Bylaw Change: Harassment, Pride, Men & #MeToo, #RedForEd

Pride 2018

HSGP’s Booth at Phoenix Pride 2018

You know what happens when April rolls into Phoenix, the rainbows come out! We had an amazing year at Phoenix Pride. One theme that kept coming up again and again was: “Oh! I know what Humanism is!” We also had a larger number of newsletter signups and people interested in our events and philosophy.

I believe that we’re really making a difference with our tabling activities. By being there, year after year, and explaining the Humanist philosophy we’re giving people a glimpse at how much better the world can be and that the wonders can be savored.

It was my pleasure to table with our Vice President, Alex Zygmunt, our TED Talks event leader, Christina Hepler, and immediate past Membership Director, Anita Romanowski. You all get massive kudos for being at the tabling events for the entire duration of the weekend. Thank you also to our other volunteers: Sarah Wheatcroft & Andrea Rauche I thank Sarah might have showed up, but I didn’t see Andrea at any time.. There was another family and several other volunteers, but I do not know if they wish to be publicly recognized. But your assistance and company was greatly appreciated. Thank you again to all our wonderful and giving volunteers! We cannot accomplish our mission without your dedication and vision.

Windows repaired

Vandalism of our window

This is a window into our children’s room. A rock had been thrown through it and there are several BB-pellet holes.

Speaking of vision: as you know, several windows at our Humanist Community Center were vandalized by BB-pellets and rocks. We’ve been working with our insurance company and getting surveillance in place. In what I feel is a sensible move, we wanted to get our security cameras set up and the vandalism situation resolved to prevent additional damage to the new windows.

A few weeks ago, we accomplished those milestones and approved the replacement of the windows. Joe Blankenship sourced and oversaw the window replacement. They look great and should keep our children’s room cooler as the summer temperatures approach.

Please take a moment and say thanks to Joe Blankenship for getting our windows fixed. Thanks, Joe!

#RedForEd: Humanists making a difference

The Humanist Society is an educational non-profit. We exist to promote learning and knowledge throughout our community and the community at large. The #REDforED teacher strike has tested our legislators, schools, teachers, children, and the families of those children.

We had a choice. When we look back at these times, will we say that we stood by our teachers, nodding in approval from the sidelines? Do we have our online argument and call it a day? Or, did we get up and really stand. Did we make the world a better place? I can say with certainty that we as a humanist community did.

I am amazed by our community. What started as just a suggestion by Karen Vollis, was solidified by our very own Sarah Jones with direct support from the key people involved with #RedForEd. With just 3 days notice, everybody pulled together and put together a way to care for and feed the children of our community. I would like to recognize our outstanding volunteers.

Bobbi Khalaf organized our volunteer corps. She stood up and took care of coordinating schedules. Kathy Pettycrew took several shifts, bought food enough for an army, and relayed key information back to me to help coordinate.

Thank you to Serah Blain for handling media outreach. Thank you to Elizabeth for helping me walk the neighborhood to pass out 200 flyers on a warm spring morning.

A special thank you to Alex Zygmunt, Chris Appleton, Richard Dewey, and Joe Blankenship for helping childproof the center for this and future events.

For taking time to come down and assist us with childcare, a special thank you to Hal and Doreen Safferstein. Thank you for your ongoing support for our mission.

And finally, but certainly not least, a massive thank you to all of our volunteers who stepped up at the last minute to show support for our teachers, children, and the future of our state. I want to recognize: Henry Geist, Karen Vollis, Roxanne, Marian, Pam Heward, Liliana, Veronica, Kay, Peggy, Cynthia Savell, & James Preston. This list is certainly not inclusive as it’s based on the Meetup group attendee signups. My apologies for anyone that I may have left out.

When teachers needed help, you showed them and our community that humanists will answer the call. I am proud of what we have accomplished in such a short time and the generosity in all of your hearts. Thank you.

One of the most startling outcomes of these last few days has been the revelation that our local community is struggling with food security. We heard the same story again and again: we don’t really need childcare as we have grandparents or stay-at-home parents, but our schools provide us with breakfast and lunch that we cannot otherwise afford. Please consider making a donation to a local food bank. They help people who are in need in times such as these.

Patreon is now live!

Are you familiar with patronage? During the Renaissance, many of our finest works were produced through a system of patronage. Donors would pledge to support struggling artists who would then produce great works. HSGP is producing great works. We continue to build a loving and secular community where learning and free-thought are nurtured.

If you’d like to become our patron and help us with recurring and sustainable income, signup for our HSGP Patreon account today! For just a few dollars a month, you can ensure the future of our community and our projects to contribute to making this world a smarter, healthier, and more loving place. Thank you for your ongoing support!

Sexual Harassment and Code of Conduct

In order to continue to evolve and ensure the growth of our community, your board of directors (myself included) decided that we need a Harassment Policy and Code of Conduct for our board, event leaders, and members. With the recent allegations against Lawrence Krauss and David Silverman, we want to come up with an approved and public code that we can point to when cases of misbehavior inevitably arise. This is primarily intended to help people who are victims of harassment or bad conduct file complaints and know that they will be supported throughout the process. It is also to help protect those who are innocent, and ensure that our current and future board members know that they are held to a high standard.

Our board worked on these policies through committee and as a group. There have been several drafts, as well as a group reading and approval by our board.

This code of conduct will be incorporated into our operating policies. We encourage you to read the proposed policy.

To enact this policy, we’ll be incorporating the key parts into our Bylaws. This newsletter stands as notice of these proposed changes and we’ll be holding a vote at the Sunday Speaker meeting on May 20, 2018 at 10AM.

Proposed changes

Adopt as Section XI, the entirety of the Draft Harassment and Code of Conduct starting with the “Policy” header.

If you have any concerns with the proposed policy, please email me at president@hsgp.org.

American Humanist Association Conference

Great news! Online registration for the AHA

Conference in Las Vegas has been extended until May 14!

Don’t miss our 2018 Humanist of the Year, nationally recognized science writer Jennifer Ouellette! We’re also thrilled to present our 2018 awardees Andrew Bradly, Deven Green, Ana Kasparian, Ijeoma Oluo, and David Suzuki!

Full Registration includes access to all conferences events (unless otherwise noted), including:

  • Meals to all three Humanist Awards Banquets
  • Both the Welcome Reception and the Social Justice Happy Hour
  • Meet & Greet Coffee Hour on Friday and Saturday

Explore the beautiful landscape surrounding Vegas by adding our Red Rock Canyon Post Conference Tour to your registration! On this tour, you’ll enjoy a 13-mile scenic ride on luxury buses through Red Rock Canyon, Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. Stop and explore the history of the desert with an experienced tour guide and enjoy a picnic lunch at a popular look-out point.

If you can’t attend the entire conference, Registration-Only Passes and Day Passes are available!

To register online, you must do so by May 14. I hope to see you in Vegas!

Why Women Need Men to Stand Up

Using the Implosion of Channel Awesome as a Teachable Moment for Women 

By Christina F. Hepler 

On April 5, 2018, a group of video contributors to the popular YouTube site Channel Awesome posted a Google Doc titled , “Not So Awesome”  in which they detail a toxic atmosphere of bullying, misogyny, lack of pay, vindictiveness, sexual harassment, and lack of concern for people’s personal safety and emotional/mental health. This prompted several of Channel Awesome’s contributors, including some of their most popular stars, to leave the site in support of their harassed colleagues.

Channel Awesome, which began as That Guy with the Glasses, gained a following for such popular characters as The Nostalgia Critic, Linkara, Angry Joe, Todd in the Shadows, Nostalgia Chick, Obscurus Lupa, and others. In their videos they reviewed aspects of pop culture from music, movies, video games, tv, comic books, and theater. Each established their own niche and character, and their own fan base. I myself LOVED many of these reviewers and their work. It was a nice way of de-stressing, having a laugh and enjoying a moment, while possibly discovering an old memory from childhood, or a new love in media. But as we now know, things were not so awesome at Channel Awesome.

What happened?

Allison Pregler (Obscurus Lupa) details in a video What Happened with Channel Awesome? how, not only were they never paid, they were often belittled, bullied, forced into humiliating situations, and if they refused, faced vindictive consequences. So why did no one say anything before now? Pregler explains that Channel Awesome was one of the few sites around at that time, that she & others could be apart of. They were very new, and there wasn’t really anywhere else to go.

Pregler recalled a particularly nasty incident, when Michael Michaud (CEO and website administrator) accosted her on the set of one of Doug Walker’s shows, “Shut Up and Talk”. The incident was so traumatizing, that she went to the bathroom to cry. When she told Walker, he said he would look into the matter. Soon after, Pregler complained about a change to policy, and management wanted to discuss the matter by Skype. Pregler was away from her computer for 15 minutes when they were trying to reach her. She contends that because she was not available during that short time, they fired her and immediately removed all of her videos. Allison Pregler’s departure was very public. 

Then there is Lindsay Ellis (The Nostalgia Chick) and her shared scene with Lewis Jeffery Lovhaug (Linkara). For “To Boldly Flee”, Doug Walker (One of The Nostalgia Critic movies) wrote a rape scene between Lovhaug and Ellis, which made them both uncomfortable. In the Google doc linked above, Ellis describes meeting with Walker to get the scene toned down. The “improved” scene had her making “rape noises” off-screen.

One of the more serious allegations involves Holly Brown, then Director of Human Resources. Mike Ellis (no relation to Linsay), a co-founder, repeatedly harassed Brown and tried to force a sexual relationship. For two hours Ellis bombarded Epic Show Fail’s Shawn Mendes with messages about his frustration at being rebuffed by Brown, and what he would like to do to her if given the chance. When Mendes informed Michaud of the situation, his reported response was “God damn it, I told him to stop doing that shit”. When Ellis was finally fired more than a year later, Holly Brown was taken to a “safe house” for fear that he might come after her.

Beyond the sexual harassment, Brown was fired after a major surgery, without any given reason. In order to receive severance pay, she was required to sign a contract saying she would not compete in the same field for 3 years.  

Since the release of the Google Doc, as well as Channel Awesome’s response, many contributors, quite a few of them high profile, have quit. List of Producers Who Left During The Channel Awesome Implosion. While many of them might have left for other reasons, several stated that they left in a show of unity and support to those who were victimized. Significantly, most who left are men.

Which leads us to our lesson

It is amazing that so many men stood up and left Channel Awesome! It’s an indictment of those individuals’ atrocious behavior, and of a culture which looks the other way. Since the start of the #MeToo movement, many powerful men have been called out and have fallen.

Many of us in the atheist/agnostic community have found the recent bombshells about Lawrence Krauss and David Silverman hard to accept. I have heard people defend them and, shockingly, several are women. Some engage in victim blaming because it’s hard to believe that people we look up to and agree with are capable of such awful behavior.

The Channel Awesome exodus of creators, many of them male, reminds me of what humanism is. I define humanism as doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do, without expecting any reward either material or supernatural. And in doing the right thing, we women should accept that our heroes can have it in them to do horrible things to other people. Whether it’s Lawrence Krauss or John Conyers, we can’t make excuses, or try to downplay their actions. I’m not saying we should automatically destroy someone, but we must take allegations seriously, regardless of the pedestals we put our heroes on.

We need to stop blaming victims. A woman who goes to a hotel room does not deserve to be assaulted. A woman is not at fault for being harassed, bullied or raped. A woman’s behavior does not absolve the bad actor of responsibility for his actions, just as the victim of domestic violence is not responsible for the broken arm and black eye.

We must allow men to stand up and be allies. When men state publicly that they are walking out in support of their female colleagues, they are sometimes told by women to STFU, as if they have no right to speak. These men are condemning the unacceptable behavior, to help highlight and ensure there is some consequence for those responsible. Criminal actions, monetary consequences, and at the very least, trial in the court of public opinion, is a start in changing this broken culture. 

Some women may say that to rely on men to stand up with us takes away from the power of feminism. However, societal changes require all of us to work together. Men have an important role to play in the #MeToo movement. We cannot do it without them.

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