Author Emily Dietle
My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks
After only attending three conventions, I can attest that sexual harassment does occur- and contrary to DJ Grothe, I’m positive that it occurs at TAM, too. Outside of other women’s accounts, there have been multiple occasions where I was made uncomfortable and actually frightened by sexual harassment and predatory behaviour at atheist/etc conventions. My responses ranged from avoiding stalkers, confronting derogatory and distasteful comments, politely and forcefully asking persons to leave me alone, and finally making informal reports. My counter-harassment efforts were all successful- but only because of my persistence, not because the event organizers had any way to deal with such issues, they didn’t.
It cannot be denied that sexual harassment occurs at conventions, and solutions must be put in place to deal with such incidents. There will be minor disagreements as to what stipulations and consequences anti-harassment policies need to include; dialogue about creating these policies needs to be transparent. I firmly state that all organizations in the secular/skeptic/atheist communities need to have such policies in place- no matter the scale of their events, because harassment occurs everywhere.
While I understand and identify strongly with Rebecca Watson‘s anger about sexual harassment in our male dominated community, we must remain persistent in our quest to have equal representation and safe conventions. Choosing to pull financial support from an entire organization based on one representative’s abhorrent (some would say misinterpreted) statements may be a great tactic to force change, but choosing not to attend does not seem like a permanent solution to the issue.
We need action, certainly true, and my suggestion to Rebecca and others concerned about sexual harassment at conventions is this: contact the leaders right now, and demand that their next event have an anti-harassment policy. If you plan on attending an event, go with an anti-harassment policy in hand, and present it to the leaders if they don’t already have one.
We must be present, persistent, and demand that these issues are addressed. Less attendance of women may send a message and dent funding, but it is not a permanent solution.