Sometimes I am in full agreement with, and supportive of, feminists. Sometimes, not so much.
(Edit: see comment)
The recent acrimony about speakers(males) at conferences, otherwise known as ‘predators’, who want to have sex with attendees, seems in my view to have escalated beyond reasonable concern, to puritanical moralizing.
But let me be clear, about what I am talking about:
criminal harassment generally consists of repeated conduct that is carried out over a period of time and that causes victims to reasonably fear for their safety but does not necessarily result in physical injury
Now, that is a general definition, and what constitutes harassment (this does) does vary from place to place. And, although I do have some experience, based on my union involvement in different workplaces, I’m not a lawyer.
One of the most recent ideas floating around, which I mentioned in a previous post, is that of banning speakers from having sex with attendees. Now, I’m not sure how one could possibly enforce this, or even track it, but I’m all for maintaining professionalism and a congenial atmosphere, even if I think it is a bit patronizing(what two consenting adults do in the privacy of a hotel room, is no one’s business but theirs).
Then I read this.
The short of it is, Skepchick blogger Elyse was keynoting at skepticamp, and near the end of the conference was approached by a couple who gave her their card, with a naked picture of the two of them on it. It’s been described variously as an invitation, and a prank.
Now, I’m a guy, and my first reaction was to laugh when I read this. And really, given the ridiculousness of it, the fact it wasn’t repeated, and the complete lack of safety, as an issue, means I can’t take it too seriously. Naked is funny.
But not everyone agrees, and skepticamp does have a policy. And this sort of behaviour does seem to violate that policy.
Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.
Wait what? Ok, I know these are skeptics, not atheists, but seriously?
Now, I do try and make a point of not being needlessly offensive around religious people, but equating verbally offensive(something that is often entirely subjective) comments about religion to harassment? Oh boy, is this blog a pit of harassment.
I fully accept that people who run conferences, can and should set ground rules for speakers and attendees, if for no other reason than it helps everyone get along. People who go to these sorts of conferences are a diverse group with diverse expectations and interests. But what we are talking about now is not harassment guidelines, but ‘acceptable behavior’ guidelines. Conflating the two, on the one hand increases the acrimony on any behaviour deemed unacceptable, and means that some people will shrug off the guidelines entirely, as overly intrusive and parochial. Harassment is always serious, but simply being offensive is not.
If we’re talking about safety, and that is important, I’m on board, but if we’re talking about offending people? Seriously, I think some people need to grow up and get a thicker skin. As the atheists say, you don’t have a right to not to be offended.
I don’t often speak at conferences, but when I do, I accept naked pictures with a smile… even if I cringe a bit at first.