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.
The team has collected stories at conventions across the U.S., revealing that con harassment encompasses crude comments, sexual requests, physical harassment, unpermitted and sexually explicit photographs (upskirt shots, “creeper shots”, etc) and misuse of photographs on social media. This harassment leaves cosplayers feeling objectified and humiliated. Despite this, most mainstream conventions continue to resist instituting specific policies designed to hold harassers accountable. Their inaction leaves the targets of harassment feeling even more vulnerable and discouraged.
“We are excited to partner with a forward thinking convention who, not immune to harassment itself, decided to do something about it this year,” said Erin Filson, Creative Director of GeeksForCONsent, of their partnership with Awesome Con DC this weekend (April 18-20). “We worked with Awesome Con to train their volunteers to respond to harassment situations, and will be on hand to provide resources and support to anyone who is harassed, or wants to talk about harassment they’ve experienced at other, less-progressive conventions.” GeeksForCONsent will have a prominent table in Artist Alley, where they will share anti-harassment resources, assist volunteers, and provide a safe space for con-goers to share stories.
The GeeksForCONsent team’s efforts include auditing convention harassment policies, determining whether or not those policies are enforced, and especially focusing on whether volunteers are trained/equipped to deal with reports of harassment. The end goal is not to criticize conventions, but to work together to come up with a comprehensive plan to actually create these conventions as safer spaces.
To learn more about their efforts, or to join them at conventions, visit GeeksForCONsent.org, or email GeeksForCONsent@gmail.com
About Geeks for CONsent:
As experts in dealing with harassment, training women and LGBTQ folks in coping and responding to harassment, and training people how not to harass, the GeeksForCONsent team has been conducting workshops on gender-based harassment and better ways of communicating with each other in public for over 3 years. The GeeksForCONsent team spread the Cosplay =/= CONsent message by tabling at Wizard World Philadelphia in 2013 and Locust Moon Fest 2013; presenting a panel at GeekGirlCon 2013; and interviewing cosplayers at Baltimore Comic Con 2013, Boston Comic Con, MicExpo and New York Comic Con 2013. Cosplayers have signed petitions, sent in photographs, and provided video testimony of their comic-con harassment experiences – all empowering our mission to hold conventions accountable for making their conventions safe and inclusive spaces for EVERYONE in attendance. Our training manual is being used to train all the Awesome Con 2014 volunteers – and GeeksForCONsent will be the in-house anti-harassment team at the convention.