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Alessandra Kelley
10-27-2015, 03:47 PM
After two years of planning and a mere ten days before the actual convention the World Fantasy Convention 2015 has finally released its anti-harassment policy. (http://www.wfc2015.org/)

Ye gods, it's a lulu.

I'll go further than that. It stinks.

In this policy the World Fantasy Con 2015 wipes its hands of all responsibility for its attendees' safety and comfort and threatens both harassers and complainants with the police.

Here is the whole damned thing in its entirety:

Harassment Policy

In New York State harassment is a defined criminal offense. None of the Committee, Hotel or City Center staff are trained to recognize the difference between legal harassment and incorrect/uncivil behavior. We have consulted with the Saratoga County District Attorney and the City of Saratoga Springs Police Department and been advised to report any incidents to the Police Department so that they can determine if the reported conduct meets the legal definition of harassment to charge the offender. If a Convention member feels that they have been harassed, please report it to any Committee member or the Hotel main desk staff who will promptly notify Police. The Police have said they will respond promptly to deal with the situation.

Needless to say the Committee hopes that members behave in an acceptable civil manner toward other Convention members and the staff of the Hotel, bar/restaurant and City Center. No one wants to behave in a manner that draws Police attention. Offenders will be prosecuted and the consequences are severs."[sic]

Yes. That's the entire anti-harassment policy of World Fantasy Convention 2015.

Contrast that to the excellent and very publicly posted anti-harassment policy of the New York Comic Convention (http://www.newyorkcomiccon.com/About/Harassment-Policy/), which is a paragon of clarity, firmness, and a refusal to allow intimidation and bullying even if it is technically not illegal (Thanks to John Scalzi for pointing out his contrast):

COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT

New York Comic Con has a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for harassment of any kind, including but not limited to:

stalking
intimidation
offensive verbal comments
physical assault and/or battery
harassing or non-consensual photography or recording
sustained disruption of Panels, signings, and other events
bathroom policing
inappropriate physical contact
unwelcome physical attention

in relation to, but not limited to:

race
color
national origin
gender
gender identity
gender presentation
sexual orientation
age
body size
disability
appearance
religion
citizenship
pregnancy

To report an incident via the NYCC App , tap the NYCC Anti-Harassment Policy icon ... [and it goes on from there]


The NYCC has an app to report harassment! How proactive is that?

Meanwhile, at WFC you're on your own. Unless, that is, you want the actual police involved.

Here's what John Scalzi has to say about the disgraceful WFC policy in today's blog post, "Here’s the Egregious, Mealy-Mouthed Clump of Bullshit That is the 2015 World Fantasy Convention Harassment Policy": (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/10/27/heres-the-egregious-mealy-mouthed-clump-of-bullshit-that-is-the-2015-world-fantasy-convention-harassment-policy/)

Let’s call the World Fantasy Convention’s decision to hide behind the legal statute of harassment for what it is: Cowardly bullshit. The convention is abdicating its responsibility to provide a safe environment for convention-goers by asserting that it can’t do anything to deal with harassment unless and until it reaches a specific legal definition of harassment — which the convention doesn’t even bother to fucking cite in its material.

When your convention harassment policy boils down to “don’t bother us until you have to call the cops,” you have completely failed. The World Fantasy Convention should be embarrassed and ashamed to have let down it members this way. I’m not a member this year, but if I were, I would cancel my membership. I’d have no interest in attending a convention that decides the best course of action when it comes to the safety of its members is to punt.

Commenters on Scalzi's blog have already pointed out the inadequacy and irresponsibility of the policy. Who wants to get the police involved for the guy who won't stop singing Sesame Street songs at panels? Who has the time and energy to file a police report hundreds of miles from home in the middle of a professional convention for a he-said she-said about being groped which will only be dismissed?

I wonder how anyone on the WFC committee thought this policy was a good idea.

Manuel Royal
10-27-2015, 05:45 PM
I'm having a hard time taking issue with the World Fantasy Con's policy. Why shouldn't they defer to the police when there's an accusation of criminal action?

ETA: Just read the post more thoroughly. Scalzi has a point; there should be a policy for dealing with complaints that haven't reached the level of a criminal complaint.

Kylabelle
10-27-2015, 05:48 PM
I'm having a hard time taking issue with the World Fantasy Con's policy. Why shouldn't they defer to the police when there's an accusation of criminal action?

Hello?

See the bolded below for exactly precisely why.




Who has the time and energy to file a police report hundreds of miles from home in the middle of a professional convention for a he-said she-said about being groped which will only be dismissed?



ETA: It isn't a simple matter of "deferring to the police." A responsible event organization involving hundreds of people is tasked with setting intelligent ground rules for behavior. I doubt seriously if the police WANT to be called in for every dispute. As well, this is not occurring outside of history. There is a history of major issues. The organization is defaulting entirely on its responsibility.

It is entirely different if there are clearly understood guidelines and someone violates them. Then it can be a matter for the police but not before. People want to be able to attend the event and not have to constantly worry about looking over their shoulders for some assinine adolescent-brained butt-pincher, for crying out loud.

Filigree
10-27-2015, 05:57 PM
Because there is a hell of a lot of stuff that may not reach police-worthy levels, but is still reportable harassment. Given the average police department's record on handling legal harassment cases, I can just see the excruciating gauntlet many people would endure, just to report it.

Look, I am not a fan of many convention harassment policies. I personally think some might go too far in broadly defining, reporting, and punishing socially marginal behavior, to the benefit of some overly fragile egos. But really egregious harassment happens. Conventions need to plan how they will respond. Putting it all on the police department strains the patience of both the victims and the police.

EMaree
10-27-2015, 06:12 PM
People are hesitant about reporting harassment at all. Reporting it to con staff is a hell of a lot easier than going through the formality (and probing questions) of a police report. Con staff also have the ability to work with on-site security to remove a problem quickly and sensitively, before others can be harassed or the situation otherwise escalates.

Ideally, at a good con, the staff will be trained to handle harassment reports swiftly and sensitively. It's quick and inexpensive training and it makes the world of difference after an already traumatic experience. A few writing conventions fail here, and can be as accusatory and dismissive as the worst police officers, but conventions can and should do better.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-27-2015, 08:49 PM
They can't even be bothered to train one fucking person to go over cases? Fuck that. The police can be very effective or totally useless in harassment cases. IME, they tend most towards fairly useless, with a good chance of making things worse, victim-blaming, etc. I have no experience with this particular police department, but I imagine if anyone at the con has had previous bad experiences, they're more likely to avoid reporting. Even of fairly serious incidents, up to and including being dragged into restrooms/closets and being groped or worse. Many people don't want to rock the boat, and if the police decide against a complaintant in a report, that puts the complaintant in a pretty shitty position, as party-pooper or whiner if not worse.

Jamesaritchie
10-27-2015, 09:00 PM
If you need a policy like either of those, you need to grow up, and so do those running the con. That's absolutely moronic, and the comic con rules border on insanity. It sounds like such conventions still have the maturity of the first teenager get togethers back in the 1930s.

The only rule that should be needed in one every good restaurant has. "I run this place, and if I don't like the way you're acting, out you go."

Either people to go to these things know how to act like civilized adults, or they need to stay home and act like the children they are.

Not only are the police the responsible action when someone doesn't leave as soon as asked, the police are the only legal action, and they will respond to a situation where you're asked to leave, and don't do so. Even if it's dismissed, you're still out the door, and no longer a problem.

Really, if an anti-harassment policy is needed at all, it's a sad, sad thing. But if one is needed, it doesn't need to be spelled out. That only harms rationality. Behave like a rational adult, or leave, is the only policy that's actually needed anywhere adults congregate in public.

RedRajah
10-27-2015, 09:03 PM
Between this and the debacle over at SXSW, my facepalming is getting a workout.

brainstorm77
10-27-2015, 09:06 PM
If you need a policy like either of those, you need to grow up, and so do those running the con. That's absolutely moronic, and the comic con rules border on insanity. It sounds like such conventions still have the maturity of the first teenager get togethers back in the 1930s.

The only rule that should be needed in one every good restaurant has. "I run this place, and if I don't like the way you're acting, out you go."

Either people to go to these things know how to act like civilized adults, or they need to stay home and act like the children they are.

Not only are the police the responsible action when someone doesn't leave as soon as asked, the police are the only legal action, and they will respond to a situation where you're asked to leave, and don't do so. Even if it's dismissed, you're still out the door, and no longer a problem.

Really, if an anti-harassment policy is needed at all, it's a sad, sad thing. But if one is needed, it doesn't need to be spelled out. That only harms rationality. Behave like a rational adult, or leave, is the only policy that's actually needed anywhere adults congregate in public.

Unfortunately some people don't act like adults.

VeryBigBeard
10-27-2015, 10:07 PM
I kind of agree with James in that these big, specific lists of stuff just invite technocracy. Look at AW: one rule covers all manner of nasty stuff very effectively, and because it's a private board that's really the only rule needed.

AW only works, of course, because it's well-moderated. So really, WFC has to ask what it's willing to do to encourage mature behaviour and manage bad behaviour. Doing nothing but still hosting a massive event is NOT OKAY. While I'd like everyone to behave like mature adults (and 99% will), if you have any large gathering of people in a confined space perfection will not happen.

Most minor things are reasonably easy to deal with, but there does have to be someone trained to deal with it, and those people need to know the line where local management ends and police management begins. Because there is a line.

I deal with these questions literally every day because I work in youth sports and I'm the one responsible for removing folks who can't seem to figure out what's acceptable public behaviour. It doesn't happen that often, and even when it does it's usually someone who's just become a bit worked up and it's reasonably easy to talk them down, even if for everyone else's comfort they do need to leave. Getting the police involved in most cases would be a massive overreaction and, frankly, a waste of police resources. There are special cases. I haven't personally called the police to remove someone who's refusing to leave, but I have come close a couple of times. I've been at fields where this has happened, because someone is asked to leave and escalates to abusing and harassing referees, spectators, field staff, or (not making this up...) seagulls. That's when fights can start, so calling the police when things are getting to that point is necessary and it's important to understand there's a limit of what private security/moderation/management can actually cover. But it's not a tool to use at all quickly because doing so can inflame the situation. There has to be a process for dealing with the minor stuff.

Richard White
10-27-2015, 10:12 PM
The problem, as I see it, for these "inclusive" lists is because of our litigious society. If you try to kick someone out of a con, and you don't have acceptable and non-acceptable behavior defined somewhere, then for something, especially as expensive as NYCC or WFC is to attend, you'll have people arguing you don't have the right to kick them out, you have to refund their fees, or they'll just flat out sue.

Yeah, it's really, really sad we have to go to these kind of lengths to tell people how to behave with common courtesy and/or common decency, but time and time again, idiots prove that what should be common, ain't. *sigh*

Ketzel
10-27-2015, 10:12 PM
The only rule that should be needed in one every good restaurant has. "I run this place, and if I don't like the way you're acting, out you go."


You're missing the point, JAR. Which is that a large number of women have been subjected to what they rightly believe is inappropriate and often threatening behavior in the past, but the organizers don't see the problem. As I understand it, it's not that the organizers are incapable of tossing out participants who are doing things the organizers object to, it's that they have a history of not objecting to the behavior the women are complaining of. So it helps to have the rules made plain, and the standards of behavior clear for everyone, including the officials on site who are supposed to be ensuring a safe experience for everyone there.

DancingMaenid
10-27-2015, 11:28 PM
You're missing the point, JAR. Which is that a large number of women have been subjected to what they rightly believe is inappropriate and often threatening behavior in the past, but the organizers don't see the problem. As I understand it, it's not that the organizers are incapable of tossing out participants who are doing things the organizers object to, it's that they have a history of not objecting to the behavior the women are complaining of. So it helps to have the rules made plain, and the standards of behavior clear for everyone, including the officials on site who are supposed to be ensuring a safe experience for everyone there.

Agreed. I think a lot of detailed policies are intended as a message to women and minorities that they will be taken seriously if they complain.

Polenth
10-28-2015, 12:48 AM
The history here in SFF, is there were cases like Asimov. He regularly groped women, and other people would hold women down if they tried to resist or escape. It was well-known and considered perfectly acceptable by the people in power. That's why people want policies that spell out what is and isn't acceptable behaviour.

Though based on going to WFC before, changing the policy would be meaningless. They're too caught up in the idea that harassment doesn't happen because their attendees wouldn't do that. Which means if it does happen, they won't take action, because they want to pretend it didn't really. I seriously doubt they'd call the police, because that would mean acknowledging that something happened that could be harassment. Policies only make a difference when there's a commitment to following them, and I've not seen any sign they would. They're still thinking nothing will really happen, so they don't need to think too much about what to do if it does.

RedWombat
10-28-2015, 04:50 AM
You can spend hours coming up with exciting scenarios--"Well, this same guy keeps coming to every panel and asking me about what underwear I'm wearing, but it isn't illegal, so....?" "Well, this guy follows me around making sex noises and it's really annoying but it isn't illegal, so....?"

People who are harassed generally want it to be not happening. Calling the police means the whole incident is still happening. They want it to be OVER, not to get to make a police statement to somebody who's going "uh-huh. uh-huh. And did you do anything to encourage him?" and looking bored because there are people being murdered out there, but the con doesn't want to deal with it, so the only possible response is apparently to call the cops.

There is a huge gray area between "Please stop doing this" and "actively criminal." The con has completely abdicated responsibility for policing it, and they ought to be ashamed.

I'm literally up for a freakin' World Fantasy Award this year, and suddenly I'm really glad I'm not going, and if my potential acceptor bails, I will not blame them in the slightest.

Filigree
10-28-2015, 05:58 AM
...And there is the damning detail. When people who have a legitimate reason to attend, don't want to.

JetFueledCar
10-28-2015, 06:01 AM
The history here in SFF, is there were cases like Asimov. He regularly groped women, and other people would hold women down if they tried to resist or escape. It was well-known and considered perfectly acceptable by the people in power. That's why people want policies that spell out what is and isn't acceptable behaviour.

...And suddenly I'm never reading anything by Asimov ever.

Alessandra Kelley
10-28-2015, 06:49 AM
...And suddenly I'm never reading anything by Asimov ever.

I was like that with Randall Garrett. I really liked the Lord Darcy stories too. (Although, on reflection, they never had any female characters to speak of ...)

Filigree
10-28-2015, 07:04 AM
Digression on Randall...when I was in my teens and early twenties, I loved his Gandalara books, set in an alternate
Earth where a different branch of the human race evolved in a largely dry Mediterranean Basin. Re-reading them even a decade later, I realized the nuances that I liked probably came from his co-writer Vicki Ann Heydron, who finished the series when he fell ill.

I now chagrin meeting some of my early writing heroes. I almost just don't want to know. (I knew 30 years ago in the SCA to avoid tangling with Marion Zimmer Bradley and her crowd.)

frimble3
10-28-2015, 07:34 AM
Needless to say the Committee hopes that members behave in an acceptable civil manner toward other Convention members and the staff of the Hotel, bar/restaurant and City Center. No one wants to behave in a manner that draws Police attention. Offenders will be prosecuted and the consequences are severs."[sic]"
Does this almost sound like a veiled threat against the victims, or witnesses, as much as the harasser? 'Don't make waves, make the Convention (and the Committee)look bad, or there will be consequences?' They might not be arrested, but I'm betting there are a lot of petty little things that could happen to a person who makes a cop-calling fuss.
Or is the whole thing just so mealy-mouthed that I'm reading too much into it?

Rhymes with Clue
10-28-2015, 08:55 AM
I'm just wondering...as a legal assistant, I worked with a lawyer on a harassment policy for a writer's group (not a con), and going through the case law it turned out that if there was a policy and that policy was violated, either because it was unclear or because it was too cumbersome or misunderstood, then the complainer--or somebody--might have a cause of action. However, if there was NO written policy then there was no cause of action. So after many hours of work, the writer's group was advised not to have a written policy and yes, to refer any complaints of stalking, harassment, etc. to the authorities. So as not to have the legal liability.

It almost looks like that's what's going on here.

Once!
10-28-2015, 11:54 AM
I am in two minds about this one. On the one hand, we do need to take action against harassment. We need to make conferences safe places for people to attend. They must not only be safe, they should feel safe and be seen to be safe.

But a conference does not take place in its own world. It exists in a city, a country, a territory with its own laws. Those laws exist to protect us against all manner of harm - harassment, libel, slander, murder, theft ... The list is a long one. There comes a point when the conference organisers have to rely on the law of the land.

If harassment is a major problem then I could see why the organisers need a policy. But I can also understand why the organisers of World Fantasy Con prefer not to have one. After all, when did having a policy actually stop anything? You cannot be arrested or prosecuted on the basis of a policy that does not have the force of law.

So while I am reluctant to agree with JAR, I can't get too excited or worried about this one.

Helix
10-28-2015, 12:02 PM
If harassment is a major problem then I could see why the organisers need a policy. But I can also understand why the organisers of World Fantasy Con prefer not to have one. After all, when did having a policy actually stop anything? You cannot be arrested or prosecuted on the basis of a policy that does not have the force of law.

No, but you can be booted out of a function for making a complete arsehole of yourself.

It's not a choice between doing nothing or prosecuting.

Roxxsmom
10-28-2015, 12:27 PM
If harassment is a major problem then I could see why the organisers need a policy. But I can also understand why the organisers of World Fantasy Con prefer not to have one. After all, when did having a policy actually stop anything? You cannot be arrested or prosecuted on the basis of a policy that does not have the force of law.

So while I am reluctant to agree with JAR, I can't get too excited or worried about this one.

It's my understanding that harassment policies at cons are supposed to lay down a relatively unambiguous code of conduct so attendees won't be able to say they didn't know something was against the rules when their tickets are pulled and they're kicked out of the con for harassment. A con is a private event, no? They're allowed to have a code of conduct that disallows behavior that's not necessarily illegal but still unpleasant to be around. And if they have a clearly stated conduct policy in place, they can kick violaters out and not refund their tickets.

Consider that it's not illegal to talk loudly on your cell phone, but if you do so in a movie theater, you can still be kicked out.

Yeah, courteous behavior should go without saying, but I haven't noticed anyone rolling their eyes and sneering about the fact that theaters usually have that message before the movie starts about not using phones or talking during the show.

Once!
10-28-2015, 01:22 PM
No, but you can be booted out of a function for making a complete arsehole of yourself.

It's not a choice between doing nothing or prosecuting.

But that's the point. You can be booted out of a function for making an arsehole of yourself regardless of what policies are in place for that function. And the grounds for booting someone out are not simply limited to harassment. That is simply one of the reasons that might cause someone to be kicked out. I imagine they would throw out someone who was roaring drunk or selling drugs or ...

Roxxsmom's talking on the cell phone in a movie theater is a case in point. I have absolutely no idea what policies my local cinema (aka movie theater) has about mobile phones. They ask their customers not to use mobile phones. Do they have a policy? I don't know. I don't need to know. It's a polite request.

For that matter, does my cinema have a specific policy on talking loudly, breaking wind, putting feet on seats ... anything that might be considered anti social? No, they don't. They will have a general clause hidden in the small print on the tickets giving them the right to refuse admission but they will not specify each and every situation that might be considered to be grounds for ejecting someone.

I like the idea of having a "relatively unambiguous code of conduct". Who wouldn't? But this does not automatically mean that the code should be comprehensive and try to list anything that might be considered to be harassment. If anything, a code that tries to be comprehensive usually winds up with many holes in it. That's why we have legal systems which are based on a huge amount of case law and precedent.

How can a conference committee possibly hope to recreate centuries of case law with a comprehensive statement of what is allowed and what isn't?

This is what the World Fantasy Convention's website says:


New York State has strict legal requirements regarding harassment. We are developing a policy in concert with the Saratoga County District Attorney and the Saratoga Springs Police Department. It will be posted here and given separately to every member at registration. World Fantasy is a social event. Members are expected, as a matter of civility, to observe generally accepted social conventions. No means no. All members are expected to respect other convention members.


The telling part for me is "we are developing a policy in concert with the Saratoga County District Attorney and the Saratoga Springs Police Department." This isn't some crazy individual or committee doing something whacky. It is a considered policy developed in partnership with the police and DA. And, I'm just guessing, but I suspect they know a thing or two about the law.

PeteMC
10-28-2015, 07:33 PM
Do people really behave that badly at these things? Rhetorical question - I'm not doubting anyone's experiences, I'm just astonished.

I've just been to my first ever con (in the UK) and was surprised to see that they even had such a thing as an anti-harassment policy. I didn't see anyone behaving badly while I was there and I'd like to think people in fandom are adult enough to know how to behave in public without having it spelled out for them, but I guess I must be wrong.

Filigree
10-28-2015, 07:48 PM
In the early nineties at big conventions in Arizona, I got to see:

Big-name author groping a cosplaying girl in an elevator, and the girl seemed rather put-off but wasn't fighting back. I reported it to con security, have no idea what happened next.
Lesser-known author deep-throating a microphone in an all-ages panel discussion. With sound effects. It seemed funny then, but I could also see that it made other female attendees in the audience uncomfortable.
Random male con-goer dropping his pants (commando) in the elevator late at night, when only women were in there with him (he scuttled off when I pointed and laughed.)
Two more random guys who asked me for a blowjob (I told them to take care of each other, and left, but not without making damn sure they didn't follow me.)
Rampant misogyny from at least three male authors who were panelists, while answering questions from female con-goers. Males got treated with more respect.

In 1995 I stopped going to local conventions, and the last big one that I went to was Discworld in 2011. I noticed a lot more civil behavior. Although I did see some (IMO unwarranted) backlash against at least one male attendee from female attendees.

When people get drunk or high in unusual social situations, they often do stupid, reprehensible things. But that isn't a strange new monster coming out to play, that's most often their real personality unvarnished by shame and social pressure. Other perfectly sober people go nuts from the illusion of temporary power and respect. I've found that the gender of the person really doesn't matter, in how dickish they are at conventions.

VeryBigBeard
10-28-2015, 07:53 PM
The issue comes when the event could remove someone for that behaviour, but the organizers will only use that power with someone who's roaring drunk. With harassment, they just abdicate it to the authorities, which is like saying they're not even going to try and prevent this, or deal with it like mature event organizers. They're just going to throw it to the police.

If you hosted a party, and someone groped one of your friends, you would ask that person to leave. Ideally, you'd be polite about it if it's in front of everyone else but you also might not be. This is not grounds to sue, no matter if they threaten to do so. If they do threaten to do so, fine. There has to be some courage here.

I realize there's a potential issue if you create a list of rules that doesn't cover the exact thing they did, and they say "well, I didn't know groping her wasn't allowed here." Yeah, right. The easiest way around that isn't more exacting rules, which guarantees nobody will read them or take them seriously (nobody reads small print in legalese). The solution is, on a page on the web registration, on a sign at the door, maybe on a ticket, something like this:

"Everyone is here to have fun con, and this is a public event. Behaviour that makes others uncomfortable ruins the con for everyone, and event staff have been trained to assist should any problems arise. Please enjoy the con responsibly and with respect for others, or staff may ask you to leave." That's not perfect, I did it off the top of my head, but with some polish is really all you need.

It's a conference that, just like the bar the conference is probably renting, should ask patrons to leave when things get out of hand. This isn't some massive hurdle to overcome, it's basic, responsible event management and not having some kind of policy and/or preparation is much riskier for negligence than it is for some mythical denial of groping lawsuit.

ETA: I'm not experienced in con-land at all. Just like Filigree says, this isn't some strange new monster--it happens anywhere you create large crowds with alcohol in them. My favourite sports team just traveled to Montreal and got sanctioned for its fans getting drunk and lighting parts of the stadium on fire. They travel to Montreal again on Thursday. I imagine there have been security briefings about this. That's about 20,000 people. If you con is anywhere over 10,000, you need people trained to deal with this stuff, because it WILL happen.

I do think, from what's come out a lot lately, that the culture in con-land is clearly toxic, though maybe improving from where it was. In those cases the nice HappyCon message sample above isn't enough. It might be a first step. But to change an ingrained culture you have to be more forward and more clear, not hide behind more legalese. This means announcements, prominent people (who have been briefed beforehand) leading by example and helping to encourage others, much earlier sanctions made much more publicly. Mostly it means being brave and dealing with this, not dumping it on the police. Don't hide the problem. Deal with it.

PeteMC
10-28-2015, 08:07 PM
If you con is anywhere over 10,000

Gulp. Okay I guess that explains it - the con I was just at had maybe 800 people tops. I had no idea these things were so big in the States! Out of that many people you're bound to get the odd tosser I suppose.

EMaree
10-28-2015, 08:15 PM
I wasn't going to post this, I was just going to stay quiet and feel a sort of envy towards all the people wondering if harassment in cons can really be that common. All you lucky, lovely people who've never experienced it, I really do envy your good fortune. But Filigree's honesty has made me brave.

My friend and I were sexually harassed at our first ever writing convention -- a well-respected, formal convention, small by US standards but massive by UK standards. The kind of convention most posters on this thread, especially the gentlemen, would consider perfectly safe and in no need of a harassment policy.

We thought we'd be safe, too.

I've blogged in the past (http://emmamaree.com/the-world-fantasy-con-2013-incident/) about the utter mess the con management team made of dealing with the report. I'm sure there's some clumsy wording in that post -- I was angry when I wrote it, and I still can't re-read it -- but I think it covers some of the obstacles we faced.

PeteMC
10-28-2015, 08:22 PM
Blood hell, sorry to hear that Em - thanks for sharing.

I do appreciate that as a fairly large, shaven-headed, bearded and tattooed straight white man in my 40s I'm extremely unlikely to get harassed in public. Must keep reminding myself this doesn't apply to everyone.

EMaree
10-28-2015, 08:27 PM
Bless you, Pete, you're a lovely fellow. :D Will need to say hello some time at one of the UK cons -- most of them have a really good reputation for harassment prevention, but when WFC visited us from overseas they poisoned the water a bit.

Bristolcon, incidentally, actually contacted myself and my friend directly to make us aware they'd heard about what happened and had blacklisted the harasser from all of their future cons. Most of the biggish UK cons are bloody brilliant: NineWorlds has rock-solid anti-harassment measures in place, Fantasycon's got a solid policy too (http://fantasycon2015.org/harassment-policy/), and all three cons actively practice panel parity.

Satellite 5 is the only British con I can think of that doesn't seem to have an online harassment policy, I should really shoot them an e-mail asking about that. They're quite tiny compared to the others so it's probably just an oversight.

Filigree
10-28-2015, 08:28 PM
I remember hearing about that at the time. My sympathies.

I've been lucky. All that I've ever experienced at SFF conventions has been what I considered mild (and somewhat amusing) harassment that didn't escalate to abuse or attack. Granted, when I attended conventions, I did so carrying at least one actually dangerous weapon, which I know how to use, and carried myself accordingly (also, not afraid to run like hell from likely escalating situations. Or fight really dirty when cornered.)

I have female friends - and one male friend - who have been raped at conventions. It's not a joke, and that's why I'll accept the harder, no-excuses harassment policies that most conventions seem to be adopting. What WFC has done in this case seems to make it harder for victims to come forward, because those victims are going to be worried about backlash.

EMaree
10-28-2015, 08:40 PM
I'm so, so sorry about what happened to your friends, Filigree, as well as everything you experienced.

Sexual harassment of males at writing conventions is definitely an understated problem. One of the other harassment reports that was received on the same day as our incident was a female harassing a male, and I often wonder what happened and hope their harassment report was dealt with better than ours.

(My friend, who was harassed most seriously out of the pair of us, eventually received an e-mail apology from the convention that she was satisfied with. I never heard a word.)

Jozzy
10-28-2015, 09:21 PM
It's looks like they've taken down the policy...I couldn't find anything but this on the website:




New York State has strict legal requirements regarding harassment. We are developing a policy in concert with the Saratoga County District Attorney and the Saratoga Springs Police Department. It will be posted here and given separately to every member at registration. World Fantasy is a social event. Members are expected, as a matter of civility, to observe generally accepted social conventions. No means no. All members are expected to respect other convention members.

Amadan
10-28-2015, 09:29 PM
I agree that long legalistic lists of things you can and cannot do are not really productive. But a strong and unambiguous statement along the lines of "Do not harass people, do not touch without consent, if someone asks to be left alone, leave them alone," etc. not only establishes that yes, these really are rules for which you can be kicked out, not just polite suggestions, but also sets the tone of the con. I.e., "No, this is not like back in the day when Isaac Asimov could get away with pinching butts."

Alessandra Kelley
10-28-2015, 10:05 PM
It's looks like they've taken down the policy...I couldn't find anything but this on the website:

No. The policy has never been posted on the website. It only exists offline in the most recent progress report.

What you found is the online placeholder they've had up for ages promising that there eventually will be a policy.

I transcribed the policy in the OP, but otherwise all online copies of it are a scanned image of the physical document mailed to WFC participants.

Alessandra Kelley
10-28-2015, 10:18 PM
Do people really behave that badly at these things? Rhetorical question - I'm not doubting anyone's experiences, I'm just astonished.

I've just been to my first ever con (in the UK) and was surprised to see that they even had such a thing as an anti-harassment policy. I didn't see anyone behaving badly while I was there and I'd like to think people in fandom are adult enough to know how to behave in public without having it spelled out for them, but I guess I must be wrong.

You would think that. And yet I can recall witnessing incidents, groping, and inappropriate behavior going back all the way to my childhood around the Milford workshop in the early 1970s.

Reading famous science fiction authors' reminiscences from the 1950s on, one comes across incident after incident of propositions, groping, pulling clothes off, cheerful accounts of drunken sexual rampages and how fun all the fellas found them. How you could follow one fella's progress around a room by the squeals of the women he pinched. How another propositioned literally every woman he met in the coarsest of terms. How a woman smiled, so clearly women were fine with this, apart from the sourpussies who couldn't take a joke.

Sure, behavior like that wasn't everywhere, all the time. But it was tolerated, even viewed with amusement and pride as proof of sci-fi fandom's open-mindedness and culture of innocent sexual fun.

Well, innocent apart from those pedophilia scandals and the rapes and assaults.

Even if things don't escalate to actual rape, the culture of toleration of cheerful groping and shoulder massaging and unwelcome flirty innuendo and sexual advances and lack of respect for bodily integrity or boundaries makes things horribly oppressive for people who simply want to celebrate a genre they enjoy with others who also enjoy it.

BenPanced
10-28-2015, 11:23 PM
You would think that. And yet I can recall witnessing incidents, groping, and inappropriate behavior going back all the way to my childhood around the Milford workshop in the early 1970s.

Reading famous science fiction authors' reminiscences from the 1950s on, one comes across incident after incident of propositions, groping, pulling clothes off, cheerful accounts of drunken sexual rampages and how fun all the fellas found them. How you could follow one fella's progress around a room by the squeals of the women he pinched. How another propositioned literally every woman he met in the coarsest of terms. How a woman smiled, so clearly women were fine with this, apart from the sourpussies who couldn't take a joke.

Sure, behavior like that wasn't everywhere, all the time. But it was tolerated, even viewed with amusement and pride as proof of sci-fi fandom's open-mindedness and culture of innocent sexual fun.

Well, innocent apart from those pedophilia scandals and the rapes and assaults.

Even if things don't escalate to actual rape, the culture of toleration of cheerful groping and shoulder massaging and unwelcome flirty innuendo and sexual advances and lack of respect for bodily integrity or boundaries makes things horribly oppressive for people who simply want to celebrate a genre they enjoy with others who also enjoy it.
And Ghu forbid if you said ANYTHING when it was a Beloved Author or Big Name Fan. How dare you! Don't you know who this is? You really need to learn how to loosen up and have a little fun! He's only doing it because he thinks you're cute and wants to get to know you better! He does it to EVERYBODY and you're the only one who's ever complained about it! Honestly. Grow a sense of humor, already.

Latina Bunny
10-28-2015, 11:30 PM
Do people really behave that badly at these things? Rhetorical question - I'm not doubting anyone's experiences, I'm just astonished.

I've just been to my first ever con (in the UK) and was surprised to see that they even had such a thing as an anti-harassment policy. I didn't see anyone behaving badly while I was there and I'd like to think people in fandom are adult enough to know how to behave in public without having it spelled out for them, but I guess I must be wrong.

Well, you find creeps anywhere. They are part of the human population, after all. (Last time I checked, lol. Unless the creeps are all demons from the Supernarural world or something.)

Creeps can be anywhere, and it can be anyone. There are no special group that has no harassers/rapists/bigots/etc...

So of course there will be creeps in a convention or any event with lots of people.

For goodness' sake, I've been accosted by a creepy dude in an indie comic book store, and that was a very small event there. (I wasn't even dressed up or anything.) Imagine a bigger event; the chances of creepy dudes/dudettes can only increase...

Filigree
10-28-2015, 11:38 PM
Wow, it's like you were there in the late eighties, at my very first SFF convention EVAH, when basically the con security told me the same thing. About a low-hanging fruit of a self-entitled 'writer' who is thankfully dead now. A crush of people in the Green Room was his perfect excuse for groping - below the waist - every vaguely nubile female around. I realized the con security wasn't going to do anything, drove home (I lived in the same city) and returned with my weapon of choice. Which I did not declare to security, and kept hidden the rest of the convention. But the next hand I didn't want between my legs was getting a sharp and pointy surprise...

By then, I'd been in the SCA for five years. Harassment went on there, too, but I found the re-enactment folks of all genders much more willing to accept 'no'. With a few exceptions, which I was warned about in advance, and knew to avoid.

There are things about that first convention that set my skeptical tone for all SFF conventions thereafter: volunteer like a starry-eyed newbie, get stuffed into the Green Room kitchenette chopping veggies for five hours. Come out of kitchenette when some big writing panel (that I had wanted to see) was finished, and run headlong into Handsy McGropemeister. Report same, get told to 'lighten up'. Hear the same twenty-five filk songs that I'd been hearing for five years. At the very least, unlike the SCA, I wasn't told that my artforms of choice were not period and were therefore worthless.

In short, sadly, you generally get out of a convention exactly what you put in. I lost my fannish idealism very quickly, only rarely get it back, and so I tend to avoid conventions and fan gatherings now.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-29-2015, 12:10 AM
I have tons of stories of various cons and the shit that went on there according to my friends who attended. I used to feel sad and left-out that I didn't have the time or money to attend cons with my friends, but after five years of stories, I've come to the conclusion that I dodged quite a lot of bullets by it, even considering I'm a straight white dude.

For example, a younger acquaintance (she was 15 at the time), who got raped by a well-known and popular creator-type at an anime con. Pulled into the bathroom raped, so no easy claims of misunderstandings. The con either refused to believe it or refused to do anything because of the guy's profile. Basically told her if she did anything besides perfect legal channels of reporting, she'd never be allowed in any con they or their friends ran again. She went to the cops eventually, but they told her she didn't have enough evidence to win a case. Then she told a few civvies what happened and had a campaign of harassment, bullying, and shaming dropped on her that went on for two years, if you count online. The typical "Liar"/"If he did you wanted it"/"Trying to destroy a good man" shit that so often comes up. Basically ended her interest in the fandoms she was in, and anime in general eventually.

I know less people who are super into SFF cons, but I've heard enough to know that similar things have happened there.


And that;s just something wildly illegal and publicly discouraged by our culture. You drop down to groping or harassment or unwelcome advances, half the time people will argue with you about "what really happened", and the other half they'll say there's nothing wrong with it, learn to take a joke.

Albedo
10-29-2015, 12:26 AM
I've never been to a con (other than a big, commercial, mainly comics one once), or been involved in fan stuff. This thread is making me kind of happy about that. And making me sad I ever admired Issac Asimov. What a piece of shit.

PeteMC
10-29-2015, 01:11 AM
This whole thread is giving me a horrible sense of disappointment - I had such a nice time at the weekend, but bearing in mind my wife comes with me to these things I'm now not looking forward to the next one quite as much as I was. Mind you, much like Filigree my good lady is perfectly capable of defending herself but I'd hate for her to have to, you know what I mean?

And if she *did* have to I would lose my shit so badly at whoever had groped her or whatever I'd probably still be in jail come next Christmas.

----

EDIT: which, before anyone jumps on me, I know is my character flaw and I'll own that. Still true though.

JetFueledCar
10-29-2015, 01:18 AM
EDIT: which, before anyone jumps on me, I know is my character flaw and I'll own that. Still true though.

I don't want a husband. But if I did. I'd want one like you. (Provided said husband knew that I could just as easily flip the offender over my own shoulder and slam his head into the ground.)

PeteMC
10-29-2015, 01:19 AM
Heh, thanks. My wife is fierce as fuck too :)

Liosse de Velishaf
10-29-2015, 01:20 AM
It's definitely still possible to have fun at cons, though, Pete. You just have to be a little careful if you're part of a group likely to be the target of harassment. Tons of women (and men, of course) go to con and have no bad experiences at all.

PeteMC
10-29-2015, 01:33 AM
Well yeah this is why I'm so taken aback by all this, FantasyCon UK which we've just been to was an absolute blast and as far as I know nobody got out of line the whole weekend. We're doing EasterCon next year and I'm still hoping that will be just as good.

JetFueledCar
10-29-2015, 01:53 AM
From comments further upthread, it looks like the UK is better about this than the US, so you might be safe.

ULTRAGOTHA
10-29-2015, 02:25 AM
I've been going to cons for decades and, except for a run in with Ellison the jerk, I've never had a problem. I've never seen a problem except when I've been working ops where they come to us.

But lots of other people HAVE had problems. Just because I don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there.

A Code of Conduct isn't going to stop all bad action. But what it does do is tell creepers the policy is there and their behavior is wrong. Not cute, not "guys will be guys" but wrong and bad and not acceptable. If we are all lucky, the committee and ops will actually enforce it.

It ALSO tells victims that This Is Not OK. It's not normal. It's not something they have to put up with. It's not their imagination, or lighten up, or get a sense of humor, but it really is wrong and bad and it should stop.

There are thousands of things that violate codes of conduct that aren't illegal, as RedWombat says. Any decent policy will address that. WFC fell down BIG time on this, especially since they've had harassment incidents at three of their last five cons.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-29-2015, 02:27 AM
I've been going to cons for decades and, except for a run in with Ellison the jerk, I've never had a problem. I've never seen a problem except when I've been working ops where they come to us.

But lots of other people HAVE had problems. Just because I don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there.

A Code of Conduct isn't going to stop all bad action. But what it does do is tell creepers the policy is there and their behavior is wrong. Not cute, not "guys will be guys" but wrong and bad and not acceptable. If we are all lucky, the committee and ops will actually enforce it. But it ALSO tells victims that This Is Not OK. It's not normal. It's not something they have to put up with. It's not their imagination, or lighten up, or get a sense of humor, but that it really is wrong and bad and it should stop.

There are thousands of things that violate codes of conduct that aren't illegal, as RedWombat says. Any policy will address that. WFC fell down BIG time on this, especially since they've had harassment incidents at three of their last five cons.


QFT