Pushback Awesome: another community having the anti-harassment policy debate

Update: scroll down for DefCon addendum
Update the 2nd: scroll down for Atheist Alliance International model-policy addendum

This time it’s the science fiction writing community undergoing Deep Rifts over a disputed implementation of an existing anti-harassment policy at Readercon following a verified harassment incident [background here, here, here and here]. There is talk of rewriting the policy to avoid problems uncovered by this incident, and plenty of pushback criticising Readercon for deciding not to stick with their penalty as written (lifetime ban), complete with yet another round of but-we-don’t-need-no-stinkin-policy-anyway backlash.

Ann Leckie at her Modern Felicity livejournal has a response to that:

But here’s the more extensive answer. If you really think that “speaking to women” is indistinguishable from harassment, there’s a problem and it’s not with the rules. If you really think anti-harassment rules bar flirting, you’ve got an idea of what constitutes flirting that really needs some re-evaluation. I mean, if someone said, “Hey, we should outlaw rape,” and the guy standing next to you said, “But that’s the same thing as saying people can’t have sex!” you wouldn’t say, Wow, good point!. You’d look at him sideways. Or, sweet unconquered sun, I hope you would.

One for the bookmarks folder.


Addendum: seriously – WTF, DefCon?

Let it be known that I went to Defcon with a reasonable amount of armor on already. I was reasonably aware of the frat party environment I was stepping into. I have many friends who are involved with helping make Defcon roll smoothly each year, from speakers to goons. And still, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of bad behavior I experienced.

Like the man who drunkenly tried to lick my shoulder tattoo. Like the man who grabbed my hips while I was waiting for a drink at the EFF party. Like the man who tried to get me to show him my tits so he could punch a hole in a card that, when filled, would net him a favor from one of the official security staff (I do not have words for how slimy it is that the official security staff were in charge of what was essentially a competition to get women to show their boobs). Or lastly, the man who, without prompting, interrupted my conversation and asked me if I’d like to come back to his room for a “private pillowfight party.”

Emphasis above added by moi.

The author has come up with a red/yellow card idea (based on the cards handed out by football referees) that I find problematic in multiple ways but which has received a very positive response from other women intending to attend DefCon. At least it’s getting the conversation started.


Addendum: YAY! The Atheists Alliance International has drafted a model anti-harassment policy to which they are going to require compliance from cons operating under their umbrella. It’s inspirationally comprehensive while remaining plain-language. Well done AAI. (via Almost Diamonds)



Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, social justice

Tags: , ,

19 replies

  1. I am not as optimistic as Leckie: my experience is that there is a lot of pushback against rape concepts precisely along the lines of “whoa, you’re basically outlawing [my frankly horrifying idea of] sex.”

  2. Yes, I’ve seen that too, although only online (thank FSM).
    That was part of Lisak’s Sexual Predator study, wasn’t it? That a frankly alarming subset of men will admit to having committed acts which meet the legal definition of rape/sexual assault/sexual coercion as long as the acts are described using words other than the r-word?
    (looks through bookmarks folder)
    Yes, it was.

  3. The whole Readercon thing just gets more and more complicated the more I read about it. To start with, as well as the harasser (and yes, I can state that clearly – it’s one of the things the Readercon Board didn’t argue with) being something of a BNF and SMoF, the person he harassed (again, facts of the matter aren’t disputed in the case, I can use the term “harassed” without hedging) is behind one of the first complaints to be actioned under the Readercon harassment Zero Tolerance policy, back in 2008 (she made the initial complaint for a friend who was being harassed and stalked). That one cleared out a known persistent harasser from the convention and banned that guy for life (said KPH is also said to be schizophrenic). In addition, this year’s complainant is a very different style of person to her friend in regards to the way she performs femininity (the friend is very much the typical “don’t want to cause a fuss” shrinking violet femme style, has long hair, prefers skirts to trousers and so on; she’s much more assertive and blunt and somewhat more butch in presentation – short hair, trousers rather than skirts etc).
    In addition, there’s the standard “oh, well he must be socially inept” or “maybe he’s Aspie” comments floating about. I stated my views on the likelihood of socially awkward types as serial harassers in my blog (see the link below), but let me just add that the harasser is also the marketing coordinator for the Hugo awards, runs a small press in Toronto, and has been an organising force behind at least one Worldcon bid. While none of this necessarily rules out his being Aspie or socially awkward, it does make it a lot harder for me to believe this bloke was so clueless about normal social functioning that he couldn’t understand things as blunt as an instruction of “you don’t touch me” or a person walking away from him.
    I was among the people who left a comment on the Readercon livejournal post about the decision, basically pointing out that this whole incident is absolutely horrific publicity for them – and it isn’t staying nicely in their back yard to be hidden, either. What I knew about Readercon on Saturday could have been written on the back of a stamp in cyanide and still left safe space to lick. What I know now is that it’s on my “actively dis-recommend” list at present, and will never be on my list of conventions I want to attend (should I ever win the lottery).

  4. On the “but you can’t outlaw that, it would be like (insert wild exaggeration here)”, among my favourite examples are:
    “You can’t ban McDonalds! You’ll be banning food next!” and saying you are opposed to porn is not the same as saying you are opposed to sex.
    It’s extraordinary that so many people fail to grasp the differences between two astonishingly different things.

  5. Megpie, I’ve read a bit more background since I published the OP, and the Wallings’ behaviour seems to fall/swing between this webcomic and the behaviours outlined at the Yes Means Yes post Mythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The Answer – he’s socially adept enough to avoid giving offence to the hierarchy he wants to climb (notices and responds with conventional politeness/consideration to nonverbal signals about who is willing to listen to him etc), but when people he views as targets are giving him even stronger negative verbal and body language feedback, he all of a sudden no longer groks it? Highly unpersuaded that any evidence supports that level of social awkwardness for Wallings.
    Arcadia, again I think a lot of that dissonance is thrashed out in the YMY link above.

  6. Megpie71?s last post ..On Being “Socially Awkward”
    This is a very good post. I especially admire this part: “It takes a lot of social skill to develop a set of behaviours which are both threatening to the recipients and innocuous to disinterested bystanders. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to perform these behaviours in a public setting on a regular basis without drawing attention to oneself.”

  7. [background here].

    When I clicked on the link, it didn’t give any background. It just contained a “Statement from the Readercon Board of Directors” which contained about as much as you might expect, based on the title (i.e., a lot of corporate-speak and little actual information.)
    Is there a posting somewhere that describes what this is actually about?

  8. could have been written on the back of a stamp in cyanide and still left safe space to lick.

    I am so stealing that.

  9. ugh, about to add this link as an addendum to the OP, but seriously: WTF, DefCon?

    Let it be known that I went to Defcon with a reasonable amount of armor on already. I was reasonably aware of the frat party environment I was stepping into. I have many friends who are involved with helping make Defcon roll smoothly each year, from speakers to goons. And still, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of bad behavior I experienced.
    Like the man who drunkenly tried to lick my shoulder tattoo. Like the man who grabbed my hips while I was waiting for a drink at the EFF party. Like the man who tried to get me to show him my tits so he could punch a hole in a card that, when filled, would net him a favor from one of the official security staff (I do not have words for how slimy it is that the official security staff were in charge of what was essentially a competition to get women to show their boobs). Or lastly, the man who, without prompting, interrupted my conversation and asked me if I’d like to come back to his room for a “private pillowfight party.”

    Emphasis added by moi.
    The author has come up with a red/yellow card idea (based on the cards handed out by football referees) that I find problematic in multiple ways but which has received a very positive response from other women intending to attend DefCon. At least it’s getting the conversation started.

  10. (I do not have words for how slimy it is that the official security staff were in charge of what was essentially a competition to get women to show their boobs)
    Or how unwelcoming it’ll make it for any target of harassment to have to report it to them.

    • Somebody suggested that commentors might be unfairly maligning DefCon’s security staff: just because the harasser said that the Con’s security staff were involved in his point-scoring contest doesn’t mean that they actually were, since it could well have been a deliberate tactic to discourage reporting. Which, if true, would appear to be quite an effective tactic.

  11. The author has come up with a red/yellow card idea (based on the cards handed out by football referees) that I find problematic in multiple ways but which has received a very positive response from other women intending to attend DefCon. At least it’s getting the conversation started.

    Very problematic. This is DefCon where people take throw away laptops because they know they’ll be hacked. Just how long do they think it’ll be before there’s a competition to see how many red/yellow cards one person can collect?

  12. Good news is good.

  13. Very glad to see this RT @tansyrr Readercon: how to make a public apology & redress community concerns http://t.co/VkaSQtOW
    — Viv Smythe (@vivsmythe) August 6, 2012

  14. Wow. So it can be done.

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