Updates to the Readercon Response.

Some updates that I think are worth mentioning.

First of all, let me say that I am overwhelmed by the positive response from the community, and am unspeakably grateful not even on my own behalf (though I am), but for all those who are trying to make cons a safer space and want evidence that the community is ready for change. I hope that any future targets of con harassment will find the same support if they choose to go public, even if the response from those in authority is as appalling as the Readercon Board’s has been.

Regarding which: Though they told me they would not be speaking publicly about the decision, after my post went up, they did post an official statement. It is here. It is, I will be honest, infuriating.

(I feel it’s important to say that the Readercon committee was not involved with, or apprised beforehand of, the Board’s decision. But the Concom is not the Board. Some committee members, like Rose Fox and Gary Wolfe, have publicly expressed their disappointment.

Committee member Matthew Cheney has resigned, with some parting words that I think summarize a lot of people’s feelings and comments on the matter: “I want to live in a world that’s more about rehabilitation than punishment. But rehabilitation is not the responsibility of an event or its committees. If you hold an event, your job is to make sure the people who attend are as safe as you can reasonably ensure. Your job is to put policies in place and to enforce them. That’s your responsibility. Readercon has failed in that responsibility.”)

Nick Mamatas made excellent points in favor of a non-zero-tolerance policy; though I think Rene Walling’s behavior merited a lifetime ban under any possible sexual harassment policy, Readercon’s stated policy was zero-tolerance, and retroactively altering a public sexual harassment policy for the benefit of one man is morally reprehensible, and suggests Board-wide favoritism and corruption.

In other thoughts on sexual harassment policies, File 770 pointed out a 2009 forum posting by Rene Walling in response to a comment thread about con harassment policies that I think is worth posting verbatim:

“yes, actually, because you are a woman I will give you the benefit of the
doubt. ”

See, that’s where I have to drop out of their idea. Because I’m a guy I
don’t get the benefit of the doubt? I don’t think that’s right.

I am a decent person as are many other men. (note: I am NOT saying there are
no indecent men)

Being a woman does not automatically make you a decent person (note: I am
NOT saying all women are indecent)


In case it vanishes, a screencap is here.

Last week, on July 17 (shortly after my first harassment post was made, and Nick Mamatas discussed and partially named Walling in his Readercon roundup), a woman who wished to remain anonymous emailed Rose Fox, outlining her own experience as a target of Rene Walling’s harassment and confirming this is a serial pattern of behavior for him. Rose Fox promptly and professionally replied to acknowledge, and sent the message to the Board. The woman is Kate Kligman, and she has since (very bravley) gone public and posted a copy of the email she sent to Rose Fox as a comment in my journal.

She received no acknowledgment, or response, from the Board.

Meanwhile, according to this post, despite unequivocal witness statements confirming the harassment at Readercon and confirming it as a pattern of behavior already in hand, they were calling character witnesses on behalf of Rene Walling. (Note: Per her comment here, having read Kate’s statement, she now supports a lifetime ban for him.)

As Ekaterina Sedia points out, conventions are not just a social, but a working space. Those who do not feel safe at conventions do not go; their voices in the community, therefore, are not heard. By large majority, those people are women. This is not okay. This is an important discussion that needs to continue outside of this instance.

The comments on Readercon’s official statement, and comments made on Twitter, have included several mentions of those who do not plan to attend or return until something is done. In this post, Veronica Schanoes asks for help compiling an official list of names; if this is how you feel, please drop her a line to let her know, or consider adding your name to the official list when one is made.

I will be keeping tabs on things as they develop. And I have to say — so much of this response, and so much of any concerted response to harassment and rotten policies, is due to people coming forward with information. If there is anything you would like me to know, please contact me via LJ message, or if you don’t have an LJ, with an anonymous comment here, with your name and contact information, and disclaiming that you wish this to remain anonymous so I know not to unscreen it. (You can also contact me directly via my website.) I take confidentiality very seriously (I ran my prior post past Kate to make sure she was comfortable with how her correspondence was mentioned), but information is important, and if you have something to tell me, I want to know.

Thanks so much, again, to all those who have expressed their anger and sadness, and to all those calling for action. I was also a fan of Readercon before this, and still hold out hope that, someday, I can be a fan again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamtroycastro Adam-Troy Castro

    I am late to this controversy, only hearing about it today, but while I'm here: may I say that I am sorry that you have had to deal with this crap and I deeply wish you have no recurrences at any venue you attend?

    – Adam-Troy Castro

  • Robert V.S. Redick

    Oh so so angry. I've been writing about this for three hours, things unfit to post. Very sorry for the shit you were subjected to, and appalled at the Readercon response. Will be blogging about this immediately.

  • Liz Williams

    I'm sorry to hear about this and have said so publically. Conventions are indeed a working space, as well as a social one, but in both, participants have the right not to be subjected to harrassment,  and this should be a lifetime ban. I've banned people from my own premises (shops) for less.

  • Kara

    Genevive – I did not attend ReaderCon and I haven't in many years. But I have been a victim of abuse and harassment. I have been following your post for a couple of days and finally felt the need to speak out. Here's the email I sent to ReaderCon today:

    To The ReaderCon Board.I've followed the news about the incident at ReaderCon 23 and your response and now feel that I need to speak out. In your statement you said: During the course of our conversation with Rene it became immediately apparent that he realized what he had done and was sincerely regretful of his actions. It was that recognition and regret that influenced our decision, not his status in the community. If, as a community, we wish to educate others about harassment, we must also allow for the possibility of reform.As the victim of abuse and harassment myself, I can tell you that every abuser and harasser has the ability to appear to be profoundly and deeply regretful and sincere in their apology for their actions.  The key word is “appear”.  Perhaps they are regretful … that they got caught and called on it. For nearly 20 years of my life I lived with an abuser who was always “sorry” and “regretful” and “sincere”. He was so sincere that he often cried. He brought presents. He begged for forgiveness and promised change. Which lasted until the next time.To void your stated Zero-tolerance policy because of the apparent “sincere regret” of the harasser is much the same as accepting the word of a drug abuser that they “won't do it again”.I encourage you to learn more about the patterns of harassment and abuse and to seriously rethink your ruling and your proposed changing of the rules. The person being harassed is the victim here, not the harasser.Sincerely,
    I have no idea if it will help, but my support for you is out there. 

Recent Work

The Workings Of Nature: Naturalist Writing And Making Sense Of The World, NPR.org

Review: The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, NPR.org

TV: The Other Side: Barb and the Women of Stranger Things, Vox

TV Recaps: UnREAL recaps, NYT

Review: Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud, NPR.org

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2016 Appearances

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Emerald City Comicon, April 7-10, 2016

Kent State Wonder Woman Symposium, September 23-24, 2016

NYCC, October 5-9, 2016