TAM, Sexual Harassment, PZMyers, Thunderf00t and freethoughtblogs OH MY!

I’ve watched the argument over sexual harassment evolve over the past week or two and while I can’t really comment on the atmosphere of the skeptic conventions (they’re cost prohibitive so I don’t attend them) I have attended other conventions in the past so I’m familiar with the overall atmosphere.

And before anyone dismisses the convention scene as unimportant I’ll point out that networking in person can be incredibly useful, especially to people whose skills are suited to in-person communication. Convention networking is like any skill set (you know how to do it properly and it’s very useful; you don’t know how and the value of attending a convention is decreased).

So resolving the issue of sexual harassment at conventions and whether it is problematic is necessary.

Aside from anything else? From a strict, marketing perspective; if there is a perceived problem in some area and it impacts on sales then you’ve got a legitimate problem.

I’m told that there is a 22% drop in the number of female attendees at TAM this year and there is no arguing with that number; yes. You’ve got a problem.

If you’re getting similar numbers at other conventions then sexual harassment has become an issue at these conventions-not just at TAM because generally these kinds of drops in attendance are an indicator there’s something wrong with what you’re selling.

And keep in mind TAM isn’t just about selling tickets. It’s about selling an idea; a new way of life. It’s about selling the idea that science, knowledge and critical thinking are not just wonderful things that experts make use of to improve our lives but that they are also accessible to all regardless of who and what you are.

TAM is seeking to reach everyone so that they can sell this idea. They aren’t just collecting coin of the realm for tickets they’re also collecting support so that they can build momentum and spread their message.

So yes, resolving the issue of a 22% drop in female attendance from one year to the next due to a general fear that sexual harassment at conventions (TAM to be specific in this case) and whether it is problematic is necessary and wishing it away won’t get you anywhere.

At the very least you’ve got an image problem. At the most you’ve got a problem with the product you’re offering. In this case you’re selling a convention experience and part of your target demographic ( females) have a problem with your product.

There’s a number of ways you can handle this situation.

First; you can belittle the concerns expressed by the female community members who are and aren’t coming.

In my experience; belittling a customer rarely gets you a sale. So if you really want women to attend I’m guessing that telling them that you know better than they do won’t get you very far. Neither will ignoring them.

Second; you could request that all men attend a one hour sensitivity training seminar prior to attendance but that doesn’t strike me as practical either.

My instincts tell me that you’ll get a NO answer and if you require it? This will cause a drop in the number of male attendees. This is certainly not what you’re looking for. That’s just as bad as the problem you’ve already got.

Third; you could try adopting a policy that involves making a strong statement on sexual harassment and hiring people who actually know how to deal with this sort of thing.

I’m told the TAM organizers did part one of proposition three and PZ Myers did a blog post declaring it a victory to which I say; “Don’t break out the champagne and glasses yet PZ”.

Right now we’ve got a policy in place; the real victory comes from evidence that TAM organizers actually trained staff to handle situations diplomatically that arise between those attending the convention as well as liaising properly with convention hall/ hotel security.

For those who think it’s just horrible that TAM has adopted this new sexual harassment policy I’ve got this bit of advice for you.

Are you ready for this?

Don’t attend.

There you go. If you don’t like it don’t attend.

And before you start furiously typing your comments attacking me for saying this I have to point out; this is exactly what you were saying to the women who were initially complaining so if your position is that; “it’s only okay when the men get their way” then I’m unsympathetic.

The ironic thing in all this is thunderf00t – as much fun as he’s given me on and off twitter over the past few days pretty much made the point that the idea of having some sort of specific, clear policy in place that’s properly enforced for any endeavor is a good idea.

If you don’t believe me look at his blog posts on freethoughts blogs.

Opinions and positions aside the quality of his writing was terrible. It was like he wasn’t even trying. I say that because I find it unbelievable he can’t do better if he tries, having spoken to him and associated with him I’m certain he’s capable of writing consecutive coherent sentences if he puts his mind to it. He’s clearly not an idiot.

But what we got is spelling errors, incomplete sentences, dropped words; no offense but if I’d worked hard to put a blog together like the people at freethought blogs have?

If I’d spent weeks, months, years building up a reputation for providing a quality product and someone came along and put up blog posts that dragged down the overall image and professionalism of the place?

I’d have booted thunderf00t a lot quicker than PZMeyers did and it would be nothing personal thunderf00t, it’s strictly business because that would be my business you were performing poorly at and it would be my responsibility and right to protect it. I would expect no less from you if I was doing work for you and I did a shoddy job.

I hear freethoughtblogs because of this now has some new policies in place and I’m betting one of them is;

People who write for freethought blogs are required to edit their blog posts and make sure everything is spelled correctly; they are required to make sure there are no errors of grammar and syntax. There ya go.”

Aronra showed me ( among others I’m sure) one of his first posts before he put it up on freethoughtblogs and it was a pleasure to read.

He had one spelling error and I was enough of a dick to point it out. He laughed at my doing that but I’m betting he appreciated the correction.

Why you may ask?

Because I’m guessing coming across like a responsible professional on freethoughblogs is important to Aronra because he sees that freethoughtblogs could be an excellent addition to his arsenal of tools in the fight against irrational thinking.

It was a good post too, I have to do a response to it.

Thunderf00t? Didn’t care. He treated freethoughtblogs like it was just another YouTube comments section. That doesn’t make him a bad or stupid person it just means freethoughtblogs and thunderf00t were a bad fit.

But my point is that all this proves that having policy in place is a good thing because some people don’t know any better.

Or don’t care or –whatever. They don’t fit into what you’re trying to do, they’re endangering your ability to succeed and there’s got to be a practical way of dealing with it.

So that’s what I found most ironic about all this. Is thunderf00t actually proved that spelling out policy is a good thing with some of what he did on freethoughtblogs.

Having attended gaming and Comic-Con conventions in the past I’m amused that anyone even raised the argument against the need for a clearly spelled out policy on human behavior in the first place.

Gaming Conventions have some strict policies on human behavior, right down to instructions on general hygiene and I assure you it’s the Comic-Con geeks doing their best impersonations of mobile stink bombs that first motivated staff to insert this line in their policy:

Those attending this convention must shower regularly.”

There were no hygiene Nazis wandering about the convention hall arbitrarily assuming that people may not be using politically correct deodorants and therefore they must demand that people toss their arms in the air so that the “Hygiene-Nazis” could weed out the armpit hair wicked!

It was just yet another case of the majority of people understand or care about giving due care and consideration to others but lo and behold some do not. It’s also a case of human beings are a contentious bunch who tend to have a multiplicity of views and opinions that often do not mesh with those around them so for the sake of a smoother convention experience for all it’s best to toss a few arbitrators into the fray when conflicts arise so we can hopefully negotiate a peaceful solution.

This is TheTruePooka telling everyone play hard but play safe. Maybe I’ll see you at TAM one day and if not;


P. Rose

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email me at; TheTruePooka@Gmail.com

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