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Reporting Harassment at a Convention: A First-Person How To
July 3, 2013 6:04 AM   Subscribe

"Although their behavior was professional and respectful, I was stunned when I found out that mine was the first formal report filed there as well. From various discussions in person and online, I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded. " -- Well known science fiction fan Elise Matthesen was sexually harassed at Wiscon and decided to formally complain to both the convention and the harasser's employer.

Elise Matthesen was surprised to learn both that the person in question was long known to be a serial harasser and nobody had made a formal complaint about him yet, which is why she wrote about this and got it posted not just on John Scalzi's blog, but also at the blogs of Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Brandon Sanderson, Chuck Wendig and Jim Hines, who also reveals the name of the accused and confirms that this person had been reported before.

As to why this person hasn't been named publically before or been formally complained about, Mary Robinette Kowal has some thoughs about her own culpability in this.

It is of course not uncommon that a serial harasser has long been known and warned about by their victims, but never taken direct action against, so not uncommon that the sex, feminism and BDSM blog The Pervocracy called this situation "the missing stair":
Have you ever been in a house that had something just egregiously wrong with it? Something massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house had been there a long time and was used to it? "Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there's a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings. But it's okay because we all just remember to jump over it."

Some people are like that missing stair.

When I posted about a rapist in a community I belonged to, although I gave almost no details about the guy except "he's a rapist," I immediately got several emails from other members of that community saying "oh, you must mean X." Everyone knew who he was! Tons of people, including several in the leadership, instantly knew who I meant. The reaction wasn't "there's a rapist among us!?!" but "oh hey, I bet you're talking about our local rapist." Several of them expressed regret that I hadn't been warned about him beforehand, because they tried to discreetly tell new people about this guy. Others talked about how they tried to make sure there was someone keeping an eye on him at parties, because he was fine so long as someone remembered to assign him a Rape Babysitter.
All of which led Dustin Kurtz to wonder whether SF fandom's inclusiveness makes this problem worse and concludes that it should not:
The SFF community, of which conventions are a vital distillation, was, historically, populated by outsiders. The entire idea of genre is of course predicated on a readership that consciously sets itself apart, and no genre made that as much a point of pride as skiffy readers. That has the glorious result that outsiderdom predicated on other criteria—transgendered fans, for instance—is welcome within the community, even when that might be less true in society generally. But some, particularly men of an older generation, seem to mistake a spirit of permissiveness for individual permission.

Whatever the reasons, harassment is rife at these things. But maybe now, in the twenty-first century—the goddamned future—after a year of truly infuriating misogyny from some of the old guard in the genre, maybe now things will finally reach the point where even the most loutish of fans realize that an inclusive community need not include them, that a safe space for geeks doesn’t mean they themselves are safe from repercussions, and that, oh yeah, we all know their boss’ phone number.
posted by MartinWisse (699 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also from MeFi's own John Scalzi: My New Convention Harassment Policy
So, I’ve decided something. I am often asked to be a Guest of Honor or a participant at conventions, which is nice. I also have a number of friends and fans who go to conventions, which is nice too. When my friends and fans go to conventions, I would like them not to have to worry, if they are skeeved on by some creep at the convention, that the convention will take the problem seriously. I would also like them to be able to know how to report the problem, should such a situation occur.

That being the case, moving forward from this very instant, the following will be a hard requirement for my being a panelist, participant or Guest of Honor at a convention:

1. That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go to for help and action.

2. That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their Website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.

3. In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

Why? Because I want my friends and fans to be able to come to a convention and feel assured that the convention is making the effort to be a safe place for them. I want my friends and fans to know that if someone creeps on them, there’s a process to deal with it, quickly and fairly. And I want my friends and fans to know that I don’t support conventions that won’t go out of their way to do both of these things. I want them to know that if I’m showing up as a guest, it’s at a convention that has their backs.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:10 AM on July 3, 2013 [77 favorites]


All of which led Dustin Kurtz to wonder whether SF fandom's inclusiveness makes this problem worse

It's one of the geek social fallacies, innit? Don't ostracize one of "our" own - except it's a subtler and more insidious mindset. Especially in the context of sexual harassment, wherein women who report it (formally or just in talk-story ways, like here on mefi) are invariably told that they could have misinterpreted, it can't be that pervasive, maybe the guy was just socially awkward.

I'm glad she reported it, I'm glad she wrote about it, I'm glad the con took it seriously, and I'm glad he was outed as the perpetrator.
posted by rtha at 6:31 AM on July 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


What happens when things like this are reported at a con that doesn't bill itself as a Feminist Sci-Fi convention ?
posted by symbioid at 6:36 AM on July 3, 2013


What happens when things like this are reported at a con that doesn't bill itself as a Feminist Sci-Fi convention ?

Given the above stories of how few formal complaints are made at feminist sci-fi cons, I'd have to suspect they often aren't reported at cons without similarly clear networks and policies to offer support.
posted by jaduncan at 6:39 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cons with a formal harassement policy are getting more common,frex the UK Eastercon has one. Reporting harassment should lead to action from the con, but it can be a crapshoot.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:45 AM on July 3, 2013


The comments from people decrying the "naming and shaming" are anonymous, which prevents me from grabbing them and shaking them and yelling "PATTERN ANALYSIS" in their faces.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:49 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


But some, particularly men of an older generation, seem to mistake a spirit of permissiveness for individual permission.

^This.^

But not just older men, any dude. I remember being excited the first time I went to Dragon*Con--and I wasn't in cosplay because I didn't even know how to be that creative yet--and as cool as it was to be in the company of people who liked the same stuff as you and were passionate about it, there was a lot of uncomfortable moments for me where guys pretty much felt they could say anything crude and sexy to you because hey, this is our territory away from the frat boys/jocks etc and for us, it's a safe space and girls who are into this too are probably lonely and horny too, blahblahblahgrosscakes. I didn't report it and any other female attending the con sort of rolled their eyes like, "yeah, this is the price we have to pay to attend these things" when I asked them about their experiences.

Only now do I realize that I didn't have to put up with it. I could have said/done something about con harassment.

I won't be silent about it anymore.
posted by Kitteh at 6:56 AM on July 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


My consciousness about harassment at cons was raised starting with the ReaderCon flap several months ago and continuing thru the links MartinWisse cited. I'm planning to attend GenCon, which I've done for the past few years, and I've always perceived it, from my perspective as a middle aged straight white married male, as a pretty cool place. This year, though, a female friend of mine is attending, and at my recommendation, so I hope to have my eyes more open.

I checked, and GenCon does specify an anti-harassment policy in its terms of service agreement; anyone causing a problem can be ejected from the con. I've already told my friend that should anything uncool occur, I've got her back.

No one has the right to create problems for others' enjoyment of a con. If one's enjoyment of a con is predicated on causing problems for others, that's too bad.
posted by Gelatin at 6:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not just so called "geek" conventions. Last year at a Neuroscience conference, a noted professor had this to say.
The super model types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone..
Several of the grad students and post-docs that I work with tell me that not only is that harassment is so common at these events, that they often avoid the after parties and other social events entirely. If they do report any harrassment, nothing - or worse, retribution - will be done. One woman made a point to me that even Sandusky was tolerated at Penn State; who cares about some "little bitch of a grad student" when they don't even care about 9 year old boys ?"
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2013 [40 favorites]


Wow, neuroscience prof. Way to confirm that even if you are "smart", you can still be dumb as a fucking post. Though at least the post isn't offensively sexist.
posted by rtha at 7:04 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sexual Harassment at SF Conventions
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the story of how many people’s response to hearing the editor’s name was “Oh, well. Yes. I’m not surprised.” Because, people always know. Either they turn a blind eye, or they quietly warn their friends, or they hold off from speaking it aloud because of not wanting to make waves, or risk their careers. Speaking out is scary, especially when a serial harasser is someone who has power and influence in our industry.

Elise Mattheson is very brave to speak out, and indeed to put her name to the formal report, something many have not done, but… she has spoken out, and the world has not ended. She has friends and many people of great influence who have been willing to stand up with her and say ‘this isn’t okay.’ Which is important because of course, many harassments do not get reported NOT because of a lack of bravery, but because women feel powerless, or are afraid of being blamed or told they are making a fuss about nothing. I don’t know if I’m imagining it or just in the wrong (which is to say, right) places, but it feels like there has been less pushback this time around, as compared to what happened to when Genevieve Valentine went public about being harassed at Readercon. [Edit: She recently wrote a killer post about her experiences with sexual harassment more generally over her life, and how she's doing a year after Readercon: Dealing With It.]

It feels like fewer excuses are being made, less complaining that this is even an issue, and that overall our community is doing a better job of dealing with these issues. Am I imagining that? Are we actually making progress here? Or have I just filtered my internet too completely?
[...]
I also think that Amal El-Mohtar (@tithenai) tweeted a very important message in relationship to the subject:

“If this summer seems relentless where talk of harrassment in SF is concerned? Recognize that’s because it IS relentless.”
posted by zombieflanders at 7:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


One woman made a point to me that even Sandusky was tolerated at Penn State; who cares about some "little bitch of a grad student" when they don't even care about 9 year old boys ?"

Agh, ugh.

Back in college, we had a professor, who, I was told (I never took his class) would give better treatment to girls who sat in the front row and wore short skirts. The fact that I don't even know if this was true is why informal "rapist babysitting" (GAH) is so unsatisfactory. Some of what you hear about That Dude will be be untrue, or be based on a demeanor rather than his actions. Some of it will be absolutely true and he is actually dangerous. How do you, as a woman walking into a situation, ever know for sure? Even putting aside the ways that people disbelieve those reporting harassment or encourage women to ignore it.

I am thinking now of other men I was warned not to be alone with, in various work situations. It's crazy-making; either we are allowing a harasser to just hang out with us, or we are assuming horrible things about an innocent person. A formal reporting system is, while not perfect, definitely better.
posted by emjaybee at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


But not just older men, any dude.

Not to tar over half the populace or anything.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 7:11 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


over half?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:11 AM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


What happens when things like this are reported at a con that doesn't bill itself as a Feminist Sci-Fi convention ?

See previous thread on sexual harassment at Readercon, which led to the resignation of the Readercon board and a new set of policies is in place for this year's convention. Also the incident where Harlan Ellison publically groped Connie Willis, which Ellison now denies happening. But these are the very public examples that I know about. What I suspect happens is that it often it doesn't get reported, or that incidents are reported and dealt with but the details are not made public, which can make it difficult to know if a con would enforce their policies when called upon to do so.

I do think having a policy on harassment is becoming more of a core requirement for your convention, rather than an optional extra - I cannot find a code of conduct or policy on harassment on the website of the 2006 Worldcon where the above incident occured (weapons policy yes, harassment policy no), while the latest Worldcon has a policy. But I am happy to see Scalzi again using the considerable influence of his blog to push this further. (I don't want to diminish the work of the many other people who are working on this, but Scalzi's blog has a reach that few others in the field do.)
posted by penguinliz at 7:13 AM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is a great step. As a future step towards getting these things out in the open, can we actually, you know, say what alleged perpetrator actually did? There seems to be a habit of leaving the harassment details as "the thing shall not be spoken". This is a big disservice to future victims, who may question whether what happened to them was actually harassment.

"Yikes, why does that person keep bumping into me? What is wrong with him. Oh well, maybe he just has body boundary perception problems. I'll just try to avoid him. But he seems to be everywhere at this con! Maybe I should just go home."

No, no no! But the way to avoid that is for people who do write about their experiences to, you know, actually write about what they experienced. That's how other people will learn what is not okay. It may seem obvious, but as anyone who reads MeFi (especially AskMe) knows, it is very common for people to question whether their specific experience amounts to a violation.

Speaking these details will also help make it clear to potential perpetrators that they cannot get away with certain behaviors that fall well short of sexual assault but still constitute harassment and create an oppressive environment for their victims.

Declining to speak the details contributes to the sense that the victim has something to be ashamed of. They don't. Speaking the details forthrightly will make it clear who the asshole was in the situation and who has done nothing wrong.
posted by alms at 7:14 AM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


emjaybee: "Back in college, we had a professor, who, I was told (I never took his class) would give better treatment to girls who sat in the front row and wore short skirts. "

I don't have any proof, but I suspect this is not unusual. I have friends who are high school teachers who talk about about sleazy colleagues who manipulate seating in classrooms so they can do the same thing.
posted by zarq at 7:16 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not to tar over half the populace or anything.

The clear meaning of the sentence you are snarking about was that the potential pool of harrassers is not just limited to older men. This is so obviously true, I can't imagine why anyone would be upset about it.
posted by Falconetti at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


But not just older men, any dude.

Not to tar over half the populace or anything.


Not all dudes, any dudes.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Not to tar over half the populace or anything.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 7:11 AM on July 3
[+] [!]


It's not like only older men commit sexual harassment, was the point of that comment. It did not say all men do so.
posted by rtha at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm on the ConComm of a small sci-fi convention in the South. We do have a sexual harassment policy posted on our web site and in our program books, because I made sure that it was there.


For the last three years I've done a panel on sexual harassment at conventions. Jim C. Hines has been good enough to allow me to share resources from his blog with the attendees (in the form of handouts). This year I spoke about it during our Opening Ceremonies, and I had a speaker come in from our local Center for Women and Families to discuss sexual harassment as well.


I am pleased to report--at least in our little neck of the woods--that the tide does seem to be changing. This is a topic that more people are willing to speak up about. More people seem to be willing to report it when it happens, and more people won't take 'no' for an answer. We've got awesome resources like the Con Anti-Harassment Project and the Back-Up Project. We've got people like Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi speaking up.


But we've still got a long way to go. We still have incidents like what happened to Genevieve Valentine at ReaderCon and Mandy Caruso at NYComicCon. We still have assholes out there like Rene Walling and the WFC Creeper.


I implore you: if you attend sci-fi conventions of any type, please speak up about harassment to members of the convention committee. Check to see if they have an anti-harassment policy; if they don't, get them to look into it. Heck, offer to run a panel on it--I did (you can look at my very first panel here--it's awkward and unprofessional, but I did it)!


Whatever you choose to do, please please please get your voice out there, because speaking up against sexual harassment makes a huge difference! When Jenni (the nice lady from the Center for Women & Families) came to our con, she was hanging out in the dealer room with people before the panel. She told me later that whenever she told women why she was there, every single one of them had a story about sexual harassment, and they all told her how glad they were she'd come to our con to talk about it. Then after our panel, a young volunteer came up afterwards and told us that she was so glad we held the panel, because she had been harassed at another con and didn't know what to do about it. Now she not only has a plan, she knows what do to do to help other women who might get harassed.


It makes a difference. It really, really does.


MeMail me if I can help. I don't have a lot of experience, but I'm not quitting, either.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2013 [40 favorites]


I don't take my sword to work
The first time I got a verbal list of "don't be alone with these guys" was at Clarion. And by "these guys" I mean other professionals. When I go to cons now, my friends and I have hand signals, code words, that will let our friends know we need rescuing. Because here is one of the truths about cons - when I attend, I attend as a writer. I often have panels, readings, sometimes signings. I am there to be accessible to fans, to editors who might want to commission a story. I am there to be nice.

Nice ladies don't stomp on the foot of someone whose hand has "slipped" onto their ass during a group photo. Bitches do. If we rescue ourselves, we do so with the knowledge that there might be trouble.

I smile a lot. I make conversation with people. I dress up, and wear makeup. I've been told all those things are invitations, coming from a pretty girl.

It becomes a danger on two levels - if I tell him no and leave, will he follow me and make things worse? If I tell him no and leave, have I messed up part of my career? Five years in, the second question worries me less than it did in the beginning, but the fact that it lingers is a problem.

The other reason that I'm writing is because a couple of the responses I got to my comments on twitter included suggestions that maybe I (or other women writers) should just bring swords to cons. I'm KatWithSword there, so it's not a completely out of the blue response, I'm sure it was mostly a way of adding levity to a tense discussion, and I don't mean to call anyone out. But it is not my job to defend myself from harassment. I shouldn't have to carry a weapon to feel safe when I go to work. None of us should.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:24 AM on July 3, 2013 [22 favorites]


It's one of the geek social fallacies, innit? Don't ostracize one of "our" own

Well, depending on who the one is. Ostracize the creepy harasser? No! Bad! Ostracize the women who complained about being harassed? Cool, go for it.

There is some related stuff in the recent SFWA thread.
posted by jeather at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jared Alexrod: What we talk about when we talk about con harassment. "Con harassment succeeds because of a culture of silence, of a willingness to ignore this behavior out of shock, out of denial, out of a need to not to be a buzzkill. We can break this silence, guys. If enough people talk about this problem, understand it, and loudly voice their disapproval, then gropers will no longer see conventions as spaces they can assault women and get away with it."
posted by jokeefe at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


From Ms. Matthesen's article:

I asked whether people who had originally made confidential reports could go ahead and file formal ones now. There was a bit of confusion around an erroneous answer by someone in another department, but then the person at Legal clearly said that “the past is past” is not an accurate summation of company policy, and that she (and all the other people listed in the company’s publicly-available code of conduct) would definitely accept formal reports regardless of whether the behavior took place last week or last year.

Oh my Lord, you guys, this is so important. This is great, it really is.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


As a future step towards getting these things out in the open, can we actually, you know, say what alleged perpetrator actually did? There seems to be a habit of leaving the harassment details as "the thing shall not be spoken". This is a big disservice to future victims, who may question whether what happened to them was actually harassment.

I disagree. One of the themes in the various posts, and their attendant discussion threads, that MartinWisse cited is that women as very aware of when they've been harassed; what they -- or the authorities running a particular con -- may not be aware of is when an individual has a history of such behavior.

There doesn't seem to be much question as to whether whatever behavior Matthesen reported actually was harassment, and as Scalzi points out in the comments to the post zombieflanders linked above, there really isn't as much ambiguity about what is or is not acceptable behavior as some may like to pretend.

But one thing I've noticed is that detailing specific behaviors tends to result in hair-splitting derails about the specific incident -- complete with all sorts of hypotheticals and speculations about social awkwardness -- which overlooks, if not outright excuses, the behavior of the (sometime serial) harasser. There's too much tendency to excuse harassing behavior and seek a way to blame the victim.

The fact that something occurred that someone saw fit to report is enough; if it was truly an innocent mistake, that fact should emerge naturally enough. As we've seen, though, often it isn't so much that so much as "at last someone called that person out for the creepy behavior."
posted by Gelatin at 7:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [27 favorites]


Time to end all this 'peace bonding' nonsense and let the issue Heinlein itself out...
posted by mikelieman at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


mikelieman:
Time to end all this 'peace bonding' nonsense and let the issue Heinlein itself out...
From zombieflanders quote:
I shouldn't have to carry a weapon to feel safe when I go to work. None of us should.
posted by charred husk at 7:33 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


alms, I do think it is important to delineate just what is and isn't harassment. But it seems like every time people try to have that conversation, it devolves into a he-said/she-said thing, a cross-examination devoted to pulling out all of the details and examining them to see if the woman could possibly be misinterpreting things, if she should have been more assertive...

I wanted those details, when I read Matthesen's post, and then I realized that the conversation that has happened around what happened and what sketchy things the editor in question has done before... is really entirely separate from the purpose of the post, which is to provide instructions on how to report harassment, both in terms of the logistics of it and in terms of taking care of yourself emotionally. It starts from a standpoint of "harassment has happened; now what?" And I think that's a really important conversation to have, entirely separate from the "what is harassment?" conversation.
posted by Jeanne at 7:34 AM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I went to a couple SF conventions way back in the dark ages (i.e., the 1970s), and this was common --- Issac Asimov for one was well known as a groper and creepy dirty old man. We were told there wasn't any problem: it was just 'boys being boys'; and as girls at a SF convention, we should be glad to have all that attention!

It's almost unbelievable that 40 years later it's still the same.
posted by easily confused at 7:35 AM on July 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


posted by charred husk at 10:33 AM on July 3]

Now I feel bad about my knee-jerk reaction. Problem is, the only thing those assholes understand IS a good slap in the head.
posted by mikelieman at 7:37 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a good thing to keep in mind too if you go to a con or are in a similar situation where not you but a friend is harassed, is that the best and most effective ally is a proactive one. For example, it would be quite normal for your friend might be a little too stunned to be taking the sort of careful notes that are helpful if the friend decides to make a formal complaint, so it can be really helpful if you take on this role, even if your friend doesn't think to ask. Or offer, without them asking, to be a witness should your friend decide to make a formal complaint. And yeah, talking openly about sexual harassment and making it clear, before it's an issue, that you don't approve goes a long way toward creating the sort of culture that prevents, rather than enables, these sort of problems in the first place.
posted by eviemath at 7:37 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a really good post and an encouraging story. Thanks.

alms, I also noticed that the initial story didn't say anything about what the actual harassment was. I think it was a good tactical move. These stories always get derailed by a nit-picky argument about what exactly happened and whether there could be some conceivable innocent motivation for it. This story avoids all that by pointing out that there are people whose job is to figure out what happened and whether it was sexual harassment and what to do about it, and that we can let them do that instead of second-guessing from the internet. It avoids that whole stupid derail, and focuses on "You know that thing that's been happening all your life? It turns out there's a meaningful system for dealing with it now."

Of course it's also good to talk about what sexual harassment looks like, but that properly becomes the secondary conversation rather than the primary conversation. For example the Kurtz article points out responses by authors Maria Dahvana Headley, Cherie Priest and Carrie Cuinn, each of whom provide long lists of specific things that happened to them personally. There's a powerful set of voices ready to speak up about what sexual harassment looks like. But it's a sideline for people who still don't get it, rather than overshadowing the main point of "here are the tools to fix it and here's how you use them."
posted by jhc at 7:38 AM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Harassment and sexism at cons are also being actively discussed, debated, and dealt with in the Skeptical community. The issue came to the surface a little over a year ago when the first women began to speak out, as this timeline of events and blog posts documents. More recently, the staff of Point of Inquiry, the Center for Inquiry's podcast, resigned in response to actions and statements during the May 2013 Women in Secularism II conference.

As in the SciFi community, the discussion in the Skeptical community is becoming wider and more open, and con behavioral guidelines are being updated. I am hopeful that as increasing numbers of people decide to report incidents at cons of all types, the creepers will discover that these otherwise welcoming spaces do not welcome their entirely unacceptable behavior.
posted by Annie Savoy at 7:39 AM on July 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


It just occurred to me that the ~250 person international scientific conference I'm helping to run this summer has never had a formal policy, and I'm sure has had occasionally needed one in the past. While it will no doubt be a hard sell at best for the old timers, this shits going to get done.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is thanks metafilter, and to think I come here to avoid work.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:40 AM on July 3, 2013 [44 favorites]


This is being discussed on twitter with Kari Sperring's excellent hashtag "SFFragette", too, if you want to mainline more rants, stories, defensiveness, sturm, and drang.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:52 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


My martial arts and self defense school pitched a pair of panels on con harrassment and boundary-setting to this year's Worldcon, because it's in driving distance for us (one framed as "Are you worried people might accuse you of creeping? Learn ways to make sure you're not!" and the other as "Did he really just say that? Strategies for handling harassment") but we haven't gotten so much as a "no, thanks" email. Which is frustrating. I think it'd be really good to have, especially at a large con.

But I'm happy that people are a) reporting and b) starting to find ways to make that reporting stick. And like Radish Reviews, I wonder what one needs to do to get access to this "back channel" of warnings about creepers, because I've never gotten any. I've met Jim Frenkel - went to his kaffeeklatch last year, actually - and when this came up I had the peculiar sensation of both knowing exactly who they were talking about without his name needing to be mentioned and also being completely unable to identify problem behavior that I'd ever seen in the couple hours I've been in his presence.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:54 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is going to sound alarmist, but sexual harassment is massively underreported in the United States and it is a time bomb waiting to go off. I do employment law. You would not believe what I see every day.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:59 AM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Man, that Dustin Kurtz piece is great:

But maybe now, in the twenty-first century—the goddamned future—after a year of truly infuriating misogyny from some of the old guard in the genre, maybe now things will finally reach the point where even the most loutish of fans realize that an inclusive community need not include them, that a safe space for geeks doesn’t mean they themselves are safe from repercussions, and that, oh yeah, we all know their boss’ phone number.

I have been saying this for years now.

I have a completely unresearched and totally non-scientific hypothesis about this. In my totlaly non-randomized experience, every social group that gets exposed to a toxic member (where Toxic, henceforth known as 'T', is equal to a person who defies expected social norms for that group), that Group will either:

(a) refuse said Toxic member entry, if all or most Group members (Gm) possess Sufficient social skills (Sss). So if GM = Sss, then T = 0

(b) eject said Toxic member after a period of time (Pt), if only half the Group members possess Sufficient social skills. So if Gm = (Sss x 0.5), then T = Pt (where Pt is a highly variable number that I don't know how to express mathematically because I majored in English Literature)

(c) retain (R) said Toxic member, if the Sufficient social skills among the Group members is less than half. Said Group will eventually Implode (I), as Group members will over time remove themselves from the group due to the Toxic member. So if Gm = (Sss > 0.5), then T = R, but eventually degrades into T + R = I, where I = -Gm

If you're going to retain the integrity of Gm, T always, always, ALWAYS has to equal 0. You have to eject the toxic person early, and without remorse.


(I say again my last: I majored in English Literature. I'm no good at math. The above is my feeble attempt at an equation. Mathmaticians and engineers of MeFi, feel free to make corrections)
posted by magstheaxe at 8:00 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


sexual harassment is massively underreported in the United States and it is a time bomb waiting to go off. I do employment law. You would not believe what I see every day.

Yes, I would.
posted by Gelatin at 8:02 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is going to sound alarmist, but sexual harassment is massively underreported in the United States and it is a time bomb waiting to go off. I do employment law. You would not believe what I see every day.

posted by Ironmouth at 10:59 AM on July 3


I'm black and I'm a woman. Darn' tootin' I'd believe you.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:04 AM on July 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


I think "the missing stair" sounds like a form of the diffusion of responsibility.
posted by klarck at 8:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is going to sound alarmist, but sexual harassment is massively underreported in the United States and it is a time bomb waiting to go off. I do employment law. You would not believe what I see every day.

As I'm sure you well know, thanks to a bunch of conservative dudes, discrimination and harassment in the workplace is now a lot harder to report and promote to authorities. But the free market is OK!
posted by zombieflanders at 8:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ironmouth: Do you have any thoughts on how this might play out and evolve? I certainly believe that it's a rampant problem... Do you think there will be class actions, or huge actions against companies that have continued to tolerate this (even in the fast of past lawsuits)?

I'm curious how your metaphorical time bomb might manifest.

Most of the job environments I've seen would not tolerate this (although I get the feeling that the finance industry is worse than others).
posted by el io at 8:09 AM on July 3, 2013


As I'm sure you well know, thanks to a bunch of conservative dudes, discrimination and harassment in the workplace is now a lot harder to report and promote to authorities.

Yeah, it sounds like some SCOTUS justices could learn a thing or two from con committees, who are making it easier.
posted by Gelatin at 8:10 AM on July 3, 2013


Nthing rtha's comment at the top about Geek Social Fallacies, and the line about Safe Spaces in the OP. This shit is fucked up, but it seems to be getting better.
posted by rebent at 8:15 AM on July 3, 2013


The reason that describing the activity matters is that many awkward men may be able to put themselves in the place of a person who's considered a creeper because he asked someone back to his room for "drinks" in a creepy way, but far fewer will defend a creeper for overtly grabbing someone's ass. If you can say "it's about grabbing somebody's ass," you can then go straight to a discussion of reporting mechanisms, and consequences, and so on, and avoid a huge derail about what does or does not constitute harassment.
posted by tyllwin at 8:21 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


You would not believe what I see every day.

Oh yes I would! And I'd be very surprised to find many women who wouldn't believe it. Far, far too many women have experienced anything from oh-so-accidental brushes against their boobs or butt to obvious groping to rape --- in fact, if you add in 'merely' sexist comments/jokes/etc., I'd be surprised if the count is much below 100%: it's that common.
posted by easily confused at 8:25 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason that describing the activity matters is that many awkward men may be able to put themselves in the place of a person who's considered a creeper because he asked someone back to his room for "drinks" in a creepy way, but far fewer will defend a creeper for overtly grabbing someone's ass. If you can say "it's about grabbing somebody's ass," you can then go straight to a discussion of reporting mechanisms, and consequences, and so on, and avoid a huge derail about what does or does not constitute harassment.

Yes but what if it isn't that explicit? or the tone or character of the harassment cannot be adequately conveyed via text? There are many many men who will jump at any chance to characterize harassing behavior as innocuous.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:29 AM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth: From this Business Week article it sounds like the pivot point for Paula Deen's recent business-collapse was sexual harassment.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:29 AM on July 3, 2013


The point is, why defend a creeper at all, especially by nit-picking the victim's response to their behavior and excusing their offenses due to "awkwardness"?

Anyway, in the post mentioned upthread, Jared Axelrod covered it already:
I’m seeing so many of the same responses to these discussions that I’m not sure everyone understands what con harassment really is.

And by “everyone” I’m really talking about dudes. Women seem to understand this just fine.

[snip]

To start with, con harassment is rarely done by socially awkward men. I see this confusion over and over. Socially awkward men may have uncomfortable conversations. They may spend too much time staring at woman’s cleavage. They may not take a hint that a conversation is done. But if you’ve ever spent some time around socially awkward men (and you probably have, it’s a big world) you may have noticed that they don’t touch people. Touching adds an extra layer of complication to social interaction, one that can easily be avoided by not touching. So they don’t.

Because—and let’s be clear on this guys—while awkward conversations and horrible sexist speech are problems, the big concern in con harassment is physical violation. Groping, inappropriate touching and other, worse forms of invasion of a woman’s personal space. This is rarely done by social awkward men.


I'd add that yes, creepy behavior does not have to involve physical contact; it can be violating personal space, following someone around or blocking their path. But it's abundantly clear, from the testimony of women from prominent writers to random con-goers linked in this very thread, that harassment is going on all the time, and the time to avoid confronting it in deference to the feelings of hypothetical awkward dudes is long past.
posted by Gelatin at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


And a timeline for SFWA including this discussion of harassment.
posted by jeather at 8:34 AM on July 3, 2013


alms: This is a great step. As a future step towards getting these things out in the open, can we actually, you know, say what alleged perpetrator actually did? There seems to be a habit of leaving the harassment details as "the thing shall not be spoken". This is a big disservice to future victims, who may question whether what happened to them was actually harassment.

Other people have said this more gently, but: no. Expressing this desire belies a subconscious ignorance of how women are really treated when they document their harrassment -- in the eyes of the public as well as the law -- if and when they decide to formally report it. You may remember the Elevatorgate (1266 comments!) debacle, where a woman was pelted with truly horrific sexist bullshit for MONTHS after simply admitting on her blog that she had been propositioned at an atheist con. MONTHS of arguing whether or not she was really being propositioned, whether she had been asking for it, whether she was just being a typical hysterical woman, whether she was making it all up to cause trouble in the community, whether she had a right to find the behavior objectionable, and even whether she should have just graciously accepted the invitation. And in the face of all of that? She decided, quite understandably, not to attend the next year's con. So yeah, but no.

From Ms. Mattheson's article: "I'm fifty-two years old, familiar with the field and the world of conventions, moderately well known to many professionals in the field, and relatively well-liked. I've got a lot of social credit. And yet even I was nervous and a little in shock when faced with deciding whether or not to report what happened. Even I was thinking, Oh, God, do I have to? What if this gets really ugly?"

Women have to walk in the world knowing that not only are we expected to endure all levels and forms of harrassment, from bog-standard verbal diarrhea like "Hey, sexy lady"/"Put on some makeup, ugly dyke bitch" right on up to physical assault and even rape. For example, the fact that the term "grey rape" exists is not because we are supposed to meaningfully debate what "actual rape" is, but rather specifically because people (men) do not often deign to take women's experiences of harrassment and assault at face value, let alone take them seriously enough to actually do something about it. Why else would Ms. Mattheson, an experienced and respected WisCon attendee, have been so nervous when she went to make her report?

Truly, you do a disservice to anyone who has been harrassed if you tell them that they are ones responsible for doing a "big disservice to future victims" because they have not specifically entailed the circumstances of their harrassment. Can we just put the onus on the harrassers, teaching and telling them not to harrass, rather than shaming victims of harrassment for not wanting to relive, recount, and be publicly shamed for what they have experienced? Will we ever be allowed to go about our lives like people rather than women, or be offered a simple sense of ungendered, unsexualized basic human dignity and respect?

This is the world we live in; it is not just happening at SFF cons, it is happening in boardrooms, on the bus, on the street, in elevators (!), and even in our own backyards -- for no other reason than because we happen to be female. And even then, many men are often very quick to insist that they, too, have been harrassed, and moreover that it doesn't matter if women receive gender-specific harrassment because hey, there are a lot of assholes in the world, amirite?! Minimize, redistribute blame, repeat.
People who report harrassment need to possess a great deal of strength, bravery, and confidence if they hope to come out on the other side intact. As Ms. Mattheson relates, "There are lots of reasons people might not report things, and I'm not going to tell someone they’re wrong for choosing not to report."

It doesn't help matters to tell people who experience harrassment what they should and shouldn't do about it. Every woman does what she needs to do to survive the onslaught.
posted by divined by radio at 8:39 AM on July 3, 2013 [64 favorites]


There are many many men who will jump at any chance to characterize harassing behavior as innocuous.

Of course. But if you can come up with an overt example, you cut that roadblock completely out of the path of establishing a process. Since everyone agrees that grabbing someone's breast is harassment, we can talk about what to do with harassers, rather than focussing first on (the more difficult question of) who is or who isn't one.
posted by tyllwin at 8:41 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since everyone agrees that grabbing someone's breast is harassment

I think you would be utterly amazed at what isn't taken as axiomatic in the world. I know I am.
posted by selfnoise at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


But if you can come up with an overt example, you cut that roadblock completely out of the path of establishing a process

Why not cut that roadblock out by saying "This is the process, I followed it and everyone in the chain of command agreed that it was harassment."? The opinions of randoms on the internet on any given specific situation aren't useful, wanted, or welcome.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:46 AM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Why not cut that roadblock out by saying "This is the process, I followed it and everyone in the chain of command agreed that it was harassment."?

Because the alleged creeper will still be protesting his innocence, denying that any harassment took place, and wanting to know why it's just assumed that he's a liar and the other person is truthful. Now, so far as what happens at the con, or his employer, you are quite right. But if we're now to be expected to shun the person, should we not know why?
posted by tyllwin at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


But again, tyllwin, that comment seems to imply that the problem is there's a lot of harassment being reported, some of which isn't really. Not so.

The actual problem is that there's a lot of real harassment going on, much of which is not reported. The positive steps that are the subject of this FPP is that harassing behavior will be reported. Then the people involved can get into nit-picky discussions of why an individual case might not be.

Again: There really isn't any ambiguity in the case Elise Matthesen reported. The creeper's behavior was well known and remarked upon by many; what was different this time is just that she reported it.

Ambiguity about what nuances of behavior is or is not acceptable simply is not the problem here. Moreover, genuine creepers understand and take full advantage of ambiguity; they exploit any benefit of the doubt that they don't, in actuality, deserve.
posted by Gelatin at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Opening this stuff up is great for men too, because then they realize that while them being men might be the excuse used for dismissing and minimizing the harassment they experienced, it isn't the cause. I would really like to live in a world where everyone who experiences behaviour that makes them uncomfortable feels safe reporting it.
posted by ODiV at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2013


But if you can come up with an overt example, you cut that roadblock completely out of the path of establishing a process.

No. "If you can come up with an overt example," you are doing nothing but opening the floodgates of minimization, nitpicking, and endless arguments over minutiae -- and as Elevatorgate showed us in spades, this happens even within purportedly progressive-leaning communities.

As much as it might shock your personal conscience, "everyone" does not agree that "grabbing someone's breast is harrassment." These are some very basic lessons from Life as a Woman 101. Hell, I learned them before I turned 10.
posted by divined by radio at 8:52 AM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


The reason that describing the activity matters is that many awkward men may be able to put themselves in the place of a person who's considered a creeper because he asked someone back to his room for "drinks" in a creepy way, but far fewer will defend a creeper for overtly grabbing someone's ass. If you can say "it's about grabbing somebody's ass," you can then go straight to a discussion of reporting mechanisms, and consequences, and so on, and avoid a huge derail about what does or does not constitute harassment


I don't know. This seems to assume that women who are harassed are unable to tell the difference between dudes who are creepy because they have shitty social skills and dudes who are creepy because they are douchebags and like harassing women. The public reports of this in sff blogosphere have all been about the dudes who are serial harassers and not males with no social skills.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:53 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


But if you can come up with an overt example

All harassment is overt to the victim. Its just not overt to many men.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:54 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


emjaybee: "Back in college, we had a professor, who, I was told (I never took his class) would give better treatment to girls who sat in the front row and wore short skirts. "

zarq: "I don't have any proof, but I suspect this is not unusual. I have friends who are high school teachers who talk about about sleazy colleagues who manipulate seating in classrooms so they can do the same thing.

It's not that uncommon. One of those teachers is why I failed a semester of U.S. history in high school. Making a complaint to the administration got no results, in fact I got in trouble for trying to besmirch a teacher's good name. So I just quit going to class, since no one would help me. At least I got a really awesome, engaging teacher when I had to take that semester over again the following year.
posted by palomar at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


if we're now to be expected to shun the person, should we not know why?

This is exactly it. If the desired goal is simply to get the harasser thrown out of the con, then just using the con's mechanisms is sufficient (not to mention very valuable for the whole community), and there's no reason to provide any more information that you want.

But once you're posting the harasser's name on the internet, you're asking for something more than having him thrown out of one event; you're calling for larger social ostacization. And at that point, people need to know why they're supposed to ostracize this person. Just saying "The con organizers agreed that he shouldn't be at the con" is not enough information to make a good decision.

Sexual harassment is an umbrella term for a great many crimes. If you tell me someone I work with has done time for killing someone, I'm going to want to know if it was a Laura-Bush-style accidental homicide, a terrible incident from youth, or a recent, cold-blooded killing, because that will affect how I treat them. And affecting how I treat them is exactly why you told me about it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


wanting to know why it's just assumed that he's a liar and the other person is truthful

Because, again, creepers enjoy a perceived imbalance of power in their favor, and, as we've seen over and over from the links in this thread, women don't report harassment just for laughs. In fact, they've been reluctant to report actual and unambiguous incidents, and given the way such reports are received -- complete with nit-picking over details and the inevitable nonsense about hypothetical awkward dudes who just don't understand*, I can't say I blame them.

Sorry, but an individual's desire and insistence to know the details just isn't relevant. Sure, the creeper may (or may not) protest innocence. If someone wants to presume that the alleged creeper deserves the benefit of the doubt absent a detailed account, that's their prerogative. But that attitude simply is not reflective of actual reality.

*An awkward dude may not understand that he is giving offense, or why, but the fact remains that his behavior is, in fact, offensive. Professed ignorance does not earn a free pass.
posted by Gelatin at 8:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


And at that point, people need to know why they're supposed to ostracize this person. Just saying "The con organizers agreed that he shouldn't be at the con" is not enough information to make a good decision.

Why not?
posted by KathrynT at 8:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


We had a high school teacher like that. His nod to ethics was that he gave those girls 1% lower than the highest earned grade in the class. It was odd, because I remember thinking that they probably made a really rational choice. He was an economics teacher.
posted by jeather at 8:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just saying "The con organizers agreed that he shouldn't be at the con" is not enough information to make a good decision.

Is, "The con organizers and the alleged victim agreed that this person sexually harassed someone" good enough for you?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if we're now to be expected to shun the person, should we not know why?

That's missing the point. The point is that this guy has been behaving like this for at least a decade with no consequences. Now he has to deal with consequences. What those exact consequences are depends on how his employer deals with the situation, and how people who weren't in the back-channel "don't be alone with this guy" loop want to handle it, but he's not an idiot, and ideally those consequences will persuade him to change his behavior. That's the goal.

But once you're posting the harasser's name on the internet, you're asking for something more than having him thrown out of one event; you're calling for larger social ostacization.

I don't think that's the only goal. The other one, which it's achieved, is empowering the many other people who have had to deal with his behavior to report it, which is something his employer specifically said they wanted to happen. And letting those people know that they weren't crazy, it wasn't ok, and reporting is a possible choice that they can consider. Frenkel's reputation is a small sacrifice for this goal, in my mind, especially because it was pretty terrible to begin with.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:00 AM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


My point is, that even here on MeFi, there wasn't unanimity on whether elevator guy rose to the level of harassment. When it came to to the two people making sexist jokes in audience at the tech conference, there wasn't even consensus. It just makes more sense to me to try and deal first with cases where there's already going to be near-universal agreement that the behavior is deliberate and over the line.
posted by tyllwin at 9:00 AM on July 3, 2013


KathrynT: Because the bar for being an unwelcome presence at a con is lower than the bar for being someone I shouldn't work with.

tylwin: I think that's just right. Jared Axlerod was quoted above saying "While awkward conversations and horrible sexist speech are problems, the big concern in con harassment is physical violation." But neither "elevatorgate" not the conference "joke" were physical violation.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


It just makes more sense to me to try and deal first with cases where there's already going to be near-universal agreement that the behavior is deliberate and over the line.

You realize this sounds like "your experience must be sufficiently egregious by my personal standards, otherwise you shouldn't complain about it", right? And it sounds pretty obnoxious and self-centered of you, yes?
posted by restless_nomad at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2013 [38 favorites]


Once upon a time, I worked on/for about 15 indie comics. This was during the rise of the indies, just before Diamond made distribution impossible, and right before the interwebs made doing it online a viable proposition. Anyway, there was a magical period there, where indie artists, writers and publishers were taken seriously. Unless you happened to be an hourglass shaped 20-something female.

I got so used to being harassed at comic shows, that I'd even stopped noticing most of it. The point at which I realized there was still almost no room for women in comics was standing on the showroom floor at MajorComicConvention, talking to FamousWriter1, FamousComicArtist2, RenownedEditor3, and a member of CC staff. Someone known to all of us, FamousWriter/Artist4, ran up behind me, slid his arms around me, grabbed both my boobs, and squeezed them, yelling "HONK!" at the top of his voice. Hard! It hurt! Without thinking about it, I pivoted, and cold-cocked him so hard he fell down, then I turned back around. Everyone laughed, and the conversation continued.

It wasn't until later, when my adrenaline levels had returned to normal, that I realized how fucked up that entire thing was. Nobody asked if I was ok, whereas 3 people went running to pick up the guy I punched. Furthermore, that night in the "Pro-suite" where the talent hangs out, HeadOfOneOfTheFewNationalComicCompanies told me that after whacking FamousArtist in the face, that everyone had decided that I was a "not a team player kind of person" and that I would probably find it almost impossible to get work in the industry any more. Which was true. So, in all reality; a career was destroyed by sexual harassment...and that career was mine. All because I defended myself against a physical attack.

What really sucks is that that was 23 years ago. 23 years, and women are still under constant attack at places like conventions where they should be able to feel safe and part of a community.
posted by dejah420 at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2013 [135 favorites]


But once you're posting the harasser's name on the internet, you're asking for something more than having him thrown out of one event; you're calling for larger social ostacization.

Are you? Because there are a lot of other things that publicising his name could be looking for. It could be looking for other people to report him for past or future offenses. It could be looking for other people to be on guard near him. It could be saying that it's okay to name the harasser and trying to help other people report other harassers.

The "and he must not be allowed anywhere at all again" possibility isn't the only one, or even the most likely one.
posted by jeather at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


KathrynT: Because the bar for being an unwelcome presence at a con is lower than the bar for being someone I shouldn't work with.

Really? Why? What behavior that would get someone thrown out of a professional conference would be no big deal to a professional relationship?
posted by KathrynT at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


palomar, I'm very sorry that happened to you. But glad for your sake it turned out okay.

One of my friends reported a colleague to his school's administration last year for something similar. He has said that the reporting/investigation process is unpleasant and thinks it would probably deter most people from filing complaints.
posted by zarq at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2013


Jared Axlerod was quoted above saying "While awkward conversations and horrible sexist speech are problems, the big concern in con harassment is physical violation." But neither "elevatorgate" not the conference "joke" were physical violation.

Your thought process is the reason why the actual acts need not be described and made public. It isn't up to you to determine what is and is not sexual harassment of someone else, nor is it up to you to create a hierarchy of harassment and say that the lower ones aren't as important because there wasn't a physical violation..
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


There doesn't need to be unanimity, and certainly not here, about whether a certain action perpetrated on someone else is harassment. This is one of those things that drives me insane: that somehow, if I can't get *everyone* to agree that what happened to me was sexual harassment, then it doesn't count.

Also, what the fuck is it in these conversations that it always comes around to "but maybe he was just socially awkward?" And why is it that the Socially Awkward person is always a guy, and should be given the benefit of the doubt? The Socially Awkward Woman is almost invariably invisible in these conversations, though she may well be the victim - the one who's too afraid/awkward to rock the boat by saying anything, the one who isn't sure she reads social cues well enough to know if her report will make a difference or if anyone will even listen to her. No, it's always "but socially awkward dude might be socially awkward!"

We get it. It's not a new point. It's not something that's never come up before. It's just the nerd version of "oh, he's old, he doesn't get it."
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [57 favorites]


tyllwin, what we have been saying is, your opinion (and mine..and the rest of Mefi's) is not really relevant here. The only ones that are are the victim's and the con organizers' and the accused.

It's not a court of law; no jury trial is required. If a woman reports, and a con agrees, that she was harassed, that is sufficient. They have the right to boot any person, for any reason, just like the bar that won't let you come back after a drunken fight.

If, afterwards, a harasser chooses to fight the issue, they may choose discuss the issue wherever they please, including details. I suppose they could sue, if they chose, and then we would be dealing with law.

But if they don't, then it remains an issue between the woman, the con, and the harasser. What We, the Internet think doesn't matter. We weren't there.
posted by emjaybee at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


You realize this sounds like "your experience must be sufficiently egregious by my personal standards, otherwise you shouldn't complain about it", right?

Then I've given the wrong impression. I encourage anyone who feels harassed to voice it. I simply think that if you're an activist looking for broad social change, you're more likely to achieve it by starting on areas where there's broad agreement.
posted by tyllwin at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It just makes more sense to me to try and deal first with cases where there's already going to be near-universal agreement that the behavior is deliberate and over the line.

Well, for one thing, in Matthesen's case that's exactly the case. And yet here we are with the "maybe X behavior was innocent or person Y is simply an awkward dude" derail again.

There is a process for deciding whether behavior is over the line -- the behavior is reported, and the authorities (a con committee, for example) gather facts and decide. Submitting a bill of particulars for dissection by random people on the Internet is not, and ought not to be, a part of that process.
posted by Gelatin at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


But not just older men, any dude person.

I, a male, was verbally and physically sexually harassed by two female TSA agents while performing their official duties. This is when I learned that they are (or were then) actually paid by the airlines whose concourse they were "protecting", and thus where the reporting went.

This thread so far seems to be about situations where it's more likely that the perp is a male, but both genders are susceptible; in my case it was about the power dynamic.
posted by achrise at 9:09 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are we already at "dear god, what about the men?" My clock must be running slow.
posted by divined by radio at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2013 [27 favorites]


when there is widespread sexual harassment against men by women-dominated conferences, and that sexual harassment is tolerated and swept under the rug, then we will talk about that then.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:12 AM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


What behavior that would get someone thrown out of a professional conference would be no big deal to a professional relationship?

Any number of things! Because...

They have the right to boot any person, for any reason

Cons should have a standard of "When in doubt, throw them out." But that's too broad a standard to regulate conduct in the rest of the world. If you just want someone thrown out of a con, it can be dealt with through the con's structures, the con should take it seriously. But once you're posting names on the internet, you've stepped outside of conworld, and different rules come into play.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:13 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes but what if it isn't that explicit? or the tone or character of the harassment cannot be adequately conveyed via text? There are many many men who will jump at any chance to characterize harassing behavior as innocuous.

Truth.

I was a guest at a writing conference recently. At the post-con staff gathering, a male editor kept reaching past me to pick up things that he never ended up having in his hand when he pulled back. He stood too close, and he kept "accidentally" grazing my arm or my hip or my waist.

I was having a conversation with someone else. He kept injecting himself into it even though he had no authority in the context of the conversation (specifically, the erasing of menses in coming of age YA novels. He's not a woman, he doesn't edit YA, he doesn't read YA, but most importantly, we were not talking to him.)

At some point, he decided that I wasn't paying enough attention to him, so he literally pushes himself between me and the woman with whom I was speaking. Wedged himself right in, and leapt on something I'd said about gendered language. He reaches past me AGAIN and while he essentially has his arm around me, and is leaning in my face, says "I hope you don't mind if I talk to you like a real man."

Fortunately for ME, I'm a big woman. I have broad shoulders, I am tall-- and I have a deep voice. I raised my voice to reply, "As long as you understand I'll feel free to knock you on your ass at any time." I made sure it didn't sound giggly or uncertain or flirtatious; I made sure it sounded like a threat that I meant. And I said it loudly enough that a couple other guys standing nearby looked over to see what was going on.

They didn't say anything to him, but when this editor realized he was being looked at, he muttered something about me being feisty and moved on.

This guy didn't say a single thing that was lewd, or sexual, or even technically inappropriate. His behavior could be coded as clueless, but it wasn't. It was sexual harassment. And I didn't bother to report it because I was tired from working all weekend and I didn't want to have to deal with the people who are like, "But he didn't proposition you! Maybe he was touching you on accident! Maybe he thought he was part of the conversation!" It was after-hours and all staff, his badge wasn't on anymore, and I couldn't even name him. So I handled him the best I could, and moved on.

Nevertheless, it was sexual harassment, and it was obnoxious, and it did piss me off that I couldn't even talk about menstruation in fiction with another author, without this dude cutting in and flapping his dick around.

So noted here in case there's another woman at another con suffering some guy standing way too close, "accidentally" touching her, but carefully not saying anything overtly sexual. Please don't wonder if he's harassing you. You're not crazy; he really is harassing you.
posted by headspace at 9:14 AM on July 3, 2013 [75 favorites]


I simply think that if you're an activist looking for broad social change, you're more likely to achieve it by starting on areas where there's broad agreement.

Martin Luther King might disagree with you.
posted by Gelatin at 9:14 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, what the fuck is it in these conversations that it always comes around to "but maybe he was just socially awkward?"

I'm going to guess it probably has to do with participation of people who may be/have been socially awkward and are sympathetic. That kind of sympathy doesn't really seem to have much of a benefit in terms of improving the situation though.
posted by Hoopo at 9:18 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I would also suggest that there is broad agreement that there's way too much harassment going on at cons, and that a better way to combat it is by reporting the incidents, not by second-guessing those who report it.)
posted by Gelatin at 9:18 AM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Um… related?

Because that was literally the thread I read b4 this one. And what popped into my mind was some groper ending up squealing on the ground in an elbow-lock, and the common reaction being "We'll, he's been on the list of those guys for some time now, so we shouldn't be surprised."

So, in all reality; a career was destroyed by sexual harassment...and that career was mine. All because I defended myself against a physical attack.

That's so many kinds of fucked up.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2013


Weird how these "awkward" guys who "just don't get social cues" and "don't mean anything sexual by it" aren't doing the exact same things to other men.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:21 AM on July 3, 2013 [70 favorites]


I simply think that if you're an activist looking for broad social change, you're more likely to achieve it by starting on areas where there's broad agreement.

There is broad agreement that sexual harassment is bad (yes, even when people don't want to do anything about it, they will say in public that it is bad). Sexual harassment is an issue that has been fought against on many levels for decades. There is no "starting" - the fight is here, the pushback is happening, people are talking about it and acting against it in many contexts. What, exactly, are you looking for?
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Any number of things!

Such as? I mean, you're asking her to share the details of what happened for no other purpose other than to satisfy you, specifically and personally, that this is something you should take seriously. I think it's only fair that you give examples of where your boundaries are.
posted by KathrynT at 9:24 AM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't like awkward people, I don't like unwarranted sexual innuendo, and getting people kicked out of conventions or gatherings is fine with me, but I also think that reporting bad behaviours to authorities isn't as helpful as it might be. Better to hold on to your own agency and tell the offended to knock it off, keep away, shut the fuck up and whatever else is appropriate. Getting A Person in Charge to tell the idiot to go away or shut up doesn't seem as adult to me.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2013


Are we already at "dear god, what about the men?" My clock must be running slow.

At least the 'well, how do I hit on ladies - tips plz' brigade hasn't shown up to the thread yet. Baby steps!
posted by winna at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. Frenkel has edited some of the greatest SF novels of all time. A character in Deepness is named for him. Ugh.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2013


I also think that reporting bad behaviours to authorities isn't as helpful as it might be. Better to hold on to your own agency and tell the offended to knock it off, keep away, shut the fuck up and whatever else is appropriate.

We've tried that, it doesn't work -- dear lord does it ever not work. Seriously, as someone who's experienced con harassment multiple times, this is almost physically enraging to me. Do you suggest the same attitude for assault that happens outside of professional conferences? If a guy came up to you and demanded your wallet, would you eschew making a police report in favor of telling him to knock it off and keep away?
posted by KathrynT at 9:32 AM on July 3, 2013 [50 favorites]


Getting A Person in Charge to tell the idiot to go away or shut up doesn't seem as adult to me.

Getting a Person in Charge to arrange for the idiot to stop representing the company in situations where he can't behave like a grownup seems like a very concrete step in encouraging the entire genre to be more adult, to me.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:32 AM on July 3, 2013 [41 favorites]


headspace: To be fair, it was perhaps closer to attempted sexual harassment - simply because you protected yourself and your space more than adequately. It's very much as if someone came up to you in a dark alley and said, "Give me your money," and you said, "I'll fuck you up," and they ran away - attempted robbery.

Really, well done for you. You prevented some loser from committing a crime - you did HIM a favor - you avoided being harassed and you set an example for others.

> Getting A Person in Charge to tell the idiot to go away or shut up doesn't seem as adult to me.

I'm wondering if you've read any of this thread so far? The thread where this idea has been discussed in great detail? Regardless, "Tough up! You're a baby if you report crimes," is a pretty deplorable sentiment.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:34 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


"You prevented some loser from committing a crime"

Attempted sexual harassment isn't a crime?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:35 AM on July 3, 2013


I also think that reporting bad behaviours to authorities isn't as helpful as it might be. Better to hold on to your own agency and tell the offended to knock it off, keep away, shut the fuck up and whatever else is appropriate. Getting A Person in Charge to tell the idiot to go away or shut up doesn't seem as adult to me.

But part of Matthesen's point was that the editor had been serially harassing women at cons for years, and she was the first one to report it.

Reporting bad behavior is less about agency than about creating a paper trail that can help determine whether an incident was a one-off awkward episode or just the latest in a string of serial harassment. Which is why telling the offender to knock it off is of limited use; the offender will simply go look for someone less assertive to victimize.
posted by Gelatin at 9:35 AM on July 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


I'm not saying not to report crime or assault, but I am saying that calling out a harasser who says something wrong to you is more important that going and finding someone in charge. I work in a male-dominated industry and I have shut down more "awkward" weirdos than I can count. It does work, it shames them, it shows that I'm not someone to be bugged by them, and it shows others as well. Yes, I have reported sexual harassment. We're not discussing physical assault and making that leap derails this discussion.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2013


Better to hold on to your own agency and tell the offended to knock it off, keep away, shut the fuck up and whatever else is appropriate.

Did you read dejah420's comment? She handled it right? What did that get her, exactly? How much you want to bet that boob-grabber continued (continues?) to be active and pull this shit on other women while other men laughed it off?
posted by rtha at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


It does work

Then why is this dude still harassing people after being known for it for a decade? It clearly hasn't worked!
posted by KathrynT at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


To be fair, it was perhaps closer to attempted sexual harassment - simply because you protected yourself and your space more than adequately.

No. Encroaching on someone's personal space, ignoring boundaries, and then using explicitly gendered language "like a real man" is sexual harassment in and of itself. Headspace prevented it from escalating, which is good, but this wasn't incipient harassment, it was harassment.

Then why is this dude still harassing people after being known for it for a decade? It clearly hasn't worked!

There's also a comment somewhere (I've read way too many posts about this issue) about a friend of his taking him aside quite recently and talking to him about his behavior, so it's incorrect to assume he has no idea he was misbehaving.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:41 AM on July 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also--paper trail for whom? Is there some central database or clearing house for people who shouldn't be invited or allowed to attend these events? I'm asking seriously--if many people knew this guy was a creep, then why did he keep getting invited?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2013


Because he was "our" creep, and his attendance was deemed more important than that of whiny women. This is a surprise?

Can you agree that methods that might have worked for you are not the only methods that work, and that your methods might not actually work in different industries/field/contexts?
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm asking seriously--if many people knew this guy was a creep, then why did he keep getting invited?

Because until Matthesen, women dealt with him individually (as you suggested), if at all, and did not report him.
posted by Gelatin at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


At BEST, your approach of just telling them off and having that be the end of it gets them off your case... and teaches them that they should just pull that shit on women who are too timid to respond in that way. Great.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:45 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm asking seriously--if many people knew this guy was a creep, then why did he keep getting invited?

He is an editor for Tor, and went to these events as their representative. I was actually at the Tor party next door that night, of which he was the official listed host.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:45 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went to a couple SF conventions way back in the dark ages (i.e., the 1970s), and this was common --- Issac Asimov for one was well known as a groper and creepy dirty old man.

In the early 1980s, a family friend of mine was the Artist Guest of Honor at a Con that Asimov was Guest of Honor at. He stayed in the room because he was tired, and she went to to Con's hospitality suite to socialize. Asimov, who she knew was married, hit on her hard. His wife, who usually kept him on a short leash, wasn't there for some reason. She did all the turn-down stuff; made sure her wedding ring was visible, talked about "my husband" and such, and eventually left, kinda mad and talked to her husband about it. They decided to stick closer together at the con.

They were both still sorta mad when the opening banquet was held. He got to say "Good to see you again, Issac, have you met my wife?" Asimov was apparently flustered.

She told me that story as soon as I mentioned meeting Issac Asimov at the same convention years later. It was told as a funny story, but it also wasn't.

It was one of my first (and most important) bouts of learning that my authorial heroes were people, some of whom did things I really didn't like.

I never really got into con-going, and I suspect that just hearing that story was part of it.
posted by Mad_Carew at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I simply think that if you're an activist looking for broad social change, you're more likely to achieve it by starting on areas where there's broad agreement."
"...I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with allits ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured..."
-Letter From Birmingham Jail
posted by Blasdelb at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2013 [47 favorites]


headspace: To be fair, it was perhaps closer to attempted sexual harassment - simply because you protected yourself and your space more than adequately. It's very much as if someone came up to you in a dark alley and said, "Give me your money," and you said, "I'll fuck you up," and they ran away - attempted robbery.

See? You just explained it away, even though I told you he actually touched me repeatedly. He didn't attempt. He succeeded.

And the part in my story where I say, "fortunately for me, I'm a big lady?" I feel confident that a large part of the reason why people looked over to see what was happening when I raised my voice is because my voice is often mistaken for a man's. By lucky genetics, I got other people's attention and scared this douchebag away.

Someone upthread said, "I shouldn't have to carry a weapon to work." I should be able to just have a damned conversation without a stranger touching me. Just because I managed to ward this guy off doesn't mean I didn't feel shitty or uncomfortable or put off from anymore socializing.

He didn't attempt anything, he succeeded.
posted by headspace at 9:50 AM on July 3, 2013 [75 favorites]


Since everyone agrees that grabbing someone's breast is harassment

The people who defended Isaac Mizrahi when he groped Scarlett Johansson's boob - because he's gay, you see, and that made everything okay - would like to have a word with you!

People will always find a way to excuse/rationalize harassment. Always. Doesn't matter how obvious you think it is.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 9:51 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


"I'm asking seriously--if many people knew this guy was a creep, then why did he keep getting invited?"

It is already in Maartin's excellent FPP, but Pervocracy's The missing stair post is really good
posted by Blasdelb at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not saying not to report crime or assault, but I am saying that calling out a harasser who says something wrong to you is more important that going and finding someone in charge. I work in a male-dominated industry and I have shut down more "awkward" weirdos than I can count. It does work, it shames them, it shows that I'm not someone to be bugged by them, and it shows others as well. Yes, I have reported sexual harassment. We're not discussing physical assault and making that leap derails this discussion.

posted by Ideefixe at 12:39 PM on July 3



It works for that one instance, and that one time.

I've shut down creepers, too, in a very vociferous way. I've shamed them publicly.

That didn't stop them from looking for more victims who wouldn't respond the way that I did.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are so many ways to lose at this. If you report it, you haven't acted like a real adult; if you don't report it, then it must not have been that serious; if you give details, you will be nitpicked to death; if you don't give details then how can we all agree it was harassment?

Serial harassers know this is how it works. They take advantage of it.
posted by rtha at 9:57 AM on July 3, 2013 [77 favorites]


tyllwin said: I simply think that if you're an activist looking for broad social change, you're more likely to achieve it by starting on areas where there's broad agreement.

I think if you're an activist looking for broad social change, you don't have time to line up all your activism in a pretty little queue in order of which cases might be the most socially acceptable. Instead, you need to push back, hard, on all fronts - from the egregious to the debatable.

Ideefixe said: I also think that reporting bad behaviours to authorities isn't as helpful as it might be. Better to hold on to your own agency and tell the offended to knock it off, keep away, shut the fuck up and whatever else is appropriate. Getting A Person in Charge to tell the idiot to go away or shut up doesn't seem as adult to me.

I think the point is to report and push for the reporting to become more helpful. Hell, I tried the "keep your own agency" thing back in college and all I got for it was the only C grade on my transcript. It didn't change anything going forward.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


He is an editor for Tor, and went to these events as their representative

And it's interesting how often the accounts posted or linked in this thread don't involve "some random socially awkward dude" but rather "a figure involved, perhaps even well known, in the business." Such a person inherently is set apart from the awkward misfit who doesn't know how to interact with people; their prominence results in part because they do.

People involved in business, or prominent in fandom, know, or ought to know, the rules. But they may well break them because they feel their position entitles them to get away with it. And it's that kind of bullshit that reporting is meant to, and does, counteract.
posted by Gelatin at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Serial harassers know this is how it works. They take advantage of it.
posted by rtha at 12:57 PM on July 3


I swear, this is so true. They don't just take advantage of it, they rely on it. They know that people are going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


All harassment is overt to the victim. Its just not overt to many men.

You've been kinda beating this drum in this thread, so maybe it's worth pointing out that women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted often face disbelief, criticism, minimization, blame, etc from fellow women. I'm not a woman and I don't have any professional experience with science-fiction conventions; but I am a criminal attorney, and I've seen it happen with police officers, prosecutors, jurors, and judges. It's a wide problem and not limited by class, education, or gender.
posted by cribcage at 10:10 AM on July 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


I think that's a pretty fair generalization to make, even if it's not 100% accurate. Earlier I mentioned male victims of harassment because I feel they benefit greatly from conversations like this and clear, enforced harassment policies, but I'm not about to ask that people change "women are victims of sexual harassment at cons" to "women, trans men, and sometimes cis men", because we don't need to be that specific to talk about the issue. Maybe it's the lawyer in you that needs it to be precise?
posted by ODiV at 10:23 AM on July 3, 2013


If you're addressing me ("the lawyer in you"), I wasn't referring to men being victims of harassment. That's a mostly separate issue and one that's often used as a derail in threads like this.
posted by cribcage at 10:27 AM on July 3, 2013


Yes, it was a comparison to that. Sorry if it wasn't clear.
posted by ODiV at 10:29 AM on July 3, 2013


Are there any women claiming that sexual harassment at scifi conventions is exaggerated, overreported, or the natural and harmless byproduct of social awkwardness?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:40 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also--paper trail for whom? Is there some central database or clearing house for people who shouldn't be invited or allowed to attend these events?

From the main article:
Someone told me that since it was the first report, the editor would not be asked to leave the convention. I was surprised it was the first report, but hey, if it was and if that’s the process, follow the process.

...

Corporations (and conventions with formal procedures) live and die by the written word. “Records, or it didn’t happen” is how it works, at least as far as doing anything official about it. So here I was, and here we all were, with a situation where this had definitely happened before, but which we had to treat as if it were the first time — because for formal purposes, it was.
The whole article linked at the top of this page is worth reading, but in particular it might be helpful to know that other people had in fact made reports -- they just hadn't been made in such a way as to create a formal record. So formality can indeed be important here.
posted by jhc at 10:57 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


My name is Sigrid Ellis. I was one of the co-hosts of the party Elise mentions. The person Elise reported for harassment is James Frenkel.
Oh. Him. Colour me unsurprised.
Maybe the most depressing part of the whole page. Missing stair indeed.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:59 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Electric cattle-prod squads are sounding more and more reasonable, it seems.
posted by daq at 11:02 AM on July 3, 2013


Also, what the fuck is it in these conversations that it always comes around to "but maybe he was just socially awkward?"

A good mental trick for me in other contexts has been reminding myself to stop identifying with the oppressor - by analogy, many white folks read about a white person doing something really egregious that we ourselves would be unlikely to do on purpose and we get in the habit of thinking "but if it were me doing Egregious Thing, it would be by accident or because I didn't know any better, therefore this person must be just like me and have done Egregious Thing by accident". So we end up supporting other people in doing actions we would never think were okay for us to do - thus, while I would never, ever touch someone's hair because that's awful and intrusive and terrible manners, it's very easy for white folks like me to get into a headspace of "well, if I did somehow touch a woman of color's hair, it could only be because I had totally misunderstood something, so I will defend this white dude who grabbed a girl's dreads". Thus making everything much worse.

So I consciously remind myself that I am not hair-touching dude, I am not racist-joke-making-lady, I am not "if they can say that word, why can't I" tweeter. They are not me; they are not just making a mistake or being stupid. I want to stand on the other side from them, and I don't need to feel that an attack on them is an attack on my identity.

Similarly, socially-awkward dudes should learn to disidentify with harassers. Like, just because you're socially-awkward does not mean that you harass women. I've been close friends with many socially-awkward straight men over the years, and while some of them have needed to build up their feminist consciousness a bit, none of them were creepers, because I would never have stayed friends with a creeper.

Now that I think about it, the whole "socially-awkward = accidentally-harasses-women" thing says a lot about how we conceive of sexuality -- sexual harassment is just one end of the spectrum of sexuality, and you're supposed to move along that spectrum from "socially unskilled sexual harasser" to "slick, socially-adroit bed-hopper" or whatever. The sexual harasser/socially awkward guy is just someone who needs to work on his technique rather than someone who is actively doing something aggressive and misogynist.

Whereas actually, sexual harassment isn't just sexuality in its unrefined form any more than punching someone is the unrefined form of giving them a lovely back massage.
posted by Frowner at 11:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [123 favorites]


When I saw this posted, I thought it was going to be Ursula Vernon's account of much the same thing.
posted by mikurski at 11:30 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ideefixee, you know what? It's great that you are a tough person who can shut that shit down. But what's not great is you telling other women who, for whatever reasons, don't feel safe or capable of doing so that it's not "adult" to use official means, means set up for that specific purpose, to stop being harassed.

Do you sniff at people who call the fire department instead of just turning on the water hose, too?
posted by emjaybee at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


I've been poking around looking for DragonCon's harassment policy, and well, surprise, there doesn't seem to be one beyond one line that says "Don't be a jerk."

::sigh::

It's Wheaton-esque but not really helpful.

Our crew is pretty dedicated to shutting this crap down, but God, is it crap, and God, is it everywhere.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:54 AM on July 3, 2013


re; UrsulaV: "Nobody wants to be Readercon"

Quoted for truth.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:05 PM on July 3, 2013


Let Me Tell You A Story
I’ve told this story several times since the events happened in 2002, but the telling has always been fairly private. That’s how these stories move, you know. However, today is a good day to say things out loud. Increasing the number of targets for backlash isn’t the worst thing a person can do, provided they’re up for it. I’m not sure I’m up for it, but I’m not sure I can handle telling these stories in private anymore either.
Gee, it's almost like publicly identifying a harasser has allowed a distinct pattern of repeated behavior to emerge, rather than remain hidden.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Over the past few years (mostly as a result of the back and forth I've read here, yeehaw), my opinion on this ridiculous bullshit has changed from "it's awful that this sort of thing happens, and we need better policies, etc." to "Dude, it's not enough to not be That Guy. You have to be watching for That Guy, and walk up on That Guy, and if necessary part That Guy from his target by whatever means necessary. Embarrass him, cajole him, threaten him, whatever.

That Guy doesn't get away with it because of weak women, he gets away with it because of people who think it's not their problem.
posted by Mooski at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


Wouldn't it be totally cool if somebody started a Gamer Convention with these kinds of principles to compete with PAX? It'd probably be easier than trying to drag "Gabe & Tycho" into the 21st Century.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


GaymerCon might be a start, oneswellfoop.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:20 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are we only talking about like "sexual harrassment" in terms of behavior, or are we also including like bans on selling material that might be sexual or pornographic in nature? Cause sci-fi and anime has that kind of material, and I can see that it would be a tough balance for convention organizers to either completely prohibit such material or end up completely separating it into less trafficked areas of the convention.
posted by FJT at 12:21 PM on July 3, 2013


I mean, this is very simple, right? America is a very polite society. Showing discretion is good. Keeping things private is good. Staying on someone's good side is better. Tattling is bad. Don't go over someone else's head. Don't stand on procedure. Don't make a fuss. Losing allies damages your own social standing, so it's better to overlook someone's minor flaws that don't affect you personally. We all still live by the tough rules of the kindergarten playground.
posted by Nomyte at 12:25 PM on July 3, 2013


I've been poking around looking for DragonCon's harassment policy, and well, surprise, there doesn't seem to be one beyond one line that says "Don't be a jerk."

DragonCon has problems that extend far beyond that and probably beyond the scope of this thread and really should just disband itself.
posted by Artw at 12:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's pretty clear from the FPP, the thread, and the links therein -- not to mention the wider discussion that's been going on since Readercon at least -- that consciousness is expanding about actual behavior between one con-goer and another. I really don't see how "material that might be sexual in nature" -- which could arguably include almost any sci-fi, anime or game material -- is relevant.
posted by Gelatin at 12:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, this is very simple, right? America is a very polite society. Showing discretion is good. Keeping things private is good. Staying on someone's good side is better. Tattling is bad. Don't go over someone else's head. Don't stand on procedure. Don't make a fuss. Losing allies damages your own social standing, so it's better to overlook someone's minor flaws that don't affect you personally. We all still live by the tough rules of the kindergarten playground.

I can't tell if you're slamming the people who don't put up with being harassed, or if you're slamming the harassers. But if we're going to pretend that everyone lives by the rules of the kindergarten playground, I seem to remember one of the big rules being to keep your hands to yourself, and if you can't do that, you sit in timeout.
posted by palomar at 12:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are we only talking about like "sexual harrassment" in terms of behavior, or are we also including like bans on selling material that might be sexual or pornographic in nature?

Is there something in this thread or the links that leads you to believe anyone has proposed a ban on sexually explicit material? Are you worried about a slippery strawslope?
posted by rtha at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Not to stir things, but if the PyCon joke incident falls under harassment* then it would be easy to see such materials doing so too.

* my take would be it falls more under "loud jerks being jerks".
posted by Artw at 12:31 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really don't see how "material that might be sexual in nature" -- which could arguably include almost any sci-fi, anime or game material -- is relevant.

I'm being completely honest when I say I was unsure, because I'm only familiar with "sexual harassment" in a professional work environment. And in places where I worked, you would get in trouble for showing a risque manga poster, for example.

So, when sexual harassment policies are being mentioned, I simply assume that this means no behavior, no material, no actions, and no jokes that can be misconstrued as offensive to anyone. And I generally agree to it, because it's to foster a positive and productive work environment.
posted by FJT at 12:35 PM on July 3, 2013


That is a poor assumption. Cons that have policies seem to have those policies posted on their sites, so you could go look at specific policies if you want to.
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, when sexual harassment policies are being mentioned, I simply assume that this means no behavior, no material, no actions, and no jokes that can be misconstrued as offensive to anyone.

That's interesting. But rather than assuming, I suggest you take a moment to read the FPP and the linked articles, if not this comment thread, which all make clear that the problem is much, much greater and more immediate than a risqué manga poster or jokes that can be "misconstrued" as offensive.
posted by Gelatin at 12:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the problem with the pycon incident was more the internet explosion afterwards. IIRC, the woman talked to the organizers, the conference folks talked to the guys but opted to not kick them out or anything. Which all seems reasonable.

FJT: generally the issue with sexually explicit material at work is that it can contribute to a hostile work environment where people are exposed to unwanted sexual materials. It's not the explicit content per se. I can work in a porno movie rental place and still want to be free from sexual harassment while standing among the boxes for "AMATEUR ANAL ADVENTURE" and "MILF QUEST", or work in a place that has a business relationship with Victoria's Secret and have to review catalog placement and it doesn't effect the sexual harassment policy at work. Same thing if I go to a convention and my dealer's room space is next to someone selling copies of hentai.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd add that cons can and do exercise discretion as to what is sold in the vendor area or promoted as an official event. As private organizations, they're perfectly within their rights to do so.

Exhibitors could, for example, be restricted from displaying pornographic images in a vendor hall in which children are likely to be present.
posted by Gelatin at 12:45 PM on July 3, 2013


which all make clear that the problem is much, much greater and more immediate than a risqué manga poster or jokes that can be "misconstrued" as offensive.

I definitely see that there's a danger there, and it's great that there's progress. But, I'm not a deep "con" person myself, and only been to like, two or three in my whole life. I guess, I'm more of a con "tourist", and just like when I go to another country, I'm not going to read every single law on the book in hopes of not breaking it. I'm just going to err on the side of caution, get a general idea from a travel guide maybe, and not be a boorish American tourist.
posted by FJT at 12:45 PM on July 3, 2013


generally the issue with sexually explicit material at work is that it can contribute to a hostile work environment where people are exposed to unwanted sexual materials. It's not the explicit content per se.

Okay, that makes sense. I was curious, thanks. I didn't mean to create a derail.
posted by FJT at 12:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


All told, it sounds like the guy's probably a sleaze. But I'm afraid I'm never going to be comfortable with identifying a person as a sex offender on the basis of an unproven allegation rather than a conviction in a court of law. I'm just kinda old-fashioned about justice that way.
posted by Decani at 12:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What about many many many many allegations of sexual harassment?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:49 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


just like when I go to another country, I'm not going to read every single law on the book in hopes of not breaking it

As noted by (MeFi's own!) John Scalzi in the linked article upthread, not every con has a code of conduct. For those that do, however, one would do well to, in fact, read and abide by it.

Contrary to your implication that the laws are complex and arcane, the one accompanying, say, Gencon's Terms of Service is a mere one paragraph long. Here, I'll quote it for you in full:
I understand that GEN CON is dedicated to providing a safe, enjoyable, and harassment-free Convention experience for all participants and workers, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or affiliation, and I hereby acknowledge that disruptive behavior, inappropriate and unlawful conduct, and harassment in any form will not be tolerated. I agree to conduct myself, and any minors under my supervision, in a safe, responsible, non-disruptive, and lawful manner while attending the Convention, and understand that violation of Convention policies as determined by GEN CON in its sole discretion, may result in my expulsion from the Convention without refund.
posted by Gelatin at 12:51 PM on July 3, 2013


But I'm afraid I'm never going to be comfortable with identifying a person as a sex offender on the basis of an unproven allegation rather than a conviction in a court of law.

Man, I wish I could only feel unsafe around people who had been convicted in a court of law. *sigh*
posted by KathrynT at 12:51 PM on July 3, 2013 [48 favorites]


But I'm afraid I'm never going to be comfortable with identifying a person as a sex offender on the basis of an unproven allegation rather than a conviction in a court of law.

You're right! You'd better never warn people you know about experiences you've had with other people unless a jury has agreed those experiences count.
posted by jeather at 12:53 PM on July 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm afraid I'm never going to be comfortable with identifying a person as a sex offender on the basis of an unproven allegation rather than a conviction in a court of law.

Nonsense. People suffer consequences of their sexual misbehavior all the time without "conviction in a court of law" or even setting foot in a courtroom, from professors who lose tenure due to hitting on their students to spouses who are divorced because they molest their children or stepchildren to actors whose reputation suffers when they're arrested for wanking in a porno theater.

Conviction is a court of law is far from the sole standard people have for determining facts, and it was never intended to be so.
posted by Gelatin at 12:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


He hasn't been identified as a "sex offender" but as having harassed someone, which is not necessarily a criminal offence to be tried in a court of law, and which no-one is arguing that this is.

Also worth noting, in case anyone has forgotten: the person making the formal report (or "unproven allegation" if you will) is not the person who identified the (alleged) harasser - the co-host of the party, where the incident occurred, names him in a comment.
posted by tel3path at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we really be sure that we've actually experienced sexual harrassment if it has not yet been acknowledged as such by one or more (or all) men? Let's not get hysterical, ladies.
posted by divined by radio at 1:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [39 favorites]


Also worth noting, in case anyone has forgotten: the person making the formal report (or "unproven allegation" if you will) is not the person who identified the (alleged) harasser - the co-host of the party, where the incident occurred, names him in a comment.

If memory serves me correctly, it was done with Matthesen's prior approval.

Moreover, again, as private organizations, cons are perfectly within their rights for ejecting someone for violating their code of conduct -- such as the one I quoted above -- even when violating said code breaks no law at all. They are also free to make this action public if they so choose.
posted by Gelatin at 1:01 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This really has nothing to do with sci-fi or fandom, does it?
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2013


The Gaming as a Woman blog has an article from about a year ago about GenCon's updated Con Harassment policy. Great News! GenCon to Take a Serious Stand Against Convention Harassment

Don't know if this happened, but this is what I understand GenCon's policy to be:
No Harassment Policy

Gen Con: The Best Four Days in Gaming! is dedicated to providing a harassment-free Event experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or affiliation. We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. Convention participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled without refund at the discretion of show management.
I found this because, on the basis of this and MeFi's own Scalzi's post, I've been trying to help my Friendly Local Gaming Con Planners proactively put a policy in place for their little con.

So, thank you, OP! You got me to try to do something positive for my alma mater's only gaming con.
posted by Mad_Carew at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2013


Don't know if this happened, but this is what I understand GenCon's policy to be

Mad_Carew, you may have missed it, but I quoted GenCon's harassment policy just a bit upthread.

I attend GenCon; more importantly, I take my daughters to Gencon. I'm happy to see this policy in place.
posted by Gelatin at 1:07 PM on July 3, 2013


This really has nothing to do with sci-fi or fandom, does it?

Only in that we're finally hitting a critical mass of conversation about it within that community. The problem is universal, but the solutions have to start locally.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:08 PM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


What about many many many many allegations of sexual harassment?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:49 PM on July 3


I don't know. How many allegations does it take before it becomes proof? Is there an accepted legal position on this?

Man, I wish I could only feel unsafe around people who had been convicted in a court of law. *sigh*
posted by KathrynT at 8:51 PM on July 3


That is a stupid remark. I said nothing about whether or not you could feel unsafe, and who you should feel unsafe around. My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime.

You're right! You'd better never warn people you know about experiences you've had with other people unless a jury has agreed those experiences count.
posted by jeather at 8:53 PM on July 3


An equally stupid remark, and for the same reason.

Nonsense. People suffer consequences of their sexual misbehavior all the time without "conviction in a court of law" or even setting foot in a courtroom, from professors who lose tenure due to hitting on their students to spouses who are divorced because they molest their children or stepchildren to actors whose reputation suffers when they're arrested for wanking in a porno theater.

I didn't say they didn't. What I said was that I am concerned that there is sometimes a rush to do that without knowing all the facts. A lust to do that because we hate the alleged crime so much we should assume the accusation is probably true.

Conviction is a court of law is far from the sole standard people have for determining facts, and it was never intended to be so.

I didn't say it was, either. It's certainly interesting how people lose the ability to:

a) read properly
b) understand points properly

...when the subject is sexual harassment. All of the above reactions are emotional and point-missing. My point is that there is a certain blood-lust that comes up around these incidents that tends to lead people to celebrate the fact that someone is outed for a very serious offence - the kind of offence that can ruin lives - purely on the basis of internet accusations and second-hand rumour. If you folks don't have even a slight flicker of concern about that then you scare the hell out of me. I repeat: it sounds like this guy is probably a louse. But we don't know that. we're sticking him on the pyre and waving our brands purely on the basis of something we read on the internet. We should watch that.
posted by Decani at 1:10 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


"All told, it sounds like the guy's probably a sleaze. But I'm afraid I'm never going to be comfortable with identifying a person as a sex offender on the basis of an unproven allegation rather than a conviction in a court of law. I'm just kinda old-fashioned about justice that way."

It's fine for you to be old fashioned about justice so long as we're honest about what that means: You're a privileged member of society and think that women's experiences don't matter, just like in the old days.

You might as well say that you're not going to be comfortable identifying the BNP member as racist without a conviction of hate speech. It's the kind of removed, faux-rational bullshit that exists mostly to justify continuing privilege and excuse the injustice inflicted on the less powerful, all because you don't really empathize with people who are getting fucked over.

(But just let an atheist be slagged once, and you're on the battlements!)
posted by klangklangston at 1:10 PM on July 3, 2013 [50 favorites]


My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender

No one has called him a sex offender, they have called him a harasser

when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime

and harassment is not necessarily a crime.
posted by tel3path at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime.

Do you also get this righteously indignant when newspapers name robbery and murder suspects?

All of the above reactions are emotional and point-missing.

I'm so glad that a man is here to tell women to be less emotional and hysterical. Teach me your logical and fact-finding ways, o wise one.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 1:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [32 favorites]


Contrary to your implication that the laws are complex and arcane, the one accompanying, say, Gencon's Terms of Service is a mere one paragraph long. Here, I'll quote it for you in full:

Um, that ethics statement is on the bottom of the page, buried underneath a wall of text that talks about refunds, purchases, risk waivers, general provisions, exploitation of name/likeness AND then it gets to ethics, conduct, harassment. I had to Ctrl+F "harassment" just to find the darn thing.

And I know this stuff is important, but do people read the policy of every place they visit? Not only for conventions, but football games, Disneyland, the county fair, rock concerts, etc.?

I mean, I think I'm aware of behaving in public and not doing or saying anything that is hurtful, disrespectful, or offensive of other people around me.
posted by FJT at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2013


That is a stupid remark. I said nothing about whether or not you could feel unsafe, and who you should feel unsafe around. My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime.

Maybe he should have thought of that before he committed years of sexual harassment? He stuck himself in the damn pyre.

I didn't say they didn't. What I said was that I am concerned that there is sometimes a rush to do that without knowing all the facts. A lust to do that because we hate the alleged crime so much we should assume the accusation is probably true.

And all the women coming forward to say "Yup, me too" should just not be given the benefit of the doubt, but he should. Why?

Also, in the US, "sex offender" is a legal term with a legal meaning and no one that I've read has accused him of that. They have discussed his pattern of harassment. Suggesting to a would-be author that sleeping with him might get her a book contract (for instance) is not illegal, since she isn't his employee.
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime.

So far, the only person I've seen comparing this person to a sex offender is you.
posted by palomar at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


That is a stupid remark. I said nothing about whether or not you could feel unsafe, and who you should feel unsafe around. My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime.

It appears as though you are objecting to people speaking up and saying "I was harassed by this person." Knowing who is dangerous is one way I can help be safe. By saying that you don't want anyone to be "labelled as a sex offender" (by which I can only assume you mean "identified as a harasser," since that's all anyone has done in this situation) unless they've been convicted in a court of law, you're telling me that that's the only circumstance under which I am entitled to that information -- and thus implying that those are the only people I should feel unsafe around.

Which, I have to say, is a pretty stupid remark in its own right.
posted by KathrynT at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


My point was to do with public condemnation of a person as a sex offender when said person has not yet been found guilty of that crime.

My response isn't stupid. If we're not allowed to publicly condemn (aka discuss with names) harassment and harassers, how in the world are we supposed to warn people? (I don't think people have called Frenkel a sex offender.)

So I ask you. Someone has harassed you, and you've made a formal complaint. What do you do next? Bringing it up in public might ruin his life! So what do you actually recommend people do?
posted by jeather at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


"All told, it sounds like the guy's probably a sleaze. But I'm afraid I'm never going to be comfortable with identifying a person as a sex offender on the basis of an unproven allegation rather than a conviction in a court of law. I'm just kinda old-fashioned about justice that way."

Okay, so how would this work?

Let's assume that "propositioning someone or groping them at a con" should lead to a sex offender conviction with the attendant court costs, presence on the sex offender list, etc. Let's assume, that is, that the court system is the best way to deal with sexual harassment.

So, the way this works is that someone at a con calls the police? Or contacts con security and they call the police? And then witnesses are recruited from con-goers?

What happens when laws are less strict than policies? So something that is currently legal but makes for a shitty con-going experience for women would not result in a "conviction" in a court of law? Should we be pressing to make more behaviors illegal and sex-offender-registry worthy? What about all the things that are going to happen in the many years of campaigning that this will take? Do women at cons just suck it up until then?

I just don't understand how you are saying anything except "the courts are the only arbiter in these matters".

What do you envision happening other than the courts or nothing at all? Do we identify people as "provisional sex offenders" since they haven't been convicted - maybe make them wear a big red "A" for "accused? Do we just create a really aggressive system of pre-emptive defense (like "it's required to punch someone if they come within two feet of another person or allude to sex, regardless of their intent or whether it's harassment, because that is the only way we can be sure to capture all harassment without labeling any individual a harasser"?)

I mean, I'm just not sure how this would work. It seems like we can't have harassment without people who harass, and if we're not supposed to officially label anyone a harasser (which is what I assume you mean by 'sex offender', since it's hard to see what else could be meant - surely someone who actually escalates from harassment to sexual assault is a sex offender, regardless)...if we're not supposed to label anyone a harasser unless it's been proven in a court of law, you seem to end up either with a vastly expanded system of law and policing or with the status quo, a sub rosa network of warnings and rape babysitting.
posted by Frowner at 1:20 PM on July 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. This thread's actually been going pretty okay so far, and a big clusterfuck of a throwdown is not gonna improve it. Cool it, move on with the discussion.]
posted by cortex at 1:21 PM on July 3, 2013


It's hard to move on with the discussion when a turd of a comment is still sitting there, calling women stupid and emotional, and justifying doing nothing about harassment.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


The clear meaning of the sentence you are snarking about was that the potential pool of harrassers is not just limited to older men. This is so obviously true, I can't imagine why anyone would be upset about it.

You've obviously never posted somewhere like reddit then. Even with that disclaimer you'd get a bunch of tiresome doodz harping about how it was unfair to the not shitty men to be addressing men as a whole despite the fact that they address women as a monolithic entity on the hourly. The little bit of defensiveness and preloading there on their part was probably just from having dealt with tons of responses like that in the past. UGH.

To get to the meat of why i wanted to comment in here though...

When I posted about a rapist in a community I belonged to, although I gave almost no details about the guy except "he's a rapist," I immediately got several emails from other members of that community saying "oh, you must mean X." Everyone knew who he was! Tons of people, including several in the leadership, instantly knew who I meant. The reaction wasn't "there's a rapist among us!?!" but "oh hey, I bet you're talking about our local rapist." Several of them expressed regret that I hadn't been warned about him beforehand, because they tried to discreetly tell new people about this guy. Others talked about how they tried to make sure there was someone keeping an eye on him at parties, because he was fine so long as someone remembered to assign him a Rape Babysitter.

This hurts my fucking soul, and hits close to home. The "Tell new people about him" step is regularly skipped too, as that implies.

The group of friends i have is large, incestuous(and not at all just in the heterosexual sense, everybody be snogging and fuckin errybody) and very much progressive in the tumblr SJ warrior type of sense where even the beardiest of nerds will correct someone who says "midget" to "little person". And almost everyone in it has known eachother since middle or highschool, if not before we had hair on our nether regions.

Despite that fact, pretty much since freshmen year of highschool there's been a "missing stair" or two, and it's amazing how impossible these people are to actually get rid of or call out. I can only think of one guy who has been completely 86'd and i feel like it's mostly because he moved to another state and only visits town once in a while.

The timeline basically goes like

0. Shitty person exists, obviously. A situation like a party happens where either no one knows yet or they don't have as that post so elequently put, a "rape babysitter"
1. Incident happens, time goes by from a few days to a month or two
2. Person they assaulted/etc comes forward and tells all their close friends
3. If this hasn't done it before, or maybe even has only done it like once or twice, go to zero and restart. Nothing further will come of it.
4. If they have a history of doing it a bunch, this may be the straw that breaks the camels back. Despite this, a large contingent of friends basically just refuses to acknowledge it and continues to hang out with missing stair dude(ok, i will admit i've known several missing stair ladies!) like it never happened, and just try and avoid creating situations where the faction that supports the person they assaulted(or ESPECIALLY that person) will be present when hanging out with that person.

This is as far as it ever gets. The best outcome i've ever seen is like 4/5ths of my friends cold shoulder missing stair dude.

Which utterly sucks, because what the fuck do you do when people you really like/respect/etc just continue to hang out with Molester Man? Or worse, just slowly stop hanging out with you because you acknowledge they're a law and order SVU episode waiting to happen?

At this point i can think of at least 4-5 guys like this off the top of my head. And complicating the whole thing, there's been several instances of what i know for a fact are false accusations/made up stories which just makes everyone i know even more skeptical of the actual incidents where everyone involved just knows this dude is a rapist.

What makes it especially bad though is the number of people i can remember who were hangers on, who were just ditched for being too annoying or the kind of people who steal your socks and underwear. That's worthy of banishment from the kingdom, but being a fucking rapist isn't?

And now this type of thing gets even worse when you get in to a large loosely connected social situation like say, a highschool or college campus. Or as this post is about, a convention. The options shrink down to pretty much "Avoid and do not associate with Shitty Person and any of their friends, and warn anyone who mentions them who you don't think will dismiss you or stir up more shit by telling those people that you're warning people". So many people i know have had AWFUL experiences trying to get school/convention/company/etc staff/higher ups/managers/whatever to acknowledge this type of thing and be helpful. And the absolutely most crushing part is that often if you went to one of those people with some authority in the situation and said "This person punched me in the face" or "This guy stole my laptop" you wouldn't get fucking questions like the "Well are you sure you didn't give them the wrong idea?" kind of bullshit, and all 1200 other kinds.

And don't even get me started on the "Well we acknowledge this happened, but we can't enact XYZ serious consequence like kicking the person out/firing them/banning them from the property/etc because that would be horribly unfair to them since they're so involved in YZX" with a huge undertone of "We don't want this to blow up or get a bunch of attention, shut the fuck up so we can sweep it under the rug" which happens in everything from small friend groups to professional situations and yea, cons.

This is like a lego set diagram of rape culture. If ever someone asks me what exactly rape culture is from now on, i'm going to explain the missing stair analogy to them and ask them how many people like that exist in their group of friends/professional situations/recreational activity groups/music scenes/etc.
posted by emptythought at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


Hard things are doable, and moving on is worth the effort.
posted by cortex at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


My friend was at the panel of [legal conference] when the chair asked if she and another participant really came from the same country because their body weight was so different.

I'm lost for words.
posted by ersatz at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Always remember that giving an alleged harasser the benefit of the doubt is not a value neutral action. Doing so is a dismissal of the alleged victims testimony.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:34 PM on July 3, 2013 [24 favorites]


For me, going to a con means being ready to loudly call out people for bad behavior or asking "are you ok? Is he bothering you?" even if the answer is an eyeroll and a "yeah, we're just playing." Because even if there's a clear policy and con staff patrolling, they don't catch everything, and it takes just one guy to ruin it for everyone. We have to police each other.
posted by koucha at 1:36 PM on July 3, 2013


[Seriously, Decani, quit shitting it up in here.]
posted by cortex at 1:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Does Tor have any responsibility here given Frenkel was acting as a representative of the company? Surely at least a statement is advisable?
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on July 3, 2013


Always remember that giving an alleged harasser the benefit of the doubt is not a value neutral action. Doing so is a dismissal of the alleged victims testimony.

While i agree with that, it still bugs me as someone who has seen situations go down where someone created an utterly fabricated scenario to either cover their own ass(IE: a cheating situation) or simply to tar the person.

I seriously thought that whole "false accusation" thing was an MRA fantasy a few years ago until i saw it play out several times in front of my own eyes.

So yea, i always wonder if there's some kind of middle ground between giving them the benefit of the doubt(which is often really just code for dismissing their actions like the template in my post a couple comments up)

So really, how little benefit of the doubt are we talking here? I agree that the burden of proof should be on the alleged harasser here, and they should be the "defendant", but to some degree the plausibility and of the accusation and integrity/history of the accuser has to come in to play.

And i realize how shitty that sounds, and much it opens the door to "Lol she's just a stupid histrionic bitch ignore her" kind of awful stinky shit... but really, this can't be a 100% one sided thing.

Especially since i've watched it play out as "she accused you, you were there at the time, XYZ did occur therefor this is a strict liability thing and you're an awful person" where it later came to light that the scenario described when they were accused was completely crap.

So yea, is there seriously no "value neutral" way to go "We're going to take this very seriously, and they're going to have to prove to a high standard that what you're saying didn't happen to not burn, but you understand we're going to investigate this and not just string them up taking you at your word right?"

The trick then obviously is having that truly happen, unlike saying it will and then just sweeping it under the rug that happens now. And i mean, because that happens so much i understand the "fuck 'em" attitude i see so much in online SJ-ish communities. But really, what should be happening is what was supposed to happen but just isn't. Not some "We're going to take you 100% at your word and treat it as the sole standard of objective fact" crap.
posted by emptythought at 1:42 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surely at least a statement is advisable?

Not if the company lawyers have gotten involved, and, from what I've seen, they have and there won't be a statement until they get through with whatever they're doing. Which is frustrating but inevitable.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:44 PM on July 3, 2013


The hue and cry to use caution and not "out" this guy as a harrasser is sort of baffling to me. The people raising that cry seem to not understand or are ignoring the fact that this guy is well-known in the SFF con/publishing industry as a harrasser. It's been acknowledged that he's been spoken to directly about his behavior, not even recently, and that at that time he acted dismayed and embarrassed to be called out. And yet his behavior continued.

Instead, people keep trotting out unrelated stories of how one time they saw someone get brought down by false allegations and while I agree that that shouldn't happen, that's not what is happening here.
posted by palomar at 1:44 PM on July 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


I just googled "security conference rapist" and got back hits I expected to see. I wonder if the person named in the accusations (that include a police report regarding recovered items that were apparently stolen from the victim) will be invited to speak at future security conferences.
posted by el io at 1:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it happens to you, report it. If you see it happening, intervene or report it. If you're doing it, bloody stop.

The above won't happen 100% of the time, or even 50% of the time. The idea is to change the culture, if not the individuals. Kvetching about the ambiguities and the possibility of false positives is an argument to maintain the status quo and therefore not helpful.
posted by Mooski at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


So yea, i always wonder if there's some kind of middle ground between giving them the benefit of the doubt

The problem here is not on an individual basis, it's years and years and years of institutionalized disbelief and dismissal of women who bring up these issues. Knowing of an incident or two where someone told stories about an innocent person is not equivalent to this in the slightest, tiniest bit.

In relation to a different comment, the whole "don't bring it up unless you have signed legal documents that this happened" attitude is weird. If I had horrible service at a local restaurant, should I not tell a friend not to go there until I have legal proof? If I read that a certain street is particularly prone to violent crime, would it be unfair for me to warn a visiting family member to stay away without showing them a chart? If my little sister is going to Con X and I have heard that one of the attendees is a guy who has been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment, you're damn right I'm telling her about him.
posted by jess at 1:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


So really, how little benefit of the doubt are we talking here? I agree that the burden of proof should be on the alleged harasser here, and they should be the "defendant", but to some degree the plausibility and of the accusation and integrity/history of the accuser has to come in to play.

And i realize how shitty that sounds, and much it opens the door to "Lol she's just a stupid histrionic bitch ignore her" kind of awful stinky shit... but really, this can't be a 100% one sided thing.


From the original link:

I was stunned when I found out that mine was the first formal report filed there as well. From various discussions in person and online, I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded.
posted by tel3path at 1:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ogre Lawless: But not just older men, any dude.

Not to tar over half the populace or anything.
MisantropicPainforest: over half?
No, the verb phrase is: "Not to tar over". Whom is being tarred over? "...half the populace or anything."

You're trying to hard to find fault.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:03 PM on July 3, 2013


Except that presupposes that "to tar over" is a common verb-preposition combination, which it is not. You paint over things, sure, and you can tar over SSH, but you don't tar over people. You tar them. Often with the same brush, as in this case.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:08 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


tel3path, i was replying more directly to that comment i quoted. A much larger problem(which i'm aware of!) is people just not reporting incidents in the first place for a multitude of reasons.

Obviously, we need to come up with a way to encourage more people to step forward by breaking down some of the barriers, perceived or real, of "Am i going to be treated like shit and drug through the mud if i try and stick this person with this?" to which the answer is often yes. I was speaking in a more general sense than just directly to the original links story though.

The problem here is not on an individual basis, it's years and years and years of institutionalized disbelief and dismissal of women who bring up these issues. Knowing of an incident or two where someone told stories about an innocent person is not equivalent to this in the slightest, tiniest bit.

Once again, i'm aware of this. I'm just not seeing any proposed answers beyond "Don't question any accusations in any way" which seems a bit of a knee jerk reaction flipping entirely the other way from the current situation.

The reverse of whats going on, or at least an absolute extreme away from what currently happens a lot isn't going to solve the problem in that great of a way here.
posted by emptythought at 2:10 PM on July 3, 2013


There are cons that have serial harassers, people who've been doing it for years, decades, and the organizers turn a blind eye. One local con had a foot fetishist who was photographing the feet of underage girls (also writing porn about real underage girls). Their solution? He could keep coming, no problem, but everyone else had to wear shoes all the time, even when dancing.

Yeah, I wasn't impressed.
posted by jb at 2:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Going to Readercon next week. Last year, as I discussed on here, I had to put up with some skeezester and because of various social pressures I kind of STFU about it. This year I feel a lot more confident in my own ability not to tolerate creeps and also these vocal conversations in the SF world help, a lot.

But all these mistakes also hurt. I said over in the other SFWA thread that I've decided not to renew and I'm seeing all sorts of people calling for women to stick around and be the change we want to be but but it just makes me feel like crap to keep sending money to an organization who uses it to pay for sexist columns, for forums where people can be searingly offensive. I wish there was an alternative. Because I can't. I just can't. And I don't think that's bad on me. I think it's bad on them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well, the point of the article in the first place is that following the reporting process is the proper approach.

Since, as you point out, these matters are hard to investigate, a single report might not result in anything but a series of reports from unrelated individuals gets harder and harder to ignore. By being the first to make a formal report, you are strengthening the case of the next person to make a report.
posted by tel3path at 2:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


jb: Ugh, reminds me of that LAN party that decided the solution to harassment was to ban women. Come to think of it, there might be a MeFi thread.
posted by ODiV at 2:16 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm on the concomm of a Twin Cities con, and we're discussing our harassment policy. Those of you who go to cons, what kinds of policies would you like to see in place?
posted by jiawen at 2:18 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm with those who think redacting details of the incident itself was a great tactical move. It removes the number one response of the privileged in this situation: the instant derail into innocent-seeming explanations and endless etiquette-lawyering.
posted by bonaldi at 2:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


While i agree with that, it still bugs me as someone who has seen situations go down where someone created an utterly fabricated scenario to either cover their own ass(IE: a cheating situation) or simply to tar the person.

One of the things that I personally learned far too late from the various transgender threads we've had here is that the whole process of transitioning and the various hurdles place in the way of actually doing so are not there to protect trans people, but rather to make sure the rare possibility of transition regret is made impossible, that false positives are excluded at the cost of many more ignored/neglected negatives as more people fail the process who need it than are stopped from completing it unnecessary.

The same is true for sexual harassement. The number of real incidents is far greater than the number of faked ones, even if we only look at those that are actually reported. Worrying too much about false positives is defending the status quo in which women are much more afraid to report actual incidents of harassement rather than eager to exploit the process.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:26 PM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Jiawan, I like the GenCon principles listed in the Gaming As A Woman link above:
First, a harassment policy needs to have three things. It needs to state that harassment isn’t allowed, what the consequences are, and how to report incidents of harassment.

Language detailing how to report incidents of harassment would be added to the policy. For next year, the policy with the new language would be included on the back of badges and in the info section of the program. Also for next year, there are to be signs in high-traffic areas – registration and possibly the exhibit hall entrances – with the policy.

Convention hall staff would be advised of the policy and the details of how to enforce it so they could assist in raising awareness.
I think if you have 1) a policy that covers the three items listed, 2) a way to make sure attendees knew it, and 3) training for staff and volunteers on what to do if they receive a report, you'll be way ahead of the game.
posted by Mad_Carew at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A personal anecdote:
About eighteen months ago at Mile-Hi con in Denver, the first con I had been to in a great many years after a long bout of poverty had ended, the featured speaker made a tranny joke during the opening ceremonies. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I was angry, flustered and a great many emotions went through my mind as went up to the speaker after the ceremony had ended and informed him that his so-called joke was hurtful. The speaker some third-rate artist who was if my gaydar was working properly most likely a gay man, informed me that I should not take things so seriously and completely blew me off - and not in a good way.

So I went to the con command place and asked to speak to to whoever was running the con. Some minutes later I was greeted my a middle aged stereotypical geek wearing a jet black goatee and fedora and in my heart of hearts I already had a bad feeling about this. I explained the situation and was informed that it was just a joke and blah...blah...blah....

So I went to my room and cried for a bit and then went down to the bar and got moderately drunk which led me to buying a round of drinks for Vernor Vinge and his party and a nice conversation about books and things afterwards so even bad things can lead to better things but I will never set foot into this con again and the experience was both disheartening and enlightening.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


One local con had a foot fetishist who was photographing the feet of underage girls (also writing porn about real underage girls). Their solution? He could keep coming, no problem, but everyone else had to wear shoes all the time, even when dancing.

What is this I don't even
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:29 PM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Those of you who go to cons, what kinds of policies would you like to see in place?

Get a proper, transparent and understandable harassement policy approved
Make sure it's known to the members: progress reports, opening statement, notice boards, undsoweiter
Get the concom and volunteers trained to deal with reports of harassement, make those who are easily recognisable.
Have a process in place for dealing with the reports.
Ask for help from the various support organisations mentioned in the thread to review your policy

IMPORTANT: do not hesitate to eject members who misbehave once a formal report (ie somebody is willing to put their name to a statement) like the one Elise described is made, even if only one report has been made.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:31 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


So I went to my room and cried for a bit and then went down to the bar and got moderately drunk which led me to buying a round of drinks for Vernor Vinge and his party and a nice conversation about books and things afterwards so even bad things can lead to better things but I will never set foot into this con again and the experience was both disheartening and enlightening.

*hugs*

jiawen, based on my experiences at last year's Readercon, I would like to see cons with back-up project type programs that are staffed entirely by women. I realize this might be a controversial thing to say, and I don't even know how you would implement it. But I feel that the chances of male volunteers using such positions as a way to white knight and/or hit on women in vulnerable positions is way, way too high. I think it happens already.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:32 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's fine for you to be old fashioned about justice so long as we're honest about what that means: You're a privileged member of society and think that women's experiences don't matter, just like in the old days.


Ah. Well. That's.... one approach to take to the concept of justice.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:43 PM on July 3, 2013


This is really simple, guys:

A few years ago at my con, we had a guy who was sexually harrassing female attendees. Nothing as overt as butt-grabbing, but definitely inappropriate touching, openly leering at women (fully clothed as well as scantily clad), and other suggestive behaviors that left the subjects of his attention very unhappy.

After a few comments rolled in, we had members of the staff start watching him, and spread the word for fans to complain to us if he acted up. It took a few cons--this guy was slick--but eventually he overstepped and reduced a young volunteer to tears.

The chairs of the ConComm confronted this guy, pulled his badge, escorted him out of the conference center, and told him he'd better not ever return to our con.

We're a small con (~500 members), so that was easy for us to do. Larger cons may need additional logistics. But what it boils down to is this:

If you have members and/or dealers who are being sexually harrassed at a con, encourage them to notify staff. Staff: pull the creeper's badge with no refund. If he fights you on it, ban him from the convention. If he hollers about lawsuit, call his bluff--that's why you've got insurance, after all.

And for the love of God, prioritize the person who was harassed! Before you EVER make a move against the creeper, make sure the person harassed is in a safe place, that she has the chance to gather herself, that she understands what her options are with you (you'll take a formal complaint, you'll call the police if she wants, you'll escort her back to her room, whatever), and that you will support her. Then do what she asks.

It ain't that hard, folks. It's really not.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:46 PM on July 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


It's not that women's experiences don't matter, I think. It's just that actual things that happen to actual women matter less than possible things that could happen to men. At least, I assume that's why we get the same skirl of "but public shaming is the worst thing that a body could do to a body", whenever anything like this comes up. It displays a certain lack of imagination, but it's totally sincere.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [39 favorites]


Well, that makes sense since public shaming is the inbuilt threat a harasser has against an accuser anyway. Want to report this? Want to get harassed *and* publicly shamed?
posted by tel3path at 2:52 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume that's why we get the same skirl of "but public shaming is the worst thing that a body could do to a body", whenever anything like this comes up.

You do realize no one has said anything like that, right? One can think public shaming is nowhere near as bad as harrassment, and still not want to do it unfairly?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:53 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm not sure how taking a few years of harassing behaviours and finally reducing a volunteer to tears in public is really a good example of a con's anti-harassment policy working. I am sure everyone did the best they could to get the guy to stop, but the story didn't sound like a successful example.
posted by jeather at 2:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Podkayne, I was at the biggest con in the Twin Cities a few years ago and encountered something similar. In a huge panel (probably a couple hundred people in the audience) about fannish dating, one panelist seemed to make a career of transphobic jokes. If a woman likes Bible Black, then even worse things might ensue, like you might find out she has a penis; "it's a trap"; etc. It got me flustered, angry and probably all the things you were feeling.

Eventually, a friend convinced me that the panel was a lost cause and we left. But I stood there in the lobby, brain firing, wheels spinning. I decided I couldn't let it stand, so I went back in.

The guy eventually made another transphobic joke, and my arm shot up. They eventually called on me and... I pretty much don't remember what I said. So much adrenaline was pumping; I felt so incredibly afraid. But I couldn't let that shit stand. My friend later said my response was "not the least bit diplomatic. It was, in fact, extremely direct and openly confrontational."

Afterwards, we left the con to get ice cream.

Podkayne, I wish you strength and ice cream.
posted by jiawen at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [30 favorites]


The problem with public shaming nowadays is that there is a small non-zero chance that the Internet might become the judge and the jury. And not even the most powerful conventional staff can direct an internet mob when it's in the middle of a 2-minute hate fest.
posted by FJT at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, as many here have pointed out, there's a HUGE downside to making accusations of sexual harassment, founded or otherwise.

Retaliation, counter-accusations, slut-shaming, gossip, damage to one's career, humiliating lines of questioning by Arlen Specter in front of an audience of millions . . .I can think of very FEW reasons why someone would "unfairly" try to publicly shame someone for sexual harassment.

It's a fantasy to believe that loads of women are just going to pop in to a con and think, "Oh, I didn't like that guy's review of my last story -- I'll say he groped me, tee-hee!" Sure, you might get one. Or two. Every group has unbalanced individuals. But to think that such events would be frequent enough to warrant ignoring the vast majority of complaints is to ignore reality and to show a disturbing mistrust in women as a whole.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


The problem with public shaming nowadays

Is that new? Public shaming worked a lot like that before the internet. Its victims were probably pretty different, though.

For instance, not all that long ago - within living memory of a lot of mefites - an unmarried woman who had the gall to get pregnant could be subject to the kind of public shaming that follows you around and makes your life pretty hellish. All before facebook or twitter or anything like that. If she had the money to move away, that might be the end of it, but it might not.
posted by rtha at 3:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm just not seeing any proposed answers beyond "Don't question any accusations in any way"

Proposed answers to what? There are plenty of suggestions here of ways to help stop sexual harassment at cons, such as writing and enforcing harassment policies, making a positive and safe environment for people to report harassment, and social shaming.

The reverse of whats going on, or at least an absolute extreme away from what currently happens a lot isn't going to solve the problem in that great of a way here.

I'm sorry, but I don't think you understood what I'm saying. There is no relationship between someone being falsely accused of harassment and the systematic, institutional dismissal of women's concerns about sexual harassment at conventions. It's not the reverse, or whatever. They are completely different issues.

I don't want to belabour this point so I'll stop after this, but I suggest that you consider what question it is that you really want answered here. My impression from your comments is that it's "what can we do about false harassment accusations", which is off-topic from this post.
posted by jess at 3:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


A good mental trick for me in other contexts has been reminding myself to stop identifying with the oppressor

The phrase I like is: if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.
posted by fleacircus at 3:20 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I work with a theater conference (or, perhaps, have in the past worked with a theater conference; I don't know that my relationship with them will be ongoing). They already have some problems with parity regarding the gender of the artists they invite, and this past year they had a larger number of men than usual. They also had no clear policy regarding sexual harassment, and there have been incidents almost every year, many of them unreported, because there was no clear process of reporting, the harassers were pretty established playwrights, and there was a general attitude of "hey, we're theater people -- the rules are looser here."

At the start of planning for the conference this year, I pushed for a one-line sentence stating that harassment will not be tolerated be put into the program. The text for it came from the conference's host school -- it was from a document that is passed out to student and employees. Everybody involved seemed to think this was a good idea, and so in it went.

And then, just before the program was to go to print, months later, I got word that one of the organizers had removed the sentence. Unilaterally, without consulting anyone, and without letting me know. I immediately informed them that, if it were not reinstated, I would be resigning my participation in the conference immediately. I was, at that time, in enough of a position that this would create enormous problems for the conference, and so I met with the school's lawyer and we hashed out a policy that would be printed and given to every participant, that would map out what harassment is and how it can be reported, and what steps would be taken if a report happened.

I don't think this endeared me to the conference at all, and I would not be surprised if they decline to work with me in the future. I likewise won't be surprised if this policy goes unpublished and unmentioned the moment I am no longer part of the conference. It didn't seem especially welcome by many of the men at the conference (and a few of the women), who were sure it applied to them, and found it unfair, as, after all, this is theater, and we all play grabass and normal rules don't apply to us.

The whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth. But I know this issues is a big one in the world of theater, and is addressed much less often and more poorly that in the world of sci fi, and it honestly breaks my heart. But in the past few years, watching this shit go down again and again at conference after conference after conference, I share Scalzi's position: I will not participate in a conference that doesn't have a clear anti-harassment policy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:23 PM on July 3, 2013 [28 favorites]


I'm in my mid-thirties and it has honestly never occurred to me that inappropriate breast-grabbing is sexual harassment. Maybe because it's happened to me so many times. But I don't think I'd even have the wherewithal to say, "That's sexual harassment!" if it happened to a friend. Now I know, and a relief to be able to put a label on it.

(How about uninvited shoulder rubs?)
posted by gentian at 3:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that new? Public shaming worked a lot like that before the internet. Its victims were probably pretty different, though.

Not, it's worth noting, that different. Rebecca Watson was accused of a variety of personal and procedural failings over elevatorgate. We're already seeing people saying that Elise M. has to either pony up the juicy details, so the severity of the offence can be judged, or limit the consequences of the harassment to a quiet, polite and ostracism-free ejection from that one con. I imagine that if the juicy details were shared, somebody would come up with a theory about how she wouldn't have minded if it had been a good-looking guy. Und so weiter.

As in jiawen's example, and the first response to the ReaderCon harassment, one of the problems here is that con organizers have often placed the possible damage to the reputation of one of their peers over protecting women from harassment at their own con and/or other cons. It's heartening to see that changing, but it feels like it's going to be a long struggle. Moves like Scalzi's are steps in the right direction, though...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


(How about uninvited shoulder rubs?)

It's battery. If you are touched against your will, it's battery and it's a crime.
posted by rtha at 3:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is that new? Public shaming worked a lot like that before the internet.

Precisely. Do you really want things to work out the same as the old ways?
posted by FJT at 3:44 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the necessity of public shaming....

After some nice email exchanges with some very kind people regarding my Mile-Hi con experience I became curious and went back to the con site to see what their current policies were. There was a child policy, a weapons policy and a party policy but - color me unsurprised - no harassment policy. No diversity policy. I am sure this is because black-goatee-fedora-wearing-con-official guy never brought this incident up to anyone and I'd pretty much bet that he is still a prominent member of the con committee.

And I began to wonder what that website would have looked like now had I not been content to merely get drunk and chat up Mr. Vinge but instead blogged about the experience and openly shamed the con. And I began to think that maybe, had I done that, there would be some sort of harassment policy posted along with their three other policies. And I began to realize that this is a perfect example of why public shaming is a necessity - because if it isn't done then nothing at all really changes because that's the way that the people in charge like it.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 3:44 PM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


Hmm. SFWA's website is down. The current climate being what it is, I immediately jump to the conclusion that it's being DDOSed (again.)
posted by Zed at 3:46 PM on July 3, 2013


They should just eject the 12 angry shitheads, weather any fallout and be done with it rather put up with this shit at intervals.
posted by Artw at 3:50 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Precisely. Do you really want things to work out the same as the old ways?

Same old ways? Doesn't seem same to me. In my example, a woman who hadn't done anything wrong to another person was shamed. In these here examples, a man who was known to many for having done wrong to women for years finally has his name known in a way beyond the "Oh, yeah, him - don't be alone with him if you can help it" way. Apparently, a great many people knew about his harassment without having to read any of the links in this post.
posted by rtha at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's been my view with regards to SFWA as well: just eject all the assholes who voted for the jerk who wanted women as second class members, rather than keeping to molly coddle them. If that means some of the old dinosaurs leave, that's only a bonus.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Ah. Well. That's.... one approach to take to the concept of justice."

Yes, it is — it's the functional effect of the "old fashioned" approach to justice, that straight white men were given the benefit of the doubt to the extent that women were systemically oppressed. When one invokes the Good Ol' Days for rhetorical ammo, it's worth noting that unless you were a straight white man, the Good Ol' Days were pretty shitty, not least because of the reasoning evidenced above.
posted by klangklangston at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is an excerpt from Frenkel's five year old post about his first WorldCon:

"Sharon, my roommate, left the convention on Saturday. She’d gone to the zoo across the street from the con hotel, the Chase Park Plaza...and at one point while she was walking around the zoo looking at the animals, some guy...well, a guy apparently placed a hand on her shapely bottom. This was extremely upsetting to her, so much so that she decided then and there that this trip had been a horrible mistake, and she had to leave—NOW. "

I wonder what does "some guy...well, a guy" mean beyond "I know who it was".
posted by hat_eater at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't want to belabour this point so I'll stop after this, but I suggest that you consider what question it is that you really want answered here. My impression from your comments is that it's "what can we do about false harassment accusations", which is off-topic from this post.

I can't agree. We are not talking about what can be done about false harassment accusations, we are talking what to do about *all* harassment accusations. That includes both the (many) true ones and the (few) false ones. The whole point of a policy is to cover all incidents.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:05 PM on July 3, 2013


They should just eject the 12 angry shitheads, weather any fallout and be done with it rather put up with this shit at intervals.

Yeah. People keep saying, "Well can't you just ignore the offensive minority?"

If they're such a minority, they should be easy to get rid of. But no one will. They're grandmasters, don't you know. Blech.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:06 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Sorry for divebombing but I'm still reading and trying to stay calm.)
posted by hat_eater at 4:07 PM on July 3, 2013


When one invokes the Good Ol' Days for rhetorical ammo

Who was doing that? The commenter said the s/he is "old-fashioned" about justice in that s/he wanted some evidence of a crime before doling out punishment. Does that not apply in your new-fashioned notion of the word?
Also, suggesting that the only reason one could believe that evidence should be required before punishment is only possible "because you don't really empathize with people who are getting fucked over" seems rather poor faith.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:08 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I can't agree. We are not talking about what can be done about false harassment accusations, we are talking what to do about *all* harassment accusations. That includes both the (many) true ones and the (few) false ones. The whole point of a policy is to cover all incidents."

Not really. If you read the links, the answer seems pretty simple: Decide whether it's worth it to file a formal complaint; if filing a formal complaint, bear these things in mind. Fixating on the possibility of false complaints there rather misses the point.
posted by klangklangston at 4:09 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Same old ways? Doesn't seem same to me. In my example, a woman who hadn't done anything wrong to another person was shamed.

But that still happens to women, even when incidents are reported. I was pointing out the problem of public opinion is the possibility of a bunch of assholes on the Internet coming out of the wood work to pick apart the victim's life and continually bully and harass them. As much as it would be better if the offender was the one having to deal with this sort of treatment, it's not always the case. It's an uneven and irrational system of judgment that sometimes the best we can hope for is a Pyrrhic victory.
posted by FJT at 4:14 PM on July 3, 2013


The commenter said the s/he is "old-fashioned" about justice in that s/he wanted some evidence of a crime before doling out punishment.

Decani is a dude, FWIW.

The level of this guy's behavior may not have risen to the criminal. Should we just not talk about his shitty behavior - just continue to sweep it under the rug - unless and until he
commits a crime that someone is willing to report to the police?

And what punishment, exactly? He's not going to jail. If he gets fired, should his employer have to wait until he's convicted in a court of law before doing so?
posted by rtha at 4:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Who was doing that? The commenter said the s/he is "old-fashioned" about justice in that s/he wanted some evidence of a crime before doling out punishment. Does that not apply in your new-fashioned notion of the word?"

Are you intentionally making many of the same mistakes Decani did, or is your confusion organic?

1) No crime has been committed, so far as we know. Framing it by the strict standards of criminal justice is a moment of special pleading.
2) The "punishment" of being named in allegations is, in this instance, pretty mild — if the allegations are investigated and found false, it's fair to say that the accused will face no real harm.
3) The circumstantial evidence — multiple witnesses, reputation for past harassment — is strong enough to procede. There has not been an overwhelming rush to judgment beyond the circumstances of the incident.
4) Decani has no power to decide nor to impose punishment, really. So whether or not he believes anything happened is immaterial.
5) Holding up this inaccurate, overly legalistic and strict standard of "guilt" sets the rules of the game so that many legitimate complaints will be unable to meet the standard.
6) This means that harassers will have an advantage over the harassed.
7) This is the traditional means of adjudicating harassment disputes, i.e. it fits an established pattern of sexism.

So, in my new fangled notion, no, we can hold the accused to, say, a civil standard of preponderance, or even a looser standard of general disapprobation — it doesn't much matter to me whether a senator would have voted for a bill benefiting a campaign contributor without that contribution; it is just to in that instance require not even the appearance of impropriety before complaining about corruption. (This is especially salient because the colloquial and legal definitions of corruption differ, with the legal standard being necessarily stiffer.)

Also, suggesting that the only reason one could believe that evidence should be required before punishment is only possible "because you don't really empathize with people who are getting fucked over" seems rather poor faith."

I said that was the only reason? I thought I said something like, "mostly exists"? Why, it seems a little ticklish to allege bad faith with such poor evidence — especially as I haven't been convicted of libel, which clearly means I'm innocent of being an ass.

I mean, unless you want to subscribe to some scary newfangled definitions of "poor faith."
posted by klangklangston at 4:23 PM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


If they're such a minority, they should be easy to get rid of. But no one will. They're grandmasters, don't you know. Blech.

SFWA has literally never expelled anyone.
posted by Zed at 4:32 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The commenter said the s/he is "old-fashioned" about justice in that s/he wanted some evidence of a crime before doling out punishment. Does that not apply in your new-fashioned notion of the word?

TFB, you're a logical, reasonable, fact-driven man, right? I'm being silly! You're a man, of course you are. OK, so as a man, can you factually explain what sort of evidence -- aside from multiple eyewitness accounts, a widely-known history of this sort of behavior, and at least one official report, I mean, aside from all that trifling nonsense -- would clear the hurdle you have set for acknowledging that harassment has indeed occurred? Specifics would be great; that way, the rest of the ladies and I will know how much DNA we need to surreptitiously collect the next time a harmlessly awkward man innocuously calls us a dumb slut or playfully honks our boobs. Thanks in advance!
posted by divined by radio at 4:36 PM on July 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


[Folks, maybe think twice about making this all about one user?]
posted by jessamyn at 4:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


SFWA has literally never expelled anyone.

I wasn't aware of the full details of the Moles situation. Disgusting.

And I don't mean any of the claims of violations of privacy.

I can't believe my money was going to pay for this sff.net forum and I didn't even know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure how taking a few years of harassing behaviours and finally reducing a volunteer to tears in public is really a good example of a con's anti-harassment policy working. I am sure everyone did the best they could to get the guy to stop, but the story didn't sound like a successful example.
posted by jeather at 5:57 PM on July 3


Our ConComm had received most reports months after the incidents, so our cons were over and we couldn't do anything about it. Plus there weren't that many reports, and a few came in 3rd and 4th hand, so we weren't sure how reliable the overall stories were.

Once we let it be known that the ConComm was concerned, reports came directly to us (including from a couple of other conventions in the region), and that's when a scarily consistent picture started to emerge. We wanted to catch him red-handed, so to speak, so we could eject him and ban him without any ambiguity.

It wasn't perfect and there are things I wish we had done differently, but from what I can tell, we were the first con that took a stand against him. And once we'd done that, a few other cons followed suit.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:27 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi, Mad_Carew and others, thank you for the ideas. The discussion on our concomm is evolving.

PhoBWanKenobi, I like the idea of a women-only back-up team for the reasons you mention. I have to point out, though, that women can also be crappy to other women. I've experienced gender policing and dismissiveness from other women in fannish circles, and it's not fun.
posted by jiawen at 5:52 PM on July 3, 2013


divined, just on the slight off-chance that you are actually interested in having dialogue rather than monologuing: If someone will say what happened, I can decide if it sounds like a bad thing or not, and react accordingly. In the case of Frankel, there are a number of people reporting that something happened, which rather strongly suggests it, but we don't have "multiple eyewitness accounts, a widely-known history of this sort of behavior, and at least one official report", only the words of two bloggers.

But my comments are in response to the bringing up of many other incidents for which no such verification occurred, and the suggestion that a policy should be derived from them. If you say someone honked your boobs, and others confirm that it happened (or worse yet, is a pattern), I would refuse to work with, or buy the products of, someone who did that. But it seems a little much to say "This person did something bad enough that they should be kept out of social gatherings for it, they should be expelled from professional organizations, and people should refrain from buying their products or hiring them. But no, I won't tell you what they did, nor will I provide any corroborating evidence; my word should be enough for them to be kept out of professional gatherings." I would have to know you for a very long time before I trusted you to that extent.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2013


But with those standards, TFB, all harassers have to do is get their victims alone with no witnesses (perhaps in an elevator?) and then they can do whatever they want with no possibility of repercussions.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


If someone will say what happened, I can decide if it sounds like a bad thing or not, and react accordingly.

The point here is no one gives a damn what *you* think of the situation. No one's asked you, your opinion makes no difference to anyone, and your insistence in prioritizing it is frankly weird. The people whose judgment does matter - the convention staff and Frenkel's employer - do have access to that information, and they'll make whatever decisions they need to.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [49 favorites]


No, if the conference organizers agree that an action constitutes harassment, the complainant isn't obligated to recount whether or not her boobs were honked and whether or not it was her right boob or her left boob that got the brunt of it and what color underwear she was wearing that day.

By definition, it is humiliating and embarrassing to be sexually harassed. It is humiliating and embarrassing to report what happened to someone with enough authority to take worthwhile action. It shouldn't then be required that you publish the exact details of what happened on the Internet so that total strangers can decide whether your boobs are worthy of that kind of attention.

I mean really, the disadvantages of publishing that kind of detail are so obvious they shouldn't need to be recounted.
posted by tel3path at 6:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


Absolutely in terms of something being done via well defined processes internally to an organization.

In terms of Internet mobs... I dunno, this is basically going to be that rashomon thing where to some people it was probably some offer color language and to others it was out and out boob grabbing. But Internet mobs suck as a way of doing things anyway and the rashomon thing probably would have happened anyway.
posted by Artw at 6:40 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


hydropsyche, it's true that's a real problem. The presumption of innocence creates a risk that a guilty person will go unpunished. Indeed, I'd be a lot happier with the preemptive assumption of guilt I see others making if those advocating it were more open about the probability that it would result in some bad outcomes, and were simply prepared to accept those outcomes as the necessary price.
But that's where a paper trail becomes important. One uncorroborated report, maybe something happened and maybe it didn't. Two uncorroborated reports, and you have a good reason to be careful about that person. Three, and you have reason to start punishing.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:36 PM on July 3, 2013


One uncorroborated report, maybe something happened and maybe it didn't. Two uncorroborated reports, and you have a good reason to be careful about that person.

You should have stopped at one.... :(
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 7:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It needs to happen three times before there is a reason to act? No. Just no.


That is two free passes too many.
posted by ambrosia at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Anyone who could continue to harass after being expelled from a con once (which I like to imagine involves getting the badge ripped off their chest like Chuck Connors in _Branded_) would have to be pathological. I would think that would put a big dent in anyone's cluelessness who was capable of learning.
posted by LucretiusJones at 8:24 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Three, and you have reason to start punishing.

I only acknowledge cases of false sexual harassment accusations after the culprit has accused three different people on three different occasions.
posted by jess at 8:35 PM on July 3, 2013 [24 favorites]


THE GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCE FICTION SWIMMING CLUB: More Thoughts on SFF, Sexism, Racism and General Badness

Another blog post from Maria Dahvana Headley, which I think adds a lot of perspective. SFF was a tiny field that exploded really quickly. I think a lot of behavior was tolerated because it was coming from the Grand Old Men who shaped the field we grew up with: if you reject Isaac Asimov then what does it say about the genre you know and love? I hate to say it, but Asimov's persona as "the sensuous dirty old man" came about because he discovered he could get away with it. He wasn't like that originally, and you would think a Jewish Russian refugee would have known better than to exploit victims who couldn't fight back. Anyway, he should never have been a model for his readers and, in a more mature field, he wouldn't have been. But as it was there were a few giant authors idolised by their fans and their every pronouncement was treated as if it had been handed down from On High. So if Asimov said groping women was cool and sophisticated, who would argue? This is why we're here today: it's not because male SFF fans are dorks; it's because creepy guys engineered a situation where they could do what they liked. See also: academe.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:43 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joe: In all my years of living through the Azimov era I never once heard him referred to as a "creepy old man". I am not saying that it never happened but I am saying I think that if this were a widely known "thing" that I would have heard some mention of it sometime between the 60's and 90's. He made a speech once at my synagogue way back when and "creepy old man" was not an attribute that one would have attributed to him then.

In any case, I do not think it kosher to use the excuse of "it's my dad's fault really" to explain any of the current problems women are having with some men at places like scifi cons. The current perpetrators bear full responsibility for their reprehensible actions regardless if whether or not it is a culturally ingrained tradition of that subculture.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:04 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ambrosia, to be sure I understand: Are you saying that if any individual tells con organizers that someone has harassed them, whether or not there is verification, that person should be expelled from the con?
Do you think that should only apply when a female reports a male, or when anyone reports anyone?
Should there be some confirmation or verification process before expulsion, or is this a strict "one complaint equals one expulsion" policy?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:08 PM on July 3, 2013


TFB: This 'death by a thousand cuts" line of questioning is seriously tiresome.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm in my mid-thirties and it has honestly never occurred to me that inappropriate breast-grabbing is sexual harassment.

I don't know where you've been working, then, because every place I've ever been has serious, fire-your-ass policies about stuff like that.

Other people intentionally touching you without your consent, in general, is a serious social faux pas and depending on how severe it is, could be considered assault.

I am disheartened that a person younger than me doesn't know this.
posted by emjaybee at 9:21 PM on July 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


So if Asimov said groping women was cool and sophisticated, who would argue? This is why we're here today: it's not because male SFF fans are dorks; it's because creepy guys engineered a situation where they could do what they liked. See also: academe.

Far be it for me to actually defend Asimov's creepiness, but jesus - have you watched any TV or movies from the 50s, 60s and 70s? Asimov was creepy because that was the standard of behavior then. Hell, the forced kiss in "Blade Runner" was completely uncontroversial because, well, that's how things were expected to be.

I'm not claiming that those were golden times. I'm just saying that Asimov's creepiness is probably more in line with Jefferson's slave keeping - thats how it was done in those days and hopefully, we can/should expect better now.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:24 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I'm in my mid-thirties and it has honestly never occurred to me that inappropriate breast-grabbing is sexual harassment. "

I consider this battery more than harassment, or sexual assault. Inappropriate words, leering, intruding on personal space - all of this is in the harassment territory. When someone grabs someone else, that's battery, when they do so in the breasts (more so with women) or genital areas/ass, that's sexual assault.

(not a lawyer, that's just my perception of the matter)
posted by el io at 9:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Podkayne, if you do a Google search for "Isaac Asimov pinching" you'll get plenty of first-hand anecdotes about his behavior. Not coincidentally, he is the author of this book: The Sensuous Dirty Old Man. Here's part of an excerpt from Amazon:
suppose you are not only a dirty old man, but are proud of it, too, and suppose the same girl walks by in the same condition. Now it is possible to be joyous and open. You can emit a melodious whistle or a snort of pleasure. You can stare openly. You can walk over to get a closer view. You can address the girl in friendly fashion.

And how does the girl react? She is pleased that she has created such an obvious stir in a gentleman of such substantial and prosperous appearance. [...]
Yeah, well, it's not so funny nowadays.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:30 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


And how does the girl react? She is pleased that she has created such an obvious stir in a gentleman of such substantial and prosperous appearance.

She gets so much of this garbage from her local fan culture that she never goes to conventions or gets further involved in the genre. I know because that was me 25 years ago.
posted by immlass at 9:34 PM on July 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


You can emit a melodious whistle

I read that as "malodorous whistle".
posted by tservo at 9:34 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


In all my years of living through the Asimov era I never once heard him referred to as a "creepy old man". I am not saying that it never happened but I am saying I think that if this were a widely known "thing" that I would have heard some mention of it sometime between the 60's and 90's.

It was indeed a widely known "thing," Podkayne. I've been a scifi fan all my life and I only learned here last year that Asimov was so widely known as a groper he was actually invited to give a talk called "The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching" at a 1961 gathering. It was all treated as a joke, of course, including Asimov's revealing response that "I could give a stimulating talk that would stiffen the manly fiber of every one in the audience."

It's documented here, if you want more info. On preview, I see Joe has pointed out that the "sensuous dirty old man" thing actually comes from Asimov himself - the book was a joking response to two popular sex manuals, but it's pretty awful reading today.
posted by mediareport at 9:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I had to step away from the computer for a few hours -- you know -- and experience the offline world for a while.

What I had thought while on the ARC-Trainer, was that this -- like so many of the things we're discussing -- boils down to 'consent', and 'entitled white men's' complete lack of understanding. This is -- I think -- predicated on not getting that you must have CONSENT before physical contact is appropriate. Likewise, all the 'slipperly slope' arguments about marrying children and animals misses the whole consent thing too.
posted by mikelieman at 9:40 PM on July 3, 2013


Podkayne, I promise that the question is entirely in earnest. I feel like there's a disconnect between what I'm perceiving and what people are saying, an am trying to understand what is being proposed.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:48 PM on July 3, 2013


I read that as "malodorous whistle".

Because sometimes, the word "flatulence" isn't nearly vivid enough.
posted by Nomyte at 9:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


TFB: At some point you need to just process this yourself, internally and accept that your own feelings do not reflect the wider culture and that your constant line of questioning about this is inappropriate at some point.

Also regarding Azimov .... geez .. live and learn . If you live long enough then apparently everyone you know gets to play the part of the villain.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:58 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Since everyone agrees that grabbing someone's breast is harassment

Others have already responded to this, but -

I was really angry about the responses I heard and saw when six women reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger had groped them on movie sets and British journalist Anna Richardson reported that he touched her breast.

From Wikipedia:
Three of the women claimed he had grabbed their breasts, a fourth said he placed his hand under her skirt on her buttock. A fifth woman claimed Schwarzenegger tried to take off her bathing suit in a hotel elevator, and the last said he pulled her onto his lap and asked her about a sex act.

I told one of my male relatives that I thought that should disqualify Schwarzenegger from serving as California's governor. My relative just laughed.

The reports didn't stop people from voting for him. He WON by over a million votes in 2003 and again in 2006.

That was less than 10 years ago.

For millions of Californians, the reports of seven women that a man touched them sexually against their will is not enough to keep them from voting for him for governor.
posted by kristi at 10:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, in my own experience of being sexually harassed, I was too embarrassed and humiliated to complain about it. So I am inclined, personally, to give the benefit of the doubt to the person complaining. It's a Con. It's not a court of law. Getting kicked out of a Con doesn't wind up on a criminal record. So I'm perfectly comfortable with much lower standards of proof. I am not at all comfortable with the idea that all a serial harasser has to do is be sure there aren't any witnesses, and the idea that someone could get away with multiple offenses before any consequences are even considered adds an additional insult to the injury for the first complainants.
posted by ambrosia at 10:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Okay, so I've understood rightly: You think a complaint should always lead immediately to an expulsion, since the consequences for wrongly expelling a non-harasser are so much less than the consequences for not expelling a harasser?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:12 PM on July 3, 2013


I think trying to cast it as a categorical imperative leads to rules lawyering and attempts to explain why some hypothetical negative outcome is possible, rather than looking at what we can know right now and trusting that the standards of corroboration and verification were both made. Therefore, belaboring the possible bad outcomes of a hypothetical absurdly flattened policy when the conditions you're extolling have already been met comes across as seeking to deflect, minimize and justify the behavior of the harasser, and thereby women generally. It also has the effect of making women less likely to talk about their experiences here, and a big part of how we, as a culture, can end sexual harassment comes from listening to the stories of women and taking what they say seriously.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


If I'm hosting a party and Guest 1 comes and complains about Guest 2, I will ask Guest 2 to leave.

It's 2013. People know better.

I'm going to lose my Internet connection in a few minutes so I may not be able to respond further.
posted by ambrosia at 10:35 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


" behavior of the harasser, and thereby women generally."

Sorry, that's idiotically unclear. I got tripped up trying to say that the line of argument comes across as minimizing both the actions of the harasser, and the experience of this woman and women in general.

Probably still clumsy and inelegant, but that should make more sense.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 PM on July 3, 2013


From Chrononaut: Won't Someone Think of the Insensitive?
Every time sexual harassment at conventions comes up, somebody trots out the red herring that it’s just too hard for certain persons to know when they’re being polite and when they’re being rude, and it’s just unfair to ask these poor insensitive people to read the fickle minds of the lovely mysterious creatures they’re attracted to.

To which I say, with as much respect as I can muster: Please fuck off.
posted by jokeefe at 10:42 PM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


TFB, you're acting like the convention organizers are computers who must only take context-free input in the form of accusations and spit out an answer. A accuses B --> B is kicked out. But that's not it at all. A reasonably professional convention organization, in consultation with law firms who do this work, or women's advocacy groups others have mentioned, will understand how to investigate these accusations and how nuanced that investigation can be. In many cases a little investigation will show that, yes, B acted in just that way. (In MANY cases, B will admit to it, not seeing his behavior as a problem.) In other cases, it will be a he said/she said. In other cases, there won't be good evidence, but perhaps B is known to the convention organizers as a repeat offender, or A is known as a drama queen. You do the best you can do -- ideally with the help of some outside organization that isn't tied to the players in the same way you might be -- to understand the situation occurring at THIS CON by THIS PERSON and how to cope with it.

Part of the problem with enforcement at cons is that cons are very short, and investigation can take a while. I don't think it's inappropriate for the con organizers to say, "Look, there's been this serious complaint brought against you and we have to investigate it, we think it's best if you stick to your assigned panels and avoid social events, and we'll make sure you have an escort for your safety."(I also don't think kicking-out is inappropriate.)

I've been in the meetings at work where serious sexual harassment complaints are brought before senior management. I have not yet seen a false sexual harassment claim. I have seen a couple of unprovable sexual harassment claims, including one rather sordid one that the perp was quite pleased we couldn't prove and took it as a vindication of his behavior ... until he was caught on tape doing the same thing six months later and fired for it.

The problem of sexual harassment in a public space is not a new one and there are good standards for dealing with it, and some of these cons are starting to seek out the experts who can help them deal with it. The SFF community needs to take a lot more ownership of the behavior of its members and clarify what isn't okay, and do some self-policing, as well as having well-trained convention personnel who can handle serious accusations in a timely and fair fashion.

There are sub-optimal outcomes, particularly because cons are so short, and investigating and handling a delicate situation like this takes some time. Some men will be falsely accused, yes. An appropriate process should find that out. Many women, a majority of harassed women, will be afraid to come forward. Change over time should help with that. Many women who do come forward will be subject to shaming and reputational attacks. Human processes are not perfect processes, but we can recognize the fail states and try to guard against them and fix them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:01 PM on July 3, 2013 [35 favorites]


Yeah, I'm at a place where my patience is worn so thin with the whole "ohhh but what if they're AWKWARD" thing that I feel 100% ok with kicking them out, because if they are so awkward that they are managing to make other people uncomfortable by sexually harassing them, they need to get out and get therapy and learn to be functioning adult members of society. This is basic stuff.

Intent doesn't matter to me here. If someone is driving a car around on the sidewalk because they don't know any better than to drive on the road, they generally get dealt with in a way where they are no longer are allowed to drive a car.

As far as the whole "is this really a sci-fi/fandom thing", I'd say it absolutely is. There's a lot of misogyny and dismissal of women in large portions of fandom, and the areas that are dominated by women generally are looked down on, even by geek culture. I mean, look at the status of fanfiction writers, yaoi artists, Sims players, cosplayers, readers of YA literature-- they're all seen as lesser than "real" fans, and I don't think it's coincidental that those are the fandoms in which women are over-, rather than under-, represented.

Also, look at the history of geek culture. Asimov's behavior at cons was brought up, but look at depictions of women in video games and comic books-- check out the Tropes Against Women stuff for details of that in games-- they've evolved some but do tend to be one dimensional and treated (and depicted) as sex objects far more than their male counterparts. They're also underrepresented as characters in general. Hell, Joss Whedon managed to make a superhero movie that failed the Bechdel test and he's seen as some kind of god of geek feminists.

Look at the covers of fantasy novels and you'll see plenty of women in skimpy outfits, (and if it's a YA book they'll probably be headless as well). Look at how many female authors choose to go by their initials instead of their first names. And look at the whole combination of the Geek Social Fallacy and the failure to listen to women in so many harassment-related situations. It's really obvious to me that this is a problem in geek culture that has specific geek-related ways it plays out that don't apply nearly as much to non-geeks*, and there's obvious ways that geek culture is reflecting mainstream culture as a whole. And geek culture isn't that removed from mainstream culture anymore, so of course it's gonna have a lot of the same problems.

*What're we calling non-geeks these days? Mundies? Normals? Muggles?
posted by NoraReed at 11:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


We're already seeing people saying that Elise M. has to either pony up the juicy details, so the severity of the offence can be judged, or limit the consequences of the harassment to a quiet, polite and ostracism-free ejection from that one con.

I think there's a lot of assumptions here that anyone wanting to know details of a sexual harassment complaint must be looking to deny it, and I'm not sure that's fair, really.

I, for example, would always like to know the details - so I know what level of ostracism to engage in myself.

For example: if someone has raped or sexually assaulted someone else, not only will I refuse to work with them professionally, but I will refuse to be in a room where they are present. A good percentage of my energies will be involved in ensuring that they are expelled from any group or organization I belong to.

If someone has laid physical hands on someone else, I still won't work with them, and if they ask me why I won't talk to them, I will say why. I will tell other people why I won't work with them. I will watch them like a hawk for signs of recidivism.

If someone has said something sleazy, I may or may not work with them, depending on what it is, but I will be on guard for calling them on bullshit.

I want to respond to what's happen, but ignorance doesn't let me. Simply knowing "they have been removed from the con" doesn't tell me what I need to do on my next not-this-con encounter.
posted by corb at 11:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't assume that people who want to know the details of sexual harassment want to do so to deny or minimize what happened.

I am assuming that a person getting kicked out of a con - or several cons - has been heard by the con organizers, who have heard the situation from both sides and made a determination based on their policy.

I wonder why there being a clear statement of con policies, and it being clear that a person has been asked to leave because they violated those policies, isn't enough. No, it doesn't mean that I will know the 'level' of ostracism appropriate based on my own values, but I'd avoid a person who keeps getting kicked out of a con. I appreciate that there is a balance, and it isn't clear that people always hit the right one.
posted by It's a Parasox at 12:17 AM on July 4, 2013


I think Frowner made a good point about the whole "awkward" issue. People who are awkward are bad at normal human interaction. Harassers are also bad at normal human interaction. But they are bad in different ways. It's like a graph where one axis is "awkward -> suave" and the other is "evil -> nice". Harassers may be awkward or suave, but they're on the evil side of the graph.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:28 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wonder why there being a clear statement of con policies, and it being clear that a person has been asked to leave because they violated those policies, isn't enough. No, it doesn't mean that I will know the 'level' of ostracism appropriate based on my own values, but I'd avoid a person who keeps getting kicked out of a con.

Hmm. Thinking about it really hard, I'd say that one of the major problems is in fact the history that we're all really upset about - that cons are currently not trustworthy enough to trust the people who run them at anything. For the most part, they tend to be run by friend-groups, and they've been really good at ostracizing people who don't deserve to be ostracized - such as the women who posted their stories here about not going along with the harassment and being blackballed.

So the lack of trust means that con staff saying anything has little meaning, because there's no reason to believe that they are acting on reality and not on weird geek drama circles or in-group loyalties.
posted by corb at 12:47 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't believe my money was going to pay for this sff.net forum and I didn't even know.

You know what the funny thing about the SFF groups are? They're public anyway, as they're propagated on Usenet...

SFWA has literally never expelled anyone.

Not quite true. Stanislaw Lem was sort of expelled in the seventies, for being too critical of US science fiction...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:50 AM on July 4, 2013


Lem singled out only one American SF writer for praise, Philip K. Dick—see the 1986 English-language anthology of his critical essays, Microworlds. Dick, however, perhaps due to his illness, believed that Stanisław Lem was a false name used by a composite committee operating on orders of the Communist party to gain control over public opinion, and wrote a letter to the FBI to that effect.
Man, that is heartbreaking.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:03 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm at a place where my patience is worn so thin with the whole "ohhh but what if they're AWKWARD" thing that I feel 100% ok with kicking them out, because if they are so awkward that they are managing to make other people uncomfortable by sexually harassing them, they need to get out and get therapy and learn to be functioning adult members of society. This is basic stuff.

Yeah, as somebody who is socially awkward and a bit shy and sometimes not too bright at picking up social nuances in real life situations, I do get angry when pervs blame their creeping on being awkward or autistic; plenty of us who are actually awkward manage to not grope people against their will.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:09 AM on July 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


TFB -- I will also repeat my earlier point to you -- there are a LOT of risks and bad parts about being the accuser in a sexual harassment claim. It can be humiliating, career-damaging, even dangerous. It is NOT done lightly -- it simply isn't.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:10 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if one lacks social skills, it makes more sense to be more cautious about not harrassing people than to use it as a way to minimise the actions.

The latter seems more like enabling bullshit, given that it's essentially the social equivalent of hoping that your complete lack of driving lessons doesn't get someone run over.
posted by jaduncan at 4:19 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jaduncan, the awesome comment I linked to has something to say about that, too:
by analogy, many white folks read about a white person doing something really egregious that we ourselves would be unlikely to do on purpose and we get in the habit of thinking "but if it were me doing Egregious Thing, it would be by accident or because I didn't know any better, therefore this person must be just like me and have done Egregious Thing by accident".
Honestly, it's very insightful, you should read the whole thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:00 AM on July 4, 2013


Yeah, I did read it. It's just that even if we generously accept the (often dubious) claim by the harrasser that they did it due to the lack of social skills and their awkwardness, it doesn't make it any better.

To restate with another car analogy: "I accidentally ran him over, I got in the car drunk." Knowing that one has poor/degraded skills doesn't indicate one should take less care, it indicates it's a good idea to avoid situations and actions where those poor judgement or skills might hurt people.
posted by jaduncan at 5:16 AM on July 4, 2013


I think treating all claims of harassment seriously (which is not necessarily to say that you believe them 100%) is not actually likely to lead to a draconian con policy where anyone can be accused of harassment and immediately booted out. You can be guided by the severity of the accusation, the evidence, and whether it has happened before; and you can be guided by the wishes of the person making the complaint, which aren't usually as fire-and-brimstone as one might imagine.

When I was dealing with some workplace harassment by a patron a few years ago, I didn't want him banned from my workplace; I didn't want him put in jail; the only thing I wanted was for my supervisor to be aware of what was going on in case it escalated, and for me to be able to pass off the reference desk to someone else if this person wanted to strike up a conversation with me. Con situations are obviously not the same as workplace situations, but I think there's a wide range of solutions possible from a verbal warning and making a record of it so that there's a paper trail in case it happens again, to permaban with fire.

It seems to me that a lot of the heat that Readercon got was because they instituted a permaban-with-fire policy that they later realized they weren't actually willing to enforce (or weren't willing to enforce against a big-name fan); cons are not going to arrive at perfect solutions immediately, but I do think it's possible to develop policies that are flexible enough to deal fairly with people who have been harassed and with people who have been accused (fairly or unfairly) of harassment.
posted by Jeanne at 5:46 AM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


You know what the funny thing about the SFF groups are? They're public anyway, as they're propagated on Usenet...

Are they? I can't find them anywhere.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:26 AM on July 4, 2013


I am back, albeit still on a mobile device with a shaky Internet connection. Just to be clear, I'm not necessarily advocating a one-complaint-and-you're-out policy at a Con, although I would likely do that in my own home. I was objecting to the idea that an "uncorroborated" complaint could be received, and that absolutely no action would be taken until after the third incident. Every complaint should be investigated, and both parties talked to, and the complaining party should be taken seriously and not dismissed.

In other words, pretty much what Eyebrows McGee said.
posted by ambrosia at 7:03 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just want to point out that the proposed standard that accusations must be corroborated explicitly puts the conversion rate between accuser testimony and accused testimony at significantly less than one. Since this maps very cleanly onto a well-known and well-understood gender dynamic, it similarly defines (typically) female testimony as mattering less than (almost always) male testimony in the name of a supposedly detached, supposedly objective "presumption of innocence." (The rate TFB proposes above, for instance, is three females equaling one male.)

Perhaps we could suggest instead that male con-goers always travel together in groups, and that they never allow themselves to become alone with someone who could potentially falsely accuse them of harassment, regardless of how well they think they know that person. Male convention-goers would also be well-advised to limit the amount of alcohol they drink so that their faculties aren't compromised, as well as to ensure that their testimony can be relied upon later in the event of a false accusation. They should also be certain to maintain proper decorum in their public behavior at all times, so as not to give anyone the false impression that they might be the sort of man who would behave inappropriately in private. It's no longer politically correct to say it, but false harassment accusations are a two-way street, and men have it within their power to prevent many of these events from occurring if they carefully monitor their own behavior and keep their personal safety at the forefront of their minds. Many of these men who have been falsely accused simply refuse to take responsibility for the bad decisions that brought them to that point. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback, is there anything you would have done differently?
posted by gerryblog at 7:47 AM on July 4, 2013 [167 favorites]


Perhaps we could suggest instead that male con-goers always travel together in groups, and that they never allow themselves to become alone with someone who could potentially falsely accuse them of harassment . . . limit the amount of alcohol they drink . . . maintain proper decorum . . . men have it within their power to prevent many of these events from occurring if they carefully monitor their own behavior and keep their personal safety at the forefront of their minds.
I love, love, love you, gerryblog.

Don't forget, they also need to avoid "suggestive" clothing that invites mustache rides or tight trousers and things like that, lest they give the impression that they are "asking for it."
posted by jfwlucy at 8:02 AM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Brilliant, gerryblog.
posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2013


SO good.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bravo, gerryblog. That captures it, exactly.
posted by Gelatin at 8:26 AM on July 4, 2013


Yup, gerryblog nails it.
posted by Kitteh at 8:34 AM on July 4, 2013




Eyebrows: Thanks for the explication. It's interesting to hear about investigative procedures for otherwise uncorroborated reports. Do you just mean interviews and asking around about the participants, or something more involved?

no longer politically correct to say it, but false harassment accusations are a two-way street, and men have it within their power to prevent many of these events from occurring if they carefully monitor their own behavior and keep their personal safety at the forefront of their minds.

I know you're being sarcastic, but I'd actually say men do this pretty often. Many of the men I know who are teachers, even at a graduate-school level, will not meet with a female student alone unless the door is open and there are other teachers in the area. Many teachers---men and women---keep recording devices in their offices for student/teacher conferences. I've known quite a few workplace supervisors who will only talk to female co-workers in areas visible to the entire office. And in subculture situations, every con group I know has certain members who are infamous drama addicts, and other people avoid being alone with them---especially when drinking---lest they be in for a long year of problems.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:36 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Of course, these men are being overcautious---as has been rightly noted here, false accusations are very, very rare. But there is so little machinery in place to keep them from snowballing, and the consequences are so severe, that it's worth preparing for. It's like buying earthquake insurance: it'll probably never happen, but if it does, it'll be utterly disastrous and nothing will stop it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you'd rather have "machinery" in place to stop the vanishingly rare instances of false accusations, instead of dealing with the very real and very prevalent instances of actual sexual harrassment and assault?
posted by palomar at 8:45 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


It has not been my experience that false accusations of sexual impropriety, harassment, or assault are necessarily rare. But my experience doesn't relate specifically to conventions, which may involve a particular social dynamic.
posted by cribcage at 8:45 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I have experience of being falsely accused, via subsequent gossip/bragging? by the person who harassed me. So I'm not at all unsympathetic to the fear of false accusation.

However, if I'd had anyone trustworthy to report it to, it all might have turned out a lot better for me. So, I can't go with the flow of any argument that suggests a reporting procedure is a bad thing.
posted by tel3path at 8:49 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


But there is so little machinery in place to keep them from snowballing, and the consequences are so severe, that it's worth preparing for.

The problem at hand is there's still precious little machinery in place to stop con goers from being harassed, and the consequences for that are pretty severe too. It's that which many cons, to their credit, are trying to prepare for.

Look, I get that false accusations might be a concern, but your harping on "uncorroborated reports" bothers me. A report could be both "uncorroborated", because the harasser deliberately acted when he and his victim were alone, and true as hell. Given the power imbalance that even now discourages reporting -- and often visits consequences on those who do -- I am comfortable with a con committee evaluating the victim's story, and the accused, and deciding who has the most credibility.

For that matter, juries often do the exact same thing.

What I'm not comfortable with is giving the accused the benefit of the doubt by pretending it's just a he-said, she-said situation in which both parties are at equal levels of privilege and power, nor insisting there be "corroboration" before a victim is believed.
posted by Gelatin at 8:53 AM on July 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


But there is so little machinery in place to keep them from snowballing, and the consequences are so severe, that it's worth preparing for.

Are you at all even remotely talking about con policies anymore? Or have the goalposts been shoved into some other realm?

If you're talking about criminal justice procedures, like someone filing a false report of assault with the cops, well, take it up with the criminal justice system, then. There's not a damn thing your average or even extraordinary con can do about that.

In general, you might want to keep in mind that most women have a ton of experience with there being so little machinery in place to keep something from snowballing into disaster. How many women's careers have been derailed by this guy's years of consequence-free harassment? For instance. Welcome to our world.
posted by rtha at 9:12 AM on July 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


Sexual harassment is, as described amply above, something that is not necessarily simple to "corroborate," and the limited resources and short time-frame of cons makes extensive investigation difficult. At the very least, however, there should be some method of reporting harassment, and those records should be kept. Most incidents of harassment and other forms of abuse come from a relatively small number of people, emboldened by a culture that empowers them. Weakening that culture and identifying the problem attendees is the minimum ethical response.

It's a little like carefully documenting and reporting academic dishonesty in classes -- the immediate punishment for the student is fairly mild (usually a failing grade on an assignment), but recording it means that serial offenders are quickly identified and removed from the university. It also clearly signals to the "sincerely misunderstanding" individual that their behavior is extremely problematic, and they need to remedy it. Services for helping students identify academic dishonesty issues are available, so there are route for the clueless to get educated. This isn't really the con's function, but there is no reason why the committee couldn't approve a list of general guidelines to give the person who claims "they were just misunderstood."

As for the issue of false reports, I know of a few that have been filed at various institutions. It happens more often than you would think (usually arising out of other toxic issues at the institution). However, it's a very poor rationale for dismissing abuse reports or, worse, not providing a venue for those reports. And a con is a different environment that a workplace, after all, so I agree that it's a derail.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:22 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


So you'd rather have "machinery" in place to stop the vanishingly rare instances of false accusations, instead of dealing with the very real and very prevalent instances of actual sexual harrassment and assault?

Notwithstanding the inevitable squall of how-dare-yous, it might be best just to acknowledge that the short answer to this question is "yes"* and move on quickly and cleanly, rather than giving this more time or attention than it deserves.

The way I see it, it sucks that a culture in which harassment is so normalized as to be expected is forcing men who have not a jot or tittle of harassing intent to have to second-guess their behavior, even though they are not part of the problem.

However, if the response is to seek to weaken what protections against harassment women have then the whole "not part of the problem" part is pretty much up for grabs again. There are good reasons to avoid scheduling one-on-one, closed-doors meetings with female students beyond the chimera of false accusations - an obvious one being that it saves them from having to worry about whether you're a giant creeper. Which sucks, but is hardly their fault.

*The long answer being "yes, obviously".
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, it does suck that men might have to second-guess their behavior -- I guess they will just have to live in the real world where WOMEN (who have not a jot or tittle of harassing intent) have been second-guessing their own behavior for centuries.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So you'd rather have "machinery" in place to stop the vanishingly rare instances of false accusations, instead of dealing with the very real and very prevalent instances of actual sexual harrassment and assault?

No, absolutely not. I apologize if I've given that impression. I would like machinery in place that deals with sexual harassment harshly, while retaining the ability to deal with false reports. It seems to me that many believe the former is the only important element, and the latter not significant at all, and that bothers me. But it is emphatically not the case that I think it's not worth dealing with sexual harassment.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


it sucks that a culture in which harassment is so normalized as to be expected is forcing men who have not a jot or tittle of harassing intent to have to second-guess their behavior, even though they are not part of the problem.

Yeah, I'd imagine that might suck almost as much as it sucks to have to always travel in a group, never be alone with a man, never imbibe alcohol at a social gathering, never dress in anything less modest than garb appropriate for a member of a FLDS cult group, never make eye contact with or smile at a man, never raise one's voice or call attention to oneself in any way, in case you are harrassed or assaulted, because if you haven't toed the constantly moving invisible line (and even if you have), it's going to be assumed that you did something to deserve being harassed or assaulted.
posted by palomar at 9:42 AM on July 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


As for the issue of false reports, I know of a few that have been filed at various institutions. It happens more often than you would think (usually arising out of other toxic issues at the institution). However, it's a very poor rationale for dismissing abuse reports or, worse, not providing a venue for those reports. And a con is a different environment that a workplace, after all, so I agree that it's a derail.

I mostly agree, but for the fact that people decided to name James Frenkel.

If you remove that, it's an interesting and valuable story about process and venue—how they work, how they can go right or wrong, and the social cost of not having them. In that light it's good that nobody disclosed the exact allegations, because those details don't matter and would be a derail. What matters is that when something happened, someone complained, and the process unfolded thus and so. Then we discuss: either this process makes people feel safer and more welcomed, or not.

But naming Frenkel makes the story, at least to some degree, about this particular incident. At which point it's not unreasonable for people to want details about the allegations—which, again, I don't think would be helpful—and it's not unreasonable for people to talk about false allegations. Both are derails from the more productive conversation, and that's unfortunate.
posted by cribcage at 9:42 AM on July 4, 2013


tel3path: "Well, I have experience of being falsely accused, via subsequent gossip/bragging? by the person who harassed me. So I'm not at all unsympathetic to the fear of false accusation."

OMG, This. I swear before all that is Saucy in FSM's name, if I had slept with even half of the conbois that have claimed to have seen me naked, I wouldn't have gotten out of bed in YEARS. I'm fairly convinced that one of the things that led to the downfall of my first marriage was the constant chatter about how I must be sleeping with everyone, because why else would I be in the ProSuite. It's like water dripping on a stone; if the story gets told enough, people start to believe it.

Here's an example. There's a story that STILL makes the rounds of a couple of large conventions, almost 25 years after it first began; the story goes that I, my sister, and our best friend, all women who were trying to break into comics at the time, told X number of fanboys to meet us in our suite. (Where X = 5 to 30) Then, the story goes, we told them to strip naked and fight, and then we slept with the victors while the defeated were allowed to watch. Which...what that is...I don't even... What?

I mean it's so ludicrous that your jaw drops that anyone could possibly believe it, or repeat it, and yet...there the story is, still being told around con campfires two decades later. People still ask if any part of it is true. Unbelievable.
posted by dejah420 at 9:47 AM on July 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


it sucks that a culture in which harassment is so normalized as to be expected is forcing men who have not a jot or tittle of harassing intent to have to second-guess their behavior, even though they are not part of the problem.

Yep. It also sucks that many of them seem to blame women who don't want to be harassed rather than blaming the men who *are* doing the harassing.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:00 AM on July 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


I would like machinery in place that deals with sexual harassment harshly, while retaining the ability to deal with false reports. It seems to me that many believe the former is the only important element, and the latter not significant at all, and that bothers me.

I am genuinely not seeing this, either here on MF or in the various pieces linked.

What I am seeing is people pointing out that SF fandom & conventions have existed for decades with no harassment policies, and/or with policies that look nice on paper but no actual process for dealing with reports of harassment, and/or said processes being administered by people who are indifferent at best. And when an environment is that screwed up, that behind the times, the focus of the discussion is naturally going to be on fixing these major problems, and not so much on relatively rare outliers.

In other words, people are failing to talk about false reporting not because they think it's unimportant, but simply because the larger issue of ANY formal reporting of sexual harassment is still so relatively new and undeveloped in the context of SF fandom & conventions.

When your car engine's on fire, you're not so much concerned with proper tire pressure. Doesn't mean you don't recognize that proper tire pressure is real & affects your driving, but, y'know, "CAR ON FIRE" is gonna be the focus of your attention. It seems to me that you're conflating a lack of discussion of a topic with actual hostility towards a topic, and I don't think that's the case.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:13 AM on July 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


dejah420, I think that's in the category of "stories so awesome it would be great if they were true."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2013


I'm fairly convinced that one of the things that led to the downfall of my first marriage was the constant chatter about how I must be sleeping with everyone, because why else would I be in the ProSuite.

A story that illustrates this is awesome?
posted by palomar at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


"dejah420, I think that's in the category of "stories so awesome ... "
Never in my life have I wished more for that Picard slapping his forehead gif.
seriously tfb, I am torn between you being either trollish or autistic and your username is not doing that internal argument any good :(
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:26 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, did you not read the part about her belief that those stories and gossip may have contributed to the breakdown of her marriage?

I am delurking solely to state that I am appalled and frankly at a loss as to how you consider any part of that awesome or fodder for funny asides about "what if it were true?"
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:27 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Not awesome.
posted by ambrosia at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


dejah420, I think that's in the category of "stories so awesome it would be great if they were true."

Yeah, no.

I've had experience with this sort of telephony-everyone-adds-a-new-detail-until-it-turns-into-an-urban-legend type thing. When a woman who sleeps with X number of persons is labeled a slut but a guy who sleeps with >= X number is a certified studmuffin, this sort of story just turns you into the resident whore who is easily written off about everything.
posted by romakimmy at 10:29 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, no---that anyone believed the story is not awesome. The breakdown of the marriage is terrible. Dejah, my sincere apologies if I gave the impression that those things are anything other than awful.

The fantastical image of 30 conbois stripped naked, fighting bare-handed, and then winning the favors of a female while the defeated bear witness (presumably beating hand drums all through the hotel suite) is awesome. The thought of the hotel staff wondering what the hell is going on in the suite where this gladiatorial combat is happening is even funnier. This is very much in the category of "stories that would be instantly disbelieved if anyone gave a second's thought to physical plausibility," and it speaks very poorly of those who believed it that they failed to do that sort of basic bullshit test. Which is something of what I was talking about long ago about subjecting stories to that sort of basic plausibility check.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:30 AM on July 4, 2013


You missed the part where she said this story gets repeated all the time and people believe it because she's a woman and the only reason she or any other woman would be in the ProSuite at a con is because she does outlandish sexual things.
posted by palomar at 10:35 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "The fantastical image of 30 conbois stripped naked, fighting bare-handed, and then winning the favors of a female while the defeated bear witness (presumably beating hand drums all through the hotel suite) is awesome."

This is not awesome either. In this view, the woman is a prize. The boys get to win the woman as a reward for being the manliest in the room, and the other boys watch the man taking his victory, envying him for it, with the runner-up award being that they get to watch her naked and having sex. She essentially becomes entertainment for the boys, who in this vision, become a cheering section rooting the dude on as if it's a victory he is going to win by the power of his mighty penis.

Or, if I put a more positive spin on it: she can't decide amongst the many many men she wants to sleep with, so she'll let them decide who is going to sleep with her. She'll just go along for the ride because hey, this way, she doesn't have to decide who is the most desirable. She'll let the men decide who is the most worthy of her, and go along with how it shakes out because really she's just there for the sex. Tee hee.
posted by julen at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's nice that you think that kind of story would be disbelieved by anyone with a working bullshit detector.

Uncountable years of history must then lead me to believe that most men don't have working bullshit detectors. You cannot be this unfamiliar with the fact of women having their lives ruined (not just socially, but ruined as in killed for their alleged "betrayals") because of shit some men make up about what slutty sluts they are.
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


TFB. Dude. You're digging yourself deeper and deeper.

I hate being shushed, and I'm not one to want to shush others, but you're being hurtful. I don't think you're being hurtful intentionally, but you might want to stop and head-check yourself.
posted by nacho fries at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Um, part of the reason that image is so "fantastical" is that - despite what an awful lot of guys (maybe especially geek or socially awkward guys) seem to think - in the real world women have nowhere near the sort of power to make that scenario actually happen.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:41 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


the favors of a female

This phrasing is super creepy.
posted by nacho fries at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


If we're going to toss around the word hurtful, then I'm curious whether I'm the only one who flagged that "autistic" crack. Because WTF.
posted by cribcage at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Uncountable years of history must then lead me to believe that most men don't have working bullshit detectors.

That is without a doubt true. Most people don't have working bullshit detectors (or have deliberately turned them off), which creates a great many problems.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2013


Dejah, my sincere apologies ...

I believe that the sincerest form of apology would be for you to stop saying things that inflame and hurt people when you have more then adequate proof that is what you are doing. I suspect that this is not going to happen voluntarily.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


But naming Frenkel makes the story, at least to some degree, about this particular incident.

Which was one of the reasons I didn't name him here as the perp, because really, the story isn't about him. However, we should note that Frenkel wasn't doxxed in any way, but named by one of the hosts of the party the harassment took place at. At this point there really isn't any question that what he did wasn't harassment of some kind and the actual details really don't matter, especially as soon as he was named, it became clear he has a reputation for it.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Autistic crack wasn't cool. Good catch. Duly noted and flagged.
posted by nacho fries at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2013


I would like machinery in place that deals with sexual harassment harshly, while retaining the ability to deal with false reports.

Well, I have good news: That's exactly what's being discussed, in the form of the victim making a report to the con committee, who evaluates the claim and acts accordingly. Is it possible that someone, somewhere, might slip something past a well-intentioned committee and get someone booted out of a con unfairly on the basis of a false report? I suppose so, but I'd point out that it was just last year that we had the situation at Readercon, in which there was an unmistakable (and witnessed-aplenty) incident of harassment, and the con committee didn't follow its own policy due in part to the prominence of the perpetrator in the fandom.

It seems to me that many believe the former is the only important element, and the latter not significant at all, and that bothers me.

Then it seems to me you aren't reading the comments accurately. It doesn't make "the latter not significant at all" to consider the imbalance of power, and the pressures against reporting harassment, and not give both sides the benefit of the doubt, or accept an "uncorroborated" accusation.

posted by Gelatin at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yes. Please find a better way to communicate what you're aiming for than just using "autistic" as dismissive accusation.
posted by cortex at 10:49 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I used the wrong word then my apologies. I thought that was the appropriate word for someone psychologically incapable of detecting other people's feelings - such as the huge amount of negative feedback given by the men and women here regarding his continued comments. My meaning was that I am torn as to whether he is being sincere but inept as opposed to intentionally trollish but I feel that I have resolved that question at this point. Let's not derail this with an autie debate. If I used the incorrect word again, my apologies - someone memail me please and tell me what the correct phrasing should be.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:53 AM on July 4, 2013


part of the reason that image is so "fantastical" is that - despite what an awful lot of guys (maybe especially geek or socially awkward guys) seem to think - in the real world women have nowhere near the sort of power to make that scenario actually happen.

Not just that---it's physically ridiculous. I just imagine Detective Columbo hearing that story... "Wow, a battle royale, hunh? Musta been pretty exciting. I bet there were some bloody noses there, right... How'd you get the blood out of the carpet? Plus all the furniture you probably had to replace, how'd you square that with the hotel? Or did they hear the sounds of 30 people playing Fight Club and send security? They didn't? Wow, those must be 30 quiet people..." etc.

The story isn't just filled with retrograde assumptions, it's actually impossible, and anyone who believed it for a second is a dope– a category which includes a staggering number of people. And again, that's why it's valuable to subject a story you hear about people at cons to a basic plausibility check.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:02 AM on July 4, 2013


dejah420, I think that's in the category of "stories so awesome it would be great if they were true."

Are you kidding?!
posted by Gelatin at 11:04 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The story isn't just filled with retrograde assumptions, it's actually impossible, and anyone who believed it for a second is a dope– a category which includes a staggering number of people. And again, that's why it's valuable to subject a story you hear about people at cons to a basic plausibility check.

So... you're equating the years of verbal abuse she suffered with the act of women speaking up about their own abuse?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


anyone who believed it for a second is a dope

It really feels like you're dismissing the impact of dejah420's story here by just airily proclaiming that anyone who would believe that story is an idiot, after she told you that the story was so pervasive that it may have ruined her marriage. In your own words, could you explain why you think so many people are idiots about this particular issue? After all, they can't just be GLOBAL idiots, or they wouldn't hold jobs or be able to operate cars. And, given that you obviously believe that the only problem here is their frank lack of cognitive skills, what processes or procedures should be put into place to prevent them from damaging the lives and reputations of others?
posted by KathrynT at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


But "belief" isn't a binary, an either-or proposition. The point is not that people are believing that version of the story verbatim with no reservations. The point is that a lot of people are willing to believe that some version of that story happened because it reinforces their preconceived notions about all sorts of stuff about gender roles and sexuality and how much people are getting laid at conventions.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:19 AM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Serious question: what do y'all hope to gain from this exchange?

It's rhetorical, in the sense that you should ignore me if you have a good answer and probably move on if you don't. But seriously, I can't imagine how continuing to analyze and critique and deconstruct TFB's reaction to Dejah420's anecdote is likely to move the ball forward in any way related to this FPP.
posted by cribcage at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2013


Yeah, I also think that my incident contributed to the loss of a job (it was a professional situation, not a convention, though of course in dejah's case the convention was a professional situation for her though not for everyone in attendance).

I agree that, considered from a certain angle, incidents like these can be hilarious to contemplate. It's not that I don't still look back and chortle. But, in the end, the consequences to me were not funny. At all.

So yeah, I definitely appreciate the absurd and I see the funny side of this stuff sometimes. And yeah, I get that false accusations can have devastating effects on the lives of the accused (oh yeah do I get it). So can harassment. Just wait for the laffs when the harassed and the accused are the same person [wipes tears of laughter off own face with a squeegee /] [i think they're tears of laughter /] [yeah, no /]
posted by tel3path at 11:24 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I used the wrong word then my apologies

You didn't use the wrong word.

I don't see anything wrong with using "autistic" as a neutral descriptor of behavior when the clear intent was to absolve TFB of blame for a remark that would otherwise have been sheer bad faith and made everything else he said in this thread look like sniggering concern trolling.

Saying someone is autistic is not an insult any more than saying someone has cancer is an insult.

Those of you who are trying to characterize it as such are the ones demeaning autistic people by implying there is something so horrible about the condition it can't be used as an adjective in polite society.

I suggest you examine your own consciences and quit projecting your own prejudices onto others.
posted by jamjam at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2013


KathrynT: "It really feels like you're dismissing the impact of dejah420's story here by just airily proclaiming that anyone who would believe that story is an idiot, after she told you that the story was so pervasive that it may have ruined her marriage. "

To be fair; it wasn't *that* story, it was that story was part of a giant tapestry of stories. At the time, there were almost no women in comics that weren't either models dressed in costumes at shows to man booths...or...ya, pretty much, that was it. There were a few women in comics that were doing amazing stuff, but for all I know, even being the head of a major comic company probably didn't insulate you from crap from some of the top artists upon which your line depended. It wasn't just me. People told stories about Karen Berger and Jill Thompson that were equally implausible and stupid. Pretty much, if you had boobs, and had any share of a spotlight, even peripherally, you were a target for the rumor mill. Because one of my books got banned, and the CBLDF was fighting the case, I already had that "walk on the wild side" batsignal for some certain segment that was sure because there was a penis in my book, I must surely want a penis in me.

And man, I'm scheduled for my first con appearance in decades at a writer's workshop in October...and now I'm thinking of cancelling, because fuck...I just don't want to see all those people again, now that I've had time to think about it.
posted by dejah420 at 11:33 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I can look back on some terrible things that have happened to me and see humorous aspects. But that's for me to decide, not anyone else, well-meaning or not. And I personally don't give a fuck to hear anyone else's opinion of whether or not a traumatic event that didn't happen to them can be seen in a humorous light or not.
posted by rtha at 11:33 AM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


dejah420 - Go. Be proud and hold your head up high (or fake it until you make it) because some young woman there will see that and realize that she can too. I'm proud of you and I'm certain many others are as well.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 11:37 AM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Humor is chaos, remembered in tranquility"---James Thurber

The key word being TRANQUILITY
posted by brujita at 11:37 AM on July 4, 2013


Okay, so the problem with stepping up sexual harassment policies is that you'll get false reports. Fair enough. In that circumstance, isn't the solution just to ensure that women have equal power and say at cons? Because it strikes me that the only reason why a woman would stake her reputation to file a false report of sexual harassment is because she's been wronged but she has no other recourse to seek redress. Maybe if women were actually listened to instead of dismissed when they brought up concerns, they wouldn't have to make false reports to seek redress against a guy? Isn't the massively skewed power balance here the whole problem?
posted by Conspire at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not quite true. Stanislaw Lem was sort of expelled in the seventies, for being too critical of US science fiction...

SFWA had extended an honorary membership (a category that had been created for non-writers with a financial interest in the field, e.g. heirs to literary estates) to Lem, which was subsequently identified as against its own bylaws for someone who qualified as a dues-paying member. So they terminated a membership that never should have existed by their own rules (admittedly this was noticed only after there were people calling for the membership's revocation.)

Lem could have joined as a dues-paying member if he felt like it; in fact, Frederik Pohl offered to pay the dues out of his own pocket, but Lem declined. I don't consider this event to constitute an expulsion, something with its own formal procedure defined in SFWA's bylaws, which procedure didn't enter play at all.
posted by Zed at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Serious question: what do y'all hope to gain from this exchange?

It's rhetorical, in the sense that you should ignore me if you have a good answer and probably move on if you don't. But seriously, I can't imagine how continuing to analyze and critique and deconstruct TFB's reaction to Dejah420's anecdote is likely to move the ball forward in any way related to this FPP.


This comment makes it plain to the few who might have had any doubts that your show of outrage and indignation at the use of "autistic" was utterly false, and merely an attempt to deflect the attack on TFB.

That's a shameful manipulation, cribcage, and it's shameful moderation fell for it.
posted by jamjam at 11:55 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Serious question: what do y'all hope to gain from this exchange?

Possibly a dialog with those not so emotionally tone-deaf to woman's issues so that they may gain a greater understanding as to the realities around them an so to possibly effect change.

For the minority who believe that such dialog is a giant waste of time then I agree that it likely is and they perhaps should possibly look elsewhere.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those of you who are trying to characterize it as such are the ones demeaning autistic people by implying there is something so horrible about the condition it can't be used as an adjective in polite society.

I don't think the thread is really going to benefit from an argument about this, but to be clear, no, the objection is that it's specifically reducing people with autism to generic caricatures against which bad behavior can be referenced. Autistic isn't a dirty word, but people often use it recklessly as a way to say "oh, you're like them" and consequently tar folks on the spectrum by comparison to some specific bit of problematic behavior as if they necessarily behave similarly. It is, in practice, an insult to people with autism to do this.

That's in addition to the more general problems with casually diagnosing strangers with medical conditions as a form of argument.

I am not sure why you are taking the tack you are taking here, jamjam, but you seem to be accusing people of doing something that doesn't even make sense in context and sort of doubling down on the "shame on you" angle of it in a way that is not cool.
posted by cortex at 12:02 PM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


But seriously, I can't imagine how continuing to analyze and critique and deconstruct TFB's reaction to Dejah420's anecdote is likely to move the ball forward in any way related to this FPP.

This sort of leaves out that TFB keeps doubling down - these responsese are not recurring in a vaccuum, but in response to new stimuli. But you are correct in the sense that TFB is going to keep doubling down until either everyone gives up in disgust, or a mod explicitly forbids further discussion - either of which will read as a win state to TFB. An actual win state is not achievable at this table.

So, we have a kind of set of nested derails - TFB's orginal derail-inducing response, the derail within that derail about Podkayne's use of "autistic" in responding to that derail, and now a metaderail asking a question about the perpetuation of the initial derail.

Rerailing somewhat - although probably not for long - I wanted to come back to something you said earlier:

But naming Frenkel makes the story, at least to some degree, about this particular incident. At which point it's not unreasonable for people to want details about the allegations—which, again, I don't think would be helpful—and it's not unreasonable for people to talk about false allegations. Both are derails from the more productive conversation, and that's unfortunate.

I don't know if "unreasonable" is the appropriate adjective here. It's understandable, or at least not surprising, that people might want details - some people believe that it is very important that they be given all the information they need to decide whether or not this was actual harassment or a false accusation, and for some reason think that a description of the event would provide the information they need. Others probably just like details - if one sees this as a story, it's going to be an unsatisfying one without that narrative element.

For that matter, if someone wants to find a reason to criticise or judge her, it's going to be easier if they have something they can either flat-out say is a lie or argue is not harassment harassment, could have been meant as a compliment, might have been misconstrued, is a minor thing to destroy a man's reputation over, etc.

So, plenty of reasons, all reasonable in the sense of comprehensible by the rational analysis of others, if not in every case reasonable in the sense of motivated by reason.

The same applies, of cours, to the false accusation. It's understandable that someone might want to shift the focus to false accusations (which almost never happen, for reasons already enumerated) rather than actual harassment (which does), but that isn't the same as reasonable.

However, it's also understandable - and indeed reasonable - if Elise Matthesen decides not to share that information. Because her intention - explicitly stated - is not to tell an entertaining story, or to provide a data point for arguments about whether behavior X is or is not harassment. All that matters, in terms of her aims, is that something reportable to a convention authority took place, and she reported it, and this is how she did it and what happened afterwards.

So, it would be extraneous, and indeed actively distracting, information in the context of an instructive piece of text on how women can report harassment at conventions, and what they might expect to happen next. It would be a self-derail, essentially, and there are, as we can see, plenty enough attempted derails without her getting in on that game.

So, it's understandable that some people want more details, and it's understandable that Matthesen is not eager to share those details publicly, to people with no role in the reporting process.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


cortex: No I wasn't implying that no, you're like them and find it educational that my remark would be construed as such - something that I will consider in the future when wanting to use similar phrasing. My intent, which I thought obvious - though obviously not - was to say that the poster was in fact possibly autistic (as opposed to being like them) - which I hold to be a legitimate, excusable, and not stigmatized condition accounting for and explaining the posters behavior which I would otherwise only attribute to smarmy trollishness.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:10 PM on July 4, 2013


either of which will read as a win state to TFB.

No, not really.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:27 PM on July 4, 2013


Well I should be on my way to Westercon now (I should have left earlier but I'm turning into such a hermit) but if I get harassed ( at 50-something not likely) I am now ready to kick ass or chew bubblegum .... and I'm all out of ....

:)
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:27 PM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think there is now a lot of bad faith going on in this discussion, on both sides.

TFB, you are making some honestly valid points, BUT you have come to them by route of seeming to prioritize the potential harm of false accusations over the potential harm of sexual harassment, so now you are getting the backlash for doing that.

Harassment of women, especially at cons, is a Thing which happens. I think we can all agree that making it easier to address harassment when it happens is also a good thing. In this case, no one involved seems to question Elise Matheson at all about this being a case of harassment. So, while your worries about witch hunts seem sincere, you are not really doing anything constructive by bringing them up here, unless you can point to something specific in the reporting process or procedures you think is problematic. Otherwise, it's just straw turtles all the way down.

That being said, attributing every negative connotation to any comment TFB writes because you don't agree with TFB is really shitty behavior, too. Instead of logically engaging with each point as a whole, nit-picking specific words and phrases has become the default and used as an excuse to pile on.


Podkayne of Pasadena: I believe that the sincerest form of apology would be for you to stop saying things that inflame and hurt people when you have more then adequate proof that is what you are doing. I suspect that this is not going to happen voluntarily.
...
Podkayne of Pasadena: Possibly a dialog with those not so emotionally tone-deaf to woman's issues so that they may gain a greater understanding as to the realities around them an so to possibly effect change.


PoP, you JUST carelessly and thoughtlessly labelled someone "autistic" in this thread, and then gave a very half-assed non-apology after being called on it.

As you are quick to point the finger at others for being "tone-deaf" on an issue that is important to you, maybe you want to look at how you might be tone-deaf in other ways (like not recognizing how offensive it is diagnose someone over the internet, not to mention throwing the whole autistic spectrum under the "emotionally tone-deaf" bus).

Then maybe you could cut them some slack, too.
posted by misha at 12:31 PM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would like to point out to those insisting that they *need* to know the specifics of this incident that Mr. Frenkel is free to make his side of the story public if he feels it will help exonerate him, yet has chosen not to do so.
posted by 1066 at 12:44 PM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, and dejah420, I hope you are able to rise above all that nonsensical crap and go ahead with the convention and writer's workshop. It sucks that your real life suffered as a result of, basically, urban legends and gossipmongers.

If it helps, I look forward to your contributions here and think you are awesome. Best of luck in the trenches.
posted by misha at 12:47 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is without a doubt true. Most people don't have working bullshit detectors (or have deliberately turned them off), which creates a great many problems.

And again, that's why it's valuable to subject a story you hear about people at cons to a basic plausibility check.

What are we supposed to infer from these statements? That it's implausible somehow that Frenkel harassed Matthesen, or that upon sharing her story a number of other women came forward with remarkably similar experiences? That we should subject the stories of the multiple women who have come forward with their experiences to even more nit-picking and second-guessing than has already occurred? That we're supposed to subject the notion that women are routinely harassed at cons to some kind of "bullshit detector" to avoid causing "problems" from those poor, misunderstood fellows who perpetrated the offense?

Sorry, but the only bullshit I'm detecting is the implication that harassment isn't a problem, or that again, we should treat harassers, who have enjoyed the privilege of spoiling cons for untold numbers of people because of their rancid little power games, to a benefit of the doubt they don't deserve.

Once again: The problem here is that certain men are acting in a reprehensible -- and deliberate -- fashion, and in doing so spoiling the experiences of our fellow enthusiasts, to the point that some don't even attend cons. These creeps are entitled to tell their side of the story, but beyond that they deserve not one bit of the kind of special consideration you seem to imply they should receive.

Women do get harassed at cons. All the time. That's no bullshit. Allowing it to continue is.
posted by Gelatin at 1:25 PM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


but if I get harassed ( at 50-something not likely)

Uh, Elise M. is 50-something.

And as a 50 year old woman who gets hassled on the regular, I'm not keen on you perpetuating the untruth that harassment only happens to younger women.
posted by nacho fries at 1:33 PM on July 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not keen on you perpetuating the untruth that harassment only happens to younger women.

To quote a cliche, it isn't about sex; it's about power.
posted by Gelatin at 1:37 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I said - not likely. I did not say "impossible". My personal experience has been that as a much younger woman I experienced harassment far,far more than as a middle aged one. There is nothing weird or unusual or out of the ordinary saying something like this and I don't think creating an environment where everyone has to minutely scrutinize every word or phrasing is helpful to anyone.

Any, and I do mean any, reasonable person would know by my context and participation here that I do not remotely believe what you imply that I do. And yes, to be very clear, I find your objection to be an unreasonable one.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:42 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


PoP, you might not have experienced harrassment as an older woman, but the subject of this discussion IS an older woman. So maybe your generalizations aren't that helpful here.
posted by palomar at 1:47 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not keen on you perpetuating the untruth that harassment only happens to younger women.

I don't think she was doing that, but merely speaking from personal experience. It may be that the recent few comments have become a bit too grarry to give people the benefit of the doubt?
posted by MartinWisse at 1:48 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


So maybe your generalizations aren't that helpful here.
Seriously? I just recounted an experience of something that happened to me 18 months ago above. You are reading what you want to read - I can not help that. I fail to see how my saying "my experience" suddenly becomes a generalization. :(
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:49 PM on July 4, 2013


Any and I do mean any reasonable person

A reasonable person would kinda sit back and scratch her head that, in a thread about a 52-year-old woman who was harassed at a Con, another 50-something woman would make a remark that she wasn't considering harassment toward herself likely given her age.

MartinWisse, giving others the benefit of the doubt is a good policy; I agree. However, my experience on Metafilter is that there is too often misinformation/bias about what it is really like to be a 50-something woman, many times having to do with our supposed "invisibility" when it comes to both wanted and unwanted male attention. I've popped in to correct the record in the past, and will continue to do so.
posted by nacho fries at 2:01 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


What are we supposed to infer from these statements? That it's implausible somehow that Frenkel harassed Matthesen, or that upon sharing her story a number of other women came forward with remarkably similar experiences?

No, not at all. The story about Frankel's harrassment should be subject to a basic physical plausibility check, like all stories should be. Given that it passes as far as anyone knows, and given that there are multiple other reports, it's almost certainly true.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:08 PM on July 4, 2013


I'm curious, TFB, as to what would make you stop doubting that this particular man is a harasser. It seems like a formal complaint corroborated by multiple accounts of other incidents of harrassment isn't enough. Would you have to witness it with your own eyes to believe it? Are you just not inclined to believe the veracity of women?
posted by palomar at 2:13 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm also curious as to what would make you believe all the stories about Frankel are false. What would these women have to gain from banding together to smear his reputation with false allegations? What would be the benefit in taking down a well-known editor for one of the top SFF publishing houses?
posted by palomar at 2:27 PM on July 4, 2013


It passes "as far as anyone knows"? You still seem to be expressing a belief that the situation might not be as the public record seems to indicate that it is. Given that this is about as clear-cut an incident of harassment as it gets -- the sole difference being the first of many incidents to be reported -- I still fail to see why you seem to be giving Frenkel some benefit of the doubt. I really don't understand that stance.

Just for the record here, I don't think anyone is suggesting that con authorities who receive a harassment complaint don't make a "basic plausibility check." Of course they should, and I have little doubt they will. That's why I, for one, encourage reporting. But this endless second-guessing makes me understand why some are reluctant to do so.

That said, once the con committee has heard from those involved and made its decision, I disagree that anyone else is entitled to the facts of the case if the involved parties don't care to share them, and not sharing should not imply that the incident somehow fails a "basic plausibility check."
posted by Gelatin at 2:39 PM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


However, my experience on Metafilter is that there is too often misinformation/bias about what it is really like to be a 50-something woman, many times having to do with our supposed "invisibility" when it comes to both wanted and unwanted male attention. I've popped in to correct the record in the past, and will continue to do so.

Sorry to contribute to a derail, but I've likely been one of the posters who have discussed 'invisibility' over 50 w/r/t male attention, and for me it's a real situation, one I am mostly grateful for (when out in public) and very occasionally a bit wistful about (when contemplating the possibility of ever entering into a relationship again). I do experience a kind of sense of having 'aged out' of, for lack of a better word, the dating pool. Of course, many of my friends are younger than me, so there's that; but the culture brutally reinforces the undesirability of women over 50-- forget 50, over 45. Just look at how Madonna is treated.

posted by jokeefe at 3:21 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a fat 45 year old who gets harassed constantly.

I am beyond fed up with those who think that I should be grateful when someone who thinks that women are nothing more than their vulvas blatantly lets me know this( which includes a female high school teacher who I had thought up until then was a feminist).
posted by brujita at 4:25 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "I can't agree. We are not talking about what can be done about false harassment accusations, we are talking what to do about *all* harassment accusations. That includes both the (many) true ones and the (few) false ones. The whole point of a policy is to cover all incidents."

Oh come on. We don't have rules in books that say things like, "If you don't love a person and don't plan on living with them, here's how to not get married to them." Laws and rules exist to lay out how normal, law abiding, rule following people should interact. The rule does not need to lay out false accusations even if they happen constantly, no more than you need to specify all ingredients to omit from a recipe.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:29 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Palomar: I think Frankel is probably guilty as sin. We dont have access to the evidence or even the full story, but multiple independent reports are pretty convincing. And accordingly, I'm going to be mighty reluctant to buy any future anthologies with his name on the front.

But gelatin, in response to your horror at that "as far as we know," well I'll put it this way: I've been a New Yorker for a while. In the Central Park jogger case, we had (we thought) material evidence, we had the victim identifying her rapists in a line-up, we had the rapists confessing to the crime, we had a proper adversarial process with presumption of innocence- every caution was taken to make sure we had the right guys. And we didn't. You never, ever *know*.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:09 PM on July 4, 2013


I'm really, really uncomfortable with the comparison of someone being called out on their repetitive inappropriate behavior and a situation in which institutionalized racism and shoddy police work led to wrongful convictions for 5 young men.
posted by palomar at 8:27 PM on July 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yes, because again, there's that presumption that an innocent person is being railroaded, which tends to completely ignore the actual situation of women being harassed and nothing being done about it. A situation that is, fortunately, changing.

I maintain that whatever we know or think we know about an incident of this sort is irrelevant. The so-called "juicy details" of the recent Frankel incident were deliberately withheld from Internet second-guessers; they were given to the con authorities, as was proper
.
If you have reason to believe that Frankel is somehow innocent of the wrongdoing he's alleged to have done, by all means state it. But this insistence that we can never know for sure, once again, gives undeserved cover to people who already enjoy a position of relative power and a license for them to continue to harass, and I'll have none of it.
posted by Gelatin at 8:35 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think we're getting into ontological waters here. Because yes, I do think we cannot ever know what happened if we weren't there (and even if we were, it can be uncertain). Every system ever devised for finding the truth sometimes---frequently---fails. That's just a fact of life. We create systems to find out the best approximation of what happened, we create the systems that work as well as we can make them work, but that's all we've got. As I said above, I think all the evidence points to Frankel being guilty, therefore he's probably guilty, therefore he should be treated as guilty. But all those of us who weren't there will never, ever know. And assuming that you know is dangerous.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:10 PM on July 4, 2013


I'm sorry, all your waffling still reads to me as making excuses for people like Frankel. And that's unacceptable.
posted by palomar at 10:11 PM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Central Park Jogger had no memory of what happened to her; the accused were intimidated into making their confessions and there WAS dna evidence from the true rapist-- who had raped and murdered someone shortly before the CPJ attack--but no one bothered to check for any matches.
posted by brujita at 10:12 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a reason that the standard of proof in criminal cases is "beyond reasonable doubt": we would rather err on the side of inaction than inflict an unjust punishment. But when it comes to protecting people via restraining orders courts apply a lower standard of proof, typically "the preponderance of the evidence"; that is, the balance of probabilities, a finding that the claim is more likely than not.

A convention's committee is not a court, of course, and it would be silly to force it to use the same standards as a court. But we certainly shouldn't expect it to be more rigorous than a court. I would say that a sufficient standard of proof in things like this would be "a reasonable belief": that is, if the committee should feel free to expel someone if they reasonably believe they are a threat or have breached the convention rules. I suppose that anything less than expulsion (the report just says that Frankel was told to keep away from the victim) might require an even lower standard of proof.

As it happens there are apparently multiple accounts of Frankel's behavior on previous occasions, plus a formal complaint from someone who sounds precise and dispassionate in her recollections. We haven't heard Frankel's side, but I'd say that the standard of proof for saying "you can't represent our company any more" or "please don't come to our con again" has been well and truly met.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:20 PM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Joe, I agree.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:46 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not particularly insightful tin reference to the links but I was asked for a blowjob at an anime convention. Twice. In one day. By different dudes. No real buildup to this for one of them, just in a semi-secluded corner where someone walks up and says 'hey nice costume', asks for a photo, makes a joke and asks for a blowjob. The other got me alone in a hallway near the hotel rooms and made the same request but said it was his birthday because apparently that would make me change my mind.

I was dressed as a dude, I can't even imagine if I'd been in female costume. It is ridiculous how much this shit happens. In hindsight I should have complained, even though I'm more than certain there wasn't a specific process for this.

Ugh. People.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:15 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The other got me alone in a hallway near the hotel rooms and made the same request but said it was his birthday because apparently that would make me change my mind.

Guys, I don't care if your Smeagol in riverfolk attire cosplay is dead-on screen-accurate and you can absolutely nail your Andy Serkis impersonation, this is not an approach that is ever likely to work with a complete stranger.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am delurking solely to state that I am appalled and frankly at a loss as to how you consider any part of that awesome or fodder for funny asides about "what if it were true?

I think that it's horrible that that story and others like it destroyed someone's marriage. I've also been fodder for stories like that. But I don't think that means that anyone who thinks the story would be kind of awesome if it were true is necessarily an awful person.

I think it'd be kind of funny - if women actually had the power that fanboys think they do, and could somehow make this happen. If the music from the Pon Farr Kirk/Spock fight started to play, everyone had to strip to the waist, and beat each other with swords, until the pain! In my head, though, I think the guys who had just been beating each other for hours would triumphantly announce "I have won!" and then collapse in a heap of unable-to-sex. And I think that's what makes it funny - because things get funnier as they become a more unlikely scenario. Talking about seeing a bear in a zoo isn't funny - talking about a bear walking into a bar is funny. Talking about a snake getting out of its cage isn't funny - talking about a snake mastermind escaping is.
posted by corb at 5:27 AM on July 5, 2013


I think "people are not bears" is a pretty good maxim to live by.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:29 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


... Which is to say, people are not narrative elements.

The bear (or the snake) in the joke is a narrative element: it has no selfhood outside the joke, and no purpose except to set up a punchline within the joke. People are not narrative elements - when they are talking about their experiences, they are not setting up a punchline, or providing the raw material for a funny or otherwise impressive response.

dejah420 has talked in this thread about how her career and her personal life were severely damaged by sexual harassment and misogyny from congoers - how, in effect, it was made difficult and dangerous for her to access a vital professional and social resource for workers in comic books, through harassment and whispering campaigns.

Thinking that the behavior of the people who sprang to the defense of her assailant, or who made up or believed scurrilous rumors of her sexual excesses is so egregious as to be on some level absurd is certainly within the set of expected responses - to use cribcage's terminology, it's reasonable. Dejah laughed after cold-cocking the man who groped her, and only later realised how totally fucked up it was that (a) it had happened at all and (b) people were concluding from her reaction that she was out of control.

However, then sharing one's own humorous speculation on what the finer details of those scurrilous rumors must have looked like is a choice, and it's a pull on the conversational tiller in a particular direction - away from the real world and the real-world consequences of the rumors, and towards a display of creative and humorous prowess at one remove from what actually took place. The reductio ad absurdum has a place, but it's a harder tool to use than it looks.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:31 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


But I don't think that means that anyone who thinks the story would be kind of awesome if it were true is necessarily an awful person.

I think it'd be kind of funny - if women actually had the power that fanboys think they do, and could somehow make this happen.


Oh, FFS, we're talking about a scenario used for continued harassment of someone over an extended period of time leading to a dissolved marriage. It isn't funny unless you want to decontextualize this entire conversation, which is awful on a number of levels and reads as a defense of someone saying pretty indefensible things. I mean seriously, why would you even want to reiterate the entire scene? Is it to further demean dejah420's experiences by pointing out the hilarity that should be evident to everyone if only we stopped making the story about harassment? Or maybe you just want to point out that a real-world power imbalance is the only thing stopping a story like that from being hilarious despite the other weird stuff going on? Because I can't even begin to fathom any other reason to offer up that steaming pile of offensive horseshit.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:34 AM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


[We've gone pretty far off the tracks here; let's please drop this line of discussion totally.]
posted by taz at 6:45 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it one of the great ironies of metafilter to compare the consensus on presuming innocence before guilt is proven on death penalty threads vs. sexual harassment threads.

Metafilter on death row inmates:
There are a lot of systematic issues at work here that invalidate the entire process and it stands to reason the entire thing needs to be shut down, probably indefinitely, for even if these men are guilty no one deserves this. Our justice system should not be an instrument of revenge. Really, we would be helping the victim's families not shackle themselves to decades of guilt and internal anguish by suspending executions indefinitely.

Metafilter on consequences for sexual harassment +/- assault, even in cases where all the evidence is not in yet or may have similar problems with regards to the chain of custody of evidence, ulterior motivations etc:
HANG 'EM, AND HANG 'EM HIGH.

I laugh, but mostly at myself. No offense intended. Just found it incredible to consider the contrast.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 6:50 AM on July 5, 2013


No offense intended.

Dude, there is no way that is true. If you mean "I don't want anyone to express offense at this", just say that. It won't work, but I for one will admire your candor.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


False equivalence.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:53 AM on July 5, 2013


(referring to hobo gitano's comment, not rosf's.)
posted by soundguy99 at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2013


I agree with both statements, for what it's worth.

Sometimes I find it useful to examine why I can readily agree with seemingly contradictory views. We all contain multitudes, after all.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 6:58 AM on July 5, 2013


False equivalence. The harassment being discussed is not being done so in the context of criminal charges, and certainly not the death penalty, which is obviously irrevocable. (And the irony I see in the mention of the death penalty is that it, like sexual harassment, is all too often deployed against those who lack the perceived power to resist.)

Once again: Elise Matthesen reported that she was sexually harassed by an individual at a con. She reported it first to the con committee, and then via a number of prominent science fiction blogs. A number of other women reported similar experiences with that individual once he was named, and otherwise similar incidents in general. Some did so in this very thread. If you have any reason for doubting these accounts, by all means share it.

Until then, however, it's too bad you're tacitly defending harassers by extending them a benefit of the doubt that they aren't entitled to.
posted by Gelatin at 7:03 AM on July 5, 2013


but if I get harassed ( at 50-something not likely)

Harassment happens to women (and men, in some cases) of all ages. The only woman I know of who has been goosed in a public place is my mother - and she was in her 50s at the time.

That said, what really matters here is how likely women are to be harassed at SF&F cons in particular. Older women are harassed, younger women are harassed. I was 15 when I first faced what I now really was serious sexual harassment at a con - what my teenage brain could only process as "major creeper". It has been endemic in con culture. It's getting better, largely because of women like the subject of the FPP and the institution of harassment policies. but it's still there.
posted by jb at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shorter me: Those who report harassment are entitled to the presumption that they're telling the bloody truth.
posted by Gelatin at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like we have derailed the derail with another derail. I am not even sure where the tracks are anymore.

There is no doubt that women get harassed at cons a lot and there has been very little effort to stop it. There is no reason to doubt Matthesen's account. However, I am still bothered by the naming of Frenkel, and I amstill working out why. In the interests of full disclosure, I know Frenkel, in a "say 'hi' in the hallway" way, and I don't like thinking he would harass someone, especially at WisCon, so my judgement might be clouded. Part of it, however, is the "being tried in the court of semi-anonymous internet opinion" that is going on (especially on Hines' blog). As far as I know, Frenkel has not said anything about the event, nor has WisCon, and having a lot of people who were not present at the event making very firm judgments based on extremely vague details is troubling.

I guess my central issue is that Matthesen's post was important -- it clearly laid out the need for policies and procedures on harassment and the importance of following those and reporting incidents because otherwise harassers get away with it. The whole "internet Jury" on Frenkel is a derail that is drawing attention away from Matthesen's central point. Rather than a a lot of people expressing unfounded opinions based on rumors and personal likes and dislikes (more in the Hines blog than in this thread), I would prefer energy being spent establishing clear policies and procedures at all cons, and making it safe for people to follow them so that action could actually be taken, even if it might take a few cons. And, of course, that con committees would take the reports seriously and act on them (part of that "safe reporting" idea, establishing enough of a pattern that harassers could be banned, preferably in a public way so they don't just move to a different con.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


One interesting data point from Jim C. Hines is that, in the blog post in which Matthesen shared her story, he claimed that he had spoken to Frenkel about harassing behavior after having heard stories about him several years prior:
In 2010, in response to a series of specific incidents involving an editor in the community, I posted a list of resources for Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F. A number of people made reports about this individual.

I thought those reports had made a difference. I was wrong.

... While I’m not in a position to name names on my blog, I will say that the individual in question is the same one I was hearing about in 2010.

I ended up speaking to this person a while after I wrote that original blog post. He seemed genuinely contrite and regretful. I thought … I hoped … that he had learned, and that he would change his behavior.

I was wrong.

From what I’ve learned, nothing changed. Because the reports weren’t “formally documented,” this person was able to go on to harass other women.

I agree that this is, of course, just one person's word and doesn't cover Frenkel's side of the story. But I would also distinguish between an "Internet jury" effect over a single incident with a number of people reporting -- and putting their names on -- that they had heard stories about, and even discussed the matter with, a certain individual.

Again: Absent evidence to the contrary, I see no reason not to presume that Hines, Matthesen et al are telling the truth.
posted by Gelatin at 7:20 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's nothing contradictory from believing that the state shouldn't kill people and believing that social pressure can be a useful tool for combating sexual harassment.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:01 AM on July 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


GenjiandProust, I think that's correct about the internet jury being ickily sure of itself. his was why I brought up the many false convictions in the criminal justice system in the first place; if the New York criminal justice system, with all its review boards and evidentiary procedures and system of appeals, could get a high-profile case screamingly wrong, why would anyone accept the word of a bunch of con organizers with no particular training or review process?

Obviously, being banned from a con isn't comparable to the death penalty, which is why hobo's point doesn't really hold, but cons are professional events, and being banned from them is a serious career blow; it's not as simple as "being kicked out of a con is so minor that there's no consequences to getting it wrong." Now on a practical level, to prevent the really significant problem of harassment, it may be worth saying "We don't know what happened, but we're going to put the burden of proof on the accused and assume wrongdoing unless its proven otherwise." But that's not the same as having enough knowledge to say what happened.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2013


Geletin -- I should have mentioned Hines' reported interactions with Frenkel. Like you, I have no reason to doubt them. There seems to be ample evidence that Frenkel is, at best, a creep. However, that doesn't change the fact that my opinion in this matter is pretty irrelevant. It does nothing to establish better policies and procedures at cons, encourage people who are harassed to report the incidents, or encourage cons (and fandom in general) to take this stuff seriously. So the sideshow has eclipsed the actual point of Matthesen's article.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:37 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


why would anyone accept the word of a bunch of con organizers with no particular training or review process?

Or, indeed, why accept the word of a con attendee that she was harassed?
posted by Gelatin at 8:37 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or, indeed, why accept the word of a con attendee that she was harassed?

This is the crux of the matter and what they key point that THB seems to be missing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that's correct about the internet jury being ickily sure of itself

That simply isn't an accurate summation of the Matthesen/Frenkel incident. Initially Matthesen didn't name names; she only agreed to another witness to the incident do so in comments. Hines posted Matthesen's essay after having spoken to Frenkel personally some three years before about his alleged behavior (and, while we only have Hines' word on it, Frenkel being "genuinely contrite and regretful" hardly sounds like the reaction of a wholly innocent man).

These are not rumors or anonymous speculation. Once again, a number of people have publicly put their name to statements about what they experienced, saw, or spoke to Frenkel about him doing. If they're lying, Frenkel would seem to have a clear-cut defamation case against any or all of them. That fact alone lends credibility to their statements, quite on top of the usual subjection of harassment complaints to the nit-picking and nay-saying we see here.

I'm fed up with this constant subtext that he, and other serial harassers, somehow deserve the benefit of the doubt, and the suggestion that a claim of sexual harassment is inherently suspect.
posted by Gelatin at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Gelatin: As I've said several times now, the fact of multiple accounts with no defamation suit in response makes me think that Frankel is likely guilty. I'm not concerned about Frenkel. I'm concerned about the process for determination going forward, which was the topic of the FPP.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2013


Do you think the process for determination going for should be more or less biased in favor of the accuser than it is now?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:57 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But your concern seems primarily to be that the accused receive the benefit of the doubt. I'm sorry if I'm misunderstanding you, but if you review the thread that's the impression many of your posts create. And that stance simply isn't acceptable; it's that in part that created the atmosphere we have today.

I'll make it as plain as I can: Do you agree that someone complaining about harassment should be presumed to be telling the truth?
posted by Gelatin at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I've said several times now, the fact of multiple accounts with no defamation suit in response makes me think that Frankel is likely guilty.

And yet you complain about "the internet jury being ickily sure of itself." So you arrived at a rational conclusion based on the evidence, but everyone else is engaged in a knee-jerk witch hunt? What's going on here?
posted by Gelatin at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Obviously, being banned from a con isn't comparable to the death penalty, which is why hobo's point doesn't really hold, but cons are professional events, and being banned from them is a serious career blow

Compare this to feeling deep unwillingness and unhappiness at the thought of going to cons, despite having not sexually harassed anyone, because of the pervasive risk of sexual harassment, or indeed the experience of sexual harassment, and the professional damage done by reacting to harassment personally in the absence of strong anti-harassment policies or enforcement.

Or, you know, don't.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:03 AM on July 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


his was why I brought up the many false convictions in the criminal justice system in the first place

TFB, I don't think you and I are on the same page at all. There are false and erroneous complaints, but they are nowhere near common enough that they should be used to invalidate reports of harassment. If anything, they are a reason why better policies and procedures are needed for all cons, that safe reporting needs to be encouraged, and that con committees have to take reports seriously and document them -- being serious, thorough, and proactive on reports of harassment both identify harassers and protect against the far-less likely cases of bad faith accusations.

In this particular case, I am bugged by the comment section of Hines' blog -- I read more vague anonymous accusations than substantive signed comments there -- but, as I said above, there is no reason to doubt Matthesen (or Hines). There is pretty much no chance that this is a false accusation, no matter how beside the point that issue is to the greater discussion.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:05 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's also important to remember that situations as clear-cut as Matthesen's -- in which a number of prominent individuals step forward and publicly corroborate the story -- are far from the norm.

Rather, an incident may not be witnessed at all; as someone pointed out upthread, treating every complaint as an equal he-said-she said would automatically let harassers off the hook if they simply act when no one else is around, as some already seem to do.

Which is why, when Matthesen initially reported that she had been sexually harassed at a convention, I for one was prepared simply to take her at her word. I have yet to see a good reason why one should not.
posted by Gelatin at 9:09 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is why, when Matthesen initially reported that she had been sexually harassed at a convention, I for one was prepared simply to take her at her word. I have yet to see a good reason why one should not.

Because there is a difference between you or I as an internet observer or even a con attendee deciding whether we want to associate ourselves with a harasser and a con committee taking action. As we have seen in this thread, the fact that false/misleading/erroneous accusations exist are constantly used to discredit all accusations, despite their extreme rarity. A robust reporting structure eliminates the need to "take people at their word" and more surely identifies the harassers while also changing the cultural climate that encourages harassers to operate (and also, I suspect, amplifies the "background radiation" of toxic attitudes that makes fandom difficult for so many women).
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are false and erroneous complaints, but they are nowhere near common enough that they should be used to invalidate reports of harassment. If anything, they are a reason why better policies and procedures are needed for all cons, that safe reporting needs to be encouraged, and that con committees have to take reports seriously and document them

GenjiandProust---we may not be on the same page, but I agree with all of the above. Better policies and procedures are needed, safe reporting needs to be encouraged, con committees have to take reports seriously, and most of all, they must be documented and, I would add, shared with other cons. I think establishing a pattern of behavior is the most important way to establish the veracity of a complaint.

And yet you complain about "the internet jury being ickily sure of itself." So you arrived at a rational conclusion based on the evidence, but everyone else is engaged in a knee-jerk witch hunt? What's going on here?

Likely is the key word. It takes a few months to put together a defamation suit, so one may yet be coming. Or maybe Frankel decided not to pursue. Or maybe he's guilty as sin and doesn't want the sheer expanse of his crimes to come to light. I don't know, and you don't know.

I'll make it as plain as I can: Do you agree that someone complaining about harassment should be presumed to be telling the truth?

That is precisely what I'm trying to figure out. Harassment is a serious problem in the con scene (and many others), probably the most serious problem; it discourages many people from participating in the community and causes a lot of pain. But the idea of a process where a single accusation, made to a body with no training in evidence-gathering, can permanently destroy someone's career, with no resolution process and no appeal... I can't think of any field where that would be acceptable. Even private employees can file wrongful termination suits! Is there any other field where individual accusations are presumed to be true? The French criminal justice system puts the burden of proof on the accused, but I believe formal accusations are only made by the justice system itself, after an evidence-gathering process. Can anyone think of a process this would resemble?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:35 AM on July 5, 2013


Can anyone think of a process this would resemble?

A private party. A wedding. A family reunion. A concert. A baseball game. A comedy club.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:40 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not concerned about Frenkel. I'm concerned about the process for determination going forward, which was the topic of the FPP.

Then why were you so insistent about being given the details of the offense earlier?
posted by KathrynT at 9:44 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


But the idea of a process where a single accusation, made to a body with no training in evidence-gathering, can permanently destroy someone's career, with no resolution process and no appeal...

OK, I admit to not following fannish history for the last decade or so, but has this ever happened? My knowledge of fan scandals have always been in the other direction -- people who were harassing and abusing others with the general knowledge of others for years (see Walter Breen as maybe the classic example). Yes, it is theoretically possible for a single false accusation to ruin someone's career, but it's very unlikely, and, as far as I know, it hasn't happened.

It certainly isn't the situation here -- Frenkel seems to have a clear documented track record of objectionable behavior, so it's not all that murky a situation (at the level we, the internet need to know). I assume it's enough information for WisCon and Tor to take whatever action they need to take according to their various policies. Any substantive action will come from them, not comments on the internet.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is precisely what I'm trying to figure out.

In other words, then: No. Or at best, not right now. If that isn't a fair summation of your position, please help me understand.

But the idea of a process where a single accusation, made to a body with no training in evidence-gathering, can permanently destroy someone's career

Oh, come now. In the first place, who says the "body" would not have "training in evidence gathering"? We aren't talking CSI here; we're talking taking statements and evaluating credibility.

And while being banned from a given event might prove to be damaging to one's career, one would hope that such a consequence would, you know, incentivize people not to harass -- which incentive currently seems not so much to exist.

I certainly take exception with your suggestion that a harasser should not face consequences until more than one accusation surfaces.

with no resolution process and no appeal...

Nonsense. The accused can always appeal to the internet, for example, where there are evidently plenty of people willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I believe formal accusations are only made by the justice system itself, after an evidence-gathering process.

In criminal matters, yes. In the meantime, private organizations are free to eject anyone who does not adhere to their code of conduct, as MisantropicPainforest just pointed out.

In addition to that, to the extent that harassment "destroys someone's career," it's likely because their place of work has policies forbidding harassment (and likely, I would add, their own ability to find facts in such cases). I don't weep for those whose violations of such a company policy earns them the boot.

I completely disagree with your attempts to paint a picture of some grim totalitarian dystopia, partially because it in no way resembles either the situation as it actually exists or as it would exist if people who report harassment were simply presumed to be telling the truth, and partially because it's insulting.

I am sick and tired of discussion of the very real problem of harassment -- a problem so bad some refuse to attend cons at all -- being met with appeals to the practically nonexistent problem of the false accusation. At best, that mindset completely fails to comprehend the relative lever of power and privilege at hand.
posted by Gelatin at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Harlan Ellison's career seems to be pretty much as it was before the single accusation, for that matter.

But the idea of a process where a single accusation, made to a body with no training in evidence-gathering, can permanently destroy someone's career, with no resolution process and no appeal... I can't think of any field where that would be acceptable.

Well, how about programming? Like, say, if somebody tells Reddit (a body, I think we can say, whose skill at evidence-gathering is sometimes outweighed by their enthusiasm) that a programmer was fired as a result of being spoken to by the organisers of PyCon about the sexual innuendi he was using in an overheard conversation during a plenary, and that this was the goal of the person who reported it.

There follows a sustained DDoS attack on the company that employs the maker of that complaint, which responds by firing their employee - who has in the mean time received many threats of rape and murder - because, as we know, public shaming is the worst thing that could possibly happen to an actual human being.

Incidentally, Jim Hines' blog post about talking with women about their experience of con harassment, which presumably ties into this case, is here. So, in this case, assuming the person involved is the same, we're looking at some corroboration of a historical pattern. Interesting content:
Over the course of the convention, I ended up talking to several different women about a particular editor from one of the major publishing houses. Each one of these women, all of whom are writers, described how this editor would ogle their chests, give uninvited massages, or explicitly compliment them on their breasts.

The more I heard these stories and thought about them, the angrier I got. Bad enough when a random creep at a con puts his hands on you without permission, or sits there leering at you. What do you do, as a writer, when it’s an editor? Someone who might be able to give you your big break, but could also ruin you, at least at this particular house?

(Gosh, it’s a good thing there’s no sexism in SF/F anymore, eh?)

And what do I do? I didn’t witness this behavior first-hand. Oh no, this guy was always perfectly civil around me. Nor do I feel comfortable telling other people’s stories for them. Meaning … what? I just write a vague post about editors who sexually harass writers?
It was only after that aporia that the idea of compiling a list of publishers who could be made aware of harassment by their staff was put together. Interesting, it doesn't seem like "report it to the con authorities" was even a concept...
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


But the idea of a process where a single accusation, made to a body with no training in evidence-gathering, can permanently destroy someone's career, with no resolution process and no appeal... I can't think of any field where that would be acceptable

My workplace, and possibly yours. If I were being harassed by a colleague or supervisor, there's a process in place for reporting it. The matter is handled by totally not-CSI-trained people, and can end in the harasser losing their job. You are demanding a standard of procedure for cons that doesn't even exist in most workplaces, and for which the most common penalty is just having your con badge yanked.
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Interesting, it doesn't seem like "report it to the con authorities" was even a concept...

Well, it was some time before the incident in which the Readercon committee failed to follow its own policies, in part due to the prominence of the accused in the fandom.

Which raises two points: As I mentioned before, some of those reputed harassers seem to be relatively well known figures in the industry or fandom, not just random awkward dudes (to lampshade the fact, consider how much we're hearing of "it'll ruin his career!" and not so much "pity the poor socially awkward!"; of course, that's because real harassers know exactly what they're doing and expect to get away with it).

The other point is that the Readercon board reacted to the subsequent outcry, reversed its position and followed its policy. Which undercuts the notion that there's some police-state-like atmosphere in which anonymous accusations lead to the gulag; a genuinely false accusation could be appealed to the public, if nothing else.
posted by Gelatin at 10:19 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


But the idea of a process where a single accusation, made to a body with no training in evidence-gathering, can permanently destroy someone's career, with no resolution process and no appeal...

And right here is the point of disconnect.

Let me refer you to Eyebrows McGee's comment above, and quote the relevant portion: "A reasonably professional convention organization, in consultation with law firms who do this work, or women's advocacy groups others have mentioned, will understand how to investigate these accusations and how nuanced that investigation can be." (And FWIW I'm like 99.99% sure Eyebrows is a lawyer, although I have no idea what her speciality is.)

Then go re-read Elise Matthesen's account. Look at how she talks about mandated reporters, and Safety staff, and Human Resources staff, and Legal staff.

Apparently you're assuming that we're all talking in support of a really informal knee-jerk situation where Jane Conventioneer tells Sally Convention Staffer that she's been harassed, and then it's Everyone Grab The Pitchforks.

No. Nobody is talking about that. The whole point of Ms. Matthesen's account is there's a way to Do It Right, and it involves multiple people from multiple areas of expertise who all have training and experience in gathering evidence and the whole process of interacting with all parties involved in a harassment accusation.

With trained professionals involved, the chance that a false accusation will have such dire consequences is drastically lessened. And having trained professionals involved is what I think most people here (AND Ms. Matthesen) are advocating for.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:23 AM on July 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Harlan Ellison's career seems to be pretty much as it was before the single accusation, for that matter.

This situation can't be graced with "accusation." I can only imagine that Ellison has engaged in daring etymologic exploration and triumphantly returned with some heretofore unsuspected definition of "grope" for him to assert that he didn't grope one of the field's most prominent writers. It was on stage, on camera, blown up on ginormous screens. The video is out there. I was there. So were thousands of other people.

You're right, of course that it had no obvious effect on his career, no more than did contemptuously calling K. Tempest Bradford an "N.W.A."
posted by Zed at 10:23 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


(For that matter, a true accusation could be appealed to the public. And if you don't think the perpetrator of even the most blatantly obvious act would find its share of supporters -- even among certain segments of the science fiction fandom -- you've never heard the words "Anita Sarkeesian".)
posted by Gelatin at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


soundguy99: Yeah, it seems like Matthesen and the relevant con did it right---people were trained, professionals were called in, reports were compared, etc. As I've said many times now, I think Matthesen and Readercon did everything exactly right and Frankel is likely guilty; my concern is with the process being called for.

Because I think a lot of people here are saying "All accusations should simply be presumed true", which is not the Readercon process at all. For example:

And while being banned from a given event might prove to be damaging to one's career, one would hope that such a consequence would, you know, incentivize people not to harass -- which incentive currently seems not so much to exist.

That right there simply presumes that any time there is an accusation, there is a guilty party, and that's all there is to it. False accusations seem, at the moment, very rare. But if one could simply report anyone and have them instantly ejected, with no evidentiary process and no penalty for false accusation, well, that's a lot of power to hand to anyone who might want it, and I find it hard to imagine it would go unabused.

Regarding the examples of A private party. A wedding. A family reunion. A concert. A baseball game. A comedy club.: There is a well-established body of law saying that you can eject anyone for any reason from a private function *unless that could negatively impact their career*. That's why having an all-male party is legal, and having an all-male golf game is legal, but having an all-male golf game where work business could be discussed is illegal (or even a board meeting at a forum not welcoming to women, like a strip club). Cons are in a weird halfway point between private gathering and work event, which is exactly why this is so tricky.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2013


But if one could simply report anyone and have them instantly ejected, with no evidentiary process and no penalty for false accusation, well, that's a lot of power to hand to anyone who might want it, and I find it hard to imagine it would go unabused.

Well the status quo means that a lot of men are abusing their priviledge and are harassing women. How bout we change the standard in the other direction, and presume all allegations are true? If that standard is abuse, then we can talk about changing it back the other way.

There is a well-established body of law saying that you can eject anyone for any reason from a private function *unless that could negatively impact their career*

I really don't think that is true.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


well, that's a lot of power to hand to anyone who might want it, and I find it hard to imagine it would go unabused.

I find it hard to imagine giving a fuck until the level of false accusations is anywhere near the level of harassment; or even close to a tiny fraction of it. Which it will never be.

Stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the just-barely-acceptable, let alone the good.
posted by bonaldi at 10:52 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


There is a well-established body of law saying that you can eject anyone for any reason from a private function *unless that could negatively impact their career*.

Paging Ironmouth, who may still be following this in his recent activity, to please address this if possible. Because I'm experiencing a profound feeling of "what" in reading this sentence.
posted by rtha at 10:52 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


my concern is with the process being called for.

To the point where you've admitted that accusations of harassment should not enjoy the presumption of truth. In other words, the burden of proof is on the accuser to demonstrate that a problem even exists; which, of course, automatically gives anyone savvy enough to harass someone in privacy a free pass. There's no other outcome of that stance; none.

Because I think a lot of people here are saying "All accusations should simply be presumed true"

Yes, that's what I, for one, am saying; thank you for going on record as disagreeing with it.

That right there simply presumes that any time there is an accusation, there is a guilty party, and that's all there is to it.

Have you been paying attention to the discussion of the problem of harassment? Once again, you seem to be coming from the point of view that the real problem is false accusations (or perhaps you're bringing in the hoary misunderstood-socially-awkward-dude trope after all) rather than blatant and prevalent harassment.

What it presumes is that for someone to go to the trouble and risk of making a formal report that yes, something objectionable would have to have happened, which the person reporting would have a good faith belief violates the con's stated policies.

False accusations seem, at the moment, very rare.

And yet you keep harping on it -- to the point that the mere possibility prevents you from accepting a report of harassment at face value. Think about that stance.

But if one could simply report anyone and have them instantly ejected, with no evidentiary process

No evidentiary process? Who, exactly, is proposing such a system?

That said, testimony is evidence. It is perfectly okay to hear both sides and decide which one is credible -- even in a court of law.

and no penalty for false accusation

While I admit this particular topic hasn't to my knowledge come up, I presume that a deliberately false accusation would also fall under harassment policies and thus invite penalties as well.

well, that's a lot of power to hand to anyone who might want it, and I find it hard to imagine it would go unabused.

And you're so concerned about that possibility -- as unlikely a scenario as it actually is -- that you're willing to perpetuate the current power imbalance and its actual abuses by giving harassers a benefit of the doubt they do not deserve.

I submit that this concern about potential abuse of power has the effect of giving an actual and ongoing abuse of power a free pass.
posted by Gelatin at 10:56 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because I think a lot of people here are saying "All accusations should simply be presumed true"

Sorry, man - not seeing it.

I'm seeing people saying that (unlike in the past) accusations should be presumed true enough to start a response and investigation by trained professionals on staff or consulting to the convention.

If you've seen anything else, maybe you should take it as an understandably angry bit of hyperbole and not quite so literally.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stop the thread! I am invoking golf law!

(That Harlan Ellison link of Zed's is worth reading for the "holy crap" element, and definitely should be read in the context of the follow-up, in which Harlan Ellison delivers the worst apology ever, and we also get to see some amazing white knighting in the comments.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a well-established body of law saying that you can eject anyone for any reason from a private function *unless that could negatively impact their career*.

IANAL, but the harassment policy for GenCon I cited upthread expressly listed ejection as a potential penalty for violating its code of conduct, and did not have an "unless that could negatively impact their career" exception.

Given that obviously even prominent figures in industry and fandom don't refrain from harassing on the grounds of common fucking decency, I have no problem whatever if they at least consider the impact to their position before behaving like an ass.
posted by Gelatin at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2013


I'm seeing people saying that (unlike in the past) accusations should be presumed true enough to start a response and investigation by trained professionals on staff or consulting to the convention.

For the record, yes, that's what I mean, and I'm sorry if I was unclear.
posted by Gelatin at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh for fuck's sake. I'd missed that bit of Harlan-ness. Wow. Just ... wow.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2013


I'd amend one thing: In cases where there are no witnesses and it comes down to the reporting individual's word against the supposed harasser, I also have no problem with the accuser's word being given at least slightly more weight.

Again, I don't think it works to create a situation in which a harasser -- who usually knows exactly what he's doing -- to get someone alone and then deny everything, knowing they'll inevitably get a free pass.
posted by Gelatin at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gelatin, if that's what you mean, we're in agreement. If that's what you mean, we disagree.

I think an accusation should always lead to an investigation. I don't think an accusation should instantly result in an expulsion. It seems to me that a lot of people are saying the latter, not the former.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2013


And what happens if the investigation reveals that the only evidence available is the accusers word and the accuseds word? then what?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:18 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, yes, we do. We disagree in that the specter of the practically nonexistent problem of false accusations bothers you so much -- despite, you know, not really existing -- that the mere possibility prevents you from accepting a report of harassment at face value, thus giving harassers a benefit of the doubt they do not deserve.

Yes, I disagree with that stance.

I don't think an accusation should instantly result in an expulsion. It seems to me that a lot of people are saying the latter, not the former.

Who, exactly?
posted by Gelatin at 11:22 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


A note about private parties and ejecting people... I haven't been involved with Readercon, but I'm pretty sure one of the reasons the original Readercon policy was set up the way it was ('nuke 'em from orbit') was because of a previous incident at a different con where the con attempted to eject someone for egregious behavior[1], but because their written policies didn't support that and did say it was an explicitly open environment, the guy in question sued them and won. I don't know if they were specifically expecting to have a problem with the same person, but that kind of behavior was clearly the threat model for them.

The more common (yet less expected) example of "social adept popular guy harasses women and usually gets away with it but maybe not this time", however, caused a problem with their "one strike; the only penalty is perma-banning" policy.

Moral of the story: be careful what circumstances your policy doesn't cover. (a different sort of example of a policy preventing something it probably didn't intend to.)

[1] much more of the "that socially odd guy lots of people agree is creepy and wish they could get rid of is making women feel creeped out" model
posted by rmd1023 at 11:23 AM on July 5, 2013


And what happens if the investigation reveals that the only evidence available is the accusers word and the accuseds word? then what?

Then I think you issue a warning and the con equivalent of a restraining order (which will result in expulsion if violated), and continue investigating, mostly by calling other cons to see if there are other reports.

I don't think an accusation should instantly result in an expulsion. It seems to me that a lot of people are saying the latter, not the former.

Who, exactly?


Well, for one you, right here:

Because I think a lot of people here are saying "All accusations should simply be presumed true"

Yes, that's what I, for one, am saying; thank you for going on record as disagreeing with it.


If an accusation is presumed true, there's no need to investigate it---it's just true.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2013


Maybe you should read the rest of the comment you cherry-picked that from, TFB, because it does not say that there should not be any investigation of accusations. Quite the contrary.
posted by palomar at 11:29 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then I think you issue a warning and the con equivalent of a restraining order (which will result in expulsion if violated), and continue investigating, mostly by calling other cons to see if there are other reports.

Your preferred process necessarily enables harassers. I don't know why you wouldn't expel them from the con. Why priviledge the accused over the victim?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:30 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, the chances of a false accusation is really really really slim, and the chances that the accusation is true is really really really high.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:30 AM on July 5, 2013


If an accusation is presumed true, there's no need to investigate it---it's just true.

Codswallop. A grand jury indictment means that the jury believes there's probable cause to believe a crime was committed -- in other words, the accusation is presumably true -- but is not a conviction.

Moreover, I defy you to point out where I said an accusation should instantly result in expulsion.

I don't think you're representing my comments in this thread in good faith.

What I am talking about is that it's pernicious nonsense to presume that the relatively few women who come forward and formally report the harassment few would deny goes on at cons are for some reason making it all up.

I think you issue a warning and the con equivalent of a restraining order (which will result in expulsion if violated)

Which waters down any expectation that unacceptable behavior gets one ejected from the con. Everybody gets at least one free pass. No, thanks.

and continue investigating, mostly by calling other cons to see if there are other reports.

While I'd hope that such an investigation would indeed take place, many have pointed out the difficulty of completing such an investigation over the course of a single con -- which often take place over a weekend, when other offices might expect to be closed. So if there are other reports, it's likely to be over before anyone finds out, and anyway, aren't you opening yourself up to the Dreaded False Accusation there?
posted by Gelatin at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your preferred process necessarily enables harassers.

Yes, it does. A harasser could get someone alone, grope her, and then go on their merry way as long as they didn't do it (to that person) again.

On top of that, a toothless policy like that encourages harassers; it sends a message that there's no consequence to their actions.

We've tried that system, and it has obviously failed. Appeals to practically nonexistent false accusations are simply not a convincing argument against putting harassers on notice that if they don't behave, they're out.
posted by Gelatin at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Respectfully, trying to lawyer the situations in which TFB might approve of an expulsion or an investigation or a conflagration or a murmuration is kind of pointless. We already understand the principle - that the safety of con-attending women should be safeguarded insofaras doing so does not endager the comfort of con-attending TFB, and by extension con-attending men. Anything else is just trying to get him to incriminate himself - and nobody, surely, is going to fall for that.

The playing-golf-in-a-strip-club question is far more interesting.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you issue a warning and the con equivalent of a restraining order (which will result in expulsion if violated)

Something else just occurred to me -- a restraining order to be enforced by whom? Having security staff follow the accused around?

Or would it, as is far more likely, rely on reported behavior? And then what if the warned individual manages to get his accuser alone again? Once again it's just her word against his. What then?
posted by Gelatin at 11:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed. Once you're e.g. telling someone they're basically an ayatollah and preemptively declaring what their terrible response to you will be, this has kind of gone off the rails and it's probably time to take a break from the thread.]
posted by cortex at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2013


And what happens if the investigation reveals that the only evidence available is the accusers word and the accuseds word? then what?

This is why cons need to keep records and review them. The majority of harassment and abuse is done by serial offenders who thrive on secrecy. If a particular incident cannot be verified, it can still serve as part of a chain of evidence that a con can use to take action.

As I said a considerable distance above, it's like enforcing academic dishonesty policies -- you report every incident so that, even if any one doesn't warrant dismissal, the pattern will.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:02 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cortex: When you have a radicalized opinion I don't think that was out of line but regardless:

There are very much two sides here. There is the obvious problem that women have at cons and there is the very cherished premise of American justice - innocent until proven guilty. We don't get to throw the latter out just because the former is a very real problem.

I trust that and those who ultimately decide such policies at cons and elsewhere will have the good common sense to incorporate both sides of the issue.

We have gone in this thread from TFB's "death of a thousand cuts" line of questioning regarding the right's of the man to the rather McCarthyesque line of questioning that involves "DO you or don't you believe that the woman should be presumed telling the truth" and the real truth here is that BOTH sides are wrong. The issue is not so simple as either side would want it to be.

Somewhere there is a happy medium which represents equality and justice for both men and women here. I'm seeing none of that lately in this thread. We need far more intelligent and balanced thinking which actually incorporates concepts of the American justice system and far less one-sided on-size-fits-all radicalization of this issue.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:07 PM on July 5, 2013


I don't disagree, Genji, but I am not comfortable with a policy in which a he-said, she-said situation is automatically a push with no consequences for a harasser. In such cases, an explicit reporting process and no-harassment policy wind up being toothless.

As fat as I can tell, codes of conduct basically leave it to the organization's discretion to judge the merits of a complaint, and I'm comfortable with giving con committees the ability to decide on the merits of individual cases. In that case a single verbal report of harassment in a one-on-one situation could potentially result in the ejection of the accused.

(Having thought about it, I would imagine that being creeped on or groped in a secluded, one-on-one setting would have to be more traumatic, if anything, than it happening in public, where there at least might be backup. I'd hate to see an unintentional consequence being creepers determining to get their victims alone.)
posted by Gelatin at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2013


There is the obvious problem that women have at cons and there is the very cherished premise of American justice - innocent until proven guilty. We don't get to throw the latter out just because the former is a very real problem.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is a legal concept that was never meant to apply outside the courtroom.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:11 PM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


there is the very cherished premise of American justice - innocent until proven guilty

That in indeed a cherished premise, but it applies only to criminal courts. A civil case can be decided on the preponderance of evidence, without necessarily having proven a thing. Any private organizations is free to enforce its own codes of conduct and decide what if any evidence is sufficient to take action. One does not, for example, always have to be "proved guilty" before being fired for violating company policies; a single complaint might do it.

That isn't a radicalized opinion; it's a fact.

On preview, what showbiz_liz said more succinctly.
posted by Gelatin at 12:14 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


liz: that an interesting opinion but the fact remains that this concept is a pillar of what we regard as justice in America - in or out of a legal courtroom - and just because this issue is a hot button for you (and me frankly) neither of us gets to rise above our most cherished traditions and decide which of them we are going to throw out today - because it suits us to do so. That way is a slippery slope that leads to lawlessness and rule by the few.

Creepers are gonna creep and regardless of what prohibitions you place at cons or anywhere you are never going to eliminate that problem (as anyone who has ever watched "Catch a Predator" can attest to) . What you can to is to minimize the problem and the damage to the victims. I don;t know what the best solutions should be to protect both the victims and the accused and I am confident that such solutions will not be forthcoming in this thread. I do know that am as equally suspicious of those who propose instant punishment without oversight for the accused are as equally wrong as those who dismiss the problem entirely.

There's a happy medium somewhere which incorporates protections for both victim and accused but I haven't heard or seen it here as yet.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:20 PM on July 5, 2013


I don't see how it's "rather McCarthyesque" to inquire if someone who's harping constantly on the spectre of false accusations has trouble believing that women would tell the truth.

I do know that am as equally suspicious of those who propose instant punishment without oversight for the accused are as equally wrong as those who dismiss the problem entirely.

That's great. But no one has actually proposed "instant punishment without oversight".
posted by palomar at 12:22 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


That way is a slippery slope that leads to lawlessness and rule by the few.

I hate to be that guy, but the situation being tackled here is one in which a few - authors, editors, superfans - have apparently behaved according to their whims for a long time, without a working structure to protect the many.

I think we all agree that oligarchy is not the best form of government for the US, but it's de facto the way Cons are generally run (with in the case of larger cons a possibly bicameral system) - this is more a discussion about how that could be tweaked to protect the common congoer.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:25 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


liz: that an interesting opinion but the fact remains that this concept is a pillar of what we regard as justice in America - in or out of a legal courtroom

It's not an opinion. It is a fact, actually.

If I tell the teacher that the dog ate my homework, she doesn't have to take me at my word until she can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the dog DIDN'T eat my homework.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:25 PM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why do creepers deserve protection? That seems like the radical notion to me.

I'll point out, yet again, that no one is proposing giving one individual the power to unilaterally and without question have someone ejected from a con. But even if -- and please note I said if -- they did, what of it? Any host has the right to eject someone they perceive as causing a problem, fair or no. A bar, club, restaurant, ball game or whatever has the right to eject whomever they please. Why should a con be any different?

Attendance at a con is voluntary, and in doing so one implicitly agrees to abide by their code of conduct. Violate it -- at least to the satisfaction of management that you did so -- and you're out. It's that simple.

(So you say someone is a writer or editor and con attendance is part of the job? Swell! That means their behavior should be expected to be even more professional than the average attendee, and I can't believe we're talking about giving a pass to people who ought to know better in the name of so-called "justice.")
posted by Gelatin at 12:27 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


liz: that an interesting opinion but the fact remains that this concept is a pillar of what we regard as justice in America - in or out of a legal courtroom

It is not a pillar in civil court cases, much less workplace harassment cases much less getting tossed from a con or your neighborhood bar for misbehavior.
posted by rtha at 12:28 PM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


That isn't a radicalized opinion; it's a fact.

No , your opinion is an opinion , not a fact. Just because you wish to impose your opinions on someone else does not make it a fact. And just because you believe in the way something should be doe does not mean it should dome that way.

Lots of people and places in the world do not believe in concepts of innocent until proven guilty and the vast majority of such places are places most of us would not wish to live.

Here is a (likely) fact: those actually wise enough to decide such things will likely look at all sides of the issue. They will not prioritize one over the other (as you do) and they will provide protections for the victim and the accused - that what American's do - a day after the 4th we should keep that in mind.

Women get harassed at cons - that's a fact. People do get falsely accused - that's also a fact (whether you choose to accept that or not). I think it likely that a lot more women get harassed than there are false accusations but regardless of that inequality it doesn't mean we get to throw out basic concepts of American justice just because we want to. We arrive at a compromise solution that best protects the victim as well as the accused.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:28 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really don't want to get onto a derail, here, Podkayne, but yes, it is a fact that the "innocent until proven guilty" standard only applies to criminal cases. It doesn't even apply to civil trials, as I've already mentioned. That isn't an opinion, it's a fact. You can look it up.
posted by Gelatin at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: "And what happens if the investigation reveals that the only evidence available is the accusers word and the accuseds word? then what?"

Here's what I would do, and I'm not super-familiar with running cons so there may be all kinds of problems with it, but, here's where I'd start brainstorming. You have an accusation of some serious but sub-criminal harassment (presumably if it were criminal in nature you'd turn it over to the cops), and no evidence but a he-said/she-said and no prior reports of this nature by the accuser or against the accused, so you have no idea whether this is a pattern of behavior by either one (another reason to keep good records about accusations!). The accused is a con guest of some importance (author, publisher's rep, actor, whatever), who is there to work, not a paid attendee.

I would assign to the accused a "minder" (or a set of minders), a con volunteer who has gone through specific training. You would say to the accused, "Look, someone's made a really serious accusation against you and we have no proof either way. For your protection, as well as the accuser's, we're going to have this minder accompany you to con events and just hang out in the background." That way if the accused IS a harasser, they will be unable to harass others because they're being watched, or they'll be caught by a trained observer who can provide evidence. If the accusation is false, this person who is there in their professional capacity (not to creep on people!) will be protected from further false accusations by, again, the presence of a trained observer. It's not overly intrusive and it doesn't stand out as bizarre or punitive; it provides protection both for a falsely accused person and for innocent victims with no proof. This also solves the problem of the temporary nature of conventions, where maybe you need time to sort things out, but in three days it's all over.

This would become cumbersome if the quantity of formal accusations were large (which, they're not), or maybe in paid-attendee-vs.-paid-attendee, but I think it would be a reasonable place to start for those difficult situations with no clear evidence. It's not a perfect Platonic solution, but I think it's a reasonable place to start. You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the "better than it is now."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:31 PM on July 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think it likely that a lot more women get harassed than there are false accusations

Are you implying you think it's also possible that there are more false accusations than genuine harassment?
posted by Gelatin at 12:35 PM on July 5, 2013


[The legal derail is in fact entirely a derail and it needs to stop now. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:36 PM on July 5, 2013


[Don't make this personal, folks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:53 PM on July 5, 2013


and I'm not super-familiar with running cons [...] The accused is a con guest of some importance (author, publisher's rep, actor, whatever), who is there to work, not a paid attendee.

Aside from guests of honor, most sf cons* extend few unpaid memberships. A few comp memberships for those who are on a lot of panels. At any rate, most professionals in attendance are, in fact, paid attendees (though editors and publishers' reps may have had their membership paid by someone else.)

* not talking about giant comics and media cons, which tend to be for-profit events, but for the volunteer-run not-for-profit, whether formally incorporated as a non-profit or not, sf cons that I point to when I say "sf con", which certainly includes Readercon and Wiscon
posted by Zed at 12:54 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The accused is a con guest of some importance (author, publisher's rep, actor, whatever), who is there to work, not a paid attendee.

Yeah, that line is super blurry. It's likely his employer paid his way there, but exceedingly unlikely that the con paid for anyone except the two guests of honor. He was on a panel, but hell, so was I - probably a third at least of the attendees at Wiscon are on a panel. (They're open signup.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:57 PM on July 5, 2013


Yes, these are not like media cons which often have a strong divide between "talent" and fans. Many or most pros are fans and many fans are pros of one sort or another.

Frenkel was likely not at the con strictly to work but it's fair to say his conduct reflects on the company he works for as it is directly related to the purpose of the con.
posted by Justinian at 1:10 PM on July 5, 2013


Eyebrows, that's an excellent proposal. Makes a lot of sense to me.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:23 PM on July 5, 2013


I don't disagree, Genji, but I am not comfortable with a policy in which a he-said, she-said situation is automatically a push with no consequences for a harasser.

It wouldn't be no consequence if the con committee paid attention to previous reports. A harasser who picked up multiple complaints could be denied membership based on the number of complaints rather than some unreachable standard of proof. If you wanted something more immediate, the con committee could issue a sort of "restraining order," where the offender was told not to be in the same room on peril of expulsion, although I imagine this would be difficult to enforce (although easier with camera phones).

I'm not sure "a one strike and you are out" policy is practical or even possible for most cons, and I wonder is physical assault shouldn't move directly to the police. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of serial harassment going on, and a policy of record and react would push these people out, especially since it could be broadcast -- "Person X has been banned by the con committee after x reports of sexual harassment" would be pretty unimpeachable, even by the most ardent "awkward guy defenders," and, I imagine (although IANAL and this is not advice) that it would likely stand up to a defamation lawsuit.

I suspect almost everyone wishes these guys would just knock it the hell off, but, since it happens at WisCon, I expect the rest of the cons are at least as bad....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:50 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Paul McAuley: The Other Half Of The Sky
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because I think it's been lost sight of amidst all these hypotheticals, this is the actual action Wiscon took after the report in the post:
Someone told me that since it was the first report, the editor would not be asked to leave the convention. I was surprised it was the first report, but hey, if it was and if that’s the process, follow the process. They told me they had instructed him to keep away from me for the rest of the convention.
Getting riled up over a one-strike policy is fine, but it's a good idea to keep in mind that the actual policy under discussion is not, in fact, a one-strike policy.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:08 PM on July 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


Just because I think it's been lost sight of amidst all these hypotheticals,

An excellent point, and I'm sorry for my part in it. Especially since, upthread, I was arguing that the real story here was Matthesen's report of a convention doing (more or less) what it should and that the rest of it was kind of derail from that story. MetaFitician, heal thyself.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:24 PM on July 5, 2013


Convention Harassment and What We Can All Do To Help
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on July 5, 2013


Are there any statistics or numbers of the %'age of attendees that have been reported? Maybe not for sci-fi/geek conventions but any other conventions that have implemented similar policies. I'm just curious at the scope of the problem.
posted by FJT at 4:48 PM on July 5, 2013


John Scalzi: Convention Harassment Policy Follow-Up

Things I particularly like about this: (1) he's making it clear that it's not sufficient to simply have a policy, it also needs to be publicized and enforced, and (2) he's pushing back hard against the "you're just doing this to get in with the ladies" jackassery.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:10 PM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also explicitly speaking out against the old guard:
Also: the dude back in the day, going up to every woman at a convention, saying hello by asking them if they want to fuck? Harassing asshole. Mind you, back in the day apparently no one was going to call him on his shitty harassing actions. Now they would. And they should. Because they are. Welcome to the future!
...which does make me wonder if he's been waiting to say this until he was no longer SFWA President and so not in any way accountable to said old guard.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:15 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


he's pushing back hard against the "you're just doing this to get in with the ladies" jackassery.

This drives me so nuts. It reveals a set of classically misogynist assumptions - the only reason men would care about women ever is if they want to get laid, right? Because women are of absolutely no concern otherwise to any man ever, and Scalzi can't possibly have actual female friends. (His wife and daughter, of course, he would be obligated to watch over and defend himself, with his fists, or possibly pistols at dawn if we're being very modern.)
posted by restless_nomad at 5:21 PM on July 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


So I was thinking about things that could work and the problems with fighting con harassment, and came up with the idea:

Would it be difficult for constaff to commit to trying, or at least strongly encouraging, for half of con security to be female?

Or for these things not to be decided by a con committee of all friends, but by a group of people who can volunteer to help with this?
posted by corb at 5:38 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


More from (MeFi's own!) John Scalzi:
Also, you know what? Fuck these assholes. I’m sick of politely sharing cultural space with the sort of pissy lump of a human who sees nothing wrong with being a racist and/or sexist and/or homophobe, who attacks and harasses people because they feel they have a right to, and who goes out of their way to make the places I work and socialize in uncomfortable and even threatening for too many of the other people I work and socialize with, and for so many others as well. Having robust, visible and enforced harassment policies at conventions will go a long way to making these assholes behave, or making them go home. Either is fine with me.
Co-signed (literally, on his co-sign thread).

And no, I'm not overly concerned about such policies existing because awkward dudes, or because false accusations, or because whatever. Harassment is a problem right now, and those who don't behave don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Those who have to overcome whatever personal, social or professional hurdles (to say nothing of the unpleasantness of actually having been harassed) do. Full stop.
posted by Gelatin at 6:29 PM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


But men want what they want. We should all lighten up.
posted by jeather at 6:46 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But men want what they want. We should all lighten up.
posted by jeather at 6:46 PM on July 5 [+] [!]


I started reading the comments on that article. :(
posted by The World's End at 7:14 PM on July 5, 2013



Also: the dude back in the day, going up to every woman at a convention, saying hello by asking them if they want to fuck?


I've been reading Randall Garrett since I was a kid. This anecdote took my breath away. I just don't know where to start to explain to someone why this is harassment.
posted by bq at 9:11 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"But men want what they want. We should all lighten up."

Huh. I had about the exact opposite read on Blurred Lines. The hook is
"But you're a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me"
All of the action is on her part — she's the one grabbing him, and he ends it with encouraging her to go further. The whole song read to me like she's saying she's a "good girl" while coming on to him, in lines like
"One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you back that ass to"
again put her in charge of the action. Likewise,
"So I just watch and wait for you to salute
But you didn't pick
Not many women can refuse this pimpin'"
— the narrative being that TI is used to women approaching him, so he waits for her, but she doesn't go for it. In pretty much every action of the song, the woman is the actor. Aside from that, it's just a little sexual boasting and a bunch of catchy riffs (you don't get all that much when it's pretty much two verses and two extra long choruses).
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 PM on July 5, 2013


Somewhere there is a happy medium which represents equality and justice for both men and women here

You've said "happy medium" more than once, and I think you're imagining somewhere in the middle of a line between "victim" and "accused". When in fact, to balance this out, that "medium" point would be so far over to the victim's side as to be indistinguishable.

False accusations are not a problem or a risk that we need to construct robust protections for before we can move on. What you and TFB are painting is this world where we're so terrified of the awful (lethal!) consequences of lightning strikes that we are forcing everyone to stay indoors until we've figured out how to get them safely to rubber-tyred cars. The risk is too great to take!

In the UK every year, 400,000 women are sexually assaulted. 80,000 women are raped. More than 100 women are murdered by their partners. There has been one false rape report conviction in that same period.

This is not a problem. It is not an issue. It's a derail. I am so disappointed that though they were denied the particular allegations of this case to tear to bits, a couple of guys nevertheless found something to use to make this, again, about protecting men. Pathetic.
posted by bonaldi at 4:32 AM on July 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


This drives me so nuts. It reveals a set of classically misogynist assumptions - the only reason men would care about women ever is if they want to get laid, right? Because women are of absolutely no concern otherwise to any man ever, and Scalzi can't possibly have actual female friends.

Yeah - because not only do those guys actively fear and dislike women, they can't imagine a sincere reaction to women from men apart from active fear and dislike. So, if you are behaving like you don't actively dislike women, you must be faking it for some reason. And since the only thing women are good for is sex, you must be faking it in an attempt to get sex, because why else would you voluntarily interact with or support women?

It's super weird. Especially when in the next sentence they accuse you of being gay, as well.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:23 AM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


In the UK every year...More than 100 women are murdered by their partners.

And on this side of the pond, the annual number is well over a thousand. USA! USA!
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2013


I'd like to hear how many formal reports of sexual harassment are typically made at conventions. I suspect that the answer is "zero", even though there's anecdotal evidence that harassment at cons is very common. So, yes, while I totally understand that you can't close down a con because some random person stands up in a bar and shout "you harassed me! And you! And you! And you!", that's not what is happening. The actual problems are that harassment is poorly policed; the penalties in the first instance don't seem to be huge (Frankel wasn't even told to leave the convention); and the repercussions from lodging a complaint are potentially huge, if it annoys your employers / editors / army of fanboys.

I think we all agree that justice is absolutely an important thing, but at the moment it's entirely hypothetical in that nobody has complained of any injustice. On the other hand, lots of people are complaining about a blasé attitude to unwelcoming or even frightening environments, and that attitude is only barely starting to change. So let's deal with the actual problem, and we can leave the problem of hypothetical and unidentified injustices to a time when we have enough formal complaints to actually see what may be wrong with the process.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:37 AM on July 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


The hand-wringing and excessive concern over false accusations in this thread reminds me of nothing so much as Hollywood denizens rushing to defend Roman Polanski.

Oh, the cruel ostracism from his professional community, he can't come and take part in professional life in the US, his reputation…

My hope is that the younger generation of male fans Joss Whedon raised on Joss Whedon-style feminism rise upagainst the older generation of Ellisons and Frenkels and Asimovs (& their younger incarnations at cons) and start condemning/ostracizing them openly for being creepoid gropers. Because it's not 1975 anymore, & all y'all's reprehensible behavior is making the rest of us all look bad.

Scalzi & his like in positions of respect/authority seem to be demonstrating this and I hope it takes hold & spreads.

Maybe a #Groper hashtag on Instagram/Twitter. Start painting a "G" in scarlet over some of these missing stairs.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:33 AM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because it's not 1975 anymore

Try 1955. In 1975 at least we had second-wave feminism to call some of this stuff out, even if not at SF cons.
posted by immlass at 8:46 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Frenkel's wikipedia page doesnt yet have a section on his being a con-groper and notorious "missing stair".

Yet.

Start reaching for the broken shards of pottery, con-goers. F-R-E-N-K-E-L.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was added and then deleted, as it didn't meet Wikipedia's rigorous standards for material to be included about a living person.
posted by KathrynT at 10:20 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blog posts aren't generally considered sources for purposes of wikipedia. I'm not a fan of the rules lawyering that goes on at wikipedia and wish they would allow more stuff in articles but this particular deletion is consistent with longstanding policy. If the Con or Tor or someone official ever puts out a statement I assume it would then be allowed.
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


An interesting contrast:

“This is something that I think might be worth noting out loud:

"At a largely female-oriented convention, as a man, I was never excluded, resented or made to feel unwelcome. There were folks who were surprised I was there, but that surprise was always “Oh! Cool! You’re here!” rather than “Why are you here?” And that, of course, is a salient difference. No one questioned my reasoning for being there, or suggested, say, that I was a Fake Romance Boy, or quizzed me about who my favorite romance author was or if I could recite that author’s bibliography to their satisfaction. I certainly wasn’t skeezed on. On the contrary, people went out of their way to ask me if I was enjoying myself and to let me know they were glad I was there. When I admitted ignorance about certain writers or genre details they were happy to expand my knowledge, and they wanted to know more about what I did and my own experiences as a writer. I met lots of new people and made new friends and in many ways it was one of the best convention experiences I’ve had in a long time.

"This leaves wide open and hanging the question of why was it so easy for the folks at the RT Booklovers’ Convention, fans and creators both, to welcome a stranger of the opposite gender into their midst, while other enthusiast communities that skew male still have creators and fans who blow a gasket about women doing their thing in that genre. It’s not difficult to be welcoming and friendly.”



John Scalzi, on his going to the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention
posted by magstheaxe at 3:20 PM on July 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


Scalzi might not have realized that there are quite a few men writing romance under female pen names.
posted by brujita at 4:04 PM on July 6, 2013


Scalzi is in fact perfectly aware there are plenty of men who write romance. Scalzi is also in fact aware that at the RT Booklover's Convention, the attendance, for authors and fans both, skewed overwhelmingly female. This is because Scalzi has functioning eyeballs and can count.
posted by jscalzi at 8:00 PM on July 6, 2013 [55 favorites]


One of these days I'm gonna register that Marshall McLuhan sockpuppet.
posted by cortex at 8:25 PM on July 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


My hope is that the younger generation of male fans Joss Whedon raised on Joss Whedon-style feminism rise upagainst the older generation of Ellisons and Frenkels and Asimovs (& their younger incarnations at cons) and start condemning/ostracizing them openly for being creepoid gropers. Because it's not 1975 anymore, & all y'all's reprehensible behavior is making the rest of us all look bad.

Well, should people still feel good about reading their books and enjoying their movies? You know, in the spirit of "separating the artist from the work"? What if the artist is still alive, and paying for their work gives them money? Should ethical readers wait for unsavory writers to die, or just consume their work illegally? It seems a little counterproductive to GRAR on the internet with one hand and hand over money to the Ellisons and Frenkels with the other.
posted by Nomyte at 9:37 PM on July 6, 2013


You know, i'd like to credit this thread since my post for seriously changing my opinions on the whole "false accusations" situation even though i've seen it happen right in front of my face. Especially after sleeping on it and talking about this kind of thing with some friends on 4th of july and otherwise.

The suggestion eyebrows mcgee provides is literally the middle ground answer i was searching for. Seriously, i am incapable of coming up with a way in which that is a bad solution.

I'm still wondering if there's a good solution for paid attendee Vs paid attendee though.

I will provide a counterpoint of a vaguely similar "paid attendee" situation though. Lets say you're at a concert at a night club. Same situation happens with a guy harassing a lady. If she goes and complains, it is extremely likely that person will be kicked out. Yes some places suck, yes this isn't a universal rule, but it's extremely overwhelmingly likely.

Is that type of "fire alarm" system(As in, someone sees an issue and pulls the lever, "the system" reacts immediately and doesn't pause to deliberate) perfect? No, but like a fire alarm, we have to assume that in this context everyone involved is adults and not middle schoolers pranking eachother and will use the system in good faith.

It is theoretically abusable, but what we should be looking for here is like a fire alarm the solution that keeps the most people safe. Is abuse a concern? Yes, but people get injured by airbags once in a while. That doesn't make airbags a bad idea.

I think what needs to be focused on, as stated above is making people feel comfortable with reporting in the same way that if someone sees a photocopier burst in to flames in an office they'll pull the fire alarm. After all, an alarm system isn't useful if people don't use it when there's an issue.

And similarly, what i've barely seen brought up here, is there should be some sort of encouragement of a "see something, say something". As in, if several people see some recognizable guy(Or someone they know!!) being a sack of crap report it. This should be handled differently, and shouldn't be an instant serious response thing. It should be more like traffic cameras. Run one, and if someone working there sees the guy stop him and go "hey dude, just so you know people noticed you doing this. cool it" More than once? Same response you get if someone directly reports harassment that they personally received.

Deal with "false accusations" and "justice" when there's more than zero people being processed through the system and it's actually a statistically relevant problem. Yes, if there's 70-100k attendees like PAX prime you might end up kicking out 2-3 people who were illegitimately reported in a "griefing" type sense. But the thing to remember is that this isn't highschool, and we need to make some kind of assumption that people will be adults most of the time.

The people i know who have stirred up shit in these types of situations aren't really adults(even if their ID says they are), and are not the typical person on the street nor the typical convention attendee. This is a serious problem that needs to be a dealt with in a "don't let perfect be the enemy of better" way as eyebrows mcgee said above.

and ugh, i'm kinda embarrassed by my earlier posts above after really thinking about this. thanks mefi...
posted by emptythought at 9:52 PM on July 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Well, should people still feel good about reading their books and enjoying their movies? You know, in the spirit of "separating the artist from the work"? What if the artist is still alive, and paying for their work gives them money? Should ethical readers wait for unsavory writers to die, or just consume their work illegally? It seems a little counterproductive to GRAR on the internet with one hand and hand over money to the Ellisons and Frenkels with the other."

I'm of the opinion that terrible people can still create great works of art, and their problematic behavior should be discussed to the extent it impacts the work, or supporting the work enables them to continue that problematic behavior.

I do think it's a separate issue from conventions — I've seen great paintings by prisoners but that doesn't mean I think they should necessarily get out of jail for painting them.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, should people still feel good about reading their books and enjoying their movies? You know, in the spirit of "separating the artist from the work"? What if the artist is still alive, and paying for their work gives them money? Should ethical readers wait for unsavory writers to die, or just consume their work illegally?

There are a couple of creators who've made things I've enjoyed in the past who have extensively advanced vile positions and I've chosen not to send any more money their way. I'm disinterested in helping them finance any larger a pulpit than they already have. I haven't felt I've suffered for this... there's lots of great things to read by people who somehow manage to get through their days without spewing hate.

(Of course, I did just buy the recent two-volume edition of Lovecraft's collaborations and revisions, but he's long in the grave...)

But this is a complicated issue that I figure people have to decide for themselves. For instance I'd never tell anyone else "Don't go see Ender's Game"...
posted by Zed at 10:43 PM on July 6, 2013


I would. It looks like it's going to be a shitshow.
posted by klangklangston at 11:01 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great example. Is it ethical to pay to see the Ender's Game movie?
posted by Nomyte at 11:09 PM on July 6, 2013


I don't see why not. I would wager that nearly 100% of films have at least one major league asshole profiting from them. It might be the writer. It might be the director. It might be the actors. It might be the producers (spoiler alert: it's the producers). Some of the crew will probably be bad people.

I can probably point out some bad people that profited from whatever your favorite film is.
posted by Justinian at 1:26 AM on July 7, 2013


I don't think I'd fault anyone for seeing it, but I wouldn't probably go see it because I feel like it's a necessary gesture to say that I will not send movie studios money for things that they bought from homophobic (and biphobic and sexist) authors.

Though I'm also guessing that it will suck, so there's that.
posted by NoraReed at 1:33 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So let's deal with the actual problem, and we can leave the problem of hypothetical and unidentified injustices to a time when we have enough formal complaints to actually see what may be wrong with the process.

See, this is exactly what I find a not at all acceptable attitude. Whenever anyone, from a MeFi commenter to President Bush, says "This problem is so urgent we must immediately adopt the solution I'm calling for rather than asking if the solution will have unintended consequences," I get mghty suspicious. Abuse of false accusations is vanishingly rare now, because the system is built against it (so far against it that real accusations are under-treated, I think). But I guarantee if you adopt a "one complaint, one expulsion" policy, there will be some abuse in the first six months, endemic abuse within a year, and major abuse within two years. Build a system with an obvious flaw, and that flaw will take over.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:22 AM on July 7, 2013


I'm not sure people think "one complaint and you're out" is a good rule -- most of the comments I read about, say, the Readercon issue argued not that the rule was good, but that the rule shouldn't have been ignored for a big name -- if they want to change the rules afterwards, that's fine, but not in the middle of a complaint.

I'm pretty sure that any solution to the problem will have unintended consequences. But there are approximately seventy million conferences a year, and they can learn from the other conferences and CHANGE THE RULES for the next year to find a better solution.
posted by jeather at 8:33 AM on July 7, 2013


But I guarantee if you adopt a "one complaint, one expulsion" policy, there will be some abuse in the first six months, endemic abuse within a year, and major abuse within two years.

I would take that bet. In the meantime, we can see how just enforcing the policy they already have works out for them.
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 AM on July 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


Abuse of false accusations is vanishingly rare now, because the system is built against it (so far against it that real accusations are under-treated, I think).

You *think*?

I don't know exactly what "system" you're referring to here. The one I'm most familiar with is cultural, not legal; it is a boys-will-be-boys system; it excuses appalling behavior and is set up to dismiss the complaints of women who are assaulted and harassed as coming from bitches who want to spoil the fun. It is so effective that it protects the men who pull this shit for years - not only are there no "false" reports filed, no formal reports are filed at all.

It is a sick, shitty system.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on July 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


Whenever anyone, from a MeFi commenter to President Bush, says "This problem is so urgent we must immediately adopt the solution I'm calling for rather than asking if the solution will have unintended consequences," I get mghty suspicious.

Fair enough - a certain level of healthy skepticism is certainly understandable.

Abuse of false accusations is vanishingly rare now, because the system is built against it

But again, you're still ignoring the point people keep making:

Mostly, historically, there is no formal system. The "system" is the rumor mill, private conversations, email warnings from one individual to another to "avoid Editor Dude X, he gets grabby." You can't put false accusations on record if there is no method of record-keeping. That's why they're "vanishingly rare."

It's like you're predicting dire consequences and a tsunami of false arrests and questionable tickets if a town decides to put up a speed limit sign on a stretch of road where there wasn't one before. And everyone else, including people who live and drive on that road, is saying, "Dude, the place was a Mad Max free-for-all before. Can we at least give a formal structure of rules and enforcement a chance before we get all freaked out over the remote possibility of false arrests?"

real accusations are under-treated, I think

I . . . I . . . . I . . . . . .

I really don't know what to say, here. If the HUGE number of accounts of harassment in this thread and other MF threads on similar topics and in a ton of other places all freakin' over the web haven't convinced you that the situation is WAY beyond "under-treated," then I don't even know.

I guess you're taking a stand on some kind of principle, but it seems like a fairly uninformed stand.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:33 AM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I think" means "I believe this to be true". I'm a little mystified that so many people insist it means "maybe, or maybe not".

It's like you're predicting dire consequences and a tsunami of false arrests and questionable tickets if a town decides to put up a speed limit sign on a stretch of road where there wasn't one before.

It's more like the town is saying "There have been a lot of deaths on this road, and there's no good speed limit enforcement, so we should institute a system where anyone can call the police, report that they saw someone speeding, and that person's car will be taken away." The first two parts are exactly why we need a solution, but this solution isn't great.

People are now saying they want an instant investigation procedure, not an instant expulsion procedure. Which I think is an excellent idea. But that only came about after much prodding, which is exactly why I think it's important to prod. History has shown over and over that no matter how justified the anger is, people who are very angry at wrongdoers devise bad systems for punishment.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:49 AM on July 7, 2013


You're catastrophizing getting kicked out of a con to a ridiculous degree. It's not awesome, sure, but it is hardly the equivalent of getting arrested or getting your car taken away. It's substantially less serious than even having a harassment claim made to your HR department, even if no action is taken.

It's also substantially less serious than the follow-on effects from being harassed and living in a culture of harassment, for women. Which you seem unable to even consider, let alone empathize with, and it's getting you a lot of the static you're seeing in this thread.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:05 AM on July 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm going to suggest that trying to compare the policy of a private organization trying to stem what seems to be a chronic problem by removing people's ability to voluntarily participate in a public event to a legal process that leads to loss of property is necessarily a faulty parallel, and maybe we should address actual policies and actual responses, instead of inventing one and then inventing a slippery slope than necessarily leads to its abuse, in which, in your formulation, women just accuse men of harassment willy nilly and there's nothing at all men can do about it.

I don't know how to say this politely, but you're dragging this discussion away from a real thing that happens to real people and into a fantasy world.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:05 AM on July 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


No, no, it was his prodding that finally made all the reactionary feminists see the light and abandon the straw man he had invented for them. The system works!
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whenever anyone, from a MeFi commenter to President Bush, says "This problem is so urgent we must immediately adopt the solution I'm calling for rather than asking if the solution will have unintended consequences," I get mghty suspicious.

But that's what you've been doing for the duration of this thread, which is why people are expressing such intense suspicion. You're saying that the threat of something "bad" happening to someone who has been falsely accused of harassment is more important, more primary to the matter at hand than erring on the side of the safety and comfort of people who have been harassed.
You've stated outright that no action should be taken in harassment cases unless multiple witnesses are willing to file reports confirming harassment has occurred; moreover, if multiple witnesses are not available, then at least three individual "uncorroborated" reports must have been made before any action should be taken. Have you thought about whether your proposed solution will have unintended consequences, or whether or not those consequences might happen to line up tidily with the societal inculcation and embrace of male privilege? Could it have to do with the level of discomfort that privileged people tend to feel when they realize that they might not be the best judge of whether or not an oppressed group has experienced oppression?

Abuse of false accusations is vanishingly rare now, because the system is built against it (so far against it that real accusations are under-treated, I think).

Is it possible that false accusations are vanishingly rare because not many people want to make them? Or that not many people are willing to subject themselves to tedious, endless inquisitions just to have another person unduly punished, to a degree that many, many people who are actually harassed do not ever formally report it or even tell anyone? I'll admit, it's quite generous to admit you think "real accusations are under-treated." This neatly elides any sort of specificity -- what does "under-treated" even mean, in a practical sense: unreported, unremarked upon, unpunished? This continued refusal to acknowledge the true virulence of sexual harassment in our culture speaks volumes.
posted by divined by radio at 10:10 AM on July 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


You're catastrophizing getting kicked out of a con to a ridiculous degree. It's not awesome, sure, but it is hardly the equivalent of getting arrested or getting your car taken away.

restless_nomad makes an excellent point, here.

I mean, shit, there are thousands of Americans walking around who've spent the night in jail after getting thrown out of a bar by the cops ("instant expulsion" to the nth degree) with no more dire consequences than a horrible hangover and the loss of a few thousand bucks. And believe me, I've seen it happen a LOT - I spent a good portion of my twenties and thirties working and hanging out in punk rock clubs.

So the baseline assumption that instant expulsion = end of the world seems highly suspect.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scalzi says it far better than I could in his follow-up post which I am excerpting. Worth reading the whole thing though.

"Also, you know what? Fuck these assholes. I’m sick of politely sharing cultural space with the sort of pissy lump of a human who sees nothing wrong with being a racist and/or sexist and/or homophobe, who attacks and harasses people because they feel they have a right to, and who goes out of their way to make the places I work and socialize in uncomfortable and even threatening for too many of the other people I work and socialize with, and for so many others as well. Having robust, visible and enforced harassment policies at conventions will go a long way to making these assholes behave, or making them go home. Either is fine with me."

And TFB - you're spending an awful lot of time worrying about a hypothetical rather than addressing a known and significant problem. You've dragged this thread repeatedly off the main topic to wander around your worry about possible false accusations. It's tedious and completely missing the point of the real issue or harassment - which happens to more women than not at varying point in our lives. I'm in my 50s and it still happens to me - not at cons because I don't attend them any more because that atmosphere put me off decades ago. If the attention paid to this issue begins to change the culture I'm all for it - and I don't think the world will end if people have to pay attention to their behavior.
posted by leslies at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't invent the car hypothetical---that was proposed by soundguy99. And it seemed like a perfectly good metaphor to everyone until the rather glaring problem with it was noted.

As for the accusations that my concern about the potential abuses of the incredibly easy to abuse system you're excited to institute are because of a lack of empathy: The argument that "Anyone noting the flaws in this punishment system are insufficiently outraged about the crime" is a popular argument in many circles, and it's always a bad position.

I agree that false accusations are quite rare. This is not because women are inherently virtuous, it's because the system is inclined to (grotesquely) under-reward accusers and (appallingly) under-punish the accused. Change that, and you'll change behaviors, but unless you assume that any system for punishment will be abused, and design with a mind towards that, you might not get the change you're hoping for.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:36 AM on July 7, 2013


You're still completely ignoring proportionality. An over-applied safety measure (and ejection is a safety measure, not a punishment) is better than overcommitted harm. I am reminded of the people who freak out over comment removal and take it exceedingly personally, when it's neither personal nor a punishment, but an action taken for the benefit of the community.

But honestly, I don't think you're worth debating on this any further. You're taking a "principled stand" on a subject in which you have no stake, and there's no point in trying to convince you.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:49 AM on July 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


and ejection is a safety measure, not a punishment

Rather depends on who you ask. The person being ejected will certainly feel punished, no matter how much you say "We're kicking you out of this professional event for the good of the community."

You're taking a "principled stand" on a subject in which you have no stake,

And see, this is the creepy part to me: your assumption that only the accuser, not the accused, has a perspective, your assumption that an accused person should always be treated the same way as a guilty person, and your assumption that the individual with the most personal injury should be the one making the decisions about how the justice system operates (which is what you're devising here, whether or not it's a private event). All of these ideas would be rightly condemned in any other thread (the last one was pretty roundly dismissed in the Tsarnaev thread), and the fact that those principles get thrown over the side on this subject is what makes me feel like either those principles were merely instrumental, or this an issue you think is so bad it's worth abandoning one's principles for, which scares the hell outta me.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:58 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know what's funny (not in a ha-ha way) is that the system that's in place right now - not just at cons, but in retail establishments, bars, restaurants, concert venues, malls, sports stadiums etc. - is one in which the venue can kick anyone out for any reason (barring one prohibited by law, e.g. race, sex). Bartender notices you're wearing sneakers in a club where sneakers aren't allowed? Get out! At a baseball game and the family nearby complains that you're swearing and being obnoxious in front of their kids? Ushers will tell you to shut it or they will remove you. Bookstore thinks you've shoplifted something (even if there's nothing in your pockets or bag)? They can tell you to GTFO.

You're acting like getting kicked out of a con is somehow the equivalent to being sent to the gulag, and it's making me roll my eyes so hard I can barely read the thread anymore.
posted by rtha at 10:58 AM on July 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


rtha, it's already been established that people don't want a "cons can just kick out anyone" policy. You're going to have to actually defend what's under discussion, rather than saying "This punishment is so minor it may as well be applied to anyone for any reason."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:06 AM on July 7, 2013


rtha, it's already been established that people don't want a "cons can just kick out anyone" policy.

So why the eff are you still arguing against it!?
posted by KathrynT at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


You're going to have to actually defend what's under discussion,

You're the one who's discussing this as if the potential punishment (being kicked out of a con) is so horrendous that any reporting system in place must use criteria that not even workplaces or civil courts adhere to. I mean, three witnesses? Come on.

But thank you for finally acknowledging that no one here has suggested a one-strike policy. Took you long enough.
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on July 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Actually, for the record, I think a one-strike policy could be a viable option for some cons.

As you pointed out, there are roughly a bazillion other real world situations where just such a policy is accepted without blinking. If a con has staffing or financial issues or just a higher level of intolerance for harassment than others, well, it's their con. Don't like the conditions for participation, don't go to the con.

Somehow the moral panic only sets in when it's women who are initiating the response to a known problem . . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 11:57 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also: the dude back in the day, going up to every woman at a convention, saying hello by asking them if they want to fuck? Harassing asshole. Mind you, back in the day apparently no one was going to call him on his shitty harassing actions. Now they would. And they should. Because they are. Welcome to the future!

Ha. Scalzi's great.
posted by mediareport at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


But honestly, I don't think you're worth debating on this any further. You're taking a "principled stand" on a subject in which you have no stake, and there's no point in trying to convince you.

With respect, restless nomad, Thatfuzzybastard absolutely has a stake in this. His stake is the same as my stake, and indeed the stake of, I imagine, a number of people in this discussion - he's a man, and thus someone who is extremely unlikely to be harassed at a convention, and also vanishingly unlikely to be accused of harassment at a convention, but whose stake is represented in that small risk.

As I said above, TFB is going to keep arguing for the prioritizing of the safety of women insofar as and only when provisions taken to protect the safety of women do not endanger the comfort of men. Looking at the stake, that's a perfectly understandable response, with perfectly understandable motivations.

These are the same motivations that meant Adria Richards, who lost her job amid a welter of death threats, had to be a "horrible sociopath" and a threat on a metaphorical par with terrorism, because the public shaming of someone who looks like TFB by someone who does not look like TFB cannot stand - others must be discouraged in future.

They are the same motivations that, in the last Penny Arcade blowup, drove the conclusion that the only valid or useful response from the trans community was the most polite and conciliatory one available, delivered by a personal friend. And, by extension, nobody feeling differently could possibly be an actual trans woman, rather than a white-knighting social justice warrior, even when they had already identified themselves as a trans woman.

TFB very much has a stake - he believes he is engaged in a battle to defend people like him from an assault on multiple fronts by groups of social justice warriors intend on harming them for no other reason than to fulfil a partisan agenda. This is a war, and as such any tactic allowable during a state of war - which in this terrain includes derailing, doubling down on derails or offensive statements, confidently representing half-remembered anecdata as fact, wild extrapolations like the above to RN, personal abuse - is justified.

I wouldn't normally refer back to earlier threads, but I think in this case the ongoing and potentially endless back and forth here seems to justify it. When you ask TFB to acknowledge something like "harassment at cons is a bigger issue than false accusations of harassment at cons, and saying that does not make one George Bush", you're not asking him to accept a point. You're asking him to surrender a fortification. This is going to keep happening, across a variety of topics, so one probably ought to decide how one wishes personally to deal with it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:53 PM on July 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


Uptread a bit, Eyebrows McGee suggested appointing a minder to keep an eye on an accused harrasser, so if they screw up again they can be tossed out. Sounds good, right? A fair middle ground between "throw the bum out at the first hint of misbehavior" and "three strikes, using proven testimony from multiple eyewitnesses".

The problem is, this is not at all a new idea; there were minders assigned to people like Asimov way back in the '70s: not so much to get the evidence to eject him --- after all, who'd eject Asimov?!? --- as to keep the offender happy while basically protecting him from the consequences of his actions.

If a con were to go this route and appoint minders, the individual they're watching would have to have multiple minders, and be under 24/7 watch, including outside the subject's hotel room; the minders would also have to have full power to eject the offender on the spot, without delay or argument. Minders would have to be more concerned with preventing the subject from harrassing other con-goers, rather than the old model of protecting the harrasser (and his reputation) from himself.
posted by easily confused at 1:11 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


With respect, restless nomad, Thatfuzzybastard absolutely has a stake in this.

You know, I would disagree with you - and I think I do - but you've correctly described the dynamic anyway, so I'll save my extended rant about "black knighting" for another day.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:36 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


This whole minder thing is just crazy talk. Cons are volunteer-run events that don't have the people to assign permanent babysitters to follow given attendees around from party to party all night not least because no one would want that job. It's also far from clear to me that the results would even appease the "OH NO! THERE MIGHT BE A FALSE ACCUSATION!" club. "Yeah, sure, the minder verified the accusation. THEY'RE IN CAHOOTS! WHY ELSE WOULD ANYONE HAVE VOLUNTEERED FOR THIS SUCKY JOB IF NOT FOR THE POWER TO RUIN MEN'S LIVES?!"
posted by Zed at 1:37 PM on July 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd like to note that under the "one report and you're out" policy all the offender has to do to avoid justice is to report harassment first and have the victim kicked out of the con.
posted by hat_eater at 1:48 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


"And see, this is the creepy part to me: your assumption that only the accuser, not the accused, has a perspective

Flawed assumption on your part; you've not been designated as "accused," which is the only way your comment would make sense unless you're wrongly inferring that r_n has accused you of something.

your assumption that an accused person should always be treated the same way as a guilty person

No one said anything about "always." But if you're at a club and there's a fight, you may get thrown out even if the fight wasn't your fault. It's a harm mitigation strategy, something that you've blithely ignored.


and your assumption that the individual with the most personal injury should be the one making the decisions about how the justice system operates (which is what you're devising here, whether or not it's a private event).

That's just nonsense, and seems a pretty reprehensible way of dismissing the opinions of victims of harassment, many of which are in this thread, in order to privilege your own armchair musings.

All of these ideas would be rightly condemned in any other thread (the last one was pretty roundly dismissed in the Tsarnaev thread)

Leaving aside whether that's true or not (Tsarnaev hasn't been convicted, but it's entirely reasonable to presume him guilty outside of a court), none of those things have actually been voiced here — you're yelping at fantods.

and the fact that those principles get thrown over the side on this subject is what makes me feel like either those principles were merely instrumental, or this an issue you think is so bad it's worth abandoning one's principles for, which scares the hell outta me."

You've scared yourself into witlessness, then. Not only are you ignoring what people are actually saying about their positions, principles are no reason to become an idiot — I believe very strongly in the right of free speech. I do not believe that this right means that I can say, "Nice tits," to a woman at a con. That does not mean that I am abandoning my principle, it means that there's a significant difference in the context of that speech, and that having speech doesn't mean being absolved of consequences.

And again, this is a context where you have a very minute chance of either being harassed or having a false accusation leveled at you. Which means that your principles are pretty cheaply held, despite your predictions of some new feminist Stalinism from major false accusations being made as soon as women have the power to.

This strikes me as similar to the complaints that are often heard about giving transgender people access to the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, that it will be used by lurking male perverts to harass women. Except that in places with the policies that allow access, there are practically no examples of that actually happening.

You are deciding that your imaginary fears deserve more weight — and that there will be no possible process remedy for those fears — than the actual harms suffered by women at cons. It's incredibly selfish, blinkered and oblivious, and it's troubling that you'd rather not give up imaginary protections in order to actually protect real people from harm. All of your sputtering imputations to others' all boil down to that — you'd rather pretend that these abstract principles haven't led to an absurd, callow and callous outcome, than actually look at life as it exists and make the best choices from there. Your occasional, grudging admissions of the general consensus just make the rest of your privileged entrenchment more baffling and tragic.
posted by klangklangston at 2:15 PM on July 7, 2013 [27 favorites]


(As an aside, on the "innocent until proven guilty" thing - and this may be a useful thing for Podkayne's concerns also - it's worth noting that we actually treat people who have been arrested or charged with a crime quite differently from people who haven't, without it being a statement of their guilt.

So, if a police officer arrests somebody on suspicion of $crime, he or she has the power to deprive that somebody of their freedom of motion and association for a limited period (with certain counterbalances and safeguards). When someone is processed by a court, they might be identified as a flight risk, or a danger to witnesses or jurors, and bail may be denied, causing them again to be deprived of their liberty under certain safeguards. Again, they are being treated differently from someone who has not been accused of $crime, but that does not, or at least should not, mean that their presumption of innocence has been abrogated.

How this all fits into con admin is another question, of course, but jurisprudentially the idea that it is a violation of the presumption of innocence to treat somebody who has been charged (in this case I guess formally reported to the con organisers) differently from someone who has not is not generally accepted.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:56 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to note that under the "one report and you're out" policy all the offender has to do to avoid justice is to report harassment first and have the victim kicked out of the con.

There is no "one report and you're out" policy. Not at WisCon, not in the FPP, not in this thread. Such a policy has not been seriously discussed or embraced at all, except for instances in which people who want to derail the discussion have brought it up in order to use it as a rhetorical cudgel, or to create a hypothetical distraction from the reality on the ground. If you have some proof of actual negative effects stemming from this made-up non-problem, by all means, feel free to share it. Until then, talking about it just makes you look like you're trying to throw a wrench in the works. Even taking you at your word, do you really believe implementing such a policy would result in the creation of a new breed of harassers who train themselves to quickly run to report the people they've harassed? It beggars belief.

This has not been brought up because the folks inspiring the litany of derails are desperate for a meaningful, fair-handed debate on con harassment reporting and/or punishment, but rather because they are made so uncomfortable by the notion that in 2013, women still regularly experience sexual harassment at cons, same as it ever was. They are not speaking up because they want to discuss how harassment should actually be addressed, or acknowledge that being on the near-continual receiving end of harassment has a clear chilling effect and can even be career-destroying. Instead, they speak with an air of defensiveness, as though they are part of a nebulous group that is under vicious attack, all because they have grown accustomed to blithely operating from a position of -- you guessed it! -- privilege.

Perhaps most tellingly, this level of defensiveness tends to be unsheathed only whenever they feel their self-imagined authority has been challenged. Unlike, say, women whose layers of natural defensiveness have been worn down by decades of the normalization of habitual harassment and assault, they are not at all used to being accused of exaggeration, dishonesty, or making things up out of whole cloth just because they think it makes a good story. They are blissfully unfamiliar with the notion of having their innermost thoughts and feelings routinely dismissed, having basic tenets of their lived experience called into question or chipped away, and getting nitpicked to death for having the gall to talk about life as they experience it. So they make shit up because they don't want to think about reality. Which, OK, the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house, but there is absolutely no reason to bring up imaginary nonsense like "one report and you're out, set permanently adrift, left to wander a barren and jobless wasteland" unless you're just looking to assuage your own discomfort by changing the subject. You might as well set off some smoke bombs and yell, "Hey, everyone, look over there!"

See also: concern troll.
posted by divined by radio at 2:58 PM on July 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


Jscalzi, what I was getting at is that I inferred that the male contingent of romance writers were the most likely reason why you weren't given the "why are you here" vibe.
posted by brujita at 3:25 PM on July 7, 2013


Jscalzi, what I was getting at is that I inferred that the male contingent of romance writers were the most likely reason why you weren't given the "why are you here" vibe.

That doesn't really make sense. The piece was specifically contrasting the romance con with science fiction cons. There are female SF writers and fans, but the vibe at male-dominated SF cons is unfriendly. Whereas while romance has comparatively few male writers and fans, but the female-dominated con is friendly.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:43 PM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


And you know, this thread is circling back around to some other thoughts i was having after i wrote my last post.

To the entire camp of people who think that any sort of hard and fast, big sign on the wall "step one step two step three" policy about harassment would be rife for abuse... i really want you to think about something.

What do you think the motivation for false reports would be? How incredibly silly do they sound when you actually write them down? Because while i'm great at bullshitting up arguments for my own side or the other side(both to actually debate with people, and to attempt to tear down my own beliefs or arguments to see if they're complete shit) i just struggle to come up with any reason, even ones that could potentially sound a bit like BS that it wouldn't also be extremely likely that they were just true. And i can't think of any way of evaluating complaints to try and gold-pan out the "true" ones that wouldn't leave a whole ton of babies in the side yard along with the bathwater.

I don't even want to start getting in to hypothetical situations as examples here. But really guys, every on of you who is convinced that this could be an epidemic or at least a slow corrosion on the bottom of the hull of the system... Write down your scenarios in which you could see this system being abused and then read them back to yourself.

What does it really sound like?

See also: concern troll.

Is also an excellent point here.
posted by emptythought at 3:47 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The existence of male romance writers.

When I was in Indianapolis, I read about a soul food place noted for its meatloaf that Obama had visited during his campaign. I walked in and I was the only white person there. I was treated with respect, but I definitely picked up the " why is she here" vibe.
posted by brujita at 3:52 PM on July 7, 2013


For the record, if I could push a big magic button and make "one report and you're out" an official policy of all public gatherings, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Because it would be a better system that we have now. Because I know things would've worked out after a while. Because the potential collateral damage from false accusations is vastly smaller than actual damage the victims suffer today. And I am one of them.

There is no "one report and you're out" policy. Not at WisCon, not in the FPP, not in this thread.

It is discussed in this thread, most recently here:

Actually, for the record, I think a one-strike policy could be a viable option for some cons.

I was also under impression that it is also an assumption that underlies the declarations that being kicked out of a convention for alleged sexual harassment and branded for life is no big deal.

I know who a concern troll is, thank you, and if anyone thinks I like to stir the shit up, well. I deleted about a half dozen posts in this discussion and finally threw caution to the winds, because I'm prone to bouts of stupidity.

Write down your scenarios in which you could see this system being abused

Off the top of my head - 4chan deciding to get all celebrities banned from a con.
posted by hat_eater at 3:58 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do you think the motivation for false reports would be?

I think you're coming from a good place, emptythought, but I dunno how useful said thought experiment is gonna be.

Because I strongly suspect that most men who are getting panicked about false reporting are also operating from the bedrock assumption that women are spiteful, petty, manipulative, and catty. Also flighty and emotional, so "who knows why they behave they way they do." They think the motivation for false reporting boils down to because they can, or because girls can't or won't take a more straightforward approach to conflict. Like, in all seriousness, they assume that a woman's thought process would go something like, "Oooooh, that guy took the good parking spot I had my eye on! Well, I'll show him! Let's just see how he likes a sexual harassment report!"

It's throughly irrational, but coming from a deep place, so I've got some doubts about how often the reality-based analysis you describe would work.

But it certainly wouldn't hurt for people to try your approach.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:29 PM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Off the top of my head - 4chan deciding to get all celebrities banned from a con.

I could believe something like that a lot easier than I do the idea that hostile women are suddenly going to gin up false harassment charges against unwitting nerds who don't know social cues. That's still not a reason not to have harassment policies and enforce them.
posted by immlass at 4:37 PM on July 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I do not really see 4chan as likely to make it through a formal complaints process once for lulz let alone multiple times.
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no "one report and you're out" policy. Not at WisCon, not in the FPP, not in this thread.

It is discussed in this thread, most recently here:

Actually, for the record, I think a one-strike policy could be a viable option for some cons.


Yep, I posted that: 500+ comments in, and AFAICT the first time it was actually brought up in a context other than slight hyperbole or willful misreading of other posters' positions. So maybe not a great way to prove how extensive support for a one-strike policy is.

And just to clarify my thinking about one-strike policies, see klang's point above re: harm mitigation strategy and "actually look at life as it exists and make the best choices from there."
posted by soundguy99 at 5:18 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, when i google 'jim frenkel' i have to go two screens deep to get anything about sexual harrassment, and I've been reading about this for an hour or so -- Google knows i'm interested.

So at least at this point, about a week and a half after all this started breaking, there aren't really visible consequences.
posted by lodurr at 5:24 PM on July 7, 2013


See, the thing is, sf cons aren't male-dominated in any numeric sense. Attendance at sf cons is in the neighborhood of parity. And yet still there is as much bullshit as there is.

In my reading, the key point of Scalzi's account is that at an RT con he really was in a significant sense an outsider. Not because he's a man (though he did play that up), but because he doesn't have the familiarity with the genre that people immersed in it have. And despite that, and despite being in a minority of men, everyone was nice and generous and welcoming.

By contrast, incidents keep coming up of a man treating a woman at an sf con as an outsider just because she's a woman, despite that she might be better read or otherwise more of an insider than he is.

So the RT con, despite being markedly numerically female-majority somehow manages not to be female-normative in a way that makes men feel excluded, and all too often sf cons, despite not having been male-majority in decades, are still suffering from male-normative inertia.

And the difference isn't about who's what sex, the difference is that the people at the RT con weren't being assholes, and there are people at sf cons being assholes.
posted by Zed at 5:30 PM on July 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


there are people at sf cons being assholes.

If only there were some kind of policy organizations could put in place to deal with egregious behavior on the part of their attendees. *le sigh*
posted by rmd1023 at 5:44 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I've realized that somehow, in this thread, "one-strike policy" has become synonymous with "single unfounded and un-investigated accusation."

There's no reason this would have to actually be the case in the real world. A con committee could certainly have a valid and through method of investigating an accusation and still feel that they don't have the resources to deal with a harasser in any way besides expulsion.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:57 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I've realized that somehow, in this thread, "one-strike policy" has become synonymous with "single unfounded and un-investigated accusation."

Worth mentioning - ReaderCon is a useful example. It had a "zero-tolerance" harassment policy, but that meant that attendees/members would be permanently suspended after a proven report of harassment - which would involve talking to other people present &c. In the René Walling case, that was simplified by Walling himself acknowledging that events transpired as Genevieve Valentine described them - the problem then became that the board tried to find a way around banning Malling, per the rules they had set out, either because he was an influential "superfan" or because the rule was written with unapologetic harassment in mind, and was not appropriate for the case of a confessing and contrite harasser (depending on who you talk to).

If only there were some kind of policy organizations could put in place to deal with egregious behavior on the part of their attendees. *le sigh*

There probably isn't a policy that could wholly stop people being assholes. I'm reminded of "Booth Babes Need Not Apply" - another piece of geek sexism skewered by Scalzi, in fact - which was definitely a manifesto for acting like a jerk to women at conventions, but not actionably so.

(Although the thesis encourages a general atmosphere of suspicion, sexualisation and contempt towards women, and that probably acts to normalize sexual harassment.)

"People should not be assholes at conventions" and "people should not sexually harass people at conventions" are probably two different goals, although they are intertwined - general intolerance of asshole behavior will create a more hostile environment for harassment, and a strong anti-harassment policy will hopefully have a knock-on effect on lower-level jerkishness towards women.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:14 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


"People should not be assholes at conventions" and "people should not sexually harass people at conventions" are probably two different goals, although they are intertwined - general intolerance of asshole behavior will create a more hostile environment for harassment, and a strong anti-harassment policy will hopefully have a knock-on effect on lower-level jerkishness towards women.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:14 PM on July 7


Speaking of which, this was posted from RTX on Saturday:

If you’re at RTX and see someone handing out this sticker, please report them to RTX staff. My teammate Ashe was the one who brought this to my attention, but I wanted to boost the signal. I guess whoever is handing out these ‘stickers’ is slapping them on costumes of females around the event

It never lets up....
posted by magstheaxe at 6:50 PM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


i would love to know who's making those stickers. Like maybe even see an interview on youtube or something.

I can't imagine anyone but the most trite, tiresome basement troll type of bitter nerdy dude doing it.
posted by emptythought at 6:55 PM on July 7, 2013


I demand anyone identifying as a geek bite the head off a chicken to prove their bonafides, male or female.
posted by klangklangston at 7:04 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I need a Fake Geek Boy T-Shirt.
posted by Artw at 7:05 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did you ever go to GeekGirlCon just to try to impress women by being there? I don't believe you're a real Fake Geek Boy.
posted by Zed at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I take a 6 year old as cover. Anyone asks any need questions I can pass them on to her.
posted by Artw at 7:13 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe i'm a bit of a cynical asshole, but i have always been pretty curious about the type of guy who goes to geekgirlcon. I have trouble not imagining a significant number of nerdy dudes and possibly nerdy gross PUA /r/seduction type dudes go there erm, "hunting".
posted by emptythought at 7:17 PM on July 7, 2013


In all seriousness, I go there with the kid most years so she can look at cosplay and have yet to see any evidence of that whatsoever. I suspect most of the guys there are part of couples or taking kids.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Greg Rucka is always there, but I never get to say hi as the kid is always dragging me off.
posted by Artw at 7:22 PM on July 7, 2013


Well, I'm an old monogamously married dude whose dating days are long past and I think GeekGirlCon sounds all kinds of awesome and if it were local, I'd love to attend (I don't travel for cons much anymore.)
posted by Zed at 7:22 PM on July 7, 2013


It's pretty fantastic, I'm very glad to be in a city that hosts it.
posted by Artw at 7:25 PM on July 7, 2013


GeekGirlCon has a clear, robust, and helpful anti-harassment policy.
Taking reports
When taking a report from someone experiencing harassment you should record what they say and reassure them they are being taken seriously, but avoid making specific promises about what actions the organizers will take. Ask for any other information if the reporter has not volunteered it (such as time, place) but do not pressure him/her to provide it if s/he is reluctant. If the reporter desires it, arrange for an escort by conference staff or a trusted person, contact a friend, and contact local law enforcement. Do not pressure the reporter to take any action if s/he does not want to do it.

Remember to email [con organizers] the following information:
• Identifying information (name/badge number) of the participant
• The time you issued the warning
• The behavior that was in violation
• The approximate time of the behavior (if different than the time of warning)
• The circumstances surrounding the incident
• Your identity
• Other people involved in the incident

Expulsion
A participant may be expelled by the decision of any of the above listed entities for whatever reasons they deem sufficient. However, here are some general guidelines for when a participant should be expelled without refund of costs paid:

• A second offense resulting in a warning from staff
• Continuing to harass after any "No" or "Stop" instruction
• A pattern of harassing behavior, with or without warnings
• A single serious offense (e.g., punching or groping someone)
• A single obviously intentional offense (e.g., taking up‐skirt photos)

Venue security and local authorities should be contacted when appropriate.
Sounds good to me!
posted by divined by radio at 7:49 PM on July 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


rosf, the degree to which you don't understand me, or principles, is psychologically fascinating; you're a Smerdyakov convinced he's a Stavrogin. Your ability to keep track of my comments across multiple threads is sort of flattering (or would be if you didn't keep misquoting me), but then, given your habit of sending me memail then blocking my response, I think you have some preexisting issues that fuel your powers of recall.

If you really can't imagine how such a system could be abused, well then you have less imagination than I might have thought. Anyone who's actually worked in a justice system knows that all systems are abused, everyone gets lied to sometimes, and designing a system on the assumption that it will never be misused is suicide. But given your assurance that you know exactly what happened in so many situations you didn't witness, perhaps you think you will never be decevied. And that your good intentions in designing the system guarantee the system will never go wrong. Best of luck.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:13 PM on July 7, 2013


How about we wait for evidence of deception and deal with it then instead of getting a hardon for all of the possible, improbable villains just waiting to deflower our good faith?
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 PM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


And yet in all of that, you didn't bother to answer the question. One might think someone who's so deeply knowledgeable about how all systems everywhere are abused might want to share that info with others, even if only to prove just how much smarter they are than the people they're disparaging.
posted by palomar at 8:22 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, no, because that would require acknowledging criticism, and that's something that could possibly lead to abuse.
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes "lack of imagination" is not wanting to waste time on rather unlikely "hypotheticals" with some "smash the system maaaan" idiot who lets face it is going to whine about any policy whatsoever without any engagement with real world issues. Just throwing that out there, blue skies and so on.
posted by Artw at 8:31 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and Greg Rucka is always there, but I never get to say hi as the kid is always dragging me off.

Clearly, Artw, you are Failing In Your Duties As A Parent if your kid isn't already a fan of Rucka. I think the Atticus Kodiak novels would make fine bedtime stories.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:38 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


[I am as guilty as anyone, but it's probably time to stop doing the circle dance with ThatFuzzyBastard. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 8:39 PM on July 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


palomar, do you mean the question about how the system could be abused? Well...

Are you proposing a system where only women can make harassment complaints? I assume not, since that opens quite the can of worms. So the "women wouldn't do such nasty things" aspect is out of the equation. Now then... Mister X sees that Mister Y, a hated rival (doesn't matter why Mister X hates him; sometimes people just don't like other people), is speaking on a panel at the con. Mister X complains that Mister Y harassed him, in private, where no one saw them. The organizers aren't sure what happened, but given that there's a complaint, it's best to quietly ask Mister Y to leave, and let other cons know what happened. Mister X repeats this at a few more cons, and now Mister Y has a record---one accusation might be nothing, but all these? Better not to have him at any more cons. And now that Mister Y can't do the kind of promotion you're expected to do for a book---he's not welcome at any of the cons where promotion happens–––do you really want to publish Mister Y's new trilogy? Lucky break for Mister X!

None of this is at all specific to sexual harassment policies (which is why rosf's conviction that I'm fighting for my gender is so ridiculous). This is how all systems get broken. The American justice system has a tremendous bias towards presumption of innocence and formidable inertia against pressing charges, yet people file groundless suits all the time, and people are falsely accused and convicted constantly (not least by the authorities themselves).

Why you think your system will avoid the same pitfalls that have befallen every other system of reporting---why you think your system is so blessed that you don't even need to plan for potential abuses---is fascinating to contemplate.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:54 PM on July 7, 2013


Sorry, TFB - I already read that book. Only it was about mystery writers, and there were a couple of murders in there, and I think somebody's cat solved the mystery. Or maybe it was a TV movie with Angela Lansbury.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:05 PM on July 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


he organizers aren't sure what happened, but given that there's a complaint, it's best to quietly ask Mister Y to leave, and let other cons know what happened.

what
posted by KathrynT at 9:11 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mister Y it was a locked room but he killed him with an icepick that's why there's two matches someone had to die to save the hot air balloon
posted by klangklangston at 9:18 PM on July 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


That's a great story, TFB, except that you keep working under the assumption that a sexual harassment policy at a con automatically equals a "any accusation equals immediate banishment of the accused" scenario. And that's honestly the dumbest thing I've seen presented in this thread, except for that "Fake Geek Girl Advisory" sticker.
posted by palomar at 9:20 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the complete story of what actually happened at RTX, please refer to the article by the stickers’ original creator DrNerdLove. A random person took a stack of these stickers and used them for his own malicious purpose. I understand that my blog post is being shared around the internet and I want to make sure that the right facts are getting out there.
Article can be found here.

posted by bq at 10:11 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only it was about mystery writers, and there were a couple of murders in there, and I think somebody's cat solved the mystery. Or maybe it was a TV movie with Angela Lansbury.

The malicious accusations of harassment were coming from inside the house!
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:36 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whenever anyone, from a MeFi commenter to President Bush, says "This problem is so urgent we must immediately adopt the solution I'm calling for rather than asking if the solution will have unintended consequences," I get mghty suspicious.

I won't rehash the many excellent points made above, but I'd also point out that "I strongly doubt false complaints would really be a problem" != failing to consider unintended consequences. Those unintended consequences have been considered -- not least because the specter of potential false accusations always comes up when discussing how to deal with actual ongoing harassment -- and rejected as unlikely, at least not sufficiently likely to stand in the way of a change of policy.

Therefore, anyone who harps on the specter of possible false accusations isn't exactly making an original point, nor one that hasn't been dealt with elsewhere many times.

I do want to echo soundguy99's point that a one-strike policy -- which I note that GeekGirlCon reserves the right to use in certain cases -- is not a "one univestigated report and you're out" scenario.

Giving someone who reports harassment the benefit of the doubt, or the mere presumption that the report is genuine -- hardly creates a grim dystopia. For one thing, someone falsely accused could always turn to the Internet -- which specter of Internet mobs has been invoked earlier when decrying the damage to a harasser's reputation -- and would certainly find a sympathetic audience fully ready to smear the accuser, even if the harasser is in fact guilty as hell. Not to mention the possibility of a defamation lawsuit.

I am comfortable giving con committees the ability of any other organization that hosts public gatherings to evaluate complaints of misbehavior and act accordingly (it shouldn't, but evidently is, need to be repeated that such a process giving the accused a say is often more than they'd receive in other venues). If that means that a committee could decide that a single report of an unwitnessed incident has more credibility than the accused's denials, then so be it.
posted by Gelatin at 3:20 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


In all seriousness, scenarios like the one TFB proposes have been known to happen. But they take years and years to play out and usually happen in highly bureaucratic or mannered institutions where the behavioral rules are a smokescreen for social preference.

an SF/F writer once gave a piece of advice to a writing workshop i was in: when we go to cons, we need to behave like human beings, because as big as the community seems, it's really rather small and word travels fast. In practice, this would neutralize Mister X (a.k.a. the False Accuser) fairly handily.
posted by lodurr at 5:02 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


... on that last note, if you take the time to get to know a few of the writers and the more approachable editors, you very very quickly get an idea of how interconnected people are. Some people are influential because of their positions as editors at an important house, or because of some particular office they hold. Some (like Ellison) are influential primarily because they are adored by fans (some of whom are also fellow pros). Some are influential because of how they nurture their personal connections & friendships (I can think of a particular florida-based editor/writer who seems to be able to get everyone to answer his emails even when he's got no real money to offer). The last have the most enduring influence and there are many many people like that in SF/F.
posted by lodurr at 5:09 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah - Mister X would need to convince the con authorities, and then repeatedly do the same at other cons, despite a repeated pattern of reporting harassment by the same person, never with witnesses or bystanders, always at a time when Mister Y was somewhere with no witnesses or bystanders. With the incredible backlash that would ensue if the fakeness of the allegations became known, the destruction of his reputation and the effective end of his chances of being a con guest (or potentially even able to attend cons) at any point in the future.

Then there's the convention committee, which would confer with other convention committees, and third party bodies like the SFWA, and of course the two authors' respective agents and publishers, who at some point would probably become aware of this issue. And so on, and so on.

(Also, there are more than two science fiction writers in the world. Unless Mr X is a very busy false-allegating bee, his will not be the only book on sale at the convention by dint of Mr Y's removal. The actual benefits of this extremely risky plan, in business terms, seem rather limited.)

These stories are entertaining, and may seem very real*, but they ignore inconvenient details to the point of meaninglessness.

Really, to pull something that Macchiavellian off, you would need the specialized skills of Mr. F.

*Kind of like the MeMail derail, which I won't address here because we are not supposed to talk about MeMail, but I think we can probably collectively agree is a fantasy based dimly on real events, as per.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:21 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


[TFB and rosf, drop this now. If you absolutely need to to continue your argument about mefi mail, take it to Metatalk, but really, just stop. And everybody, we can only ask so many times not to continue to make this entirely about The One Guy. You have agency.]
posted by taz at 5:52 AM on July 8, 2013


Some cons already have policies that they publicize and enforce, and I'd bet - as in the example above - that some of them do have a one-strike policy for certain things, like, if someone is witnessed hitting someone else and a con staffer is conveniently right there. Given how quickly the internet works, and the (relatively) small size of the communities we're talking about, I imagine that rampant abuse of any portion of a one-strike policy would be floating around.
posted by rtha at 6:22 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


From what I can see, most con organizers communicate with one another A LOT. (Some don't, but that's another story for another time and they're less likely to be successful for not networking.*) So, yeah, word would get around, probably pretty fast, if one-strike policies were getting over-applied.

--
*there's a local 'culture-con' that seems to be targeted at more pop-cultural aspects, whose operator seems to think she can actually make money off it -- and maybe she does -- and whose operator gets pretty upset when people running one of the other local/regional cons try to promote their cons at her event. i chatted with the guy who runs our main local con about it; he shrugged, said he's seen it before and it's not worth getting upset about because they don't last anyway.
posted by lodurr at 6:42 AM on July 8, 2013


But "word would get around" and "there will be angry posts on the internet"– the proposal for preventing malicious gaming of the system– is exactly the system currently in place for preventing harassment now. And I think we can all agree it doesn't work very well.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:21 AM on July 8, 2013


Lest rosf pretend to misunderstand again... I am emphatically not saying this is a reason not to have a highly punitive harassment policy in place. But it is reason to design the policy with at least some prophylactic measures against inevitable gaming and misuse. If you want to build something to last, anticipate the ways it could break and prevent them in the design.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:23 AM on July 8, 2013


But "word would get around" and "there will be angry posts on the internet"– the proposal for preventing malicious gaming of the system– is exactly the system currently in place for preventing harassment now. And I think we can all agree it doesn't work very well.

You left out "the victim of malicious gaming of the system could sue for defamation."

Besides, your suggestion is obviously false -- word getting round and discussion on the internet -- including, but not limited to, the Web sites of prominent authors like John Scalzi, for example -- is exactly the mechanism by which things are changing.

If you want to build something to last, anticipate the ways it could break and prevent them in the design.

But that's just the point -- it doesn't mean overdesigning to prevent things that could break, but present a small risk both in the frequency of occurrences (false reports happen rarely, and leaving enforcement to the discretion of con staff, where it belongs, doesn't create a substantial risk that false reports would occur more frequently) and the severity of the effect (getting booted from a con is not all that severe an outcome).

Creepers not enjoy the benefit of the doubt in the design of anti harassment policies.
posted by Gelatin at 7:32 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seanan McGuire, one of the authors who originally posted Elise Matthesen's story, posted a follow-up yesterday:

But as always happens when this conversation gets started, some people are standing up and shouting "THOUGHT POLICE!" and "Well I don't want to go to a convention where wearing a T-shirt could get me banned for harassment."

Oh, honey lambs, I'm sorry the world is so hard. Let's talk about harassment a little more, shall we?

posted by mediareport at 7:40 AM on July 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Rather that dwell on the hypothetical problem of false reports, let's get specific. The GeekGirlCon policy cited earlier mandates that reports be taken seriously and allows for, but does not mandate, ejection based on a single incident if the cause is deemed sufficient by the con authorities.

That policy seems fine to me; I wonder what reasonable objections there could possibly be. Frankly, "that system could possibly be gamed" does not impress me much as one, and I don't see much point in continuing to consider that objection.
posted by Gelatin at 7:43 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


an SF/F writer once gave a piece of advice to a writing workshop i was in: when we go to cons, we need to behave like human beings, because as big as the community seems, it's really rather small and word travels fast.

Even before ubiquitous net connectivity, the wisdom was "Fandom is a creature with no attention span but infinite memory." (Shockingly, the only web footprint I can find for this is Patrick Nielsen Hayden invoking it in 2002 but I believe it goes back a long ways.)
posted by Zed at 7:46 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


But it is reason to design the policy with at least some prophylactic measures against inevitable gaming and misuse

You have to weigh the possibility of such gaming and misuse. There are many many ways that someone could game and misuse the system, why focus so much on potential false accusations, especially when they are really really rare?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:49 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


You have to weigh the possibility of such gaming and misuse.

And weigh it against the likelihood of creating a policy that's toothless enough as to encourage harassing behavior to continue, or at least fail to stop it.
posted by Gelatin at 7:51 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Seanan McGuire, as possibly relevant context, got the _crap_ harassed out of her when a clerical error meant that the physical edition of her book Discount Armageddon came out a month before the e-book.
...I looked at the fact that I was crying so hard I was shaking, and I said, “You know what? That’s why I have a personal assistant.” And I gave the password to that e-mail box to my PA, and told her not to let me see anything. And that was the only way I could get through that process. And in case you’re going, “Well I don’t have a PA,” everyone for this purpose can have a PA fairly easily. You go to your friend, you go to your brother, you go to someone you trust — and you be prepared to change the password on that e-mail box when you’re done — and you say, “Hey, John, this is the situation, these are the e-mails I’m getting. Can you please monitor these e-mails for me for the next week?”
I've edited out the details of the threats and abuse she received, because really too horrible for ctrl-C - you can guess the things that people were most keen to tell her - but the whole article is here - it's mainly about her successes, but she touches on this episode, and it's not the first time it's happened to her.

This is not at a con, although it might make one rethink plans to attend a con, but it is again a report of actual harassment suffered by an actual woman in the sci-fi community.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:54 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to build something to last, anticipate the ways it could break and prevent them in the design.

You also do a cost-benefit analysis. We want to prevent Thing A; designing a system to prevent as much of Thing A is possible, but could create unwanted Thing B.

So we look: How common and disruptive is Thing A? Answer: Very common, very disruptive. How common and disruptive would Thing B be? Answer: Given our data set, we can see that it is not very common, and is much less disruptive across a much smaller group than Thing A.

We have a ton of evidence right now that sexual harassment is a thing that happens to women at cons and is a thing that keeps women away from cons and has fucked up the careers of some women at cons. You, TFB, have some "BUT IT COULD BE GAMED!" speculation, and you seem entirely unwilling to engage the system that is being gamed right now by serial harassers who are protected by a boys-will-be-boys system where the pushback against any sort of reporting mechanism is tremendous. Your "BUT IT COULD BE GAMED! FALSE ACCUSATIONS!" stuff here is very much part of the problem.

I don't need you to walk in lockstep and adopt some sort of imagined "I heard a rumor that some dude pinched some woman's ass KILL HIM" mindset. It would be awesome if you would stop with the goddamn "BUT IT COULD BE GAMED! FALSE ACCUSATIONS!" shit because it's not fucking new. It comes up in every thread about harassment or rape, and it always gets brought up as if it's something that is so much more problematic than the actual harassment that nothing should be done about that actual harassment unless and until we can mitigate against any possibility of false accusations.
posted by rtha at 7:57 AM on July 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


you seem entirely unwilling to engage the system that is being gamed right now by serial harassers

Actually, I've repeatedly said I like various proposals to change the system to reduce harassment. I am *also* saying that the system should have some safeguards in place against being gamed, as every punitive system is.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2013


Jim Hines has just posted the 2013 edition of Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F, with updated contact info for publishers and resource links.

Btw (noting while gently stepping over the discussion of the shitty rape threats she got during the ebook release mess), that Wired interview with Seanan McGuire running order squabble fest posted is great, a nice way to get some of the taste of this ridiculous thread out of your brain. She sounds like a hoot, but a hoot who really knows her viruses and parasites.
posted by mediareport at 8:20 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, I've repeatedly said I like various proposals to change the system to reduce harassment. I am *also* saying that the system should have some safeguards in place against being gamed, as every punitive system is.

And yet you still seem to be fighting this fight where everyone in this thread is advocating a one-strike policy - I mean, look at the number of comments you've made, and how many of them have been primarily or solely concerned with emphasizing that A) a reporting mechanism can (and will) be gamed and B) the "punishment" is so horrendous that every benefit of the doubt possible must be given to the accused.

Here is the procedure for what happens at Readercon when someone reports a code of conduct violation. Rather than wave your hands at some imagined one-rumor-and-you're-out policy, maybe engage with what an actual policy looks like.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on July 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am *also* saying that the system should have some safeguards in place against being gamed, as every punitive system is.

Presumably, you have some process for deciding what is important to safeguard against. I mean, a system can be gamed any number of ways, for any perceived good or ill, by anyone with any involvement in the system.

Since there are infinite numbers of ways in which to game the system, why are you so concerned with safeguarding against a particular and specific way of gaming the system, namely false accusations? Why have you not spilt any ink over the possibility of, say, false confessions, or bias amongst investigators, or investigations only of the clearest cut cases? Why this fixation on false accusations?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"But "word would get around" and "there will be angry posts on the internet"– the proposal for preventing malicious gaming of the system– is exactly the system currently in place for preventing harassment now. And I think we can all agree it doesn't work very well."

1) No, it's not. The con that started all of this has an actual, written policy. Readercon did as well. So, first assertion is obviously false, with the implication that current policies need enforcement.

2) No, that's actually the system we have to prevent false accusations now, and given the difficulty of reporting, it works too well.

"But it is reason to design the policy with at least some prophylactic measures against inevitable gaming and misuse. If you want to build something to last, anticipate the ways it could break and prevent them in the design."

Given that all of the policies we've seen include that, what the hell are you still on about? Your concerns have been weighed, found generally overstated but still addressed within existing policies. Are you just such an egotist that you must voice your opinion as contrary even when it's already the way things are done? Outside of concern trolling, what are you getting out of this?

"I am *also* saying that the system should have some safeguards in place against being gamed, as every punitive system is."

Yes, and? Why do you keep saying it when it's been addressed, by rough count, a billion times already here in the thread?
posted by klangklangston at 8:58 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, assuming good faith, can we agree that the risk of ga(y)slighting represented by Mr X vs Mr Y is essentially a solved problem?

1) The benefit to Mr. X is so low (since other sci-fi writers than Mr Y also exist), and the consequences of discovery so high (ostracism from the sci-fi community, banning from convention, probably being dropped by publisher and agent for misconduct) that one would have to be wholly irrational to consider it - and if one is wholly irrational then one will not be paying attention to harassment policies in any case.

2) The logistics of removing oneself from the site of all witnesses while simultaneously being assured that Mr. Y is removed from the site of all witnesses, and can also not be identified on any CCTV or similar equipment, will be prohibitively complex.

3) The communication links between cons will rapidly identify this particular accusation as one that is regular but also never evidenced, and will start to adjust accordingly. Whether Mr X's goal is vendetta or personal advancement, he will have to get quite a few cons to ban Mr Y to make meaningful progress, so this communication will have the opportunity to recur.

4) Like moderators, con boards and committees are not automata, dispensing a ban automatically in response to the stimulus of an accusation of sexual harassment. Rather, they investigate, seek to determine whether harassment has taken place, and then make a judgment accordingly.

So, essentially, you would have to a be a mastermind to pull this off, and an idiot to want to try. These characteristics do occur in one soul, but rarely enough that this does not seem to be a pressing risk to the integrity of conventions.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:26 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want to build something to last, anticipate the ways it could break and prevent them in the design.

Yes, but what do you do? Do you try to anticipate the rules lawyers, or do you create a means whereby rules-lawyering can be rendered moot?

The latter is clearly the more sustainable method. It is open to abuse -- but if the history of rules tells us anything, it's that rules-lawyers will always find a way to abuse any system of rules, no matter how carefully devised.
posted by lodurr at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, hard cases make bad law, and don't rule by the exception, etc etc etc.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, essentially, you would have to a be a mastermind to pull this off, and an idiot to want to try. These characteristics do occur in one soul, but rarely enough that this does not seem to be a pressing risk to the integrity of conventions.

Not to mention that Mr. Y would likely have a Web site of his own, and a probably a sympathetic fan base, to ensure his side of the story is known. Mr. Y's publisher might even get into the act if it sensed one if its marketable authors was being unfairly slandered.

It's also possible that Mr. Y might have a pre-existing reputation in the community as a good guy, rather than as a creeper, which would make the false accusation all the more a strain to believe.
posted by Gelatin at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hard cases make bad law, there's no set of rules an asshole can't game, law of unintended consequences, lack of transparency makes exploitation easier -- that's just the first few objections that cross my mind to the idea that we need to create an increasingly comprehensive and foolproof set of rules to deal with harassment. A simple policy with oversight and the option for organizers to act more (or possibly less) strenuously should be sufficient. ("More" is probably the better option, as "less" is likely to enforce the status-quo.)

What I'm seeing so far in the examples cited strikes me as a pretty good start.

The nature of things being what they are, these policies will be tested and improved, and people will learn from the process. WE'RE GEEKS. THAT'S WHAT WE DO. Or at least, that's what we'd like to think we do.
posted by lodurr at 9:33 AM on July 8, 2013


The real potential problem comes in when Y has a reputation for being a bastard. I've heard people argue that Ellison gets smeared, e.g. But bastards can usually defend themselves well enough, and anyway, people are usually ready to line up to make heroes out of them. I'm not fantastically worried about the bastards.
posted by lodurr at 9:35 AM on July 8, 2013


Further down the rabbit hole: last week someone started an anonymous Tumblr that has been reposting comments from the private SFWA forums over the past few weeks, mostly about the Beale racism/SFWA bulletin episodes but now also the Matheson thing, focusing on comments the site apparently finds reactionary. It can be grimly fascinating, as in Jerry Pournelle offering his perspective on the classic "HI I'm Randall Garrett, let's fuck" stories from cons of yore.

The site claims "DMCA takedown notices are being filed" against it, though it hasn't posted any letters yet. There's a dinginess to the whole thing, and dark hints of cabals and finances and factions and such in the comments, but it's also an interesting partial look at some conversations that weren't intended to be publicly available, with the following caveat about not taking it as representative of SFWA:

Some Background: After John Scalzi became president of SFWA in 2010 the organization moved the official SFWA forums away from SFF.net to a server under the SFWA.org domain. Many members moved to the new forums, but the private SFWA forum on SFF.net remained for people who did not want to make the change. The conversations on this Tumblr come from the private SFF.net forums.
posted by mediareport at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2013


my sense of how SFWA works (and anything jscalzi would say about this would certainly trump anything I had to say), based on reports from friends and acquaintances who've been members or served on the board, is that -- like just about any mostly-volunteer organization -- "cabal" ends up being roughly equivalent to "this person kept showing up and participating.*"

Certainly there are cliques and maybe it really does amount to a cabal. But SFWA is not a small southern town with a bent sheriff.

--
*For values of "participating" that do not necessarily imply being incredibly productive, but when you rely on volunteer labor, you have to take what you can get to some extent.
posted by lodurr at 9:52 AM on July 8, 2013


To be clear, the "cabal" stuff comes in comments about the recent election, where at least one person advocated voting for the racist ass over the establishment candidate because the racist ass would be easier to depose later. Like I said, it's a ridiculous rabbit hole, but it's a part of the story that hasn't been mentioned here yet, and is raising questions elsewhere.
posted by mediareport at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2013


oh, well, that's not cabal -- that's just dumb.
posted by lodurr at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2013


That's actually pretty interesting stuff, Mediareport. Thanks for posting it. If I understand correctly: members are paying dues to SFWA, from which SFWA is spending $1,500 annually to operate an old message board that some members aren't permitted to access and where allegedly harassing things are being said. Somebody from that board leaked the harassing comments, and SFWA issued a statement referring to the leak as a breach in confidentiality.

That's pretty damning stuff, if true. It could be a whole other FPP. It certainly makes SFWA look bad (that it's even rumored, let alone if it's all true), and it arguably reflects poorly on science-fiction authors as a group.
posted by cribcage at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hell froze over: DragonCon ditches Ed Kramer
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on July 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


That's pretty damning stuff, if true. It could be a whole other FPP.

Previously - look for the stuff on the twelve rabid weasels in particular.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on July 8, 2013


AFAIK, it's accurate (I saw that number repeated on official channels, etc.)

The SFWA statement (with simultaneous lack of addressing the broader problems) was pretty much the last straw for me. I'm glad to see they're moving forward on the bulletin and Vox Day issue, and I imagine that they're pretty exhausted over there, but yeah.

There seems to be a bit of a campaign on twitter to post pro-SFWA stuff right now, which feels really odd to me (and a lot of guilt-trippy messages about how if we leave we're letting the sexists win) but maybe that's because my 1-year tenure in the org was mostly a distraction from writing and my career rather than a help to it. Clearly, I don't speak for all SFWAns.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on July 8, 2013


Hell froze over: DragonCon ditches Ed Kramer

I was just coming here to post the same thing.

Critics will probably still complain that Ed Kramer got a tidy undisclosed sum to walk away, but Georgia law being what it is, they weren't allowed to just let the company dissolve away until his civil suit against them over the profits he claims they owe him was resolved, and until he's actually convicted in criminal court, they couldn't just kick him out.

The only way they were getting rid of him was of Kramer's own free will, but I take heart in the fact that he's desperate enough for quick cash that he took the buyout; costs must be rising for his criminal case.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:46 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Clearly the shitbags want the SWFA to be their own private club, so if everybody else wins it IS a victory for them. Bit of a phyrric one though, and I don't see it as an argument for putting up with their general drift and uselessness on this.
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2013


Since the other thread is closed, PhoB, I'd like to congratulate you here on your book's publication.
posted by Gelatin at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Detailed background on Ed Kramer's abuse of the legal system to avoid trial and continue molesting children, for folks who aren't familiar.

Nice that Nancy Collins has finally gotten a little vindication for all the shit she's put up with leading the charge on this one.
posted by mediareport at 10:53 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Critics will probably still complain that Ed Kramer got a tidy undisclosed sum to walk away, but Georgia law being what it is, they weren't allowed to just let the company dissolve away until his civil suit against them over the profits he claims they owe him was resolved, and until he's actually convicted in criminal court, they couldn't just kick him out.

Gee, it's almost like a mere accusation* doesn't willy-nilly carry dire consequences.

*Though of course in Kramer's case, it's actually even more than just that.
posted by Gelatin at 10:56 AM on July 8, 2013


A timeline of the 2013 SFWA Controversies
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly the shitbags want the SWFA to be their own private club, so if everybody else wins it IS a victory for them. Bit of a phyrric one though, and I don't see it as an argument for putting up with their general drift and uselessness on this.

Yeah, that's true. The thing is, this isn't the 70s. If I want to network with other writers I can go to a shit ton of different internet sites like Absolute Write or the Verla Kay blueboards or even the glassboard I made for some of my writer friends and do so easily and without much stress. I can send emails to most writers I admire and many are more than willing to chat with another professional. I can--and have!--connect with other SF and YA writers and even editors here on metafilter or on reddit.

SFWA is no longer the only hot tub in town. If they refuse to institute policies which incorporate diversity and encourage inclusiveness (and they have a sexual harassment policy, I believe; it just hasn't been enforced on places like sff.net), then I can take my energy and expertise elsewhere.

And that's the thing--I'm a relatively young writer, but I'm also enthusiastic and professional and very willing to help aspiring writers. But the way a lot of this has played out makes me feel like that isn't valued very much at all compared to the contributions of old pros. I think SFWA needs us young professionals (possibly more than we need them), but doesn't realize it. Which is a shame.

Anyway, I could rant. As you can see.

And thanks, gelatin! Still a few weeks to go, but it's very exciting. :)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:02 AM on July 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Looks like they are in the process of giving Ted Beale an innefectual slap on the hand and he's being a big baby about it. Probably that will end in nothing other than him being able to spaff off about being such a victim.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's also upset that a "never will be" has "attacked" Jerry Pournelle (and him) - which, well, being a troll who pretends to be an SF author probably puts you in that category too.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on July 8, 2013


ted beale is such an awful shit. i just stumbled up on a PUA blog post by him about charles saatchi being an awesome alpha and nigella being in the wrong by not being loyal to him after he choked her in public. i can't decide if it's grosser that ted beale exists or that he has supporters.
posted by nadawi at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


SFWA is no longer the only hot tub in town.

Nick Mamatas thinks all genre based writers organisations should merge already anyway.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:40 AM on July 8, 2013


Respectfully, from what I know about RWA and its membership, Nick Matamas doesn't know what he's talking about. Most romance writers want nothing to do with the SF world, and why should they? In terms of sales, they're certainly outpacing the rest of us.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I guess it's all writing for money and dealing with publishers in the the process of that, regardless of the market.
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2013


i can't decide if it's grosser that ted beale exists or that he has supporters.

So, as far as I can tell this guy's damage appears to be primarily that other people - often people of different genders or races - are more successful and better-liked than him generally, despite having nothing like his level of intellect PUA game.

Can... this... actually... be... a... thing?
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


In comments he argues that a Nebula makes you a nobody versus being a big shot self-publisher like himself.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2013


It's like one of those faces-or-vase images. It keeps seeming like it has to be some sort of performance-art put-on worst-person-ever character. And then it seems like it couldn't be. And then it seems like it must... but in the end, I doesn't matter to me. Any sufficiently advanced simulation of an asshole is indistinguishable from an asshole.
posted by Zed at 1:22 PM on July 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Matt Fraction Will Fight You For Shaming Cosplayers About Their Weight
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on July 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


Matt Fraction is a consistently delightful person on and off the inked page.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:09 PM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yet another story of sexism in the greater genre community that I don't recall having seen on MeFi: Kelly Sue DeConnick (whose Captain Marvel has a lot of buzz now) talks about the "natural assumption" that she has so "easily" gotten where she is by riding on the coattails of her husband Matt Fraction's success despite her career predating her even having met Fraction.
posted by Zed at 2:40 PM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


A Healthy Dose of Professionalism
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My sense is that SFWA is a lot like Wikipedia: The people who have better things to do can generally simply be outlasted by the people who don't have better things to do.
posted by Justinian at 6:46 PM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Saw Elise at Convergence this weekend. (In fact, we sat next to each other and snarked a bit in a panel that was supposed to be about the rise of women in fandom but wasn't quite.) It sounds like the expressions of support she's getting are helping.
posted by jiawen at 9:35 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nancy Collins calls off the Dragon*Con boycott. Here's the statement she sent to Comics Beat:

I have confirmed the Dragon Con merger press release via non-fannish channels (ie an AJC reporter who has spoken to Kramer’s attorney–newsflash, Kramer’s unhappy and is going to sue). Barring unforeseen events, I am now officially calling off the boycott. It’s interesting to see that something that had not been done and supposedly *couldn’t* be done for nearly 13 years somehow managed to be implemented in less than 6 months.

I would like to thank those professionals who took a stand and vocally supported the boycott of DragonCon, as well as the many fans who have done so as well. You looked the dragon in the eye and made it blink. And have no doubt, it was your unified efforts, actions and voices that made this happen, and nothing else. It was you, and no one else, who were responsible for this cancer finally being cut from Fandom.


In a comment, Collins addresses the "how is this better? he just got a huge payout!" argument:

Kramer has creditors out the wazoo, including previous lawyers he tossed aside like Kleenex. Whatever payment he got, it won’t last long. And, if I’m not mistaken, if he going to legally contest the buy-out, he can’t cash the check.

So, looking good for attending Dragon*Con this year not helping to support a serial child molester.

[via Robot6]
posted by mediareport at 9:32 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


CONvergence's Anti-Harassment Posters
posted by radwolf76 at 7:09 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I like those. Also, for having a guy in a kilt as an example of 'costumes are not consent'.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:15 AM on July 10, 2013


The thing that struck me about th guy-in-kilt poster was the thought "Are guys in kilts ( or any costume for that matter) actually getting harassed at cons", or is this a bone being thrown to the "Don't make this about men being predators" crowd?

Can a man be harassed for wearing a sexy costume? Sure.

But is it an on-the-ground, real-world problem at cons? Is there back channel whispering about "Don't get caught alone in a kilt with X, she'll reach under your sporran!"

Or is it the case that the problem is MEN harassing women at cons, and doing so for decades with impunity?

Because the guy-in-kilt poster makes me think "Nasruddin is looking for his keys under the lamp post where the light is good, rather than in the dark alley where it was lost."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:04 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, things are substantially skewed towards women in costume getting harassed (oh God are they ever), but I definitely know some guys who've gotten shit for wearing kilts because WOW ARE YOU NAKED UNDER THERE LET'S SEE.

I don't see anything wrong with having both things represented in posters, particularly given that the message itself is neutral and inclusive.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:10 AM on July 10, 2013


I think it would be a bug to pretend that harassment of men at cons is a problem on the same scale as harassment of women. I think it's a feature to acknowledge that men can be victims, too, and to work toward establishing a context in which they feel safe in reporting it.
posted by Zed at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can pretty reliably count on there being a fair number of men to complain energetically about harassment protections being skewed toward protecting women from men. If throwing them a bone [sic] in the form of a mad scientist in a kilt helps defuse resentment (not to mention the occasional concern-trolling grenade), then it's probably a good thing.
posted by lodurr at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2013


I just had a vision of Mike Resnick soliciting for an anthology of Gorean stories.

It strikes me as the kind of thing he might think of as an answer/commentary. For his sake, I really hope he doesn't. As long as he stays clear of reminiscing about his days awarding pageant/cosplay prizes for the "Most Naked Female", he can be fairly amusing in person.
posted by lodurr at 9:25 AM on July 10, 2013


well, he did already edit Girls for the Slime God which I have.
posted by Zed at 9:26 AM on July 10, 2013


Are guys in kilts ( or any costume for that matter) actually getting harassed at cons

As I understand it, Jennie Breeden, creator of the webcomic The Devils Panties, is notorious for bringing a leaf blower to conventions, specifically to go "Kilt Hunting".

While this was eventually formalized into an official panel where kilt wearing men could go up on stage of their own volition to get their kilts lifted by the leaf blower, it started out with her just chasing kilted men around the convention floor like a bad re-enactment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the lead villain had grabbed entirely the wrong piece of lawn and garden equipment. I don't believe that consent was a factor.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Convergence's harassment policy is actually not the best. They spend fully half the policy saying that interpersonal issues are not their problem, and they give as much emphasis to false accusations as they do to actual harassment.

Also, they didn't start with the anti-harassment posters until the year after a friend and I did a guerrilla anti-harassment poster campaign. It's good that Convergence has begun addressing harassment, but there's still a long way to go.
posted by jiawen at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2013


You can pretty reliably count on there being a fair number of men to complain energetically about harassment protections being skewed toward protecting women from men.

Maybe some of these whiners need a firm finger jabbing them in the chest attached to a "Shut the fuck up, whiner! Gentleman the fuck up and deal with it, because men harassing women is the reality of the world we live in. THAT is the problem at hand. Don't like it, go the fuck elsewhere, but STOP BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM, YOU WHINEY, GRABBY-HANDED, TROG-APOLOGIST!"

Seriously, people need to be less conciliatory and shove back harder. People need to start pointing fingers and saying (T)hat's (F)ucking (B)ullshit, and no, your concern trolling is rejected. Sop mollifying these schmucks like they have a legit cause, and tell them to pipe the fuck down and STOP MAKING THE HARRASSMENT PROBLEM WORSE.

As I understand it, Jennie Breeden, creator of the webcomic The Devils Panties, is notorious for bringing a leaf blower to conventions, specifically to go "Kilt Hunting".

I dunno if this marks me a old-school, retrograde, or just an insensitive dick. But I really don't care. Man-up and deal with it, guys.

Because Male-on-female harassment is so much the core AND the general mass of the problem, it's ok to ignore it going the other way for a while.

Can't fix everything, and there's enough general male privilege to go around that we'll survive this one slight to our Unuiversal Male Honor (or whatever).
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:21 AM on July 10, 2013


Yeah, I'll admit that I've gotten less diplomatic and less inclined to grant complaints about anti-harassment policies a sympathetic hearing because they just seem like so much whiny foot-dragging, and it's like, shut the fuck up, man, we should already have fixed this by now, and pedantic quibbling and concern trolling is part of the problem and you should know that.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I dunno if this marks me a old-school, retrograde, or just an insensitive dick.

Or the whole hat trick.
posted by Zed at 10:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You, TFB, have some "BUT IT COULD BE GAMED!" speculation, and you seem entirely unwilling to engage the system that is being gamed right now by serial harassers who are protected by a boys-will-be-boys system where the pushback against any sort of reporting mechanism is tremendous.

So coming back to this, it made me think about a situation that I was tangentially involved with. An enounter took place between two individuals, A and B. While A got their complaint in first, B got theirs in shortly afterwards and before they were Officially Confronted. It's hard to say if B could have known. Both individuals had to be suspended.

I think that it is important to build protections against that kind of thing, just from a practical standpoint, so that you're not held hostage to people gaming the system - people who have a habit of laboriously and meticulously reading rules books in order to prosper - but you essentially can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It can, however, be aided by having really transparent processes.
posted by corb at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2013


Because Male-on-female harassment is so much the core AND the general mass of the problem

This point, I agree with. Although leaf blower vs. kilt is a power/vulnerability dynamic subject to abuse, it's local and isolated, and not backed by systemic imbalances.

Which is probably why Jennie was allowed to convert her schtick to a regular panel where she could solicit willing participants, and not, you know, just banned from attendance.

I only metioned it to say that, yes, this is a thing that happens.



it's ok to ignore it going the other way for a while. Can't fix everything

This is where I have to disagree. I think a universally applied policy will make things better for everyone.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you know that a certain (probably large) segment of your audience is going to respond very negatively to your approach, but you take that approach anyway, do you still have a right to complain about the results that you get?

Because that's what the whole "man up and deal with it" approach sounds like, to me. You know these guys are going to be reacting badly, and you can cut off a substantial portion of that by making basic references to fairness -- so if you choose not to do that, you should be willing to accept the consequences, which is a larger number of guys acting like dicks.

Now, if I've got you wrong and you actually want to accept a greater amount of harassment against men as a corrective, then that's a whole 'nother discussion.
posted by lodurr at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we can manage to advance the idea that a harassment policy protects everyone from unwanted touching (or exposure) without falling all the way down a slippery slope to failing to acknowledge context anywhere.

More pointedly, at some point, somewhere, a 17-year-old boy who's an abuse survivor is going to be upset about having been groped at a con and will be weighing over whether to report it. I really don't want to throw that boy under the bus, and I think it's really easy not to.
posted by Zed at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you know that a certain (probably large) segment of your audience is going to respond very negatively to your approach, but you take that approach anyway, do you still have a right to complain about the results that you get?

Yes. Because the whiney complainers are wrong need need to be told to pipe the fuck down and stop making things worse.

Because that's what the whole "man up and deal with it" approach sounds like, to me. You know these guys are going to be reacting badly, and you can cut off a substantial portion of that by making basic references to fairness -- so if you choose

Fuck these maladjusted trogs. Fuck them and their whining. Fuck them and their rules lawyering.

To paraphrase the old roller-coaster sign, "You have to be this socially well-adjusted and respectful to women to ride. Shut the fuck up about it or go to another con that welcomes gropers and maladjusted trogs w/out judgement or prejudice."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2013


I would say 'no', because you had the option to avoid that consequence.

I take the view that one ought not fail to expect what one ought to expect.

And it's not all rules-lawyering. A lot of these people are just people. They don't fucking know any better. Someone telling them to suck it up and pay it back is not liable to reach them. In fact, it's more likely to just alienate them further.
posted by lodurr at 12:06 PM on July 10, 2013


Also, what Zed said. You do exactly teh same things to avoid throwing that kid under the bus that you would to be fair to everyone. You don't have to bend over backward -- all you've got to do is be actually fair. That's already going to look unfair to a lot of these guys, but if you've actually been fair, you'll have that to point to.

Being fair does not mean preserving privilege. But it does mean that you don't do punitive damages.
posted by lodurr at 12:10 PM on July 10, 2013


If you know that a certain (probably large) segment of your audience is going to respond very negatively to your approach, but you take that approach anyway, do you still have a right to complain about the results that you get?

I think different people react well to different forms of interjection. If someone looks at a particular interjection and thinks, "I am so annoyed by that form of address that I am just going to go ahead and harass some women", that person was already a harasser.

So... shrug?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:16 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are people who would rather have no reporting system in place at all than have one that might be gamed by someone at some point perhaps! We have seen right here in this thread that there are people who prioritize "no risk of false allegations ever" over "stop with the harassing or else your badge, it is yanked." I am okay with alienating those people.

I am also okay with publicizing any reporting procedures and harassment policies as gender-neutrally as possible.
posted by rtha at 12:17 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


But what if their reaction is 'i think you're attacking me for no reason so i'm going to regard you as illegitimate'? Because that's what I'd expect from the sexist geeks I've known.
posted by lodurr at 12:20 PM on July 10, 2013


Don't care. They weren't going to give me legitimacy anyway, not without rules-lawyering me to death, so fuck it.

There are plenty of people I've tangled with over the years who start with the "But what about extremely hypothetical edge-case! We have to prevent that!" and there's some talking and discussion and after a bit they're like, okay, yes, I do think it's important to have rules and procedures to deal with the actual problems we have right now, and to do our best to not create new ones, but we shouldn't just leave the big, actual problems unaddressed just because we can't prevent every single possible bad outcome no matter how remote.

Them? Them's cool. The other kind? They can go away.
posted by rtha at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


They weren't going to give me legitimacy anyway, not without rules-lawyering me to death, so fuck it.

Right. And you know this...how?

See, I've "tangled" with a lot of people, too, and my experience is that most people who feel threatened by the new will feel even more threatened if they think you're being unfair -- but that if they think you're being fair, even if they don't like it, they'll be willing to hear you.

And anyway, the "rules-lawyers" are exactly the kind of "edge case" you're talking about. You're sacrificing everyone else to the rules-lawyers, by adopting zero tolerance for people feeling threatened by what we see as fairness.
posted by lodurr at 1:25 PM on July 10, 2013


Right. And you know this...how?

Because I've been rules-lawyered to death? None of them seemed to give a shit about not making me feel threatened; none of them seemed to think that maybe they were being unfair, and if they tried to be a little more benefit-of-the-doubt giving, I might be willing to hear them.

Why is it that only me and people like me (making the arguments we've been making here) get to be on the receiving end of speeches like "don't make them feel threatened, try to make them feel like you're being fair." Maybe you've had luck giving that speech the Those Guys. I never have.
posted by rtha at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


When a playing field is profoundly and persistently skewed against one side, appeals to neutrality can be anything but.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:41 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you know that a certain (probably large) segment of your audience is going to respond very negatively to your approach, but you take that approach anyway, do you still have a right to complain about the results that you get?

Are you seriously going for the concern trolling, tone argument and victim-blaming trifecta in one I'm-just-asking avoidant question?

Not that I'm saying you are, of course. I'm just asking. /s
posted by jaduncan at 4:23 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those Guys.

As I understand it, this strand of conversation started here and refers to those guys who will get the point better if this poster is included among the series of 4 posters designed to raise awareness of harassment at cons. Those guys? It's a huge slice of guys who respond positively to an idea encapsulated in a ridiculous image. Many/most of which do actually give some value of shit about not making women feel threatened.

I think that the fat, kilted test-tube guy works in complement with the skinny, alien black-suited gal to demonstrate the silly irrationality of equating someone's clothing with consent to sexualized interaction. I don't know why you wouldn't want to reach an audience who groks that message, and I think the idea that the poster represents a capitulation to some band of roving troglodyte gropers is rather spittle-flecked.

Or maybe we're talking about some other of segment of guys now. There's so many bad ones I have trouble keeping the classes straight.
posted by 0 at 6:41 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


We're talking about the segment of guys who would "complain energetically about harassment protections being skewed toward protecting women from men", actually.

lodurr hypothesised that this set might be more receptive to the message of anti-harassment posters involving men as possible harassment victims, but there's no evidential basis for that. It was an if-this-then-that formulation.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:49 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


He did a lot more than hypothesised that as well also too. See the bits about fairness and it's appeal.
posted by 0 at 6:56 AM on July 11, 2013


That's about a slightly different inquiry set - that is "the set of men who would react badly to a forceful statement about the undesirability of men harassing women at cons". Those people may or may not also be a part of "the set of men who would be more likely to take a con's anti-harassment activities more seriously if the possibility of men being harassed was represented graphically in anti-harassment posters".

Basically, I made a good-faith response to the statement:

Or maybe we're talking about some other of segment of guys now. There's so many bad ones I have trouble keeping the classes straight.

To which the answer is "yes, kind of - there are a couple of loosely-defined sets in play here, which overlap to an uncertain degree". If that was not a sincere statement of confusion, but rather a rhetorical assertion of how men were the real victims here, then obviously that changes the tone of the discussion.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:18 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, ok, if Those Guys refers to men who "complain energetically about harassment protections being skewed toward protecting women from men" then I'm in agreement with the assessment of them as also not being likely to give a shit about threatening women (though we likely differ on what constitutes energetic complaint versus open discussion). My point is that this group is a rather small subset of the men who will benefit from the existence of the poster.
posted by 0 at 7:30 AM on July 11, 2013


Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor at Tor Books, just tweeted James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books. We wish him the best.
posted by Zed at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


My point is that this group is a rather small subset of men who will benefit from the existence of the poster.

Well, wearing the patriarchy-hurts-men-too hat, I'd personally be very happy to see a recognition that, yes, the kilted dude may not want to expose his junk/underwear, and the people around the kilted dude may also not want to be exposed to his junk/underwear. The situation radwolf76 describes, with a person blowing men's kilts up originally, it seems, without their consent and without the consent of the people around them, sounds atrocious.

And if men are being conditioned not to feel like they can report harassment as harassment, because they are supposed to welcome all female sexual attention, that is a bad thing, although also a cultural thing that cons can perforce only play a small role in challenging.

This is fundamental stuff, I think: the social dynamics of a man in a kilt having his kilt pulled up are not identical to the dynamics of a woman in a skirt having her skirt pulled up, but the wearing of either is not an invitation to pull them up just because it is physically possible to do so, any more than wearing pants with an elasticated waist is an invitation to pull them down.

That having been said, it remains the case that targeting a strictly 50/50 focus and resources on sexual harassment by women and sexual harassment by men at cons is probably not a good use of resources, statistically speaking, because it still seems like the lion's share of harassment (including harassment of male delegates - see examples within this thread) is done by men, and anti-harassment activity is probably going to be more effective if it is pragmatically aware of the likely emergent scenarios as well as the principle that any form of harassment is a bad thing. In the same way that the registered first aiders at the con are likely to be more attuned to asthma attacks and heart attacks than shark attacks, but this is not an endorsement of shark attacks.

So, part of this is about the "soft sexist" constituency - lodurr is positing that there are a significant number of men who are acculturated to treating harassing behavior as normal or desirable (for example, flattering), and who would benefit from being gently educated that this is not the case. The counterargument there is that, in fact, the guys who are harassing generally know what they are doing, and are leveraging among other things the existence of exculpatory myths (men just don't know it's bad, men at cons are just socially awkward, women at cons welcome male attention because they often don't get it in everyday life, which is why they dress up, and so tiresomely on) to be able to carry on doing it for as long as they can.

So, the sets of men who might benefit from such a poster are, I think, one set who might look at it and think "holy shit, I did not realise that what I was doing when I flipped up the skirt of the women in the Sailor Scout costumes was harassment, and only understand now that it has been put in terms of a man wearing a kilt", and another set who might think "holy shit, I do not not enjoy having my kilt flipped up because I am unmanly, but because it's harassment, and I should feel entitled to enjoying sharing my love of Highlander/James Doohan/The Encounter at Farpoint Starfleet skant without having to keep one hand on my hem at all times".

I'd wager that the first group is smaller than one might think from public utterances, and the second larger.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:01 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor at Tor Books, just tweeted James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books. We wish him the best.

Well then. That was more than I expected, and faster, but probably the best decision all around.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:15 AM on July 11, 2013


Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor at Tor Books, just tweeted James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books. We wish him the best.

Good. Go sell shoes or flip burgs or something, buddy. But good luck getting hired on by a publishing house to edit books ever again with our ur scalp hanging on the "Molesting troglodyte" wall.

Off to the wilderness with you and good riddance. May the ghost of his career hang at con entrances like a pirate's corpse swinging from a gibbet, as a warning to other trogs.

Well done Tor, and everyone else in the industry who took a hammer and nails to this missing stair.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:30 AM on July 11, 2013


Wow. That's surprising, in a good way. This whole thing basically played out over the internet, without courts or lawyers. The person who was harrassed did not Tweet the picture or name of the man who harrassed her, go off on a rant about men or cons in general or rehash the past political failings of SFWA (or even rant at all, really).

Instead, Elise Matheson dealt with the issue in a professional manner. She reported the incident formally. She took the high road, choosing to neither name the man who harrassed her or discuss the specifics of her own case openly, while at the same time using the experience as a kind of teachable moment to inform others so they, too, would understand how to navigate a rather convoluted reporting procedure.

The folks at the Con acted promptly and receptively to Elise Matheson's complain. They took it seriously and also followed the procedures in place for just such an eventuality, informing her on the progress as they went.

Other people came forward and shared shared their own experiences in a supportive way. One of them named the man who had been reported, but not to steal any of Elise's fire by riding on her coattails. She didn't go off on a vendetta of her own or encourage her fans to do so. She simply collaborated that a report had been made and indicated her support for Elise Matheson in making that report, after first checking with Elise to ensure she was okay with that.

The SFF community rallied around Elise Matheson as a result of her post, and showed that it can come together for positive change. John Scalzi used the opportunity as a jumping off point to draft a personal policy for harrassment at conferences that many others also pledged to follow (to be scrupulously fair, he could have done this during the three years when he was SFWA President, but I think we can all agree that better now than never, especially given what we've learned about all the entrenched political factions in play at the SFWA).

And finally, Tor listened to the SFF community and decided to discontinue its association with Jim Frenkel based on the multitude of voices they were hearing.

The system worked. That's heartening.
posted by misha at 9:39 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


And finally, Tor listened to the SFF community and decided to discontinue its association with Jim Frenkel based on the multitude of voices they were hearing.

This is making a very large assumption. We don't know what their investigation process was, what their internal policy is, or if more allegations came out that weren't publicized on the internet. It's satisfying to think that our part in the Internet Outrage Machine caused justice to be done, but I actually think it's very unlikely. Tor is a small branch of a very large company, and I doubt their HR department pays much attention to Twitter.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


TBH it would be a much happier story if it were "guy gets fired due to inplementation of policy" than "guy gets fired due to mob". Mobs are a shitty way of doing things.
posted by Artw at 9:59 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


An ugly win is still a win.

And I see a righteous scalp on the wall.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2013


This whole thing basically played out over the internet, without courts or lawyers.

Whatever involvement lawyers might have had may not be public, but I'd be very surprised if there weren't in-house discussions with lawyers about this somewhere within Tor or MacMillan.

I really don't see that this is "guy gets fired due to mob." Guy got fired after internal investigation of formal complaint.
posted by Zed at 10:07 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, part of this is about the "soft sexist" constituency

A third part of the soft sexist constituency is guys who offer tacit support for harassers because it's uncomfortable to call it out or because they thoughtlessly benefit from the privilege to harass. If some of those guys flip the switch and become supportive to women who complain/call guys who are bragging on their misbehavior towards cosplayers/etc., the con will become that much less supportive of harassment in general.

Compare Jerry Pournelle's discussion of Randall Garrett and the "wanna fuck?" stuff: Pournelle clearly doesn't see anything wrong with it, but that became unacceptable and Garrett had to stop. Or Scalzi's pledge and all the people who were happy to sign on because of that. This is a fight that can't be won without male allies.

(And that leafblower bullshit should get the woman holding it booted. It is not your business whether a man is regimental under his kilt and HELL YES it is harassment to expose the underwear or genitals of a man wearing one without his consent, just like upskirting is harassment.)
posted by immlass at 10:47 AM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


TBH it would be a much happier story if it were "guy gets fired due to inplementation of policy" than "guy gets fired due to mob".

this wasn't really a mob situation though was it? Even if Frenkel's name hadn't been made public, Elise Mathesen had made her complaint to TOR's H. R. department and the wheels had been set in motion. Perhaps if he had remained anonymous he wouldn't have been fired, perhaps.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


See, I've "tangled" with a lot of people, too, and my experience is that most people who feel threatened by the new will feel even more threatened if they think you're being unfair -- but that if they think you're being fair, even if they don't like it, they'll be willing to hear you.

Yea, No.

The line isn't drawn at "does this seem to be systematically evenly applied and therefor "fair", it's drawn at "it must be unfair if it's being applied to me because i didn't do anything wrong!". Even the staunchest the system is fair i've seen how it works types flip sides the instant it comes to bear on them.

This just isn't really the type of thing you can do without pissing a bunch of people off, and i'm still failing to understand how it's some kind of bad thing that people will be unhappy when they're wrong. Your post is not the only one i've seen like this, and i'm completely with rtha. Why does this entire thing have to be structured around handling the guys with kid gloves throughout the process? Is this some sort of frog in boiling water strategy where you and your compatriots think that if the people involved in the enforcement are just nice enough they'll get less pushback? Because honestly there is no way that this type of thing could be enforced without creating a bunch of indignant tempter tantrums. Even the staunchest rules lawyer is either going to want to argue like hell or just go NO FAIR!!! the instant this type of thing is applied to them.

Pretty much i'm saying, they're always going to think it's unfair. They're just like the bullies in k-12 school who would flip shit when they finally got in trouble. Nothing is different here besides the scale and behavior.

TBH it would be a much happier story if it were "guy gets fired due to inplementation of policy" than "guy gets fired due to mob". Mobs are a shitty way of doing things.

I have extremely mixed feelings about this. On one hand, i generally agree. As in, if someone asked me if i thought internet torch-and-pitchfork mobs were a good way of handling problems i'd say no.

But sometimes they're the only way or the only reason a shitty person or situation gets any public attention, or gets dealt with.

If there was some way to just prevent them from happening, a lot of good things that needed to happen just wouldn't have. And a lot of people would have gotten away with doing shitty things in near silence.
posted by emptythought at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2013


All this back-bending to avoid setting off the sexist trogs, dont get them whining and baying like a pack of poorly socialized dogs denied their privilege bone.

Why not write them off, let them fuck off with their damn trog selves, and then see what happens.

Maybe a whole generation of uneducable "always going to find it unfair" trogs gets sent out into rhe wilderness & the generation coming behind them grows up in a better con environment.

Why work so hard to keep the trogs within the fold? Why is sending them out into the wilderness until they de-trog themselves and learn how to behave in mixed company so bad an option?

Why is it the responsibility of women and non-trog guys to gentle them to a place of enlightenment, rather than the responsibility to de-trog their own damn selves before being made welcome?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:07 PM on July 11, 2013


Is the book industry sexist or just starved for great women authors?
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on July 11, 2013


Do we have to choose?!
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would say "feedback loop".
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


P.B.Z.M., i think the issue here is that a lot of us are aware of 3 key problems that we have to work through, with, and around.

1. The trogs, as you say, are deeply embedded in every level of the works at basically any nerd-related event or activity. If you attack them head on you will likely get shut down at every level and assisted by...

2. The apologists, and the people who think that "being fair" = the halfway mark between two people who want the opposite. I once wrote a little example to explain this problem to people.
So lets say a bunch of people are reading quietly in a room. There is no sign on the wall or general rule that this is a quiet room, but all parties involved recognize that's generally what it is.

One day several people show up with a boombox cranked up to 11 and sit down with smiles on their faces. No one else is playing music in this room! they can just sit back and enjoy it blasting away without any interference.

So several of the reading people go to the person in charge of the space and complain. They come in, and talk with several more reading people and the people playing the music.

They conclude that the fair course of action is to tell them to turn the music down half way. Since one group wanted it off, and the other group wanted it cranked.

Now no one is happy.
I've seen this type of "solution" happen far too often when someone in power doesn't want to make a decision that will piss off one side even when they're blatantly in the wrong, being asses, testing the fence, trolling, being genuinely offensive, etc. It's almost a...

3. Geek Social Fallacy. If you haven't heard of these, go read them now. This sort of "we can't upset the shitheads too much!" attitude seems to spring from those kinds of thought processes and social "rules" that pop up way too often within circles of nerdy and possibly a bit socially inept/awkward people.

I'd say by far #2 is the biggest hump to progress. The people who while not molesters or serious fuckheads in and of themselves, excuse and minimize the behavior of the real donglords in social settings and situations like what we're talking about. It only takes a few assholes to wreak serious havoc if they have a bunch of people going "Well i mean, it's not that bad" and stuff around who all drag their feet when you try and enact everything.

So really, what needs to happen here is lots of public shaming and making it incredibly uncool to be associated with or defend in any way this sort of thing since the people who do it are absolute lepers in the general public eye. It has to be seen the same way that defending racists or somebody who punched a girl in the middle of the convention would be. Complete and utter "not with a ten foot pole" status where everyone is uncomfortable talking about it in the other direction of not wanting to sound like they're ok with it at all and not wanting to discuss it too deeply for fear of getting locked in some "wait, so you would be ok with it if it was XYZ" type of corner-paint accidentally.
posted by emptythought at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The really mind-croggling thing is that everyone knows that women buy most of the books. In the book biz, you'd think that even if appeals to decency were falling on deaf ears, appeals to greed would be enough to drive home the point that you really don't want to put up a BOYZ CLUB sign.
posted by Zed at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed that it came to this. So many people must have been embarrassed or offended or driven away by his bad behavior over the years. Why didn't Tor do something earlier? Why allow him to represent their firm? It isn't just that he made convention guests uncomfortable: it is outrageous that he could use his position (and in the context he couldn't avoid that implicit threat) to get away with his bad behavior. Nobody won here. The system failed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I honestly cannot tell if PBZM is sincere or parody at this point.
posted by bq at 6:27 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sexism and the Slush Pile

I just read this piece by a Tor editor called “Sexism in Genre Publishing” where she basically says it’s female writers who are at fault for not being more plentiful in the slush pile when it comes to the categories of horror or science fiction. Of course, this ignores several factors, but I’ll discuss one: women are often placed in the YA or urban fantasy/paranormal romance pile by default. Call it marketing reasons or whatever. It happens.

It has happened to me, just today.

I was invited to speak at The Vancouver International Writers Fest. Yay! I’m happy about it. I get paid for the appearance and it’s a big festival. However, today I got my schedule and discovered I’m slotted with a YA author, speaking to Grades 9-12.

True story: I’ve never written YA

posted by Artw at 6:29 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Back to the SFWA, a "parody" twitter account, supposedly written by part of the old guard.

"Our ideology, being void of all morality, allows for the most vile behavior in the name of PCness. That's how we steamroll over everyone."

They also created a list of "PC monsters", which might be worth following.
posted by jeather at 7:28 PM on July 11, 2013


Well that could certainly be done with more subtlety.
posted by Artw at 7:31 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was much outrage on my Twitter feed this morning from people passed over for monster status.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well that could certainly be done with more subtlety.

But these are the REAL SF writers! The good ones, who aren't weakened by all this stuff like giving a shit about other people! Who are you to say this account is not well-written double agent subtle parody?

Though part of the reason I say "supposedly" is because it's so stupid I cannot believe it is real.

Vox Day is also posting regularly about the complaint he received from the SFWA -- I don't like to link to him -- mostly he keeps repeating that it's just plain true that genetics prove that different races are not all human (or equally human, or something) and anyways he's not totally white!
posted by jeather at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2013


"Well that could certainly be done with more subtlety."

Ha! At first, I thought it was from the, uh, pro-PC side, because all the "screech" stuff sounded like what feminist think misogynists think feminists sound like.
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 PM on July 11, 2013


14 followers.

Rush the gates!
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:31 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saladin Admed: In our defense, The Mac Monsters Of The SFWA are even more insufferable than we are.
posted by Zed at 8:00 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


PC Monster Cards from Jim Hines' twitpics.

Jim C. Hines, Level 4 Goblin Scribe
Mary Robinette Kowal, Level 7 Pink-Shirted Puppinette
Mike Cole, Level 5 Rogue
Laura Resnick, Level 4 Trickster
N.K. Jemisin (level and class schtick dropped...)
John Scalzi, Level 7 Gamma Orc (wait, now it's back)

But the PC Monsters twitter list itself is gone, probably because of all the people variously entertained by being one, disappointed by not being one, or expressing gratitude for being directed to people they wanted to follow. It's been cleverly replaced with one with a NSFW name that their targets would avoid repeating.
posted by Zed at 1:10 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you seriously going for the concern trolling, tone argument and victim-blaming trifecta in one I'm-just-asking avoidant question?

No, actually, I wasn't doing any of those things. I was asking a simple question: If you do x, knowing that you are likely to get result y, why should I listen to you when you complain about getting y?
posted by lodurr at 12:26 PM on July 17, 2013


All this back-bending to avoid setting off the sexist trogs...

Er, no. It's "back bending" to try and communicate with people. Those sexist trogs you are so happy to dismiss are in fact people. They do bad, ugly things. You have also done bad, ugly things. I can guarantee it*.

I am not making excuses for anybody. I am simply saying that if you are not prepared for the results of your actions, then I don't have sympathy for your complaints.

For folks who are happily charging into battle looking for revenge, then that's a totally different issue. One I also have a serious problem with, because I don't believe in revenge, I believe in fixing problems.

All you folks who are so willing to make blunt, categorical statements about whether or not fairness has an appeal and whether or not everything will always devolve to rules-lawyering -- my experience is clearly different from yours. I have to go with mine.


--
*...because I assume from the fact that you are here you haven't been under a rock your entire life.
posted by lodurr at 12:36 PM on July 17, 2013


lodurr. Dude. Seriously. I mean, seriously?

After several demonstrations, 19th century labor activists could reasonably expect armed men to come crack their heads during strikes. So in your abstracted XY, no one should have listened to any complaints they had, right?

Repeat ad nauseam for every social struggle everywhere at every level. Anyone who has anything to say besides "support the status quo" knows in advance a whole host of bullshit they're going to hear. But the bullshit is still bullshit.

I submit that examining whether Y is the appropriate response to X is more relevant than how expected it is.

What you've written here... it's really hard for me to see how this isn't the victim-blaming you just denied it was. You could expect Y therefore you provoked Y therefore you deserved Y so shut up and live with Y.

how about: hey, is Y bullshit or not?
posted by Zed at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am pleased to report that we finally heard back from the Worldcon programming people and they are interested in us running our proposed workshops. Now we have to work out the nitty-gritty, but this is a good thing, I think.

(I won't be teaching either one, but I strongly suspect I will be roped in to being the demo model for both of them.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:02 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am simply saying that if you are not prepared for the results of your actions, then I don't have sympathy for your complaints.

Excellent! Truly. It's good to know you will have no sympathy for the complaints of dudes who get thrown out of cons for harassment when they voluntarily went to cons that had publicized rules and guidelines for behavior.
posted by rtha at 1:57 PM on July 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


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