WisCon has reached a conclusion about the harassment complaint filed by Rose Lemberg with the WisCon committee in 2013.
The substance of the complaint was that poet F.J. Bergmann harassed Lemberg by reading the poem “Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen” at the Moment of Change-sponsored open mike at WisCon in 2012. Lemberg felt the audience was meant to identify traits mocked in the poem (accent, nationality, academic background) with her. Bergmann denied this here in 2013 and again here in 2015.
WisCon’s Statement on Findings & Recommendations, posted March 27, determined the reading could not be characterized as harassment:
The subcommittee considers F.J. Bergmann’s poem “Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen” to be both anti-immigrant and potentially sexist. Given the timing of the poem’s genesis and publication, however, the subcommittee was unable to characterize this particular incident – the reading of the poem during the “Moment of Change” open mic at WisCon 36 – as harassment. The subcommittee’s research has documented that the poem was written long before the conflicts between Bergmann and Lemberg began.
Despite that determination, WisCon recommended Bergmann face consequences for what it termed a “pattern of caustic behavior toward anyone she disagrees with,” which include not allowing Bergmann to attend any of Lemberg’s events at WisCon, and limiting Bergmann’s volunteer duties (if any) to “non-public-facing positions.”
Bergmann sent a rebuttal to the WisCon committee, quoted here with her permission. About the overall verdict she says:
It seems to me that the subtext here is that anyone who makes social-issues accusations automatically gets respect and credibility and is instantly and permanently empowered by this community, regardless of actual circumstances or lack of evidence, and that any harm done by the accusations is of absolutely no consequence, or even justified, simply because it is assumed from the get-go that any accusations must necessarily be true. I cannot begin to express the level of my dismay, here: the committee is saying that a) I was not guilty of these charges, and b) I deserved what I got, plus additional penalties? What is going on?
And she does not intend to participate at WisCon in the future:
It is obvious that I will no longer be safe at WisCon—and I know that I speak for others. I thought I was a part of the WisCon community and sympathetic to its agenda of promoting women and their writing, but I am apparently mistaken. What I’m not part of is a dwindling, vociferous clique with axes to grind, who distort evidence to fit their ideology. And the idea that, should I attend, everything I say and do will be surveilled and interpreted in the most negative way possible is nauseating. Fortunately, I’ve found that many people in the larger SF community listened to what I had to say, believed me, and supported me; I am not dependent on the approval of what WisCon has become.
In general, and in this instance specifically, I am not “abrasive and confrontational” without cause. Like many WisCon members, there are issues about which I feel strongly. I was publicly defamed without recourse—privately, it would seem, for a year beforehand and then publicly for another year and a half, nor does it seem to be ameliorating in certain circles, given the tone of the report—by a host of people, most of whom I’d never met or interacted with, who anticipated and circumvented due process. Exactly what is the WisCon-endorsed behavior under these circumstances?
First, covert defamation; and now, being spoken down to as if I were some kind of closet redneck. I have no intention of coming to WisCon under these constraints and negative misperceptions, much less volunteering in any capacity….
The WisCon report included an apology to Lemberg for “our bureaucratic lapses” and to Bergmann and the WisCon community for taking so long bring the matter to an end.