Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fighting for Sanity: a futile exercise?

Just over 5h earlier, Tweeter user Heather Henderson posted a tweet in her timeline, stating the she is a "woman and a skeptic" and she felt "safe at #TAM2012!". In a short time, her tweet was retweeted 10 times by various other users.

Curiously, if I am not much mistaken (please correct me if I am), these were mostly users that are firmly on the side that has been vocal in its disagreement on the proposition to institute an anti-harassment policy (AHP) at the JREF-organized skeptic meeting TAM (The Amazing Meeting).

For those who have been living under a rock for the past month or more (just kidding!), here is a sequence of events starting from the unpleasant experience that the Skepchick blogger, Rebecca Watson, faced at a skeptic meeting, to another unpleasant situation created through the steady attempts by a gaggle of so-called skeptics to undermine Rebecca's experience and their consistent refusal to accept that there is a problem of sexism and misogyny amongst the skeptic community.

This particular group (the anti-AHP group, to which the Henderson-retweeters, mentioned above, seem to align themselves) also started a "#FTBullies" hashtag on twitter to falsely impose the charge of bullying on certain prominent FreethoughtBloggers who dared to suggest means to self-police to weed out the problem of sexism and ask questions about existing policy's inadequacies to prevent harassment of women at skeptical conferences. Amusingly, this hashtag was tweetjacked by users sympathetic to FtBlogger's stance (the pro-AHP users) to debate the issues by using a heady combination of hilarity, sarcasm and substance.

The discussion continues on Twitter. After several days to weeks, the dichotomy still remains. The anti-AHP crowd, despite being presented with evidence and arguments, still doesn't understand (so much for 'skeptics'!) why the issue of sexism/misogyny amidst the atheist/skeptic community is a serious one and why it needs to acknowledged, understood and addressed forthwith.

If anyone had a doubt about the anti-AHP side's steadfast denial of the problem, do read the following exchange I had with Heather Henderson subsequent to her tweet.
At this point, my head started hurting from the repeated *Headdesks*.

But all that jiggling around of my brain made me realize something: it's rather futile, much like debating homeopathy aficionados, or anti-vaccine nutjobs. Atheism or so-called skepticism doesn't magically engender rational thought, and privileged idiots will continue to argue ad nauseam their privileged stances bereft of empathy, denying the problem, disparaging and trying to scuttle all attempts to a solution; they will continue to try to shout down those who show concern. There have been enough discussions on harassment endured by skeptic women (Cf. Stephanie Zvan,; the eloquent Alex Gabriel, moi in my response to Paula, amongst others), and yet not much progress has been made at one of the original problem areas, TAM (Cf. Stephanie Zvan and Ophelia on this), still led by the same DJ Grothe whose conduct in this matter was and continues to be less than stellar.

Despair, despair at what seems to be rather a futile exercise. Thankfully, people much worthier than I am (like my friend, Sally Strange) are still fighting on with perseverance and fortitude, for sense and sanity. Some day... Perhaps, some day.


  1. Thanks for leaving much of that conversation out of your post so that people can be more misinformed than they already are.

    1. Instead of making a drive-by snide remark three weeks after this was posted, why don't you set me straight, Heather, as to what 'much' of that conversation I left out of my post? Funny that you should talk about misinforming people. Have you checked the behavior of people on your side lately?