Things You Should Know About the Fallout

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.

  • David Dyte

    I'm sorry for everything you've been through. Thank you for being so brave and forthright in standing up for yourself and other victims.

    • glvalentine

      Thank you; I think it's an important conversation to have if con culture is going to move forward as a community.

  • Ingrid J. Vaalund

    Thank you for doing what you did. I have never been to a con and probably never will, but what happened is a pressure-cooker version of everyday harassment everywhere

    • glvalentine

      Thank you; one of the reasons I wanted to keep speaking out was to show the process for so many women who report harassment, and talk about why this affects how harassment is reported.

  • ccfinlay

    Thank you for reporting the incident, for providing updates, and for continuing to use this as an opportunity to educate me and others. It's not your job — it shouldn't have to be your job — but the fact that you've taken it on anyway will make a world of difference.

    • glvalentine

      Thank you for the kind words. I also hope that this will make a difference for con culture in the long run.

  • heavenscalyx

    Thank you for doing everything you did. I hope the threats and harassment drop off and the apologists find something better to do with their lives.

    • glvalentine

      Thank you; the initial outpouring was so great, and so many con people have been responding positively to developing new harassment policies, that I have hope this all moves forward.

  • Tina

    I applaud you for the level-headed way in which you've dealt with an emotional and trying situation. I've been following this issue closely and it saddens me that there is such an aggressively negative split and reaction among the Con populace over this issue. Keep up the good fight–you've given voice to an issue that desperately needs more voices.

    • glvalentine

      The split is sometimes baffling, and sometimes disheartening, but I think that con culture is changing, and have seen a lot of that from the support I've received. It makes all the difference.

  • Peter Huston

    The full quote was: ”
    Damn, you spout a lot of stupid shit, don't you? If you obviously can't handle the social interactions at an SF Book con, then perhaps you need to seek some education. Please, might I suggest that you never, ever leave the confines of white, educated middle class North American society. In Nigeria and Saudi Arabia they take people like you and kill them with rocks. I'm not saying it's right, but it does make your complaints “Oooh a man flirted with me so I had tell all my friends and turn my back.” seem incredibly insignificant and petty.” Please remember you are not in Nigeria or Saudi Arabia. You were not threatened. You were told that your complaints about being flirted with at a party paled in comparison with the suffering of many women around the world. Please do not quote out of context.

    • Karen Healey

      “You pointed out you were harassed! OTHER women who point out they are harassed are murdered! Therefore you have no right to point out you were harassed!”

      The hell is wrong with you?

    • Stephanie Zvan

      Or as Amanda Marcotte rephrased that “argument”, “We could do a lot worse to you, you know.” I wonder why that wouldn't be persuasive. Or appealing. Or humane.

      Genevieve, thank you for standing up in the middle of this storm so these very important conversations can be had.

    • David Chan

      Are you serious?

    • Cassie

      So, a woman makes complaints about something that is against the clearly stated rules of an event to the body in charge of enforcing those rules, and she's told her complaints are without merit because… the rules are different in other places that are not under the auspices of that body? And she's suddenly ignorant and oversensitive because she expects people to follow the rules they agreed to follow when they decided to participate? And you think that's a defensible position, and not inherently threatening?

      If you think Ms. Valentine should abide by the rules of unrelated locations while at a con with a ruleset she has agreed to follow, I assume you don't play any games or sports; it's very hard to play basketball while also following the rules of soccer, and the NBA won't respond at ALL to your criticisms of people using their hands, NOT TO MENTION whatever bad call you think got made at the last World Cup or Superbowl or Stanley Cup or whatever other rulesets you think the NBA should be responsible for like Ms. Valentine and the ReaderCon committee should be responsible for laws in Afghanistan or what have you.
      I also have a hard time reconciling what Mr. Walling did as being anything like flirting after the first five seconds. Even if one is somehow unable to recognize nonverbal or subtler verbal cues, being told No firmly and clearly is not ambiguous or indicative of being flirted with. If you think that's flirting, perhaps a little research on what others consider flirting to be would help.

    • David J. Schwartz

      Congratulations, this is the most reprehensible thing I have read on the Internet today. It's particularly ironic that you imply that Genevieve is the one that needs to get out more.

    • wolcotte

      Wow. The full context was NOT an improvement over how Genevieve phrased it. The language above is insulting, dismissive, belittling, insists women should be happy they aren't stoned to death for standing up for themselves, twists the events of what actually happened, and is incredibly angry.

      Still disturbing, not to mention idiotic for all the reasons others have mentioned.

  • Nalo Hopkinson

    Genvieve, all I can think to say is “thank you.” And I've taken good note of the name of your troll Peter Huston. Wow, that was abhorrent.

    • glvalentine

      Thank YOU; it means a lot to have so much support as this conversation gets bigger. (And yeah, he's…something….)

  • Adam Mills

    I'm sorry you've had to go through all of this crap just for standing up for yourself after being harassed. When I visited ReaderCon for the first time this July along with my boss at WFR, Jeff VanderMeer, you were actually the first person I met at the convention while Jeff and I were unloading our luggage at the hotel. Right from the get-go, you were friendly, funny, and welcoming to me, all throughout the convention. That went a long way in making me feel more comfortable and welcome in a setting where I might have otherwise felt overwhelmed. After I got home, when I found out about what happened to you at ReaderCon while I was there, I was dismayed and angry. You were so accommodating and warm to me, and yet all the while someone else was behaving towards you in an unwanted and aggressive manner. It wasn't fair at all. All I can hope to say now is thank you for being so kind to me at RC and for setting a good example for how to treat people in general, and for how to stand up for yourself when you've been mistreated. I won't forget that anytime soon.

    • glvalentine

      Adam, it was a pleasure to meet you! I'm really glad I helped make your first Readercon feel welcoming – it's the same way so many people made me feel when I first started going to cons a few years back. Thank you so much for the support and for your kind words, and I hope to see you again at a con sometime soon!

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