By Sasha - 07 Aug 2013

DJ and Me

I have wanted to talk about something for years and I think maybe now is the right time to talk about it. I want to show my support for both Karen Stollznow* and Carrie Poppy by sharing my own rather unpleasant experiences with DJ Grothe. I want to show that their experiences are not isolated incidents. They are part of a larger picture and are important.

It’s sort of known among certain people in the skepticoatheirationalist sphere that DJ Grothe is not terribly fond of me. Back in 2011 I contacted the speakers at that year’s TAM and asked them to consider including a mention of the importance of diversity and equality within our communities. Mr. Grothe (and some of the speakers) were not pleased by this. I think that is possibly when he started to dislike me and believe (erroneously) that I wanted to destroy the JREF.

I actually first met DJ Grothe about a year before at Dragon*Con in 2010. I had admired his work on Point of Inquiry and when he became president of the JREF I thought it would be a great thing. When I got a chance to meet him that year I was excited. We encountered one another at a Skepchick party (one that had to be moved to the lobby because of noise complaints as soon as it started). He was drunk, but it was a social occasion and I’d had a couple cocktails as well. No big deal. I was fairly surprised though, when DJ turned to me and said that the reason everyone loved the Skepchicks was because they “want pussy”. That seemed to be a rather dismissive and insultingly sexist way to dismiss the work of your professional colleagues (not to mention the people whose booze you were at that moment drinking.

I’m embarrassed to say that at the time I was still a bit fame-struck and too shocked to really process it. I didn’t do what I should have done, and told him how rude, insulting, and unprofessional it was to say something like that, even while drunk. Even in a casual social setting. But then it got more bizarre and incredible. I’m a tall guy, chubby (fat, honestly) and bearded. If I were gay I would definitely be a bear. This was discussed and DJ then made an hilarious horrendous “joke” about how I should pay him a visit down in Los Angeles so that he could drug me and let some of his friends have some fun with me. You know, in other words so that I could be gang raped.

I never felt like he was serious when he made that joke about having me raped. I never felt like I was in actual danger. I am a straight cis man. I’m not as likely to have to worry about those things as someone else. I know he was drunk. I also know that those two stories from the night I met DJ Grothe have put into context every unprofessional, sneaky, sexist, callous, victim-blaming, self serving, and morally ambiguous thing I’ve seen him do since. Whenever I read or hear someone hopeful for something approaching sensitivity or progress on issues of sexism, sexual harassment, or even assault coming out of Mr. Grothe’s JREF, I just think of the first time I met him and wait for the inevitable horrendous actions that will follow.

* Dr. Stollznow’s post directed to a cached copy after having been pulled down against her wishes by her blog host.

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devianttouchAugust 7, 2013 3:36 pm

Thank you for sharing this story. I’m not surprised by it – in part because Grothe’s claim that being gay made him more sensitive to issues of sexism was so laughable. As a queer person myself I know damned well lots of gay folks are incredibly sexist and just as likely to say harassing or inappropriate things to people of all genders.

Rape jokes like that are awful and I’m so sorry this happened to you.

jadehawkAugust 7, 2013 4:37 pm

um. wow. eww.

not that I’m super-surprised, but there’s “unrecognized sexist bias”, and then there’s “raging misogynist bullshit”, and until yesterday I considered Grothe to fall more towards the former. Remind me not to give creeps the benefit of the doubt anymore.

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