Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Waving a dildo for social justice

The Atheism+ crowd is outraged! What happened?


Atheism+ comes to the rescue with a "Fuck the police"




... The link was tweeted and PZ Myers was immediately on the case. In a post titled "Ian Murphy is going to jail…", PZ writes:

…for videotaping a policeman and interviewing National Organization for Marriage wackaloons with a dildo. His appeal has been denied so he’s expected to turn himself in to serve the remainder of his sentence…a few weeks.
What has happened to American journalism? A reporter gets arrested for mocking some walking talking dildos with a small plastic version, yet the apologists wanking on the opinion pages of the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal, performing for the pleasures of the bankers and other bloated pigs who’ve been fucking over the country, get off free. As long as we’re arresting journalists, there are a few articles by Friedman and Brooks that are true crimes…and hey, shouldn’t Arianna Huffington be doing hard time for poisoning the left wing press and turning it into a joke?

Things are so ridiculous even a few Pharyngula commenters are catching on, pointing out that Ian is going to jail because he walked out on community service and that it would be more a problem with the legal system than "American journalism".

Unless, of course, there was ever a time that journalism was defined as waving dildos at people.

And as a brief commentary, some comments are even pointing out the ridiculousness of FTB ads:

Thumper (#14)
Uh, PZ? That link goes to an anal porn page. With graphic pictures. I’m at work. That was a shock.
Anri (#17)
Aw, heck, I wanted it to help Reduce My Electrical Bills With The Technique Power Companies Hate like those awesome pop-up ads the site’s hawking!
AJ Milne (#21)
Umm… Re this porn thing: both these links point to the Buffalo Beast‘s site. They’re an alt weekly out of Buffalo, NY… And I see no porn, and the ads I’m getting in their margins with the few browsers I tried are all pretty much general audience, and I use no ad blocker
I’m thinking of a few possibilities for folk getting other stuff. 
The one I guess Ed or PZ might want to look to, tho’, is the occasional popup ad thing that does seem to happen at FTB in some browsers (I see them on mobile, sometimes), and maybe something more than a mite racy has wound up in that pipe? So some folk are getting this stuff in a popup over the Beast as they go there?

Yes, popups happen. Especially on crappy "social justice" sites.

Back to the subject of dildos, many of the FTB fans are speaking of the demise of freedom and free speech in America.

Also they lampoon the "think of the children" rhetoric that circles the legal system:
moarscienceplz (#6)
But, but, but, what if a little girl saw that plastic penis? We can’t let children see sex treated as if it was just a normal part of life, they might start thinking that it IS just a normal part of life! Will someone PULEEZE think of the children!!!!1!!!1!!
/snark
Ah yes, "snark". Recall that Watson is apparently "queen of snark".

Let's take a step back here.

What is harassment? In particular, what is harassment, abuse or at the very least sexist to these social justice warriors?

  1. The c-word. Definitely the c-word.
  2. Asking someone for coffee in an elevator
  3. Sharing a dongle joke with a friend within earshot of a female.
  4. Saying bad things about Islam
  5. Questioning whether or not "feminists" should be allowed to physically assault people on the bus.
  6. Concocting a spaghetti-based parody of religion
  7. Only showing parts of a body (it's objectification). Perhaps in this case, a dildo doesn't qualify as an object.
  8. Suggesting any activity might be a "guy thing".
  9. Storify. Documenting/mirroring the Twitter thoughts of Twitter social justice warriors counts as harassment.
  10. Unmoderated blog comments and pseudonyms
  11. Rape jokes. Rape jokes are definitely harassment, unless they're made by a sufficiently progressive person
This is not a complete list, but you get the idea. 

The debate often degrades until the social justice crowd ridicules people calling for free speech on Twitter and various other websites by replacing the term with "freeze peach".  According to Atheism+, those that truly want unmoderated submissions are perhaps somehow similar to children asking for a ridiculous confections.


Now that Atheism+ is for free expression, what does it include?

Waving a flesh colored dildo at social conservatives!

No word yet if it's a hard requirement that the targets of the dildo-ing must be conservatives. Also need clarification on appropriate locations.

Can one dildo-interview in an elevator?

Regardless, be sure to bring a dildo to the next conference. It'll be a great help in the next penis panel.

If staff comes to give you grief about a harassment policy or some such nonsense, just remember what to do.

Take a deep breath, put the dildo in their face as if it were a microphone, and shout -

"THIS IS AMERICA!"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sex sells

Not too long ago there was a conference in Minnesota named CONvergence. It is like any other science fiction/comic convention, however with a few minor add-ons.

Notably, one was "SkepchickCON" which was a gathering of Atheism+ bloggers to celebrate nothing in particular. It exists mostly for giggles and alcohol.

However the Atheism+ crew maintain a veneer of caring about "the issues" wherever they go, so they take a willingness to take the fight to the 'evildoers' wherever they may be.

So it couldn't hurt to point out ridiculous things about their own conference...


For some context, all the SkepchickCON panelists were sitting in front of a large poster of a fembot named "Connie".


Apparently the way to talk about social justice is behind an alluring fembot with large hips relaxing on a bed of letters.

Of course, most normal people wouldn't have a massive problem with this, but recall that these are the types that take issue with Anne of Green Gables.

In any case, Stephanie Zvan is on the case, in response to the tweets:

Answering "Isn't the sexy fembot on the posters sexist?" question, Zvan writes:
A bit, yeah, in the exaggerated form that certainly doesn’t follow any function. But Connie’s shape doesn’t make her just a fembot. She’s a geek through and through. There’s also ongoing talk about depictions of Connie, because while some people want to see her sexualized, lots of us don’t. 
I wouldn’t miss those table banners if they went away, for example.

So yes, it is "a bit" sexist, but it's okay because Connie is also "a geek" based on criteria that are not elaborated upon.

Zvan seems to agree that the table banners are a bit more pure sex appeal than geekiness.

In response to the comment about "tits-bot":
Oh, “tits-robot”. Silly me. I thought you might be serious for a moment.
This is a strange but not unexpected statement.

Often these 'social justice' types think that the people making fun of their little sideshow aren't serious. If one attempts to make a joke or makes a statement that is perhaps a little off-putting it's immediately disregarded as an entirely unserious criticism.

This is perhaps why 'feminists' like to criticize comedians and jokes of a certain subject as being unfunny and even damaging. Unless, of course, you are a woman - then all jokes made are edgy and empowering.

In the same way Zvan and the rest of the Atheism+ crowd will ignore these words - they'll either be too mean or too silly to deserve a response.

The great connection to be made is that people criticize Atheism+ precisely because what they say is both mean and silly.

Moving on... how else did SkepchickCON use sex to entertain and appeal?

The Great Penis Panel.


SkepchickCon hosted a talk called "Penises of the Animal Kingdom".

It was as ridiculous as one could expect, with the males in attendance (mostly from FreeThoughtBlogs) using the opportunity to make jokes that one would expect.

Here is uberfeminist commentary interlaced with Stephanie Zvan's responses...



The tweet linked:



Zvan's two cents:
Actually, some of them were hilarious, but the reactions of the audience were funnier. It turns out that a lot of people normally associate looking at penis pictures and videos with their own sex lives, so the really uncomfortable-looking penises made plenty of people personally uncomfortable. Joking does tend to relieve the discomfort.

Another tweet:

Linked to:

Zvan's answer:
Sorry to disappoint you, but the biggest penis belonged to a whale. Maybe you should have been at the panel to learn something?

The last tweet criticizing the penis panel:
Linked to:

Zvan's response:
Harassment? Someday I’m sure you’ll learn what consent is all about. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen until after you learn that Melanie coordinated SkepchickCon this year and, thus, was collecting the pictures used in the penis panel from participants, including PZ. They were already joking about PZ sending a penis pic for the first time in his life well before the panel started.
LousyCanuck (Jason) adds:
I was showing the audience dick pics. PZ asked for the “biggest one I had”. THAT MUST MEAN HE WAS SEXUALIZING ME AND NOT THE THING THAT WAS TOTALLY IN CONTEXT AND MADE PERFECT SENSE.

There is a lot to unravel here.

What exactly happened here?

The penis panel presented a lot of opportunities to make a lot of dick jokes. This panel, like many other panels at SkepchickCON, were created just for laughs.

But when you read the rationalization provided by the FreeThoughtBloggers, their rationalization of the event makes everything that much more creepy.

People were making dick jokes at the conference, and either mirroring them or making more on Twitter. That we already knew

However, the following facts have been added:


  1. The panel made several people very uncomfortable. Zvan said the reactions were "funnier" than the penises themselves, and that "joking relieved the discomfort".
  2. The panel was deemed educational as critics of the panel weren't there to learn that the biggest penis belonged to a whale. One imagines that critics of SkepchickCON previously had no idea that this could be the case.
  3. PZ "consented" to Melanie's public dick pic request because they had been sending animal dicks to each other for months.
  4. PZ's request to Jason that he show us "the biggest penis" that was immediately posted on Twitter was not a creepy sexualizing double entendre but rather talking about the rather sterile-yet-funny subject matter.

Ah yes, "context" is what the critics of hypocritical social justice are missing.

It's okay to make sexual jokes, as long as you have a long history of making sexual jokes with that person! Right?


And PZ Myers can joke about having nonconsensual sex with a female volunteer in front of a large audience. Why? Because context! The talk was trying to teach people genetics, of course!


Context! It's the magic wand that heals all wounds for these "progressive" do-gooders.

But wait, it gets worse.

Paying the bills with boobs.

One thing that is difficult about "social justice" blogging is that it costs money.

Actually, scratch that - it doesn't cost money. 

Sure, it may cost quite a bit of time and coffee.

But the most often cited expense of bloggers everywhere - servers and bandwidth - actually does not cost much at all.

Many "social justice" and "feminist" websites run ads on their websites. Defenders of the sites will say something like "these things cost money" in reference to the dollars required to deliver few kilobytes of nonsensical "social justice" rhetoric to your computer.

So the ads are layered on.

FreeThoughtBlogs hosts ads in the following places:
  • A 730 pixel wide banner near the top of the page
  • A 300x250 pixel ad at the top of the left sidebar
  • Another 300x250 pixel ad about halfway down the left sidebar
  • One or more 300x250 pixel ads between posts in the center of the page
Additionally, there may be:
  • Any number of fixed ads for conferences that the blogger is attending (Pharyngula: 1)
  • Any number of PayPal donation links to support the author directly (Pharyngula: 3 - one in PZ's bio, two under "Support FTB")
  • Some space set aside for non-profit organizations (Pharyngula: Currently one link to DonorsChoose)
The cherry on top - if your browser doesn't have a popup blocker or the FreeThoughtBlogs javascript outsmarts it, you will be blessed with a popup ad.

Perhaps these are the Zvan rules of consent, wherein even if every single modern browser blocks them by default, there is a chance that some new visitor to the site is "just asking for it" in regards to a popup ads.

At this point you may be wondering what all these ads are advertising.

The answer?

Boobs. Lots of them

People have reported seeing ads that are labelled as for "Male Gamers Only". The ads typically depict an very large-chested women in a very skimpy outfit.

Additionally there are ads hosted by a company calling itself "AdShuffle" that shows some stock photography of a very beautiful brunette with the text "Google Banned This Video!" This shocking video went viral in days!" The only hint as to what the video's contents are is the woman who looks to be a sneeze away from nudity.

When the ads aren't objectively objectifying people, the ads seem to follow similarly troublesome trends:
  • Weight loss methods that are entirely bunkum
  • Health foods that aren't healthy
  • Empty fashion ads
  • Manipulative "improve your business" garbage
  • Con artists trying to convince you to play games with your mortgage
One might say - "These are just how online ads operate. What's the big deal?"

The big deal is that these would-be culture warriors want to solve all the problems in these ads, while they can't bring themselves to not accept the money.

Defenders of Atheism+ will state that the ads are informed by your "browsing history". This is simply another way to say "profile". Did the algorithm determine that you are female? Then you get a fashion ad. Did it decide you are male? Then you get a gaming ad.

The funny and tragic part about this is that all it took for "liberals" to accept tracking and profiling as a reality is a paltry few dollars from an advertiser.

These "activists" may shed several gallons of crocodile tears for the fate of Trayvon Martin. Skepchick admitted she would profile him in an elevator, but it's true that their websites would profile him as well.

What ad would Martin have seen on the FreeThoughtBlogs website? Probably an ad from some shady mortgage lender in Orlando. Are bloggers proud of this?

Not only that, these "activists" would surely vote in the Democratic Party into state government. But when that state brings in a progressive tax system to try to stick a tax bill on a multinational corporation, solidarity is out the window because bloggers need business.

Odd that these "progressive" "feminist" bloggers often love to criticize capitalism.

For they have already greatly compromised their values for money.

Yes, money.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

American atheist social justice warriors are hypocritical assholes (again)

The Royal Baby has caused quite a stir among "progressives".

First, PZ writes "My deepest regrets to the people of the United Kingdom"

Apparently, your antiquated monarchy is going to continue, and the birth of a child of extraordinary privilege warrants far more attention than the birth of thousands who will live in poverty. I hope you get over it soon, and I hope it doesn’t infect my country; despite fighting a revolution to get out from under a king, there are a lot of conservatives with a bizarre sentimental attachment to the idea of a hereditary aristocracy.
I think I follow far too many Brits on twitter than is good for me, as my feed is currently inundated with #royalbaby nonsense. I think it’s a sign that I shouldn’t bother trying to tune in the television news for a few days.
 
 
It's interesting to find someone who would otherwise complain about objectification fail to see the individual being discussed.
 
These clowns regard the baby being born as ultimately a political fact.
 
Somehow, the royal baby proves that the monarchy will continue, and it's taken for granted that the monarchy in the future will be a bad thing.
 
The only thing that PZ's post really proves is that he may be daft enough to believe that the monarchy wouldn't have found a successor to the throne if William did not have children.
 
One imagines a bespectacled, tea partying Myers in his Minnesota home wishing Kate would miscarry so the evil tyranny that is the family of Queen Elizabeth would finally come to an end.
 
It is also funny to see this card played - 'why are we talking about the royal baby when poor babies exist?'
 
Indeed. Why talk about the royals when poverty is a thing?
 
Also, why talk about anything but poverty?
 
This is why PZ doesn't talk about anything except poverty. Right?
 
Just a second - it would seem that in reality, Team Twitter Feminism would rather talk about Game of Thrones and other HBO shows than child poverty.
 
One is also reminded that PZ dedicates Fridays not to child poverty fundraising but to Cephalopods.
 
And Myers, like the Royal Family, opted to create a white privileged child of his own rather than spending that time volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
 
Fans of the shallow 'social justice' warriors would point out that if given the chance to be an advocate for the poor, they would surely capitalize on it.
 
Except that doesn't happen.
 
In the most recent FTBCon, how many of the 40+ sessions attempted to address issues of poverty specifically?
 
Zero.
 
If there was time allotted to speak about the issue of child poverty, it was well hidden between pronounced talks about video games, alcohol and sex.
 
FreeThoughtBlogs and the rest of Atheism+ don't actually care about children.
 
This is a known fact as another recent trolling of celebrity that FTB participated in revealed that a lot of Pharyngula fans don't like children and have no problem openly stating that opinion.
 
So these groups neither like kids nor like talking about child poverty, yet when the media goes crazy about a baby they'll make like they're god's gift to poor children everywhere.
 
PZ Myers is a ridiculous individual. But perhaps not the most ridiculous.
 
For there exists Amanda Marcotte!
 

 
 Just what is this even supposed to mean?

After a "backlash" of sorts, Marcotte then tweets:

 

While Myers wants to remind us of the poor babies, vigorously pro-choice Marcotte wishes to remind us that babies die.

What point Marcotte is ultimately trying to get across is unknown.

To a normal person, what Marcotte is saying is probably the most ridiculous thing that someone could possibly say at a baby shower.

And it seems she said it just to troll conservatives on Twitter.

It's a lame gotcha that makes one want to run away from the American left forever - "look at all the hate I got for saying something stupid on Twitter."

If all Marcotte wants is for people to throw the c-word in her direction, she would do better by stating that Hitler/Pol Pot/Stalin wasn't all bad.

In some sense, this would have more class than the "dead baby" angle.

But Marcotte and Myers couldn't help themselves.

They just needed to use the birth of a child to toot their own horn, to make some hollow political point, to antagonize people they already disagreed with.

If the Royal Family behaved this despicably, they'd be deposed in a day.

Yet the monarchy has something that social justice warriors do not seem to have at all - a modicum of class.

Monarchism.

The radical idea that the Royal Family are people too.

Do all people not deserve some level of respect?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Black men in elevators are terrifying

Here's the story, prompted by the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman:

  1. Musician Questlove wrote an article about how a [white?] woman neglected to tell him what floor she lived in a upscale apartment building, ostensibly because she feared him
  2. Rebecca Watson wrote a reply (every famous person is entitled to the Skepchick or Marcotte treatment) in which she essentially argues that would be alright for the woman to be afraid if her fear was based on size and sexual orientation.
Some snippets:

As the comments on the piece suggest, I wasn’t alone, as a woman, in placing myself in her shoes. I’ve sort of been in her shoes, [...] In my elevator situation, for instance, I was never scared but more annoyed, and I used it as an example of poor behavior because I knew that many other women would have been rightfully scared of someone who obviously cared little about her personal feelings. My experiences do not encompass the experiences of all women, and so even though I may not have reacted in the same way, I absolutely understand and condone the response of the woman in Questlove’s anecdote as described.
Even for me, despite my lack of fear, I always evaluate potential threats around me and try to be on guard. Even if I recognized Questlove, [...] I assume celebrities and other powerful people are more entitled and therefore pose more of a threat.
I’d like to say Questlove’s skin color would have nothing to do with my evaluation of his threat level, but of course I know that I grew up and continue to live in a very racist society and I’m sure I have some subconscious prejudice as a result. I can say that consciously, though, my evaluation of him would be primarily based on these factors: 
1. Can this person overpower me? 
2. Is this person viewing me as a sexual object? 
So if I place myself in the shoes of the woman in Questlove’s anecdote, I can say without a doubt that the answer to both those questions is “yes.” He’s very large, and he writes that this was his thought process during the interaction:
She was also bangin’, so inside I was like, “Dayuuuuuuuuuuum, she lives on my floor? *bow chicka wowow*!” Instantly I was on some “What dessert am I welcome-committee-ing her with?”
In the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal, would a black man have a similar threat evaluation about a white man following him late at night? “Can this person overpower me? Is this person viewing me as a racist caricature?”
Sexual objectification and racist stereotyping both lead to the dehumanization of marginalized people that Questlove accurately describes as feeling that you ain’t shit.
Obviously I wasn’t the woman in Questlove’s elevator and so I can only guess at what happened. Maybe she was racist, and maybe she would have told a large white man her room number. But I suspect that both Questlove and the woman had similar desires: to be seen first as a human being.


Let's try to decipher some things.

The first interesting comment is Watson's admission that in the elevator "situation" she did not feel scared.

This is interesting because there exist many people that feel the entire elevator incident was underlined by fear. This is likely sourced in that merely mentioning the location gives many the impression that there is a sort of claustrophobic destruction of choices - no opportunity of escape interaction with the man.

But no. Watson merely found him annoying, and in found it important to dismiss his actions as such and also point out that he would have made some other woman in the same situation rather frightened.

Which can be viewed as insulting in two ways:
  1. It views other women as simple creatures that scare easily
  2. It assumes the man lacks all social awareness and is going to behave in precisely the same way with every woman he finds himself in an elevator with. It's likely he'd ask your grandmother for "coffee"
With that blast from the past finished, we may return to the issue at hand - race.

Obviously Watson thinks its wrong to be afraid simply because a man is black.

However it remains entirely legitimate to be afraid of a man because:
  1. He may be larger than you
  2. He may be sexually attracted to you
It would appear that being on the receiving end of male desire is about the same as being on the receiving end of racist hatred.

It's a bit of an strange comparison, but this sort of thing comes out of 'feminist' activism every day so let's put this aside.

Also we can put aside another issue for a moment and assume that white women are not racist and are rather afraid only for the reasons described - male size, strength, and libido.

The odd part in all this is Watson, in a way, is providing support for both Martin's and Zimmerman's actions.

Some background about the case - according to Zimmerman, Martin had the upper hand in a fight when the shooting in "self defense" occurred.

In the comparison Watson makes, Martin's actions probably be justified in the same way as a woman attacking her stalker would be justified.

At the same time, Zimmerman's actions may be justified simply because he was intimidated by Martin's physical characteristics.

Where would 'feminists' begin to criticize Zimmerman?

The first point raised would be that Zimmerman made a conflict in his "racist" monitoring of Martin and following Martin around the neighborhood.

The second point raised may be that Zimmerman shouldn't have owned a gun or used a gun.

Let's itemize these as two points - racial profiling and trigger happy madness.

Assume for a moment that Zimmerman is a very racist person and his focus was Martin simply because of Martin's race. One could say Martin was provoked into responding.

How would this change how we would view Martin's alleged actions?

If there is a racist misogynist on the bus, are you allowed to slap him? If things escalate and you are injured, what would that mean?

Some say Zimmerman's actions constitute 'stalking' or 'hunting'.

Indeed, what Zimmerman did sounds a lot like stalking. Zimmerman followed Martin (who looked "suspicious") around the neighborhood where they were both living.

Zimmerman would have been well served to document the situation in a 'feminist' way, which would be to first inform Twitter or post about Martin on Facebook. Zimmerman would likely have looked like a fool and nobody would have been hurt.

However Zimmerman allegedly felt that Martin was a malcontent that was likely going to get away with property crime unless the armed Zimmerman intervened to save the day.

If we were to blame this on social structures, we could perhaps say this is in some respect a byproduct of a macho culture that calls on males to deal with the misbehavior of other males. Superhero comics always have had a vigilante streak - catch the bad guys! Vigilantes always get the ladies, right?

In retrospect that assessment of the situation was ridiculous, and led to tragic consequences.

Yet it's important to remember that even if Zimmerman was an armed racist paranoid nutjob, that's different from being a intending-to-kill homicidal armed racist paranoid nutjob.

One supposes that the big problem many have with Zimmerman is the concealed weapon. If it's true that Zimmerman was receiving a horrible beating, it's difficult to question the use of a weapon but the discussion circles back to just what type of person is walking around with a pistol.

Who walks around with a gun playing community cop? Nobody that is very popular with "liberal" activists that tend to dislike "stop and frisk" style of policing as well as casual gun ownership.

For an idea of how unhappy some people are, have a look at Greta C's (another "FreeThoughtBlogger") recent Facebook updates:

Sometimes, I am deeply ashamed of my country. This is one of those times. The Zimmerman verdict is making me physically ill.
[...]
I have no patience tonight. If you have anything at all to say that even remotely hints at implying that the Zimmerman verdict was remotely defensible., unfriend me and unfollow me now. And get the fuck out of my life.
[...]
If you are so grossly insensitive to think that this is the time for cold-bloodedly micro-parsing the finer legal points of this blatantly grotesque travesty of justice... please get the fuck out of my life. Now.
[...]
If you really think that the issue of my using harsh language and unfriending people on Facebook is really more important than the fact that young black men in the U.S. can be stalked and murdered with impunity -- and if you really think that expressing rage over this fact constitutes a "tantrum" -- then I do not want you in my life. Get the fuck out. 
[...]

I am sick to fucking death of the idea that "freethought" means "we have to treat all ideas as worthy of consideration, and debate them calmly and without anger, and treat people we disagree with respectfully." Some ideas are morally repugnant. It is not antithetical to freethought to respond to morally repugnant ideas with rage. It is not antithetical to freethought to tell people with morally repugnant ideas that their ideas are morally repugnant, and that you will have nothing to do with them.

I am also sick to fucking death of the idea that I am somehow morally obligated to host said debates in my own space.

And I am sick to death of people looking at the national conversation about the George Zimmerman verdict, and acting as if "hey, people are being mean to people who expressed views they find morally repugnant, they're swearing at them and unfriending them and blocking them" was the real issue here, the most important issue, the issue we should all be discussing. A young black man was hunted and murdered for the crime of being a young black man, and his murderer was acquitted. This is not an isolated case: it reflects the reality of millions of African Americans. And what some people really want to talk about is "People are cussing people out and banning them!" If those are your priorities, then please unfriend/ unfollow me. And get the fuck out of my life. 
[...]
There are some issues that are worthy of calm, considered debate, issues on which people can reasonably disagree and still be friends. The question of whether a young black man should be able to buy candy at a convenience store without being hunted and killed is not one of them

In Greta's world, the very "idea" that the shooting-in-self-defense story was "remotely defensible" in court is just crazy talk and people that want to speak about "finer legal points" can "get the fuck out" of her life.

Doesn't everyone know that Zimmerman, the Hispanic Democrat gun owner, is the embodiment of racism in America and if we put him in jail it will all end?

The strange discussions continue in the Atheism+ forum.

A poster named Marsha writes:

"I disagree with the way you have summarized the case. It comes down to who was trying to kill who and the person who iniatiated the violence was Martin. Until he attacked Zimmerman, the encounter was strictly threatening, but not physical. Physical contact was made by Martin and that is what ultimately led to his death. Had he just kept walking home, he would still be alive. Zimmerman protected himself. If you want to make a case for racism, I'll listen, but I have yet to see any facts that would indicate this was racially motivated rather than simple self defense. The prosecution didn't even come close to demonstrating any racial bias other than on the part of Trayvon Martin himself."

And then later Marsha adds:

"You all seem to be misunderstanding what I am saying. Threatening a ban is just a heavy-handed tactic for stifling conversation without addressing the actual argument or presenting evidence. It seems you would much rather deal with "yes-people" than have any real discussion regarding the issues and this permeates every board. I challenge any of you to present evidence, rather than your opinion, that Zimmerman would have reacted any differently had the color of Trayvon Martin's skin been different. If you can do that, then I will gladly accept your argument that Zimmerman shot and killed Martin because he was black. There is simply no evidence that Zimmerman would have acted any differently to being beaten by a person of another race. He may be racist and that may be why he followed Martin, but you have yet to demonstrate that or to demonstrate that, even given that scenario, that that is why he shot Martin. The prosecution didn't do it, the police didn't do it, and so far no one else has been able to demonstrate that the gun was used only because Martin was black and not because he was beating Zimmerman. Go ahead and ban me if you feel threated by adherence to the facts and evidence. It only reflects on your irrationality that you can't offer a cogent argument and have to resort to threats and heavy-handed policing.
No one wants to see a teenager shot and killed. It is horrible. That, however, doesn't change the fact that Zimmerman would probably be dead right now if he hadn't fired his gun, regardless of the color of skin of the person beating him."

The result of this text?

Marsha was banned from the forum for a week.

The Atheism+ forums never fail to provide ridiculous drama.


Moving along, the always attention-seeking Geraldo had some provocative things to say:



For those that can't stand to watch Geraldo speak about anything, essentially the case he's making is that the all-woman jury believed Zimmerman because they would have also shot Martin if they were in a situation remotely similar.

Which seems to align with Watson's earlier points about acceptable behavior for women.

It seems that many of the people that are most vocal of Zimmerman's actions would be hesitant to share an elevator with either Zimmerman or Martin.

Some people would call this a perspective of privilege.

Continue to skip the elevator or exit on the wrong floor. Roll up those windows and lock your car doors. Refuse the company of strangers that don't look like your wonder bread brother returning home from a science fiction convention.

Then, when something awful happens be sure to stand up and be counted.

For that thing on TV that just happened is obviously racism.

Make sure everyone knows how angry you are!

What to call this?

Solidarity?

Perhaps not.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Harassment policies are pointless

PZ Myers, in a post titled "Why Cons Need Anti-Harassment Policies":

Wired has an excellent article on why harassment policies are needed — it’s because the social dynamics of conventions can mess up people’s perspectives. [...] Read the whole thing. It’s very thorough in discussing the psychology behind harassing behavior, and why it’s not just something evil psychopathic trolls do.


Apparently nobody told this to fellow "FreeThought" blogger Richard Carrier, who maintains his opponents (e.g. Thunderf00t) are "sociopaths" and Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers (CHUDs)

In any case, back to the points the WIRED article (written by Rachel Edidin and Laura Hudson) makes:

John Scalzi, the author and former president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, forced the issue when he announced last week that he will no longer attend any convention that lacks an explicit, well-publicized, and enforced anti-harassment policy. Since then, nearly a thousand other fans and professionals have signed the pledge.
So the SAPs hate how interaction is happening. Moving along...


Diffusion of responsibility refers to the tendency of people in large groups to avoid decisive action. It’s linked to two specific circumstances: a large enough group of people, and a scenario in which responsibility isn’t explicitly assigned–say, a convention with no clear guidelines for what constitutes harassment, or for reporting and intervention. It’s because of diffusion of responsibility that companies over a certain size need to have protocols for emergencies and people explicitly responsible for implementing them. It’s a Somebody Else’s Problem Field that grows in direct proportion to the number of Somebody Elses in the room. And there are a lot of Somebody Else’s at a convention. 
The bystander effect, or, bystander apathy, refers specifically to the way diffusion of responsibility deters people from intervening in crises. Bystander apathy is also called the Genovese effect, after a young woman named Kitty Genovese who was stabbed to death over the course of about half an hour while dozens of people allegedly witnessed the attack but failed to intervene or alert authorities. It wasn’t that they didn’t care: It was that everyone assumed that someone else must already have taken action  
[...] 
Let’s look at how these apply to conventions. We’ll assume that, say, 99 out of 100 convention attendees are basically decent folks there to have a good time, who will adhere to basic social etiquette. Number 100 is a different story. This person is offering free hugs to every passer-by–and when someone declines, hugging them anyway, even if it means chasing and heckling them halfway across the con floor. Everyone else knows there’s something off, but, unless (and sometimes even if) they’re involved, they probably won’t be able to pinpoint it. After all, if that person really was behaving inappropriately, someone else would already have intervened, right? 
Diffusion of responsibility makes it a lot harder for us to intervene and respond when harassment occurs. But social phenomena don’t just affect how we respond to harassment—they contribute directly to its prevalence.

WIRED says: Nobody feels responsibility for bad social interactions and therefore nobody intervenes.

It is true. None of the attendees will feel responsible for you having a shitty experience.

Many don't feel responsible for you having a terrible time at a public park, so they probably don't care much for something awful happening at a conference.

That is, of course, except for the organizers. You know, the people you paid to attend the conference? They might care.

It's something called "customer experience".

The article carries this "people in groups are jerks" line until coming to some "what a policy will do" arguments.

According to WIRED, it comes down to three things:

 An Effective Anti-Harassment Policy Does Three Things:
First of all, it establishes clear, external guidelines for situation-appropriate behavior, bypassing social proof and prompting attendees to regulate their own behavior rather than relying on communal cues. That awareness—and clear delineation of inappropriate behavior—also combats they bystander effect, empowering attendees to recognize and act in response to inappropriate behavior.
Second, an effective anti-harassment policy provides attendees with a concrete means of responding to harassment they experience or witness. It’s not enough to merely have a policy: it needs to be publicized, publicly visible, and easily accessible. And it should detail not only unacceptable behavior, but course of action for attendees to follow when an incident occurs. Social proof and bystander apathy are both relative to how people perceive their individual power and responsibility, and giving convention attendees concrete tools for responding to harassment not only empowers them to act, but increases the likelihood that they’ll see it as their responsibility to do so.
Finally, an anti-harassment policy must be procedurally reinforced. No matter how clear your rules or how alert and engaged your attendees, there will be incidents of harassment. Convention staff and volunteers need to be able to recognize inappropriate behavior and intervene as necessary, and understand how and where to respond to and escalate complaints. 
It’s important, too, to remember that staff and volunteers are parts of the same community as attendees–and, to some extent, vulnerable to the same phenomena, as both victims and potential perpetrators of harassment. You can’t instinctually assume that they’ll do the right thing. They not only need to be familiar with the anti-harassment policy, but understand their specific responsibilities under it.

Before we get into more problems with these policies, there is a comment on the article that is an interesting perspective:

Ozy:
This IS a problem specific to sci-fi/fantasy/comic/anime conventions. Whether it is because of the culture or the lack of social skills, it can not (as the author suggests) be blamed solely on crowd size. At SIGGRAPH there is not a culture that expects and/or accepts harassment, but at DragonCon there is. The harassment is just as strong at small local sci-fi-style conventions, even if there are only 5 people in a hallway witnessing it.

Recall that DragonCon is the sci-fi conference allegedly run by a bunch of creeps and Skepchick was surprisingly chill about it.

With this comment, we're back at the SAPs. Something is just amiss with these sci-fi types.

Why are harassment policies pointless? 

Apparently harassment policies establish:
  1. Clear, external guidelines for situation-appropriate behavior, bypassing social proof and prompting attendees to regulate their own behavior rather than relying on communal cues
  2. Concrete means of responding to harassment they experience or witness
All would be well and good if it didn't ultimately fail to deliver. They fail even when you may try to take them as seriously as the WIRED writers want you to.

Why?

Nobody reads harassment policies.

Visitors won't read your harassment policy. Who reads the harassment policy before going to a baseball game or carnival?

Nobody.

Thousands of people congregate at stadiums and parks across the country every day of the year, and nobody bothers to know just what the harassment policy details are.

How is that even possible? Is there just non-stop debauchery or do people generally know what's up?

How does this fact not blow the minds of 'feminists' everywhere?

Even the majority of volunteers and staff at conferences could not care less about harassment policies.

Consider the case of the volunteer.

They volunteer for the conference for two reasons:
  1. They get to attend the conference for free
  2. They perhaps care about the subject matter or cause
  3. They might get swag for being a volunteer
Is everyone going to sit down and watch a 20 minute video about what is and isn't cool? Or is everyone going to use their own subjective definition of what a creep is?

One might think paid staff should care, except it's not their first rodeo. It's their job. They don't need NerdCon 2014 to tell them that assholes exist.

Nobody will care to follow policy guidelines.

In an "incident", let's assume there are two types of people.

The harassers and their victims.

Obviously the harassers either didn't care to read the rules, don't think they broke them or plainly don't care if they broke them.

Surely we could rely on the victims to follow the proper protocols, right?

Wrong.

Let's look at a few well publicized examples of events that may qualify as harassment -

The Elevator situation:
The incident: A man asked a woman for coffee in a hotel elevator at 4AM.
How it was reported: A YouTube video was made wherein the victim instructed guys to "not do that".


The EWTS convention safety situation:
The incident: A woman felt unsafe at a conference about women's empowerment
How it was reported: It would appear that Twitter was the first to know, with conference organizers reaching out to the individual via a directed tweet.

The WisCon sexual harassment case:
The incident: A woman was sexually harassed at a conference.
How it was reported:  The woman reported the incident to the conference organizers. Then, in a move that was perhaps more effective, reported the incident to the man's employer.
The Dongle Joke situation:
The incident: A woman overheard a "dongle joke" at a Python developers conference.
How it was reported: The woman took a picture of the males who were conversing with each other, and then posted it on Twitter.

Surely there are to be more "normal" reports of harassment that don't show up on Twitter.

However one must at least concede the following:
  1. Victims aren't going to necessarily report to conference staff first
  2. All consequences that are punitive have nothing to do with conference policy
  3. Conference policy ultimately cannot control the flow of information about a problem
What do we mean by this?

A harasser could get kicked out of a conference. But in the big picture, who cares?

The real punishment is not doled out by conference organizers.

In the end, it is the person's employer and the internet hate machine that supply the punishment.

Publish that photo in a similar fashion to "dongle gate", and the 'feminists' will line up to support public shaming - policy be damned.

As we've seen before, conference organizers have stood up to criticize how the woman handled the "dongle joke" situation and they were shut down by the "progressive" hivemind.

It is rather strange to obsess over the rules and then fail to use the established channel. More perversely, people actually view ignoring official channels as more assertive and empowering. Why follow policy when policy is typically patriarchy?

If everything is going to wind up in Twitter court anyways, then we best not waste our time writing new rules.

Conference organizers will always grant themselves the last word anyways

The harassment policy could be a thousand pages long.

What will the last page read?

It will contain a sentence that will in essence explain a few key items:
  1. The conference is not a democracy
  2. The organizers are more than likely a handful of people
  3. These people can remove attendees for any reason
Conference policy is like an end user license agreement that the attendee is implicitly accepting by paying the fee and being present.

The agreement is that attendees have little to no rights whatsoever.

Writing down what attendees can or can not do is merely provided as a convenience for conferences that think that a lot of idiots will show up. Maybe, just maybe, an idiot is going to read the policy an problem will be avoided. But as we've already established, idiots don't read.

Having a harassment policy or honestly making an effort to write one is just another slow way to admit failure.

On the one hand, it would seem that the conference in question has attracted the wrong set of people and/or granted them the wrong expectations.

On the other hand, a harassment policy is a red flag that your event is ruled by people that really want to play Model UN.

At some point writing a bunch of legalese that is suffixed with an escape clause is just mental masturbation. Spare us.

All you need to state:
  1. We have a bouncer.
  2. We make the rules.
  3. We don't need to tell you the rules.

What could work better?

Rather than writing a harassment policy that reads like a privacy policy, EULA or rental agreement, one could actually manage expectations better.

Managing expectations is done by describing just what the hell is going to happen at each activity within the conference.

For example, for a given activity on the agenda -

Is this activity family oriented?

What age groups will be present?

Will alcohol be served?

What kind of attire is acceptable?

Who will be talking at this event?

What kind of topics will be covered?

Do attendees need to know something in particular about different groups attending the conference?

This is perhaps a "harassment policy" of sorts, but it presents the opportunity to frame things in a way that isn't lazy.

It isn't a footnote at the bottom of the brochure that explains what will happen when the creeps inevitably show up.

It may make the people that use that footnote policy as a crutch a little mad. Panelist ideologues that view the footnote as some sort of secret handshake between allies in a self-important battle for the disenfranchised might actually refuse to speak at your conference.

But who cares?

Drop 'em.

Make it a policy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Socially Awkward Penguins

This jumble of words will:
  1. Define some terms : "Socially Awkward Penguin"
  2. Tell some stories
  3. Detail the established narratives/explanations/theories
  4. State an alternative hypothesis - to do with "Socially Awkward Penguins"
  5. Attempt to support said hypothesis
  6. State where to go from here

Let's get started!

Defining terms

The "socially awkward penguin" ("SAP" for the purposes of this article) is a meme that has been with us for some time:

Socially Awkward Penguin is an advice animal image macro series featuring a penguin lacking both social skills and self esteem. The text typically narrates uncomfortable life situations, highlighting an exceptionally clumsy or inelegant response.

The background of the image macro is this:

 
 
Some typical examples of the "socially awkward penguin":
 
 



This establishes some idea of what we use the term "socially awkward penguin" in a general sense. How this may relate to specific personas will be detailed later. For now, moving along...

What's been happening lately



Typically the 'feminist blogosphere' is mostly concerned with a few egregious cases of misconduct (or alleged misconduct).

A story will be picked up, perhaps in the media at large first, and then opinions galore will be provided by every single 'activist' out there.

This blog is no different.

For the time being however, let's go over some background noise. Events that did not seemingly shake the world.

Attendees "Empowering Women Through Secularism 2013" reported feeling unsafe

By many accounts, the "Empowering Women Through Secularism" (EWTS) conference was a success.

It is difficult to find people saying a bad word about the discussions there.

Of course, this does not mean that no disagreements took place. There were disagreements. And not everything stated at EWTS is necessarily correct.

But it is remarkable that no drama occurred at the level we've become accustomed to.

Justin Vacula, often cast as an "men's rights activist" villain, attended the conference. And the usual cabal of "harassers" were watching events via the #ewts2013 Twitter hashtag.

Despite some anticipation of all this causing the world to end, nobody has called for a boycott or for anybody to resign.

However the following exchange was interesting:










Twitter makes it difficult to tell exactly what is going on, but the tweets seem to detail the following events:

  1. Justin Vacula writes a critique of EWTS harassment policy or lack thereof
  2. An attendee shares that she skipped a day at the conference, and thought Vacula's post was dismissive of her safety concerns
  3. Another attendee adds that she is also concerned about a 'hostile' atmosphere at the conference
  4. Specifics of one situation was cited as personal, the other was noted as being impactful of mental health

Allegations of sexual harassment at a science fiction convention

Stephanie Zvan, mediator of a discussion about trolls when she isn't saying nasty things herself, happened to share a story on her blog entitled "Opening Ranks" about a recent instance of sexual harassment.

A woman was attending WisCon, an event described as "the world's leading feminist science fiction convention and conference".

The WisCon website:
[WisCon] is the world's leading feminist science fiction convention. WisCon encourages discussion and debate of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class. WisCon welcomes writers, editors and artists whose work explores these themes as well as their many fans. We have panel discussions, academic presentations, and readings as well as many other uncategorizable events. WisCon is primarily a book-oriented convention... with an irrepressible sense of humor.


During the conference, the woman alleges she was sexually harassed by a relatively senior editor at a sizable publisher (as far as sci-fi books are concerned).

The woman writes a long post about the incident that is mirrored/linked on a number of blogs. The post includes:
  1. A long description of how the reporting of the harassment was difficult
  2. Allegations that the man was a known offender and there were previous incidents three years ago she'd heard about from other people
  3. The man's full name and employer
At the time of writing, what is missing from this story:
  1. Details of the actual event
  2. A response from the accused
For the purposes of discussion, let's assume the guilt of the accused and move forward.

Atheism Plus and FreeThoughtBlogs underline just how creepy non-sexual touching is

Miri on FreeThoughtBlogs wrote a post "Touching People Without Their Consent: Still A Problem Even If It’s Not Sexual"

Atheism+ forums picked it up:

ischemgeek:
I'm pretty much the polar opposite of a touchy-feely person - some days, I don't even like touch by my partner, but even on a good day, he's the only person who I enjoy being touched by because I trust him to stop when I tell him to. Family gatherings and social rules about physical affection are thus very unpleasant for me. That I don't want you to touch me doesn't mean I don't like you, it just means I don't like being touched. I didn't like touch even as a kid, but now unless I really trust the other person, I actively dislike it. And I'm allowed to dislike touch, especially after my personal history with having my boundaries flat-out ignored when they weren't being actively destroyed. 
smhill:
If I'm remembering correctly, there are also some very good comments in which people share how they feel when they are involuntarily or suddenly touched. (Fairly vivid stuff emotionally, so read with caution, as it may bring bad experiences to mind.)
ceepolk:
There are high bristly walls between me and most people.
so it can look really odd when I meet up with friends who hug me, pick me up, steal my comb out of my purse to re-do my hair prefaced only with "you have time for this?" insist on the table with the couches so we can sit close....a handful of people can do this, and i don't see them often.
SubMor:
Yeah, I absolutely hate it when people I don't know touch me and get all indignant when I expect them not to do that again. Just because I'll hug friends doesn't mean I want some random asshole getting in my personal space. How feminine presenting people make it through the day without committing acts of violence I may never know.
Garnet:
I have an intense dislike of being touched by people I don't know. However, I am very into hugs and touch with people I know and trust. My husband knows full well my dislike of being touched by strangers and has often acted as a barrier to unwanted touch. He got a real education, though, about how much I do appreciate touch from people I know and trust. Back in 2000, he attended a family funeral with me. He had not been exposed to my rather large (both in size and number) family on my mother's side before. Oh and LOUD. These folks are LOUD. Anyway, because it was under tragic circumstances, there was much hugging and holding and patting and touching of me by people who were complete strangers to him. He went into high alert mode until my mother pointed out my body language to him and how I was quite comforted, even contented, to be touched and held my members of my family.
If a stranger does that to me, that person is likely to get popped in the snoot. It's pretty much a coin toss whether it will be me or my husband that does the snoot popping first.
ETA: If I don't know someone well, I always ask before I touch or hug them. Always. It's not that difficult.
EnigmaHood:
Seems like culture has a big part of it. Some cultures have a lot more touching than usual, then again these cultures are more tight nit, villages where everyone knows each other. Obviously in an urban setting where you are surrounded by strangers and have a permeating sense of fear and dread of your fellow man, you will be more protective of yourself and your belongings.
AndyTheNerd:
One of the morning rituals at the Ethical Society is to ask the congregation to turn and give a handshake or hug to a neighbor. When I'm the one who is MC-ing the morning platform, I always modify that part to include consent. Perhaps I should just write it into the script permanently, as would be most ethical.
Setar:
Add me in the category of people who don't mind being touched as long as I know the person or give explicit consent. And even with some people I do know, I'm not comfortable with them touching me...in one case, an acquaintance put their goddamn hand on me while I was in the middle of a meltdown for some woo-ey shit to make me stop melting down. It worked because the touching made me so fucking uncomfortable that I completely shut down and fell silent so he would fucking stop touching me.
I sometimes wonder if this mucks up romanticstuff though, because...assigned male, which means I'm sorta supposed to ignore consent in the awful 'normal' world. I do the opposite and shrink away from anyone I sit next to if I happen to touch them in some way, because my assumption is that they're at least as uncomfortable with it as I am, and I dunno if my act of politeness is actually taken as disinterest x.x;

As an aside, it is interesting to see the signature of user "AndyTheNerd" being: "Yes, you may PM me." It would appear that on the Atheism+ forums, one needs to ask before sending a private message.

It's outlined in the Atheism+ forum rules:

Private Messages: Do not send a PM to anyone without their consent. When asking for permission to discuss a topic via PM, your message should be clear, concise, and free of the argument you wish to make. A one-sentence introduction of "May I PM you about X?" should suffice. Do not complain if consent is not granted, and a lack of affirmative response will always be considered a refusal. If the thread you were contributing to was locked before you had an opportunity to ask, it is permissible to start a new thread for this purpose, but attempts to continue arguments from locked threads in private are strongly frowned upon.
Note: Messages to and from moderators about forum business are excluded from this rule.

Wonderful.

The Established Narrative

These stories circle two related, important issues - consent and safety.

Really, what could be worse?

As far as one facing these issues is concerned, either something is happening right now that is directly contradicting what they wish reality to be, or something may soon happen that will injure them.

It is no way to live, and such these problems really should not exist. Especially not in 'enlightened' feminist and secular communities. Right?

A popular explanation for why the problems arise is that some people are plagued with one or many of:
  1. Ignorance
  2. Bigotry
These higher level symptoms have more descriptive terms:
  1. Racism
  2. Transphobia
  3. Misogyny
  4. Etc...
The problem is framed in opposition to an established "old boys club" or perhaps "patriarchy" exercising its entitlement (or perhaps "privilege").

To confront the problem, the proposed solution is to excommunicate the "harassers" from the movements.

The general idea is to insert some "basic moral values" or "conscience" into the movement.

It really sounds quite plausible. Just doing a gut check will tell you that there has to be some proper jerks in the room. Interact with people online and you will get the sense that there may be millions of jerks that need to be expelled or educated.

So onward and upward! Let's destroy evil!

Or maybe not...

 

A Slightly Different Hypothesis

The problem faced could simply be rampant misogyny, harassment, racism, transphobia and pure undiluted assholery.

Or we could simply be witnessing a bunch of socially awkward penguins work things out.

How does this work in with observed reality?

Atheism and online activism brings a lot of unique individuals out of the woodwork

Put simply, people that think and act outside the parameters of what may be considered 'normal' by today's standards are more likely to find themselves ranting online about social justice.

Institutions of all kinds, everything from churches to binge-drinking nightclubs, have a tendency to push out or turn off a certain demographic.

When "real life" fails to entertain, the internet provides. And within the glorious net there are ways to live vicariously through an online persona.

It matters not whether one wants to be a demon slaying sorcerer, bubbly socialite or a self-aggrandizing political operative. The internet provides the ability to explore without requiring one interact with people at the same level.

The internet helps one avoid, at the very least, the very possibility that touching may occur.

Socially awkward penguins are both victims and abusers

Imagine for a moment that you are a man at WisCon, a feminist sci-fi convention.

It may be a safe bet that you are not God's gift to women. You may understand this by not opening a conversation with a stranger of the opposite sex with a sentence that would immediately reveal your profession or interest related to feminist sci-fi.

It's likely that you did not end up at a feminist sci-fi convention as a part of a road trip with "the guys".

You might be there for the money. You might be there simply because you enjoy the content. You might be there for the chicks.

It's difficult to read the motivations of all the people that would attend such an event.

However it is not a stretch to believe that the people that would spend a weekend in a hotel in Wisconsin talking about the inordinate amount of time they spend reading niche fantasy literature are peculiar people in a peculiar social setting.

A man that would sexually harass a woman at this event qualifies as an asshole. The thing to realize is that he may gain that qualification as a serial socially inept meathead.

Unfortunately the victim of the harassment may suffer from social anxiety problems and the effect of the incident is compounded.

Socially awkward penguins are often late to admit they are socially awkward penguins

Anyone who has participated in a discussion (or something resembling a discussion) online has both committed this crime and witnessed it.

An example exchange:
  1. Person A will voice an opinion or make a statement
  2. One or more of Persons B, C, D will arrive to argue or agree with the point
  3. Several messages will be exchanged
  4. One of the involved parties accepts their view is clouded by relationship/fatigue/medication/revenge
  5. Something like reconciliation may occur

Sometimes this is just some asinine debate on some political topic.

But how do we deal with issues of safety?

Let's say someone claims they feel unsafe at a conference. There is nothing to do but believe that they feel this way.

However it may not map to a view shared by many, and the feeling may occur at a frequency that is not publicized with the same fervor.

Nobody seems keen on sharing the frequency that they find themselves in an unpleasant predicament. If they did, they run the risk that many would dismiss their concerns altogether. Many might say they are simply "crying wolf" about the "facts" of the situation and such debate will undermine the perspective they wish to share.


Isn't this victim blaming?


One may state out that this 'theory' about the problems plaguing secular/feminist/progressive circles is merely shifting the blame for an incident onto victims reporting problems. It's easy to say that this is merely the same sort of "victim blaming" many women have become accustomed to.

Not only can one critique the clothing, location and sobriety of the victim, they now can consider their mental health and social skills!

This is not true.

The SAP line of reasoning, properly applied, has the following benefits:

  1. Intersectionality
    • It's easy to talk big about "harassment policies" at conferences but it's difficult to adequately contain all marginalized groups with just a few sentences. Usually the items to be ironed out first is usually circling concepts such as misogyny or sexual harassment. Under the SAP model, we simply add on the right for any group/person to be put off by SAPs or extended rights because they are SAPs.
  2. Inclusiveness
    • Sometimes the realm of protection is unnecessarily bounded. It exists to protect those preconceived to be vulnerable from the "privileged" evildoers. However the SAP model provides a way to do away with this distinction. What to do when one rich white male is annoying another rich white male? Accepting there is a good chance that at least one of the parties is a SAP may provide some guidance.

Some difficult choices for activists

Many of the "progressive" types floating around cyberspace like to pay a lot of lip service to being a part of an inclusive movement.

Everyone wants to be part of a big tent that wins political battles and shelters the like minded.

However no one seems to try to actually measure just how inclusive their little activist party is going to be.

Are you going to accommodate people that are victims of serious crimes?

Are you going to accommodate people that experience a great deal of anxiety in crowds?

Are you going to accommodate people with criminal records? (who claim to be rehabilitated, of course)

Some of these questions soon wander off into mundane but also important topics, like how far one is willing to go to look after people with allergies and other conditions.

Recall that a blind man went to an 'inclusive' conference and absolutely hated it.

Activist groups have been keen on the "come one, come all" message. They do this because the organizers themselves are lonely and embattled. In short, they are socially awkward penguins.

These penguins first owe everyone honestly before they can promise inclusivity.

Honesty in this respect first comes in two parts:
  • Honesty about your capabilities to support those with unique needs
  • Honesty about your intention to host those with unique needs
Everyone can then reset their expectations.

The blind man may understand that he would be perhaps the only blind person at a gathering of people that don't have a clue about what being blind is like.

Similarly, the touchy-feely types might take the opportunity to stay home if it's better communicated that a good number of their fellow conference attendees would rather dive into a volcano than be caught on the dance floor.

Honesty is truly the best conference policy.


A Radical Idea

The tired line that many 'feminist' activists like to use these days is the following:
"Feminism is the radical idea that women are people"
It is presented in some sense as being the basis of all their actions and opinions.

It seems fitting to state what this "socially awkward penguin" idea in the same way.

This is the radical idea that once-divorced or never-married 20-and-30-something science fiction fans may not be the all-seeing-eye of gender relations.

This is the radical idea that someone that feels uncomfortable in a movie theatre is probably not going to have a good time at your alcohol-fueled conference.

This is the radical idea that those that play Cards Against Humanity might have a difficult time trying to convince the rest of us when a joke has crossed the line.

This is the radical idea that someone taking medication to deal with anxiety or depression might not find the support they need on Tumblr, Twitter or your conference.

Consider these issues carefully. They will be resurface over and over again.

An excellent example of is coming up soon - a bunch of socially awkward penguin activists will host a conference over Google+.

The conference exists to cast out the demons of a "progressive" secular feminist community by providing an example of "basic moral values".

It's a bit like a World of Warcraft for those that cannot play videogames nearly as well as they can feel a smug sense of moral superiority.

Would the participants be better served spending the weekend getting some sunlight?

Alas, penguins do not tan well.