Vapid; adjective 1. lacking or having lost life, sharpness, or flavor; insipid; flat; 2. without liveliness or spirit; dull or tedious: a vapid party; vapid conversation.
I know it is against the rules to say anything critical of She Who Must Be Obeyed, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick.org. I understand that many people in the fractured mess that used to be the Skeptics Movement consider her word to have the force of law, and that anything other than obsequious groveling at her feet is tantamount to blasphemy. I will chance it, though. I will take the risk of being burned at the stake–or at the very least being burned in effigy–for my transgressions. I have never been one to follow the rules (at least most of them) and I am a long-time blasphemer.
Rebecca Watson has now authored a post that is unparalleled in vapidity and narcissism, informing us that she will not be going to TAM this year, or apparently in any future year as long as the new bugbear of the Skepchicks, DJ Grothe, is in charge. How nice. How important. Rebecca speaks, and the entire skeptical world is supposed to stand in amazement at the power of her logic, her prose, and the courage she is showing by standing up to the Skepchicks’ Great Satan. What a bunch of bull.
Admittedly, Rebecca has done a lot for the JREF and for TAM. I would say that the relationship has been mutualistic, and that she has gotten a lot out of the (now severed, it seems) relationship. To her post.
Rebecca admits (begrudgingly, I think) that under DJ Grothe’s influence the percentage of women speakers at TAM has increased to about 50%. She also admits (in passing) that (again under DJ’s leadership) TAM stood at the vanguard in instituting a sexual harassment policy at a major skeptical event. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. Because, according to Rebecca:
I do not feel welcomed or safe and I disagree strongly with the recent actions of the JREF president, DJ Grothe.
What, you might ask, did DJ do that was so wrong? It must have been something pretty heinous to get such a reaction. It was, in fact, a comment made by DJ to a blog post. The comment is very similar to the comment left on this blog a couple of posts back, and here is what DJ said that engendered Rebecca’s disapprobation:
Last year we had 40% women attendees, something I’m really happy about. But this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed. (This is misinformation. Again, there’ve been on reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF, nor any reports filed with authorities at any other TAMs of which I’m aware.) We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.
Seems pretty reasonable to me, but not to Her Highness, as she says: “DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment.” Um, no he wasn’t. Not even close. Not even in the same universe. He is saying the some people of prominence are exaggerating the scale of the problem, which creates a false impression of the environment at TAM. That’s fair game, Your Worship. And while I think that sexual harassment is a problem, I think that Your Grace and Your Grace’s ilk have seriously exaggerated the scale of the problem by several orders of magnitude in a narcissistic effort to make this about you. Everything always has to be about the Queen Of Skepticism–long may she reign! If it’s not about Her Majesty, it’s not worth talking about.
But surely, gentle reader, you are saying to yourself that there must be more to DJ’s crimes than that. Indeed. DJ had the temerity to be anything other than the obsequious groveler Her Eminence is used to when reading the comments to Skepchick:
Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:
“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”
Apparently it is tantamount to treason to suggest that maybe Rebecca was not entirely accurate or fair in this assessment. Not just treason, but High Treason. Because, you see, here is what Her Ladyship had to say about that:
Over the past several years, I’ve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told I’m a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told I’m too ugly to be raped, told I don’t have a say in my own treatment because I’ve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesn’t convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped – by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.
And did what about it? Apparently nothing. Did you name names? Apparently not. Not even for the cad who spoke to you in the elevator in Ireland at 4:00 a.m. Did you report any transgressions occurring at events to organizers? Apparently not, even though this might be the only way to protect other women from being subjected to the same fate. As for being groped or touched in non consensual ways, did you consider calling the police? Because that kind of behavior is most likely a crime. And such crimes are most likely committed by repeat offenders. And you could have maybe actually done something to protect other women by calling the local constabulary. Did you do that? Apparently not, because you make no mention of it in your post. Instead you blame DJ. And just talk about it in USA Today and on skepchick.org without actually doing anything? All talk and no action. As opposed to DJ, who is all action, and who has actually done things to help women at conferences, like having 50% women speakers.
Rebecca also faults DJ for having a different memory of an event than someone else. Shame on you, DJ! Shame on you for not having a hard-drive for a memory and having the gall to tell someone that you remember differently. At any rate, that whole canard about DJ “gaslighting” Ashley Miller has already been thoroughly debunked, explained, and resolved. Apparently not to the satisfaction of our Grand Poobah, though.
Yes, Rebecca is going to take her ball and go home:
But officially, there will be no Skepchick presence at TAM this year or for the foreseeable future, and if we raise money to send women to future conferences, we will choose a different conference.
And to this, I say good riddance (only to Her Excellency, as I am sure the scholarship recipients would have been good additions to the TAM community). Rebecca and the Skepchicks have really become vapid of late. They have not published anything of interest for almost a year, and have been sitting on their laurels spewing out lifeless drivel. If there is anything that we can use less of, it is lifeless drivel.
Oh, and one more thing. I find this next coincidence curious. Look at this series of events:
On May 30 at 2:43 p.m. Greg Laden at freethought blogs posted that he thought DJ should resign.
On May 30 at 3:42 p.m. there is the following comment to Greg’s blog:
He could be replaced by a woman.
Can we nominate Rebecca?
And now on June 1 (unknown time), we have Rebecca totally trashing DJ and (we all know it is the case) trying to get him fired as President of the JREF. Perhaps she has a successor in mind. Food for thought.