Aug 6, 2012

Readercon Resolved


The Convention Committee has issued a public statement:

Public Statement by the Readercon Convention Committee

August 5, 2012

In regard to the harassment complaint brought by Genevieve Valentine against René Walling for his actions at Readercon 23, with additional relevant information provided by Kate Kligman, and the Readercon board's decision to restrict Mr. Walling from membership for two years, in contravention of Readercon's stated policy that harassment at Readercon will be met with a lifetime ban:

We, the Readercon convention committee (concom), unreservedly offer the following apologies and statements to the individual people who have been hurt by Readercon's actions, to the larger Readercon community, and to everyone who has been distressed by the Readercon board's decision and its implications, especially in the context of recent discussions about the toxicity of harassment and the need for event organizers to create safer spaces. While the original complaint and decision were handled by the Readercon board rather than the concom, we take full responsibility for correcting the board's errors, providing redress to those who have been harmed, and taking active steps to make Readercon safer and more comfortable.

Where this document says "we," it refers to and speaks for the entire concom.[Continue]

H/t Mr Scalzi

A good result for the Committee, the Convention and the community at large.

Although I think that a mandatory lifetime ban as the only tool for enforcing policy needs review ( though I certainly think it fits the behaviour in this instance).  It’s very easy in a seemingly clear cut case to say “Nup. any form of harassment- nail the offender to the wall”. 

My concern lies in the effect such a blunt instrument might have on reporting harassment that might be discounted as borderline social ineptness by the victim.

That is:

creepy guy/girl is a bit too touchy feely but the victim doesn’t want to report it because

a) they are discounting the unpleasant occurrence themselves weighing up its significance perhaps

b) the penalty is harsh, no matter what the severity of harassment might be and the victim feels uncomfortable getting someone booted from the con.1

Best in my mind that a victim feel comfortable reporting a potential misunderstanding/potentially harassing behaviours, so that con staff can “have a word” with the offender and record the instance.

Behaviours that are not checked, might develop into something we have seen above.  The socially stunted, bumbling idiot who exhibits harassing behaviours, will curtail the behaviour.  The predator, will be on notice. We hope.

Then again cons are staffed by fans. Is the sort of response system something we can expect to get from volunteers?

1.From Barriers to Effective Enforcement of Sexual Harassment Law:  Women often do not want to hurt the harasser. This reason derives partly from the traditional saying "boys will be boys," which is used as an excuse for inappropriate behavior by males. Girls are taught to keep silent and to overlook bad behavior by boys. Carol Gilligan's research indicates that women think about the possible negative consequences to all persons involved. The negative consequences to the harasser may not be inconsequential. Since many women have little choice about where they work, they find it necessary to put up with a situation that they feel they cannot change. "What can't be cured must be endured" is too often the case with victims of sexual harassment [source].
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