Time to open up a can of worms!

I’ve been getting sporadic questions about if I’ll be attending TAM this year. No, I won’t. I apologize to any readers who were hoping to see me there! But contrary to what some people believe, it’s not because I think TAM is a cesspool where I’m going to get instantly raped, or that I think inappropriate behavior is more frequent at TAM than at other cons. I’ve never said such things. My decision about TAM was a long process that has gradually changed over time:

  1. After TAM last year, I was determined to come back. I had a great time. I told myself that even if I wasn’t invited back as a speaker, I would save up enough money to go. Travel plus registration can easily go over $1000, but I thought it was worth it to treat myself.
  2. I realized I’d be traveling in Europe soon before TAM. As much as I wanted to go, I was a little wary of taking additional travel time off. But I had so much fun that I told myself I’d just work extra hours to make up for the time.
  3. Greta Christina receives misogynistic vitriol and threats from a TAM attendee…and DJ Grothe, President of JREF, tries to defend the remarks and doesn’t take Greta’s concerns very seriously. I’m really disappointed in how DJ handled the situation, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s just being a little clueless about this particular incident.
  4. The speaker lineup for TAM is announced. I click the link with glee, but then I’m disappointed. TAM is lacking its usual star power. Sure, there are still great people speaking – but I’ve seen them before, and no one gets me particularly excited. There was no Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye equivalent. But I’m a unique case as a speaker – I go to way more events than most people. By now I’m leaning toward not going, but I hope others will have fun.
  5. The “please have anti-harassment policies at cons” discussion begins, and DJ Grothe blames feminist bloggers like me for TAM’s decrease in female attendees. Not the economy. Not the timing. Not the fact that many people spent their yearly skeptical allowance attending the Reason Rally. Not the speaker line-up. Not his botched PR with Greta. He blamed me and my friends for daring to speak up and say “Hey, we don’t want to be sexually harassed anymore.” This is despite my previous love for TAM, and for the fundraising I did for JREF during boobquake. Why should I pay a four hundred dollar registration fee to fund an organization that’s randomly blaming me for its attendance issues? This is where I decide I’m done.
  6. Though I’ve already made my decision, DJ’s further comments make me certain that I’ve made the right one. Stephanie Zvan has the full summary. DJ says there has never been a report filed for sexual harassment at TAM…which is false. Upskirt photos taken by an individual that JREF was formally warned about? How do you forget that? DJ’s story keeps changing as more stories come to light. He could have staved off this whole PR disaster by initially saying “I’m so sorry you experienced that, I’ll do everything I can to make sure you never experience that again and that TAM is a safe space for all of our attendees.” But nope, he decided to blame those uppity feminist bloggers.
So why am I not going to TAM? Not because of women speaking out about how sexual harassment should be improved. Because of money, because of time, because of personal preferences about speakers…but most of all, because DJ Grothe had repeatedly shown himself to be more concerned about the image of his organization than about the concerns of its female supporters.
I’m not calling for a boycott of TAM – hell, I may go next year if these issues are resolved. But for now, my conference splurge of the year is going to be Skepticon, which has always made me feel welcome.

This is post 25 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.