I was at the Clarkesworld table at ReaderCon, selling books, when I first heard about the harassment going on. My first thought was “Oh, thank god it’s ReaderCon. This won’t be an issue like that guy at WFC”.
It wasn’t. Everyone was supportive, and no one had to call hotel security to have him escorted off the premises before he physically assaulted a woman. But it continued all weekend, and a complaint was finally lodged. About that time, I heard from someone else who had been dealing with this precise person. She’d been subjected to longer-term, more aggressive harassment. She was so happy to see that he’d done it in public, where other people had witnessed it, at a convention that had a no tolerance policy.
Well, the verdict has been rendered. No tolerance is, well, kinda no tolerance. Two years. He’s banned for two years.
I’ve been subjected to this sort of harassment before, to the point that I brought my then-boyfriend to an event with me and had him have a chat with the guy. Everyone else told me it was just “X being X”. It wasn’t physically dangerous, although the hugs and touches left me cringing. But, newsflash: it was still harassment. I still felt unsafe. In fact, I felt MORE unsafe because no one took it seriously, and that meant no one would pay attention if something more serious happened.
It’s dehumanizing, depressing, frustrating and, over time, fear-inducing for a lot of people. And while I’ve been told, time and again to ‘ignore it’, ‘let it go’, ‘just stay with people you trust’, ‘it’s just you’, ‘I’ve never had it happen to me, so it’s not a problem’, this is a huge problem. From inappropriate comments to outright date-rape, this is a wide-spread disease in fandom, and one that is leaving scars.
When we were dealing with the World Fantasy 2011 stalker, we looked to ReaderCon and WisCon as shining examples of safe places and havens where we could go and relax. With this verdict, it is almost worse than having no support at all, no policy, no protection.
Come on, fandom. This has to stop NOW. No more harassment. No more ‘well, it’s not that bad’. No more ‘we can’t really do anything because he’s important in X community and this would make enemies’. Yeah, any solution or answer is going to suck for someone. Enemies will be made. The waters will be choppy for a while. Deal with it.
This is not something I’ve forgotten about. But I barely have time to keep my own work going. I’m a full-time freelancer, and working 18 hour days as it is. I support it whole-heartedly, and if there are people who can get the ball rolling, I am willing to be the face or voice or whatever you might want. We have a lot of support, a lot of solid backers. I have plenty of ideas, but no time, resources or experience in this particular arena.