All is Not Well in Viagraland: Misogyny, Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Atheist Community

by Jacqueline S. Homan, author of Classism For Dimwits, Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie, and Eyes of a Monster

I wandered over to the Freethought Blog forum when a “little birdie” told me that I needed to do some feministing in support of my fellow atheist/skeptic “sisters” who were being blamed for TAM registration declines and who were accused by MRA/PUA drama queens of launching a “witch hunt” — to which I posted a scolding response on Jason Thibeault’s blog which he put up as a stand-alone blog piece. TAM is an annual conference that costs several hundred dollars per ticket and is connected with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Apparently, atheism and skepticism is dominated by Big Money (read: patriarchy) — like religion.

Of course, it was over the next 48 hours after my scathing post on Jason’s Freethought blog that the Great Penis Debate (posted by Stephanie Zvan on her Almost Diamonds blog) was broadcast live via Google podcast where these guys showed their asses for the whole world to see them as they really are: vile, rape apologist, mansplaining, misogynistic alpha dipshits and they just kept digging their own holes deeper on the FtB posts thereafter.

And I thought the Vatican had problems washing its dirty underwear in public, but these guys (Emery Emery, Wendell Henry, BJ Kramer, Travis Roy, and Mallorie Nasrallah and Sara Mayhew) in the Great Penis Debate really take the cake. I am really glad that Jason Thibeault, who blogs under the name Lousy Canuck on Freethought, constructed the sexual harassment timeline of the events, which seems to keep building as more and more outrageous faux pas are committed — by the very same men (and a couple of their Stepford groupies) claiming the “superior” position of being “rational.”

From what I have seen, the only thing they’re superior at is alienating a sizable chunk of the atheist/skeptics movement at the most inopportune time when the godless community had the greatest chance of a victory against religious tyranny, given the fight women are waging in the trenches in defense against of the stripping of our human rights with the War on Women launched by the Teahadists, the Christian Right, the Vatican and the USCCB. Could these actors in the atheist/skeptics movement be agent provocateurs trying to help the Religious Wrong out by wrecking the freedom from religion movement? (Seriously. Nobody could fuck things up this bad!)

So after yet another woman has been targeted for threats and harassing emails (Ophelia Benson) and decided to bow out of TAM, I decided to put my unembedded/freelance investigative journalism hat on and call DJ Grothe myself to ask him point blank what the hell is going on with him, JREF, TAM and these accusations against the women that had been JREF’s and TAM’s biggest cheerleaders (until the shit hit the fan with this fiasco). I got his answering machine and within 10 minutes he called me from his cell phone and promised to call me back when he returned to his office within 15 minutes. He never called me back. Instead, I got this email on Facebook from Carrie Poppy:

Hi Jacqueline,

My name is Carrie and I am the Communications Director for the JREF. I understand you called our president to request an interview today. I apologize that you didn’t hear back from us sooner. Unfortunately, DJ has been tied up with urgent TAM meetings and preparations, and isn’t able to call you back today. If you have any specific questions, would you email them to us? I will make sure you get a response quickly. My email address isCarrie@randi.org, and DJ’s is djgrothe@randi.org.

Thanks so much, Jacqueline, and sorry again for the delayed response.

Best,
Carrie

So here are those tough “specific” questions I planned on asking DJ on the phone:

  1. Women are saying they’ve suffered retaliation for speaking out about sexual harassment and/or for making harassment reports to TAM staff. Is this true?
  2. Did you accuse feminists of trying to destroy JREF and/or TAM because they spoke out about harassment and retaliation and a “sweep it under the rug” approach to the handling of harassment complaints? (i.e. the accusations of ‘witch hunts’ and demanding criminal evidence as in the case of “Dr. Buzzo” (aka Monopod Man, who was stalking female TAM attendees and taking up-skirt photos and who was/is well-known by TAM staff as a harasser of women because he has been doing this for several years in a row at TAM conferences)
  3. Why would Emery Emery of the Ardent Atheist show claim that Rebecca Watson is trying to destroy TAM after she had been a solid endorser and supporter of JREF and TAM and is that YOUR position as well?
  4. What is your position on the copy of a threat/harassing email received by Ophelia Benson, the scheduled TAM 2012 speaker who has now decided to bow out, which she says she sent you on June 19th 2012 and will you answer her email to you about it?
  5. Why did you blame your falling numbers of women TAM registrants on the very same women (Skepchicks’ Rebecca Watson in particular) who praised TAM while raising funds for more women attend TAM?
  6. Did you or anyone else in JREF give Emery Emery the authority to speak for you and for JREF?TAM regarding what he said during the Great Penis Debate podcast?
  7. Did you make accusatory complaints/comments/statements — including press releases — saying that women who complain about harassment are making women afraid to come to TAM conferences?
  8. Why did you deny that a specific harassment incident occurred involving a conference attendee (Ashley Miller) after you, according to several witnesses, removed the offending jerk yourself?

I will share the answers I get, if any at all, with my readership here, on Facebook and with the rest of Freethought Blog forum’s readership because I think the public deserves to know the truth, not just a polite kiss-off answer but the truth. I can already guess what the response will be — if I get any response at all.

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5 Responses to “All is Not Well in Viagraland: Misogyny, Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Atheist Community”

  1. Jason Thibeault (@lousycanuck) Says:

    I anxiously await these answers.

  2. musteryou Says:

    Good stuff. Keep us informed.

  3. Nathan Hevenstone Says:

    Looking forward to the response(s), if any…

  4. ChrisC Says:

    Very glad that you jumped in this debate, Jacqueline. It needed your anti-b.s. take-no-prisoners approach. We need the equivalent of a bug fogger to kill the cockroaches in the freethought movement. Privilege and patriarchy must end if we’re to move forward.

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