Friday, September 07, 2012

They Said/They Said and Plunging all Fandom Into War

[[Error correction - when I first posted this essay, I called it "He Said/She Said"  Not long afterwards, I realized that this title was completely wrong.  Only a few people doubt what she or he said in relation to what happened at Readercon this year.  The real problem has been what "they" said to further incite the situation.  OK, and I may be a "they" in this case, but I would really rather see reasonable discussion of this problem rather than general ranting, which is, sadly, what has often been happening.]]

I've been very active in science fiction fandom since 1975.   We science fiction fans are generally people who love to read, love to speculate and love to argue.  But...an awful lot of us are socially awkward and/or bad tempered.  We don't always read people well.  To use a Big Bang Theory analogy, there are many Leonards and Howards in fandom, and a few Sheldons, and not too many Rajs.  And these archetypes exist in both genders in fandom.

When I got involved, there weren't that many women in fandom. However, I always felt very safe in fandom.  I can think of a couple of times having long discussions with men, sometimes in their hotel rooms during SF conventions.  A few of them came onto me - a kiss, a grope, whatever.  I said no, and we just resumed our conversation.  No meant no, but an unwanted kiss did not mean I'd just been raped.  Fannish men were smart, right?  Fannish women knew how to stand up for themselves, right? By contrast, during my freshman year in college, I knew two women who'd been raped, and a third who was probably raped but was too drunk to know for sure (that was in a fraternity basement).  At the same time, I never heard about a woman being raped at a con.

People in fandom seemed more enlightened about gender issues than people (especially men) outside of fandom.  Generally, but not always.  There was always a lot of discussion about the patriarchy and the move towards equality among some groups of us. The number of women now active in fandom approaches 50%, which is great.

However, there are some trends in fandom that are making me uncomfortable. In particular, there was a recent incident at Readercon which was unfortunate, has been blown up way out of all proportion for a number of reasons.

The basic overview - man follows woman, puts an arm around her, she says no, he follows her some, trying to apologize  (I think he was sent away 2 or 3 times).  I believe the woman involved, because of the way she described the man's actions.  I've known the man for years, and can see him reacting in the way she described - he was really trying to apologize, and she just wanted to be left alone, which was her right.

This incident, which probably happens at every convention every weekend, was blown up because the woman's friends got very angry at the man, but also because Readercon has a conduct code, and, according to the code, the man should have been banned from Readercon permanently.  Instead, he was banned for two years, which caused a huge overreaction.

Here are just a few of the things I've heard about this incident:


  • The man was likened to an infamous alleged child sex rapist who was very active in fandom until he got into trouble with the law.  For various reasons, his case has never gone to trial.  
  • A Hugo-award winner was criticized for mentioning the name of her longtime friend in her acceptance speech, who happened to be the man involved in the Readercon incident.
  • Some people have stated the man did nothing wrong.
  • Some people think he should be banned from all conferences for all time.


I'm very much in the middle on this issue - while the man clearly misbehaved, I don't think he did anything close to being banned from all conventions for all time.  But, to liken stupid behavior by a man to a man accused of child rape is particularly enraging. Rape is rape - a bad pick-up line isn't rape.

We need to try to be respectful of each other, but if we can't be respectful, we should just walk away sometimes.  I got involved in two arguments I didn't really want to get involved in again at Chicon.  In both cases, I walked.

I am going to try to walk away from arguing about the Readercon incident in the future.  I've made my argument, I've said my piece, and I don't believe this incident should be plunging all fandom into war.

But, if there can be reasonable discussion of some of the issues around men and women in fandom, I'd like to be a part of it.  We can't be afraid of each other.  Sadly, the level of vitriol around this incident can set the general egalitarianism in fandom back by decades.

Related posts:

35 comments:

Daniel Kimmel said...

You didn't mention names so I won't, but I know the "accused" as well. As he freely admitted, he acted stupidly. What troubled me far more was the lynch mob atmosphere on the 'net where he was treated as not only a rapist but a potential killer. This was sheer insanity. Frankly, given this kind of hysteria I don't know if *I* can ever feel safe at Readercon again. I was gratified to see -- among SMOFs whose views I respect -- a consensus that a.) he was wrong, b.) the Readercon policy was badly written and badly applied, c.)and elements of fandom went into absolute hysterics.

As a side note, a majority of the SMOFs I saw taking this view were women. Republicans may be waging a "war on women." Fans are not and, as your post demonstrates, it is possible to have a rational and clear-headed discussion on this without turning a social faux pas (and clumsy attempt at apology) into the second coming of Jack the Ripper.

Laurie Mann said...

I really don't think the names matter because these sorts of things happen all the time. And I'm not saying they should, but they do. It'll take a long time for things to change, but I don't think the mob mentality helps anyone (men or women).

"A riot is an ungly thing... undt, I tink, that it is chust about time ve had vun. " Inspector Kemp, Young Frankenstein

AmyStephen said...

Wanted to say thanks for this post. I am a strong female and a proud feminist. But, I think we've lost the plot on what that means and why it matters.

Sexual attraction is not the same as sexual harassment or sexual discrimination. While someone's advances may not be welcome, if they respond appropriately to "I'm not interested", then, there is no reason to shame them publicly. I'm seeing a lot of confusion on that point and a growing number of people who seem to believe "the advance," itself, is wrong and should be subject to punishment and a set of stringent rules are needed so that people can safely gather. I disagree with that.

Equally alarming to me is that it seems being an attractive woman is also generating negative response. There is a lot of stereotyping going on about women, by other women. We should know better. We should support one another.

I'm a couple of short weeks from 51. I'm a computer geek with 30 years of experience. I've seen a lot of changes over the years, mostly for the good, although recently, I have found myself worried that maybe we are losing hard won gains. I think the reason we find ourselves revisiting issues that were settled 40 or 50 years ago is because we forgot what matters and are focused on these toe stubbing issues.

Feminism is about children, families, opportunity, education, access to healthcare. It's alarming worldwide how poverty is so concentrated on children living in single parent families headed by women. That message needs to be heard.

I think this misdirected sense of sexual harassment and discrimination has caused others to believe feminism is about obvious weakness is women and this very annoying political correctness that is bullying the world to pay up. Women are not weak, we are strong. It is important that we reset the focus on those issues that really matter, which is simply empowering mothers and sisters and spouses and friends so they can take care of their themselves and those who are depending on them.

Laurie Mann said...

Amy, thanks. I don't blame women for being frustrated. I know there's some amount of sexism in fandom, and have seen some horror stories particularly in gaming fandom. Probably no wonder my daughter prefers to play games as a male on some boards.

I don't want to be accused of minimizing the Readercon man's behavior (as I already have been) because it was obnoxious. He also broke Readercon's rather stringent rules. But I also don't believe his behavior should be exaggerated or that he should be eternally punished as some have suggested.

Lis Carey said...

How things look to me:

1. He *didn't* respond appropriately to being told no. His desire (I've seen it argued, apparently seriously, that it was a cultural necessity) to apologize does not trump her right to be left alone.

2. His conduct also did not merit banning for life from Readercon, but..

3. That was the only option Readercon had under the rules they wrote. When they did something else, however reasonable viewed in isolation, with regard to someone who *is* (whether or not it had any bearing on their decision) a BNF, *they*, not the woman, not her friends, not even he, created the entire firestorm. I'm sorry, but the blame for Plunging All Fandom Into War lies with Readercon, not anyone else.

Colin Harris said...

The person in question did act foolishly (and really needs to read Scalzi's comments about how you have no right to apologize if the person you have offended wants you to just go away). But like you I have been shocked by some of the responses and comparisons being drawn.

I was FAR more disturbed by some previous incidents of real stalking/creeping behavior with physical threats (e.g. WFC2011 - see http://jaymgates.com/misc/wfc-2011-creeper/). Yet in the last couple of days, I have seen people genuinely suggesting that the Readercon person was trying to slip Rohypnol into people's drinks at Worldcon so he could rape them.

As I say, I am not apologizing for some dumb and offensive behavior, but the posts seem to have lost sight of what actually HAPPENED when making assertions about this person's likely behavior in the future.

Laurie Mann said...

This comment is from John Sapienza who was not able to leave a comment:

I support anti-harassment policies, and am drafting one for our organization. I do not support lynch mobs. What the victim's "friends" did hurt Readercon badly. Some of the posted comments seem to me to be violations of Readercon's own rules. I met the Readoncon chair at Chicon7. She is holding up bravely, but seemed to me to be wounded. This is madness.

Laurie Mann said...

Thanks, Liz, Colin & John.

Dan Holzman-Tweed said...

I am having a great deal of difficulty taking your claim to never have heard of a woman getting raped at a Con seriously. This is because in the same time period that you were working on running Cons, I was doing rape crisis intervention at Cons because a rape had wither been attempted or comitted.

Laurie Mann said...

Dan, I haven't heard of a rape committed at a con. I'm east coast and didn't often get to Worldcons before 1997. I'm not saying rapes never happened - I'm saying I haven't heard about them.

I've heard of fans being raped outside of cons. There are something like at least two fans who raped children, also not at cons (well, wait, I think one of them was con-related...hmmm). I know some fans were in abusive relationships where rapes may have occurred.

Again, I'm not saying rapes have never happened, I'm saying I haven't heard about them.

I'm frankly sorry to hear that there has had to be rape intervention at cons. Fandom seemed safe compared to the real world.

Chris said...

I feel sorry for everyone involved. I'm sure the fellow at Readercon wishes it had never happened. I wonder if any of the friends of the offended are really pleased with how it has all turned out.
I worked 2011 World Fantasy but (luckily) hadn't heard of the problems there. I have a vague recollection of being told someone had been escorted out but that's the limit.

mranlett said...

I've been fascinated with this story since I heard about it. Let me say first that I'm not an attendee of SF Cons and I know no one related to this story.

Taken at its face value, the story is about inappropriate behavior and a zero tolerance policy. Regardless of the severity of the crime, a zero tolerance policy means zero thought - simply apply the penalty. Did your child bring a toy gun to school? Too bad, they've been kicked out thanks to the zero tolerance weapons policy. The merits of the situation do not even come into play. Harassment was reported and corroborated. The accused admitted guilt. Zero tolerance and now the accused is banned for life.

To me, the interesting part of the story is that the board chose to apply less than their published policy calls for, we correctly overridden by the organization's president, and now the entire board is being replaced. Now THAT is a fascinating story.

Harassment is a subjective crime, an eye of the beholder sort of thing. What you find inoffensive may be extremely objectionable to someone else. What matters is that no one should be subjected to inappropriate or offensive encounters and there should be an path to remedy the problem should it occur. Note that in this case I am speaking about acts which fall short of criminal behavior. Criminal behavior results in severe penalties and has legislation defining what is and is not allowed. In the case of the story of ReaderCon, as I understand it, the system worked in that the harassed was able to report the situation to management and management took action.

Zero tolerance policies are simply an excuse to remove thought from the equation. In my humble and inexperienced opinion, they are never a good idea. However, when one has been established, ratified, and published as an operating principle, it must be respected. When the ReaderCon board failed to live up to their own principles, they were rightly overridden and rightly removed. The next board should be in the position to re-examine this policy and change it should it be found too harsh. However, given the harsh light which has been shown on this particular organization, I doubt the policy will be relaxed.

My completely personal opinion is that a woman should be allowed to stand up for herself. The facts of this world are that a woman standing up for herself may not be sufficient. There should be a support system which allows the injured party to seek assistance and that support system should have authority over the situation otherwise we veer towards anarchy and vigilante-ism (be that physical or digital). That such systems are necessary is shameful but that doesn't remove the need for just those systems.

Andrew Trembley said...

We're mixing a few things up here.

The first is Readercon, and its rules. Readercon has a zero-tolerance policy (which I agree with) and a nuclear-only response (which I mostly disagree with, but understand the arguments in favor of). Readercon's violation of its own standards for a conrunner with strong fan and pro connections looks hinky, and was guaranteed to create a furor.

The second is harassment. A single unwelcome sexual comment or action (well, below a threshhold) isn't sexual harassment. Repeated unwelcome sexual comments and approaches are sexual harassment. Continuing attempts to gain forgiveness when apologies have been rebuffed aren't sexual harassment, but they are still harassment.

The third is behavior. It's not about reasons, it's about behavior and action. Both parties at Readercon have (according to the statement from the former Readercon board) agreed that the behavior as described happened.

The fourth is safety. Fandom isn't a place, and it's not really even a subculture. It might be a bit safer than the world at large, but it's not safe. Horrible things have happened at conventions, involving fans and non-fans alike. It might be a bit more tolerant than the world at large, but it's not tolerant.

If we want to talk about safety, tolerance and being welcoming, we have to also do something about it. We have to understand the difference between tolerating weirdness and tolerating bad behavior. We have to understand that harassment isn't necessarily sexual. We have to understand that "rape" isn't the only standard of bad behavior. We have to, as conrunners and individual fans, stand against harassment when we see it happening.

Leane Verhulst said...

I am far more disturbed by the lynch mob mentality that I am seeing in regards to the Readercon incident. The "he must be banned from all cons and shunned by all his friends for all time" mentality. And then there's the fact that people are blowing the incident all out of proportion to reality. Scary.

Lest anyone think different, I am all for anti-harassment policies and banning those who deserve it. However, in regards to banning, I do NOT support banning someone from con B if they were accused of something at con A. How does con B know for sure what actually happened at con A? In any case, in our society, a person is innocent until proven guilty. A lot of people are forgetting that.

AmyStephen said...

If there is sexual assault, or attempted sexual assault or if someone feels threatened, contact the police. The authorities are the only ones who are able to assist victims, collect evidence, and protect everyone's rights. If conferences have a policy, it should be remind people to do so.

Jannie Shea said...

At this point, it's no longer about any kind of "moral high ground". It's all about power, plain and simple. The people involved merely provide the excuse.

Dan Holzman-Tweed said...

I do understand that you are talking about what you've heard of and not asserting that it doesn't happen. What surprises me about that is that I would have figured you're one of the people that someone dealing with sexual harassment, assault, or rape would talk to, either in a request for intervention or support.

Part of the problem may be that folks who have had these things happen to them have felt pressured not to speak up about it -- which is why I am not naming names, either those whom to things have happened, or those who have perpetrated these acts while at conventions as a Guests of Honor

However, with her permission, I'll name one name: My wife can literally count on one hand the number of conventions she's attended -- heck, the conventions at which she's been security -- where she did not have to fend off another congoer's attempt to physically harass her.

I have been convention security at a convention where we had to pull the badge and eject from the convention another member of convention security because he had been groping women. If the women in question had asked us to do so, we would have called the police.

I'm sure I don't have to remind you of Harlan Ellison's assault on Connie Willis. Or how many people reacted to it by saying, "Oh, that's just Harlan."

I'm going to change topic for a moment.

If you think what Mr. Walling's misbehavior does not warrant a lifetime ban from Readercon, your quarrel is with Readercon for setting that policy; not with the people who insisted that Readercon enforce it's published policy rather than give someone a pass because he's a BNF or SMOF, or because he says he's really sorry. Especially given how many other women came forward to say that Mr. Walling has sexually harassed them as well once Ms. Valentine had the courage to be the first.

If people are finally making a big noise about things like this, it is because there's been decades of silence, decades of excuses, decades of people being told not to overreact or blow things out of proportion, decades of rapists and harassers getting a pass and doing it again, and again, and again, and people are sick of it.

And frankly, you are one of the very last people I ever thought I'd find myself explaining that to.

Laurie Mann said...

Dan, we were talking about rape. Harlan didn't rape Connie (I was standing behind them during that incident), though it was, clearly, a physical assault that Harlan later DENIED HAVING HAPPENED, even after video emerged of the incident. Denial of these sorts of things is a huge part of the problem.

I agree inappropriate physical contact, usually committed by men against women, happens at cons. Heck, it's even happened to me. But even when it's happened to me, it never reached the level of something I'd want to report. I've never, for example, hit a man for touching me, which I wouldn't hesitate to do if I felt endangered. I elbowed one or two for it but that was it.

I have not worked conops in nearly 30 years. Even in the late '70s, early '80s when I was working conops sometimes, I don't remember getting a report of a rape. Now, I often worked early in the day and not overnight, which might be part of the reason why.

I don't think it's a good idea to equate bad behavior (which is fairly common and which the Readercon guy was definitely guilty of) with rape (which is pretty rare at cons). They are two completely different things.

Laurie Mann said...

Thanks for the comments, folks.

I think the one phrase the "let's look at this situation but calm down a little" people have been using inappropriately is "lynch mob" or even "mob." My biggest gripe against the "ban the Readercon guy from all cons for all time" people is that they use very inciteful and sometimes abusive language. I got at least two comments like that since yesterday that I chose not to publish. We should strive to not do that, but approach this situation more cautiously. Mob-mentality might even be too strong a term. I realized there may only be a few dozen people expressing the "ban Readercon guy forever" attitude, but I ran into so many of their comments so quickly this week that I may have overreacted myself. Still, I think it is good to talk about it. Definitely plan to have a panel on conduct codes at Smofcon (www.smofcon30.org) this year, and might try to devise something on appropriate interpersonal conduct.

Colin Harris said...

I agree strongly with Andy on several points. Zero-tolerance does not have to come with programmed, one-size-fits-responses responses; and behavioral errors range all the way from one misplaced comment (misreading someone else's likely reaction to a flirtatious remark or gesture) to serious assault sufficient to involve the law.

My biggest concern in the last few days is the polarization in the community - I think that's a better phrasing than lynch mob, which is itself perjorative, and we ALL need to get back to positive engagement if the debate is to move forwards.

Within that polarization those who want a stronger response feel that the "moderates" don't care about harrassment and will excuse budding rapists while the moderates feel that there's a blind, stupid lynch mob out there. Neither is true, but I see depressing signs of that stereotyping in many posts right now - including from some high profile and influential figures.

I know what *I* believe is the right answer and hope we get there.

1. Zero tolerance to harrassment while recognizing that at the low end of the scale, people will sometimes make social mistakes (especially in our community where we have plenty of people who are not great at reading social cues).

2. What that means is us all being watchful and aware - and educating and intervening with our friends if we see an issue - while not feeling we have to create an overly controlled environment.

3. Recognize that on the ground, the con committee cannot be everywhere. We are ALL responsible for making fandom a safe space and looking out for those around us. 99 times out of 100 the concom won't be in the room when an incident initially happens; a positive, informed culture will ensure that things are mostly intercepted quickly when they are genuine misjudgements, and allow the concom (or the law) to be brought in when someone is acting with intent.

4. Recognizing that different people have different boundaries. Some people are more relaxed about things, as Laurie seems to be, while others can have their whole convention ruined by one incident. We all need to be aware of that and to respect the rights of people to their different characters and expectations.

5. Which in summary means the following.

- If you do something which is clearly with intent and out of order, then immediate and severe action is justified.

- If you do something which is misjudged and at the low end of the scale, you need to accept that and do whatever the other person indicates - including going away immediately.

- If we see someone digging a hole for themselves by failing to get the message, we need to intervene and educate them quickly to protect the person being harrassed and to avoid more discomfort all around. If the person does not accept this feedback, they're putting themselves in line for more serious action.

If these things are done right, then small errors get dealt with before they hurt people, and the genuine offenders are easier to spot - and those are the people where ejections and bans come into play.

Susan de Guardiola said...

I don't want to talk about Readercon, but just as a data point, I've been sexually assaulted twice at conventions (one might well have turned into rape were I not fairly big & strong as women go). The reaction from other fans and concom tended toward shifting gazes away and saying uncomfortably "well, but he's a nice guy, you know." This was many, many years ago, and I am entirely uninterested in discussing any details now.

But the last time I was aggressively groped at a con was Sunday night after the Hugos, by a guy who chose to take advantage of a crowded party to run his hand over my body. This didn't spoil my con or my evening, but it was really f**king annoying.

Laurie Mann said...

Thanks, Susan, for the reminder that "they're still out there." Sorry to hear that datapoint and I will try to remember it. I haven't had an unwelcomed touch at a con in a while, except for the person who stomped on my foot at the Nebulas this year.

Laurie Mann said...

Colin, agree with the awareness issue.

jcbemis said...

This is a very good conversation.

A datapoint that hasn't been brought up here: I have heard from more than one male fan that the zero tolerance policy combined with the lifetime ban makes them (who feel themselves to be socially inept males) uncomfortable enough that they will be asking for membership refunds from Readercon and never return to that con.

I don't think this is a desired result either.

Colin Harris said...

Judy: That worries me too. Either that or that some innocent will get publicly flogged for an innocent misunderstanding with no attempt to check the reality first. Genuine harrassment is completely unacceptable, but that doesn't change the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".

Craig R said...

OK, A couple of thoughts here (I'm going to tag these as "bullets" so I can try to keep them straight in my mind, not because they are discrete and un-related)-
(a) Sexual (and other physical) harassment has/is/will happen at cons
(b) rapes have also happened at cons
(c) at least two cons I know of have (long previous to the "Readercon Incident) felt the need to have senior staff and security advided by/trained by local rape crisis/intervention organizations
(d) Actual "hard rape", and bruises-leaving attempts at sexual assault, is something that police forces (at least now) take seriously as a criminal matter. They (the police) usually do *not* want to get involved in "Sexual Harrassment," as such, either thinking its' beneath their threshold to bother with, don't want to be bothered at all or think its just a matter for civil (as opposed to criminal) courts
(e)because of the attitude of the police (and frankly a large proportion of con-runners don't treat anything short of physical assault as being enough to have to deal with) women, and men, who have been harassed (and in some cases, assaulted)don't feel that reporting the harassment will do any good (I've *seen* a case where, when a woman reported a possible stalker to con security she was told to "grow a pair") Even professional conferences, sponsored by large corps/venders, Who Should Know Better, have had a cavalier attitude about this. This happens In Real Life, it also Happens In Fandom
(f) I was not at Readercon, so did not witness the actions. What I know is from what has been published.
(g) both the assaulter and the victim agree on what happened (motivation descriptions differ)
(h) *Every* con should have a published, and enforced, policy about harassment and assault
(i) It appears the Readercon policy's "consequences" were not as thought out as well as they might have been. The Readercon BOD erred grossly in not enforcing that written policy. A more nuanced approach in this case would have been to institute the written lifetime ban from the conference, and revisited the length of ban at a later time (perhaps at the annual meeting of the ConCom as a whole)
(j) For those who want to claim they are being put-upon because they are "socially inept," *I* call "foul." I have two boys on the "high functioning" end of the autism spectrum, and have corresponding low "innate" social skills. If I won't take that excuse from *them* I don't see why I should take it from anybody. If the behavior, when exhibited in the workplace, would have you brought down to the company's HR department for "counseling" or outright firing, *don't exhibit it at a convention!*
ndxaph 15

ckd said...

jcbemis: I think Readercon should (and strongly suspect they will) clarify the policy as to what the definition of harassment is, though I worry that doing so may encourage some people to "ride the line" and try to stay just below the threshold.

However, I think there is one very simple rule that would have sufficed to keep this year's incident from leading to a ban and would have the same effect under any reasonable definition:

"When someone says 'leave me alone', do so. Don't try to explain, don't try to apologize; leave them alone. Go somewhere else. Talk to your friends, read a book in your room, head off to dinner, or do something else you feel like doing but leave them alone."

Your comment brings to mind something I said during the original discussion about the difference between Nice Guys™ and truly nice guys: the former worry about their actions toward women causing harm to themselves (being banned from cons, for example); the latter worry about their actions toward women resulting in harm to the women.

clauclauclaudia said...

I admit that I haven't followed the online discussion about Readercon since a day or so after the concomm reversed the board's decision. So maybe I am just lucky and missed the extremes of hysteria being alluded to here. But what I saw was a lot of people (mostly women) being firm in setting standards and boundaries and "if you have a written policy you by God follow it!" Not anything like a lynch mob.

to other commenters...

John Sapienza: I disagree that G.Valentine's friends hurt Readercon. The board's misguided attempt at compromise did that. (IOW, what Lis Carey said.)

mranlett: Your summary isn't quite accurate. The board failed to apply policy, the entire concom overrode them, and the board all resigned (some before the overriding, some after, if I read correctly between the lines).

Andrew Trembley makes the distinction many people miss, between having a zero-tolerance policy (this is never okay and we will act to enforce that) and having only one reaction (permanent ban) in your arsenal. Zero-tolerance good. Nuance also good.

jcbemis: Fans who actually listen to what the people they are interacting with are saying back to them should have no problem with this policy. Fans who don't--why are they let out on their own?

Peter said...

I would say if you are going to talk about the incident, use accurate language. Call it harassment, which is what it was. (I have seen no one evidence that it was not harassment.)

A social faux pas is something completely different. Particularly since he has a history of this, which is conveniently ignored in this entire comment thread.

Also, "lynch mobs" are things that happened to African Americans in living memory, not when mean things are said on the internet about a serial harasser.

Ms. Sunlight said...

jcbemis: I disagree. If there really are individuals out there who are so clueless that they really can't tell when their behaviour is sexual harassment or not, having them stay home is a highly desirable effect. Besides, one rather doubts that this is anything more than empty rhetoric.

Liz said...

jcbemis, this would be a perfect example of an opportunity to do some anti-rape education with those men and explain to them how to be sure that they weren't sexually assaulting or harassing someone. It sounds like they are unclear about what assault and consent actually mean. And that should make them generally uncomfortable in regular life, not just in cons. That goes a fair bit beyond being socially inept!

Colin Harris said...

ckd: I don't class the men who only think about the consequence for themselves as even the TM kind of Nice Guys.

Laurie Mann said...

I have a couple of general comments on the last set of comments, and now I'm going to close comments down. There are plenty of other places to discuss these issues.

If we banned socially inept people from cons, that means probably over half of us would be banned. I don't think that's the answer.

I appreciate the datapoints on assault in fandom. I've seen harassment in fandom and heard about non-con assualt, but not at-con assaults.

I do understand the Readercon incident involved harassment. However, many of the people calling for the man's skin basically accused him of rape, assault and said he should be banned from non-Readercon conventions. I heard some vicious comments about him at Chicon and saw some things on Facebook and Twitter that were appalling and false and spread beyond the man to his friends and to anyone else marginally supporting him. Responding to an incident of harassment by much more harassment and lying is frustrating and should be beneath us. Except...many of us responding to these issues are somewhat socially inept at times.

I apologize for either using the term or permitting the use of the term "lynch mob" here. In another online discussion, I complained about the use of that term as it's very loaded. Essentially, there's something of a noise machine - if we try to discuss these issues reasonably in some online forums, there's no real discussion, just invective. Talking points are repeated kind of mindlessly. It was tiresome. It's not going to get us anywhere.

I support clubs or cons banning people for incidents that go against clearly stated conduct policies committed at their own meetings or conventions. I don't have a problem with clubs or cons banning people permanently who've been convicted of assault, larceny, murder, even if these happened outside of club meetings or cons. But what I found really quite appalling is this attitude expressed very loudly by a few people that people should be banned for harassment. Frankly, some of them could be banned for online harassment, but they don't see it that way.

I do agree very much with John Sapienza that the people who've been attacking the Readercon man did Readercon more damage than they realize. When I lived in Massachusetts, I went to Readercon regularly. Now, whether it happens again or not, I'd be reluctant to go. Wiscon was one convention I'd always wanted to go to, and based on the kind of problems caused there the last few years, I don't want to go there either. And these should be conventions I'd want to go, a place with the focus on literature and discussions.

Thanks, ckd, for this useful reminder:

"When someone says 'leave me alone', do so. Don't try to explain, don't try to apologize; leave them alone. Go somewhere else. Talk to your friends, read a book in your room, head off to dinner, or do something else you feel like doing but leave them alone."

Maybe cons need to spell it out. But, we need something similar online:

"When people try to encourage a rational discussion of difficult issues, and all you can do is try to belittle them, change the topic, et.c., don't be surprised that they won't publish your comments and decide to block you in the future."

So, this is the end, for now anyway. I guarantee the attempt for rational discussion of this in the future, but I have a very busy week in front of me, and, frankly, this is exhausting.

Will Shetterly said...

Laurie, I've become too fascinated by the way facts are distorted on the web. Where did Harlan deny that the incident happened? If you google, you can find his apology.

Peter, historically, lynching wasn't limited to black folks. But more importantly, it's a metaphor for mob justice, and people who say things like "die in a fire" have no right to complain about anyone's metaphors.

Laurie Mann said...

I remember Harlan going back and forth on the LACon incident - first he said nothing happened, then he apologized, then he said nothing happened again, which was very aggravating to the people who saw it happen in person (not to mention the people who'd been recording the Hugos from the audience). I agree that some of the reactions to the Readercon incident, on all sides, have not been...well...temperate.