Episode 2.12


Beth, Jen and Tracie discuss sexual harassment in the atheist community - and they're looking for your stories!

  • Mark

    Just asking if there is a 2.11 ?

    May 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm
  • microbiologychick

    2.11 is the lost episode. It was the best one ever.

    May 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm
  • Bill

    Here is the problem you ladies seem to not “get”. First off, there was the HIGHLY suspect incident with that girl at the event with Richard Dawkins and the elevator gate. I’m sorry about your luck, but you do not get to pick and chose who “hits on you” and when. So when you get a GIGANTIC ISSUES out of a guy asking a girl out for a coffee and what she deemed to be an inappropriate time.

    While guys go there to see the speakers, it’s also kind of a nice thought to meet someone with similar interests and you it it off with. You’re only there for a limited amount of time so what might seem inappropriate to you might be a necessity of time to him.

    The simple answer is no, i’m not interested, thanks. And anything further should then be dealt with.

    This is NOT just a male problem. Women need to learn how to behave as well and NOT fly off the handle at any imagined slight which we already have seen happen.

    As for this new drama, it just adds to the frustration. We were sexually harassed? Oh? By who? We can’t say! Well what did they do? We can’t say! Just trust us, it happens, and we should come up with rules and committees and guys should be punished because we say so.

    I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but based on this behavior I no longer want to go to any atheist convention or gathering for the simple fact that I might say the wrong thing to the wrong woman and she will completely blow it out of proportion and make me out to look like the bad guy.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:24 pm
  • Rilian

    I noticed that Bill referred to you as “ladies”. He could have just said “you”, but he chose to say “you ladies”. Inserting a gendered term at all is telling, and the choice of the term “ladies” is even worse.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:26 am
  • Rilian

    What is the deal with saying that ayn rand made her anti-abortion??

    May 30, 2012 at 5:34 am
  • Maaju

    If it wasn’t so sad and frustrating, it’d be funny how Bill didn’t hear anything said in this podcast about sexual harassment at atheist conventions.

    Although I do suspect he’s just trolling like a big ole’ troll.

    I love you bitches :)

    May 30, 2012 at 6:51 am
  • Anders Starmark

    Beth wondered what made this so hard. As I see it the problem stems from two ground rules - a) the burden of proof lies on the claimant, and b) everyone is innocent until proven guilty. If this usually takes place in one-on-one situations that makes it almost impossible to really pin predators down.

    And I think Tracy’s approach to the problem, go up to someone and say “Hi! Wanna have sex?” may be difficult to implement.

    May 30, 2012 at 7:37 am
  • Anders Starmark

    My last comment should have a smiley after it.

    Example of harassment policies: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

    May 30, 2012 at 8:16 am
  • Rilian

    So this episode reminded me of something that happened to me. *boring personal story alert* Basically a guy acted friendly at first and then started doing things that could have been interpreted as friendly or as flirting, and I was afraid to call him out and be wrong, because he had said that he was depressed and they were going to amputate his other leg because of diabetes and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but also I was afraid he’d freak out and attack me with his crutches or something. It was like, a gushy thankyou for something mundane, a hug, an attempted mouth kiss that I managed to transform into a cheek kiss, grabbing my hand, and he was so oblivious he missed the look of horror in my eyes and the fact that I was doing that “slowly backing away” thing you do when confronted by a wild animal. But I saw the gooey look in his eyes. He thought we were in love. Barf. Every step of the way, he barely increased the intensity, so I was never sure what he was thinking, and I kept acting friendly, and then after it was all over I talked to my friend about it and realized that he had done it all on purpose, he did that sneak attack, hoping that I’d just be polite and then hook up with him out of pity. But after that day I avoided him and never talked to him again. To his credit, he did not pursue me any further after that.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:57 am
  • Stacy P.

    “You ladies.” Seems like he wanted to say something else, but that’s just my opinion. Anyway, I did pick up that he said, you ladies, instead of you. I don’t know if he was referring to them, or all ladies in general. Anyway, good show, this issue does need to get talked about. 2 or 3 am in the moring for coffee in a hotel room? Please, ain’t nothing open that time of morning but Valero & legs. I don’t understand why people try to play dumb, to avoid the obvious.

    May 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm
  • Hellbound Alleee

    I’m a lady whose been bothered, and no, I never “blew it way out of proportion.”

    On three separate occasions, a guy stuck his hand between my legs out of the blue. Once it was a stranger in a dorm media room while we watched a video. One was while waiting for some of my friends to start playing a concert. Another was at a movie while I was sitting next to my father. Hardly anyone else was even in the theatre. Then there’s the old guy who grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. And then there’s the guy who saw me walking to work in the wee hours. He was “nice” and offered to carry my packages. I said “no, thank you”, nicely. He insisted. I said “no, thank you,” in every way possible. By the time I was near my work (no one else was there), he insisted I should not be afraid of him. The third time he said it, I was afraid and told him sternly to leave me alone. Only me locking the door behind me got rid of him. Did I mention that I very obviously and clearly told these men to leave me alone and not touch my crotch?

    It’s not that I don’t know how to handle myself. I do. It’s not that I go places where I am “looking for it.” It’s not like I’m dressed provocatively or are particularly attractive. Yet here I am feeling like I have to explain how I brought these behaviors onto myself. Yes, sure, people are innocent until proven guilty. But here’s the thing, “skeptics.” Am I really making an extraordinary claim? Am I saying ANYTHING out of the ordinary? If you’re female, I am willing to predict that you know I am not, and you can provide me with several similar stories.

    So go ahead and tell me how sorry you feel about these men who simply were ignorant about how to “interpret social cues.” And then tell me you wouldn’t mind if a strange woman came up and casually put her hand between your legs, you said “no,” and being pissed off about it slightly means you are “flying off the handle.”

    May 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm
  • Hellbound Alleee

    …forgot to mention–the reason I know whether or not I’m “taking things out of proportion” is because I have been sexually assaulted and beaten. just as a lot of us have. This is what we’re protecting ourselves from; not from being embarrassed because a person didn’t like the way we were behaving.

    May 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm
  • fenchurch

    I am dumbfounded why there is such a vitriolic reaction against anyone lodging a harassment or rape complaint– for a victim or uncomfy/pissed off person to come forward, is quite unusual and reported cases of personal violation offenses represent a fraction of actual cases.

    The “ladies” touched upon this on the podcast and it made my heart break to see how common it is for people, yes, mostly women, to NOT speak up when bad shit goes down. It happened to me (not at any convention, tho), and I blamed it internally on my personal situation and my weakness at being unable to handle the inevitable backlash of reporting it. I wish I could have reacted appropriately– maybe with some karate moves– instead of taking on the burden alone of feeling responsible for someone else’s shitty behaviour.

    People should **celebrate** reporting, and support the rights of others to make a claim and speak out with the story and raise the conversation about limits of propriety, and maybe flag certain offenders who are not able to respect others’ limits, as more supporting cases come forward. Shaming those who come forward and employing victim-blaming supports an environment for more incidents to occur, and I really feel that most people are socialised to behave in a way that fosters continued abuses.

    In my case, I felt even worse about my silence when I thought a year later of another potential victim that my harassment-perp mentioned in passing, and wondered if we were both privately struggling with the situation instead of pooling stories to gain strength of identifying the pattern and gain solace in a shared experience.

    May 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm
  • Spazfox

    I’m getting damn sick of seeing men get their panties in a wad whenever a woman says something as innocuous as, “Hey, don’t be a creeper.” I’m a man, and I’ve been creeped on by both genders. Without fail it’s weirded me out because I DON’T KNOW THOSE PEOPLE. I should be able to go through my day without having my personal space rubbed up against in an uncomfortable manner, and I respect that women have to go through a lot more uncomfortable weirdness than I’ll ever have to.

    May 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm
  • Eshto

    “I’m getting damn sick of seeing men get their panties in a wad whenever a woman says something as innocuous as, “Hey, don’t be a creeper.””

    But that isn’t why a lot of people are pissed off, Spazfox. The atheist/skeptic community is one of the more progressive ones out there. It is rare to find an atheist or skeptic who is sexist, racist or homophobic. Yes those people exist. But they are rare.

    The real problem many of us have, and the root of the Internet drama that unfolds when these discussions are brought up, is that the particular bloggers behind these calls to action are poor representatives for this cause. They’re hysterical, angry, name-calling, sexist jerks who don’t have any specific points to make, no evidence to provide, they attack people in their blogs and they accuse anyone who dares to disagree with them on any point of being an evil misogynist. I’ve seen bloggers too often make a big deal out of nothing, or slap labels like “Men’s Rights Activist” on people just because they disagree with them. And they do this to people who should be allies and probably agree with them on 99% of all things. They do it to fellow atheists, skeptics and feminists. They spread misinformation and rile people up on purpose to grab attention for their stupid blogs, and a lot of us are sick of it.

    After seeing the way the bloggers treat people and the way they make such a joke out of gender issues, I am skeptical whenever they make any claim related to gender. I don’t think many of these bloggers have any formal education in sociology or gender studies. I’m not against anti-harassment policies, I’m not a “Men’s Rights Activists”, and I’m not claiming harassment never happens or that when it does happen it should be swept under the rug. I’m just against the nutty way the atheist blogosphere mishandles this subject over, and over, and over again.

    May 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm
  • Spazfox

    Estho, my point was that I’m tired of seeing people blow a particular issue out of proportion due to their thin skins. On this point I think we can both see eye to eye, even if I find the rest of your message to be tangential to what I actually said.

    May 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm
  • Maaju

    About what makes this so hard… Having followed several of these debacles where women in a male-dominated community begin making noise about sexism in the community and face horrible, vitriolic backlash… I would say the reason why it’s so hard is because there are a lot of men, or at the very least, a loud minority of men, who can’t face having their privilege pointed out to them, or having it challenge. They didn’t know they are privileged, they still don’t believe they are privileged, but by golly, they’re not going to let go of that privilege without a fight.

    I can’t understand why, but it’s a personal insult to them, and so they are the ones who blow things out of proportion and act irrationally and refuse to have a conversation about the issue - not feminists, not the women who are coming out to say, hey, surprise, where a large number of men and a small number of women gather, there tends to be sexism. And that black rage, and those hurt fee-fees, are what makes it so difficult.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:14 am
  • Mark Plus

    Ironically christians helped to create this situation through their inadvertent advertising campaign for the atheist lifestyle. For how many generations have christians claimed that atheists enjoy uninhibited swinging sex, which presumably means that atheist men could meet all these easy women at atheist gatherings who would want to hook up with them? How many young men from christian backgrounds became atheists in part because they believed this propaganda about atheists’ sex lives coming from their pastors and Sunday school teachers?

    Yet atheism doesn’t change human nature. Women find most men sexually unappealing, and a yucky beta male stays a yucky beta male even when he becomes an atheist and goes to social events also attended by “godless bitches” who wouldn’t put out for him under any circumstances. In fact, some christians, like Vox Day, have started to change their characterization of male atheists by calling them socially retarded guys who can’t find girlfriends. Perhaps they realized that the older stereotype backfired by making atheism too appealing to young men, so now they want to portray atheist men as sexual losers.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:55 am
  • Muz

    Hey, it’s back. Awesome.

    The discussion on the SSA rules was interesting. There’s another dimension that might be a part of it too and that’s that as a student organisation they might have to mirror campus rules of their originating institution and any campuses they operate on. I don’t know off hand, but that’s the sort of thing that happened over here. Even inter varsity organisations had to have the strictest rules in their charter at all times to be let into the school. Campuses in general had implemented very strict rules about keeping professors, speakers and students apart, because, as discussed, there’s a power imbalance that can go all wrong in so many ways. To hear it told, this was because this sort of thing went on all the damn time in the sixties, seventies and eighties occasionally resulting in ugly situations and court cases, never mind conflicts of interest. So they cut it off, blanket. Don’t care about rights or star cross’d lovers. It’s just too much of a potential problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if its similar over there, so a student organisation would have the same rules as the strictest campus they operate on.

    Jun 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm
  • Annique

    Thanks for mentioning that about aspergers and how it’s sometimes used in a completely insincere way as a defense. I’m an aspie and I know how to respect boundaries and not jump peoples bones. If you are properly raised in the world you pick up on that. If it happens with autistic people it’s probably because they were too sheltered, which is a problem nowadays with autistic kids.

    And yeah, what else can I say? Please don’t assault people. It’s wrong and disrespectful.

    Jun 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm
  • Vicky

    I’m more inclined to think the Elevator incident was blown out of proportion, mostly because the story seemed to change little by little whenever I heard Skepchick tell it. At first, she didn’t think it was a big deal, but then it just seemed to pick up steam. I’m all for dudes not being creepers. If he was looking over her shoulder, staring at her tits, I could see it. If he pinned her against the wall, blocked her way out of the elevator, or followed her to her room, I could see making a stink. But all he did was ask her to coffee. That’s not any sort of male privilege issue, it’s an atheist dude asking a cute atheist chick to coffee. And, while Dawkins could have picked better wording for his rebuttal, I believe his intent was misinterpreted. I think he was trying to draw a comparison between actual sexual harassment, and someone being irritated that they were hit on. I think he was trying to say that Skepchick’s frustration with the situation was more of a First World problem, not worthy of all the drama surrounding it. We all get hit on by people we don’t want the attention from. It happens. It’s irritating. But it’s how couples get together and procreate, and it’s not going to stop any time soon. I think we should find a more graceful way of dealing with it than shouting “sexual harassment” whenever it happens outside of the workplace. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there isn’t a sexist problem at all. Popular atheists like TAA belittle women and their rights all the time. I just don’t think this particular situation was an example of that. I think Skepchick got riled up by everyone else around her being outraged. My two cents. Take it as you will. :)

    Jun 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm
  • dave_uh

    I think I understand the frustration with sexual harassment, but I do not agree with some of the things you talked about in the show. Yes, victim blaming can be a problem, but what examples of this have happened in the skeptic community? If a legitimate case for sexual harassment existed, I can’t see why a community of skeptics and logical thinkers would end up siding with the criminal.

    If something happens it should and has to be reported (because it is a crime), you can’t expect everyone to agree with you because you say it is true months or years after an incident occurs and no evidence remains…

    Jun 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm
  • Charles


    If we could get all men in the US to become skeptics the abortion issue would be solved overnight because THERE WOULD BE NO MORE PREGNANCIES.

    I used to think I was the worst person at flirting ever, but I sound like Don Juan de los Mericones compared to some of these guys.

    Jun 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm
  • Charles

    One more thing:

    I emailed the “Ladies” or as I like to call them “Bitches, Yo” before this episode posted to suggest straight people adopt the hanky code. Short of that, how about a pin that says, “Hey, I’m down to fuck.”

    Or –AND THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY– hire a sex worker. The industry is full of good, hardworking men and women who want to bone like it is nobody’s business (even though it is quite literally their business).

    Jun 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm
  • Boo

    It’s mind boggling how people react to women talking about sexual harassment and the like. They try to loudly proclaim that it is an overreaction and there is no problem, no proof!! and then you say the most simple and obvious observation about the subject and you have some guys freaking out and pulling out the rape jokes and threats immediately! There is no logic involved when you hear something that upsets your privilege and you can only hurl insults and try your best to convince the women that they are “crazy” and “over-emotional”. Yep, not a problem. If there was no real problem then those people wouldn’t react with SUCH hostility.

    Sep 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm
  • tracieh

    >but you do not get to pick and chose who “hits on you” and when.

    Agreed. It’s legal to make sexual advances on a widow at a funeral, but it’s still a pretty shit thing to do, and socially it’s fine to say you’re being a creep to go there. When I get into an elevator, I’m just trying to go from one floor of a building to another. There is no way someone would confuse that public setting with a social setting–like a party or lounge situation where people often mix and mingle. Nobody goes to elevators to signal sexual availability–or if they are doing that, they’re very confused about Western culture. It was simply an idiotic venue to try and strike up any sort of social exchange, let alone something so advanced as “come to my hotel room with me?” Who confuses elevators with social settings? Seriously–who could be that stupid? And putting another person in the awkward situation of having to put up with the bother of having to cope with that level of disregard for social boundaries and protocol means you deserve a hearty “fuck you!” But fortunately Watson only gave an anonymous “what a creep” response after being quite polite to an idiot who didn’t deserve it during the actual event.

    Oct 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm
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