McCreight, who runs a blog called Blaghag at the Skepchick site. It has been embraced as, in Greta Christina's words, "a thing", predominently by like-minded members of Freethought Blogs network, which includes such folk as PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Matt Dillahunty, Stephanie Zvan, Zinnia Jones and Aron Ra.
posted by Decani at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're trying to say please calm down for a second and consider that just maybe, you are not helping.
Women who attended TAM raised the issue of sexism, the organizers went out of their way to marginalize and actively court harassment of these folks. The problems were pointed out in a calm and rational manner and the response was dimissive arrogance. So yeah, the obvious response to tone-deafness is to try yelling louder.

We see divisive, unhelpful behaviour.
Its a whole different dynamic when it comes from a person in a position of power or authority within an organization. Instead of getting mad at the victims for screaming 'injustice', perhaps you should seek better leadership.

a scarily zealous With us or Against Us attitude.
Watson, Surly Amy and the skepchick were shown the door after raising issues. What in your opinion, is more rational position to take when you're no longer welcome within a organization you once actively participated in?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


please calm down for a second and consider that just maybe, you are not helping

Yeah, I didn't know what this meant either. Helping what? Some people really don't care if they're being divisive, because being treated like a human being (by their standards) is more important, and never going to happen until they make a scene. That's a legitimate stance to take if you feel that sexual harassment is prevalent in a community, which it is, more obviously now that people are heaping much more awful abuse on Skepchick et als. Imagine people laughing about how much they should rape you, versus being told that you're an MRA because you don't believe someone committed sexual assault. Which is actually more damaging and entrenched in our culture generally? Which is more harmful? Which is "divisive"? Does the latter make you feel sick to your stomach, threatened and unsafe, terrified of people you see on the street for no rational reason? Sexual assault and an environment of hostility toward women is already divisive, except that women are socialized not to complain about it most of the time.

I also checked out all your links and saw nothing beyond the pale. I'm curious what you think is wrong with each of them. Even the first one (if you think the cards idea is "la la land" was filled with people dissenting/concerned on the grounds of not being neurotypical, &c.) The second one was a logo with nothing offensive in it. The third one is asking that people who have participated in hate speech (it is hate speech) not be admitted to a resistance movement. (Not everybody agreed on this, and there was a civil discussion.) The fourth one was basically saying "fuck you, DIAF" to someone who was belittling the desire to feel safe and not threatened by people in her community-- saying that women should put up with whatever comes their way as long as it's not being genitally mutilated or burned with acid, yadda yadda-- and when she got yelled at, started trolling about arsonists/whatever. I don't really see how "you're being a ridiculous spoiled bitch, quit complaining about sexual come-ons, I'm going to belittle your response to sexual assault in general" is not in the first place hateful and divisive. I don't agree with "DIAF," but the anger is justified.

If I see someone harassing anyone at a convention, or if I see clear evidence that someone has done so, I will be saying far worse than "please calm down" to them


What if you don't see it, or there's not clear evidence? It happens all the time without clear evidence and there's still plenty of reason to feel uncomfortable and speak out about it. No time that I've ever been sexually harassed (including groping, being spat on and called "whore," &c.) has ever resulted in "clear evidence," beyond the spit which landed on my actual body. From you post it does appear that you don't understand-- that you think there are calm ways of going about this that won't be dismissed or erased. From experience, there are not, except in the "safest" and most sensitive of spaces-- places where rape jokes wouldn't be taking place.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:55 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


The attitude has been (broadly) "If a woman makes an accusation of harassment, the default position must always be to believe her

Yes, well. That doesn't mean you can't also ask for details, but are you suggesting you should default to not believing her and believing the person she accuses? What do you think the default should be?

Perhaps you don't thing "Creeper Cards" and "Backup Ribbons" are a really, really bad idea that could be misused in all sorts of ways all too easy to imagine given the frayed-nerve rage and resentment that is currently festering around this schism. We do.

Yeah, I am sure you do. But that doesn't mean some people don't think they are good ideas, or at least the best ideas presented yet and better than doing nothing. I assume that people can believe either side in good faith here.

We see people who have lost their sense of proportion. We see something that is fracturing and dividing any semblance of a movement that we thought we had.

On the other side, people see "how can you be so sensitive! your feelings are wrong! we had a movement that was awesome as long as you were a white guy and now because women want in, it's DIVISIVE just because they don't like the sexism!" I've been following it too, though probably not as closely as you, and though I don't entirely agree with the A+ side, I see a lot of the other side just not wanting to change how they act.

We see divisive, unhelpful behaviour

So do the people in the A+ movement, though.

And some of us are thoroughly sick of it, and want nothing more to do with these people. They're unreasonable and divisive

And again, they think the same on the other side, and argue that enabling assholes is itself unreasonable and divisive.
posted by jeather at 11:56 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I see someone harassing anyone at a convention, or if I see clear evidence that someone has done so, I will be saying far worse than "please calm down" to them.

How about people threatening to rape Skepchicks? I assume you've gone to Rationalia and given them a piece of your mind?
posted by kmz at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


By the way, the three most recent times I've been sexually harassed in public, it was done by totally normal looking guys. One was wearing a business suit, one looked like a graduate student wearing a quirky hat, and one just looked like a dude in a t-shirt and sneakers. This is not a fringe phenomenon-- men who sexually harass women look like regular men. They attend conventions, go to graduate school, and have professional jobs. They also harass women and almost always get away with it. If women can't protect themselves and each other by saying "this man harassed me" without clear evidence, what are they supposed to do?
posted by stoneandstar at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Basically the more you are inclined to circle the wagons, deny problems and cover shit up or cast blame elsewhere the worse you are going to be with dealing with stuff like this. And TAM and the Dawkinites are very, very bad at this. The answer to that is not more of the same.
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Women who attended TAM raised the issue of sexism, the organizers went out of their way to marginalize and actively court harassment of these folks. The problems were pointed out in a calm and rational manner and the response was dimissive arrogance. So yeah, the obvious response to tone-deafness is to try yelling louder.

The suggestion that TAM organisers went out of their way to court the harassment of women is exactly the sort of unsupported slur that is being strewn around by the A+-ers. I'll have no part of it. What I will do is continue to stress to everyone who, so far, has no dog in this fight, to do some serious historical reading before deciding who the bad guys are.

What in your opinion, is more rational position to take when you're no longer welcome within a organization you once actively participated in?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:52 PM on September 11


And this. Resorting to loaded questions. What I would say is that Watson herself has decided she is uncomfortable attending TAM. No one at TAM said she shouldn't attend. I'd also say that, again, having followed this in great detail, I have seen nothing to suggest that Watson need fear anything more than this sort of response at conventions (The shirt, not Thunderf00t's sneering comment. Now he is a bit of an ass.) And that the reason for that is that she has pissed a lot of good people off. Like Harriet Hall in the picture.

I so should not have gotten into this. To revisit these nearly-two-year-long arguments now is a madness. I have the T-shirt.
posted by Decani at 12:08 PM on September 11, 2012


We see people who have lost their sense of proportion. We see something that is fracturing and dividing any semblance of a movement that we thought we had.

Why yes, digging up a blog operated by Jen McCreigh's dad and calling McCreigh a slut (I'm sorry, a "SLUTTY SLUTTY SLUT OF A SLUTDAUGHTER" is divisive! I'm glad you noticed! Maybe we should just tell that guy to calm down.

Whatever one's opinion on Atheism +, it is willful blindness to claim that there is not a serious problem of straight up sexual harassment towards prominent atheist women. And trying to ignore the problem hasn't made it any better.
posted by muddgirl at 12:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


By the way, knowing the power dynamics in those three situations, in two of them it would have been extremely awkward for me to bring up the subject of sexual harassment. Both of the men could have just said "I don't know what she's talking about" and looked "normal" enough to leave it at that. I could have easily looked hysterical, and I'm sure some people would have thought "What is that crazy bitch talking about?"

Only in the third one could I have expected some kind of appropriate response, and that's because it happened on the street, and occasionally other men and women on the street have come to my defense. In "in-group" situations (like conventions) I actually find it's much less likely that people will believe me or assist me in any way, because I'm destroying group cohesion.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


...not Thunderf00t's sneering comment. Now he is a bit of an ass.

Again, understatement of the year. You are clearly involved in the atheist community and I continue to assert that it is blindess to think that Watson or Natalie Reed or Jen McCreigh are the root of atheism's divisiveness.
posted by muddgirl at 12:09 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, in either of those situations it would have been extremely alienating to stand up by myself and say "this happened, there was something wrong with it." Sexual harassment and assault is alienating. Inappropriate behavior toward women is alienating too, because it so often leads to those scenarios. No one I have personally read has pointed to a clueless atheist who did something less than harassment and said anything about it other than "please don't do this," so the response of calling predators predators and apologists apologists is nothing other than trying to hold one's (reasonable) stance.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2012


And again, they think the same on the other side, and argue that enabling assholes is itself unreasonable and divisive.
posted by jeather at 7:56 PM on September 11


I am not enabling assholes. Neither is Russell Blackford. Neither is Jerry Coyne. Neither is Paula Kirby. This relentless suggesting that we are all about defending assholes is precisely the sort of slur that makes us withdraw any support we might once have been inclined to give A+. We're simply not having it. It used to be that when we wanted that sort of lazy dismissiveness we went to religious sites. Now, we get it from those we used to consider our own side, and the amazing thing is that in many cases it's been far more vicious and dishonest than the god squad ever managed.

Okay, this is going nowhere. You simply cannot condense two years of history and argument into one Mefi post. I've said my piece.
posted by Decani at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have seen nothing to suggest that Watson need fear anything more than this sort of response at conventions (The shirt, not Thunderf00t's sneering comment. Now he is a bit of an ass.)

Wait. A man you describe as "an ass" took the photo of the shirt and framed it with what you describe as a "sneering comment."

Why exactly is it that Watson need only fear the sort of response that is on the shirt, and has no need to fear (at minimum) sneering comments from asses?
posted by cairdeas at 12:13 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Again, understatement of the year. You are clearly involved in the atheist community and I continue to assert that it is blindess to think that Watson or Natalie Reed or Jen McCreigh are the root of atheism's divisiveness.
posted by muddgirl at 8:09 PM on September 11


They (and their supporters) are not the only root. But right now they are the biggest by far. And I've had enough of bald assertions. Okay now I really am done. Gah! Must... have... dinner.
posted by Decani at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2012


Now he is a bit of an ass

I'd call this an understatement like whoa. Greta's a personal friend - not an online friend, the kind of friend where we have keys to each other's flats, we run in and out to borrow odd bitters for experimental cocktails, cat-sit each other's cats, and so on. Her partner is one of my oldest friends, from a million years ago in college. Maybe she didn't detail it all out in her blog (which I don't read every day), but the shit he said to her was much much more than "bit of an ass."
posted by rtha at 12:15 PM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Jen McCreight, who runs a blog called Blaghag

Ran. Past tense. Apparently the constant stream of abuse has evidently turned her off of blogging.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:15 PM on September 11, 2012


You simply cannot condense two years of history and argument into one Mefi post.

Many of us here have been keeping an eye on these communities for longer than the last 19 hours. You are not the only person here with an understanding of the context.
posted by grouse at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]




Oh god, if there is one thing I am tired of (though accept is well-meaning) it's the old trope about how if a Real Man saw something like this, they would immediately punch the guy in the face.

Because you know what? I want to punch these guys in the face. When it happens, I want and are capable of punching many of these guys in the face. But if I do, I will wind up on charges of assault, and if I try to defend myself by pointing out that he groped me, the law will point out that the groping was already done, I could have just walked away, etc. etc. The guy will undoubtedly press charges.

But men, by virtue of their privileged status as the enforcers of societal norms in these kinds of situations, they can get attention! They can hit back, to protect the women! They (and only they) can defend righteousness and goodness!

It is just really frustrating. What I want from men who see this situation is to stand up, acknowledge the problem, and give me my own agency.

"I saw what you did, Creeperguy, and it is not okay. I stand with this lady in whatever she chooses to do, and will lend myself to her assistance, including physical force if necessary." would be a lot better than "I am her white knight and know exactly what needs to happen."


LOL nope.

I think it's awesome when people stretch to find sexism in things. This is what drove me away from feminism.

No, nobody's taking away your agency. The problem has clearly been acknowledged, and you're free to do whatever.

I'm merely saying that, in addition to everything else inscrutable about all this, it's amazing to me that other people don't intervene. In other conversations, it has been suggested that women should stand up against such harassment, and the response is commonly "that's easy for men to say, but women are typically at a physical disadvantage." So, in the mix is the question: why, then don't other males intervene?

It's one reasonable question among many.

There's nothing there about white knights, nor denying of agency, nor any such thing. It's perfectly reasonable to suggest that, when a smaller/weaker person is threatened, and a larger/stronger person could intervene, the larger/stronger person has some kind of obligation to do so. Not every offer of assistance involves denying the autonomy of the person who receives aid. Down that road lies Any Rand...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2012


serial harassers often do their thing away from groups (hence, all the talk about being cornered or followed into elevators or lonely streets or empty subway cars) or they have expert ways of hiding in plain sight, giving themselves just enough cover to call their victim "hysterical" if she were to object. they don't really jump up on stage and get everyone's attention and yell out "i am disrespecting this woman as a person and trying to see how far i can push her boundaries!" so all the talk of men jumping in to lend a hand is silly anyway, because if everyone could plainly see it we wouldn't have these conversations every 4-6 weeks.
posted by nadawi at 12:32 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


do you know Schuyler personally? Have you ever interacted with him in any way? Or are you jumping to conclusions about his actions and refusing to see any other possible intention behind them because to acknowledge that his intention might be different from what you are seeing would undermine your worldview?

Palomar, I don't have a huge stake in this fight. I'm just pointing out the following:

1) Schuyler should not have been using the cards. As Corb pointed out, the more beneficial thing to do would have been to let the woman express her view and support her on it.

2) In addition to the fact that he should not have been using the cards, he appears to have been misusing them. When somebody tries to high-five me, it would seem a little bizarre if I were to suddenly accuse them of being creepy towards the girl I was dancing with, especially when she didn't deem it actionable enough to say anything about it herself.

In fact, let me apply your own questions here to Schuyler's behavior. How did Schuyler know the high five was to congratulate him for dancing with an attractive woman? Did Schuyler personally know the guy attempting to high five him? Had he ever interacted with him in any way? Or was he jumping to conclusions about his actions and refusing to see any other possible intention behind them?

3) Schuyler made a self-centered fuss on social media about how he got punched for supporting feminism, which sounds somewhat narcissistic, even if it was not a deliberate attempt to curry favor.

Even if I grant you that maybe his intent was altruistic, the fact remains that these three actions were inappropriate. And intent doesn't pay the bills, you know what I mean? I'm not saying he deserved to have gotten punched, but these three behavior certainly don't sound very mature on his part.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:33 PM on September 11, 2012


What I would say is that Watson herself has decided she is uncomfortable attending TAM. No one at TAM said she shouldn't attend...I have seen nothing to suggest that Watson need fear anything more than this sort of response at conventions

You don't have to go very far to make people feel unwelcome. Selling shirts, making death/rape threats, public figures write open letters calling you a sniveling whiner who doesn't understand the true horrors of the world? I was verbally abused plenty in school and I can smell a bully and that's what Dawkins and D.J. Grothe are. And no, not the intellectual kind.

Feel free to call the A+'s divisive from one end of the Internet to the other, their existence only came about because the organizers and leaders of TAM are a bunch of shitlords. The sooner that's addressed, the sooner the rift will heal.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


serial harassers often do their thing away from groups
posted by nadawi at 2:32 PM on September 11


The last time I was sexually harassed, I was wearing a skirt which, when I sit down, reveals the bottom half of my thighs, and this guy pulled up next to me in traffic, like you do. I wasn't paying any attention to him, just singing along with the radio. I noticed him in my peripheral vision because he was sort of leaning out of his car window, so I looked at him, and he was staring fixedly at my legs. I stopped singing and just looked at him. He finally looked up and did this sort of how you doin' nod and smirk thing, and then the light changed and we both drove on. A bunch of people in his lane took the exit to the interstate, so at the next intersection, he should have been considerably farther ahead of me, but he stopped and had another good stare instead, leaving four or five car lengths in front of his car. That time he didn't look at my face.

At the next intersection he turned so it wasn't like he followed me home or anything. I wasn't in any particular danger, it just sucked. This sort of thing happens often enough that even though I am pretty annoyed by it at the time, I don't really bother to tell people about it, because what is the point. But if I don't mention it, nobody but me and him would ever know it happened. People don't do this to me when I'm driving with my husband.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:37 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How did Schuyler know the high five was to congratulate him for dancing with an attractive woman? Did Schuyler personally know the guy attempting to high five him? Had he ever interacted with him in any way? Or was he jumping to conclusions about his actions and refusing to see any other possible intention behind them?

I gotta say, I'm failing to come up with any other logical explanation for why someone would try to high-five another guy when that other guy was dancing with a woman. In the immortal words of Buffy - I don't think he was jumping to conclusions. I think he just took a step, and conclusions there were.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


In my opinion, the root of divisiveness in atheism is that some people disagree with feminist atheists, and want to silence them, either implicitely (by trolling them hundreds to thousands of times a day with sexual or personal attacks) or explicitely. I often disagree with Greta Christina, but I don't attack her over and over until she shuts down her blog. That is so anti-thetical to my character, and to the character of skepticism, that it personally disgusts me.

What happened to "I disagree with your speech, but I will defend your right to say it?"
posted by muddgirl at 12:40 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I still don't see why Schuyler shouldn't have used the card, or better yet, did not have the right to do so. Especially since the creator of the cards has stated that they were not gender-specific, they were for anyone to use who felt uncomfortable or threatened.
posted by palomar at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


(In fact, last year I found myself in a situation where I was repeatedly spamming someone's Twitter account with accusatory statements - not sexual harassment, or even personal attacks, but I certainly would have been hurt had I been in their shoes. I was disgusted when I reflected on my actions and I shut down my own Twitter account.)
posted by muddgirl at 12:43 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


joannemerriam - oh yes. absolutely. i started mentioning to my husband more when this sort of thing happens as a way to discuss my general anxiety. i'd say 1/5 of my solo grocery store trips involve "some generally normal looking guy followed me around the store and stared weirdly at me and maybe 'accidentally' rubbed against me." it absolutely never happens when my husband and i are together. and it doesn't raise to the level of complaining or punching anyone in the face - but it does add to the background radiation.
posted by nadawi at 12:44 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not like the guy wrote up a huge blogpost about the incident on Gawker. He tweeted about it. Judging from my twitter feed, that puts the incident at the same level of importance as someone's lunch decision.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:45 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


that puts the incident at the same level of importance as someone's lunch decision.
posted by dinty_moore


Eponysterical!
posted by grouse at 12:46 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: Again, I'm not trying to justify anything, I am trying to understand. Would a woman have the same feelings of anger, fear, ect. if propositioned or harassed by a lesbian? Or is it literally the fear associated with maleness and/or rape?

I have been hit on by a few bi women (apparently I read as bi - who knew?) and I can say unequivocally they are some of the times I've been most comfortable being hit on, and most comfortable with communicating I wasn't interested. In one case, I was never even hit on because she knew I was straight, but I found out after the fact that she was attracted to me and would have been more than willing to go there if I was willing. It's always been an option and a request, not an order or an assumption. I've never had one of them touch me while propositioning me, either, and the body language was always slightly turned away and very casual, and we could continue to spend time together afterwards even though I said no.

I can say one difference is that guys who get a "no" for a romantic relationship tend to take it as a "no" for any relationship, which can be awkward and also unwelcome. I'll also say I'm very sensitive to my boundaries now, looking for red flags very early, because I was raped by someone I had a relationship with and loved; in retrospect I can see his red flags, so now I pro-actively look at them with any man I interact with for an extended period of time, just in case. It's a mental safety-map that is probably shaped by the fact I can't actually keep myself from being raped again, since rape is something a rapist decides to do not something a woman causes by behaving "wrong". That is to say, it is futile and over-extended because I am trying to protect myself from something I could inevitably fail to protect myself from. The objects that would trip up a home invader between the front door and my bed are a similar set of mental gymnastics. A ritual for safety, lets say, with some slight advantage since men do target certain women for rape (the other half of the gymnastics is keeping track of other women around me, just in case; I also mentally practice what I could do if I see someone doing ur-rapist behaviors, like putting something in a woman's drink, or cornering a woman in a room).


Fists O'Fury: How is it that guys let other guys get away with the kind of harassment described in some of these pieces?

Well, you know, lunatic over-reactions to anything that can in any way be construed as sexual, and patently false charges of sexism and sexual harassment are far more common than actual sexual harassment, so women must be getting upset over utterly, completely, entirely and unequivocally innocent things that no reasonable man could complain about.


wolfdreams01: I lack much sympathy for the Schuyler guy who got punched for yellow-carding another man that tried to high-five him. It seems clear to me that the intent of the cards is to give women an easy avenue to express when they are being creeped out, and this guy sounds like he was just trying to score feminist brownie points.

I liked the reason he did it - the man Schuyler yellow-carded was attempting to engage in homo-social bonding over the woman that Schuyler had just danced with her - effectively turning her from Schuyler's friend/aquaintence into an object over which he could bond with another man for having "bagged a hottie" or whatever the kids call it these days. I'm completely down with guys yellow-carding other guys for creepy homo-social behavior.

A lot of sexism is more about homo-social bonding between men (and exclusuion of women, or at least relegating us to "our place") than it is about sex with women, and that's a part of sexism which women simply cannot effect - we have no power or influence there. Only men can refuse to bond homo-socially while excluding their female friends, and that's a part of feminism that is critically needed in order for it to advance into full partnership and equality with men.



Decani: Atheism + is a term coined by Jen McCreight, who runs a blog called Blaghag at the Skepchick site. It has been embraced as, in Greta Christina's words, "a thing", predominently by like-minded members of Freethought Blogs network, which includes such folk as PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Matt Dillahunty, Stephanie Zvan, Zinnia Jones and Aron Ra.

PZ Myers hasn't bothered to join the A+ forum where the movement is building, though he does express support.

Ophelia Benson considers it a descriptor or label instead of a movement and has no part in organizing it or setting it up.

Matt Dillahunty's initial words on A+ are here. He is in A+ and is a secular humanist and is an atheist, but won't be calling himself an atheist plusist because he feels he has been one before the designation was coined, and he may stop being aligned with the movement if it becomes something he disagrees with. So far it hasn't.

Stephanie Zvan is part of A+ and is excited about working to make resources accessible to blind and deaf people as part of A+.

Zinnia Jones doesn't seem to be using the term A+ at all, but you guys can check and see at her blog. I went back to Thunderfoot times (when he released some of her private emails to a third party) and found no mention.

Aron Ra is not a member.

BlagHag has left her blog, and her father is having problems with harrassment of her at his blog. She coined the term and verbalized the idea, is staying involved to a small extent but the harrassment of her became really damaging, so she's taking a big step back.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:56 PM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think it's awesome when people stretch to find sexism in things. This is what drove me away from feminism.

We women are so lucky to get the informed opinion of a rational, reformed male feminist.
posted by stagewhisper at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


Also, because I was thinking about this more.

Yes, in general I agree with corb, I think that good allies should support, not take the lead. But this is one of those cases where he wasn't jumping into a situation to white-knight someone, the high-fiver was engaging Schuyler, hoping to elicit a creepy response back (a creepy nonverbal response, but still). This guy put Schuyler in the position to either be rude to the random dude or be rude to the lady he was dancing with, and a true non-response from him (not returning the high five) would have still been considered a response.

Anyway, the framing of this as Schuyler butting into a situation and blundering around in an attempt to look good seems wrong.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or what Deoridhe said a lot less clumsily.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The suggestion that TAM organisers went out of their way to court the harassment of women is exactly the sort of unsupported slur that is being strewn around by the A+-ers. I'll have no part of it. What I will do is continue to stress to everyone who, so far, has no dog in this fight, to do some serious historical reading before deciding who the bad guys are. "

NO REALLY YOU JUST HAVEN'T READ ENOUGH THEOLOGY TO KNOW GOD EXISTS

Ain't no fallacy like an apologist fallacy, amirite?

"This relentless suggesting that we are all about defending assholes is precisely the sort of slur that makes us withdraw any support we might once have been inclined to give A+."

Ah, yes, because if the women don't properly comport themselves, why, it simply isn't worth supporting the idea that feminism and rationality are intertwined, nor that women should be able to go to conferences without feeling harassed. And though you've alluded to the great SLANDERS (the kind that force you to slam your snuffbox closed, no doubt) over people enabling harassment, maybe you could detail what exactly you're doing to stop it aside from golf-clapping Muslima posts?

Perhaps I'd be more likely to treat your protestations as coming from good faith if I didn't remember every single feminism thread on MeFi, in which you almost inexorably complain that women take things too seriously, and after all, shouldn't we be able to say "cunt" in mixed company?
posted by klangklangston at 1:22 PM on September 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


The Atheism "movement" is always going to have a harder time adapting to the modern world because its addicted to always being right and being assholish to anyone that disagrees. Which, when it's not actually right, makes it extremely toxic.

No, it has a hard time adapting to the modern world as it's based in rightwing/libertarian/right-liberal politics and populated by largely middle clas, white men. Even the well meaning ones (Pharyngula frex) are arguing from a priviledged position they don't always see themselves.

Actually, a lot of the problems discussed in the original post are due to the fact that each of these social movements are to some extent dominated by white middle class males and their (our) values have shaped sf fandom, hackerdom and the atheist movement. Self examination for racism, sexism, transphobia et all is not high on the agenda for any of them.

Doesn't make fandom or hackerdom or the atheists bad, just still somewhat toxic.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


In another ain't-it-a-small-world event, turns out Schuyler is a friend of gingerbeer's! She assures me that he is not a white-knighting creepster pseudo-feminist, or whatever is being assumed/alleged upthread. I trust her judgement.
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Many of us here have been keeping an eye on these communities for longer than the last 19 hours. You are not the only person here with an understanding of the context.


Although, to be fair, most of the others are women. Or, you know, faux-feminist creeper white knights. Apparently. Either way.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:52 PM on September 11, 2012


The cards aren't gender specific, and I know men who would be creeped out by another guy high fiving them over dancing with an attractive woman. They are allowed to feel creeped out and like they're being pressured to participate in a weird definition of masculinity which sees women as conquests and to which they don't subscribe. This is a pretty good instance of feminists caring about men and their boundaries and feelings under patriarchy, too. The guy got punched, he's allowed to talk about that in public as far as I'm concerned. My first instinct isn't suspicion, I know men who respect women enough to feel uncomfortable in this situation.

And whether he is a narcissist or not, he got punched! Clearly there was a weird dynamic going on. This innocent high-fiver gets more of a side-eye from me, who punches someone?

Also, in the fringe case of women who like to be publicly groped by strangers: they exist, but focusing on them to any great extent is framing the discussion in terms of a world of men who want to grope strangers, and need to know how and when they can do this. That kind of preference is beyond the pale enough that I think those women just need to communicate that to others-- but also not make creepy come-ons toward men that really don't want to grope them, either. The onus is on people who want to involve strangers in sexual activity (male or female) to be respectful about those kinds of invitations.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:13 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


*that situation
posted by stoneandstar at 2:14 PM on September 11, 2012


In response to PhoBWantKenobi:

However, my first night I mentioned how glad I was to see that and some dude showed me that he had a "BACK UP" ribbon (which was weird, because I thought it was just women) but then also mentioned that he'd been part of the Open Source boob project and continues to be part of similar projects and then went on to talk about what amazing massages he gives and how women have solicited him for sex based on his massages.

As half of the Backup Ribbon Project, let me first express my anger that this happened to you. The Backup Ribbon Project is not limited just to women (although that is the main intent). That being said, this person was clearly not on board with the intent of the Project.

This unfortunately also brings up one of the issues we have been wrestling with -- people who take the ribbons with the intent of using them to hurt other people. We believe the Project should be accessible to as many people as possible, which is why we are relying on the good faith effort of those who request ribbons and hand them out. It has been suggested we implement a screening process, but we feel that will substantially cut down on the number of people willing to participate in good faith. Of course, if anybody has suggestions for how to balance this out, we're all ears!

Again, let me restate that if this person was involved in the Open Source Boob Project, he most assuredly is NOT working in the best interests of the Backup Ribbon Project, the Backup Project as a whole, or women. If you happen to have gotten his name, we would be interested to know. Please feel free to e-mail me at backupribbonproject [at] earthlink [dot] net.

Thanks!

That Word Grrl
http://backupribbonproject.wordpress.com
posted by That Word Grrl at 2:18 PM on September 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


Especially since the creator of the cards has stated that they were not gender-specific, they were for anyone to use who felt uncomfortable or threatened.

When you say "they were not gender-specific, they were for anyone to use who felt uncomfortable or threatened" I would take that to mean "These cards are not just for women to use on men - men can be sexually harassed too and are welcome to use the cards if they feel somebody is creeping on them." And not: "Men can also use them on behalf of women."

Anyway, my most significant point is that I think it was arrogant of Schuyler to presume he knew this random girl well enough that he could act or her behalf. Women are entirely capable of speaking for themselves, and when we men deprive them of that right then I feel that we are doing them a disservice, regardless of how noble our intentions may be. That's my personal belief, and I haven't read anything here compelling enough to change my mind. I recognize that some of you feel differently, and you're certainly entitled to hold a different viewpoint, but on this issue we'll simply have to agree to disagree.

Anyway, this convo is starting to become a little circular, so I'm checking our now. As always, anybody who wants to continue it is free to memail me.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:19 PM on September 11, 2012


Welcome to MetaFilter That Word Grrl!
posted by Blasdelb at 2:20 PM on September 11, 2012


But wolfdreams01, what if he actually did feel uncomfortable, on behalf of himself?
posted by stoneandstar at 2:23 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Anyway, my most significant point is that I think it was arrogant of Schuyler to presume he knew this random girl well enough that he could act or her behalf.

Is that what he was assuming? Why are you assuming this, based on a tweet?
posted by rtha at 2:25 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't understand the argument that "it was arrogant of Schuyler to presume he knew this random girl well enough that he could act or her behalf." It seems very obvious he was not acting on her behalf, he was acting on his own. He felt uncomfortable that some guy was trying to draw him into what he interpreted as a sexist act and he called the guy out on it by handing him the card.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:25 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't get the continued insistence that Schuyler was acting on anyone's behalf but his own. There are plenty of men who are creeped out by other men trying to bond with them by objectifying women. I've seen it in action.
posted by palomar at 3:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


And indicating that they ARE creeped out, and that they DON'T bond over objectifying women, is precisely the ally behavior that we generally encourage.
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


Agreed completely.
posted by cairdeas at 3:14 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


For extra clarity, if any of you dudes ever see me being harassed or sexually assaulted, please jump in. I have no problem letting you know that you've misunderstood and your help is not needed, if that turns out to be the case. I do, however, have a problem with the silence that surrounds harassment and enables the harassers, making them feel like their awful behavior is socially acceptable.
posted by prefpara at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


A lot of assaults, abuses and harrasment seems to happen in a cocoon of complicity or turning a blind eye... Shrugging and moving on. Piercing that cocoon can only be positive.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


And PS, I have had no problem aggressively defending myself in the past. But I do have a problem with the cone of ignoring around the harasser, and I definitionally can't defeat that. This is why allies are so valuable.
posted by prefpara at 3:20 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


In one of These Kinds Of Threads from years past (maybe whatcha reading?), discussion came up around how a random helpful stranger can be helpful by saying something like "Is everything okay here?" Which I think is a great question - it interrupts whatever weird-looking thing is happening, and it gives the people involved a chance to either go away (if they are skeevy) or speak up (if they are being harassed, or if everything really is kosher), and it doesn't (necessarily) ratchet things up to a fight.
posted by rtha at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also, I think there is a certain number of men who are harassers almost as part of their makeup. But I think that number of men is actually tiny compared to the number of men who genuinely believe that what they are doing is okay, normal, benign, and it's not hurting anyone. I think part of the reason that those men get so defensive and resentful when others object to their behavior, is that they have been TOLD by other men since boyhood that this behavior is okay. In that way the defensiveness is kind of understandable to me, like if you have been told something is okay all your life, or even encouraged to do it, or even mocked and belittled if you DON'T do it, it would be upsetting to have someone turn around and castigate you for it.

I think to reach that bigger group of men, OTHER men need to start telling them that the behavior actually isn't okay. They need to start getting different messages from other men.
posted by cairdeas at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


3) Schuyler made a self-centered fuss on social media about how he got punched for supporting feminism, which sounds somewhat narcissistic, even if it was not a deliberate attempt to curry favor.
Bro, if you're finding arguments here frustrating and circular, it might be at least in part because you're coming from a weird place indeed if the paragraph above makes any sense at all.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:53 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This unfortunately also brings up one of the issues we have been wrestling with -- people who take the ribbons with the intent of using them to hurt other people.

Well, here's the thing.

The guy at Readercon? He was clearly fully aware of the language of social justice. He even said that the backup project wasn't something created with the intent of men "white knighting" for women. His blog indicates that he supports Genevieve Valentine. And honestly, I don't doubt that this is all the case, in a way, that he really believes that he's doing good, that any sexual encounters he has come about in a fully consensual way and that he's nothing like Rene Walling. Hell, I suspect that Rene Walling thinks he's nothing like Rene Walling. I truly believe that he--and many men like him--think that it's fully possible to both be good feminist men and engage in heaps of public lascivious sex talk or to be overly aggressive in following women around or making sexual demands because "they're only being friendly" or "they're not like that" or whatever and no one has come out and told them that they're being offensive. Maybe that's on me, on women like me who have felt uncomfortable enough to be silent. I don't know. My instinct, though, is that something like the back up project should be about women helping women. Maybe that's sexist of me, but it feels safest.

In all of these discussions, I keep thinking back to Among Others. (Mild spoilers ahead) There's this scene where Mo has a sexual hook-up with a relative, which she tells herself is okay because Bradbury and other SF writers are into open love. The scene really made my skin crawl, and yet I remember thinking exactly like that, convincing myself these things were okay because the people I respected created a culture where a certain degree of sexual openness was requisite or else you were just displaying your limited intellect or lack of mental elasticity or whatever. I think that that's very present in the SF world, and many other geek subcultures as well, and it feels like just another side of the coin of the patriarchy. It frustrates me a lot. But it also makes me question my own sexual values in a lot of ways. As I get older, I have less tolerance for this stuff, less tolerance for the normalizing of this stuff. Am I a prude now? I probably sure sound like one. I'm not sure that I care.

Apologies if this is rambling. FEELS.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Am I a prude now?

I believe the phrase being used these days is slutprude. Only slutprude can truly encompass the perfidy of women who want to have the choice of with whom they have sex.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:43 PM on September 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


> In my experience, self-proclaimed male feminists can be creepers just as easily as any other man. It's just that when they do it, they claim they were misinterpreted and it's impossible that they'd do anything creepy, because hey - they're feminists!

This is a nice parallel to the "women who actively enjoy being groped in public, for instance, and might seek it out" cited by Joakim Ziegler earlier in the thread. Both are vanishingly tiny segments of humanity trotted out to make a vaguely relevant point that in fact muddy the waters and make discussion of the important things more difficult. Well played!


Not to say anything about the relevance of that point, but I only wish that was a vanishingly tiny segment of humanity - self proclaimed male feminists who use it as a cover for all sorts of shitty behavior. Unfortunately, I work and associate with a lot of male creepers who have learned to mouth the words "collective liberation" as though it were some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card.

And this is a better reflection of where the divide lies. It isn't that those of us who oppose A+ like sexism, or dislike feminism. Many of us have long track records that give the lie to that lazy suggestion. It's that we see overreaction, a suspension of reason, and a rush to condemn. We see divisive, unhelpful behaviour. Perhaps you don't thing "Creeper Cards" and "Backup Ribbons" are a really, really bad idea that could be misused in all sorts of ways all too easy to imagine given the frayed-nerve rage and resentment that is currently festering around this schism.

I really wish you could read a lot of great writings from women in the 60s and 70s about how shittily they were treated, and how often they were told to just stop complaining so the movement could hang together.

Or from black men in the thirties, being told they shouldn't worry about race so they could just let the union hang together.

Can we stop telling people to stay oppressed for fear of dividing movements yet?
posted by corb at 5:36 PM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


-How many times ......
Oh, oh, can I add one of my "latest"s with:

How many times have you been sitting in an otherwise very public place, such as a coffee shop, restaurant, or bookstore, and realized that a man near you was having a full on masturbatory session? Were other people nearby? Did you notice other people noticing this man? Did you still feel safe, or at least safe enough to confront him?

I was sitting in a Starbucks, computer on my lap, coffee and Danish on a table beside me. An old (white hair, stretchy clothes, sunken face) man with dark glasses and short shorts sat across from me, and it was only about 1 1/2 hours later that I noticed over the top of my computer that he was pressing and kneading at his crotch. He'd shudder, and relax, stretch, and restart.

I wrote about it on Facebook as a status in a "this is really happening right now" way (maybe 1 person responded? and then a bunch of my Facebook friends later asked me how my day went, so, yeah). Then I gathered up my stuff, threw away my coffee cup, walked up beside his chair and said "if you insist on masturbating in a public place, perhaps take a porn magazine and retreat into the restroom, you sick preverted fuck."

Yeah, woo for me.
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:51 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I had a guy take his dick fully out of his sweats and masturbate at me in a public library a few years ago. I was trying to work on a paper for school, he kept trying to talk to me, I pointedly put my headphones back on and ignored his advances, and next thing I know, he's glaring at me and wanking away. That was interesting, I've never been aggressively wanked at before or since.

Security couldn't do anything because he hauled ass out of there when I stood up and yelled DO NOT MASTURBATE AT ME, BUDDY!, but the very nice librarian I reported the incident to told me that it's happened to her before, and it sucked, and to go home and make myself a nice cup of tea, and by tea she meant gin.
posted by palomar at 5:57 PM on September 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


Not to say anything about the relevance of that point, but I only wish that was a vanishingly tiny segment of humanity - self proclaimed male feminists who use it as a cover for all sorts of shitty behavior. Unfortunately, I work and associate with a lot of male creepers who have learned to mouth the words "collective liberation" as though it were some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card.

On the plus side, it isn't, so it doesn't work.

I mean, how long did the guy at the top of this thread, who was wearing the backup project button, last before revealing that he was a gigantic creeper? Thirty seconds? Forty-five? I don't think that maps to the chimeric concept of the "white knight", who is apparently prepared to spend his whole life in deep cover, expressing feminist views on the Internet in the hope that one day it might lead to sex, through an arcane method yet to be explained.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:07 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everytime I tell someone about it in a "yeah this happens to real people" way I get an adrenaline rush to flee so didn't finish the post. Oops.

Anyway, I walked out of the Starbucks. Some other guy yelled for me to stop. I didn't because I didn't want to (or have the time to) deal with the "what the hell?" confused nonsense.

I just wanted to add on as well that I'd been following the various Metafilter posts about rape, feminism, that one about not approaching random women, as well as the various sites linked from here, for about a year before that point and that's the only way* I was able to stand up for myself. I didn't know all of these issues and situations existed, or that I had a right to be angry about certain things that have happened to me, before I started reading about it here, so thank you for that.

*Well, that and I was wearing my dog collar "tough girl" getup with my tattoo showing, so I felt like a badass for all of 5 seconds after yelling "Hey!" right next to his chair as my introduction.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:11 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


How many times have you been sitting in an otherwise very public place, such as a coffee shop, restaurant, or bookstore, and realized that a man near you was having a full on masturbatory session?
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:51 PM on September 11


The last time that happened to me was, two, three months ago? The beginning of the summer, I guess. I stopped at the post office to check my PO box on my way home from work. They were closed, so there wasn't anybody around, which is usual. I am always nervous about that, because this is a quiet post office immediately next to noisy railroad tracks and no residences and no businesses open at that hour, and you're going in to an area with a single entrance/exit, which, well.

Anyway, this old guy was sitting in his truck looking at his lap. I thought he was looking through his mail (he was inside his truck, so I could only see him from about mid-shoulder up). He sort of glanced at me as I was going in and then went back to what he was doing. When I came back out, he was still in the same position, so I got concerned, not for my safety, but for his, since it was in the high 90s and his windows were closed and I thought oh god, what if this guy is passed out from the heat, I need to make sure he's okay, so I got my cell phone out and dialed 911 and walked toward his truck with my finger over the send button (both for his safety and for mine, since there was still nobody else around), but when I got closer I saw he was nodding his head and moving one shoulder in the same rhythm and I was all, oh.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:25 PM on September 11, 2012


Overheard from the SMOFs mailing list (a private mailing list for con-runners and other "secret masters of fandom")

Our own Tim Pratt tweets
Wow. This SMOFs mailing list is probably like a Cold War thriller right now. "WHICH ONE OF YOU IS THE MOLE?!"
posted by Zed at 6:45 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


wolfdreams01: I lack much sympathy for the Schuyler guy who got punched for yellow-carding another man that tried to high-five him. It seems clear to me that the intent of the cards is to give women an easy avenue to express when they are being creeped out, and this guy sounds like he was just trying to score feminist brownie points.

It is actually entirely possible that the high five legitimately made Schulyer uncomfortable. I'm a straight man and "locker room talk" and related behavior has always made me uncomfortable, to the point that when I was in middle school and high school I was made fun of and bullied on the assumption that since I find that kind of discourse uncomfortable and distasteful, I must be gay. And I was in middle school and high school at a time and place when that wasn't socially acceptable.

I still find such discourse distasteful and find myself feeling uncomfortable when other men try to engage me in it, and the fact that I was often the target of a sort of collateral-damage-homophobia only added uncomfortableness. So I don't find Shulyer's response surprising; someone trying to high-five me in a similar would have made me uncomfortable too.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:05 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I kind of see both sides on the Schuyler thing. Good for him for calling the guy on his mildly creepy behaviour, I just wish he'd done so in a way that acknowledged the woman as a person who was present rather than passive object in this scenario. A pointed glance in her direction, then back to Mr. Creepy followed by "Really?" and just leaving the guy hanging might've done nicely.
posted by peppermind at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are people spending so much time scrutinizing Schuyler Erle's behavior instead of the guy who punched him in the face? For that matter, why are people spending so much time discussing one of the only male-male interactions in a story about sexism directed against women?
posted by grouse at 8:40 PM on September 11, 2012 [26 favorites]


Why are people spending so much time scrutinizing Schuyler Erle's behavior instead of the guy who punched him in the face?

It's funny how that works, isn't it? How the person doing the violence, the person initially behaving in a sexist manner, gets off so easy in discussions.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:00 PM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think that maps to the chimeric concept of the "white knight", who is apparently prepared to spend his whole life in deep cover, expressing feminist views on the Internet in the hope that one day it might lead to sex, through an arcane method yet to be explained.

I don't want to get fighty about this or anything because I appreciate that there are a range of people who want to support women on these issues, but I've personally been in two "progressive" groups (one anarchist, one more general) where a known rapist was in a position of authority, and it took extreme efforts to convince people not immediately in the know that this had happened at all (it had happened several times, with several people, including his girlfriend), and to do anything at all to his reputation. So, yes, it can happen, and it's pretty creepy to see people totally ignore these concerns as divisive or minor or patently false, for no reason other than that they like the guy, or he's done good things for the movement. It's easy on a message board like this, where people have fought for feminist POVs, and in a feminist thread for people to say "see, people believe her," but in the real world it doesn't always play out that way.

And yeah, seriously, the guy punched another guy, his ass should be on the line. Not Schuyler's. And this conversation is making more of a ruckus about it (and taking focus off the issues at hand) than he was with his tweets or w'evs.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:26 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


- On the other hand, groping women who don't want to be groped by strangers (the majority) is extremely likely to result in anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust, plus it perpetuates sexism – and is in most cases probably illegal.

- So this happens to me all the time at parties I frequent(being groped and/or propositioned) where a large proportion of the males at the party are gay. I have never once felt anger, insult, fear, trauma, and/or disgust? Why is that? Honest question. I don't support men acting in these ways towards women. I guess I am wondering why my reaction is so different? Is it really just because I am a man and not inhabiting the same "psychic" space as most women? I've always taken these incidents as compliments and really thought nothing more of them.

Again, I'm not trying to justify anything, I am trying to understand. Would a woman have the same feelings of anger, fear, ect. if propositioned or harassed by a lesbian? Or is it literally the fear associated with maleness and/or rape?


I find this a very interesting question (sorry I know it's got a few answers already a few dozens comment above, but I only skimmed through and just thought I'd add my own answer for what it's worth at this stage... with pre-emptive apologies for length, just trying to summarise a train of scattered observations). Especially if you widen it to "how are flirting/sexual advances between gay men different from flirting and sexual advances between heterosexual men-women?".

This would be a whole other discussion maybe but in general, ah, I sometimes feel a little bit envious -- and maybe I'm just projecting, maybe it's that a lot of my pop idols when I was a teenager turned out to be gay and since then a little part of me sometimes wishes I'd been born a gay man, so, this could all be all a ton of fantasising silly bullshit but here you go, just my impressions -- based on friends and acquaintances and the stories you hear, and what you see going out in a gay-friendly place, well seems to me the whole thing is a lot easier, because it's devoid of all that historical baggage about traditional gender roles, and of all the confusion or difficulties of that baggage clashing with more modern feminist liberal views and so on.

In other words, at a very basic level: two gay men are on a far more level playing field than a man and a woman, because they're both men, because they don't have that baggage to contend with.

I'm sure there can be creepy gay guys or harassing gay guys but it would still be a man creeping out or bothering another man, it still doesn't come with that load of cultural significance and associations of that situation...

I can see this in anything from innocent respectful flirting to outright strangers-grabbing-strangers in a club and dragging them to the toilets kind of situation. I ended up in a very gay friendly city, and it's also a city with a big club scene, and a good subset of that scene, gay or not, can also be kind of debauched, and you hear stories or see things and think, hmmm, yeah, no, that would have never worked if you'd been a woman, dude. Not in the same way.

(You can also see this in the different ways that love stories between gay men are told in movies, compared to the typical ways man-woman love stories are told, with all the tradition of romances behind that. Maybe it's just that openly gay love stories are newer, but it's precisely that lack of baggage that grants the script and dialogues a lot more freedom and spontaneity. Example: the British film "Weekend", it's very realistic and kind of almost drab in bits but there's still a few scenes that would have been treated, or come across, as corny or artificial or clichéd in a traditional heterosexual romance, because well there are a lot more clichés to deal with there! in society first, and in cinema, and it's rare to find a non-clichéd treatment of heterosexual romances these days...).

But anyway - that's for my totally subjective view of "why it can be so different" betwen gay men.

Another big difference that strikes me in your example is... Parties! Parties are a rather different thing than events like conventions or trade fairs... but that's been said already.

Regardless of different contexts, though, I think most people do know how to approach strangers without bothering them too much, be it with a sexual interest or not. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what people mean by "groped by strangers", but I still cannot imagine it being welcome, unless from people you know, or are deliberately flirting with, and I would not call that "groped by strangers"... to me that means "random person among crowd in street/train/shopping center/public place coming up to you sneakily and putting a hand on your bum, boobs, crotch, etc.".

And, regardless of genders, if you're at a party or in a club and flirting with someone and they start groping, it could be welcome or unwelcome depending on many other factors it'd be impossible to generalise - how they do it, how you flirted up to that moment, if you gave clear signals of welcoming physical contact, and where exactly they are touching you... (Genuine curiosity: as a male, where did you get groped by gay men? a pinch on the butt maybe? or, what, straight for the crotch area? I would imagine the former, if you were ok with it, right?)

One last thing - for me, a reaction of being annoyed and creeped out by the kind of sexual advance from strangers that is unwelcome or annoying or unwanted has nothing to do with "fear of maleness" (that's a big jump to make there!) or thoughts of rape, it's really a lot more basic - it's not wanting to be bothered or have your own space invaded by a stranger in uninvited ways, especially if it's sexual because your own sexual space is the most private thing you have. Isn't it obvious? More so in a public space where flirting is not one of the main aspects of the situation like it can be at parties.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:08 AM on September 12, 2012


So, yes, it can happen, and it's pretty creepy to see people totally ignore these concerns as divisive or minor or patently false, for no reason other than that they like the guy, or he's done good things for the movement.

I take your point entirely - I think I was thinking of a different scenario. People with established peer relationships doing bad things, and then being defended by those peers because they are not bad people, or because the broader goals of the group are more important than people within the group actually sticking to the ideals underpinning them (which is seen in the "he's just socially awkward/friendly/drunk/an eccentric genius/stressed out by the demands of the Cause, be the bigger person/think of the impact it would have on his career/the con/the office/the Cause and don't make him feel bad/report him") is absolutely a problem, and I wouldn't want to suggest otherwise for a minute.

The scenario I'm thinking of is, on one side, the "white knight" myth, which people tend to tell each other to normalize their own collusion with misogyny. That, specifically, men espousing feminist viewpoints (or simply disagreeing with the speaker on a gender issue) must not be doing so in good faith, but can be immediately identified as only doing so in the hope of getting sex (through means which are generally not entirely clear). It's the position which decides that it can interpret confidently what, say, Schuyler Erle's motivation was, and then selectively interpret the facts to support that interpretation - for example, by reading a tweet as a boast or mating call rather than a status update.

That's an external read. And another side of that coin is the Backup Ribbon-sporting creeper, who immediately revealed within a few seconds of conversation that he was a creeper, and would probably do so within seconds of anyone looking to him for legitimate backup when being creeped upon. These are in-group in the sense that everyone involved would be at the same convention, but there is not an established social investment or hierarchical relationship between the people involved.

(Obviously, That Word Girl would be better equipped to comment, but my understanding is that the "Gentlemen's Auxiliary" is not immediately conceived of as the best group to wear ribbons because it's relatively unlikely that a woman being creeped on by a strange man will look for support from another strange man.)

In-group negotiations, and the instinct to throw lower-status members under the bus to avoid having to confront issues affecting higher-status members are, I think, a related issue, and a serious one. An example from within the thread would be the situation at ReaderCon, where what was avowed as an unconditional policy on harassment was revealed to be conditional in the face of in-group peer relations...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:04 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That, specifically, men espousing feminist viewpoints (or simply disagreeing with the speaker on a gender issue) must not be doing so in good faith, but can be immediately identified as only doing so in the hope of getting sex (through means which are generally not entirely clear). It's the position which decides that it can interpret confidently what, say, Schuyler Erle's motivation was, and then selectively interpret the facts to support that interpretation - for example, by reading a tweet as a boast or mating call rather than a status update.

Oh, yeah! No, I don't think I was talking about Schuyler Erie at all, nor do I have any problem with his actions, just expressing my frustration with the scenario of false cover. What you are talking about sounds awful, and yes, I don't think I've actually encountered any male who was faking feminist cred in order to get sex. I just have met males who fake feminist cred in order to cover their own bad behavior - to flaunt "feminist in group" as a way of turning aside repercussions for their actions. So more like, "I couldn't have been treating you in sexist ways! I was at the Male Ally meeting last week! I am totally willing to tell you exactly how you may express your liberation!"
posted by corb at 6:19 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Make a serious effort to not make this about individual people. This thread doesn't have to be the mess a small group of people seem to be steering it towards. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 AM on September 12, 2012


Yeah, sorry, Corb, I think I explained myself badly and trampled on the sense, a bit. There are certainly different things happening between stranger-at-con encounters and integrated-into-group encounters.

Actually, in the context of which the (anecdotal and unverified, AFAIK) "overheard on SMOF" tumblr stream is interesting, because you can see the language being turned around, either for humorous effect or for what at least seem to be sincere rhetorical purposes - so, the reporting of harassment being described as "abuse", or "community self-policing" being used to describe rallying group denials of positions advanced by "trolls". It's kind of linguistically promulgating this transverse view - where the problem is the malicious reporting of imagined harassment at conventions, and thus putting conference organizers in the invidious position of having to decide whether and how to apply their harassment policies.

For the organizers, of course, what are stranger-at-con encounters for the person having them may have integrated-into-group signficance...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:45 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've actually encountered any male who was faking feminist cred in order to get sex.
posted by corb at 8:19 AM on September 12


I have, multiple times, but notably, only in college. Their real intentions came out pretty quickly. I don't think it's a particularly successful strategy for getting laid.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have, multiple times, but notably, only in college.

This is definitely a college thing as well as sometimes a thing that occasionally works in super-progressive/activist "with us or against us" situations where establishing feminist cred to get into people's pants was A Thing. And, as stoneandstar indicates above, is often a thing that a lot of groups have to deal with at some level because you wind up in really awkward "You know that guy who is the head of the Men Supporting Women Task Force? He's actually sort of a creeper..." situations. This is the exception rather than the rule, most dudes are great, etc etc, but this sort of thing can really toss a wrench into things because you have people who are really used to identifying with a cause and they then have to differentiate what is really-identifying [i.e. walking the talk, see also SNCC and SDS's gender problems] and what is people giving lip service to an idea, or maybe even believing it themselves in a general level, but also perpetuating age-old stereotypes. And then you have to argue about how much it's any one person or community's job to, with every action and vocalization, actively work to combat stereotypes and not just not perpetuate them. It's tiring and many activist communities can really devour themselves over where they decide to draw or not draw the line.
posted by jessamyn at 8:34 AM on September 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Relevant
posted by bq at 10:15 AM on September 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


bq, that's a great piece. Thank you.

This is how I’d felt all my life, like my job was to not be easy prey. But this was a professional field, not the fucking Serengeti.
...
It was always the ones that said they didn’t see gender or color who did the most damage. “They’re just words,” they would say, “Why do you let them hurt you?” And with that, my pain was made as invisible as me. “They’re just words.” Indeed, just the verbal incantations of power, like law and code and everything else that made the world. I decided to leave tech for words.

Fuck yeah.
posted by rtha at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


a guy pretending to be a feminist (or really believing he is one) and being a creeper is sadly a thing that happens. i'm not saying be suspicious of every man who wants to talk about gender inequalities because most of them are fighting the good fight - but it is good to be aware that just because someone knows the literature doesn't mean their safe.

the second story that kathleen hanna (of bikini kill/le tigre) tells here [discussions of rape] is sadly not one of a kind.
posted by nadawi at 11:01 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have, multiple times, but notably, only in college. Their real intentions came out pretty quickly. I don't think it's a particularly successful strategy for getting laid.

This is definitely a college thing as well as sometimes a thing that occasionally works in super-progressive/activist "with us or against us" situations where establishing feminist cred to get into people's pants was A Thing.


Actually, I don't think phrasing this as a "college thing" would be very accurate. I think this happens at all ages - it's just that as "feminist" creepers mature, they get better at hiding it.

This is not to say that all male feminists are creepers - far from it! I never made that claim, and any attempts to characterize me as having said that are bad-faith distortions. I simply think that there is a larger percentage of FemiCreepers than many people realize and I find it dismaying that some people on MetaFilter seem to be in such complete and utter denial about it, claiming that it is a "vanishingly tiny segment of humanity."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:58 AM on September 12, 2012


"claiming that it is a "vanishingly tiny segment of humanity.""

But it really is. And while they can do disproportionate harms, devoting much discussion to them in a larger discussion about creepers is largely a waste of time.

I mean, think it through: The number of men who identify as active feminists is a minority; the vast majority of them are legit; the ones that aren't are pretty few. Likewise, I'd even venture that the majority of men aren't creepers. Any time that you start dividing a minority into a minority into a minority, your ability to generalize suffers.

So, it's not really a denial, it's a re-orientation toward relative frequency — FemiCreepers are a vanishingly tiny segment of humanity, and discussion of them can run towards the fallacy of misleading vividness pretty easily.
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Actually, I don't think phrasing this as a "college thing" would be very accurate.

Actually, I think you telling people that they are wrong because you have your own data points that point in a different direction is not a useful rhetorical strategy.

If folks mostly agree on this, you might want to find ways to discuss this topic that are less you-control-the-room oriented. If you want to talk about something languagehat said, feel free to engage him directly rather than just hyperbolizing about his approach as if he wasn't also in this discussion.

Most feminist men are legit. A small subset are creepers. Splitting hairs about this more than that starts getting super reductive and not really helpful to the overall issue.
posted by jessamyn at 12:34 PM on September 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Just one creeper-who-calls-himself-feminist can do a lot of damage. It's like how most men aren't rapists, but most rapists rape a lot of women; most feminist men aren't creepers, but the creepers do a lot of damage and get a lot of defending, which further strains things within movements and cuts people off from each other.

I'm a big fan of self- and other- policing as a matter of course as part of being part of any progressive movement. Granted, I already self-police heavily as part of my day job, but once the mental figure tracking how people react to me is in place it takes little effort to maintain (other people may well have different experiences; I am in a job I was made for).

Here's what I do:

1) Track interactions with others, flagging anything that seems off. Look especially for covert emotional expressions and forced smiles - both are signs you may have just made the other person uncomfortable.

For example, when I was in my late teens I was at a CVS buying things, and asked the woman behind the counter how to pronounce her name (it was unusual to me) then said it was pretty. I noticed her response wasn't a wide smile and eye contact, but rather a constrained smile and hidden signs of anger while looking down. My mom did not percieve the same thing, commenting that I must have "made her night". Several years later, I came across "Customers Suck" the forum on LiveJournal and read about how irritating it is for customers to comment on name-tags and ask how to pronounce things, and most of the subtext I missed was explained. A couple years after that, I ran across a blog post written by a black woman (the woman behind the counter was likely black) who talked about how othering it was for white people to act like her African-based name, which was common there, was this exotic thing. The rest of the subtext was then explained to me.

Since then, I've made a point of "flagging" responses I got which I didn't expect and then trying to figure out where I misunderstood what was going on. It's been invaluable in checking the times I was the straw on the camel-back of someone who went away rather than call me on my privilege. Unfortunately, the insight usually comes years later.

2) Figure out shorthands to tell the difference between feedback given in good faith and feedback that is not. As a corrollary, I assume anyone I am trying to be an ally to is always giving feedback in good faith and thank them, even if my back is bristling to defend myself. Then I go away and think about it really hard.

3) Figure out the undercurrent rationals of what I believe and support, and then practice understanding when people are agreeing me but using different words, and when people are disagreeing with me but using the same words. This also counts for understanding other peoples' perspectives so that I can find out where the differences are when I'm dealing with allies acting in good faith.

For example, earlier in this thread was a discussion of a discrete event with a male using the anti-harrassment yellow card created by a woman as a response to sexual harrassment. There were two ways of viewing the interaction:

A) The woman was the main target and the man was incidental, therefore it falls to the woman to decide whether something was harrassment. This is a reasonable conclusion since by and large sexism aimed at women by men is often about them being attractive and a woman was involved, and so people objected to the man's behavior as speaking for the woman instead of letting her speak for herself - another common problem in male/female relations which is difficult to spot and counter. Since the woman was incidental, and since a lot of feminists have an antenna to pick up the unspoken exclusion of women, this conclusion is a reasonable assessment of the situation.

However, I disagree with it because I believe:

B) The man was the main target and the woman was incidental, and the sexist assumptions were aimed at both of them - at the woman via her appearance being the only important thing about her, and at the man as agreeing with the harrasser. If the man did not agree with the harrasser, than he is the target of the sexist act as well - he is assumed to be an ally where he is not and therefore he can act on his own behalf to counter sexism that is aimed at both of them. In this case, the man is not speaking for the woman, but rather speaking for himself - even if she is comfortable with the interaction, he was not.

Now, my understanding of sexism is very complicated and may not be agreed with by all feminists - nor to I expect it to be. I happen to believe that sexism can be aimed directly at men with women as incidental as a form of homo-social bonding, and that the homo-social sexism needs to be handled in house (women have a similar sexist, homo-social bonding, usually over how fat/ugly/slutty we/they are, and things aimed at trans gendered and genderqueer people are just viscious). Other people - people I like and usually agree with - may disagree. Learning how to identify, clarify, and then possibly hold these differences respectfully is a major part of self- and other- policing, as far as I'm concerned.

In this case, someone who believes A is true I can work with on a lot of things, but we're always going to disagree about why and how men are involved in feminism - and that's ok! That's good, even. The point of view that part of feminism needs to be entirely woman-focused is hugely valuable, and I don't want to insult or alienate myself from people who believe that, even while maintaining my own different perspective. I honestly think more perspectives based out of the same basic values are very important.

4) Embracing differences and encouraging dissent while discouraging cruelty and harm where-ever possible.

This one is a lot harder than it sounds, and I don't have any easy methods for managing it yet.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:37 PM on September 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


"claiming that it is a "vanishingly tiny segment of humanity.""

But it really is.
Perhaps this is a minor point to make, but I will point out that that's not something you can really know. Note, also, that the majority of people in the thread who've affirmed that it's not an entirely insignificant issue have been women, while all who've leaned on it not being worth much attention have been men.
posted by Anything at 3:50 PM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


By that I mean who've not merely leaned that way, but made a point of arguing it.
posted by Anything at 3:53 PM on September 12, 2012


(But indeed this risks a derail so that's all I at least care to say on that one.)
posted by Anything at 4:05 PM on September 12, 2012


most feminist men aren't creepers, but the creepers do a lot of damage and get a lot of defending,

And maybe more to the point, "feminist" creepers are the ones you are the most likely to encounter in some of these settings, so thinking through the ways a pseudo-feminist creeper is going to co-opt these kinds of anti-creeper ideas is a super important step, strategically.
posted by Forktine at 4:17 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry, languagehat. You're way offbase here. "Feminist" creepers are a huge thing, right up there with the older guys who tell young women that you have an "old soul" or the guys who talk about how women are better than men. And boy, they try to pull some SHIT because, hey! They aren't the bad guys!

On a related note, also, I naively chose my grad school based on the feminist writings of one of the male professors in the department and he was totally That Guy- the one who talks to his female students' breasts, who rates women on their body types, stares at his female students' butts, gives perks to the women who are flirty, etc. What a disappointment! Fortunately, the women in our class universally reviled this behavior and if one of them used it to her advantage, I didn't see it. Was it Chandler who said that you have an author you admire, you should make sure to never meet them? This guy was yet another bit of evidence to support that statement.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:59 PM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


the second story that kathleen hanna (of bikini kill/le tigre) tells here [discussions of rape] is sadly not one of a kind.

Ahh man, that story made me feel sick to my stomach.
posted by cairdeas at 6:54 PM on September 12, 2012


Douchebag, or, Pseudo-Feminist Hippie Douchebag by Robbie Q Telfer
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:18 PM on September 12, 2012


NK Jemisin is great. She wrote a great thing on this.
posted by NoraReed at 9:55 PM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


We Don’t Do That Anymore - Oh man, Asimov...

Wow, I had no idea Asimov's butt-pinching at cons was so well-known that convention organizers joked about it in 1961 to the point that they offered him a chance to give a talk called "The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching." It doesn't surprise me, though. I've been reading the Hugo-winning short story collections, and have been shocked to find that regardless of the era Asimov consistently offered atrocious sexist garbage in his introductions to stories by women writers. Imagine being Octavia Butler and reading this as the first paragraph on the page before your amazing story "Speech Sounds"in the first New Hugo Winners collection:

Here is Octavia Butler, the third of the women represented by stories in this volume. I have never met her, but I would certainly like to, for she is described to me as a large and impressive woman over six feet tall--and I like to admire statuesque women.

My jaw just dropped. What an asshole. And this is in the mid-80s. We won't even talk about how he handles himself in the anthology that came out just after James Tiptree, Jr. was revealed to be a woman. And then, of course, there was his 1972 book The Sensuous Dirty Old Man. I know it's a joke, riffing off the "Sensuous Woman/Sensuous Man" books from a few years earlier, but taken with the rest of his sexual oeuvre, it does him no favors. Ugh.

(And for god's sake don't get me started on the overrated idiocy of the "Foundation" stuff.)
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, an awful lot of kidding on the square in that Dirty Old Man book. It's a cliche and a lame excuse ti say someone was a product of their era, boy was he a product of his era and then some.

I still like his stuff, mind. Hell, I still like the guy but sheesh...
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on September 13, 2012


NK Jemisin manages to be fantastic in every single way. It must be tiring being that amazing all the time. I don't know how she does it.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a wonderful, plot-twisty, immersive epic fantasy novel, if anyone else is reading this thread and would like to support her. It's the first of a trilogy, but it works well enough on its own, too.

Anyway, following the SMOF tumblr today, and wow.

“God, femnazis, the Gen-Y so called psuedo feminists, make me sooooo ANGRY. What the hell did I burn my bra for all those years ago I ask of these delicate flowers? Most don?t even know about the early womens’ movement let alone the battles women fought. And don’t get me started on those dweebs who have INDEXED all the comments, threads, blogs etc etc about The Scandal. Get out of your parents’ basement, cut your hair and get a real job!”

And

“The thread here on SMOFs (it sure ain’t a debate) is totally, whimp-arsed, touchy-feely bullshit. FFS, 60 years on, and people are still banging on about ‘feeling’ safe. “Ooooh, dweeeby guy is looking at me across the room. I am so afraid. Make safe spaces so I, the delicate Gen-Y blossom, can exercise my right to ‘feel’ safe.” Make it safe yourself, sister, is what I say.”

I keep on trying to formulate a response that's a little more elaborate than 'fuck you', and am completely failing.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:40 AM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think you have it covered.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's a really similar sentiment to what I hear from older leftist activists, especially about the Occupy Wallstreet movement.

"WE knew how to protest! These young whippersnappers just too lazy."
posted by muddgirl at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2012


Occupy kind of has so e issues of its own, about which they are worse and more defensive than even the Atheists.
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, Occupy has its issues. So did the mid-century Civil Rights or Feminist movements. But "young people have different problems than we did" is not really a criticism. It's golden ageism.
posted by muddgirl at 10:16 AM on September 13, 2012


(Also, with all this talk about 'creepy male pseudo-feminists', we've completely ignored the female faux-feminist who wonders "What the hell did I burn my bra for all those years ago I ask of these delicate flowers?"
...contributing editor Lindsy Van Gelder confessed that she herself, as a young reporter for the New York Post, had given the false
tale its start. Sent to do a humor piece on the demonstration, she attempted to turn her assignment into a vehicle for showcasing the validity of the movement by linking it to the Vietnam War protests which, unlike the women's liberation protests, were at least being taken seriously by the press. She made reference to (hypothetical) bra-burning as a way of piggybacking the zap actions at the Miss America Pageant onto the established credibility of the draft resistance movement by implying by suggestion that if young American men were burning their draft cards in protest over being oppressed, then young American women were burning their bras in protest of the same evil (albeit in their case perpetrated by a different oppressor).
Ironic.
posted by muddgirl at 10:29 AM on September 13, 2012


Make it safe yourself, sister, is what I say.”

Of course, whenever we do try to do this, we get told we're doing it wrong. Try to talk about it? Wrong. Encourage adoption of formal anti-harassment policies? Wrong. Hand out cards? Wrong. Kick creepers in the nuts? Wrong.
posted by rtha at 11:03 AM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, all of the "you're such a delicate flower who wants everyone to do things for you" when applied to women who, for example, want solid, enforced anti-harassment policies and for the insurance they pay for to cover medically necessary prescriptions of hormonal birth control, is just another ad hominem. It's making claims about the wants and personality of a person as a means of dismissing their argument without engaging with it, and it is both pathetic and, unfortunately, seemingly effective.

Look at how Sandra Fluke is portrayed as the woman who wants to be paid to have sex, when her argument was that the health care that peers of her pay for should cover the treatment they needed for fibroids. It's sick.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


It takes some mental gymnastics to understand how an aggressive stance on sexual harassment can be characterized as wimpy. The same actions are considered bullying elsewhere.

There's also this quote, which went up shortly after I posted the last two:

“Realize that in today’s society—even (alas) fannish (yup, not all fans are slans) society—some kinds of dress/behavior are sexually charged. (Is this right?—not really. You don’t ask to be raped by wearing a short skirt, etc. But—my statement is (still and unfortunately) true.) In other words, if you’re walking around with your boobs hanging out, be prepared to have them noticed (well, if you didn’t expect them to be noticed, why are you dressed that way?) Understand that some of this notice isn’t what you bargained for; if so, adjust your dress/behavior in some way to alleviate the situation.”

My local con, CONvergence, put up these signs this year, along with others that encouraged people to report harassment to volunteers. I don't know how effective it was, I personally didn't feel harassed during the con, but I'm glad they were there, and it helped me feel like the con ops were on my side. CONvergence has a party atmosphere: all of the hotel rooms around the pool are open themed party rooms, and a good number of them serve alcohol (the Skepchicks give out vodka and tang in test tubes). It is possible to have a fun atmosphere and still discourage harassment at a sci-fi con, and at least some cons are trying.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:48 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Understand that some of this notice isn’t what you bargained for; if so, adjust your dress/behavior in some way to alleviate the situation.

Bullllllllllllshit. I can't believe people are still making this completely incorrect claim that women are only harassed, or are harassed more, when they're dressed provocatively.
posted by muddgirl at 12:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Asimov might just have been the quintessential social awkward nerd turned sexual predator, the sort of guy who never learned to actually deal with women as proper human beings, who used and abused his status within a geek community to get laid. I always knew he was a bit of a womaniser, but the more you read about how he went about it, the more you realise he must've been a hell of a creep.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2012


Bullllllllllllshit. I can't believe people are still making this completely incorrect claim that women are only harassed, or are harassed more, when they're dressed provocatively.

Preach it.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love the "Don't harsh the squee" one.

I loved the attention when I was in costume at cons. Hel, I carried around a basket with a sign saying "Free onigiri" on it (the character I dressed up as, Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket, is associated both with onigiri and with giving other people things; I had spent the previous few days making a hundred onigiri) hopign people would ask for some! I can't count the number of people I fed (including one staff person I forced to take two, and a few people in the artists alley who hadn't had lunch). I would still have been less than pleased if someone groped me, or even touched me.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


...contributing editor Lindsy Van Gelder confessed that she herself, as a young reporter for the New York Post, had given the false [bra-burning] tale its start.

Snopes misses one key point in its writeup (why does that always seem to be the case with Snopes?). As pointed out in the recent Shulamith Firestone obit thread, one of the organizers of the 1968 Miss America protest has said that the protesters did intend to burn the bras/makeup/high heels/etc in the big trash can, but the Atlantic City cops wouldn't let them:

About 400 women were drawn together from across the United States to a protest outside the event. The women symbolically threw a number of feminine products into a large trash can. These included mops, pots and pans, Playboy magazines, false eyelashes, high-heeled shoes, curlers, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, and bras, items the protestors called "instruments of female torture." Carol Hanisch, one of the protest organizers, said "We had intended to burn it, but the police department, since we were on the boardwalk, wouldn't let us do the burning."
posted by mediareport at 5:34 AM on September 14, 2012


That's interesting, mediareport, but I don't think it changes the fact that the question, "What did we burn our bras for?" along with the claim that "young feminists don't know their history," is ironic.
posted by muddgirl at 7:08 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Understand that some of this notice isn’t what you bargained for; if so, adjust your dress/behavior in some way to alleviate the situation.

Holy CRAP is that insane.

I've really been enjoying this thread. I've been following silently, and I'm so happy to see the productive discussion going on here.

And I'm now a total fan of Genevieve Valentine for handling herself so well after putting up with the bullshit she's had to go through. I also think it's fantastic that although the board of ReaderCon balked originally at doing what their policy said they would do, the ReaderCon community came out in droves, petitioned the board and pressured them to do the right thing. I know I'd feel a lot more comfortable going to that con now, knowing that Rene Walling won't be there.
posted by misha at 8:48 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's been mentioned here, but one can see the magnitude of the response to Readercon in this petition, signed by lots of people who've been guests, panelists, members, dealers, concom:

Petition and part 2. They were really left with no choice -- this was clearly going to kill the con if the board didn't resign and the con didn't make an obvious commitment to not tolerate harrassment.
posted by Zed at 9:57 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Good.
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Erle found out the hard way that handing out cards stating, "You should be happy you got a card and not a punch in the face" is a dare.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2012


Erle found out the hard way that handing out cards stating, "You should be happy you got a card and not a punch in the face" is a dare.

Ha - suddenly it all makes perfect sense! When Schuyler Erle yellow-carded the high-fiving gentleman, that man's natural response was to reciprocate by red-carding Erle. But after checking his pockets, he realized that he had run out of red cards, and so he had to give out the punch in the face promised on said card instead.

Mystery solved!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2012


> I guess what I was getting at was that since people indeed get to set their own boundaries, and all people are different,
> the boundaries will vary, and thus it's conceivable that what's appropriate and what's not is not always clear-cut and obvious for the
> other party. I guess it annoys me slightly that everyone's acting like all this is always obvious and clear-cut all the time, when it's not.

Late to the thread. But this has been a known problem for like thousands of years, hasn't it, that we aren't mindreaders? And there's been a very well known convention for dealing with the problem for just about that long: gentlemen don't push other people's boundaries just to find out where they are. One assumes the most restrictive boundaries as the default, and respects those for everyone he meets, unless and until he's invited to cross them.

Can this be so old-fashioned that it's been totally forgotten?
posted by jfuller at 11:59 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ha - suddenly it all makes perfect sense! When Schuyler Erle yellow-carded the high-fiving gentleman, that man's natural response was to reciprocate by red-carding Erle. But after checking his pockets, he realized that he had run out of red cards, and so he had to give out the punch in the face promised on said card instead.

Mystery solved!


Dude, it is OK if you don't win the thread. You can still have fun participating.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:49 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Late to the thread. But this has been a known problem for like thousands of years, hasn't it, that we aren't mindreaders? And there's been a very well known convention for dealing with the problem for just about that long: gentlemen don't push other people's boundaries just to find out where they are. One assumes the most restrictive boundaries as the default, and respects those for everyone he meets, unless and until he's invited to cross them.

Can this be so old-fashioned that it's been totally forgotten?
"

As has been mentioned up thread, what is old fashioned at cons was so, so much worse than even the sorry state of things today. There will always be creepers and deuchbags who don't care about people's boundaries; what is truely offensive is how they have always been, and to a sickening extent still are, actively enabled in fandom. They are a problem that something can indeed be done about and there are still to many who are not only looking the other way but attacking those who refuse to.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:08 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


what is truely offensive is how they have always been, and to a sickening extent still are, actively enabled in fandom

My knee-jerk reaction to this was to defend fandom, but then I remembered everything under discussion and I think we can safely conclude that my knee is an idiot.
posted by Zed at 9:28 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think it changes the fact that the question, "What did we burn our bras for?" along with the claim that "young feminists don't know their history," is ironic.

Sure, muddgirl, and the irony is the least of that "back in my day" idiocy's problems. There's just been so much debunking of the Bras Were Burned "myth" that I think it's important to keep the record clear that bras (and other icons of femininity) were indeed intended to be burned that day.
posted by mediareport at 6:31 AM on September 15, 2012


Never red the comments, cont...

Crap People Say About Sexual Harassment
posted by Artw at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


As has been mentioned up thread, what is old fashioned at cons was so, so much worse than even the sorry state of things today. There will always be creepers and deuchbags who don't care about people's boundaries; what is truely offensive is how they have always been, and to a sickening extent still are, actively enabled in fandom.

I think he was going back a little farther than that.

My Victorian etiquette book says that a gentleman may not nod to a lady or lift his hat in the street or otherwise acknowledge or speak to her unless she makes the first move to speak to him. If she chooses not to do so, he must move on.

The Victorians: pretty crazy, but the etiquette does seem to make shutting down creepers easier.
posted by corb at 10:04 PM on September 15, 2012


I am not a puzzle-box
posted by msalt at 6:05 AM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I think he was going back a little farther than that.

Not that I was specifically recommending Victorian practice. Just responding to the point made upthread that everyone has different boundaries, attentions that some may welcome others will find completely unwelcome, and if you don't know somebody you can't know by ESP where that person draws the line, so what to do? By observing that this has been a common problem of personal relations since forever and the only non-asshole what-to-do answer we've ever found is to assume, always, that any sort of intimate attention is not welcome. And just wait patiently and hopefully for the person you find attractive to let you know that a closer approach would be OK.

There are ways beyond number to attract someone's attention and interest without being a boor. There are likewise ways beyond number (especially nowadays) for that person to signal that the attraction you feel is becoming mutual. But you just have to wait, and this is not any kind of recent discovery.
posted by jfuller at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


My Victorian etiquette book says that a gentleman may not nod to a lady or lift his hat in the street or otherwise acknowledge or speak to her unless she makes the first move to speak to him. If she chooses not to do so, he must move on.

This would be why rape of social inferiors were more common than rape of equals (unless you were married and then it "wasn't rape".) Droit de Seigneur is a serious historical problem, made the lives of poorer and working women miserable, and helped enforce the social divide between Ladies and women.

Interestingly, this class distinction continues to be a problem in feminism, where - at least historically - there was a push for every woman to become a Lady in terms of behavior as well as expected treatment, with women who didn't act like Ladies somehow deserving worse treatment. It's not spoken of much now in contemporary feminism either, but the class issues are one of my mental triggers because I'm trying to understand it.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:11 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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