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PZ and FtB: I can't stand it any more
Recently, while I was checking some of our frontpage links, I popped over to see ERV's recent posts. I found one titled Quick Update, and a week-long, headache inducing journey across too many blogs ensued. If anyone reading this hasn't read my News post from Friday, you should read that before continuing, it'll make it easier to understand this post.

The link Abbie embedded in that post led me to The Slyme Pit. A new home to continue the comments that began on ERV. If you read the Quick Update, you'll understand, as least partly, why they moved. After rereading and finding new bits of information in the year-long "debate" that resulted from Elevatorgate, I started reading through the Slyme Pit. The first thing I noticed was that at least half the active posters seem to be women. I had been seeing (on other blogs, mainly at FtB) all the "slime pit", "slimepitters" and "pit" references and the misogyny, sexism and gender traitor accusations purportedly belonging to these people, I was, to say the least, confused.

Well, I've been going back and forth between the Pit and FtB gleaning as much as I could from all the posts that were being discussed, trying to see where I personally stood in the "disagreement". The dishonesty at some FtB pages is so noticeable, I can't believe they believe it.
Putting aside Elevatorgate, TAM and conference safety, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that sexism and misogyny are real. It is real in any group of people. As are other group dynamic issues. Atheism and/or skepticism isn't the linchpin of these issues, it's the people.

Two of the last posts I read at FtB prompted me to write this post. The first was one from a blog called Butterflies and Wheels, written by Ophelia Benson. There was a speaker at The Amazing Meeting this weekend, Pamela Gay, whose speech resonated with those addressing the issue of safety for women, at conferences and in the world in general.

Here in the skeptics community, we, like every other segment of society, have our share of individuals who, given the right combination of alcohol and proximity will grab tits and ass. I’ve had both body parts randomly and unexpectedly grabbed at in public places by people who attend this conference – not at this conference, but by people at this conference. Just like in astronomy, it’s a combination of the inebriated guys going too far – guys I can handle - and of men in power being asses.

I know that there has been a lot of internet buzz over the last two years about these issues. This community is filled with strong women. A Kovacs and MsInformation are two ballsy women I draw inspiration from. These are just two of the many SkepChicks, and many of the Skeptical and scientific podcasts have female hosts. When they see something wrong, they ask for ways to protect people from being hurt. And they do like Surly Amy did and raise money to get women here – women who together can support one another so that when we go home we have a network of women to turn to to support us even at a distance. These are women who react to problems with a sharp word and a needed call to action that is designed to fix the problems

I know this is an uncomfortable topic. An I know that my talk is going to provoke some of you who don’t think I should air dirty laundry. But I see a problem and I can’t change it alone.

There were a few points that some took issue with, but overall everyone I've seen comment, on both sides, seemed to agree with the message. But, as I've seen in almost every FtB comment thread where this issue was discussed, there was inevitably someone that referenced "The Pit". This thread was no different. I had been sitting and using F5 to keep up with the The Periodic Table of Swearing aka The Undead Thread and the same time reading the Pamela Gay speech and the Butterflies and Wheels comments about it.( Feel free to visit both threads and pay particular notice to the timestamps of the posts.)

Before I continue, i want to voice my biggest complaint regarding the FtB crowd involved in most of the infighting. From the beginning, they labeled anyone that disagreed with their way of thinking anti-FtB and if you were anti-FtB you had to be a sexist and misogynist. If you were female and didn't toe the line, you were a gender traitor. They stuck with this tactic the entire time.

Now back to the Pamela Gay post. You'll see it only took 4 comments to get started:

julian says:
July 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I’m glad this was well received but it’s only reinforced my disdain for the anti-FtB crowd. This had nothing to do with the issues, as I had convinced myself. They’re genuinely just spiteful and vindictive people looking to tear down the “wrong” type of skeptic.


great read and speech.

If you've been keeping up, this is what most people would call "projection".

There are quite a few posts similar to this, just follow the above link and see for yourself. I said before, I was going to discuss two posts I had read at FtB, these aren't the only posts that show the dishonesty, these just happen to be the last two. But I wanted to get this one in:

hyperdeath says:
July 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

The slimepit has started sliming Pamela Gay.

Now please visit the Undead Thread link and scroll through to 3:21pm or even a little earlier. Look for posters "sliming" Pamela Gay. Scroll forward some more. Anything?

And apparently, no evidence is required:

Ophelia Benson says:
July 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Good god, really? I thought that would be beneath even them.

No of course you don’t want to fucking look. Do you want to swim in acid?

I eventually posted:

Skeeve says:
July 15, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I see nothing in the Slime Pit denigrating Pamela Gay. You sure you’re looking at the right website?

Ophelia Benson says:
July 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I’m not looking at it at all, and I don’t really want to get into conversations about it here. I’m happy to be able to ignore it.

Skeeve says:
July 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Well, someone should look and see that hyperdeath is not being honest, which is leading others to take it as fact without evidence.


Ophelia Benson says:
July 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Oh for fuck’s sake – not being “honest” about a bunch of lying sexist thugs on a site set up to cyberstalk me and a few other people? Give me a break.

Yeah, they've got the story down and there isn't anything that's going to change it.

Anyone with the time can go through countless blog posts and comments and see the "lying sexist thugs" attacking the message and dishonestly wrought by the ego of those who think their position as "leaders" give them the right to set the conditions of being a skeptic, feminist, atheist or whatever they're crusading for that day.

Which brings us to the other post that lead me to write this post.

I used to follow PZ Myers' blog daily, when it was on ScienceBlogs. But I was noticing a change in the regular commenters and the way they responded to dissent. I'm not talking about trolls or the crazy theists, I'm talking about other atheists/agnostics that dared to question PZ or other commenters that aligned with PZ. I didn't like what I was seeing, so quit visiting unless a friend linked to a particular post that seemed interesting. Anyway, tonight the topic was a parody blog, FreethoughtBLAHgs, that was making fun of FtB. Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds posted what she thought was the name of the creator of the blog. Unfortunately for her, she was wrong.

And this is where I gave up. PZ Myers, my once favorite skeptic, atheist and biology guru, jumped on it and posted it as well. PZ takes without evidence Zvan's claim and posted Ed Clint has been working hard, which links back to Almost Diamonds.

Ed Clint has denied being involved with the blog, so at least PZ issued a retraction of sorts:

July 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm PZ Myers

Ed Clint now denies having anything to do with that site. I guess I’ll have to accept his word.

Ed Clint also says Paula Kirby’s “Sisterhood of the Oppressed” was a fair and reasonable document. Calling people Nazis is OK when it is carefully justified.

Way to go, PZ. Any shred of respect I had for you in now completely gone.

The FtB crowd has tried to control this issue by painting anyone not toeing the line as liars, sexists, gender traitors, trolls and misogynists. I don't have to repeat the the attack the messenger, not the message meme, but I believe it can be traced back to Elevatorgate and the attacks on Rebecca Watson's detractors, and it has been continuing throughout this nasty story.

It sounds like Pamela Gay has issued a challenge of sorts. If you want to move forward and accept it, there will need to be compromise and some sort of reconciliation or we'll be stuck in this fucking loop forever.

I want to go back to laughing at creationists and watching NonStampCollector videos.

**I apologize if this doesn't flow well. I'm not a writer.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
I forgot about a Twitter I saw:

I haven't been involved in any of the discussions until my post on Friday, and I'm automatically branded as an enabler of women hating. WTG Tigger_the_Wing for the perfect example.
Edited by Skeeve on 07/17/2012 08:34
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
For a guy who plays computer games, and once dug a hole in the garden six foot deep for the hell of it, this may seem like a strange comment:

This seems like an utter waste of time.

Fans never concede to the argument of the other side, and that is what is happening on the websites you mention.

I appreciate peoples talents, but that is as far as it goes, people become creepy the more they let something flood into their minds - just look at any crowd waiting for their favourite musical artist (hard thing to find in the modern world).

And no matter how fine-tuned you believe you are to spotting Trolls, some people are in the fight for the fun of it.

To the comments of the first quote, I do think it is bad that women have to fear being groped at conventions, but is that an american thing?
Unfortunately TE is right. Too many people are so concerned that any admission that some things they do are less than ideal will invalidate their entire belief system. Atheists are people too, with all the imperfection that goes with being human.

We tend to look at theists as always rationalizing their bad behavior but they don't do it because of religion, they do it because they are human. Atheists are no different, we just have fewer excuses.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
It's not the fact that it happens, from what I've been reading it's being blown out of proportion and anyone who says different is anti-woman.

It's really not the best thing for any group.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
My point is that its being blown out of proportion because no one wants to admit wrong doing.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
In what sense? In the bickering or the actual harassment of women?

Nm, i reread your previous post.

And, I'm not sure I can completely agree with that.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
Sorry, posting from work and got a little busy there.

I don't think the issues raised have much to do with admitting the problem. Rather, the majority admits a problem, as much as there is a problem in any given group. Atheists/skeptics don't have a problem that's unique to their group, it has just been framed that way.

The problem is that there seems to be a group that wants to be the ones to "lead" on this issue, and those that disagree have been vilified. Of course, being the internet, there have been trolls stirring shit, and I would think they are obvious. Yet, they have been lumped together with those with serious concerns. So now, everyone who has ever posted contrary to their group think are all the same. This is my main issue with this whole mess.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
I watched and listened to maybe 1/3rd the initial video and came to the conclusion that the woman is a arrogant little bitch and what happened to her is a non event. It astounds me that there has been great controversy.

I think a weekly video blog might indicate this woman has a very elevated sense of self worth, although I know many do it. The whole tenor of the video struck me as saying, I associate with important people and some schlub should not hit on me in the elevator.

I would ask the woman how else would people who are attracted to another meet them if they did not occasionally take a chance.

I admit the timing and the location were inappropriate. I still think the motivation behind the initial blog was to indicate she was too important, talented, attractive and intelligent for someone not a famous personage to hit on her.
I didn't have a problem with her vlog about the incident. The "sexualizing me" thing was a bit much, but, meh.

It was what happened when some people didn't say "meh", and actually questioned her about it that things went downhill.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
I tried to read through more but will stand by my initial statement. This woman was making the point that she was too important for some ordinary man at a convention to hit on her.

I will agree completely that the hour, the location and the suggestion were inappropriate, the man should have been aware it was too crude to be successful. But otherwise I continue to stand by my original assessment.

The woman is a egotist who finds herself so important that non important males should stay away, although apparently Richard Dawkins should kiss his chances goodby. A shame, they do seem like an excellent match, they could continually tell themselves how important they are.

I again find it odd that a controversy has raged for so long. Yes in many circumstances women are objectified and sexualized particularly in the media and sometimes at their own choice. An awkward and inappropriate come on in an elevator does not do that.

Further, the woman who started this in the first place did it only to certify her bona fides as an important person.

Sexuality, sexism and objectivism are complex multidimensional problems. Not associated with an awkward pick up line at 04:00 at a convention.

I would ask that you look on her photos on the internet. The first one is of her in pigtails. Now my wife (who is more than twice her age) wore pigtails but she quit when she was about 12. Was the woman looking for someone wishing to hook up with a school girl.

I can find objectification for her, the only problem being it might exist in her own house.
The elevator is old news now. Everything over the past year is done.

We're at t-shirt now. Seriously. It's causing a major meltdown.

Some backstory:

Dr. Harriet Hall, wore a t-shirt at TAM.

On the front it said:, "I feel safe and welcome at TAM".

On the back it had this:

[img][/img] is not a valid Image.

Skepchick is a website, one of their members felt harassed by this shirt. It mocked her and forced her to flee TAM a day early. Crying.

Here are her own words:

I think one of the most hurtful things I experienced while attending TAM was Harriet Hall’s Tshirt that she wore three days in a row. I told her through tears, in the speakers’ lounge, that it was dehumanizing and gender/color blind and very hurtful to me specifically as a person who does have to deal with harassment regularly. I said I was glad she felt safe and that I wouldn’t have sent 22 women to the event if I didn’t think it was safe for them either. So who was she talking to?

I felt that it was a personal attack (whether or not intended as such) since I was the main public representative of Skepchick at the event and it said ‘skepchick’ on her shirt and I told her that. I know she had a right to wear that shirt even though it was hurtful. But one day would have been enough when she was at the podium to send her message. To continue wearing it every single day, especially after I had expressed how upset I was with it, was cruel and shortsighted to say the least. That was very, very disappointing since I used to have a lot of respect for her. But there were so many detractors there that I’m sure she was getting a lot of love for slamming “skepchicks” everyday, and so my feelings were the minority and so became irrelevant.

It’s this kind of dehumanizing and angry sports-fan mentality that is driving people like me away from this group of skeptics. And I am one of the people actually doing something quantifiable with the grants (which I plan on continuing to do btw.) Seriously, imagine if half the energy used to make angry shirts and fake websites were dedicated to helping me send women to science events or to do any sort of good in this movement. We could change the world. Skeptics are supposed to fight back against psychics and scam artists, they aren’t supposed to make people like me cry and leave events early. We need to stop the harassment and hate and this sort of instigating should not be tolerated by a group of rationalists. It is certainly not going to be tolerated by me.

There was definitely an us against them feeling that I personally experienced at the event, with groups of people who wouldn’t get within 10 feet of my table. Many identifiable online FtB- and Skepchick-detractors and their friends. Oh and there were undercover harassment people, which just seemed so strange and creepy to me. I was told there were 19 people secretly monitoring the event for harassment but no public policy or message on how to report incidents other than some info hidden on the JREF website under FAQs that I never saw. I only found out about this after I was in tears in the speakers’ lounge with a few people and suddenly a super-secret harassment specialist team was brought in to talk with me. After I reported to them that the TAM twitter feed with the anonymous blogging from the event and Harriet’s shirt had upset me to the point of wanting to leave, I had security cameras trained on me and my table where I sat with my mother the entire time. A security/harassment person checked on me regularly. They said I was being monitored and recorded. It was intended, I was told, to help me feel safe but instead it just exacerbated the stress I felt. I changed my flight and left a day early.


*edited to add front view picture
Edited by Skeeve on 07/17/2012 20:20
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
You have to read the comments to get a full understanding of where this group of people stand. I would be embarrassed.


Read through them. There are some seriously troubled people there.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
Just noticed this near the bottom of the comments (click to enlarge, 2 pics):
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
Harriet Hall seems to be a woman after my own heart, suggesting that she doesn't need to add qualifiers or addenda to "skeptic" in order to feel comfortable. I've always found the very notion of the "skepChicks" off-putting, not because of what they are but their approach to being it. It speaks to their insecurity, ultimately. Sure, there might be righteous indignation, anger, etc, all perfectly well "justified" by the history and current realities of society. But for those with a healthy sense of irony, it's fairly plain that going around basically saying "look at me, I'm a girl! (and a skeptic, too!)" is precisely the kind of bias they're supposedly responding to. People truly insistent on being treated like "everyone else" would do well to carry on as if it were already a fact and ignore those who would disrespect it unless someone gets in their way.

Harriet Hall apparently has an opinion about that and would seem to want to be considered a person first, a skeptic second, and a girl somewhere else down the line. That this has reduced someone to tears is indeed a sign of emotional instability. But I imagine you'll have that from a group founded around a kernel of insecurity.
Ash Pryce
On the plus side this is a very vocal minority and generally people are sick of it. The trouble is reason and critical thinking skills aren't being employed. The quote above where Skeeve points out that OB is wrong and she basically responds with "I don't care I'm going to believe it anyway" is truly shocking.
Just read the comments of any post over there talking about this. It's hard to believe they think they're rational.
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
I have tried to follow what is going on here, but it's a little confusing. So basically there was some sort of atheist meetup where a prominent atheist blogger claims she was sexually harassed by being come on to by a man in an elevator, and anybody that questions her over whether or not she is overreacting is called a misogynist, and this has created some sort of schism within the online atheist blogosphere, is that right? I've looked around a bit at what's going on, and the only name I really recognize in all of this is Thunderf00t.

I don't know the explicit details of what this man said to this woman, but if everything I have heard was correct, it sounds as if what JohnH said is correct; that she has an enormous sense of self importance and is acting like a sort of martyr.

This sounds to me like a victimization complex and a massive ego masquerading as feminism. I consider myself quite a strong feminist, as I am not one of those "Men's rights" loons that parade around Youtube to shout about how badly white men have it due to feminism. Despite all this I highly dislike this whole "skepchic" concept as I think it undermines the position of women in this community by marginalizing them not as fellow skeptics, but as WOMEN skeptics, not the same as the men you see. This strikes me as nothing more than playground "us vs. them" antics that is beneath a supposedly adult community. In that regard, I really like that shirt Harriet Hall wore, as I think it sums up what I think pretty well. A woman going home in tears over it sounds like some sort of high school drama, which to be honest is pretty much what this whole thing sounds like.
You seem to have a nice grasp of the situation, Max.

They also seem to be deluded regarding their popularity or importance to the overall skeptical/atheist community at large.

I'm going to predict record attendance at next years TAM. I know I will do everything I can to make it.

eta: Anyone else have an opinion on this either way? I'm really interested to see how our members are viewing this entire dust-up.

I would really like to talk about this with someone with the opposing viewpoint, but they're not much for dialogue.
Edited by Skeeve on 07/20/2012 08:46
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
It is too bad that only males (I think) have responded so far on this subject. It does indicate that women may be afraid of the community because it is dominated by males, as many are. The only important female atheist I can think of off hand is Emma Goldman, and that primarily because my older son worked on her papers at the Bancroft Library.

I watched the first 17+- minutes of this video, http://scienceblo...watson-a/, and found it interesting. Ms. Watson spends the early half presenting very distasteful messages she receives and then late presents a message from a Stef McGraw. It would be as if I presented multiple anti-semitic speeches and associated them with negative comments about Israel's dealings with Palestinians. Ms. McGraw's comments were perfectly reasonable and did not deserve the juxtaposition they received.

Ms. Watson sees things so clearly that she cannot see something else.

I was in a bar some years ago watching a sporting event on tv. I made a remark about the game to the women next to me and she responded "you know I am a lesbian", or something to that effect. Well yes I did know, she and I were habitues of the same place and her sexual orientation was fairly apparent. My comment was strictly related to the events of the game and had nothing to do with anything personal. If you see the world in one way it will be that way.

I spent several days two weeks ago with family and friends in an isolated location. The women there know several things about me, I am in general sexually attracted to them (I do draw the line with mothers of grandchildren and those I have known since they were children, although I do have thoughts on occasion), I look on them differently than I do men and sometimes that is a negative attribute, I appreciate them for what they are and I am not necessarily a bad person because I differentiate male from female.

Those who have been victimized in the past must understand that we are all in it for the long haul. Things will not change over night. Faux pas at 04:00 do not prove that things are as bad as they were 50 years ago, they only prove that there is room for improvement.
Edited by JohnH on 07/23/2012 17:04
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