I Resign My Membership from Secular Woman
My time in Secular Woman has been rather rocky. I haven’t been a member long. I believe I joined shortly before I commented on the post PZ Myers did about Adria Richards. If you aren’t familiar with what happened in that thread, see my post about it,
What people aren’t aware of is what was happening behind the scenes as the Pharyngula bloodbath played out. I was in a secret group with a dozen or so women and a few men that was supposed to be a “support” group dedicated to helping each other deal with the so-called harassment the “raging misogynists” of the community were throwing at us constantly. It seemed to start out with good intentions. People would post things that seemed to be harmful to their mental state and others would give supporting comments. What it really turned out to be was more of a catty bitch fest gossiping about people that were on the out list. These were people that used to be friends and allies but somehow ran afoul of someone in the group for some reason and ended up as “Witch of the Week”
My initial mistake was taking for granted what was told to me about these “horrid” people by the others in the group. I am deeply ashamed for doing that. If there is one thing that I want anyone to take away from this is to listen but verify! It took me too long to go back and try to find the supporting evidence for some of the claims being made against what turned out to be some very good and decent people. I am now proud to call some of them my friends. After being called a misogynist, rape-apologist, chill-girl myself, it became patently clear to me that it was all too easy to mislabel and misrepresent anybody that had a difference of opinion.
My second mistake was thinking that these people actually cared for me. The longer I stayed in the group, the more it became obvious that most of them only cared for themselves. I don’t begrudge a bit of narcissism. I think we all need to have selfish, self-centered tendencies to survive. When the self takes over to the point that you ignore the needs of those around you, it’s a rather ugly picture.
I was drawn into the group due to the years long stalking and harassment I was being subjected to by a certifiable nut. This atheist nut decided I was the worst person in the world and was going to hound me into a nervous breakdown. He was succeeding. He was harassing me almost daily for two years. This came after my run-in with the Sheriff of Polk County and persisted during the ongoing dispute with Atheists of Florida. He decided that I deserved to get arrested by the Sheriff and from the time he heard about me, made it his mission in life to break me. To give further context, Atheists of Florida has been suing me for the last 2 years over the activism I did for the group now claiming that nothing John Kieffer (the President) and I did was authorized (it was) and we are just rogue fame whores out for attention. It was with this backdrop, that the support group knew how depressed (and suicidal) I was at times over the turn my life had taken.
When I was viciously attacked on the Pharyngula thread, I posted in the support group asking for help. With that knowledge, Stephanie Zvan, shut me down cold stating in no uncertain terms that I was not to bring that issue to that group. In other words, the group was only for support for when OTHERS i.e slymepitters attacked. I abided by her request but another member opened the thread up for discussion. Stephanie also came onto the Pharyngula thread and tried to shut me down there.
After the emotional damage was done and I flounced from the thread, I left all social media. Well, more accurately, I didn’t respond. I monitored it. I also went back and did research about movement history that I should have done at first. I learned how and why the schism actually happened. I learned why Justin Vacula became Justin Fucking Vacula -a vacuous shitbag troll. I learned that nothing DJ Grothe could have said would have satisfied Stephanie Zvan other than “I resign.” I learned a lot, lot more.
But the biggest thing I learned when I disappeared from the support group after having just been savaged was that no one cared enough to miss me for almost a week, a person they knew to be suicidal. Let me amend that. Some people did miss me but they weren’t the women in the support group. The first people to take notice of my absence were slymepitters. I also learned that, contrary to popular opinion, not all of the slymepitters are scum.
When I returned to the group, the atmosphere was changed. I had a different view of these people. I didn’t trust them and I think that was clear. At that time, Stephanie had started the project Mick Nugent had going and I had just written my blog about my experience on Pharyngula. She asked me what I was trying to accomplish. I told her I was hoping it would facilitate communication and perhaps a new awareness of the problem of mislabeling and mischaracterizing people. I asked her what she was trying to accomplish with the Nugent dialogue. Her response was she wasn’t trying to have a dialogue but to show the slymepitters weren’t capable of acting in good faith.
When Chris Hallquist did his blog post about my experience on Pharyngula and included a section commenting on Secular Woman’s decision not to sign the open letter, the members of the support group attacked him viciously commenting on his education and his lack of a degree. I came to the thread late in the day and was shocked at the meanness as I thought it was a rather even-tempered post. Stephanie had opened the thread with the statement that he was beating up on Secular Woman. When I simply started to question them, I got dog-piled by 10 of them at once and then told in condescending way by Stephanie that he was no friend of mine. It was clear that I was either go to bend to the will of the group or get the boot. I told Stephanie to knock it the fuck off and slam, the door shut to me.
I give this background because from that moment on, I was persona non grata with the members. They didn’t care about my mental state. They didn’t care about the fact that I had a REAL stalker harassing me. They didn’t care that I was embroiled in real life bullshit that I could lose my house and health over. The only thing they cared about was punishing me for not towing the party line. Stephanie made her hostility very clear in the Secular Woman member’s group. That hostility carried over to the other members.
It escalated after WIS2 when I had made it known that I supported Ron. My first post in the members only group prompted Melody Hensley to delete some incriminating posts she had made regarding Ron and then block me, a member of CFI and a donor. It went downhill from there. When I saw all of the posts berating Ron and the letter-writing campaign to get him fired, I spoke up and wanted to know what the end-game was. What were they hoping to accomplish? I was told that perhaps either Melody or Rebecca could take his place.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was just recently with the campaign against Bridget Gaudette. Bridget signed Skeptic Women’s Open Letter. When this was discovered, Mary Ellen Sikes tagged her in a post and pressured her with some questionable tactics. Personally, it certainly looks like borderline blackmail to me, but I’ll let the reader decide.
Bridget quoting Mary Ellen- Mary Ellen said in the SW members group, “It is very tempting for me to provide, here, a narrative of Bridget’s last board meeting, resignation, and followup actions as the backdrop for this post, because I feel it would give an enlightening context. I’m holding back, for now.”
I’m curious why this is necessary especially since a lot of our last few meetings included discussions that were sensitive and “off the record”. This is clearly a silencing technique and inappropriate since I have never even hinted at revealing what went on in SW’s board meetings. I have sat on other boards as well, so I find this statement.. unusual.</quote>
I found it highly inappropriate and unethical for Mary Ellen to pressure Bridget into removing her signature. Furthemore, there was much discussion over this in the group that was catty and petty.
Last night in the group, Mary Ellen once again posted something but this was in reference to Russell Blackford and she got the quote wrong. She claimed that Russell was quoting David Silverman calling Justin “deeply demented” and a “lying fucktard.” Stephanie popped in to state that it was, “Blackford complaining about things that PZ had called him though actually, only one of them is something PZ seems to have said. A google search suggests the source of “lying fucktard” is the pit. Go Figure. Inaccurate information from the pit.”
I knew that there was a tweet out there about this so found it and I posted it with the comment that PZ was actually the source of the “Lying Fucktard” remark not realizing that there was going to be a HUGE issue made out of the difference between “fucktard” and “fuckhead” *sigh* I get put on notice by Elsa Roberts that I am about to get banned because I
corrected slandered Stephanie Zvan. NO dissent allowed!
The icing on the cake came tonight when I posted a comment on Stephanie’s blog actually acknowledging that she shouldn’t be in talks with some people but I guess she missed that part and went straight to GET OUT. Sorry, no link for you.
P.S. In six months of being in a group with the main players of this drama not one shred of evidence of harassment at conferences was ever produced.
Edit 6/17/2013 9:50 a.m. I have just learned that Melody Hensley is claiming on her Facebook wall that there is a “rumor” that there was a serious campaign to make her President of CFI. I don’t know that she is referring to what I said here but on the OFF-chance that she is, she should come read it herself to see what I actually said. I never said there was a “serious campaign” taking place to get her installed as president. What I said was that her name was mentioned as a possible replacement.