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[personal profile] bunsen_h  writes in James Nicoll's thread about Jason Sanford's commentary on the lack of anti-harassment and accessibility policies at the World Fantasy Con:
God grant me the gift of competent people to help me do the things I cannot, the courage to fire the people who promise to help but then refuse both to do the job and to let someone else take over, and the wisdom to know the difference.
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I'm not a big fan of Jonathan Ross — inveterate telly addict that I am, I can't remember the last time I deliberately chose to watch something with him in it. But he's a popular mainstream celeb, funny when he doesn't go off-piste, and knowledgeable about genre. There could be a lot worse choices for a 'face' to present the Hugos. And while he may be a sexist of some stripe, I'm sure he would be a lot better behaved at the con than some authors who make regular appearances — especially a couple of British authors who I have personal knowledge of having done worse than make a few rotten jokes.

Practically anyone else from the locality with similar crossing cachet to Ross — and there aren't that many — will be similarly unknown to North Americans, and similarly despised by the Daily Mail, so when one goes to look them up online, they will probably have a stack of articles outlining what terrible human beings they are, and how they haven't suffered nearly enough opprobrium to satisfy Daily Mail staff for their past sins.

Meanwhile, the attempt to get more punters into the WorldCon by getting a local celeb with a foot in mainstream and genre culture will fail — because who else will want to risk the internet's wrath by setting either foot in this wasps' nest? — the con will struggle to show a profit, and more complaints will be heard from the (US) community about how WorldCons outside North America are so unsuccessful and everybody should just come to the US where the real SF comes from. Shooting-in-the-foot self-fulfilling prophecy or what?

Context. More context.
nelc: Stop groping (sexual harassment)
So there's been a small internet storm over a minor encounter Rebecca Watson had in an elevator at an atheist convention, and the remarks she made about it.

I say "minor" not to downplay it or any similar encounters anyone has had, but because Watson noted the encounter solely for the irony of the situation: that of being propositioned in an elevator at a convention at four in the morning, a convention at which she'd given a talk about, you know, stuff like that.

I have to admit that when I first started reading about it on PZ Myers blog at Pharyngula, I wasn't very sympathetic. I know people go to conventions for all sorts of social interaction, including sexual, and at some point someone's got ask someone else if they want a cup of coffee, else there's nothing going to happen that way. It would be nice if people could be as witty as a Hollywood movie, but clichés are clichés for a reason.

But I read on. I didn't really get the thing about the elevator at first; the worst thing that's happened to me in an elevator was somebody else's fart. But, yeah, being in an elevator with someone who's propositioning you isn't going to be comfortable, especially considering the other circumstances. But give Elevator Guy a little credit, he took 'No, thank you' for an answer.

On the other side of the balance, though, the whole set-up looks fishy. Watson was chatting in the bar until four in the morning, but from what I can tell Elevator Guy didn't talk to her during this period, despite having been to her earlier talk. Then, when Watson announces that she's running on empty and needs some sleep, he hops on the elevator with her, and then he propositions her. The guy could be socially inept, but that's some fine timing he's got there.

My ideal for folk at conventions is for them (us!) to do whatever they mutually agree upon in whatever combinations and to whatever degree pleases them (including the option of "none at all"). But for that to occur requires communication. Elevator Guy failed in that regard, not for his clichéd inquiry, but for completely ignoring what Watson had had to say in her earlier talk. There was no 'co' in that communication, it was just the guy thinking that he'd like to get off with her. From Watson's account there's no evidence that he'd internalised anything she'd had to say whatsoever. And the fact that he'd avoided talking to her for several hours in the bar gives credence to the view that he wasn't interested in her thoughts at all. Which would probably have made him a lousy lay anyway.

So PZ Myers had some thoughts on the subject of sex at conventions as well, and wrote those up. Not so much the sex, but the bit before the sex. I think they're worth reading. I'd exercise caution with the comments, though, them Pharyngulites like to play rough.

Edit: I suppose I ought to say something about Stef McGraw. McGraw criticised Watson's remarks about Elevator Guy in her blog. Watson then addressed that criticism briefly in a later speech at the convention, and then McGraw felt put upon and blogged about that.

My view is that McGraw publicly criticised Watson, and Watson publicly addressed those criticisms. The circumstances were slightly different, but there's nothing in the rules of debating etiquette that say the disagreement has to stay in the same field at all times. (I'm now thinking of the John Wayne movie The Quiet Man. I shall probably start humming the tune in a minute.) Watson opined, McGraw demurred, Watson riposted, McGraw countered. The change of venue incurred no special penalties on McGraw; she was able to answer, and did, in a setting she was more comfortable in. Where's the problem?
nelc: Stop groping (sexual harassment)'s Sethra007 ran a sexual harassment panel at ConGlomeration 2011 in Louisville over Easter. Here's her video of the panel.

This is the video of the Harlan Ellison & Connie Willis boob-grab that Sethra shows in the panel, and this is the subway flashing incident.

Con Anti-Harassment Project.
Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour, mentioned in the panel.
The Geek Fallacies.
The Back-Up Project.
Geek Feminism Blog explains the epic fail of The Open Source Boob Project.

A very good panel, I think. Worth watching or listening to.


Apr. 17th, 2011 04:21 pm
nelc: Stop groping (stop)
So, I'm going to Eastercon despite having the two panels cancelled, I'm going to wear one of my shirts (probably over another shirt, if it's not too warm), and I'm going to try to talk to people. I'm anticipating that some will be curious enough to have a short conversation with, at least, while some will just go into avoidance mode.

Of the former, I figure I can split them into five demographic groups: victims of harassment (mostly female fans), oblivious fans (mostly male), harassers (mostly fans, some celebs, mostly male), con organizers, and writers & other celebs. Each of these will require a different pitch, I think.

  • Victims need to know that they are not alone, that they have suffered a wrong, and that something can be done to change the situation for them personally and for fandom as a whole.

  • Oblivious fans need to be convinced that the problem exists, that it is a problem both at an individual level and for fandom as a whole, and that they can be part of the solution.

  • Harassers are going to be problematic. Some will need to be convinced that there are better ways to get your jollies than treating all women at conventions as though they were your Gorean slaves; some will be cold-hearted serial harassers who will be seeking to disrupt any attempt to change the environment in which they predate; some need to be shown that silence is not assent.

  • Con organizers are similar to the oblivious fans, except that they have a further political dimension. They have a vested interest in denying that the problem exists, since sometimes bad publicity is just bad publicity, and geek conventions get enough mocking publicity as it is. They also have the fear that the problem is just too big to manage (partly their own fault for ignoring it for so long). In the first case, showing them that having a working policy, or at least a declaration of intent, can only be a good thing; and that continuing to ignore it can only mean that the situation will get worse, continuing to drive female fans away. In the second case, they need to be shown that they only need to do a few very simple things: agree that harassment is wrong and must be dealt with, in the interests of natural justice and allowing fandom to grow; to specifically address harassment as an issue; and to acknowledge that some situations are too big for a bunch of amateur con organizers to deal with, but that the proper course is to kick these to the relevant authorities (venue security and/or the police) and not to ignore the problem. OTOH, the situations that are scaled to a concom's purview can be dealt with by the con staff.

  • Writers and other celebs will split into two groups: the harassers and potential allies. The former will need to be handled just as mundane harassers above, though perhaps a bit more delicately or robustly, I'm not sure which. The latter may be oblivious or despairing: getting them onboard to speak out against harassment will help swing the con organizers, make them feel that they're contributing, and put peer-pressure on the harassers, who may be inclined to ignore the noises of the hoi polloi.

Comments, anyone?

PS I will be doing the normal fan things, as well, and I don't intend to make a pain of myself. I trust a bit of calm, rational chat will do more than ranting at people.
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Feeling a bit stunned, as I have talked myself into organising not one, but two, panels at Illustrious in Birmingham in two months time, on the subject of Sexual Harassment in SF Fandom. Never organised a panel at a con; not really a big con-goer, really; not terribly clued up on feminist theory; don't have an idea on who I should ask to be on either panel.

Only idea I've had so far is that one panel should be on fan experience of harassment, at all levels; and the other should be a discussion of what an ideal con sexual harassment policy should look like. This may change according to whatever.

Also, my internet is broken today (thank you, Virgin Media), so I'm using my limited Mi-Fi connection. Emails might have to wait until the internet isn't broken, and when I'm feeling a bit less stunned.

Oh, advice and suggestions will be gratefully received.

Going out to take some pictures now.


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