On June 19, 2012, Ophelia Benson publish an article on her blog under the title, "I'm Out". The article contained only two sentences:
- I got email threats about TAM today, so I’m not going.
- One less thing to worry about.
Initially, Ophelia describe the official response of JREF, upon being told she would be withdrawing from their TAM conference, as being "oh sorry, kthxbai". This, of course, turned out to be false. She had informed the JREF via a reply email to a request from a JREF employee for biographical information to include in the official TAM programme. This employee likely did hot have authority so say anything other than, "O.K, I'll pass that on". Ophelia did not correct her original claim.
Two days later, Ophelia revealed the contents of the "threatening" email:
Please honor (and that word is chosen sincerely) your commitment to TAM by appearing there for your scheduled talk.
- I share your concern that for you, things will not simply be as bad as they ever were for a female at any previous TAM, but may even//will likely be worse now that you are somehow associated with those who are said to “have it in for TAM.”
- BUT, if you attend, Ophelia plan seriously, and seriously plan, for your own safety. That is, forget any philosophical nuances between “safe places,” “feeling safe,” and places that may be “unsafe.” Ophelia, please plan to actually BE safe wherever and whenever you are at TAM.
- (a) Please plan to take a “secret” hotel room far away from the TAM venue, without giving up your assigned TAM room. Insist that JREF reimburse you for that room, and that JREF *not* know, during TAM, the whereabouts of that secret hotel room. In addition, take, for the week, a cell phone with a number hitherto unassociated with you.
- (b) Please don’t show up at TAM one second before you must be on stage.
- (c) Don’t stay at TAM one second after you have finished your talk and left the stage.
- (d) INSIST that you have access to a secure “Green Room” immediately before your talk, and that you have access to that secure “Green Room immediately after your talk, while you await your escape taxi. (This is, Ophelia, nothing more than a star performer would expect, and you are certainly a star performer for JREF!) If JREF cannot accommodate you in this respect, then PLEASE decline, even at this last minute, to attend TAM. Then blog about it.
- Ophelia: It is absolutely none of my business except to have one of my favorite bloggers continue blogging and one of my favorite callers of bullshit continue to call bullshit, but things have changed since you agreed back in the early spring to speak at TAM. You now know that you, and only you, will be responsible for your own safety at TAM and for your own sense of safety. You cannot count on JREF and/or on DJ Grothe and/or (unfortunately) on James Randi … to give you any comfort, or any reassurance, or any protection, or any hearing, fair or otherwise, or any redress (or even any address!) if anything untoward happens. Any of these (comfort…address) MAY be proferred, but you cannot count on any of them!
- Ophelia, Schroedinger’s rapists are real and they inhabit spaces other than elevators. You, especially you, have no RATIONAL reason to feel safe anywhere at TAM or anywhere in TAM’s conventional hotel. In light of the past two or three weeks, you, of all persons, have every reason *not* to feel safe. Go into TAM space seldom, go there sparsely, and when you do go there, Ophelia, go with the utmost caution.
- But go. If you get the minimalist security you need, the security I’ve adumbrated above, then go to TAM. Go because you promised to do so. Go because you can deal with assholes, because you can deal with misogyny, because you can deal with cluelessness. I know all of this is true because I’ve seen you do it over and over again, and I’ve seen you do it extraordinarily well.
- Go, above all, because you have something to say — something important to say to the TAM audience — something that might wake up Randi — something that might finally get through to D.J. Grothe. But above all, go because you have something to say that almost certainly will both instruct and inspire those who have come to hear you.
June 20, 2012 at 5:04 am