Let’s Transform San Diego Comic Con to What we Know it Can Be!

Our Petition has over 2,500 signatures and we are here in San Diego ready to deliver the petition to San Diego Comic Con International!  If you have a badge, you know they sent out a vague email Friday night saying that you can call the emergency number if you feel unsafe. Though there is still no definition of harassment, it has been made clear that the only harassment the convention feels is worthy of a response is that which would constitute an emergent enough harassment situation to call the emergency number. We deserve a harassment policy that allows for ALL con-goers to feel comfortable and safe in the comic convention setting – that sets the standards so much higher than “you deserve not to feel so unsafe that you need to call an emergency hotline” – but that you deserve to feel comfortable and not harassed.

Additionally, there is still no definition of what sort of behavior would actually lead to consequences for the harasser. If you do not have a badge – SDCC made no attempt to let you know about the policy – there was no social media update, no update to the policy page on the website, no post made on the SDCC blog. Press, who can be quite serious offenders, weren’t even notified until Tuesday. While this is by SDCC as being treated like a minor issue, radicalized by the “few” people who’ve experienced the harassment. Studies and personal experiences don’t lie. Janelle Asselin at Bitch Magazine did a survey of over 3,500 people, and the results are pretty staggering. And make it all the more alarming that Comic Con isn’t willing to at least make an effort to curb the harassment cosplayers experience.

Out of all respondents, 59 percent said they felt sexual harassment was a problem in comics and 25 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the industry. The harassment varied: while in the workplace or at work events, respondents were more likely to suffer disparaging comments about their gender, sexual orientation, or race. At conventions, respondents were more likely to be photographed against their wishes. Thirteen percent reported having unwanted comments of a sexual nature made about them at conventions—and eight percent of people of all genders reported they had been groped, assaulted, or raped at a comic convention. To put these percentages into perspective, if 13 percent of San Diego Comic-Con attendees have unwanted comments of a sexual nature made about them this week, that would be around 17,000 people. And if eight percent of SDCC attendees are groped, assaulted, or raped, that’s over 10,000 attendees suffering harassment.

While San Diego Comic Con continues to ignore our requests while making haphazard adjustments to their policies without publicizing them widely, male allies (including the hosts of Matty P’s Radio Hour), fellow cosplayers and geeks, and various press outlets have been covering San Diego Comic Con’s utter failure at their anti harassment effort. Because we all believe in Comic Con, at its roots, as a safe space to celebrate our geeky fandoms. Doug Porter said it well at San Diego Free Press:

What should be a dream-come-true event for fans of the genres involved has turned out to be a nightmare in recent years as an institutional malaise about dealing with harassment issues has surfaced. Last year photographs of attendee derrieres were posted online after Comic-Con as some sort of sick tribute to the misogynist mentality that’s flourished in recent events in San Diego and other cities.

Whether it’s only a handful of people who are made to feel unsafe, unwelcome, or unworthy at a convention just because of their gender, or truly a group of 17,000 strong – we are here in San Diego (and online) to say IT IS NOT OKAY. We will be at comic con all day Thursday Friday and Saturday collecting stories, monitoring the harassment reports, and providing resources for anyone who needs! Tweet us at @GeeksForCONsent if you are harassed, have been in the past, or otherwise want to chat about cosplayer harassment! Or if you just want a temporary tattoo or some harasser cards keep your eye out for us or tweet to find out our location! Looking forward to an awesome convention – and to meeting as many of you lovely geeks as we can. Here’s to hoping it is as harassment free as possible!

If you experience harassment – share your story at GeeksForCONsent.org and help us break the silence around this important issue so we can continue talking about ways to make conventions safer, more inclusive spaces.

SDCC Volunteer (2012): Harassed as a volunteer, no training, no protection

Cross-posted from ElfGrove’s tumblr, originally posted in 2012.

So I was assigned a 4 hour shift (as opposed to the three hour shifts outlined in the volunteer info, fuck you SDCC — one day I’ll learn my lesson to not work for this con). I was assigned to the “Fulfillment Room” — which needs to change it’s name very badly. There was the opportunity to work in the room, exchanging tickets for prizes from panels or vouchers for volunteer/staff shirts or standing in the hallway holding a sign pointing to the room and yelling to direct people. I did not volunteer to work in the hallway, but got stuck out there because other people wouldn’t and someone who had fucking skipped all the way to the room suddenly had a “bad knee” and couldn’t stand for long periods. Damn my near-inability to lie.

The organizer people were nice enough for the first couple of hours, sent folk out to give us brief breaks for the restroom, and brought me a granola bar around noon since I was scheduled where lunch fell right in the middle of my long shift. Then they seemed to forget we were out there. They stopped sending people out to let us take bathroom breaks occasionally (not a big deal for me, but other volunteers had to abandon post a couple of times). I only got off shift when I saw multiple people from my shift who had been working in the room leave, and they were leaving late. I had to just abandon post and go back to the room and simply tell them I was leaving. They got new volunteers in and didn’t bother to dismiss the prior shift. Yeah, standing in a hall for 4 and a half hours yelling at crowds and being harassed by skeevy dudes is my idea of fun. Asshats.

Speaking of skeevy dudes. When someone is obviously on assignment to stand in a certain spot in a hall holding a sign and yelling at the crowds, their lack of ability to leave is not an invitation to keep hitting on them when they don’t initially respond to you. This wasn’t just me, another girl who was on the same assignment further down the hall was getting harassed so badly she briefly left her post to talk to me and make sure she wasn’t alone with the harassing dudes and so she could disappear until that particular group moved on. Skeevy dudes. “Fulfillment Room” does not have an unspoken “Sexual” in front of it, and especially the one dude sidling up to within less than six inches of me to whisper that you didn’t have a ticket but you wanted “Fulfillment” and surely I could give it to you right there right now anyways is so incredibly creeper-tastic I have no words. I try to sidle away, and this shithead follows me. There are no other staffers in sight, and his group of 3 male friends are standing off to the side watching and grinning. I’m on-duty, practically a captive audience, have to be polite because I am representing the con, have no back-up, and you are a foot taller than me. GO FUCK YOURSELF CREEPER. None of you are being unique, creative, or clever with that “Sexual Fulfillment Room” BS — which several clearly thought they were. I heard it more times than I could count.

Also, a lot of people were really upset that they couldn’t just walk in there and get free stuff without a redemption ticket. Like I can change the rules for you. The sticker says “Volunteer On Duty” — I do not have decision-making power. Even if I did, why would I change the rules just for your unique snowflake ass?

P.S. “Fulfillment” no longer sounds like a real word by the way.

EDIT: The big issues here was the total lack of information on what the volunteers could/should do when faced with sexual harassment and the not relieving the volunteers on duty when their shift was up. Standing in one spot and yelling for 4 hours is far from comfortable, and it should not have turned into four-and-a-half hours because no one could be bothered to manage the volunteers after the first 2 hours.

We were only given direction of where to stand, what to yell, not to abandon our post under any circumstances, and not to lean against the wall or sit down (even if there were chairs nearby). The staff surely know that this sort of shit happens, and they should either not send females out to stand by themselves or should have told us what to do if it got as bad as it did (Mr. Less-Than-Six-Inches-Of-Personal-Space).

The stupid comments don’t phase me so much. I’m a cosplayer, so you learn to deal. The guy invading my personal space and asking for sexual favors (while he had back-up and I did not) was beyond the deal-able norm for me. I was more concerned for the younger (clearly a minor) girl down that hall that panicked enough to seek refuge with me for a couple of minutes.

EDIT 2: Since this post is being referenced by an SDCC harassment article, a few updates. Please see follow ups to this post here, here, here (note that my friend and I both emailed and never received a response from the convention), and here.

I find it alarming that SDCC has no publicly posted harassment policy, and that the only training volunteers receive is one unlabeled page in a general orientation email attachment sent months before the con and is never mentioned again. (This is the 2013 edition.) Fun exerpts:

All harassment complaints should be documented in writing and submitted within twenty-four (24) hours, or as soon as it is possible.

All submitted complaints will be promptly and thoroughly investigated and appropriate action will be taken. The investigation will be as objective and complete as reasonably possible. Upon completion of the investigation, a determination will be made and the results will be communicated to the complainant, the alleged harasser and, as appropriate, to all others directly concerned.

If inappropriate conduct is proven, prompt and effective remedial action will be taken.

You must submit any reports of harassment in writing within 24 hours and wait an undetermined amount of time to see if they decide you have sufficiently proven that something bad happened. Then they will take unspecified “appropriate action”. This achieves nothing in regards to non-staff or non-volunteer harassment cases as the attendee harassers will be gone and not care and there is no hint that anything will actually be done save for the victim of harassment will be subject to as much scrutiny as the perpetrator.

Since there will inevitably be the question of “what were you wearing?” What a person is wearing is never EVER an invite nor justification to harass. You’re human beings and I expect you to exert the same self-control over your libido that I am am expected to do so over mine. That said, I was not dressed particularly provocatively, nor should it have made a difference if I were [see photos]. I am still a sentient fellow human being.

I have a history since 2006 with SDCC, as attendee and volunteer, there has never been a year when I was not sexually harassed at this con, and I cannot make that same comment of any of the several other cons I attend every year. #SDCC

Lady Blackhawk’s Story: Describing being groped, and call for bystander intervention SDCC 2011

Originally posted on ElfGrove’s tumblr in 2011.

Let me explain something about conventions and the convention atmosphere that is NOT okay. Touching people without their express permission. I’m not talking about brushing shoulders in crowded halls. That’s unavoidable. It’s the intentional touching, violating someone’s personal space. Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. I don’t care. I do not know you, so it is NOT okay to touch me without me specifically saying it is okay.

Hey, you admire my costume. That is great. Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate it.

The next appropriate action is NOT to reach out and start fiddling with the edges of the chest flap (this was my Lady Blackhawk costume, Saturday night at the Hyatt Bar by SDCC), trying to pull at the snaps. When I look at you and surprise and mortification that you are violating my personal space, the appropriate response is NOT, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m gay.” I don’t care if you’re not attracted to women that way, you do not get to randomly start touching a stranger who is clearly uncomfortable with the situation. You sure as hell do NOT continue that unwanted physical contact after you realize the person is uncomfortable.

Boy is lucky I was 1) too shocked and horrified to punch his pink-dyed head off his shoulders, 2) trying to politely get him to stop (brushing his hands away and discouraging the conversation he was trying to start from continuing) on the assumption he was too drunk to know better, and 3) the point he was touching is practically all the way at my armhole, mostly away from the boob so I felt uncertain as to how threatening to interpret his behavior. You don’t know how my costume is constructed. If he had achieved what he seemed to be attempting (which was to open the edge of the front flap across the chest) he might have exposed me to the rest of the bar. Now, my costume doesn’t work that way, and It wouldn’t have shown anything because it is a fully zipped up jacket beneath the flap, but he did not know that, and he could have damaged my costume.

I didn’t stick around too much longer after that, but I would glance around and see the guy in the crowd (an Asian man with the top of his hair dyed pink stands out a bit) and he would nod at me and grin every time our eyes met. At one point he was poking a friend next to him and pointing at me. I had had 2 drinks at that point and felt really uncomfortable and unsafe when I saw that he was still paying attention to where I was, and not very far away.

My wingmen (two male friends) kind of failed at backing me up. They stood and watched while I tried to politely get this guy to stop touching me. I’m shy when it comes down to the bones of things, and the old school Southern sensibilities from Grandma are what kick in when I panic for myself. They said afterward that they had been concerned, but weren’t sure if they needed to step in or not. Of course, there was a mixed message to my forceful attitude an hour earlier when a homeless guy separated Julius from the rest of the group while we were walking down the street and had initially told him no to the request for money. He put his arm around Julius and literally pulled him away from the group. I had stepped back, grabbed Julius’s hand and started towing him back into our crowd of friends while insisting we had someplace to be and were in a hurry. So me being less forceful an hour later when someone starts harassing me is confusing, I get that.

However, General Advice: if your friend looks uncomfortable and the first “No” is not getting the stranger to back off, please step in. I don’t care about the gender or whatever involved. Sometimes it’s hard for the person at the center of the attention to speak up for themselves and get an escape.

Male Allies talk Cosplay =/= CONsent on Matty P Presents: Saturday Morning Cereal

“This is everybody’s job. We’re talking about what we’re proud to be, in a culture of inclusion. It’s supposed to be a safe zone, where women feel safe to dress up.”

Male allies at Matty P’s Radio Happy Hour step up and call each other to action. Together we can make conventions safer, more inclusive places where we all feel welcome to celebrate our favorite characters and stories!

Discover Entertainment Internet Radio with Matty Ps Radio Happy Hour on BlogTalkRadio

Listen in (above link) as male allies talk about what we need to do as culture to shift our geekdom into a safer, more inclusive space. Hint: it’s on the men to step up as allies, too!  (The extensive discussion of Cosplay =/= CONsent and SDCC is the last segment of the radio hour.)

They talk about how they view the harassment and groping from a man’s perspective, and how some men must not have been taught how to treat other people as they were growing up.

“the problem is, is that when, in our minds we objectify the women that we see, we see them less of people, more as objects. We steal their humanity, we don’t give them credit as a person. Then all of the sudden, we can touch them. We can take pictures. That’s what some people are doing! Unwanted pictures, all the way to groping, and unwanted physical harassment. It’s making people, vast majority are women, feel unsafe!”

They also discuss what the petition is asking for, (a more specific policy that is publicized so people know it  exists, and volunteers who are equipped to actually handle reports when harassment happens) — and how inadequate SDCC’s current policy is: “What this petition is aiming to do is have the management of comic con be more specific. …There are 1-2 sentences buried in the 200 page handbook. And apparently they don’t talk to the volunteers about what to do if they see somebody cross the line. With the lack of policy, there becomes a lack of responsibility on behalf of hte management.”

They call out SDCC management for worrying about any potential bad press instead of acting when they know unequivocally the current consequence of their policy is that at least 2,000 people don’t feel safe or protected by the current policy.

“They point out a certain reticence for management to move forward. It doesn’t matter what your worries for the future are if at the moment anyone at the moment doesn’t feel safe, you are failing at your job in enforcing [the harassment policy].”

And, as allies they acknowledge that they have not lived this experience of being harassed or groped, and they may never truly understand what it feels like, but that doesn’t stop them for finding it to be a completely unacceptable and unwelcome component to geek culture and within convention spaces.

“Ideally you don’t want signs up everywhere at comic con having to spell this out, eventually, a generation or two from now, to say “You actually had to put signs up?” I don’t mind being the generation laughed out a few generations down the line if it eliminates the problem.”

Not here, not now. We don’t want this. A couple blocks down the way, a storm trooper and a troll in line at a starbucks, and a gorgeous woman down the way dressed as a fairy. I want to do everything I can to keep these doors open, and make everyone feel welcome. This is about feeling and acting on that passion. Harassment goes against that, puts a big wall in front of it, is exclusionary. These divide us, and we don’t want it here.

Thank you two, for having our backs and for speaking up as allies. And thank you for doing and saying more than SDCC is willing. We as a culture can definitely change things from within, we just need more people to stand up and demand better — and that means male allies standing beside the cosplayers as we make those demands.

Sherrie’s Story: Her experience at SDCC involved so much harassment, she’s not comfortable going back.

I was cosplaying as a female anime character of somewhat large chest proportions. I happen to be large myself and wore a padded bra to slightly enhance it. Multiple times throughout the con, people asked to take pictures with me, and I agreed, but a few times men thought it would be awesome to grab a breast for the photo. When I got angry, they acted like it was no big deal and I was called a “bitch” and other things for standing up for myself.

By the time I could get the attention of con staff each time but one, the offenders were no longer nearby, The other time, the staff member was dismissive. I also received inappropriate sexual comments from both attendees and exhibitors. Being that I was fully clothed from neck to toe without tight clothing, and STILL getting that kind of treatment, I couldn’t possibly feel safe dressing in anything that would draw attention to me, and maybe even not then, because I got rude comments while NOT cosplaying as well. I have so little desire to return until they can fully convince me the atmosphere has changed.

SDCC’s Glanzer Tells NBC News Their Policy Is Sufficient – sounds proud of it!

Comic-Con Criticized for Not Protecting Women in Costume

Geeks for Consent have launched a petition to demand Comic-Con 2014 organizers create a detailed anti-harassment policy

Last night San Diego Comic Con’s public relations rep was interviewed by NBC news in San Diego about their firm stance that their anti harassment efforts are sufficient. Despite the internet backlash against that stance when expressed in his interview with Comic Book Resources last week, a thorough break down by The Mary Sue of the flawed logic SDCC is using to justify ignoring the needs of the women and LGBTQ folks who attend Comic Con, and generous amounts of tumblr and twitter outrage at SDCC — Glanzer has not budged, and continues to defend their efforts – which involve ZERO training of their volunteers, NO publicizing of their anti harassment policy, and a policy itself that is more vague than both the pets policy and the weapons policy.

A previous volunteer gave us the volunteer manuals from 2012 and 2013, the past two conventions, and they do not mention the harassment of guests, they do not mention what a volunteer should do if someone tries to report harassment, they do not mention any policy or procedure for enforcing the harassment policy. The packet doesn’t even mention that they have an anti-harassment policy. The volunteers are also not trained in what to do if someone is harassed. We’ve created resources to streamline the training of volunteers — even a quick form for them to fill out when someone reports harassment so that they know what to ask and how to be supportive, even if they didn’t have a full training. But San Diego Comic Con IS NOT INTERESTED in any of these efforts to improve their policies.

Watch the interview for yourself (above), sign the petition, and vocalize your discontent with the hashtag #SDCCFAIL. Note: in both interviews, it is clear that Glanser hasn’t even bothered to read the petition or respond to the specific requests.

Do not let them silence our voices. Telling thousands of people that their gender-based concerns about public safety are not worth hearing is what creates a culture where people feel free to grope, assault, and verbally and sexually harass. San Diego Comic Con may be happy to create an environment where those people are told their behavior is acceptable — but we as a community need to demand better. Together, let’s recreate convention spaces as harassment free fan zones where we celebrate our differences, instead of making each other feel unwelcome and unsafe.

For more info, and examples of harassment at SDCC, and cons who are doing right, read Heidi McDonald’s post at Comic Beat from this morning.

Why Women Need Maleficent

by Nichole Louise

CAUTION: This review contains SPOILERS. Proceed with caution!

angelina jolie maleficent

After seeing Maleficent, I walked out of the theater feeling hopeful, inspired, and empowered. There were a group of teenagers walking in front of me and I overheard one of the young ladies say “I think I’ll stick with the cartoon version,” while another said “I hope they don’t ruin Cinderella too” (to be released in 2015.) I was taken aback and confused by these comments given the strong message of feminism, female empowerment, and female unity in the film. These themes were so prevalent in the film that I was surprised it came from Disney–an entity that, to an extent, has a track record of perpetuating the damsel in distress trope. On the contrary, Maleficent is a far cry from the traditional gender roles of Sleeping Beauty (1959.) So, one might understand my dismay at deducing that this young girl would essentially rather watch a movie with 1950s-era gender roles than a film that paints a complex and empowered view of women.

Early in the film, Maleficent is drugged by a childhood friend/love. She falls into a deep sleep in which he, deciding to have “mercy,” cuts off her wings rather than kill her in order to gain the favor of the dying king so that royal succession might be passed to him. Maleficent wakes up and immediately discovers her great loss. Angelina Jolie gives a chilling reaction in her anguished, pained screams–a portrayal that echos a woman in our own world who may have been taken advantage of. Maleficent’s former friend not only betrays her, but takes her symbol of power and strength.Rather than feel shame and self-loathing, Maleficent lets her pain translate into malice and revenge. She becomes embittered and even mentions at one point in the film that she does not believe true love exists. She saves a raven’s life by turning him into a man who does her bidding. She creates a wall of thorny roots around her newly claimed fairy kingdom and shuts the kingdom of men out–literally. And rightly so. As an audience, we sympathize with Maleficent.

Later, when her lost-friend-turned-king has a celebration for his daughter’s birth–Maleficent crashes it. She curses the child as revenge against the king and takes pleasure in him begging for mercy. She concedes, partly, in driving his betrayal home by saying the only way the curse can be broken is with true love’s kiss (one that he had bestowed upon her at upon her sixteenth birthday.) Of course, Maleficent doesn’t believe in true love, so she essentially dooms this innocent child to death-sleep when she turns sixteen.

Maleficent begrudgingly watches over young Aurora, who is raised by three bickering but good hearted fairies. As Aurora grows, Maleficent takes note of the girl’s kindness, curiosity, and compassion for the creatures of the wood. Maleficent allows Aurora inside the fairy kingdom…and in turn begins to melt her bitter heart.

When Aurora learns about the curse and Maleficent’s identity, she rushes home to her now crazed father. She is promptly locked in a room where she inevitably escapes, pricks her finger, and falls into a sleep–the story we all know. The story we don’t know, however, is that Maleficent tries to reverse the curse before Aurora’s sixteenth birthday. But she fails and knows she must come to terms with the fact that she has already destroyed the one person who was able to mend her heart. Here is where the old trope of the prince saving the princess is thrown out the window.

aurora maleficent angelina jolie

Prince Philip, who Aurora briefly met on the road, is rushed to the sleeping beauty by Maleficent. She watches silently as the three fairies press him to kiss Aurora. But it feels all wrong to us because Philip is essentially a stranger–and he says as much too. But he does it anyway, perhaps highlighting the notion that it was a little weird for that to happen in Sleeping Beauty in the first place. Aurora does not wake up and Philip is thrown out of the room. While the fairies set about finding another man to kiss Aurora, Maleficent says her goodbyes to her “little beasty.” As a mother to a child, Maleficent kisses Aurora’s forehead and is ready to leave when–yes–they actually did that–Aurora wakes up! Such a simple remedy to an old trope, and yet amazing at the same time. To have this twist come from Disney astounds me because it essentially says that Aurora did not need a man to save her–but a woman!

Chaos soon ensues as the King attacks Maleficent. Aurora runs away and happens upon a cabinet containing Maleficent’s wings, which appear to be alive. Aurora, realizing that Maleficent has been more of a parent to her than her father ever was, frees the wings. Maleficent’s wings are magically adhered back onto her body and badassery commences. The message of female empowerment and unity is embodied in Maleficent and Aurora helping each other against the king and his soldiers. Neither of them need men to save them or mend them, as they have found that in each other and in themselves. This message, that perhaps the teenage girl at the theater didn’t understand, was that women must stop “cursing” each other, i.e. stop body-shaming, slut-shaming, gossiping, etc. and start supporting and nurturing each other.

Maleficent not only passes the Bechdel test, but also succeeds in portraying a real woman who is not “too feminine” (princess) or “too butch” (evil queen,) but rather a woman who is a complex entity like all of us are! What a simple concept this actually is that most of Hollywood doesn’t seem to understand.

This all being said, Angelina Jolie is an absolute beautiful badass as Maleficent and is perfect for the role. In fact, we have Jolie partly to thank for the outcome of the film given her influence as Executive Producer. Having that position in itself is a win for females in the movie industry, as the number of women in power positions behind the camera is low. Jolie’s second Directorial project is Unbroken, which comes out December 2014. With amazing source material (seriously, read that book!), one would be hard pressed to believe that Jolie would not receive high accolades as Director. Perhaps the success that she will no doubt receive from her involvement in front of and behind the camera in Maleficent will encourage more people to see Unbroken. This outcome is something Jolie could benefit from given the remnants of bad press from her days of being vilified as a “husband stealer,” despite her humanitarian work and large family. In fact, a lot of women may still dislike her because of public perception and gossip. This situation in itself is why women need Maleficent and everything it stands for.

Nichole currently works in Academic Publishing and lives in Philadelphia with her partner, Josh, their two cats Mara and Luna, and their dog. Learn more at NicholeLouise.com.