Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Bullies and predators
You may have heard by now that there is a man who comes to Skeptics in the Pub in London who is making women the subject of unwanted sexual attention. That's putting it politely. He's hitting on women, being inappropriately physical/sexual and generally behaving like a dick.
Michael Story has written about this here. Because of the stupid libel laws in this country, the Offender cannot be named publicly, which makes him harder to deal with.
I'm one of the hosts of London SitP, along with Carmen and Sid. When I started going to SitP, very few women came. Sometimes I was the only woman there at the King's Head in Borough. Over the years, we've worked hard to encourage women to come and now a lot do. We want them to feel safe and comfortable. This isn't a major problem, we don't want to blow it out of proportion, but we do want to act responsibly and nip it in the bud.
This shouldn't need saying but apparently it does - this is not acceptable behaviour. There are no excuses. You are not 'just being friendly'. If you were, you'd be doing it to men too. You are not lord of the manor and women are not your personal fiefdom. Your position in the Skeptic community does not give you immunity. Even though the law may protect you, there are other ways we can deal with you - and we will.
I went on the Slutwalk march on Saturday and listened to stories at the rally of women being raped and sexually harassed because men thought they had the right. Although these stories were at the more extreme end of male behaviour, SitP will not tolerate any kind of behaviour that makes women feel uncomfortable because it's all part of the same loathsome mindset.
This kind of sexual predator behaviour is a kind of bullying and, like all bullies, the Offender is relying on silence. I've been bullied in the past; I know how it makes you feel and I know how hard it can be to do anything about it so I know it's a lot to ask you to speak up. But we will sort this out.
Bullies and predators pick their victims carefully. It is not your fault he does this to you. You have not 'led him on', you do not 'deserve' this. He is the one in the wrong. You're not 'making trouble' or 'causing a fuss' by telling us. And anything you do say will be treated in confidence, so you don't need to fear any personal consequences - which is another way bullies maintain their power.
The vast majority of men at SitP would never dream of doing anything like this but the Offender affects them too, making them question their own behaviour and making them wonder what to do if they witness him in action. But guys - man up and speak up.
I've seen comments from some men who are understandably angry and think the answer is for a bunch of guys to tackle the Offender. It isn't. However good your intentions, don't go caveman as this makes women into feeble little victims who can't look after themselves.
We'll deal with this in an adult way and we'll deal with it together. It will get sorted, we promise.
Carmen, Sid and I really strongly encourage you to tell us if you see or suffer from the Offender. We will back you up and anything you tell us will be treated in absolute confidence. You can leave comments here (which in no way implies that you've been directly affected unless you make that explicit), you can email us, DM us on Twitter or tell us face to face. That's @tessakendall, @carmenego or @sidrodrigues.
But DO NOT name him publicly.
If it turns out there is more than one Offender, we'll deal with that too. If you're not in London and you're having a problem, we can still help but we want to put our own house in order.
The Offender is not some mega-nerd who doesn't know what he's doing but if you're a guy who has problems reading signals and body language, a good rule of thumb is - if in doubt, don't do it.
This is Hayley Stevens' commentary on the situation.
Our next meeting at the Monarch is on October 15 and we hope to see lots of you there. We'll also be at Conway Hall on Sunday for more skeptic fun. I may update this to keep up with any developments so check back later.