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
In a new article titled “Why I Don’t Do Atheist Conventions,” Staks Rosch cites swollen convention expenses and family priorities as two valid issues for choosing not to attend conventions, and then bemoans the supposed “drama” of atheist conventions. It’s true, attending conventions can cost a lot, but Staks takes his argument past issues of function and peddles into another arena. He claims that “conventions just seem like an extension of high school,” and that’s where we find his judgment becomes a bit shaky.
But one thing is certain and that is that after the convention is over, someone will blog about how they felt slighted about something or that someone creeped them out. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people have every right to feel slighted or creeped out but I think I would rather have those issues addressed privately with the particular people involved.
The atmosphere at atheist conventions is removed from regular society. People are far less judgmental of your behaviour and word choice, and social awkwardness is absorbed into the mix, as plenty of us suffer from social anxiety. Uniqueness, dorky ways, and other social “oddities” are worn as badges of honour. We shamelessly wear Dr.Who t-shirts, play frisbee, Magic the Gathering, and engage in all other forms of dork/geek. The blogs that have come out lately are not addressing awkward social behaviour, they are addressing manipulative intentional predatory actions from both convention attendees and a few movement leaders.
But I would rather that person come to me and tell me what if anything I am doing that offends them rather than go home, feel creeped out, and blog about be behind my back.
What Staks misses is this: most of the issues of serious sexual harassment are addressed in private, and in person. It’s strange to see him brush aside serious issues of sexual harassment, while narrowly focusing on personal social anxiety issues. His evidence for this “drama” is based loosely upon a few post convention blogs with people addressing real issues of sexual harassment. I agree with Staks when he states, “the point of even having conventions for atheists is to help us fight back against the religious, help us to develop our message, and give us things to think about philosophically and scientifically,” but the “drama” he so casually dismisses as high school antics is not such. The tensions we’re facing are due to trying to address serious issues of sexual harassment.
Because of all these controversies, I just don’t feel welcome at these things. I would be too afraid that I would say the wrong thing to the wrong person or that someone would take something I said in a way other than intended or that I would look at someone in the wrong way.
There are items that need to be pulled into the public spotlight, such as addressing the larger picture of harassment at conventions and providing a solution to convention organizers when an attendee faces such harassment. There should be no misunderstanding here, people have begun to organize online to discuss a solution to actual sexual predators – not lambaste a few socially awkward individuals.
Category: Atheism & Religion