Nearly two months ago, I went public about harassment I experienced at Readercon. Things happened.
The outcome was positive. For this and other reasons, I still think it is crucial to report, if you feel safe doing so, because most harassers are serial, and reporting them is vital to making sure the behavior is named and stopped.
However, for those thinking of going public with their own experiences with con harassment, I want to talk about how it looks nearly two months on.
Because it’s still going, two months on.
1. Even if it’s easy to decide to report (it isn’t) and even if the people around you are supportive (they were), and even if the organization takes it seriously (they didn’t, and then they did), and even if the community is supportive (the initial outpouring was amazingly supportive; the encroaching of naysaying is…unsurprising), you will spend an untold amount of time dealing with fallout.
2. The fallout may not be, but will certainly seem like, a Kafka novel.
There will be creeps in comments. (I’ve opted not to publish some anonymous ones, including the person who informed me, “You have absolutely no right to deny someone looking at you or in your eyes.”)
There will be threats. (I won’t link to the worst of these, but it’s not hard to find if you search Readercon and “they take people like you and kill them with rocks” together. Trigger warning for pretty much everything. It’s not a fun read.)
The responses by self-proclaimed rational people questioning your veracity, or the necessity of the discussion, will be somehow worse. In discussing the idea of actively discouraging harassment at conventions, they will use phrases like “thought police” and “mob mentality” and “lynching.”
3. You will have to relive what happened a thousand times.
You’ll describe the sequence of events to people on the scene whose help you enlist. Should you report, you’ll describe the sequence of events to convention authorities. Should you go public, you’ll have to describe the sequence of events on the internet. The level of detail is up to you; no amount will ever be sufficient.
Suggestions as to the best way to have handled your situation will be many, varied, and illuminating. Many will suggest deploying a martial art as the best way to counter harassment; many will suggest that you have just never experienced flirting, and were never harassed at all. None of them will come from people who were on the scene. People will question minutae like they’re Poirot in a drawing room with five minutes to credits.
4. You will start to think about what has changed, or will change, or will be changed for you, professionally. (You will think, from time to time, about a con-committee member’s intimation that those who speak out will find themselves stymied regarding con participation.)
5. You will find out that, seven weeks after a “sincerely regretful” admission of his behavior at Readercon, your harasser was put in a position of power at a con, overseeing volunteers. He cornered a woman to talk about how hard this has been on him; he spoke inappropriately to a woman while bartending a party, to the point that a stranger intervened.
You will see some people are wary of these reports, because they think that, having been named, the harasser’s behavior was under scrutiny. (That this should be an advantage of identifying harassers, or that any harasser could avoid censure by not harassing women, is, as of press time, not under discussion there.)
6. Most people’s primary concern in this debate is what harassment means to the convention community, and what the Readercon experience says about the wider landscape of Dealing with Harassment at Cons — SF cons, DefCon, TAM.
Good. That’s as it should be. This conversation is painful, but N.K. Jemisin is correct – it is essential, community-wide. As Rose Fox points out, cons are a business; if you ran a bar, and someone was harassing people, letting that stay at the expense of all the people you’d eventually drive off would be an impossible loss, and sooner or later your business would close. To pretend harassment at cons isn’t the same principle is to send a very clear message to potential attendees about how you think about cons.
The creation of a con culture dedicated to a safe space is not just smart. It’s necessary. It is a primary concern.
Some people’s primary concern, in the wake of Worldcon, is the reputation and fannish future of the harasser. They are, they say, very worried.
The harasser, they say, has been getting criticism and scrutiny online; they worry about the toll this is taking on him.