Quite a few sf conventions have adopted an anti-harassment policy and some go to great lengths to make sure everyone knows what it is. DetCon1 even had Jim C. Hines read its Code of Conduct aloud at opening ceremonies.
It follows that as more fans become aware there are anti-harassment policies and structures in place, reports will be filed. Since for many cons the complaint window only opened within the past year-and-half, there’s limited practical experience for anyone to draw on. The available examples are daunting. Two conventions that took leadership of this issue were rocked to their core. The pivotal incident at the 2012 Readercon taught hard lessons about administering a policy and led to a far more thorough set of response procedures. Meanwhile, WisCon has found it necessary to apologize for mishandling two reports.
The stakes are high – personal and institutional reputations, social media scrutiny – and people want to know how real-life incidents are playing out under these new policies, something not easy to find out because of the privacy protection accorded those who file a complaint. For example, Arisia’s corporate policy is that “incident reports are not to be shared with other people or organizations other than the people in Arisia who take the reports or participate in the investigation.” Readercon’s safety procedures allow for the option of making a public statement regarding its actions, consistent with safeguarding the confidentiality of the report and its maker. These appropriate boundaries make it unlikely a convention committee’s internal deliberations will come to light unless the complainant goes public.
That’s why it’s such a surprise that Context — an Ohio convention just held at the end of September – has already processed a complaint and imposed a penalty on Jeffrey Tolliver, a con suite volunteer now banned from Context activities for five years. And that we know it.
Andi Brunett-Libecap’s conreport described their exchange in the con suite —
We passed a room labeled “Con Suite” which sounded promising.
A guy carrying some chainmail noticed our sad little faces and asked if we were lost. Grateful, we admitted that we were looking for the con’s sign-in desk. He pointed us in the right direction.
And then shit got real.
He lifted his arms to better display his chainmail and we realized he was an artist looking to sell his wares.
I said, “That’s cool.”
And it really was pretty.
Worthless in battle, obviously made for a thin, scantily-clad woman, and clearly something for cosplay.
But very pretty nonetheless.
“I’d wear that,” I added.
That balding, pony-tailed dude didn’t miss a beat as he pointed at Rachel and said,
“Yeah, but it would look better on her.”
Just because it’s true didn’t mean you had to say it.
Rachel and I were both so flabbergasted at the man’s cluelessness that we just fumbled goodbyes and moved along down the hallway.
In one smooth move, he had insulted me and objectified Rachel.
Sometimes, you just have to laugh.
That was held to be a violation of Context’s Anti-harassment Policy which says:
Discussions of adult topics may arise at Context, and panels may include adult content. We ask that people be mindful while conversing in public areas; topics that are appropriate in private or with close friends may be inappropriate with strangers. Imposing unwanted discussion of a sexual nature on another person is harassment, and will not be tolerated.
And apparently it was not Tolliver’s only transgression. Context’s Programming Manager Steven Saus and Writing Workshop Coordinator Lucy Snyder said in comments on a follow-up post discussing the committee’s response to the incident that more than one complaint was received about the person’s conduct at the convention.
Tolliver added his own sentiments to the original post:
I owe deep apologies to you, your friend and all the attendees of Context 27.
If stupidity was contagious I would have infected more people that the Plague.
On another front, an incident at Readercon this past July led Natalie Luhrs to file a formal complaint with the Readercon Safety Committee. She discussed and documented what happened in a post on Radish Reviews.
Here’s the summary: A party was held in my hotel room without my consent.
I know, I know. How does that even happen?
Well, how it happens is that you talk in public about having a small makeup party with a couple of friends–one of whom is sharing your hotel room–on Twitter and an acquaintance invites herself (screencap) and then gets really pushy about making it happen once the convention starts.
Then when it does happen, it turns out that you leave to spend time with another friend and when you come back a few hours later your room is empty but it’s obvious a whole bunch of people had been in there, because there are used glasses, food, and discarded clothing scattered about the room. More than could be generated by the three people who were in the room when I left and the only people I expected to be in the room while I was absent.
The name of the person who orchestrated the party and the surrounding circumstances are in her post.
Readercon’s Policies contain an open-ended invitation to report difficulties:
What sort of problem can I report?
Any behavior or pattern of behavior that violates our code of conduct. If you feel someone’s behavior is dangerous or harmful to you or others, if someone’s behavior makes you feel afraid or very uncomfortable, or if someone is actively making it difficult for you or others to enjoy or fully participate in the convention, we would like to know about it.
Whether an uninvited room party is a cause for action under any other convention’s policy I couldn’t say — in fact, Luhrs indicates it’s not a foregone conclusion that Readercon will find it to be one under theirs, although that is her expectation:
I feel very comfortable with the process so far and I expect and hope that the main outcome will be clarification that their code of conduct applies to room parties as well as to the convention itself.