The skeptic conference this weekend in Las Vegas has reportedly seen a drop in attendance by women, and the reason may be due to sexual harassment allegations. Several atheist groups have put policies in place in the last few weeks to combat the growing problem of unwanted sexual advances occurring at conferences.
The annual conference, includes panels and workshops with such names as "Promoting Skepticism at the Local Level," "The Future of Skepticism Online: Crowd-Sourced Activism" and "Promoting Skepticism in Classroom Settings." Interestingly, these types of discussions are clearly looking to promote the "religion" of skepticism, and even works to indoctrinate high school kids.
Last year, women made up 40 percent of the attendees at The Amazing Meeting (TAM), and this year it is expected to be at 31 percent of the 1,200 attendees. Although the organizers of the skeptics, atheists and humanist gathering point to other possible reasons, like the fact that women are "caretakers" and cannot get away, some believe women are shying away from the conference due to unwanted sexual advances.
Several female skeptic bloggers have made it clear that they will not be attending, as reported by the Washington Post. Rebecca Watson, for example, canceled her TAM appearance because "she does 'not feel welcome or safe.'"
When Watson wrote about an unwelcome sexual advance made at a previous conference, British biologist Richard Dawkins, the best-selling author of "The God Delusion," wrote that Watson should "stop whining" and "grow a thicker skin." The article notes that atheist blogger Jennifer McCreight, said "women speakers at nontheist events warn each other privately about male speakers who make unwanted sexual advances."
Perhaps they should look to the "Penn Party" being advertised on the The Amazing Meeting website that states that in addition to "all the blasphemy possible (including unfair ad hominem attacks on god and religion)," the party encourages "people of all sexes, genders, orientations and kinks scantily clad (within the law)" and describes the gathering as "a celebration of love, and sex."
This year, TAM has hired an outside consultant to deal with harassment incidents at the skeptic conference.