Author and and President of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America John Scalzi affixed his blogging sheriff's badge on Tuesday to remind everyone that it is a) decidedly shittastic to harass anyone at a science fiction or fantasy convention, and b) pretty frustrating that women are still being harassed at these conventions.
Scalzi was addressing an incident that occured at this year's Readercon, which, he notes, has a very explicit "zero tolerance" policy about sexual harassment. Genevieve Valentine first blogged about being harassed at Readercon by a guy named Rene Walling, who, Scalzi points out, had been "banned from the convention for two years, an amount of time which is less than ‘permanently' would be." A cavalcade of outraged responses followed Valentine's post, many of them speculating that Walling had been "let off easy" because he's a well-traveled fan who's run conventions himself. Dismayed commenters ultimately concluded that Readercon, tripping clumsily over its own sexual harassment policy, seemed to side with the harasser over than the woman he harassed.
As President of SFWA (and hugely popular writer of the hot new sci-fi book Redshirts), Scalzi was pressed for a response to the incident, which he provided in the concise, bulleted litany that follows:
1. No one should have to fear sexual harassment at any science fiction or fantasy convention. The fact people still do - the fact women still do, let's not dance around that little fact of life - is deeply embarrassing to all of us in this community.
2. It doesn't matter whether the person sexually harassing someone else is a big name in the field or is well-liked or is otherwise a decent human being or feels really bad about it in retrospect.
3. Conventions should have policies and procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment. Those policies should be unambiguous and clear. They should apply equally to everyone.
4. If a convention has a policy on sexual harassment which it then does not follow, then it has failed - failed the person who was harassed by not living up to its obligations to them, failed its guests by not following the rules by which it purports to run, failed the community at large by continuing to allow exceptions and exclusions and excuses to those who harass, and failed itself by not being the convention it claims to be.
Everybody clear on that? Scalzi goes on to address the fact that harassers often profess ignorance, as in, "I had no idea that the woman gritting her teeth and backing slowly away from me wanted me to stop talking to her about the mating habits of adult hyenas. Really, I swear." Scalzi explains pretty bluntly that being clueless about harassment "doesn't matter. At the end of the day, everyone at a convention should be free to enjoy themselves without being sexually harassed." People who willingly enter huge social stews of strange fellow humans shouldn't be prepared to deal with harassment — they should be prepared to interact with other people decently. That means not getting up in a stranger's personal space and making that person cringe. If such social nuances elude any prospective attendees, then it'd probably be best for them to stay indoors and wait for some social awareness to bludgeon them across the forehead.
Readercon, Harrassment, Etc. [Whatever]