August 10, 2012

Harassment at Conventions – ConComs Need to Work to Stop It

Wow, fandom has had a quite a bit to talk about recently.  Between the harassment situation at ReaderCon and some key members of ConCarolinas dropping off of the ConCom suddenly, it hasn’t exactly been a quiet summer.
I’m going to cover the issue of ConCom dynamics in a later post, but I want to cover the harassment thing in this post. 
Let me start by saying that I don’t know anyone involved in the situation at ReaderCon, so I’m not going to speak too much on what happened there, specifically.  I do want to discuss harassment in general though, as it needs to be addressed at more conventions.
No person, male, female or otherwise (it’s a big universe, anything is possible) should ever be made to feel uncomfortable by their fellow convention attendees.  I would encourage all conventions to adopt an anti-harassment policy.  The most important reason is that it’s the right thing to do.  And, if that’s not a good enough reason for you, consider that it’s also good PR.  With what happened at ReaderCon still fresh in people minds (it was all over the internet), cons really need to step up their awareness and concentrate on the prevention and education of this topic.
Where to start?  Well, there’s Nerdiquette 101 (check out the FB page).  Nerdiquette 101 provides a handout you can either print or place in your con’s program book.  They also conduct panel discussions on dealing with harassment.  And yes, I have been a participant on more than one panel, so if this sounds like an advertisement, it kind of is, but not really.  Honestly, I didn’t come up this idea.  It is the brain child of Laura Haywood-Cory, Allegra Torres, and Cheralyn Lambeth.  They deserve the majority of the credit for this project.   If you are really not  sure where to start, I would suggest inviting members of that group to speak on the topic at your next con.
As for an anti-harassment policy, I’ve recently had discussions with some business savvy individuals who recommend that you avoid getting too specific with the policy.  One of the things that I took away from all of the discussions on the ReaderCon situation was their zero tolerance, “you are banned for life if you break this rule,” policy was broken.  I agree that cons need to be decisive and firm on their anti-harassment policy, but they also have to allow for the fact that some folks are just too socially clueless for words.  Those folks need to be pulled aside, educated and warned not to do it again.  If they repeat their behavior, well, okay, ban them.  At the same time, some occurrences are simply unforgivable, and those folks deserve to get bounced from the con without a warning.  I guess my point is that each case is somewhat different, and your policy should allow you to treat each case differently.  Just be sure that you treat similar cases equally.  Nobody should get a pass just because they are a guest or because of their status in fandom.   Be fair, but firm.
For more information on harassment at cons, just do a quick Google search.  There are blogs and articles all over the place that can you can pull information from, I assure you.  This is a hot topic right now.
Okay, that’s it for this post.  Take care of each other, and have a great next con!

1 comment:

  1. Add to each registration form: "If you behave like a Wanker, con staff reserve the right to bounce your ass out the door".
    Or is that too harsh?