Readercon: Updates, Responses, McMuffins

The Readercon response has continued to build, which is gratifying and speaks, I hope, to a general shift in con culture, but that’s a post for later. In the meantime, there are some more links happening that I want to address, and a couple of brief updates.

Firstly, the inimitable BC Holmes has been keeping track of an impressive collection of relevant links and screencaps.

Jim Hines has a post on reporting harassment in SF/F., if you choose to do so. Please know that if you have been harassed, your first priority is to secure your own physical safety and peace of mind; there are many reasons why women don’t report harassment, and all of them are legitimate.

The formal Petition to the Board is here, though it’s been maxed out (over 300 signatures on Day One). If you wish to sign, you can do so on this follow-up post. Signatures are open until 6pm Eastern time (USA) today, at which point she’ll send the petition to the Board. She’ll also keep the petition open and send further groups of signatures every 48 hours for so long as there are signatories.

Rose Lemberg has collected some links to other incidents (related by Rachel Elizabeth Dillon, Nora Jemisin, and Cat Valente) that need to be discussed, and which reflect a Board that does not make safe spaces a priority whatsoever.

However, while outrage at the Board is appropriate, the concom is not the Board. The committee has already called a vote to overturn the Board’s decision, and other decisions are still being discussed; thus Farah Mendlesohn explains that what might look like silence from the concom is not so. (For what it’s worth, I believe the concom called for a vote pretty quickly after the initial statement was made, understand the delays involved in making decisions of the magnitude at which they are making them, and believe that they are acting in good faith for the true best interests of the con. I have hope they will be able to effect change here.)

Meanwhile, some discussion about the discussion.

A key part of discussion is this comment: it’s the statement Kate Kligman sent the Readercon concom on July 17, the day after my initial post, detailing her own harassment by Rene Walling (whom she ID’ed via Nick Mamatas). It establishes that the behavior Rene exhibited with me is a pattern. (The Board, though they had it in hand that day, didn’t contact Kate during deliberations, and don’t mention this — or me — in their official statement. They also acknowledge that events are not in dispute, which means the harassment is admitted by all parties. This is another key part.)

Some people, in comments throughout this fine internet, have expressed a deep and touching concern that this has all happened because I have never experienced or encountered any embarrassing social miscues, accidental physical contact, flirting, socially-awkward people, or people on the autism spectrum, and thus I am somehow mistaken, and my harasser, a serial predator, is actually a flirting, socially-awkward, terminally-self-unaware Aspie. (Assuming this last about him is, by the way, particularly offensive to those on the autism spectrum.)

Those commenters are very kind to worry about me, but, having left the house on several occasions throughout my life, I have in fact encountered them all. Luckily, since harassment is none of these things, I am still able to distinguish harassment clearly, as that was what I experienced when Rene Walling chose to harass me. Thank you anyway.

Related, some people (usually occupying a Venn Diagram with the above people), apparently deeply worried about this particular topic in a way that is probably telling, have been asking What Will Happen To Flirting, The Human Race Will Surely Die Out Now, Oh Won’t Jesus Help the Flirters if sexual harassment policies are made and enforced. Anne Leckie gets it in one over here:

If you really think that “speaking to women” is indistinguishable from harassment, there’s a problem and it’s not with the rules. If you really think anti-harassment rules bar flirting, you’ve got an idea of what constitutes flirting that really needs some re-evaluation. I mean, if someone said, “Hey, we should outlaw rape,” and the guy standing next to you said, “But that’s the same thing as saying people can’t have sex!” you wouldn’t say, Wow, good point!. You’d look at him sideways. Or, sweet unconquered sun, I hope you would.

If you speak to women the way you’d speak to someone you respect, someone whose boundaries you respect, you generally won’t have any problems with women accusing you of harassment. End of story.

When you worry out loud that anti-harassment policies might outlaw flirting, you as much as sharpie a sign on your forehead saying “I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU WANT AS LONG AS I GET WHAT I’M AFTER.”

There are other posts I want to make — about rape culture; about what I hope the supportive response to this incident means for con and geek culture; about the vocabulary of harassment and the use of “target” vs. “victim”; about what it means to come forward about harassment, even when response is positive; about what it means when, for any number of reasons, it’s impossible to safely come forward. However, I also don’t want this blog to be All Harassment, All the Time, because one of the things that happens when you come forward even when the response is positive is that, in keeping up with it and talking about necessary and important things, you must give that experience, and by extension your harasser, enormous amounts of time and energy.

Therefore, last night I paid someone thirteen dollars to promise to screen a film for me on Thursday, just so I could write about something terrible that has Colin Farrell in it, rather than me in it.

Let’s end this discussion with an anecdote:

Last night, as I was composing this entry, I saw an ad on television. An Egg McMuffin was telling a container of oatmeal that he loved her. She demurred and said she wasn’t interested. He asked why not, since they had so much in common. She said he wasn’t her type. He demanded to know what her type was. She described someone “tall, dark -” and made an approving noise as a cup of coffee was set beside her. The coffee complimented her. She thanked him.

The McMuffin said, “Okay, so you need some more time!”

Pause for laughter.

  • shea wong

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for calling bullshit (along with Rose) on the Aspergers angle.  I had just pressed ‘post’ when I saw this.  The self-diagnosis/armchair diagnosis is not only insulting but downright horrid to those of us with actual, diagnosed disorders.  Thank you again for your continued bravery. 

  • Martin Wagner

    I'd think real sufferers of Asperger's would resent the use of the condition as an all-purpose rationalization/excuse for douchey behavior.

  • Joshua Zucker

    You write “About the vocabulary of harassment and the use of “target” vs. “victim”” — I want to read that post and learn more!

    Small typo: Your “official statement” link is missing an http: in front or something like that, so it tries to point to a page in this blog instead of over to the site.

  • Benjamin Barber

    I read these other concerns, related by dillon and valentine, and still do not see the offensiveness.

    For example: the use of either the mens or womens bathrooms. Does cat valentine expect that the readercon's hotel be the exception to majority of places that follow the gender normative bathrooms? And is her or other transgender psychological needs such that she hasn't in the can't cope with such a bathroom conundrum? I personally don't see why she couldn't cope with it, especially considering the bathrooms in asia (even in malls), consist of a series of holes in the ground sometimes with or without stalls or toilet paper. I think that she felt attacked, that the board ridiculed the ideas as preposterous, especially given the requirement for extra labor and security risk (for those members who have property in the con suite.)

    Cat valentine: Does not talk about her experience with the board, so i cannot attest to its validity, but what she does offer as proof is aggressiveness in a thread. The thread was specifically about forming a competing con, specifically because of her unpublished grief with readercon, which if i remember correctly to be hosted near the same vincinity and time as readercon. I don't really know what she was expecting, when you get on a board you are expected to have a fiduciary duty, which it was obvious that she violated.

    I suspect that you are all caught up in a classic case of groupthink, where you remain isolated from objective reality, by the emotional content presented as anecdotal evidence.

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