Aug 19, 2012

We <3 Jim Hines or… what are you going to do to prevent harassment?

I have yet to read any of Jim’s published novels but his blog posting on a number of issues always seem to hit the mark. 

Recently I blogged about the Readercon debacle in Learning from Readercon  and then did a follow up post at Readercon Resolved

In summarising myself: there’s only so much committees and conventions can do to create safe spaces.  They are in control of everything but the thing that causes the problem ie us, humans, harassers and targets.  The onus is on us, the attendees to be aware of the possibility of harassment, to be there to support those who may be targeted and to act if the need arises to stop friends or acquaintances behaving badly.

Now while ideas have been ticking over in the brain, Jim Hines had posted “My Sexual Harassment Policy” which is a nice personal statement that encapsulates those ideas of personal responsibility.

My Policy on Sexual Harassment

My goal in convention/fandom spaces, online, and in general, is to interact with others in such a way that all parties feel safe and respected. Therefore…

  1. I will be accountable for my actions. If I mess up, I will not make excuses or blame others for my behaviors or the consequences of those behaviors. (Nor will I make or accept excuses about other people’s inappropriate behaviors, even if they’re friends or Big Important People in the community.)1
  2. I will try not to make assumptions about physical interactions, or statements/behaviors that could be construed as sexual. For example, if I don’t know whether or not you’re comfortable being hugged, I’ll ask you.2
  3. I will listen to and respect your boundaries. Period. [read on]

I do encourage you to read Jim’s article and the comments because they are a) courteous b) intelligent c) in the spirit of further understanding.

Salad Days

The issue of harassment at conventions got me thinking back to the days when I used to train self defence and personal protection.  A large part of that training was getting men and women to be aware of their surroundings and how to evaluate potential threats.

the-gift-of-fearThere were a couple of books that were excellent in demonstrating how predators used language and social mores to control targets.  The best of these was The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. 

De Becker uses real life situations and survival stories of women who were attacked. 

Two chapters of particular relevance were The Technology of Intuition and Survival Signals.  The first examined how well our intuition works on picking up subconscious cues in behaviour and language and how evaluating them properly may save your life. 

The latter deals with observed techniques that predators and others use to break through our objections and create trust.

De Becker relates the tale of a rape survivor who at first didn’t think she had any indication that the charming man she met in the foyer was a rapist.  De Becker shows that at least several points the man exhibited behaviours that threw up potential red flags.  The screen shot below explains one of the attacker’s techniques and it’s one I have seen used not just in violent situations but in any situation where trust needs to be generated quickly.

Forced teaming

I’d recommend this book to anyone male or female.  The book is well written and engaging and offers practical advice for life in general. 

Tying this back into conventions…

Not every con goer is a predator and not everyone who uses forced teaming is trying to rape you – they may just be trying to sell you something.  But being aware of subtle techniques of manipulation through language will make you more aware and more confident.

So that when you are in a situation and you are feeling uncomfortable you’ll

a) trust yourself

b) be able to name/ put a finger on exactly why you feel uncomfortable and

c) act.

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