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Not Time to Name Names. Yet. May 23, 2012

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Rants.
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This is in response to this post (among many others on the subject today):

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/05/23/its-almost-time-to-start-naming-names/

The comment thread there is already too long, so I’ll talk about it here.

As regards the skeezy behavior of certain well-known speakers at secular conferences:  At this point it is absolutely too soon to begin “naming and shaming” anybody.  If we do not have a harassment policy in place at a conference, then it’s not exactly fair to publicly punish anybody for violating our non-existent policy.  All you commenters on other blogs calling for lists of names, cut it out already.  The discussion isn’t about gossip, its about how to organize events to avoid problems.

Now is the time to begin setting clear expectations for behavior at future events.  For our attendees, and also and especially for our speakers, so that all attendees can feel safe at secular gatherings.  The goal is to change the skeezy behavior, not to punish those who don’t yet realize that their behavior is skeezy.

I think I’d compare this to the rules on smoking at public gatherings.  It used to be totally acceptable for a smoker to light up anywhere, even if it was really suffocating for the people around them.  There was a time when certain restaurants were unavailable to me, because they were full of smoke and I coudn’t tolerate it.  Planes were terrible, buses were almost intolerable, a bar was completely out of the question.  At that time I would not have blamed any particular smoker for the problem, the problem was the overall expectation that smoking was OK.

Now we’ve learned a lot more about smoke, we’ve changed the rules, and it is no longer acceptable for a smoker to light up anywhere they feel like.  Our expectations about what is acceptable have changed, many venues have specific no smoking rules, and we non-smokers are more confident about speaking up when someone is ignoring a “no-smoking” sign.  And I can now go almost anywhere and be confident that I will be able to breathe.  Sure, the smokers were indignant about this at first, and a few still are, but they have gotten used to it over time, and also there are fewer smokers now.

So be on notice guys.  “No Groping” signs are now going up next to the “No Smoking” signs.  If you go to conventions because you think it’s a place to “bag a hottie” or push unwanted attention sexual attention on women, think again.  You are now on notice.  If a woman tells you that you are making her uncomfortable or have overstepped the limits of acceptable behavior, listen to her and back off, because there will now be repercussions for being a jerk.  If you can’t deal with that, stay home.

(And yes this applies to women too.  And any flavor of LGBTQ.  If the other person is not reciprocating your interest, back off.  If you fail to do this, you can expect that people will no longer let it slide. The rules are changing as of now. )

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Comments»

1. mkb - May 24, 2012

I agree completely. In addition to policies, we apparently need more women in the movement who are just willing to saying very clearly and loudly to offenders, “I don’t like that, please stop.” Offenders will get the message if ignoring it results in their being embarrassed in public.

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