Awesome Con Awesomely Tackles Convention Harassment

Sexual harassment and groping at comic conventions is a serious problem that has received increased attention in recent months. Awesome Con, a crowdfunded, by-the-fans, for-the-fans convention, responded to reported harassment at their first convention last year by creating an anti-harassment policy and procedures for dealing with harassment, training their volunteers, and partnering with GeeksForCONsent to provide an in-house, trauma-informed team to provide resources to attendees.

Unlike harassment in public spaces, conventions are private events. There are rules in place, and they should extend to include and address harassment. GeeksForCONsent (affiliated with HollabackPHILLY) is a safe haven for victims of convention related harassment to build community and organize to influence conventions to improve and enforce anti-harassment policies. Read more

“Reporting Harassment at a Convention: A First-Person How To”

Cross-posted from John Scalzi, originally published June 2013.

 

My friend Elise Matthesen was creeped upon at a recent convention by someone of some influence in the genre; she decided that she was going to do something about it and reported the person for sexual harassment, both to the convention and to the person’s employer. And now she’s telling you how she did it and what the process is like. Here’s her story.

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We’re geeks. We learn things and share, right? Well, this year at WisCon I learned firsthand how to report sexual harassment. In case you ever need or want to know, here’s what I learned and how it went.

Two editors I knew were throwing a book release party on Friday night at the convention. I was there, standing around with a drink talking about Babylon 5, the work of China Mieville, and Marxist theories of labor (like you do) when an editor from a different house joined the conversation briefly and decided to do the thing that I reported. A minute or two after he left, one of the hosts came over to check on me. I was lucky: my host was alert and aware. On hearing what had happened, he gave me the name of a mandated reporter at the company the harasser was representing at the convention. Read more

“Please stop touching my breasts: and other things I say at cons”

Cross-posted from Carrie Cuinn, June 2013. She breaks her silence about harassment at genre cons, examples of which have been ongoing in her life over the past 20 years. Click through for a powerful, triggering read! The examples of harassment are below – but the post talks about how the pervasive harassment has affected her, and how she’s seen it affect others.

Hi, I’m Carrie, and I’ve been sexually harassed at genre conventions. (Putting this behind a link because triggering. You’ve been warned.)

Examples:

  1. I was asked to hand a Big Name writer a drink at a con party, I assume because I was standing next to the person pouring them, and without the author even knowing who I was, he asked me if I the girl who’d be blowing him later, or was that a different girl? He wasn’t joking, he really didn’t know which young fan would be giving him oral sex on demand, but he knew there’d have to be one.
  2. I was picked up by a man I didn’t know and carried out the room, all while I progressed from “Hey, put me down” to “Let go of me!” to hitting him until he dropped me. His response: “Fuck, you’re no fun.” The response of everyone around me: Nothing. No one tried to help.
  3. Guys have, more than once, walked up to me, put their hands on my breasts, and said the equivalent of “Nice tits, they’re real right?”
  4. Heard, “I can’t help myself, you’re just so hot,” more times than I can count.
  5. Been kissed on the back of the neck by a guy I didn’t know and hadn’t seen walking up behind me.
  6. Had my clothes pulled down, up, or otherwise adjusted so they could see my tattoos.
  7. Had an established writer, after hearing I was a fan of SF, put his arm around my waist and say, “I should show you my appreciation. Or do you want to show me yours?”
  8. Been hugged by men who’d never met me before, and either didn’t know at all or only had a limited online relationship (Twitter/Facebook) with.
  9. Had guys follow me from one panel to the next trying to convince me to go to the bar with them.
  10. Heard multiple variations of “You can’t leave yet, you haven’t tried/heard/tasted/given me a chance to convince you to stay”.
  11. Told, “You said you liked my work, I thought you were flirting with me.”
  12. Had (always older) women tell me:
    1. “What did you expect?”
    2. “That’s just how he is.”
    3. “You’re lucky, he doesn’t go for everyone.”
    4. “I’d be flattered if it was me.”
    5. “You have to get used to that if you want to come to these things.”
    6. “You just have to be clear with him if you really don’t want to. He doesn’t get the hint right away.”

 

Read more

What We Talk About When We Talk About Con Harassment

Cross-posted from “Born of an Atom Bomb”, originally posted July 2013.

 

I’m not sure everyone fully understands con harassment.

There’s been a lot of talk about recently, a great deal of online sharing of experiences from the women who have been on the receiving end of unwanted groping—or worse—in what is supposed to be a safe place for geeks of stripes. Which has been wonderful, for reasons I’ll get into. But 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. So, let’s sit down, guys, and talk this out. Bro to bro.

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 socially awkward men. Read more

“But He Didn’t Know He Was Hijacking Your Ship: On Conference Creeps

MARIA DAHVANA HEADLEY weighs in on comic-con harassment; sharing 11 stories of her own experiences. Check out the first few below, and head over to her blog to read the rest of her insightful post!

 

1. My first convention. I’m at a party, where I know maybe 2 people. A respected SF writer beelines up to me, kisses – with tongue – up my arm from wrist to shoulder without introducing himself, mutters “stunning” and is gone. Later that night, he googles me, sends me an email through my website informing me of his identity, and telling me that he is the man who left his “spoor” on my arm. I write back. I say, “you know, you should have actually spoken to me. I’m an interesting person, not to mention I’m one of your fellow invited pros, and I’m smart, and a writer.” He writes back to me, having done some more googling. He says, oops, I didn’t know that you had a husband (and, implication mine, are his property, therefore not on the open market). I didn’t mean to disrespect him. (Ital mine.) My soul is yours. I’ll blurb you if you need a blurb. He doesn’t speak to me or acknowledge me professionally ever, though we are at the convention together for days.

2. Same convention, some guy in the dealer’s room with whom I’ve been having a brief conversation about whether or mot my book is stocked picks me up and holds me in his arms, as though I am a toddler. I instruct him to put me down. He looks bewildered. It’s because i’m little, he says, and because I’m wearing green, which is his favorite color and which means we have a connection. I’m 5’3″. I’m not big. I am also not a toddler. And even if I was? I WOULD NOT BE ASKING A STRANGER TO PICK ME UP. EVEN IF THAT STRANGER LIKED GREEN. I DID NOT WEAR MY GREEN DRESS IN ORDER TO BE PICKED UP. My dress is not an invitation, yo. Read more

“Silent All These Years” — Mariah Huehner on comic con harassment

Cross-Posted from Mariah Huehner’s blog, November 18, 2013 — click through to read her full post about the rampant sexual harassment in the comic industry, both professionally, and at comic conventions.

I’ve been working in comics for well over a decade and, unfortunately, I’m one of those women with more than one example of sexualized unpleasantness I can discuss whenever this topic comes up. I have rarely, if ever, talked about them all. Some of them happened at conventions. Some of them happened in offices I have worked in. Some of these examples were perpetuated by “known” creators and some were from fellow editors/professionals.  I truly wish I didn’t have such a broad group to choose from. I’d rather not have any.
Just about all of the more “severe” examples happened before I turned 27, so many of them are nearing a decade old. A lot of people seem to think there’s a time limit on how long events in your life will bother/influence you. There isn’t. I can no more control when one of these experiences will blossom up like a poisonous flower to make me feel sick and embarrassed than I can help when a memory from childhood will get triggered by a familiar smell. While time often helps these things feel less immediately painful, that’s not the same as them having no continued impact on your life. And, for women, since we are reminded pretty much every day that we are at risk, I’d hazard to say that it’s particularly unlikely that, just became something happened a decade, two, three, etc. ago, it will somehow evaporate and no longer have any importance in how we view the world and ourselves within it.
That doesn’t mean these experiences define us, but our lives are a mixed bag of memories, experiences, feelings. It would be pretty weird if they had no impact on us just because time had passed.
I’ve talked about what happened to be me at my first SDCC here. The TLDR version: I was groped by a “name” creator I had worked with for years at the Hyatt my first night. At first I thought I must be mistaken, but when I mentioned it to another creator he said, nope, he definitely did. He’s “known” for that. I want you to take that in. This fellow comics professional (who was also male) was not A. not surprised this other comics professional had groped me B. it was a “known” thing. And yet no one said anything about it.
I have not gone anywhere at SDCC or any other con by myself since, which was in 2006 or so. I don’t drink at conventions unless I am with VERY trusted friends and we are somewhere like a dinner. Never at a party of any kind. I will occasionally buy a drink that I don’t like so it looks like I’m drinking, but I don’t. I never let it out of my sight. If I do have to go someplace alone at a con, which sometimes can’t be avoided, I spend the entire time feeling anxiously keyed up, hyper aware of everything going on around me, and I tend to have a miserable time unless I can find someone I know.