No Tolerance Doesn’t Always Mean NO Tolerance

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.

Grievance Committee

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.

3 Responses to “No Tolerance Doesn’t Always Mean NO Tolerance”

  • valerie bedard:

    I was for 8 years a medical expert witness for children and women victims of sexual abuse. I am a convinced and active feminist for years. I read Mrs Valentine’s own account of the incident at Readercon.. I understand that Mr Walling has been annoying, too familiar for an american woman ( in Québec, touching people and being familiar is socially acceptable, even if you have just met them) and that his ill-advised attempts to apologize did not helped his cause. But filling an harrassment complaint for that is a gross exageration, and as far as I am concerned, an insult to the harassment and sexual violence victims of this world. I hope Mrs Valentine never gets to meet a real perpetrator of sexual violence( I helped sent some in jail, that of which I’m very proud)),
    The witch hunt going on is a shame and a nuisance for the feminist cause. Mr Walling has been going to the same cons as the rest of Québec and the rest of Canada’s fandom; the rumors that “he is a known stalker of women” is ridiculous. He is a con organisator and a Montrealer, which means, he talks to people, he is friendly to them, he touches people ( so do I, by the way, since I am known as “Aunt Valérie” by old and younger fans. René Walling follows often people around, it’s his job, for Heaven’s sake!
    The whole thing appears to me as pushing the fire alarm because someone is smoking ( which is bad and illegal, I admit, but still,you get the picture).
    By the way, your account of what happened at the world fantasy con: that is awful and should have meant banishment from cons for the guy; drunk or not! How often have I heard this argument…
    In my career I have seen terrible things done to women and children. But I also saw three cases of exagerated or false complaints that did very ugly damage too. I feel outraged and sad to see this misuse of rules. This will do harm to all women.
    Have a good day.
    Valérie bedard, MD
    Book critic
    Winner of the 2012 Aurora-Boreal best artistic realisation
    And SF-convention fan since 1980

    • Hi Valerie,

      Thanks for the comment and perspective. I just want to say that I was in the vicinity at the time of some of Genevieve’s issues, and it wasn’t just ‘too familiar’. That, plus other issues brought forward raised a response that I feel comfortable supporting.

      I agree that witch hunts are horrible, and harm women AND men. But I have been subjected to things that other people have brushed off as ‘just that person’s way of showing affection’, and…well, the discomfort pushed me out of certain circles and conventions, eventually.

      But, I have no desire to debate the right or wrong of this, as we do come at it from different angles. Ultimately, it is up to the victims, the perpetrator and the concom to choose their responses, and up to the rest of us to make the most informed choice based on the evidence that we can.

      Best,

      Jaym

      • valerie bedard:

        Hello Jaym,
        I was at Readercon but didn’t see the interactions we are talking about, so I definitely respect your point of view.
        I have been to cons for more than 30 years, so I know how male fans can sometimes be.
        This is a different culture than books fairs, which we attend too because my husband is an author and a scenarist. The two cultures have differents rules and codes. The behavior acceptable in a mainstream con is a world away from what is going on in the “Salon du Livre” we have in major cities in Québec. Readercon is an hybrid of the two types of events. I would never dream of acting in book fairs and salons the way I do in regular cons, where I can be very familiar, enthousiast, sometimes a little bit crazy and flirty.
        As for being followed around, I stopped giving a damn about that a long time ago. Since as a hobby I’m a horse breeder and cowgirl, I have to deal with the Québec cowboy crowd where quick answers and verbal self-defense is a must.
        However, I have been victim of threats and harassments in 1996 from a patient while I was practicing in Québec North. I had to ask the police’s help and a protection dog from their kennels. I had to carry this german shepperd aptly named Psycho when working late at the hospital.
        In Boréal 2010, I had to put myself between a three hundreds pounds sociopath and his ex- girlfriend because the guy was getting physically and verbally abusive. I knew the guy from college. He was a creep who would stalk female authors and fans; he would throw himself on his knees begging and crying for sexual attention ( yep, and he did that to me too).
        In 2010, though, it turned really ugly. I managed to block a first punch but thank God for my good friends Mario and Caroline-Isabelle who got me out of this before I received a punch in the face.
        Since these are my personal experiences with harassment and stalking, what happened to Mrs Valentine, however inapropriate and disagreable,looks to me like something that could have easily have been resolved by basic verbal self-defense ( a yell can do wonders!); or with a word with someone in charge at the con. Unless there are serious things I’m unaware of, Mrs Valentine complaints still remains greatly exagerated in my opinion.
        That beeing said, denouncing harassers and stalkers is a necessity and I congratulate you for doing so. I just don’t see a case here.
        have a good day,
        Valérie bédard

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