Why I don’t go to TAM
June 1, 2012 2 Comments
There’s been a lot of well-deserved drama in the Skeptosphere lately, mostly because JREF president D.J. Grothe has gone and stuck his foot in his mouth again regarding women and sexism in the skeptical community. Better blogs have the fuller story, so I won’t get into it. But I thought I might get into the reason that I’ve never been to a TAM and am likely never to go. After all, I’m a straight white cis middle-class dude: by virtue of my magical penis, I need never worry about being groped, fondled, dismissed for “misinforming” skeptics about my “sexual exploits” with “skeezy” people, or otherwise treated like women typically seem to be within and without the skeptical community.
No, the reason I’ve never been is simple: it’s too goddamn expensive.
We can leave aside the cost of a plane trip and a hotel, and the costs of food and so forth in Las Vegas. Four days of TAM cost $475, or $425 if I renew my JREF registration (which, thanks to the president, is looking like a less and less likely proposition). I come from a background of comic book and sci-fi conventions, and so that informs my assessment of typical convention stuff. Maybe if I attended other sorts of conventions instead, like TED or professional conferences, my opinion would be different. As it stands, if I wanted to get a four-day pass to the world’s biggest annual comic convention, I’d be shelling out less than half of what I’d pay for TAM ($150). When I attend conventions typically, I drop less than $80 on the ticket, leaving plenty of money for other stuff. And I just do not understand what makes TAM so different from Comic-Con or Dragon*Con ($105) that requires such a markup. Is it because TAM, unlike other conventions, is held in a casino? You’d think that would drive down the costs. Is it because TAM has so many speakers that charge exorbitant honoraria to speak? I suspect that’s part of it. Is it because TAM doesn’t have vendors selling books and the like? I honestly don’t know, having not been to one. But boy, that seems like a major oversight; I have to imagine that tables selling skeptical books (for people to potentially get signed) would make a stunning profit at TAM, and if said vendors paid for the floorspace, it would drive the cost down, right?
But I really don’t know. And while a few years ago, I might have made a point to save up for some TAM down the line, these days I’m far more likely to focus my attention on something like Skepticon or CONvergence, which are both closer to me and more cost-effective. It’s a bummer that I probably wouldn’t meet the Mythbusters or even Penn & Teller, but between the attitude of D.J. Grothe toward very real problems in the community, some of my (and my friends’) experiences with various douchebag luminaries in the community, the coddling of religious views and attacks against people who actually apply skepticism to religion, and the various boundary issues of members of this community on the whole, I don’t have any inclination to bother.
Speaking of those boundary issues, it’s not just women who have to deal with them–they just have to deal with more and worse. I won’t relate the story of one friend, but I know someone who had an experience with a moderately prominent skeptic which is still a source of discussion and revealed one of the movement’s nice guys to be a pretty awful person. I myself had some asshat in the comments at Blag Hag track down my Facebook account so he could harangue me outside the comments about how he’d responded to me, and what a jerk I was for insinuating that he was sexist. And I’m a nobody, occasionally commenting on blogs I like, and this was a startling but ultimately shallow breach of privacy and netiquette–I can scarcely imagine what bigger bloggers like Rebecca Watson or Jen McCreight go through on a daily basis.
Except I don’t have to imagine it, because it’s all right there on the web. Every time the topic comes up, out flood the MRAs and apologists, whining about the topic, shouting down any discussion, denying that there’s a problem, calling out the “ugly” “fembots,” and this time around, siding entirely with D.J. Grothe. It might be guilt by association, but perhaps the JREF president should consider just which people are jumping to his defense, and whether or not that might speak louder than women commenting on the real problems in the community.