What Happened After I Reported: Elise Matthesen, WisCon, and Harassment

My friend Elise Matthesen last year filed a report at the WisCon science fiction and fantasy covention, because she believed that (then) Tor editor Jim Frenkel had sexually harassed her. Harassment policies are not only about what those policies say, but how those policies are administered and those reports handled. Here’s Elise telling you how WisCon, which identifies as the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention, handled her report. The short version: It did so very poorly.

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Last year at WisCon 37, I told a Safety staffer that I had been treated by another attendee in a way that made me uncomfortable and that I believed to be sexual harassment.  One big reason I did was that I understood from another source that he had reportedly harassed at least one other person at a convention. I learned that she didn’t report him formally, for a lot of reasons that aren’t mine to say. I was in a position where I felt confident I could take the hit from standing up and telling the truth. So I did.

I didn’t expect, fourteen months later, to have to stand up and tell the truth about WisCon’s leadership as well.

More than a year after I reported, following an outcry when WisCon revealed that they had lost other reports of misconduct — and after the person in question had not only attended WisCon 38 but had been one of the volunteer hosts in the public convention hospitality suite —  WisCon appointed a subcommittee to investigate my report, along with others they had received about the same person, and to determine what action would best benefit WisCon.

That subcommittee made their statement on Friday, July 18.  Their decision seemed to focus on the rehabilitation of the person, and to understate the seriousness of the conduct. I found their decision inadequate and troubling, and could not understand how they had arrived at it. A week later, on Friday, July 24, I compared notes with Jacquelyn Gill, a member of that subcommittee. (I am incredibly grateful that she made a public statement about her experience on the committee, which allowed me to reach out to her.) We discovered to our mutual dismay that WisCon leadership never gave her all the details I had reported as evidence upon which she could make her decision. Instead, WisCon leadership gave her a version that watered down my account of the harassment, including downplaying the physical contact significantly enough to make the account grossly misleading.

I don’t know whether the relevant details were removed or summarized away from the report I made, or were never written down in the first place. As yet I have seen no evidence that the safety logbook itself contains them. I wonder whether the chairs at WisCon 37 were ever even given the details.

When the subcommittee was formed this year after WisCon 38, Debbie Notkin chaired it. While I can see the sense of having the Member Advocate – which was also Debbie — participating in the subcommittee, I was shocked to learn after the decision that the Member Advocate was also the chair of the subcommittee.  To my way of thinking, that was a clear conflict of interest which I would have balked at, had I been informed. Still, since she was present when I reported in detail, I can’t imagine why she didn’t see that the watered-down summarized version presented to the subcommittee was materially different than what I reported. Despite that knowledge, she allowed the subcommittee to base their decision on inadequate and frankly misleading information. And the subcommittee cooperated with that. The subcommittee performed no follow-up with me or the witnesses, or with other reporters and their witnesses.

What has happened here is beyond my comprehension.  People other than me will have to figure it out and do whatever needs to be done. I hear Ariel Franklin-Hudson has built improved systems for collecting information on incidents, and that’s needed, but what went wrong here is deeper than that.

A proper harassment investigation takes some thought and training, but it is well within the abilities of a good-faith WisCon committee to conduct one.  Experts who train people on harassment investigations emphasize the essential elements of an investigation:

(1) act promptly,

(2) gather all existing written information and reports,

(3) based on those, thoroughly interview the complaining witness, the accused, and any witnesses to the complained-of conduct,

(4) ask those witnesses for other witnesses or evidence (like documents) that might help illuminate the situation;

(5) document what you learn and maintain control and privacy of the documents, and

(6) make a decision based on all of the information that you’ve gathered in a methodical and effective way.

WisCon, instead, lost reports of complaints, selectively interviewed only the accused, failed to conduct follow-up interviews with complainants and other witnesses, and failed to probe whether the reports on which they relied were complete or accurate.  In other words, in addition to disputing the result, I think that the process was haphazard.

I will not blame Debbie for everything that went horribly wrong, because this isn’t just one person. Debbie made a grave error of proper investigation and decision-making, but this is not just Debbie. This is the safety chairs who didn’t investigate further. This is the con-chairs who didn’t follow up and didn’t ever interview me and Lauren. This is the subcommittee members who didn’t push further and contact me and Lauren and Mikki. This is lots of people, some unwitting, some just preferring not to look at the ugly stuff, not to learn something that would require that they confront someone — or confront their principles.

This is a system. And it is fucking powerful and it is fucking broken. I’m not the only one who’s said so. I don’t like putting these details out here. But this is all I have left to do, at this point: stand up and tell the truth.

I would prefer that what this has cost all of us not be wasted. If you care about WisCon, rebuild it. I wish I knew how. I’m at my limits. But as Kameron Hurley said,

“There’s a future that needs building, but somebody who’s actually courageous and principled needs to take up the fucking spade and build it.

“Is it you?”

328 thoughts on “What Happened After I Reported: Elise Matthesen, WisCon, and Harassment

  1. Notes:

    1. The Mallet is in play here, more than in most comment threads, because any discussion of harassment, at sf/f conventions or elsewhere, brings out the mouth breathers. You will be polite to each other and on point to the entry above, or your comment will get squashed. Heed my words.

    2. Attempts to handwring about Jim Frenkel and his feelings/standing/whatever will get malleted. I know the principals here. If Jim Frenkel didn’t want to be let go from Tor, banned from a convention (even poorly) and have a reputation for being a complete harassing shithead, then he shouldn’t have acted — consistently, persistently, for years — like a complete harassing shithead. And that’s that. This comment thread is not about Frenkel directly; it’s about how WisCon handled the complaint about his actions. Keep focused.

    3. Character attacks on Elise Matthesen will get Malleted. Don’t even try. Likewise, character attacks on other folks involved with this particular report debacle will not make me happy. Focus on what did (and didn’t) happen, as regards process, please.

    4. I have my own thoughts on this whole sorry incident, which I will probably detail in a separate post. The focus here is on the entry above.

    Okay. Go to it.

  2. As someone who has worked security for conventions, and works as HR in my personal life, I find this particularly appalling.

  3. This really does look like systemic fail. All of the individuals may be trying to do their best but their procedures really need to be looked at, and they probably need outside viewpoints on their decisions from people who aren’t just invested in trying to protect the con. I hope this post and ones like it spur them and similar cons into action.

  4. Wow. That is so lame. I have lost all desire to attend anything associated with Wiscon. I can’t even agree that the staff “…may be trying to do their best but their procedures really need to be looked at…” because its clear they DIDN’T try to do anything close.

    Weak, weak sauce, Wiscon.

  5. Wiscon could really use some fresh volunteers. As with any volunteer org, it’s relied on the same folks to do all the work for 40 years, and sadly, the skills needed to tackle these sorts of issues competently are sorely lacking.

    If you wish to volunteer to furing Wiscon (you don’t have to be local to Wisconsin!), and thus join the concom and help effect change, info here: http://wiscon.info/volunteer.php

  6. As someone who works security at conventions as well I am VERY appalled. There does seem to be some gaps in how Security, the Executive Committee, and the investigative Committee handled this. This just adds to my determination to make sure this does not happen “on my watch” – ever.

  7. We’ve seen harassment, sometimes fairly extreme, at tech and game development conferences, and responses have ranged from underwhelming to downright admirable. But for this kind of handling at the “leading feminist science fiction convention” is rather shocking. And it speaks to how these things are bigger than just the bad behavior. Not knowing the details, I don’t want to judge, but goodness, this at a feminist con?

  8. I’ve seen people call this fiasco a failure of feminism, but from where I sit it’s looking like a failure of common sense and competency. Not to take a dig at the concom, but really, how hard is this?

  9. I’ve never been to a con and have always longed to be in a place in my life — locationally and financially — to attend one. But what Elise went through, both being harassed and not having her report recorded and shared faithfully, makes me glad that I’ve never been to a con…and kind of makes me never want to bother with one. It sounds like the risk to my emotional health might not be worth what fun I might have.

    How sad is that? :/

  10. This doesnt surprise me at all. I have just gone through same shit when my 6 yr old daughter was sexually assaulted at school. The school put her in a special needs therapy class and sought legal advice to get me banned from speaking to governors. This happens to women reporting rape and dv too, its porn/rape culture in action, or sexist violence as a recreational sport. Reporting and speaking out is all you can do, and in doing so, you are part of challenging the status quo. Giving birth, even to a new culture is always painful, but worth it for our daughters, sisters and humanity. Thanks to john for publishing this experience too so that people can see the shit we are wading through on a daily basis.

  11. “the person in question had not only attended WisCon 38 but had been one of the volunteer hosts in the public convention hospitality suite.”

    I. Can’t. Even.

    Taking into consideration the American culture of “presumed innocent until proven guilty,” individuals who are being investigated for impropriety are typically sidelined until such time as the investigation is complete. At Wiscon of all places, he should never never have been allowed in a volunteer position until the matter from last year was settled one way or the other.

  12. It seems difficult to make any sort of concrete judgment given that I can’t find any sort of details of the conduct except it more or less described as sexual harassment, which can entail a great number of things. So judging the actual “punishment” seems an exercise in ignorance.

    It seems due diligence is a perfectly valid criticism, though my thought is that it seems difficult to have such diligence at a conference that occurs once a year. Do these people get paid? As someone who has never been to that conference or any comparable conference, it seems a legitimate question – volunteers and paid employees may have different standards of how much work they will put into solving a particular problem.

    Finally, treating this as some sort of complete failure seems a bit overkill. He has been “punished.” As someone who works in the criminal justice system, I’m never comfortable with ideas of essentially writing off people forever as a solution to a problem. Complaints were made and he has been punished AND given incentive to correct his behavior. This carrot and stick approach is probably more effective in the long run, if the goal is to reduce harassment.

  13. This was handled poorly and my guess the “real” goal was to limit the conventions liability – not actually solve the problem. At work I have hired two lawyers – one to limit my liability (defense) and one prosecutor (truth seeker) – the last thing I want to do is have the liability guy limiting my ability to get to the truth. Keep the liability lawyers away from this stuff.

  14. Edward Gemmer:

    The convention happens once a year. The organization that runs it is persistent.

    Having been the president of an almost-entirely volunteer organization, I understand that there are things you need to be willing to accept, in terms of volunteers’ schedules, abilities, etc. However, basic competence still needs to be a thing. It’s not too much to expect it, even from volunteers.

  15. This has been so heart-breaking to me because WisCon 38 was my first WisCon and it was a positive, life-changing experience. Part of the reason I was so enthusiastic to go was because of reading Elise’s account of reporting the incident last year and how it sounded as if it was handled *right.* I’m so sad and angry about this because I *want* other people to be able to experience what I did at WisCon 38, but I can’t in good conscience encourage others to attend until this mess is fixed.

    It really does seem to be mostly systemic failure stemming from several problems, including Geek Fallacies (particularly #1, ie “Ostracizing is bad”), having the policy down in words but not as a well-working system, and good intentions not being enough, particularly when they’re unintentionally reinforcing the common narrative that places the possibility of redemption for the harasser over the needs of those he harassed. I don’t think it was intended to be this way at all, but intentions, magic, POOF!

    I really hope WisCon can fix this. It’s so frustrating to see another statement from her about harassment and WisCon one year later, and rather than being a celebration of how things were done right, Elise has had to stand up again and point out what went wrong. Thank you for speaking, Elise. I really wish you didn’t have to.

  16. Sigh. Even conventions that know what the problem is and that have made motions toward addressing it can’t seem to get their act together when they’re dealing with an actual victim and an actual harasser.

    As for the issue of writing people off, I think there’s a substantial difference between banning someone from a con and the methods used by the criminal justice system. One of these things takes away people’s freedom and frequently limits their ability to find housing and employment later in life. The other is telling someone not to come to a once a year party. If someone who’s harassed others has been rehabilitated, he or she would have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate it at all of the other once a year parties.

  17. Wow, that was almost the exact opposite of a thorough investigation. Frankly, I’m not sure it even qualifies as half-assed.

    I’m sitting here staring in disbelief that they only interviewed the accused, but didn’t bother to talk to the accuser or any witnesses. Also, from what I understand, it’s not even a perma-ban. He can be back at the con within a few years if he shows “a change in his behavior” (I’m paraphrasing that).

  18. Thank you Elise for your courage in coming forward – and keeping the issue in play. Someday my husband and I hope to see you at another con (we have vended at Wiscon next to or near you for many years.) – but it probably won’t be at Wiscon. And thank you John for boosting the signal. It has allowed me the opportunity insist on anti-harassment policies in my volunteer organizations.

  19. Edward Gemmer: It seems to me that wanting to know the details and degree of harassment is not really productive to the discussion. It suggests, in an indirect way, that the victims are responsible for reporting the details of their harassment to all of us, which is, for lack of a better word, icky.

    Further: The details we do have are more than sufficient. There’s clear evidence that he is a serial harasser and that reports of his harassment were themselves severely mishandled.

  20. Lawyer up and sue. These ad hoc convention procedures are a dubious substitute for the law. I think a few successful suits along these lines would send the strongest possible message.

  21. @Chris Brown:

    Actually, any minimally competent lawyer will watch out for liability issues on all sides. Part of that is a professional and effective investigation. Ineffective investigations don’t insulate a company from lawsuits by the person complaining about harassment (not as much of an issue in a non-employment context, but still a concern). Nor are they much good at the long-term goal of preventing and deterring harassment, nor at the goal of conveying to victims that their complaints are taken seriously.

    Moreover, liability for unprofessional investigations is a real-life issue, not made up. If a company half-asses the investigation and ignores best practices — let’s say by conducting fishbowl interviews, or releasing information carelessly — they’re begging for a lawsuit not only against them, but against the accuser. That certainly doesn’t help prevent or deter harassment — rather, it probably deters people from reporting harassment.

    The notion that WisCon did a poor investigation to protect itself from liability doesn’t make any sense, because the poor investigation raised the chance of liability rather than lowering it.

    “prosecutor (truth seeker)”

    lol I’ll let that one go.

  22. GarrettC, Edward Gemmer:

    Note that (I suspect rather unintentionally) we’re edging into talking about Frenkel’s and his baggage, not the administration of the report, and I don’t want to do that. It is sufficient for this discussion to know that Frenkel’s actions merited a ban from the convention; the details aren’t on point.

    Back on topic, please.

  23. Edward Gemmer: it’s not about “punishing” or even “rehabilitating” offenders. It’s about creating a safe space where people can worry less about being harassed. Frequently that includes removing the harasser from the space.

    Of note: we’re talking about a decades-long pattern of harassment, including at least once (in 2010, to Jim Hines) an apparently sincere expression of repentance.

    Also, what GarrettC said about not needing to know details.

  24. Essele28, while it is true that the consequences of banning someone from a con and criminal justice system involvement are different, it’s trivializing the importance of a con to call it a “once a year party”. While it may be a once a year party for the fans, it’s also a work environment for writers, editors, publishers, who meet there in support of their business. What happened at Wiscon could easily be argued to be legally equivalent to workplace harassment, if it came to that.

    The harasser did suffer some of the same consequences as would happen with the CJS: he lost his job, his professional reputation has suffered making getting future jobs harder, etc. That was not the formal result of the Wiscon investigation, but it happened anyway.

    (Invariably, someone is going to complain that he shouldn’t have lost his job when all the con did was kick him out for a couple of years. I feel that if he couldn’t act professionally, maybe he shouldn’t be a professional.)

  25. Just some thoughts:
    – it would be very easy for Wiscon to blame all of this on one person.
    – From what I’ve read, Wiscon’s problems involve more than just one management failure.
    – Blaming it all on one person will make things even worse, and they’re damned bad already.
    I hope they are aware of that. I fear they are not.

  26. While I was just a programming minion for Wiscon38, and played no part in the actions/inactions/decisions that have led us to where we are, I’m stepping up to do what I can to try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. I’m not ready to give up on WisCon.

  27. Last year, John pledged that he wouldn’t attend conventions that didn’t have a harassment policy. This turned into a movement where (IIRC) roughly 1,000 people signed this pledge.

    I did not sign it.

    Because it’s one thing to say “we don’t allow harassment” and QUITE ANOTHER to develop infrastructure and procedures to follow through on a harassment complaint to an effective resolution. And I am, in all honesty, not prepared to study the P&P manual of every convention that I consider attending, in order to assess whether I think their infrastructure and procedures are well designed and well tested for such follow through and resolution.

    I don’t disagree with the sentiments that motivated the thousand-signature pledge, and I do agree that conventions should have harassment policies. But, exactly as the events of WisCon demonstrate, it’s entirely possible for a convention to have a harassment policy and yet, upon taking a complaint, go on to mismanage a relevant complaint every step of the way and produce results which are identical to the lack-of-results you’d experience at a convention that has no harassment policy at all.

    I’m not at all familiar with WisCon and have never attended–specifically because I knew that Jim Frenkel was a longtime regular at WisCon. He was my “editor” at Tor Books until I refused to keep working with him, and I deliberately try to avoid places that I know he will be. So I was NEVER going to attend WisCon, since he was known to be there every year. Nonetheless, I was aware of WisCon’s reputation, and given that such a famously feminist con has handled these complaints so badly, it’s a good example of just HOW empty a harassment policy is without the roll-up-your-sleeves work of developing infrastructure and procedure for competent follow-through on that stated policy.

    So I was–and still am–disinclined to set a stated policy about harassment as a condition or line-in-the-sand for my support, kudos, or attendance, because I think it’s a pledge that can too easily wind up honoring empty posturing.

    My sympathy to Elise Matthesen, Lauren Jankowski, and others negatively affected by these incidents.

  28. WISCON will likely sink in a year or two as a result of this. A con where everyone’s either worried about being harassed or worried about being accused of harassment (which will be on EVERYONE’S mind next year) is not a con many people want to go to.

    Another feminist venue for SFF bites the dust. Well done. Well done all.

  29. FYI the most recent post on the WisCon LiveJournal describes some additional actions that are taking place or have taken place:

    http://wiscon.livejournal.com/419930.html

    The first point suggests the “provisional ban” may be extended in duration, severity, or both.

    ‘In light of the intense community response to the Frenkel subcommittee’s decision, and the concom’s own concern about the “provisional ban,” the WisCon concom is itself currently appealing the subcommittee’s decision and will vote on the matter this week.’

  30. Thanks, Elise.

    Upstream, someone said, “Not to take a dig at the concom, but really, how hard is this?” The answer is: very, and that’s why procedures are so important. The thing is, at every convention where this occurs, the odds approach 100% that the harasser, the person harassed, or both are well known to the concom, and so the person or people who have to make the decision about what to do have a tendency to jump to the defense of a friend, or to attack an enemy. There have to procedures in place to minimize the effects of that, for people with strong opinions to recuse themselves, and to find people who can make fair decisions and make sure that the rest of the convention is protected and that the person who has been harassed is treated respectfully.

    Just as an example, what was a very simple and straightforward thing–a convention mistreating my friend Elise–got complicated and painful when I realized that another friend, Deb Notkin, was involved. I’m glad I don’t have make decisions about things like this, I’d be terrible at it.

    Point being, that is exactly why the procedures matter so much, and are so hard to do. The more you are inclined to say, “If it happens here, we’ll handle it right, because we are good people,” the more likely it is that the complexity will bite you in the ass, and leave people like Elise feeling (with reason) that what was done to them was done with the convention’s blessing. This is unacceptable. It is hard to fix. It must be fixed.

  31. Everything we continue to hear about this situation gets worse and worse.

    Frenkel was actually scheduled to be a part of programming at the con this year, but upset over that got him moved to just volunteer greeting in the suite. Lauren, the other woman involved, was told by staff at the convention that Frenkel was at the convention partly because Elise didn’t want him banned from it, which was completely untrue. Frenkel got to address the sub-committee, Elise and others did not. Frenkel lied to the committee that he had a non-disclosure, non-apology agreement with Tor for five years, and this effected how long the committee decided to put him on probation. Only afterwards, when people were upset by the judgment, did they bother to check with Tor about it and found out that Frenkel made it up. And now we hear that the evidence that they did have was altered in Frenkel’s favor and witnesses ignored.

    All of this contributes to cons being seen as unsafe places for women. (There are a lot of great cons that do a better job in this area, but it is a period of transition going on.) And it makes it harder for female authors and female vendors to go and promote and sell the same way that male authors do, continuing the discrimination in a wide systemic net.

    Which costs cons a lot of money. Because women make up half the readership. Women are more likely to pony up the cost of a con and assorted fees, and they are more likely to talk their friends into coming with them. Women authors have fan bases that will come to cons to see them. WisCon in particular, working as being a feminist con, is heavily invested in female authors and female readers, the vast majority of whom they’ve just told to fuck off. (Hopefully, calls for new volunteers can help rebuild the con back from this.)

    And as I said in another spot, this doesn’t help Frenkel either. So he gets to go to the con; he just remains a missing stair, driving off business, not getting any business himself, and not ever getting the help he needs to deal with a twenty year documented problem that frankly sounds compulsive. Protecting harassers doesn’t protect them; it just protects the harassment, which hurts everybody. The more cons stall on investigating and dealing with harassment claims, the worse the damage to the con.

  32. I feel that if he couldn’t act professionally, maybe he shouldn’t be a professional.

    I really love that phrasing.

    I do think it’s important to keep in mind, as mentioned above, the difference between writing people off in a legal/criminal sense and doing so in a social/professional sense. I believe strongly in prison reform for all but the worst offenders; I also believe strongly in filtering the trash out of your social circle or workplace, and that it’s unfair to impose a scumbag’s possible redemption on the people he’s hurt.

    I write people off all the time socially. (I don’t do it professionally, but that’s really only because my position isn’t one that allows or requires it–but what else is firing someone?) It’s good for me, because I don’t want them around for whatever reason; it’s good for the people I value, because not having Dickweed McAsshole around makes them more comfortable; and it’s entirely within my rights. If Dickweed McAsshole is not just unpleasant but actually harassing or assaulting people, I’d consider it my obligation as a good friend to not have him at parties, and not to wring my hands over the slim possibility that he might suddenly change.

    As people have noted elsewhere: real redemption means accepting the consequences of your actions, including that you might be unwelcome at various places or around various people. If Frankel wants to change, he can find another place and crowd in which to do it. Prioritizing the desire to hold the hand of a grown-ass man who should have known better *long* since, and explain gently to him why we don’t grope ladies even if they’re really really cute, over the desire of harassment victims not to have that guy around? That’s fucked up.

  33. Jon, the WisCon concom is very aware that this is not the fault of just one person. To screw up this badly takes at least a couple of sub-committees.
    My opinion only, not an official WisCon response, even though I am on the concom.

  34. Instead, WisCon leadership gave her a version that watered down my account of the harassment, including downplaying the physical contact significantly enough to make the account grossly misleading.

    Wait, WHAT?
    I’m a guy, so I’d usually only imagine this kind of selective reporting in the context of things like police brutality or ginned-up personnel files.
    I understand that it’s hard to finger particular individuals in this instance, but it sounds to me like one or two people intentionally ensured that nothing would get to the folks charged with protecting WisCon guests. No reports, therefore no problems.
    I wish they didn’t get to hide behind the term, “WisCon leadership.”

  35. SUA — It is assault, but it probably wouldn’t have become a chargeable offense. However, there are incidents that have been worse and cops being called to cons may start being a more regular thing.

    There has been change. It used to be there were simply no policies and procedures in place. I’m not even sure a lot of cons had security of any sort. Now a lot of cons have policies but the problem is that they don’t actually follow them or have them vaguely worded enough to not really be able to follow them. The ReaderCon mess was because the board ignored their con policy. WisCon did the same. World Con did the same on the Hugo ceremony MC disaster — they didn’t follow their rules.

    So it’s a transitional stage, but one that is costing everyone a great deal of money and good will.

  36. I suppose this incident also underlines the general disinclination of follow through that is prevalent in many situations. Because in this one… after Elise’s own harassment complaint became public knowledge, there was widespread online discussion of other harassment incidents involving Frenkel; there was another harassment incident involving Frenkel formally reported about the weekend of WisCon 37; there was an announcement that Frenkel was “no longer with” Tor Books a month or two after that, with the universal assumption that he had lost his job of this incident (about which EliseM filed a report with Macmillan) rather than coincidentally over some unrelated matter.

    Given the weight of all that… he nonetheless still got what is widely seen as extremely lenient treatment from the committee, in a process that seemed primarily focused on his own well-being rather than on protecting WisCon attendees from further harassment.

    So what, I can’t help wondering, would have been the process and the outcome if this harasser had, instead, been, for example, a bestselling writer or influential publisher, someone without an employer -to- take the matter seriously, someone still in an important position when the committee deliberated, someone about whom other harassed people had been unwilling to come forward due to the individual’s continuing influence and importance?

    The outlook is not promising, in light of what happened here.

  37. “A con where everyone’s either worried about being harassed or worried about being accused of harassment (which will be on EVERYONE’S mind next year) is not a con many people want to go to.”

    Is it really so hard to tell the difference between “So happy to see you here” and “Nice tits!” that people have to cower in the corner fearing that their behavior will be defined as harassment? Is it really that hard to be a decent human being and carry on a conversation devoted to SF and to enjoy the presence of your fellow attendees focused on their SF interests and not their gender or sexual attractiveness? I don’t think so.

  38. Can we just check the date? Wiscon seem to have mucked about for over a year? WTF?

    The dude apparently harassed two people at last years event, seems to have got fired over the incident, and STILL gets to attend the following year? Can I have my WTF supersized?

    I don’t know what the committee is “thinking”, but just ban him and move on. Oh, and yeah, it would have been better to do this before he slimed into this years’ con.

    With respect to someone up thread, this isn’t rocket science – it’s a private event, deal with it, and move on.

  39. A couple of people have said it already, but let me add my voice to the choir–

    This is not about “punishing” Frenkel. This is about making a safe space for attendees.

    Let’s say a snake, a copperhead, maybe, got into the Hospitality Suite and bit someone. We don’t need to “be fair” to the copperhead. We don’t need to “punish” the copperhead. We don’t need to “rehabilitate” the copperhead. We just need to remove the copperhead from our space.

    Criminal justice doesn’t enter into it; nobody is saying the copperhead should be executed, or even jailed–we’re saying there’s a proper habitat for copperheads and Con spaces aren’t it.

    No, the copperhead’s feelings are not the issue. The fact that some people like the copperhead is not the issue. Fairness to the copperhead is not the issue.

    The issue is a safe space for con goers. Period.

    BAN THE COPPERHEAD. Permanently.

  40. This is exactly why I refuse to ever attend another con, except for one very, very small con that is held on an irregular basis, and that is open to a few people. I had a horrid experience at the WorldCon in Chicago in 2012, the con organizers promptly contacted me and asked me for my input, which I gave as honestly and as fairly as I could, and they sincerely apologized. It is not because of the ChiCon organizers that I refuse to attend another con, it is because such things as Elise described above are still happening at cons, and I will not be a victim to another such incident. Perhaps it’s my loss, but that’s my decision.

  41. In my day job, I’m helping my employer implement a Food Safety program. In order to make something like this work, you have to say what you’re going to do, do what you’re going to say, and document it. Cons may have a harassment policy in place, but they need procedures to make the policies work. Are there SOPs that cons can adopt to train their volunteers on how to handle harassment reports? If not, I think such SOPs need to be written and made available to all cons.

  42. I want to thank Elise Matthesen for her forbearance and generosity in continuing to engage with the people who want to remake a better WisCon. I would be at the “burn it down, salt the ashes, knock the heads off the statues” stage myself, so I really applaud her goodwill.

  43. Elise might want to talk to a lawyer to see if she has grounds for a suit against them. It sounds like she did not get what she paid for, at least.

    Does this affair have bouncers? If not, it sounds like they need them. Maybe that could be Athena’s first job. (“Leave that lady alone, jerk, or my daughter will toss you right through those double doors!”)

    Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Wiscon, am going strictly by what I read.

  44. Dorothy K — As a semi-regular WisCon attendee I can tell you that I have zero fear of being accused of harassment and I doubt many other regulars do, too. (Though it’s nice to think that whatever actual harassers remain among the regulars might be deterred.) If I stop going it’ll be in solidarity with those who have a legitimate fear of being harassed.

  45. What Resnick said.

    If there is a lesson to be taken from this whole episode other than the fact that procedures/protocols are really important for all organizations to have, it’s the observation of how social capital differentials protect harassers (as well as people that engage in all kinds of bad behavior but especially predatory acts). If L.J., a relative newcomer to the SF/F community, was the only party harassed last year, and the only party failed by WisCon, would we be having this discussion? No. Because we would not even KNOW ABOUT IT.

    Clearly, WisCon needs to get its act together. But I think it’s far more useful, rather than assigning villainy, to look critically at the systemic weaknesses in a culture that allows certain people to behave badly with impunity.

    Predators know to look for gaps in a system like this.

  46. I’m very sorry, Elise. I would have expected better. My thanks to you for standing up, then and now. It will help everyone; I hope it will help you too, despite what things look like now.
    I have two observations:
    1. In the early part of the century, an author attended a Wiscon panel called “Organized Religion: All of the Problem or Part of the Problem?” She made known that she was horrified and, though nothing was directed at her personally, she felt unsafe at a place where people were so violently opposed to religion and were so…different. Some from marginalized groups pointed out that they felt that way all the time except for the one weekend out of the year at Wiscon. Others asked, “What did she expect?” (And she could have gone to a panel on spirituality in the Abrahamic religions, featuring practitioners of said religions, because Wiscon is a large tent.) The consensus came around to that everyone should always feel safe everywhere at Wiscon. What happened in a decade to change that?
    2. Elise pointed out one possible conflict of interest. There’s another one: at least one of the people on the committee list is or was a professional associate of Jim’s at Tor. It’s difficult to describe employment relationships these days, but as a contractor working for Giganticorp, I would recuse myself if called on to defend con members or render impartial judgement if the accused were an employee of Giganticorp. No matter how impartial I felt I could be, it would look like the accused had lined up his friends to let him off lightly. Nobody felt this was a problem?

  47. @Sandra there are a few places you can find IMHO good examples of SOPs for conventions.

    WisCon apparently did not use any of these resources from reading the blog of one of the subcommittee members. She took a fair amount of flak from people while unpacking how things came about on her private journal a few days after the original provisional banning notice was announced.

    ADA initiatives starting here https://adainitiative.org/2014/07/handling-harassment-incidents-swiftly-and-safely/

    Readercon (possibly being updated) – check policies as well as procedures http://www.readercon.org/safety/policies.htm

    Geekfeminism http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Community_anti-harassment

  48. I will also note, to the “fear of being accused” thing, that we’re not talking here about a single case where maybe it was accidental, or maybe one person read the signals wrong and made an uncouth pass and then backed off when he was told no. Dude out-of-the-blue asked one person about her sex life, threw a book at the head of another, and did something fairly serious to Elyse, at minimum. You seriously have to *work* to be this much of an asshole.

    Fearing that you’ll be accused of harassment because of any consequences to Frenkel is like fearing that you’ll be accused of stealing a car if you just so happen to jimmy open the lock, sit in the driver’s seat, and start messing around with the ignition wires. Yes, you might–but you could just…not do that, y’know?

  49. Sigh. Wiscon did indeed boot it, and they’ll get to deal with the fallout from that. On the other hand, http://antarcticlust.dreamwidth.org/258243.html contains a frank and thorough apology from the subcommittee chair. On one hand, I’m impressed with the honesty of paragraph after paragraph saying “We screwed up this . . . and I’m sorry”, “We screwed up that . . . and I’m sorry.” On the other hand, it’s a lot of paragraphs. A lot.

    What doesn’t get mentioned a lot – or at least, not nearly enough – is the glacial pace of the process. I’ve been in the throes of a similar investigation, and one that was dogged by delays. The delays both made it harder to get at the truth of anything and piled more damage onto the situation. It’s multiple self-inflicted wounds, over and over again. Sigh.

  50. I’m commenting before reading the other 52 comments above so forgive me if this repeats anything but… I remember Elise’s original post and the fallout from it. Now, I’m not a fan person. I’ve never been to any SFF con and, while I read a lot, am a casual fan at most in fannish terms. I”m saying this not because this is about me, but because I find it *incredibly* hard to believe Wiscon people hadn’t heard about this incident if I had. I even remember some follow-on posts expanding on the situation by other women.

    Now, yes, they shouldn’t make decisions solely on blog posts, but it’s simply not credible to assert that they had no idea of what went on. Even if the committee didn’t use any of the public posts as material with which to make a decision, it at least should have acted as a warning that the report they go was insufficient.

    Con folks – I’m sorry, but this isn’t that hard. Setup the rules, yes, but also setup processes and timelines for the steps in those processes. Make sure you flag certain steps that HAVE to happen (talking to the involved parties, etc).

    If you won’t or can’t do those simple things then you have no business running a con in 2014. As for Wiscon? Sorry, but your claims to be a feminist con aren’t even remotely credible at this point.

  51. Dear folks,

    I’m going to give massive benefit of the doubt and presume that the members of the Subcommittee sincerely desired to do a right and proper job of this. Because I have no knowledge to the contrary, and it does not hurt to assume the best of people.

    Having assumed that, I conclude that they are the most impressive set of fuck-ups I have seen in a very long time. They did not demonstrate even remotely minimal competence in handling this matter. This is where I have to part company with you, Steven. There is no question that Wiscon’s procedures were highly deficient, but the Subcommittee could have rectified most of that with minimal diligence. Incompetent doesn’t begin to describe how poorly they did. The best procedures and the most clearly written policies in the world will fail in the face of that level of ineptness.

    They were provided with what they ruefully acknowledge was extremely minimal and insufficient information about the situation. If I had been on that Subcommittee and all I was handed were some perfunctory notes, you know what I would do?

    It’s not rocket science. We’re talking fandom here. We’re talking of an incident involving a well known professional and a reasonably well-known fan. What are the odds that a Google search won’t turn up a huge amount of relevant ancillary information?

    In this case, we know those odds are exactly 0. Had one single Subcommittee member decided to spend one afternoon following the Google threads, they would’ve discovered that the perfunctory notes they were given were not entirely congruent with the situation as reported, that Frenkel had a long history of this with multiple other complainants reporting in, that other conventions such as Readercon had dealt with similar issues. All things the Subcommittee pleaded ignorance about.

    They also would’ve found names of other people involved secondarily, with whom at least some members of the Subcommittee are on a close personal first name basis. At which point one picks up the phone, calls a few someones up and asks, “So, what can you tell me, just between you and me, about Frenkel and/or this situation?” Seeing as they didn’t even bother to interview the complainants, it’s hardly surprising they didn’t do a serious Internet search. Or even a frivolous one.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass that they’re volunteers. Don’t volunteer for a job you’re not competent or don’t have the time to do, it’s that simple. They’ve demonstrated they’re not competent to do this, or that not one of them felt it was worth an afternoon at their time to do even a semi-serious investigation of the problem.

    That’s all it would’ve taken to get up to speed. One dedicated day. Just one. They didn’t even try.

    Did the Concom as a whole screw this up badly? Oh, beyond any question. Flay them for that. But that in no way absolves the Subcommittee from failing to take even the minimal steps needed to un-fuck this fuckup.

    Yes, I’m still going to keep going to Wiscon, on the principle that it beats whatever’s in second place. But am I pleased with them? Very, very much not.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  52. There is an ancient argument between people who think that good procedures matter, and people who think that all that really matters is whether the people in the official positions are smart, benign, and insightful enough.

    I’m with Steven Brust on this. I think that well-designed procedures will get you through times of feckless people more reliably than brilliant people will get you through times of terrible procedures.

    In support of this argument, I cite the entire history of human civilization.

  53. Conflict of interest. Seems like there is an excess of it in this case. A third party for the investigation and possibly judgment would be the simple solution. Cost being the downside. How many instances per convention? I heard on the news that Comic Con in San Diego had 130K in attendance. I would love to know the numbers on that.
    The thing that floors me in this and another case, Bob Filner, there are still habitual offenders out there.

  54. @StevenBrust @PNH In support of these comments, I offer the observation that when a brilliant person comes into official contact with terrible or non-existent procedures, generally the first thing they do is FIX THE PROCEDURES. Any useful bureaucracy you’ve encountered was put together by a brilliant person, usually with shoestrings and mimeograph.

  55. Note to folks: As I often do with potentially troll-magnet comment threads, I’ll be turning this comment thread off for the night when I intend to go to sleep, which in this case will probably be in the next hour or so. I’ll turn the comments back on in the morning.

  56. There’s always going to be conflicts of interest in a situation like this. It’s a small, amateur organization where the principals all seem to know each other.

    And I think that the real solution lies in the law, not in cons. That is to say, cops and lawyers. The pros. In the end if you are harassed or assaulted, that’s your best remedy. Either the civil or criminal route depending on particulars.

    And I seriously doubt that these harassment procedures have much deterrent effect on bad apples. (If they did, why does this stuff keep happening?)

    Examples need to be made pour encourager les autres, with appropriate penalties — penalties not in the possession of a con comittee, because they aren’t the law.

  57. flaviusx: With all due respect, I believe that if the only things our community forbids are things that are illegal, we are permitting much, much too much to happen. Conversely, if all the things we would like not to happen were illegal, we would be living in a society we didn’t much care for.

  58. favliusx – And I seriously doubt that these harassment procedures have much deterrent effect on bad apples. (If they did, why does this stuff keep happening?)
    It keeps happening because cons don’t strongly enforce anti-harassment policies. If a known serial harasser found themselves banned from con after con they might stop. Even if they didn’t the community is still better off because they con-goers don’t have to worry about that harasser being present.

  59. I’ve often noticed that people in groups will do things that they never would if they were on their own.

    In the cases I’ve been close to, it seems like the people involved were trying to live up to the (usually unconscious and unexamined) image they had of what a group member should be like, to the point that it trumped their own common sense. My guess is that it has to do with wanting to be accepted by and fitting into the group.

    The subcommittee chair was pretty explicit that she was thinking of “due process”, so my guess is that the entire committee was so intent on living up to their image of a good due-process-or to the point that other considerations got forgotten.

    Also, it’s very hard, when you’re part of a group of well-intentioned people all working hard to Do It Right, to be the one who says, “hey, we’re doing this all ass-backwards.” Not that most people would even consider it — cognitive dissonance and group dynamics favor going along with what appears to be the group consensus.

  60. I doubt there’s a particle of malign intent behind the concom’s actions. It’s enough to have a large, fuzzy, imagination-engaging situation, and an insufficiency of clear, documented operating protocols telling people what’s important to do, what’s irrelevant or counterproductive, and who should do what in what order.

    Bureaucracy is one of humanity’s great virtual technologies. The mess at WisCon is one of the scenarios you get when there’s not enough of it.

  61. Are con staffers paid or are these all volunteers?
    I believe comic con is for profit but are these local ones for profit? If it’s volunteers this type of thing is to be expected. They probably don’t want to be bothered. Not saying this to be mean, but most people have their own lives to live.

    There seem to be a lot of weirdos who go to cons. Anyone see Patrick rothfuss blog about dont touch my kid ? Who the hell touches someone else’s kid? I doubt he would post that unless someone did

  62. Guess:

    You’re making a comment others have already made in the thread, and that others have responded to. Volunteer or not, basic competence is something that should be on offer. Also, many Comic Cons (including the one in San Diego) are non-profits. The profit status of an organization is neither here nor there in terms of competence. Also, speaking as someone who headed a largely volunteer organization, the volunteers of which featured a lot of dedication and competence, that off-handed slap at volunteers isn’t much appreciated.

    “There seem to be a lot of weirdos who go to cons.”

    There are a lot of weirdos who go to sports events. Or to the grocery store. Or to the park. Or live in houses. Let’s try to avoid pointlessly making generalizations, please.

    I’m heading to sleep now and turning off comments for the night. They’ll be back on in the morning. Ta!

    Update: Comments back on.

  63. *pulls nose out of “Shadows Beneath”*

    *activates sarcasm mode*

    Wow. Nice job being complete weaksauce, WisCon. Very nice. I’ll be sure to attend your con next time I want to hassle women and get off scot-free.

    /sarcasm.

    More seriously, WisCon dropped the ball BIG-TIME on this. I mean, this is just PATHETIC. Frenkel should’ve been perma-banned from the con, or at least made persona non grate for a decade.

    On an unrelated note, nice to see that Our Host hasn’t had to hammer any mouth-breathers yet. Maybe the trollbois have finally been expunged…

  64. Kat Goodson notes that the committee didn’t talk to anyone other than the accused. Evidence presented by the accused and by others on his behalf was false and not verified until after the judgement was rendered. At best this is gross incompetence on the part of the entire committee, and to the general public it looks like the entire goal of the committee was to protect a friend. This may well not be the case, they may have genuinely wanted to do the right thing, but perception trumps intent.

    As a side note, so often in cases like this there will be cries of “innocent until proven guilty is how we do things in the US”. Well, yes. In the judicial system (leaving aside how that is not necessarily the case depending on class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc etc). This is not the judicial system. A community has the ability to determine that in spite of lack of ruling by a court and jury of peers that a person who is engaging in behavior detrimental to the community that the community can then exclude that person from participation going forward. The standards of evidence are far lower in non-judicial settings, as they should be.

  65. And I think that the real solution lies in the law, not in cons. That is to say, cops and lawyers. The pros. In the end if you are harassed or assaulted, that’s your best remedy

    As bad as concoms are at handling complaints of sexual harassment, I promise you that the police are much worse. The legal system doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record at handling actual rape reports, let alone lower-level assaults and harassment. I refer you to the Noirin Shirley ApacheCon incident Noirin Shirley didn’t go public with her story until she’d already played out the legal alternatives, at which point she was criticized heavily for… not keeping quiet and letting the legal system handle it. You shouldn’t need to be a programmer to see the recursion there.

    If you go to the police and say “so-and-so groped my breast”, what exactly do you think is going to happen? Absent video or witnesses, absolutely nothing. Bringing charges and arresting someone requires a preponderance of evidence, and if there’s no evidence whatsoever to put in front of a grand jury, there’s really nothing they can do.

    Saying “cons should let the police handle it” is the functional equivalent of saying “nothing should be done”. I’m sure that’s not how you meant it, but if the con shouldn’t mete out discipline and the cops can’t, the jerk walks away to grope another day and the problem continues just like it’s always done.

  66. Lawyer up and sue. These ad hoc convention procedures are a dubious substitute for the law. I think a few successful suits along these lines would send the strongest possible message.

    This is extremely poor advice. I can go on at length why if anybody really cares, but the short version is: what would you be suing for and what would you expect to get out of it?

    Lawsuits are also beside the point here. There is a public event, and there is a person with a long history of behaving badly who does so at this event, violating event rules and making the event unpleasant and unwelcoming to many other paid attendees. The obvious and simple solution is for the people running the event to have processes in place to handle complaints about boors, and to kick said boors out when the complaints have substance. Insisting that the event should turn the matter over to the lawyers or police instead of acting makes no sense, and as EAB says, is really just a way of saying “do nothing”.

  67. Upthread, someone asked about “the numbers” for SDCC. While this risks derailing the main topic, I feel that the comparison is impossible to make. SDCC’s harassment policy is so weak as to be nonexistant; the conrunners have repeatedly refused to define what they would consider harassment, leaving individuals–including members of convention security–to draw their own conclusions. While this year, for the first time, attendees were advised by email that harassment would not be tolerated, afaik, convention staff/security are not trained in taking reports. At both SDCC and NYCC, the default seems to be “report it to the main office, which, at least at NYCC, is rarely easy to find (though last year, for the first time, I saw a large sign indicating where the main office was).

    SDCC is rife with all kinds of harassment, from “fake geek girl” accusations to cosplay aggression to ethnic slurs. Are there incidents of forced touching or lewd comments or sexual suggestions? I’m willing to bet that they happen in droves. Every year, women complain about these things, before, during, and after the convention, yet every year, they recur.

    There are no “numbers” since SDCC does not take these matters seriously.

    And, regardless of the numbers, if you are the one harassed, then it doesn’t matter if there were hundreds of thousands of people at the event who went unmolested. Because being harassed can have a long-term impact on the person, especially if the event and/or community is silent or, worse, unhelpful, in response.

  68. @John: If you want basic competence at the con, volunteer to take it over. You ran the SFWA so you are qualified to do this. Giving suggestions isn’t alot of work, implementing all of this and making sure its followed is alot of work. Volunteers have jobs and they don’t get paid for this. If they work all day, most people are not going to want to come home and work on process and then manage the process and make sure its implemented. The bottom line is the people who advocate this need to be the ones who implement it or it won’t get done. Just giving some advice and discussing it is easy. If I was volunteering at a con I wouldn’t want to volunteer to do this. Its not fun. So if I had to do this stuff, I would not volunteer. Bottomline is that if you want this type of organization, you need to get involved and do it yourselves.

    Not arguing whether this is a good idea or not. Just stating that volunteers don’t want to be bothered and trying to publicly shame them is likely not to work. Since volunteers can find other things to do with their time.

    As far as ‘non proft’ for comic con I find it difficult to believe that the people who run this are not getting paid. The college bowl games are ‘non profit’ but the people who run them get paid millions of dollars a year. Its why it was so hard to get a football playoffs. The fat cats don’t want to lose their checks. You don’t have to have profits at the end if the con’s pay out the profits as bonuses. The people running comic con are probably getting paid alot of money and they have paid staff. I would think that a local con like Wiscon is run by hobbyists who volunteer their time.

  69. I would think that a local con like Wiscon is run by hobbyists who volunteer their time.

    Do tell.

  70. Guess:

    “If you want basic competence at the con, volunteer to take it over. You ran the SFWA so you are qualified to do this.”

    Guess, are you trying to troll here, or is it just coming out that way? The point is not whether I am involved or not; the point is that those who are involved do a good job. It’s is entirely possible for volunteers to do a good job at their work; I’ve seen it done. In this case they did not. And while I certainly agree that WisCon could use probably use an infusion of new folks who have developing a solid harassment process as an interest, attempting to suggest I am that person is tendentious at best.

    “As far as ‘non proft’ for comic con I find it difficult to believe that the people who run this are not getting paid.”

    “Non-profit” does not mean “No one getting paid,” so the problem here is that you are not using terminology correctly. But again, even if you were using correct terminology, it’s neither here nor there. “Volunteer” does not mean “stupidly amateur.” Lots of volunteer organizations run well and have well-developed processes.

    Guess, what’s coming across from your comment is “Well, I wouldn’t want to be bothered, so I don’t see why anyone would want to be bothered.” Which I suspect is more about you, than other people who might wish to volunteer. I know this much about WisCon: A lot of the people who volunteer for it spend rather more time, energy and dedication to it than you would apparently be willing to provide.

    In short: Guess, stop with the “volunteers can’t handle this” line. It’s wrong.

  71. There’s a lot of stuff that volunteers do that isn’t fun. That doesn’t make these things not worth doing. They’re part of running the event, whatever it might be. If you would volunteer only to do something fun, then you’re probably not the kind of volunteer they want anyway. If a group wants a well-run con, they do what it takes to have a well-run con, whether these activities are fun or not. If having a well-run con isn’t important to them, or they don’t have volunteers who will do what needs to be done even when it isn’t fun, then they can either be happy with a poorly run con that will reflect badly on them or they can fold up altogether or they can rethink what’s important to them. John is hardly the only person who cares. I think what we’ve seen in the aftermath of this mess is that some of the volunteers cared a lot but went about it all wrong and, in many cases, are now seeing that and are willing to figure out how to do it right.

  72. P Nielsen Hayden (@pnh) July 28, 2014 at 10:06 pm wrote:

    I’m with Steven Brust on this. I think that well-designed procedures will get you through times of feckless people more reliably than brilliant people will get you through times of terrible procedures.

    WHS, only even more so: my experience is that really brilliant people create order and process around their brilliance as they go, because they realise that only by thinking about how things are done beforehand, in a structured way, will there really be an effective reaction when the worst comes to the worst. It is also the way that we build up reserves of knowledge and best practice, passed down from generation to generation. This practice (known as “writing”) is kinda the basis of civilisation as @pnh mentions.

    It is a bit scary that WisCon hasn’t twigged this…

  73. Lawsuits are also beside the point here. There is a public event, and there is a person with a long history of behaving badly who does so at this event, violating event rules and making the event unpleasant and unwelcoming to many other paid attendees

    Plus, insisting that victims of harassment put themselves through the legal process places a huge burden on them. Lawsuits don’t happen for free, and criminal charges require significant involvement from the victim to pursue — you’ve got to be available for depositions and testimony, potentially far from your home. You’ve also got to be willing to go on the public record, to take the flak that’s going to be directed your way, and potentially to defend yourself against a countersuit for false accusations.

    That may be a fair thing to ask of victims when monetary penalties and incarceration are on the line, but victims don’t always want money or jail. If someone gropes me, which has happened in the past and could happen in the future, I don’t necessarily want his money or to send him to jail in retribution — mostly, I want him to NOT DO THAT AGAIN, to me or anyone else. Ideally, that would happen because he realizes that’s wrong, but it’s fine if it happens because he experiences social consequences which make him decide it’s not worth it. It’s equally fine if it happens because he is not permitted to be in my presence in the future.

    There is huge pressure on sexual assault victims not to file charges and “ruin someone’s life”. The original incident, and comments upthread, show that there’s also substantial pressure not even to minorly inconvenience someone’s social life. Insisting that victims pursue the legal option is going to make it that much less likely that anyone does anything to stop harassment.

  74. What Mythago said. Lawsuits are not a panacea for complex, nuances social conflicts. Neither is police presence. (Fans at conventions should call the police oftener than they do, but that’s a different issue.)

    If Elise had gone to a lawyer after the convention to look into the possibility of suing, or if the police had been called at the time, they’d have asked her the same question: What harm did this man do you? Did he physically injure you, cost you money, damage your social standing in some quantifiable way? If the answer’s no, it’s not easy for the law to take notice.

    At bottom, this is the same issue Lydy Nickerson addressed in her recent rant on LJ about defining the problem as safe/unsafe: it’s too coarse a screening mechanism. What it boils down to is “You won’t be raped, mugged, or molested.”

    As I observed to Lydy in a phone conversation, this is the equivalent of forums whose user guidelines amount to “No overt flaming, obscenity, impersonation, or direct personal attacks.” It’s not enough. There are vast ranges of behavior those laws and rules don’t cover.

    What we want is to take part in the same kind of intelligent, civilized conversations that men take for granted. Oversimplified enforcement mechanisms won’t accomplish that. What we need are well-constructed social policies and procedures.

    Irreducible complexity is irreducible.

  75. Re: volunteering….

    If nobody volunteers for a particular task at an all-volunteer event like a convention, that task generally either devolves onto the chair of the group running the event or else it simply doesn’t get done.

    One example of an unwanted task that didn’t get done at all is the years when WisCon did not have an at-con newsletter. It’s a time-consuming task, it has to be done at the event, and nobody had time and interest to take it on. There were screams of outrage from the membership, but none of the outraged members wanted the newsletter badly enough to volunteer to produce it. So there was no newsletter in certain years.

    As an example of the other kind of unwanted task, the one that lands on the con chair, for most of the past decade, there have been no volunteers for load-in/load-out at WisCon. It’s a lot of hard work, takes superior organizational skills, requires taking off most of two full workdays in addition to time taken off for the event itself, and nobody was willing to undertake the chore. So each year, the convention chair has done the job, because without load-in/load-out, there isn’t a convention.

    So which category does harassment remediation fall under? Seems pretty clear where most folks think it should fall, but does the convention committee see it that way, too? And if so, how do they ensure that there is continuity and consistency in the process from one year to the next? That kind of thing takes a real leader, a superlative organizer and a dedicated long-term volunteer to pull off.

    Resolving harassment complaints is an inarguably unpleasant task. That must be especially true if the harasser is a friend or colleague of one or more of the people handling the complaint (I don’t know if that was the case here, but given the statements that the harasser was a regular attendee for a number of years, it seems a reasonable possibility). I wouldn’t want that job; I don’t think I know anyone who would, quite honestly.

    Ultimately, this may ring the death-knell for some conventions, and unfortunately it is likeliest to happen for those that consider harassment prevention a core value. WisCon has struggled in multiple years just to find someone willing to chair the committee for a year, and as challenging as I imagine that task must be, it seems to me that harassment remediation must be orders of magnitude worse. I have to imagine that other cons have struggled with that as well.

    All of this is not to excuse or condone what happened to the victims in this particular debacle. What they have endured, and continue to endure, is inexcusable. At the same time, given the nature of the groups that put on events like this one, there are no easy or straightforward solutions, which is why dialogs like this one are so critical to increasing both visibility and understanding.

  76. Well, we seem to have a hole here between legal methods and self policing.

    What does an actual well run con look like in terms of self policing? Do these exist? Are these cases that keep coming up exceptions or are they the rule? Do the resources exist for self policing small, niche venues? (At the other end of the scale, can a monstrosity like SDCC adequately manage itself?)

    If this system fails, well, systemically, a victim does indeed have to rely on the brute force of the law. My question here is: can that victim reasonably expect this system to ever work?

  77. Yes. A “victim” can expect the social system to work in terms of speaking loudly, and shaming the offenders. The system that will work is to consistently report harassers while not allowing the Cons to sweep it under the rug because icky feelings.

  78. Colonel Snuggledorf, harassment remediation is not comparable to the task of publishing a daily convention newsletter, or the universal and perpetual problem of being short-handed during setup and teardown.

    Actually comparable problems: underage drinking, dangerous costumes, and BDSM- or LARP-related activities in public spaces.

    All conventions have to deal with such problems. Some handle them better than others. No convention I’ve ever heard of has shut down and stopped happening because they’re too much trouble to deal with.

  79. pnh: “I think that well-designed procedures will get you through times of feckless people more reliably than brilliant people will get you through times of terrible procedures”

    tnh: “Bureaucracy is one of humanity’s great virtual technologies. The mess at WisCon is one of the scenarios you get when there’s not enough of it.”

    The thing that keeps coming to mind is “people revert to training”. It’s why pilots constantly practice engine out procedures. It’s why military people practice dry fire and live fire exercises. It’s why firefighters practice going into a burning building. Because in a controlled situation, you can ingrain the procedures into your brain so that when the shit hits the fan, you don’t have to pull out a checklist to remember how to autorotate. A brilliant person who never trains for

    There is usually a contingent of folks who hear “people revert to training” and scoff. Some people will buy a handgun, take zero training, and assume they will act like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” when trouble shows up. Statistically speaking, these people are much more likely to freeze up, or shoot themselves, than folks who get training. But the scoffers usually think they’re better than average, which then leads directly to the problem.

    And I would expect there will be a contingent of people who think training isn’t needed to deal with harassment as well, partly because they think they’re better than average. Others might think training for combat is necessary, but might scoff at the idea that training for dealing with harassment is needed. But harassment is an umbrella term that spans the range of outcomes from “annoying” to “deadly”, and it invokes a large “squick” reaction for quite a few as well. One only needs to look at the stress levels the victims describe from reporting the incident to know that this is an extremely emotional situation.

    The stress response doesn’t automatically stop with the victim. It can affect witnesses, folks on the scene who are supposed to deal with those kinds of situations, and people whose job it is to manage the convention as a whole and render some sort of response at the organizational level.

    Brilliant people with zero anti-harassment policy is just asking for trouble. Responses will be ad hoc pseudopolicy and inconsistently executed in the moment. Average people with a good anti-harassment policy and no training is better, but it doesn’t deal with the stress and emotions of the people whose job it is to respond. Average people with a good policy and the training to ingrain it is the only way a large organization over time can expect to maintain the integrity of itself and its members.

  80. I apologize if my comment came across as equating harassment prevention to an at-con newsletter. Such was not at all my intent.

    I was attempting (evidently unsuccessfully) to point out that if nobody steps forward to volunteer for a given task, the choices are generally either for the chair to do it, or not to do it at all. And whether or not the chair does an unwanted task frequently depends on how mission-critical that task is to the convention’s continued existence.

    I could very easily imagine a convention ceasing to exist if nobody could be found to take on a critical task, or multiple critical tasks. What is likely to differ from one event to another would be the definition of “critical.” I don’t know if any committee would consider harassment prevention “critical” in the sense of being a deal-breaker if no qualified volunteers step forward – but I think they should.

    Again, apologies if my earlier comments were unclear.

  81. Flaviusx: Yes. SF conventions do this kind of thing all the time, and often do it quite well. Other times, other conflicts, I’ve been one of the people responsible for sorting out complex social issues, and translating that into workable policies. It’s finicky and troublesome work, but there’s no alternative to it.

    (Okay, there is an alternative, but “chronic chaos and disaster” doesn’t have a lot to recommend it.)

    Harassment issues are currently at the “get everyone to understand that they really do have to be mindful of this” and “figure out how to deal with it” stages. This will take a while. Critiquing what happened at WisCon is part of the process.

  82. Kat Goodwin notes that the committee didn’t talk to anyone other than the accused.

    To be clear, I do not know the full roster of who they did talk to. But I do know from what has been reported that they did not talk to either of the two main claimants or witnesses to those events, nor did they talk to some of the other people who had come forward last year with further incidents witnessed in the past. The main claim on Frenkel attending the 2014 WisCon and the delay in investigating is that the folks running the 2013 Wiscon, who took the reports, did not properly pass them on to the folks running the 2014 Wiscon, which is ridiculous, since a lot of the folk are the same and it was an incredibly serious matter, Frenkel being who he was in the industry.

    And the further claim that the sub-committee didn’t read any of the documented material on the Internet, when it was a source of conversation among the SFF community and the con community for months and when again it was a critical incident at WisCon and involved Tor, is certainly not believable. Add to that now the news that the re-constituted reports were altered, that Frenkel’s statements weren’t checked until demands were made afterwards that they be checked, and this seems less incompetence than a deliberate effort to shove the mess under the rug, after the last attempt to shove the mess under the rug failed. It also is apparent that the sub-committee was not given proper information from the con board to do its job even if it had tried for competence, except perhaps to shove the mess under the rug.

    The good side is that Elise coming forward here and elsewhere about how to properly make a claim and the steps that WisCon initially used and used well, was an enormous help to others facing similar situations in future cons and shows how the process can work. That WisCon went back on their policy and scuttled the process doesn’t negate the fact that a clear policy with rules that staff follows; basic training for staff, especially security staff, in taking and processing reports; and prompt follow-up are all perfectly workable. In fact, they’ve been used at other cons.

    And that policy and process then protects everybody because it is clear and followable by everyone who may be involved. It protects the claimants, the person being accused, the security staff and the con, because there’s a fully known procedure for proper processing and investigation that is not reliant on the whims of groups of people. And if there is a lawsuit — and all these big cons are playing with fire over that — having the policy and review process in place to show they took steps is definitely going to help them with a legal action.

    I went to a con this year, a relatively new con. Their harassment policy is clear and detailed on their website and in the programs. There was a system in place for dealing with complaints, and they had reminder signs posted throughout the con and on fliers posted on every single doorway into/out of the convention center, etc. They hosted panels on harassment and cosplay, bringing in groups that are trying to reduce such harassment. Staff were in visible uniforms (bright, marked t-shirts,) all over the place. Remarkably, this squashed no one’s good time and they increased their attendance.

    And this is emblematic of the common sense a lot of the newer cons (those without ball pits,) are showing and that older cons can just as easily catch up on. But again, even if you have the template, if you don’t follow through when events occur, it’s going to cost your con a lot as well as cause a lot of pain. WisCon will clearly survive — it’s a bigger con. But they devalued their con as an experience and there are a lot of other cons. And the Geek Girls, the Hollabacks, the Geek Girls for CONsent, etc. — they aren’t going to go away. And female authors are supporting each other in their careers, mostly. This won’t be the last time WisCon has to deal with this issue.

  83. WisCon, instead, lost reports of complaints, selectively interviewed only the accused, failed to conduct follow-up interviews with complainants and other witnesses, and failed to probe whether the reports on which they relied were complete or accurate.  In other words, in addition to disputing the result, I think that the process was haphazard.

    It doesn’t sound to me as though the process was haphazard at all.

    In fact, it’s eerily similar to the current debacle in the UK over child-abuse by senior politicians and civil servants. To wit:

    1) Nothing happened for far too long.
    2) When it did happen, important documents have been conveniently “lost”.
    3) The choice of personnel for the enquiry was sub-optimal.
    4) There is a distinct feel of “let’s see if we can make this go away”.- a predisposition to watering-down, playing down, and dismissal, perhaps with some trite crap about “lessons to be learned” and “failures of communication”.

  84. Having been the president of an almost-entirely volunteer organization, I understand that there are things you need to be willing to accept, in terms of volunteers’ schedules, abilities, etc. However, basic competence still needs to be a thing. It’s not too much to expect it, even from volunteers.

    Quite. No-one would accept “they’re only volunteers” about people taking a cavalier attitude to, say, fire safety. And I’m damn sure they’re shit-hot on due diligence on the financial side.

  85. Icky feelings can be extremely strong, even debilitating. Some experimenters working for Milgram thought they would have no problem engaging in a public experiment to find out how many people in a subway would give up their seat when asked. But the experimenters found out that in the moments leading up to asking a stranger for their seat, the experimenter froze up, felt nauseous, and many times stopped the experiment before it was completed.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/14/nyregion/14subway.html?pagewanted=all

    Procedures for harassment at a convention would have to not only define harassment, how victims can report it, and what the response should be, but it should also come with some built in checks in the system so that the people enforcing it don’t freeze when they run into their “squick” feelings and just try to make it all go away.

  86. Fair enough, Theresa. If it’s just a question of improving the system, then let’s improve it by all means. Would love to see some metrics here in terms of incidents, but that’s probably proprietary information. (Something like SDCC in particular would be rich in data.)

    I’ll chalk up these incidents as exceptions and not the rule. My sense earlier was that they weren’t exceptions at all and are fairly commonplace. It’s hard to to get a good handle on this since it’s all anecdote and easily exaggerated.

  87. It kind of really is this hard, though. For all sorts of reasons.

    Volunteer-run organizations built around a big once-a-year event tend to be bad at continuity. Minicon, the one I work on, certainly is.

    What gets attention each year always depends on who is feeling energetic that year, who volunteers to do what and has enough credibility with the rest of the group to get the job. This doesn’t always lead to “infrastructure” roles getting the attention they need every year (the classic example is that logistics, move-in and especially move-out, often either don’t work well, or are dealt with by a small dedicated almost closed group).

    Minicon first put an anti-harassment policy into place in 1992, when I was chair. We were told about ongoing harassment by a small number of people that a large number of different women all had experienced; clearly we had to do something. While I’m not at all sure that this was the first-ever anti-harassment policy at an SF convention, I haven’t yet learned of an earlier one (if you do please point it out so I can stop wondering!).

    And this year, Minicon went through the exercise of creating a new policy, basically as a result of Scalzi’s statement about requiring such policies (not because we felt we would die if Scalzi didn’t attend Minicon, we have survived that many times; but because we felt a tipping point had been reached and we were in fact behind the times not having an active policy).

    Why did we have to start over on this? I don’t actually know. I can’t even tell you exactly when the old policy fell off the cart–and both I and Carol Kennedy (who was the anti-harassment coordinator at for that first policy) have been connected to Minicon a lot over the last 20 years.

    The current round of concern about harassment at conventions (and more broadly in “geek” environments) represents, I think, a changing of the social rules to some extent. Or rather, what I see is that what we *said* were the rules long ago are now starting to be taken more seriously (and about damn time!). That kind of change is especially difficult, since if you’re not watching closely you don’t even see anything changing, but the type and frequency of complaints is going to change a lot. And it’s possible, I speculate as a complete outsider, that Wiscon had gotten a bit complacent about this issue.

  88. And that policy and process then protects everybody because it is clear and followable by everyone who may be involved. It protects the claimants, the person being accused, the security staff and the con, because there’s a fully known procedure for proper processing and investigation that is not reliant on the whims of groups of people. And if there is a lawsuit — and all these big cons are playing with fire over that — having the policy and review process in place to show they took steps is definitely going to help them with a legal action.

    However, if you have a stated and published policy and you don’t follow it, you’re in deeper shit, potentially, than if you didn’t have one. Having a proper policy demonstrates that you knew this was an issue, and one people cared about – the “lot of fuss about nothing” defence is unavailable (not that it was ever much good).

  89. Flavisux, repeating myself, but:

    SDCC does not collect data on harassment. They have a crappy policy and crappier enforcement. Whatever numbers they claim–and I’ve never seen them state any numbers, anywhere–are likely to be baloney.

  90. Exactly, Greg. We can’t keep silent because the Ick Feels of the people who are supposed to be the safety net outweigh the *actual* Ick Feels of the person harassed by a serial groper/assaulter.

  91. “Volunteers have jobs and they don’t get paid for this. If they work all day, most people are not going to want to come home and work on process and then manage the process and make sure its implemented.

    @guess – If someone feels like they are too busy… don’t volunteer. Once someone volunteers, do the job.

    @znepj – well, yeah, if they have a process and don’t follow it, they’re in deeper shit than if they don’t have a process. The easy solution to this is to follow the process when incidents happen. Do that each time. Do it regardless of who’s the accused or the accuser.

    None of this is conceptually difficult. It can be difficult in practice because it might force con volunteers to deal with things that they’d rather not have to deal with… but then that’s also the case for people being harassed.

  92. Melissa, I’m guessing that’s what they say for public consumption, but they may have internal figures. (Do they hire security? If so, the data might be there.) SDCC is interesting because it may show the limits of self policing and harassment policy — this may well break down when things scale up. Herding 130,000 cats is a big job. I suspect they don’t want to overcommit themselves or promise too much as a result. That doesn’t excuse things, but it does explain it.

    I wonder if there is a sweet spot here in terms of con size. Too small and you get inside baseball and ass covering, too big and the job becomes difficult to manage. Just an idea.

  93. There seems to be some idea here that if only professionals – i.e. paid employees – were running this, this wouldn’t be an issue. To which I have to say look at almost any corporation ever. Seriously. This situation – the one with the volunteers at WisCon, the feminist con? Pretty much mirrors a work situation I was in.

    I don’t want to go into detail. Suffice to say that in a corporate situation I was harassed by a co-worker. I went with my supervisor to HR. The resulting investigation was a joke. The harasser was merely asked if he ‘realized’ that he made some of his female co-workers uncomfortable. He professed innocence. Case closed. The problem was that mine was not the only complaint, there were more before and after it. And the harassment continued until he was let go a few months later during a round of layoffs. No mention of his continued behavior was ever brought into it.

    These were professionals, people paid to deal with such things. The problem goes far deeper than paid vs. volunteer. It has to do with people being uncomfortable with the notion of harassment. It is indeed icky. It means confrontation. It means talking about things that make us uncomfortable. And it seems, from what I have read about the people who have been harassed at cons (and in my specific experience),in the cases where the harasser gets a pass there is an element of power in play.

    So yeah, the whole ‘well, if they had been paid….” rings a bit hollow to me. It feels like an easy way to brush the whole thing off. Because – well, uncomfortable.

  94. Reblogged this on Shauna Aura Knight and commented:
    This is an account of a mishandled sexual harassment complaint at a scifi convention. I think that this is a great model to look at for future Pagan events–and a cautionary tale about how to properly manage complaints of harassment. Many Pagan events don’t even have a way to handle complaints like this; next steps are getting policies in place, and the final step is actually properly dealing with them.

  95. if stories from past years are any indication, while SDCC does hire security, security does a very poor job of dealing with harassment. And since SDCC’s policy does not explain what harassment is or how & to whom to report it, I would guess that even their internal numbers do not reflect the actual, real-world experiences of attendees.

    Somebody takes a photo with you and grabs your butt? That’s unwanted touching, but I’m willing to bet that someone that happens to doesn’t report it.

    Somebody catcalls you or uses a slur to refer to you? That’s verbal harassment. Also likely to be unreported, for similar reasons…and likely to be ignored/dismissed (especially if security is male) on grounds of “you’re too sensitive/it’s flattering, really” or something similar.

    I could go on, but I suspect you’re intelligent enough to get my point. I have a teenage daughter. She likes to cosplay. She won’t wear anything skintight or revealing at NYCC. She’s usually more covered up at NYCC than she is walking down the street in NYC, where we live. Because she doesn’t want to take the shit.

  96. Greg: Good point on icky feeling. That’s what I was groping towards when I said I doubted the concom had malign intentions. Having no clear procedures spelled out, when you’re dealing with squicky, button-pushing issues, is practically a recipe for weirdly incoherent action.

    I first learned this principle from Rich Dutcher, one of the organizers of the “Abuse Themes in SF” expert panel that was held at a number of conventions. He said they’d found it worked best if they wrote the program book panel description and title themselves, because “weird things happened” if they left it to a convention’s regular programming staff.

    I remember Rich was being precise about that, so I’m fairly sure I got his meaning: people who weren’t used to dealing with the subject, and were made uncomfortable by it, made odd, unaccountable decisions when they had to work with it.

    For that matter, I’ve seen proofreaders with years of professional experience lose their focus completely the first time they worked on sexually explicit material. What was most unnerving was that afterward, they were unaware that they’d had a problem with it. That’s not like them at all.

    Good hearts and good intentions aren’t enough. Harassment proceedings within the community have to be assumed in advance to be situations of impaired judgement.

  97. Melissa: does your daughter have a cellphone with a camera? It’s amazing how many malfeasants will visibly flinch and change their entire self-presentation if you take their picture.

    Harassers are working off an internal scenario. They feel safely anonymous. Taking their picture drags them into the same frame of reference inhabited by their target: much more fraught!

  98. Of course she has a phone w/camera, but it’s not always readily accessible if she’s cosplaying, especially as she often has props to handle as well. (Ramona’s giant hammer, Lady Cassandra, etc.)

  99. Melissa Ann Singer:

    She likes to cosplay. She won’t wear anything skintight or revealing at NYCC. She’s usually more covered up at NYCC than she is walking down the street in NYC, where we live. Because she doesn’t want to take the shit.

    Unless the costume disguises her gender, that’s not really going to help. Women and teens who aren’t in costume get harassed also, (Elise was not in a costume,) and the type of costume is no protection. Women who wear male costumes report getting harassed. She’s a teenage girl in a public space — she’s considered fair game, just as she is out on the street. Rather than have her change her clothes, it’s a matter of changing the culture around her.

    Which requires a lot of screaming and negotiating. Which does slowly work — the complaints and actions of new groups to SDComicCon caused them to frantically send out an email saying that really you shouldn’t harass. Does that do much? No. But that they felt compelled to do it indicates that they are dealing with the changing culture and having those start to effect their policies. NYCC also has had to come out and frequently insist that really they want to stop the harassment — something it likely didn’t feel it needed to bother doing only a few years ago. Which is pathetic baby steps, but the rock is moving up the hill.

    WisCon reneged on its policies. They took the reports and then they lost them. They did nothing for a year and hoped that nobody would notice. They brought the harasser back into the con for programming. After that, they have had to keep fighting a rearguard action: Screaming at his role in the con, he’s off programming but in the suite; screaming that he was allowed at the con, they admit they lost the reports; screaming that there’s no action, they form a sub-committee to finally investigate; screaming that the judgment is based on false factors, they finally check his story; screaming that they mucked it up, they promise to review the investigation, etc.

    It would be lovely if they did it without the screaming (and the danger therein to the screamers,) but I’m beginning to find that’s the motto — we will sit here screaming till you accept it isn’t normal or okay and do something about it. When folks complain about problems being blown up out of proportion, or the lack of civility, or it’s being pushed in their faces or shoved down their throats — oh look, it’s a sign that the screaming is beginning to have effect. But Elise has done more than enough on that front. Here’s hoping new blood in WisCon can take it the rest of the way.

  100. @John: I never troll real bad in political posts. I have a track record… I generally only troll you about your diet and your lawn cause its kind of fun. I am seriously not trolling here. The argument is also apolitical and I think can be applied to anything you want done in a volunteer organization.

    I just don’t think volunteers are going to just do it. I also think its easy to write a few blog posts and go ‘do this’. I have to deal with process all day long at work. (in reference to P Neilson Hayden’s comments about process). I am projecting myself into this and referencing what I like to do for fun… I wouldn’t want to have to have a 2nd job (at no pay) to deal with process again). By ‘I’, I think most people don’t which is one of the major obstacles to getting what you want done.

    You guys have to know this would be alot of work. Its not just coming up with a plan, its getting people to sign off on it (no idea what that requires), then implementing it. The sign off and then the managing of it is where the work is. Just telling people one time won’t make it happen. It will require actual management. That is a job. So its going to take people who are passionate about the issue and people who understand implementing process in an organization. I get the vibe that Patrick has management experience and has implemented and managed processes professionally from his posts.

    Its really not surprising that people who just want to have fun, don’t want to be bothered. I am not arguing right or wrong. People are people. We have jobs, family, etc… I would think most volunteers do this for fun right? Cons are supposed to be fun aren’t they?

    Basically it takes people who are passionate about the issue and qualified to do it.

    I didn’t make my point about Comic Con correctly… I see comic con as paying for a service. Ok its non-profit, but people are making alot of money. So its a business. I don’t care whats on the tax forms. This means people are getting paid. When you insisted that Comic Con have a certain policy you are insisting on a higher quality of service by people getting paid. I see that as a stark contrast to something people are doing for fun.

    None of my posts are about whether John is right or not. How would I know? Never been to a con. Its more about posting on the internet vs. getting involved.

    Does that make sense? I think you could apply my argument irregardless of what process you want implemented.

  101. Guess, if a con can’t manage basic health and safety year to year (and an anti-harassment policy is absolutely basic health and safety), then they shouldn’t have a con. Flat out. This is not an optional thing.

  102. As Kathryne noted, just because you have a professional involved doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a professional treatment. Security departments at the top sports leagues and teams are FBI-level professionals, with that level of knowledge and awareness of how to conduct investigations. Yet somehow somebody thought it’d be a good idea to have a meeting where someone who was a victim of an assault would be surrounded by the alleged assaulter along with four other people, all of whom were the employers of the assaulter (though, it’s worth noting, no one from NFL Security). That’s a high water mark of botched investigations right there.

    With that on the table, I’d raise the suggestion it would not hurt to have someone completely unaffiliated with a con handling security, ideally someone with law enforcement experience. Given what we’ve seen, it would make far more sense to have someone who is at arm’s length able to manage situations as they happen and be able to conduct some level of investigation, then be able to make a report back to organizers.

    To those who would argue that it’s an extra cost to cons that may already be stretched thin financially, I’d say the same thing I’d say to businesses who complain that raising the minimum wage will put them out of business: we’re sorry, but no one ever guaranteed that your business model would be sustainable indefinitely.

  103. Kat, your points are perfectly valid. But to be clear, my comment was in the sub-conversation I was having with flaviusx, who wants to see harassment statistics from SDCC. I was attempting to help him (?) understand that the majority of harassment that takes place at SDCC (extrapolating from NYCC) is fleeting and unreportable by most standards/systems. (My daughter’s real-world experience is that she is hassled less at NYCC when she is dressed in a less-revealing manner. Not that she’s not hassled at all, just hassled less.)

    The larger point–that it’s the culture that needs to change–is the far more important one. Because men are going to continue to touch women without permission and say nasty things to women (and girls–a neighbor’s 9-yo was street-harassed recently and the guy’s response when called on it was to say, “she looks older”) until society as a whole, learns that this is not acceptable.

    That two different people in this thread feel that it’s important to know how many women are harassed at SDCC in order to discuss harassment at Wiscon or any other convention, boggles my mind. Is there, then, an “acceptable level” of harassment? 1 incident per X number of attendees?

    Looking for some “standard” to apply to group situations is ridiculous. The majority of harassment a woman faces in her daily life is one-to-one. It’s harassment, and harassers, that are the problem, not the number of people who happen to be present.

  104. About the “volunteer” issue: John has it exactly right that simply because someone is not paid for a task does not mean they should not treat it as seriously as they would a “real job.” As a volunteer at an organization for people in grief, I managed databases, dealt with clients while covering the receptionist desk, and wrote fundraising letters. Had I not taken it seriously, I would have been shown the door in short order.

    If you can’t give something the amount of attention it needs to be competent, don’t volunteer.

  105. @Teresa Nielsen Hayden: the cons that handled this process stuff well (in reference to your post), what was involved in getting it set up? I would be willing to get the people who put it in place were advocates for this and had experience implementing processes as well right? How much effort/time did it take to implement these?

    Just to be sure I understand these ‘cons’ are once/year events right? So all this is for a 3-4 day yearly event? I don’t know if your referring to other get togethers these groups have. (this isn’t just for you John… I know you don’t like it when I ask you too many questions). I would guess they have some meetings, etc… to discuss the SF Club (dont mean that disrespectfully, but I see it as a hobby organization) and then some other meetings to do SF related stuff right?

  106. tnh: “That’s what I was groping towards when I said I doubted the concom had malign intentions.”

    what I read sounded like disassociation, lousy procedures, and more than conscious bad intent.

    “squicky, button-pushing issues, is practically a recipe for weirdly incoherent action.”

    first aid training lesson: If you’re at a restaurant and notice someone giving the choking signal (hand in front of their throat), quickly approach and ask if they can breath. At this point, it is not entirely unheard of for the person choking to be so embarrassed by the extra attention you just put on them that they run into a bathroom for privacy. At which point, if they are choking and if you don’t follow them into the bathroom, they will die. We can get so embarrassed that we do something that will get us killed.

    It is squicky weird behavior that we do and we need to account for.

    “Harassment proceedings within the community have to be assumed in advance to be situations of impaired judgement.”

    The procedures should be designed with the assumption that *everyone* is squicked out. Taking the report from the victim should be as squick-free for the victim as possible. The procedure should account for the possibility that the person taking the report, and everyone involved all the way to the final decision committee, has some level of squickness going on and mitigate it as much as possible.

  107. I have to admit, there is part of me (the dark side) that is amazed at Frenkel’s moxie, I mean can you imagine going to a feminist SFF convention to harrass women? And on top of this, he is more than welcome back, WOW.
    There comes a time when words are useless and action is needed, but the convention chose words instead.
    Sadly, the outcome is no surprise.
    Harassment policies are just useless words on paper when men like Frenkel are allowed in the doors.

  108. @tavella: I don’t necessarily disagree with you. There is nothing in my posts that would disagree with what you say. My point being… this is a volunteer organization volunteer and try to fix it. I see alot of people in this thread saying that they need a process in place to handle complaints. I didn’t one time say I disagree. I am saying its alot of work and the people who are the biggest advocates should get involved and do it.

    if not it won’t get done. Thats really my basic point. Most people who go to things just want to have fun. Most people who volunteer just want to have fun. The advocates are in the minority. However, the smallest minority are the advocates who are willing to spend the time to get what they advocate done. So volunteer.

    This whole thread strikes me as a ‘not in my backyard’ type thing. Yeah I want this done, but I don’t want to do it. It won’t get done unless people who really want it done get involved.

    thats really my only argument. Sorry guys if it came off the wrong way.

  109. Guess: while I’ve never been part of a large concom, I was part of an organizing committee for a weekend-long workshop for about 50 women. There were two tracks of programming. I was the entire programming committee, set up the schedule of programming, organized the speakers, arranged for microphones, etc.. Another person handled everything related to lodging and food. Another handled transportation, including for our single paid speaker.

    It took us about 6 months to put together. Nearly everything was done by email, with a few phone calls. We didn’t live anywhere near each other. We ran the event twice in four years.We didn’t make any money, but that wasn’t the point. A few years later, a similar-sized group organized a similar gathering for about 150 women.

    We all had day jobs. Many of us had children and families to look after.

    My point is that physical proximity isn’t necessary…and that people will volunteer to do jobs that might seem “unrewarding” to others (to which point, I’ve done load-in and load-out at community events many times). ime, people who volunteer for such things take the work seriously and do it because they want to do it, not because they’ll be covered with glory.

  110. Theresa: Thank you for reminding me of my own experience. Still true, I’m afraid. We have actually been talking about bringing “Abuse Themes in SF and Fantasy” back to Wiscon next year for an update.

    I’m too embedded in personal relationships with actors in this drama to have any useful opinions at this point. My analytical/intelligence training does tell me that there’s a lot of missing information here. ‘Antarticlust’s’ posts (linked to by Steve Simmons above) are illuminating.

  111. I don’t necessarily disagree with you. There is nothing in my posts that would disagree with what you say. My point being… this is a volunteer organization volunteer and try to fix it. I see alot of people in this thread saying that they need a process in place to handle complaints. I didn’t one time say I disagree. I am saying its alot of work and the people who are the biggest advocates should get involved and do it.

    if not it won’t get done.

    I think the point is to change the culture so that it WILL get done. Just like first aid or preparedness for an emergency. Because it’s something that HAS to get done. Volunteer or not, an organized event will prepare for emergencies like accidents or fires—or they’ll be considered raving incompetents.

  112. [quote]Volunteer or not, an organized event will prepare for emergencies like accidents or fires—or they’ll be considered raving incompetents.
    [/quote]

    Or they will cease to exist entirely – which in some cases might be the better outcome. I am not saying that will of necessity happen with this specific convention, but an entity that cannot (or will not) evolve in response to the demands of the environment in which it exists will not exist for very long.

    Nor should it.

  113. Dear Guess,

    Please don’t read this as an “appeal to authority.” I don’t mean it to sound that way. But your passing remark about having never been to a con is, I think, highly relevant to your conversation.

    The folks who volunteer to work on conventions really are volunteers. They’re not draftees or conscriptees. They know what they’re signing up for, as in “You knew this was a silly job when you took it.” By and large, the players on the Wiscon side of this mess are experienced. They didn’t just go round up a bunch of neos who didn’t know any better, who had no idea what working on any aspect of the convention was like. Or what fandom is like. This is germane.

    As I explained in my previous posting, the apologia written by the Subcommittee member summarizes deficiencies that all could have been rectified by spending an afternoon on the Internet. Pretty much every single volunteer job related to running a convention, with the possible exception of taking one single shift at registration, is more onerous than that and consumes far more time and energy. Volunteers who work on conventions really do take on a second job and they know that getting into it. (I am grateful to them for doing so, because I’m too selfish to ever do it again.)

    That’s why most of us aren’t buying the “volunteer” excuse. Because, as Scalzi and I and so many others have pointed out, it doesn’t excuse someone for volunteering to be incompetent. And, almost anything else you can volunteer to do for a convention involves expending vastly more personal resources than doing this properly would have. We are not actually asking for very much, although it may seem this way you. But, honestly, that’s your unfamiliarity with what it takes to run conventions.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  114. I *think* what I’m hearing from Guess (sorry, correct me if I’m missing on this) is: “If you want this change to happen, bitching about it on the Internet ain’t gonna accomplish jack. Put your money where your mouth is, and volunteer yourself.”

    Or something like that.

    Which is a rousing, plague-on-both-your-houses sorta call to action for when you’re tired of all the bitching on a particular subject.

    There are, of course, many reasons why someone might be tired of all the back-and-forth on the topic of harassment at Cons and other bastions of the geek social order.

    I would, however, note the following:

    Many of the people engaged in this discussion, including our genial host himself, do, in fact, expend considerable unpaid time, effort, and creativity on this issue, whether they actually volunteer at any particular Con or not. And several participants in this discussion DO volunteer at Cons.

    So why bother discussing it on Teh Toobz, then, where it just wearies folk who are wearied by it?

    Change has to happen on many levels and via many avenues. Hearts and minds, consensus, consciousness-raising and all that good stuff is a function of changing culture and as several folks here have pointed out, it’s the culture that must change.

    Places where discussion happens in a community (where I live, we call them “resolanas” after the sunny south walls where people could sit and talk in the town plaza even on cold winter days) are seedbeds for community change.

    John’s blog comment section frequently functions as a resolana.

    When we’re talking about something that wearies me, I don’t have to participate.

    Changing our culture so that everyone feels safe at public venues is pretty important to me, so this is my tu’pennyworth.

  115. I *think* what I’m hearing from Guess (sorry, correct me if I’m missing on this) is: “If you want this change to happen, bitching about it on the Internet ain’t gonna accomplish jack. Put your money where your mouth is, and volunteer yourself.”

    Or something like that.

    Which is a rousing, plague-on-both-your-houses sorta call to action for when you’re tired of all the bitching on a particular subject.

    There are, of course, many reasons why someone might be tired of all the back-and-forth on the topic of harassment at Cons and other bastions of the geek social order.

    I would, however, note the following:

    Many of the people engaged in this discussion, including our genial host himself, do, in fact, expend considerable unpaid time, effort, and creativity on this issue, whether they actually volunteer at any particular Con or not. And several participants in this discussion DO volunteer at Cons.

    So why bother discussing it on Teh Toobz, then, where it just wearies folk who are wearied by it?

    Change has to happen on many levels and via many avenues. Hearts and minds, consensus, consciousness-raising and all that good stuff is a function of changing culture and as several folks here have pointed out, it’s the culture that must change.

    Places where discussion happens in a community (where I live, we call them “resolanas” after the sunny south walls where people could sit and talk in the town plaza even on cold winter days) are seedbeds for community change.

    John’s blog comment section frequently functions as a resolana.

    When we’re talking about something that wearies me, I don’t have to participate.

    Changing our culture so that everyone feels safe at public venues is pretty important to me, so this is my tu’pennyworth.

  116. John: You probably know this already, but Edward Gemmer is an MRA troll who has been infesting progressive atheist sites for ages now.

    Rose of Charon: Believers are, all other things being equal, privileged over non-believers. Furthermore, “religion” != “religious persons.” It disturbs me that WisCon would have censored a bunch of atheists who wanted to talk about the harm they consider a system of belief to have done. It is in no wise comparable to declaring groups of people dangerous, let alone groups of people who are grouped by things they cannot change about themselves. “The distress of the privileged,” indeed.

  117. Dissenter:

    When I think Edward Gemmer is out of line with his comments I will let him know. If he is consistently so, he will find his ability to comment deeply circumscribed. Until then, he’s fine.

  118. Kat Goodwin, you know that I’m a great admirer of yours, and usually really like what you write. I think this time you’re being a bit hasty in ascribing deliberate malice to members of the concom (or even the subcommittee).

    Their failures are well documented, and acknowledged by the concom. It’s horrendous and appalling that WisCon, of all cons, should be unable to deal with a serial harasser (at least) in an efficient and appropriate way, and steps are being taken to ensure that nothing of the kind ever happens again.

    I’ve worked Registration at the past two WisCons. I love this job, because you get to see everyone and hear their names and be friendly to them (I’m the furthest thing from an introvert you can imagine; if I’m alone for too long I start to feel starved). I’ve had occasion to work with many of the people on the concom for various reasons. They’re sickened by this whole affair.

    I personally was shocked that he hadn’t been banned after Elise’s report alone, and amazed that he had the gall to show up even absent a ban (I’ve since learned that he has, as Delany might put it, brass orchids). He was taken aside by Safety as soon as he arrived (actually when he showed up to register he was told “wait here please” and we called Safety); this was private, and I didn’t hear it, but I’m pretty sure it amounted to “we’re watching you.” This was wholly inadequate IMO, but given that no ban had been issued it was the best Safety could do.

    So: fuckups? Yes. Fuckups galore. Everyone admits/acknowledges that. Lack of minimally-adequate process? Absolutely, and being addressed. Lack of information flow to and from the community at large? Yes, and being addressed. Lack of continuity from one WisCon to the next? You bet, and being addressed.

    None of this fixes what’s already happened. None of it can make it so Elise could attend WisCon38 without the potential of running into Frenkel. None of it can make WisCon38 feel like a safe place. And it will take considerable time and work for WisCon to regain the trust of the community, even if all their actions going forward are perfect.

    But the idea that anyone was trying to deliberately brush this under the rug and do nothing about it? That’s deeply inconsistent with everything I know about the people involved, and I think it’s extremely unlikely.

  119. Nope, sorry Guess. It’s not credible to say “no one can criticize anything unless they are willing to fix that thing” and that’s what you argument seems to boil down to. In fact, if people who care about fixing Wiscon want to fix it these kinds of discussions help in that they provide thinking about what might be done and make expectations quite clear. These discussions also reinforce the idea that many people out here care about these issues.

    As for the volunteer thing – as many of us have said, these people know what they’re letting themselves in for, especially if they come back again and again. Volunteer cannot and should not be a code word for incompetent. As noted upthread, professional (as in paid) staff often get this wrong too.

  120. Dear Patrick (and Teresa and Steven),

    To clarify, in case I wasn’t sufficiently clear, I totally agree with what you said. Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope. If I have to choose between good people and good process, I will vote for good process every time. In fact, I would assert that the whole point of good process and bureaucracy is to allow you to survive with a substantial level of mediocrity and incompetence because, well, that’s just the way humans are.

    My problem, in this case, is that the incompetency is so massive and pervasive that I do not see any process structure that would have likely saved it. Oh sure, having read the apologia and all the ancillary material, I could write up a policy and construct the bureaucracy to deal with this specific set of failures. But there is so much that went wrong, and so many stages, that I’m quite convinced that had I plugged those holes a whole set of other ones that I didn’t anticipate would have scuttled the initiative.

    I am still trying to fathom how it went so astonishingly wrong. Like you guys I know many of the players involved. Despite how much this looks like an act of bad faith or conflict of interest, or an effort to sweep the matter under the rug, I don’t believe it was. That is not in the nature of the players.

    (As an aside to people who don’t know me or the players involved: just because I know a lot of them doesn’t mean I am necessarily friends with them. In fact, at least one, I am most assuredly not friends with. So it’s not like I’m out to defend them out of loyalty. It’s just that everything I know about them, whether or not I personally like or respect them, doesn’t lead me to the “conspiracy” theory.)

    Yet, the level of fuck-up is so continuous and pervasive it needs an explanation. Every step along the way it was handled badly. Worse, this was not an avalanche effect, where the first mistakes created an uncontrollable juggernaut. At every step of the way, one single person could have brought things back to sanity (see my previous posting about spending an afternoon with Google). Nobody did.

    Further compounding the un-believability of it all, the Wiscon players were taken by surprise by the blowback. Seeing how many of them have substantial experience with fandom and controversial decisions by conventions and how well fandom swallows such (hint: they do not go gently into that good night), that they were taken aback by any of this is nearly as unfathomable as the long chain of fuck-ups. It’s as if all these people were replaced by pods, with no knowledge of nor experience with conventions and fandom.

    With such a huge number of multiple points of failure, we are far beyond happenstance. After thinking about it, I don’t even think the “ick factor” comes close to accounting for it.

    One of the best lessons I learned from being active in radical politics is this one: if something happens that just happens to support the status quo, it didn’t “just happen.” It is not an accident, a chance roll of the dice. There is a purpose that drives it.

    “FrenkelFail” (can I trademark that?) in all its myriad details supports a status quo, the one where women’s complaints of harassment and being made to feel uncomfortable and like “others” in the world are neither respected nor taken seriously.

    My guess best, at the moment? That this particular culture of deniability is so deep and pervasive that Wiscon is immersed in it without even being aware of it. That at each and every step of the way, the Zeitgeist is whispering to the Wiscon players, “Don’t make a big deal of this. Don’t make a fuss. Make it go away. It’s not important Nobody will notice. They never do.” And, because it’s so deep and pervasive, like air, they aren’t even noticing when they fall in line with the status quo.

    And, lest anyone read this wrong, that is an explanation. IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE! AN EXPLANATION IS NEVER AN EXCUSE.

    But, if my guess is indeed correct, then clearly-delineated procedures will not fix the problem (they won’t hurt, but other posters have given examples of how that easily fails in the face of an organization that doesn’t really want to address the problem). Different people, per se, will not fix the problem. Enough different people, of the right type and with sufficient awareness of what is profoundly wrong with their environment, can fix the problem if it genuinely shifts the Zeitgeist.

    If they do not shift the Zeitgeist, they will continue to fail.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  121. This is not to say that people I don’t know couldn’t have malice, or that the people I do know couldn’t have agendas hidden from me. Just that the ones I know well are good people doing their best.

  122. I spent years writing procedures as an unofficial/official part of every job I had from 20-31 (secretary, tech writer, manager, misc other). I’ve written some since but not as much as chronic health/hit by truck has limited my ability to work. Mostly I’ve done this because I hate inefficiency/waste. What I’ve learned over the years:

    1. Figuring out the right procedures sometimes takes trial and error and even if you get the basics right the first time you frequently need to update SOP after the first few uses as you realize they need clarity/additional steps

    2. Getting the procedure written so “anyone new” can follow it takes updating the procedure a number of times as too many assumptions are usually built into the original – it’s rare for people to ask total outsiders to look something over and see if they can explain what they believe each step means

    3. Applying the procedures properly requires people follow every step (this is where I find many mistakes are made as people jump past steps for various reasons – read too fast – decide it’s not applicable – crisis/no time in their minds)

    To create an SOP while handling a case without first determining what the priority/direction the SOP/organization wants leads to disaster as we’ve seen. The two really need to be kept separate and determine the goals/outcome “safety of con-goers” “why do we have a harassment policy?”. Only after you have an SOP and training in harassment can decisions be made on specific cases.

    Letting the community know you dropped the balled on what to do once a reports been made so you are working on SOP and getting training so you don’t make stupid decisions may help the community understand why it’s taking you so long. Or not if you aren’t seen talking to people who have “been there, done that”.

    But even with all the above if someone decides to hide/keep information from the committee making the decision they might be successful if one of the things they keep are “unofficial” complaints.

  123. ctein: (see my previous posting about spending an afternoon with Google)

    I’m not sure how that would have fixed this particular situation since I’ve *never* found anything on the internet that gives details about what Matthesen says Frenkel did to her. Scalzi made a point in this thread to explicitly rule that topic “out of bounds”. And if I were on a committee trying to determine the facts of this particular case, or more specifically, trying to determine if the report of the incident given to me was accurate or not, I’d have no way of knowing via google.

    I might find some other claims by other people about what Frenkel did to them, but that is mostly irrelevant to deciding this particular case. I’m not going to say “guilty” for this incident because someone else made a similar accusation against Frenkel on the internet.

    the incompetency is so massive and pervasive that I do not see any process structure that would have likely saved it.

    It sounds like the biggest failure was that Matthesen was not kept informed as the process moved along. I don’t think this is the sort of process where every step can be made public so that the public can monitor it and keep it on track. But I would think any process for dealing with something like this should at a minimum keep the victim informed of every step of the process as it goes along, if for no other reason than to monitor it and raise a flag if it goes off the rails.

    a process that is entirely opaque to everyone except for the committee who has some incentive to bury bad press, is not a well designed process. The report Matthesen filed should have been photocopied and given to Matthesen the day she filed it. And as the process moved along, she should have been kept informed of who was doing what, based on what information, and when, so she could verify that things weren’t getting downplayed and so on.

    The biggest problem seems to be that the committee is essentially investigating itself, and has incentive to find no fault. transparency would help.

  124. THE SHORTER GUESS: I would never work as a volunteer; I’m not imaginative enough to see why anyone else would; I feel entitled to ignore everything said by people who do volunteer; I haven’t given a moment’s thought to how hundreds of SF-related conventions get run every year; and my curiosity is in no way piqued by the discovery that there’s all this information that’s alien to my worldview. Also, I’ve never been to an SF convention, but I have lots of opinions about how they’re run, let me show you them.

    THE SHORTER TNH RE GUESS: Guy, you are not interesting.

    (John, what’s that implement you’re holding behind your back?)

  125. I think my remark was vaguer than usual, sorry. I didn’t mean Elise should sue the guy who grabbed her or groped her or whatever he did, but she may have an action against Wiscon in small claims court to get her money back, airfare and hotel fees, and so on, since to me it seems reasonable to assume that if you are attending something specifically described as a feminist event, you would not expect that a guy known to pester women would be allowed in. So I think they misrepresented the nature of their event to her, and if they don’t at least refund her attendance fee, if not her incidental expenses, out of a good-customer-service philosophy, she might want to consider small claims court.

  126. Samurai: My impression is that the purpose of this thread is not to make suggestions to Elise about what she should do. I’m pretty sure she has that part down. I think what we’d like to accomplish here includes: 1) For those who like and care about Wiscon (I’m not one), figuring out what it can or should do to repair the damage. B) For those who care about the SF community (I am one), learn what we can do to prevent something similar from from happening at our favorite convention. III) Expressing support for Elise, just because we kinda want to do that.

  127. Jean V. Dubois:

    Is it really so hard to tell the difference between “So happy to see you here” and “Nice tits!” that people have to cower in the corner fearing that their behavior will be defined as harassment?

    No. It’s not hard. And if some people find it hard, well, I’m okay with those people getting worried and self-selecting themselves away from a con… or pretty much any space people who don’t find it difficult might be, actually.

    I’m NOT okay with them getting worried and confusing the rules, or adding codas to make it nonworrisome again.

    Greg:

    There is usually a contingent of folks who hear “people revert to training” and scoff.

    This is true. You make an excellent point about the human animal and training generally, but this point bears repeating: under stress, you will tend to do what you habitually do, or what you have trained to do. The greater the stress, the more this is true. There are accounts of people who could not dial “911”, because people pronounced it “nine eleven” and, under stress, they could not find the “eleven” button.

    Some will laugh: whoever did, you’re the ones to watch, because you think it can’t happen to you.

    I train police officers, and I am one. We generally have very healthy egos. Most police officers don’t think it will happen to them, either, and most of them hate repetitive training. Sometimes the amount of repetition I make them go through makes me unpopular. That’s fine; I can always tell the few who went home and practiced; they’re the ones who do it right when I overload them during training.

    Brilliant people under serious stress? They do not much better than dumb people under serious stress. The ones who do well under stress? The ones who have repeatedly roleplayed it out, correctly, or roleplayed something like it, correctly, either in training or in their minds’ eye. That time on midnight patrol when nothing is going on is the perfect time to play a realistic game of “What if?” with yourself, or in conversation with your partner.

    Training for con harassment policies should include roleplaying correct implementation of those policies. Even if it’s as simple as rote reading from a script, when all of a sudden someone’s in the spotlight, that script is now there in their brain, available as they grope for what to do.

    Grace

  128. @Samurai, Try assuming Elise and other reporters know what other legal options they have because they are living this situation and have been for over a year. One of the most frustrating things for people who have been dealing with something (in my case health) is to have people (frequently men) jump in with suggestions without thinking about the fact that if it’s basic we’ve already thought/had them suggested and the points we’ve brought up for discussion are being ignored/derailed. In this case sue/cops instead of how to fix Wiscon/other conventions

    Also what @Steven says

  129. Tasha, frequently male ex lawyers, even :)

    It’s an option that ought to be on the table in extremis. The general consensus here seems to be that if you adjust harassment procedures that will do the trick. I’m not entirely convinced of that given the sheer scale of the failure, but try it and see what happens. Maybe this Wiscon thing is truly a one off and procedural adjustments can work there and elsewhere.

  130. Guess,

    You seem to be very stuck on the nonprofit status of most con’s, and keep suggesting that paid permanent staff might do better/be more competent/be more accountable.

    Nonprofit status is relevant only to the IRS; it has to do with accounting procedures, and how profits may be accumulated and spent, and tax status.

    Many nonprofits have paid employees. Some of them are well – paid.

    I am involved in several non profit organizations, including in leadership positions. Some of them are well-run, with extensive procedures for a variety of possible contingencies. Some are small, informally organized, and every issue is dealt with on a case by case basis.

    Volunteers can and do develop robust, capable, and flexible management structures. There’s no reason that Wiscon cannot do so regardless of its tax status and volunteer organization.

  131. There was a comment up-thread suggesting that cons hire professional law enforcement as security staff, on the theory that such individuals would be better prepared and less emotionally invested, hence able to respond more reasonably.

    I am uncertain how well that would actually play out in reality given the number of law enforcement professionals who also struggle with appropriately handling harassment claims, but mulling that thought over did generate an alternative possibility in the back of my mind.

    I wonder if there would be any better an outcome achieved if a convention asked representatives of a different convention to head up the investigation committee to address a harassment issue like this one. That could limit the potential for personal biases or friendships tainting (or being perceived to taint) the outcome of deliberations about the course of action the convention actually takes, and assuming that the guest members of the committee reflect similar core values to the event at which the harassment occurred, it could well result in a more equitable and better reasoned outcome than might have been achieved otherwise.

    I’ve seen several mentions of a 2012 harassment problem at Readercon; I would hazard a guess that the committee members who are currently running that event could bring both a wealth of knowledge and a commendable level of objectivity to an assessment of harassment at a different event. I would imagine that there are other conventions that have dealt with issues like this one, and that have values similar to those that this event claims to embrace, whose committee members could also be invaluable in a fair and impartial assessment of a claim like this.

    This is only a hypothesis, but I suspect that a committee made up largely of con-runners from other events, with no more than one representative from the con where the harassment occurred, might be far better equipped to take a comprehensive, fair and reasonable look at ALL the evidence, and to recommend a course of action that genuinely reflects a rational and justified response to that evidence.

    The challenge, of course, would come in convincing committee members to relinquish control to members of a different convention committee. And that could well prove to be insurmountable, given the personality traits that seem to predominate among con-runners. But it’s a thought to possibly explore in a case like this one.

  132. For myself, an anti-harassment policy and follow thru are less about punishing the harasser, but rather supporting the female con-goer.

    It makes no difference if they went so far as to execute a harasser if it happens a year after the event.
    and when the woman had to go thru so much to get the con to do what was right, it’s almost less than worthless. IMO

  133. This might be just too weird to implement, but what if there were a group whose only reason for existence was to provide the “anti-harrassment” policies, procedures, and enforcement for conventions? They don’t run the con. They don’t deal with finding venues and advertising and all that. All they do is go in, provide the harassment policies and procedures, train the con runners, educate the attendees, provide people for reporting issues, and deal with it in a speedy and proper manner.

    It sounds like something that could be very hard to make workable and sustainable, but then again, I’m still floored whenever I read about the growth of gold farming, so who knows….

  134. @Greg I’m not sure where the money would come from for such a group as it would need funding to cover salaries, travel, materials, and more.

    I’m not sure how many cons could afford the services so keeping it funded would be interesting. A percent of each con-goers membership for all the cons interested in participating or a $5-10 fee from each member?

    Would this new service company require having a psychologist who specializes in sexual assault on staff? How many staff members? Just a couple to train people at con as well as help them set policies & procedures? Or are you thinking they have base security staff to oversee con security?

    Would each con be allowed to set their own policies if they worked with the company or would the cons have to use the companies “approved policy” or pick from several “approved templates and modify”?

    Those are just the easy questions off the top of my head.

  135. @Aunty Laura – also supporting any male con-goer who is harassed. Sexual harassment may happen more frequently and more overtly to females, but it also happens to males – especially young ones.

  136. @Colonel Snuggledorf – I don’t see how getting people from another con to help would prevent many of the conflicts-of-interest if it’s a con from the same industry. Frenkel has perpetrated this behavior at other cons and got away with it to a large extent because he was in a position of power within the industry.

  137. Melissa Ann Singer:

    That two different people in this thread feel that it’s important to know how many women are harassed at SDCC in order to discuss harassment at Wiscon or any other convention, boggles my mind. Is there, then, an “acceptable level” of harassment? 1 incident per X number of attendees?

    They want to know how big the problem is and how atypical it is or not. That way they can decide whether SDCC not having an effective process for their harassment policy is really an issue to their mind or not. (Usually not.) That’s, as you know, part of the problem of getting harassment policies first instituted and then effectively acted on once they are in place.

    Guess — Any convention is a professional convention. It doesn’t matter who runs it. The contracts they enter into for convention space and hotel rooms, the arranging of paid guests, the contracts with vendors selling wares and the presence of authors selling their stuff and attending to do business — these are all professional commerce, not a hobby. The legal liabilities of conventions are the same whether they are non-profit or for-profit — they both have to take out insurance policies and have some form of security. For-profit cons have just as many volunteers as non-profits, and as already pointed out, some of the biggest cons are non-profit with paid staff. A smaller con with 2,000 attendees has to deal with most of the same issues of a con with 20,000 attendees.

    Rank and file volunteers run the ground floor ops. They have to be trained to do this; adding basic training to take harassment reports actually helps them deal with the situations when they do come up, since they don’t have to try and find out what to do or try to judge a situation. They just take reports, follow policy and help the person making a claim. The people at the top make Herculean efforts to run the con, which are planned out over a year and in some cases such as WorldCon, several years in advance. The people who form the boards that run the con are usually doing it for years. New policies, procedures and arrangements have to be designed all the time, whether the con is a few thousand or a hundred thousand in attendance, new or old. Some cons are run by professional organizations, like SFWA, and the members of that organization are involved with the con.

    So while establishing a harassment policy, procedures to that policy and basic training to ground volunteers is not the same as say adding hot dogs to the convention menu, arranging day care services for kids at the con, or figuring out how to stage a thousand autograph booths, the process of handling it as a con task is pretty much the same. More to the point, WisCon already had their policy in place (and SDCC has one nominally as well.) They’ve already gone through some or all of the implementation phase. The problem is in actually using the policy effectively. And since this particular issue is linked to the con’s legal liability, insurance policies, and contract with the space in which they are having the convention and possible hotel rooms, it’s a critical issue that for any con should be a top priority. Given the huge tasks con runners handle, it’s not an impossible one.

    Whether it’s a non-profit run by volunteer board and/or paid staff or a for-profit run by volunteer board and/or paid staff, the liability if an attendee gets hurt and can sue is the same. But that’s part of the problem with the implementation. There are some who believe if you have the policy in place that you are admitting that it goes on and opening yourself up for lawsuits. In fact, some cons have had to deal with hotels that believe the existence of the policy means trouble from the con. So they are reluctant to have one or really implement it properly.

    I think a large part of why this one got messed up is that individuals, for probably a variety of reasons, decided to circumvent the process and others simply went along with what they said. That is what initially occurred at ReaderCon, the Hugo award ceremony fiasco, and other incidents. It’s unfortunately part of the process of these policies becoming more common and ingrained — people initially don’t want to use them, believing their own instincts and goals are better.

  138. Valid point. I have no idea how many or which other conventions the individual in question attends, and it could very well be that most or all major con-runners would have the same bias that the WisCon bunch apparently did.

    It still might be worth trying to identify some other group besides those most closely involved in putting on the event to review this kind of thing. Possibly something like Greg’s suggestion? Not sure.

    No easy answers here. And no winners, either, at least based on what I’ve read so far.

  139. Point in fact, I don’t think it’s necessary to know how prevalent harassment is in SDCC to discuss what to do in Wiscon — they may have very different rates. I would actually expect that, even with misfiring procedures at Wiscon versus a near absence of same at SDCC. Wiscon is probably doing much better overall.

    I just think it’s worth knowing in general. I’m also curious about rates at mid size cons. I would cross index those rates with the various policies in place at each. This gives us an idea of what is most effective given the variables.

    I’ve drunk the Nate Silver koolaid and am in love with this kind of data driven stuff. None of this should be confused with wishing the problem away. Quite the opposite. I want to put a number on it.

  140. Tasha: “I’m not sure how many cons could afford the services so keeping it funded would be interesting. “

    Yeah, the main question would be: Is the expense for a con to have its own sexual harassment team essentially a freebie that comes with the volunteers needed to do everything else anyway? Or does a con need to have people who’s only job it is, is to deal with harassment? Are there costs involved with having each con maintain their own harassment policy written up and tweaked each year?

    If the costs of dealing with harassment are already covered as part of the existing expense of running a con (you’ve got volunteers, you just need to multi-task some of them to do hot dogs AND harassment), then it would be hard to justify outsourcing it.

    If it really does take something for a con to deal with harassment and the thing is the costs are mostly hidden in other expenses, but the costs really are there, then it might make sense to outsource it to a group who specializes in it.

    Or maybe at least part of the problem can be solved with a group who comes up with policies, procedures, training materials, and the nuts and bolts of how to implement anti-harassment at a convention, and then they make it available via Open Source licensing of some sort. A sort of “industry best practices”. And if you’re not following best practices, what the heck are you doing?

    I’m starting to wonder something.

    Is the problem really just a matter of changing the default cultural conversation? Like back in the day when seatbelts were first coming into existence, getting people to wear them was a matter of changing the cultural conversation about them. People didn’t need training on how to wear the seatbelt, it was just that they didn’t want to wear them, thought they were silly, and so on, based on an existing cultural conversation. And the solution didn’t need specialists to teach you how to put the seatbelt on, but needed the culture to change.

    Or is the issue really one where the specialization and/or expertise to deal with harassment is missing because untrained people think they can handle it with zero training, when they really can’t? And we keep ending up with Lord of the Flies type outcomes one gets when, for example, children try to mimic their impression of what good governance looks like. And what’s really needed is some group who’s job it is is to maintain and hold the skills needed to deal with harassment in an appropriate manner?

    The reason I’m asking is because for the last umpteen years, I’ve been assuming that the problem of convention harassment was like a cultural conversation problem about seatbelts, and one just needed to change the conversation. Public Service Announcements, the more you know ™, and whatnot.

    But I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe there’s enough complexity here that it needs specialists, like EMT’s and security and such, to handle harassment correctly, consistently, over the course of years, many many conventions, and hundreds of thousands of attendees.

  141. Some general comments:

    On desire for data: I understand the desire for quantitative measurements (I too have drunk the Nate Silver koolaid) but it’s wishing for the moon. We have a severe lack of policy, a lack of definition, a lack of consistency, and a lack of procedures and processes. So even if we had numbers, they’d be worthless for comparison.

    Getting what we pay for: Most fan-oriented cons run on a shoestring. I work a senior position in security at large (10,000+) and small (200-) cons. As such, I get to see a lot of the interior of the convention committees. They’re run by volunteers and done on a shoestring. Even the “professional” cons like DragonCon and SDCC are largely staffed by volunteers. Attendees are voting with their $$$ and with their volunteer hours to keep it that way. Don’t like it? Pay more, volunteer more, or both.

    Policy vs. enforcement: You can have great policy, but unless you have the will and the staff to back it up, it’s worthless. There are cons that have both, but they’re few and far between. The ones with both have usually been bitten *hard* by problems. Not Readercon- or Wiscon-level hard. Lawsuit and criminal charges hard. Yeah, it’s happened. Been there, was a part of it, won’t answer questions in public or by email/IM/etc. @ksonney can confirm what I say (Hi K!).

    Codes of conduct and enforcement – I’ll do a second post on that; this one is already tl;dr.

  142. @Greg the problem is multi-faceted. It’s a cultural change happening in society around us and intersecting with cons. Sexual harassment/assault as ok is becoming less and less acceptable.

    The question is how do you get your subset of society to make the change.

    One piece of it is through codes of conduct (education) letting them know what kinds of behavior will no longer be accepted. More and more conventions are doing this piece well.

    Second piece is enforcing those codes so people believe you mean them. This piece is difficult if people haven’t thought through why they have a code of conduct and created/borrowed and modified SOPs to create a safer con (should be the goal IMHO), had some basic training in harassment (some rape crisis centers may be able to do basic yearly training), and in a crisis managing to follow their SOPs to enforce their Codes (this last is hard but not insurmountable if you keep your goal in mind – managers do this all the time some well, some badly – as a con your badlys will be seen all over the Internet – as a manager you may be fired and cause your company to be sued).

    In the case if Wiscon they didn’t have a good SOP nor did they have a good handle on why they had a code of conduct at the time they began creating an SOP. Unfortunately because the people who wanted to do this right were out of touch with Fandom they ended up reinventing the wheel in a way that favored redemption of harassers over safety.

    Even if we had a group such as your suggesting it might not have helped in this particular case as the people on the Frenkel subcommittee did not look/use outside sources that could have prevented much of the mistakes made. See a prior comment of mine above with links – those links can be found on the Wiscon Livejournal “Sexual Harrasment Panel” May 28 before the subcommittee was announced June 1st. They didn’t even need to spend a day with Google they just had to look at their own fan run Livejournal to get help.

    As someone above linked before antarcticlust/Jacquelyn in http://antarcticlust.dreamwidth.org/257808.html shows how this all happened.

    In concept is really simple – create a good code of conduct, SOPs, and follow through all with an eye on making your convention safer for who you see to be important. Most people are currently defining that as being inclusive which means not tolerating Harrasment.

    The difficult part is getting enough people to believe Harrasment is a problem, putting codes of conduct up, having SOPs ready before you need them, and being prepared for the first few cases. Transition is always difficult. There is no magic wand or single solution. All we can do is hopefully learn from each failure and do better next time (at all cons not just the one being discussed).

    Society as a whole has been struggling with this issue for all of time and unfortunately seems a long way from solving this problem. We are insisting our subculture do better than general society. This is good.

  143. Hi, Ctein!
    I loved what you said about “FrenkelFail” happening due to “if something happens that just happens to support the status quo, it didn’t “just happen.” It is not an accident, a chance roll of the dice. There is a purpose that drives it.”

    As someone who works full time at tilting at windmills to get resources and justice for my clients I have to contend with this a lot. People who have the best of intentions but still royally screw people over because they didn’t realize their own biases. Privilege is just that, it is an unspoken gift of not having to deal with issues due to your status.

    Now, WTF is with not taking care of this situation with 90 days of the con??? This is where I am aghast. I am not a part of any concom but I do know many people who are. I can understand not taking immediate action due to running the convention. But how on earth did this not get scheduled for review ASAP afterwards? On behalf of both the victim and the accused, this needed to be dealt with speedily and a decision made. Of course, Frenkel showed up for the convention; he was on the planning committees. Of course, everyone who knew about the situation was incensed; this is a safety issue. I can understand chaos but what did the WISCOM concom think they were doing? To not deal with this serious complaint for over a year, allow an accused harasser to attend the next con, and then not even keep the victim in the loop? OMG, I think even one of the “rape” colleges could have done a better job. This was beyond a screw up and into a need for a serious review of the entire SOP.

    I have been planning on attending Wiscon for a couple of years and this actually makes me more interested. Unfortunately for the Elise Matthesens of the world, her outrage will make people more willing to challenge biases and stand up for justice and victims. I can see Wiscon becoming even more open and inclusive. Thank you for exposing this issue and I am appreciative of your bravery.

  144. Steve Simmons, that’s a pity if true. With that in mind, here’s a modest procedural proposal if it doesn’t already exist: that each con record a database of incidents in terms of both numbers and types and resolution. This would at least give us an idea of how effective enforcement was within any given con in comparison with the polices in place at the time.

    Which could yield some paradoxical results. For example, I can imagine a scenario where in Wiscon the vast majority of incidents (maybe all but this single one) were satisfactorily resolved. That would suggest that their basic model is sound. If so, additional incremental procedural changes might not make much difference and the real problem could lie elsewhere. Or possibly this single incident may have simply have been a complete Black Swan event, a perfect storm that no set of procedures could anticipate or address. Extreme low probability failures do happen.

    Or, conversely, the data could show that there were problems all around and the procedures were very slack.

    Without data, it’s hard to get a good grip on solutions. All that we have here is one very big failure with not much context. And eager legal eagles like yours truly will jump to conclusions and reach for the bazooka.

  145. [Deleted because manly manliness is all very fine for posturing, less so in the real world. Lowell, if you can find a way to make your point without insulting everyone in the process, go ahead. Otherwise, off you go - JS]

  146. Ctein: “FrenkelFail” (can I trademark that?)

    Nah. Prior art. We’ve been calling it FrenkelFail ever since…well, I think I first used it when the subcommittee decision came out.

    Grace Annam: Those are REALLY good ideas.

  147. Codes of conduct and enforcement: Anthrocon has nearly 6,000 attendees and runs 24 hours a day for five days. It has an excellent code of conduct. That code is constantly improving, has been influenced by lawsuit/criminal issues, and is being adopted by a number of other conventions. When registering as staff, attendee or guest, you sign a statement saying you’ll abide by the code. And they do enforce. Here are some high points and the harassment clause.

    The code begins with the meta-rule:

    The following general rule supersedes all others listed below and may be invoked at any time: Any action or behavior that causes significant interference with convention operations, excessive discomfort to other attendees, or adversely affects Anthrocon’s relationship with its guests, its venues or the public is strictly forbidden and may result in permanent suspension of membership.

    Stripped of the fancy language, it boils down to “Don’t be a dick. If you do, we’ll throw you out.”

    The harassment clause reads in full:

    Harassment of any kind, including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions, will not be tolerated. If people tell you “no” or to leave them alone, your business with them is done. If you continue to attempt to have contact with those people, you may be removed from the premises.

    Anthrocon is not responsible for solving any interpersonal problems that may arise between individual members. In general, we can take no action to prevent a person from attending the convention unless that person has made a specific and credible threat toward the convention itself or if another individual can produce a legal restraining order.

    In practice, this has been enough. Note that it doesn’t explicitly forbid following someone around and leering at them, but if we get a report of someone being bothered by such we can take it up under the meta-rule and have a conversation with the folks involved.

    The final paragraph, which re-uses the meta-rule and provides the context:

    Please be reminded that these rules involve, of course, “worst-case” scenarios and are put into place to ensure the safety and comfort of our members. They are also not all-inclusive; in all cases, the singular rule that supersedes all others [[the meta-rule repeated]]. We anticipate no difficulties, as our members as a whole are rational and responsible adults. Anthrocon is prepared to deal with any or all of the above scenarios in as rapid and efficient a manner as possible should they occur. We thank our members for their past cooperation and for their continued assistance in making this a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Have fun – just please remember to be courteous of those around you while doing so!

    Stripped of the fancy language it says “We’re all here to have fun. We’ll be flexible, you be reasonable, and we’ll all be happy.” With level-headed staff to enforce and interpret, it works pretty damned well. Some of the early years were kind of rough, but I don’t think we’ve pulled a badge for a couple of years.

  148. Tasha: antarcticlust/Jacquelyn

    (read. read. read.)

    Oh god. It’s worse than I ever imagined. There has been zero institutional memory at WisCon. that right there is a setup for horrendous failures like this.

    Still have no idea how it would work, but this really highlights an advantage of having an organization whose sole purpose is to provide anti-harassment logistics for conventions: continuity.

    “In concept is really simple – create a good code of conduct, SOPs, and follow through … The difficult part is getting enough people to believe Harrasment is a problem,”

    That says this is a seatbelts-culture problem, not a governance-is-hard problem.

    I’m still not sure. I was thinking about sexual harassment in the workplace, and historically, it seems that the occurrences of quid-pro-quo harassment has been going down because there are all sorts of laws and regulations against harassment. But maybe its really because of changes in the culture? Figuring out causation of a social change is tricky.

    I think there are a category of societal things that actually require both cultural converations and governance-is-hard design. And I’m starting to think maybe harassment is one of those things. Like you need good governance to create a cultural view that the system is “fair”, and once you have a cultural view that the system is “fair”, the culture changes to embrace and synergize with the governance.

    Victims don’t report harassment if there is no good governance to deal with it fairly. What’s the point of going to the trouble if it wont do anything? But once you have good governance, and people start reporting incidents, then the cultural conversation can change and “harassment is bad” becomes a cultural assumption like “wear your seatbelt”.

    But if harassment is both cultural-converssation and governance-is-hard design, then that’s kind of depressing in its own way, because that means the good-governance part can *never* go away completely.That means the only way to maintain the cultural conversation is to maintain good harassment policies and procedures. That means every convention for now and ever will always have to have the heavy lifting needed for a good antiharassment policy and procedures and training and the people ot implement it, and so on.

    Part of me wants the solution to be to tell harassers to cut the shit and the problem is solved. Or maybe we could hang a few horse thieves, the rest get the message, and the problem is solved. And the idea that the only way to have good conventions consistently is to always have to drag around the weight of anti-harassment governance for every convention ever, is kind of depressing me.

  149. flaviusx wrote:

    Steve Simmons, that’s a pity if true. With that in mind, here’s a modest procedural proposal if it doesn’t already exist: that each con record a database of incidents in terms of both numbers and types and resolution. This would at least give us an idea of how effective enforcement was within any given con in comparison with the polices in place at the time.

    Assuming you mean the lack of policy, procedure and enforcement at most cons: I agree it’s a pity, but yes, it’s true. But to expect commonality as you describe is far from a “modest” proposal. Check out the problems with doing comparative crime numbers from city to city. Police departments don’t manage what you suggest well enough to satisfy a Nate Silver or the FBI; I can’t imagine run-of-the-mill cons getting to that point.

    At most of the conventions we work, we keep a running event log. Not everything goes in it, but anything that’s a harassment item absolutely does. But we don’t attempt to create categories or otherwise impose structure such as you describe. A copy of the event log goes to the conchair and/or senior con staff, who redistribute as they see fit. We keep a copy as an aid to memory, a tool for self-improvement, and sometimes in self-defense. It’s frank, it’s sometimes brutally honest about the complainer, the complained-about, and our own actions. Historically, it’s been good enough for the concom, good enough for us, and when needed, good enough for the lawyers. IMHO, that’s good enough.

  150. I made a comment on this thread that Mr. Scalzi (rightly, in retrospect) moderated. I shot from the hip, so to speak. But the subject matter of this discussion is one that heats my blood.

    I remember reading here months ago (on this blog) his thoughts on harassment policies in place at some of the conventions and how they were lacking. Having never attended one of these events I had to project somewhat as to what the environment is actually like.

    To illustrate my mindset, I guess you could say I fit into the category some refer to as ‘old school’. I respect women. Hell, I LIKE women. Glad they’re on the planet. Have helped raise one who is a delight (and recently a mother).

    So when I observe someone being disrespectful to a female, it troubles me. It can, and has, troubled me to the point of intervention. I always verbally inquire as to the suitability of my attention to the matter at hand. The responses I have received have varied widely and I adjusted my actions accordingly.

    While never having attended these specific type of conventions I am no stranger to many large professional gatherings that were week long events. I’ve never personally observed the types of behavior this thread references. Not implying it doesn’t happen, only stating it hasn’t come to my attention.

    Which brings me to this question. Is there some difference in the makeup of the attendees which makes harassment more likely? Is it more common in these type of venues (entertainment vs: business). Is harassment more likely, or in the venues I’ve attended is it just not spoken of?

    Have to admit, this has made me think. People are people, and behaviors are seldom relegated to tiny groups.

  151. @Lowell – there is definitely a difference between professional gatherings an non-professional conventions. You don’t say what industry or how large the gathering are that you’ve attended – that can also make a difference.

    While, sadly, there are some industries (such as gaming) where such behavior happens quite blatantly, most people are on relatively good behavior at professional gatherings – they are there to network, to learn, to transact business. Cons are more like super-parties – people are there for fun (while there are a subset there for business/promotion, they’re a minority).

  152. Lowell, it’s probably just not spoken of. Not sure how many women there are at the conferences you’ve attended, but there are more at SFF conventions than at a typical professional gathering, because of workplace sexism.

    But I think the main difference is that in fandom we’re talking about it and some of us are trying to fix it. This is, by the way, in high contrast to a series of incidents 40 years ago, in which a known child molester was not excluded, in one case because people disliked the boy (a 10-year-old!) he was molesting. One guy, knowing he was a serial molester, instructed his kids to barricade the doors to their rooms rather than simply, oh, not inviting a fucking child rapist into his home!

    This would be unthinkable today, I deeply hope.

  153. Steve Simmons: Thanks for sharing that. The more difficult part, I think, comes down to what happens afterward–that is, what happens when those rules are violated, or someone says those rules are violated.

    1. If someone says to a concom member, “I have been harassed,” what should that concom member do next? Speak to whom? Say and do what for the individual in question?

    2. What arrangements are in place to record, document, and disperse the relevant information? How widely dispersed should it be, and what are the criteria for deciding that?

    3. If the “victim” (problematic word; someone suggest another please?) is well-known as a friend or enemy of the person who has to handle this for the convention, or the accused harasser is a friend or enemy of the person who has to handle this for the convention, what mechanisms are in place to hand this off to someone who can deal with it objectively?

    4. Who makes the decision about what to do right now, at the convention, and using what criteria?

    5. Who makes the decision about what to do after the convention, and using what criteria?

    6. How do we make sure all of those involved (particularly the “victim”) are kept informed, and how much should various other people be kept informed?

    7. How do we make sure there is continuity of information between conventions?

    8. All the stuff I haven’t thought of.

    9. Above all, when the above questions are answered (that’s what I mean by “procedures”), how do we make sure everyone who needs about them to know actually does know?

  154. @ mgwa:
    “You don’t say what industry or how large the gathering are that you’ve attended – that can also make a difference.”

    Interstate natural gas pipelines/transportation. American Gas Association. International Semiconductor Manufacturers. International Range Instrumentation Group.

    Damn, that sounds dry and likely is.

    Attendance has varied from three hundred to maybe fifteen hundred. As you might surmise female representation is, shall I say, in the minority.

    But, the interactions I observed with the females present was one of welcoming and inclusion. They were respected and shown courtesy. Quite a few of them were also stunning. I guess that’s my admission of some type of male flaw.

    I do take your point. These were events involving serious matters. Moving money, as it were. Knowledge transfer. Not really any ‘party’ atmosphere.

    Damn, guess I’ve illustrated what a complete boor I am.

  155. Hi, Teresa!

    Yup. Da Publisher did good.

    ~~~~~~~~

    Dear MNmom,

    I think you meant that last sentence to be directed at the “EMs of the world,” right? I haven’t done anything brave.

    ~~~~~~~~

    ‘Morning, Greg!

    Hope you got a good night’s sleep. (It is so considerate of John to turn off the comments, mindful of our need for rest. That’s why you do it, right, John?)

    I hadn’t planned on doing this much Monday-morning quarterbacking, but if you’re asking how the inter-tubes would’ve helped, you’re probably not the only one wondering about it. So, here goes:

    The information I’m talking about isn’t all directly available online. But, based on the report the Subcommittee issued and the heartfelt apologia that “Antarcticlust” wrote, there’s more than enough online to inform the Subcommittee that they’re missing vital data.

    You (by which I actually mean a Subcommittee member) could start with Elise’s article here, of a year back, and the comments thereto and proceed to the links from that article and the comments, and the secondary links forward in time from those links. You’d have a whole afternoon’s reading. But if you do that, you quickly discover that the information available online about the incident with Elise isn’t congruent with the highly incomplete report you’ve been provided by the concom. You learn there’s at least one eyewitness to the event (the host of the party) and maybe others. You learn that a number of other women have reported similar incidents over a span of many, many years… and you have some of their names and contact information. You learn that Frenkel has been terminated by Macmillan. You also learn how other conventions such as Readercon have handled — or mishandled — such matters.

    [I'm saying the hypothetical 'you' here, but that is, in fact, exactly how I learned all that stuff, so I know it's there.]

    If you’ve got the sense and brains that God gave a gerbil, and every member of the Subcommittee has considerably more than that, you will realize that there’s something highly incomplete (even, inaccurate) about the information you been provided by the Comcon. That impels you to pick up the phone… or the e-mail. You reach out to Elise. You reach out to the host of the party. You reach out to a couple of other people who are likely to have relevant information. You reach out to some of the women who were willing to come forward regarding previous transgressions, because this is not just about evaluating the incident at Wiscon, you are trying to determine how much of an ongoing problem this guy presents … and there’s a whole bunch of data suggesting he is a much, much bigger problem than one isolated report of harassment.

    There are other people the subcommittee members can reach out to, who would be obvious to them. We’re not talking investigative journalism, just some well-known-to-them connections. I’m not going to say which Subcommittee members and I’m not going to say to whom they’d be reaching out; there’s stuff that I’ve been told about this that I may very well been told in confidence, so I’m not going to breach sources. Suffice to say that the Subcommittee, as it was constituted, would be able to find out just why Frenkel was terminated as well as details about his past performance at work and at other conventions.

    You (continuing, as a Subcommittee member) would not be pleased with what you heard. It would not leave you in the least way favorably disposed towards Frenkel.

    All of this stuff is not irrelevant. You’re not supposed to be operating in a vacuum. You’re supposed to be genuinely evaluating just how big a problem this guy presents.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  156. Lowell, I can see that you’re trying to be a nice guy. But this

    “But, the interactions I observed with the females present was one of welcoming and inclusion. They were respected and shown courtesy. Quite a few of them were also stunning. I guess that’s my admission of some type of male flaw.

    “I do take your point. These were events involving serious matters. Moving money, as it were. Knowledge transfer. Not really any ‘party’ atmosphere.

    “Damn, guess I’ve illustrated what a complete boor I am.”

    in total, gives me the impression that you are not the kind of guy who a woman would talk to if she was uncomfortable or had been harassed at one of the events you attended.

    I suspect that your view of these events is colored by this, since women in virtually every industry have, in the last couple of years, become more vocal about ongoing harassment.

    A reading of the #YesAllWomen tag on twitter might be helpful in giving you some perspective.

  157. @Xopher: “But I think the main difference is that in fandom we’re talking about it and some of us are trying to fix it.”

    Excellent!

    Hopefully Mr. Scalzi is in a sufficiently prominent position among the organizers of these events to garner some modicum of respect. His position on these matters, based on nothing more complicated than ( by my reading) common courtesy, will guide those crafting rules for the conduct of the attendees.

  158. [quote]
    9. Above all, when the above questions are answered (that’s what I mean by “procedures”), how do we make sure everyone who needs about them to know actually does know?
    [/quote]

    That right there is going to be the toughest nut to crack, I predict. Planning, documenting, communicating, passing information along with the torch from one incumbent to the next – all those things are essential in a business setting, regardless of for-profit or non-profit status, regardless of whether the people working there are employees or volunteers. And for some reason, it seems to be the hardest to achieve.

    I was a member of a volunteer committee for several years. Had several positions during my tenure, including some department-head jobs. And the ONLY procedure manuals I ever saw for ANY of those positions, or for membership on the committee itself, were those I wrote myself out of the frustration and fury at having no resources available to learn the job. The rest of the group simply couldn’t fathom why I was unwilling to just dive right in and fly by the seat of my pants – which ultimately was one of the contributing factors to my decision to leave. I saw it as just too risky to stay on among a bunch of loose cannons with no documented procedures for any of their actions; the potential for liability issues was simply staggering, and frankly terrifying.

    That failing is not limited to volunteer groups. I have worked for four different employers in a professional capacity over the course of a four-decade career, and for the first three, the only procedure manuals they had were the ones I wrote and bequeathed to my successor when I left. My current employer has a fairly well-developed set of procedure manuals – but that is a 25% rate in a fairly demanding profession, which is nowhere near what it should be.

    There’s a position in the company where I work now called “Continuity Coordinater.” The job function is about what you’d expect for that title. All that individual does is to ensure that any time anyone leaves the company, no matter what level employee they were, their critical data, knowledge, files, processes and information are preserved to facilitate a seamless transition to the next person to hold the job. Not glamorous or exciting, but boy howdy, is that job ever crucial.

    Sure wish that concept was a little more common elsewhere. Especially in volunteer-run events like conventions.

  159. @Melissa: “I suspect that your view of these events is colored by this,”

    Colored by what, exactly? You quoted several sentences and I am unsure of your statement.

  160. Colored by the fact that you don’t seem to have engaged much with the women, given the way you talk about them. Noting their attractiveness in discussing their presence at the event. A woman, talking about a business event, is not generally likely to say, “and the guys were so hot” when summarizing male attendees.

    The impression you give is that you stand somewhat apart from the women, think of them a little bit as “other.” IME, given the many, many interactions I’ve had with men in business situations over the last 40 years, it’s not likely that you would really “see” harassment or that women would feel comfortable telling you about harassment if they experienced it.

    This doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that I think (my opinion, not a statement of fact) you have a blind spot. My father wouldn’t know harassment if it bit him on the behind–he just couldn’t see or understand it, especially if it wasn’t blatant. The biggest arguments I ever had with him were about things like date rape (which he didn’t think existed) and sexual harassment. At the same time, my father was an ardent supporter of women’s rights, a huge sf/f fan, and a good guy.

  161. Lowell… What she’s saying is that just because you choose to put your head in the sand regarding the real problem of predatory behavior toward women (which, of course, YOU’VE never personally witnessed) doesn’t mean is isn’t a problem for women at every single convention. Men who claim to be “good guys” while also minimizing women’s experiences are, in fact, in women’s experiences… not men with whom women would feel comfortable sharing their stories of assault and harassment. (Pro tip: Women don’t like to be poo poo’d and minimized so that you can substitute your experiences for theirs.)

  162. @Lowell it’s telling that when you mention the women you say they are stunning you don’t mention they are intelligent, smart, added to the conversation, you say nothing about them but their looks.

    Based on that I’m going to say that your male bias causes you to miss “hidden prejudice” i.e. women are more than their looks. So if someone isn’t saying something overtly hateful you won’t notice it as problematic.

    I’ve had/have boyfriends, husbands, good friends who do respect women and think of themselves as feminist allies not notice “subtle” sexism or “mild Harrasment” even when I’ve pointed it out.

    If I’ve just been harassed I’m less likely to turn to the guy next to me who clearly didn’t notice it for support as I don’t want to chance getting into a discussion over “was I really harassed or am I over-reacting”

    Many white guys don’t see racist and sexist stuff. Many white people don’t see racist stuff. Many straight people don’t see homophobic stuff. We don’t see stuff because it’s “not relevant to us at every moment so we have to train ourselves to see it”. It’s hard work to learn your biases and to notice when your biases are in play. It’s also an always ongoing process it’s not one you perfect and get a good star for completing.

  163. @ Melissa and Betsy

    My take only, as I can only speak for me. I believe you both have a flawed image of the man I am. I am not blind, nor without introspection. I had the love of a woman for twenty one years who helped me progress as a human. We raised a daughter together. She has become in time a wife, a mother, and my favorite person on the planet. Not in that order.

    Then my wife died. And I had part of my soul amputated.

    If you are lumping me in , perhaps because my written thoughts are not as clear as someone who writes professionally, with the asshats who abuse women, I can live with that.

    If you both are throwing me in that dogpile simply because I’m male, shame on you. There are indeed men who walk the face of the planet who are not your enemy.

    I believe the owner of this site to be one. He expresses the sentiment perhaps better than I.

  164. some numbers, from a self-selected sample: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/how-big-a-problem-is-harassment-at-comic-conventions-very-big-survey-sdcc-emerald-city-cosplay-consent

    25% of respondents reported being harassed in the comics industry, in the workplace or at conventions

    8% of respondents reported being groped, assaulted, or raped at a convention

    20% of respondents who reported being harassed do not know the name of the person who harassed them (making it difficult, if not impossible, to report the harassment)

    if you want to be an ally, it’s important to acknowledge that the problem exists even if you don’t see it.

  165. ctein, If I were on any committee to decide a case of harassment, I would probably make a point to NOT go onto the internet to google information about it, But rather go back to the original people who were there. That’s my point. Sure, it would be easy to google stuff and find all sorts of accusations. But seriously, how much harder would it be to just email Matthesen and actually go to the original source instead?

    the first red flag for me on such a committee would be: Why are we not looking at Matthesen’s original report? Why aren’t we looking at the original sources? but Google??? No thanks.

  166. Dear Greg,

    You’re not getting the point. The Internet is not the final word. It gives you myriad leads to the final words. As I said way back in my first post:

    “We’re talking fandom here. We’re talking of an incident involving a well known professional and a reasonably well-known fan. What are the odds that a Google search won’t turn up a huge amount of relevant ancillary information?

    In this case, we know those odds are exactly 0″

    I think I taken this about as far as I can. Let’s drop it.

    pax / Ctein

  167. “ime, people who volunteer for such things take the work seriously and do it because they want to do it, not because they’ll be covered with glory.”

    Just to speak to a different kind of volunteer experience…

    I helped to bootstrap a subculture event in a major US city for its first 3 years. The organization was *extremely* loose and informal, though there was a designated “chair” and various committee heads. My role wound up being a kind of “second in command” though at this point I can’t recall if it was formally designated as such.

    My experience in helping to manage an all-volunteer organization was that people handled the volunteer role in widely differing fashions. Some people were true workhorses and Big Damn Heroes, willing to show up at every meeting, pitch in at every work day, arrive at 6am for load-in and stay until 3am for load-out and set themselves to giving 100% at every task in between, no matter how “menial” or inglorious.

    And some were… not. Some people apparently had an internal map of what volunteering looked like that allowed them to show up when convenient, do only the jobs they liked, prioritize socializing over Getting The Fuck to Work, and quit when it wasn’t fun any more. Some people apparently viewed the main benefit of volunteering to be “a chance to promote my personal project” and when given tasks that didn’t advance that agenda, acted personally insulted or just performed their tasks in such a desultory fashion that they would be sure not to be assigned further tasks. Some people felt quite strongly that they only wanted to do tasks X and Y, and if X and Y were already adequately staffed, they could sulk their way through or refuse task Z (or worse still, hang around the borders of tasks X and Y giving “input” or pretending to be assigned to those tasks while getting in the way.) Some people preferred to just snipe from the sidelines, criticizing all decisions made by the organization that didn’t fit with how they wanted to do things, making new suggestions long past the time for plans to be finalized.

    The explanation for all of these behaviors, either when people called them on it directly (a rare thing) or complained about it within the executive committee was “well, they’re volunteering.” As in, you get what you pay for. People are giving of their own free time and free will, so you can’t hold them accountable or say “suck it up, buttercup” or “pitch in or get out” because then you won’t have anybody to help out at all.

    I disagreed with this view, rather vehemently in fact, to the point that I attempted to resign a month or so before Event V.3. Friendships were rather seriously damaged in the process, and I declined to return the following year.

    I would hope that an event that’s been running for nearly 40 years would have shaken out some of these problems, but I wonder. I imagine that even in events of long-standing reputation, some people who volunteer do so because they think “this will get me close to Famous Author!” or “I’ll get to be with all my pals!” or “well I don’t really want to volunteer but I can’t afford to go otherwise” or “I’ve always done this and my identity is caught up in continuing to do it.”

    There are all kinds of points of failure in a volunteer-run system, even when most of the volunteers are exceptional, capable, dedicated people.

    – “I thought I could do X but I just ran out of spoons when it turned out to be more complicated than usual.”

    – “I thought I could do X but I just ran out of spoons when my personal life exploded, and I didn’t want to resign and lose face/give up my identity as the X runner/leave others to do it/etc.”

    – “I wanted to do X but they assigned me to do Y instead, and yet I still have much more emotional investment in X than in Y.”

    – “I believe myself capable of doing X and get very personally hurt when someone suggests I am not doing X as well as it could be done.”

    – “I believe myself capable of doing X and via my past responses, have made confronting me on my failures so high-cost that no one wants to do it.”

    “I consider myself to be such an expert on how to do X at this point that I’m impermeable to critique, outside help, or new ideas.”

    “I don’t trust anyone to do X but me, and perhaps a couple of my close long-time X-helpers. So the X committee is always full and not open to new members.”

    “X is critical to the functioning of our organization, and so anyone critiquing how X is handled must be labeled as dangerous and bad, lest the organization itself be threatened.”

    “My loyalty is to Q Person in charge, and so if they don’t think X needs to change, I don’t either.”

    “I know everyone here has good intentions, and I hate confrontation and conflict, so I’ll just keep my head down and my mouth shut and find the path of least resistance.”

    “Change is hard.”

    And so it goes.

  168. Lowell… you just made me laugh out loud! You pulled out the standard #notallmen retort to women explaining their experiences! Thank you for proving the point. No one called you an enemy. And in fact, women can talk about harassment, sexual assault, and the men who claim not to notice or profess it isn’t common due to what THEY’VE witnessed without declaring war on the male gender. If you still don’t understand, I would suggest that you do a simple google search on both #notallwomen and #notallmen. Then decide what kind of ally you would like to be to not only the women in your life… but, in fact, all women.

  169. ctein: “You’re not getting the point. The Internet is not the final word. It gives you myriad leads to the final words.”

    I get it. But my point is this: The final word is Matthesen’s original report.

    Now, if a convention wants to ban someone for something they did outside of the convention, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish, but if so, then yeah, you’ll need to get your information from other sources and maybe the internet is a good place to start. Might throw in arrest records, employment records, maybe run a background check. Maybe preemptively ban anyone who is a convicted sex offender, or anyone fired from their job for sexual harassment. But, like I said, that’s a different kettle of fish.

    But, again, my point is that the “final word” in this case that the committee should have been looking at is Matthesen’s original report and whatever original report/reply that Frenkel made, and possibly any follow up statements they wanted to make to the committee. And make all that information available to both Frenkel and Matthesen so that both can make sure their side of the story is being considered by the committee. THAT is the final word as far as I’m concerned.

  170. Betsy: “Lowell… No one called you an enemy.”

    Telling someone that they “choose to put your head in the sand regarding the real problem of predatory behavior toward women “ certainly isn’t calling him friend. But if you want to split language hairs here, you accused him of actively ignoring the problem (putting his head in the sand) when in fact its impossible for him to do that at the same time he is asking questions about the problem.

    So, no, no one called him by the exact term “enemy”, and you can go “ha ha! Gotcha!”. But at the same time, he hasn’t been acting like someone who is actively ignoring the problem and putting his head in the sand, either.

  171. Melissa, I could quibble about self selected surveys, but I don’t doubt that there a big problem here. You could cut those numbers in half across the board and they’d still be shocking.

    SDCC is playing with fire here, imo. Sooner or later something very bad will happen and get out into the major media. And then the lawsuits will start, possibly will very deep pocketed plaintiffs who can make it stick. At some level they have to know this, even with the undereporting. I can only conclude that the costs and logistics involved are scaring them off and they are choosing to take their chances.

  172. Flaviusx: unfortunately, this year, there was this (TW: violence):

    http://seananmcguire.tumblr.com/post/93284707050/missveryvery-misspiratesavvy-harbor-police

    the whole story is not known, so we don’t know where the assailant met the assaulted

    but I’d say this was a very bad thing.

    Also, I personally don’t feel that Lowell is an enemy. I think he genuinely doesn’t see harassment. whether that’s because it isn’t taking place where he might see it or because he doesn’t know what to look for is a question I cannot answer. hence my suggestion that he perhaps look at #YesAllWomen and maybe try to forge a friendship or two with women in his industry..

    Also also, Lowell, my condolences on your loss. When my father died, 50 years into his relationship with my mother, mom was devastated. It took her years to recover and her world has literally never been the same.

  173. It is actually a fairly simple process — have a detailed policy of what the rules are regarding conduct, make that policy widely and clearly available to attendees when they sign up and at the convention, add training on conduct breaches to other staff training, follow your policy when there are incidents.

    It’s that last one — follow your actual policy — that the cons are having trouble with. ReaderCon had a policy, they didn’t follow it. WisCon had a policy, initially followed it, and then decided not to follow it. SDCC has a policy, if vague, and doesn’t follow it. It took a lot to get people to consider having policies — it still does. Now we’re dealing with the having a policy but not following it stage.

    We have no trouble understanding that a con has to take action if someone grabs your bag or starts screaming and punching at people on the con floor — that this is a disruption and a violation that has to be dealt with and usually means expulsion from the event. But if the person instead grabs your breast or stalks you and presses up against you, or talks violently and sexually at you (like a guy screaming and threatening violence,) or harasses you as a black person, etc., we seem to have a real problem understanding that’s also a disruption that needs to be dealt with the same way. Because we have a social view that people can force sexuality and sexual aggression on others, especially men on women, and that racial minorities are over-sensitive so we don’t have to deal with their situations.

    An excellent example of this is that Frenkel was involved in the planning of the event. A man who is a known harasser, even if he had mostly been avoided rather than dealt with, for twenty years — even without an investigation incident, why is he on the planning for a feminist con in the first place? Because Frenkel’s sexual harassment wasn’t seen as a disruption, whereas if Frenkel went around punching people, it might have been. (Although he threw a book — but it was at a woman, so apparently that was fine.)

    And that, Lowell, is why they jumped on your head. Because you are using the, if I don’t see it, it isn’t there so maybe it’s only those odd people over there that cause a problem. But it’s not — it’s widespread everywhere. That you didn’t see it at business conventions, doesn’t mean that it only exists in odd pockets. Women are forced to keep quiet about it and ignored or met with hostility — of the kind you displayed — and sometimes punishment when they speak out about it. That doesn’t make you a bad guy. It makes you a normal guy. Whose female family members probably haven’t told you about lots of incidents they’ve had because the harassment is normal and we’re expected to deal with it. And deal with the irate reaction of men if we point out that they are being annoying and clueless about the issue.

    This sort of harassment is everywhere, largely because it’s allowed everywhere and women and others are expected to just deal with it. But the way many of them are dealing with it now is speaking out about the venues they care about — and street harassment and general social institutions — and demand change, including that cons of all kinds have harassment policies and follow them. So I would also encourage you to take a look at #YesAllWomen on Twitter. There’s a lot of information out there; you can learn.

    And that situation is the same for the folks at WisCon. There was a lot of information out there about Frenkel. They had witnesses and claimants willing to re-give reports (and had been given those reports in the first place.) They had plenty of time to act. It was perfectly easy for them to check facts and claims. They had a policy that set up a system for dealing with the incidents that included gathering all that information. And they didn’t follow it. This isn’t about simple incompetence; it’s about reluctance. Reluctance to deal with a form of disruption. Because we don’t treat sexual harassment and assault like we do other forms of harassment and assault. (Harassment policies actually cover other forms of harassment and assault.) We pretend that it’s this odd thing that pops up once in a blue moon over there and probably isn’t a big deal.

    But women particularly and other groups as well face harassment all the time in every area of life. And a lot of them aren’t going to deal with it alone without protest, even if progress is slow.

  174. Many years ago, some junior staff told me about some things that, to me, were clearly harassing behavior. I urged them to make a formal report. They refused, worried about many things: that their careers would be damaged if people knew they had said bad things about someone; that the person who had been harassing them would know that they were the ones who reported the harassment and take vengeance; that the incidents weren’t really harassment and were too trivial to be reported, etc.

    HR said that if I had not observed the behavior myself–which I had not–and the staffers were not willing to report, nothing could be done. I spent some weeks attempting to convince the staff to report but they would not.

    I think that the junior staff I work with today would be far likelier to identify the same behavior as harassment and to speak up about it and report it. I think that’s a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction.

    I also offer this: my first day in publishing, I refused to get coffee for someone and he threw a gigantic fit that nearly got me fired. It didn’t matter that he had literally never seen me before (or that I had no idea where the coffee machine was or how to make coffee); I was an assistant and he was a Big Boss and I was insubordinate. I don’t believe the same thing would happen today.

  175. @Kat Goodwin RE: “Women are forced to keep quiet about it and ignored or met with hostility — of the kind you displayed — and sometimes punishment when they speak out about it. That doesn’t make you a bad guy. It makes you a normal guy.”

    I must profess an undying love for Kat Goodwin. Thank you for the rational brilliance in all of your posts. You always shine a light through my frustrated cloud of anger when it comes to this topic.

  176. Kat: that, Lowell, is why they jumped on your head. … Women are forced to keep quiet about it and ignored or met with hostility — of the kind you displayed

    Hm. It seems introductions are needed. Kat, meet Lowell:

    Lowell: So when I observe someone being disrespectful to a female, it troubles me. It can, and has, troubled me to the point of intervention.

    I can only assume you have him confused with another Lowell you know because that doesn’t ring of keeping someone quiet, ignoring, or meeting a victim with hostility.

  177. After all’s said and done, what most boggles my mind as a life-long feminist is that this all happened at what’s supposedly a feminist con! HOW can people call themselves feminist who water down reports of harassment, try to get away with not doing anything about the harasser, and let him work in the HOSPITALITY SUITE of all places! It’s downright Orwellian for anyone who ignores or condones sexual harassment to call themselves feminist.

  178. Lowell, I think I can see how the wires are getting crossed here. Let me tell you a story.

    I grew up in rural northern town. It was pretty thoroughly white. (Now, there’s another story to be told there, if you go back to the 20s and 30s—the KKK, sundown towns, and government-backed eugenics.)

    Anyway, one day in high school, I was chatting with another student over lunch. She was African American, and she had mentioned something about racism. I replied, “But surely there’s not much racism up here. I’ve certainly never seen much.”

    And then she started telling me stories. Things she had personally seen. And it wasn’t subtle racism, but nasty, over-the-top stuff—the kind of things people associate with the deep south during the civil rights movement, the kind of stuff that would get you thrown out of polite society. And I had missed it entirely. Raving caricatures of bigots, right in my home town.

    It turns out that bigots are often pretty careful about their bigotry. They know that they can get in trouble for it, socially speaking. So they only bring out the worst stuff for their victims and their friends. As far as I can tell, bigots have a little trick for identifying their friends: They make little jokes. Nothing over-the-top, just a joking “Sheesh, women,” or a “I know it’s not PC, but…” Now when people say that stuff around me, I give them the side-eye, or I walk away, or I tell them it’s not cool. So they cut it out. But another bigot would take that little joke, and push it bit further, and pretty soon the bigots will have identified each other. Or at least that’s how I understand it.

    Meanwhile, people who are subjected to bigotry also tend to be pretty careful about who they share those experiences with. They’re tired of having to explain and defend and justify for the hundredth or the thousandth time. Again, if you want to find out what’s going on, you need to pay close attention, and listen carefully, and maybe even send out the right signals.

    So if you have a moment, and you’d like to know more, sit down and ask yourself:

    1. Do you send out signals that make harassers and sexists feel safe? If the answer is, “No, I think that stereotypical jokes about women are crass and tacky, and jokes about getting women drunk are creepy, and I give that sort of thing the cold shoulder,” well, maybe you never see the worst sexism at all. The worst stuff happens when you’re not looking.

    2. Do you send out signals that make people think that I really get this? Do you listen carefully for hidden stories? Do you shut up and pay attention when people gripe about the little stuff? If the answer to this is also “No, not as much as I should, maybe” then maybe some people will decide that you’re not the best person to share this with, because they figure they’ll need to educate you first, and who has the energy?

    There’s an awful lot of well-intentioned but clueless guys who are flying totally blind. I’m slightly less blind than I once was, thanks to people like my friend who took the time to explain. But if there’s bad stuff going on, I have a duty to open my eyes, to learn about it, and to do what I can to help fix things.

  179. Well, Greg… since I haven’t seen with my own eyes the type of behavior that Lowell describes, I’m just going to go ahead and use my own perception and experiences rather than substitute yours. But thanks for the mansplaination!

  180. I don’t think Lowell did anything that deserves the attacks he’s been receiving, and I didn’t see Greg as mansplaining (and, yes, I’m female and have been a feminist long enough to have worn an Equal Rights Amendment bracelet in high school).

    @emk1024 – thank you for sharing your experiences. What you wrote rings true for much of my own experience, on both sides of the fence.

  181. Dear Greg and Lowell,

    You’re both trying to push this into a binary that is a complete distortion of the message you’re being given. “Not friend” does NOT equal “enemy.” It just means not-friend. I’m not a friend of either of you. I don’t really know either of you. We are acquainted via a couple of comments, that’s all. so that means I’m your enemy? Even if I knew you personally, I still might not consider you friends. The vast majority of people in the world are merely acquaintances. A small fraction of them are friends and a much, much smaller fraction are enemies.

    This is not hairsplitting and is not semantics. If you insist that anyone who doesn’t declare your friend is your enemy, then trust me, you have a hell of a lot of enemies.

    Lowell asked why his universe seem to contain so much less harassment than he was reading about in other places. It was explained, so simply, that I can sum it up in one sentence: most women are not comfortable discussing incidents of harassment with most men. And by “most” I’m talking a lot more than 51%. That is a fact of reality. If you can’t swallow that, you’re not living in this universe.

    What you don’t get to do is take that as a personal affront. Not unless you think you’re ENTITLED to have women confide in you.

    Lowell, it was pointed out that you might not be as clued in as you think (and here is a big clue for you: on matters such as this, most men aren’t as clued in as they think and this time by “most” I mean somewhere between 99% and 99.999%) and that this would be one reason why women might not confide in you, because your responses would be somewhat “off” regardless of how well-meaning they might be. And your response to this? You trotted out the “but I love women, especially my wife and daughter” canard.

    That is so off-point it’s a true eye-roller. It’s a complete non sequitur (and a huge cliché, it’s heard so often). No one accused you of hating women. No one accused you of being a misogynist or never loving women. All they said was that there’s a good chance you don’t “get it,” and statistically speaking that is extremely probable. Having women in your life does not automatically mean you live in women’s world or understand it.

    Do either of you actually want to become an ally or do you just want to feel entitled to that status? If it’s the former, the place to start is by acknowledging that you’re missing large numbers of clues in these matters. Any man who can’t do that (excepting the previously mentioned 0.001%) isn’t looking to be an ally, they’re looking for validation.

    It is not the job of women who’ve been harassed to provide that.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  182. Lowell, I’ll just add that when Melissa said “that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person,” she meant it. She wasn’t accusing you of being a woman-hating scumbucket like Vox Day or anything, just of having a blind spot.

  183. Betsy: I’m just going to go ahead and use my own perception and experiences

    Great. You can render whatever subjective assessment of Lowell’s actions you want. But if that’s the case, Lowell can do the same and subjectively assess that you’re treating him like an “enemy”. But if you’re going to dismiss his assessment because no one used that specific word to describe him, then you’re being a hypocrite trying to have one set of rules for you and a different set for the poeple you disagree wiht.

    Either you both can, or you both can’t. Pick which it’s going to be.

    ctein : “Not friend” does NOT equal “enemy.”

    First of all, regarding “enemy”, see above. Second of all:

    Betsy accused Lowell: “you choose to put your head in the sand regarding the real problem”

    Kat accused Lowell: “Women are forced to keep quiet about it and ignored or met with hostility — of the kind you displayed”

    Neither accusation holds water. Asking about the problem and intervening when he sees a problem isn’t putting your head in the sand and it isn’t forcing a victim to keep quiet, it isn’t ignoring a victim, and it isn’t being hostile to a victim. And its exactly this kind of nonsense that is why I would NEVER go to the internet to find out information about some harassment situation. The internet loves to drop on people’s heads. The internet loves a good dogpile.

    ctein: “but I love women, especially my wife and daughter”

    What he said was: ” I had the love of a woman”. Not the same.

    “No one accused you of hating women. No one accused you of being a misogynist”

    And he didn’t say anyone accused him of any of that, so this is essentially a strawman.

    “Do either of you actually want to become an ally or do you just want to feel entitled to that status?”

    In the same post you tell me I’m pushing this into some distorted binary position, you give me this “with us or against us” binary nonsense?

    The main thing I’ve been saying on this thread is conventions need good procedures, good policies, and lots of training so that when they hit the stress of dealing with real life, they can revert to training and do the right thing, find the right decision, make the right judgement.

    Do you think you’re doing that here? Do you think Kat’s accusations that Lowell has been simultaneously ignoring and hostile to victims is accurate? Do you think Betsy’s accusation that Lowell has willfully CHOSEN to put his head in the sand is accurate? The other part of good policies, good procedures, and good training, is to be able to get to that point of the process where you assess whether you’ve gone down the wrong tunnel, come to the wrong judgement. And that requires that people in these positions be able to admit they made a mistake when that happens.

    What has Lowell actually, verbatim quote, SAID that fits all these accusations? And if the accusations aren’t actually backed up by what Lowell actually said, then the accusation must be found false. That actually would be an indicator of whether the policies and procedures are any good: Whether they deal with false accusations and judge them as such.

  184. Lowell – daughters who trust in their fathers’ love and caring, and know that they’ll be believed, may well decide not to share incidences of harassment or assault because they don’t want to upset their dads. I’m sure you would be very upset to learn of such things happening to your daughter, and it’s likely she’s aware of that. So, you can’t assume that she has never experienced such things. If you feel comfortable doing so, try asking her – you might be surprised by what she says.

  185. Greg:

    Your general hostility/defensiveness on this issue hasn’t lessened in your time off, I see.

    Let me suggest you let Lowell speak for Lowell, and otherwise drop it.

  186. @Steven: It’s hard to have my son impressed by me, but reading that you wrote that about me did the trick. :)

  187. To get back to the actual topic, one thing that I think will be key is that _all_ volunteers who interact with convention attendees (not just security) should have some form of in-person training, or at least consciousness-raising, right before the convention begins or before they begin to work, if they are not present before the convention begins.

    Whatever this is should probably include some form of role-play, so that participants can recognize some of the subtler forms of harassment and so that everyone can model appropriate responses to reports or inquiries from attendees.

    I really think it’s not enough to have written materials or powerpoint presentations, nor is it enough to distribute these things far in advance and hope that people will read/look at them.

    I’m not in any way blowing my own horn here; I wasn’t involved in any of the Frenkel reporting at Tor. But I am technically management and I have taken harassment training–I am now a mandated reporter, which I wasn’t at the time of the incident I discussed earlier. It’s easy to laugh at the training sessions, which are Incredibly Long and Often Boring as well as Periodically Ridiculous (some of the stuff we can’t ask when interviewing to fill a position is really strange)–but I have seen lights go on in some people’s eyes when they really understand something for the first time. And when they are given some tools to use to handle it.

  188. I don’t understand how you get “hostile” out of any of that. Really, I don’t. I assume the issue is somewhere in my last three posts, one to Betsy, one to Kat, and one to Betsy and ctein. I’ve reread them all, twice, and don’t see anything hostile. Not saying it isn’t there. But I don’t see it. People made a number of accusations and I disagreed with the accusations. If there is anything specific I said that was hostile, please let me know and I’ll do my best to clean it up.

    As far as letting Lowell speak for Lowell, I would just say to Lowell: if I’ve put words in your mouth or misrepresented anything you said or overstepped your agency, I apologize. I wasn’t trying to steal your voice.. I was not intending to speak for you. For me it was a matter of comparing the accusations to the evidence, My intent was to quote you, not speak for you, and if I overstepped, I apologize.

  189. I’ve done convention security for – oh I dunno. A long long time. We have had few harassment complaints but I had to handle one just last year and we had another more complex one the year before.

    Both were different. Both difficult in different ways.

    I’ll talk about these a bit to illustrate what our experience and discussions were. This is just by way of saying ‘Here’s what happened to us and here’s how we did it’. It’s not the only way, of course, but there were a lot of years of Con running expertise involved, including sending a couple of members to SMOFCon to study these matters and we had one practicing lawyer (a criminal defense lawyer in his real world career) on the committees providing legal background. Now, keep in mind ours is slightly different, being Canadian, from what Wiscon faces, but there will also be differences between states etc.

    (Note, no names here – just events and what happened):

    In episode one, two years ago, there was a fellow who was a central, and loud, member of several con-committees. He was boisterous, blustery, tried to be overly central, rather narcissistic and annoying. He hit on a lot of people – but so do lots of folks, that’s annoying but as long as it’s done with respect it’s not ‘over the line’.

    Finally a complaint was made – a serious one – of real misbehaviour.

    Now – here’s where there may be some lessons learned.

    Initially the central committee had one person investigate, talk to the various people etc. Said person did not really do a very good job and what’s worse, tried to close things off without actually bringing their findings back to central. Oops.

    Obviously the person who complained was pretty distressed at being basically blown off – and so she should have been. Being a media person, the complaints then were made public as she felt she had no other recourse.

    Central was not pleased. The investigation was re-opened, the original investigator set aside (he was trying to do a good job – but was very much the wrong person for the job) and a new senior investigator appointed. She did a much better job and Oh what a can of worms that opened! It turned out that while the accused’s behaviour was frequently just ‘under the complaint wire’ more than a few times he had crossed it – but it had never been reported formally. Only by following the chain of evidence down through did it turn out that first – all this ‘just under the line’ stuff was way too much taken together AND – there were a couple of ‘over the line’ items as well. At least one of which could have generated criminal charges and involved a minor no less.

    So – with lesson learned – public statements of apology – VERY carefully crafted – were made and said person was told that they were no longer welcome at the ‘con. ie – banned. What’s more a sealed file containing all the details was placed in the archives in the event that the person ever wanted to return – so that future volunteers would have the information they needed to make an informed decision.

    Because no criminal charges were filed, nothing public could really be said. Conventions are not legal investigative bodies and stating what amounts to accusations – even a lot of them – can open a group up to legal action of defamation etc. Written statements to a non legal body are not ‘proof’ so it had to be done carefully.

    Nonetheless, the person is gone and will likely never be allowed back. At least not without showing that they have had a lot of professional counselling etc. and have really changed. That last is necessary both legally and morally – as people are considered legally to be able to change and, morally – well sometimes people do. Even really bad people really do change sometimes (I have seen this personally) so while one needs to be very careful, one really must not entirely slam the door on a human.

    That’s how the first one went. More later on the other, which was quite different.

    Hopefully this experience will help others in understanding some of the challenges and maybe learn from our experience/errors.

  190. Episode two was just this past year and less complex, but in some ways more serious. What’s more I handled a lot of it myself.

    The complaint involved a young lady who was sharing a hotel room with friends. One of them got out of line, physically – the accusation meeting the legal definition of sexual assault.

    This was reported at the very end of the Convention and I took the complaint myself. I took down all the details, asked her to please put the entire thing in writing, asked her if she needed additional assistance and encouraged her to contact the police – as this was a crime after all.

    She elected not to contact the police – and while I disagree with this personally, it was her choice to do so and it was respected. I didn’t press the matter. Nor do I feel it should have been pressed. There had been drinking – exactly how much unknown, there were no witnesses and no physical evidence. Even if there had been a complaint it was dollars to donuts that it would have gone nowhere. I don’t blame her for not wanting to put herself through that wringer for what likely would have been zero actual gain.

    Even so, the complaint was serious.

    The lady in question did, indeed, make a formal complaint in writing as I requested. But here’s where things get tough.

    Even though, personally, I believe the young lady – this is still only a single accusation. No witnesses, no evidence. What’s more, when we investigated, we could find no other complaints against this person by anyone. This is tough. Why? Because, unlike the first event, here we do not have a truly damning situation. What’s more the event happened in a private hotel room, not convention space, and in private. Technically – legally – this is none of the convention’s business at all – it’s a matter for the police. Because we are not large enough to ‘own the hotel’ as it were, we have no control or authority off the floors that we rent.

    Do we want someone dangerous at our convention? Of course not. But could we ban someone for a single, unsubstantiated complaint, no matter how credible?

    I’m sure some would say ‘sure you can’ and legally – yes we could although we would open ourselves up for some slight legal liability – but more importantly – what kind of convention precedent does that set? This is an unproven allegation of an event outside the convention, albeit loosely associated with it. What if it had happened across the street? At her home?

    In short, it was a mess. If we ban the person based on a single complaint, we would have to always do the same in order to be fair and consistent. In this age of instant internet, anything you do gets around literally at the speed of light and is instantly under a microscope. But what of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ or at least some kind of modicum related to it?

    It was a tough question. We wanted to ban the guy. But we probably couldn’t, particularly if he made a stink. So, in the end, his name was added to a private, internal ‘watch list’ and if further behaviour was noticed or reported, we could act and we could also do our best, within reason, to keep an eye on him.

    Was that the right decision? I’m a bit split on it myself. I think so, but I am not entirely comfortable – but I think I would be less comfortable with the idea of banning someone based on a single, unverifiable complaint. What if it were not true? Political correctness aside, some people DO lie and make up stories. Again, known from personal experience – anyone who has gone through a miserable divorce has likely seen some of this personally (I have) and neither gender is squeaky clean in this regard.

    So – there it is. I’m sure some may feel we should have done more and sometimes I share that feeling too. The decision made by the central committee is one I’m good with – but it’s thorny. Perhaps some others will benefit from our experience on this one if they run across a similar situation.

  191. @Melissa Ann,

    A quick note on volunteers, training etc.

    Large conventions can probably manage this as they would (hopefully) have a suitably large cadre of volunteers to select from.

    Smaller conventions – generally simply cannot. The volunteer pool is small and of those willing to do the hard jobs many are unsuitable. The number of ‘little tin god’ types that I have had to turn down over the years who would have turned any tiny issue into a gigantic three ring circus in a heart beat is – well very large.

    Actual training? You need someone qualified to train, someone willing to be trained and still do the job and somehow make all that happen.

    I’m sure they could manage that at SDCC, but small conventions of under 1k people? At least in our community it has so far been unfeasible.

  192. Mike, I know that training would be difficult, but some level of training is, I think, necessary, for people at Registration (who are often the most findable people at any convention or writers’ conference) and Security (who should be wearing something distinctive so as to be easily recognized) as well as Ops.

    I go to a number of events every year of all different sizes. I’m a working professional in publishing. Nine times out of ten the _only_ people I interact with in the course of a con are the people at the Registration desk. They’re the ones I see the most often, the ones I generally recognize even when they’re not on duty. I’m more likely to “know” them than I am to know anyone on the concom (even the ones I’ve been emailing with).

    I literally do not remember the last time I saw someone I could identify as Security outside of NYCC (where people volunteering at the convention–even for part of a day–wear bright-colored t-shirts that say STAFF on the back, making them very easy to spot).

    If _I_ can’t tell you who the Security people are, who the volunteers are, then how is the average con-goer going to know who they are? Part of being able to report is feeling that you can trust the person you will be talking to. I suspect that others may, like me, feel that the person at the main desk is more approachable than anyone else. Shouldn’t that person have some training in how to respond to someone who feels that they have been harassed?

    I think that one of the barriers to reporting is not knowing who to report to. Fixing this means finding a solution to both sides. Attendees must know a) that there is a harassment policy; b) who to report to; and c) how to find them. Maybe that goes in the program book or pocket program in addition to being on the website. Maybe that goes onto the back of everyone’s badge, in some shortened form (“Security is wearing green shirts but if you can’t find Security, talk to X”).

    Having a policy is a great step, but attendees have to know what to do if something happens…and staff have to know how to react.

  193. no advocate of violence, but didn’t things like this usually get handled with the harasser getting slapped in the face/drink poured on them & shamed in public for being a “creeper”? Totally agree with administrative policies & the need to investigate, hold accountability & prevent future harassment….but if this thing happened on the subway, wouldn’t cops be called or as a last result lawyers being involved?

  194. @Melissa Ann,

    We are in year 32 of our convention and have tried a lot of things.

    I can tell you for certain that, in smaller conventions, uniformed security are more a problem than a solution. We have tried both (in both cases for years each time, so not a quick little ‘try’). Uniformed security – at least in our local community, was a disaster. They wound up marching around like jackbooted thugs – yes complete with jackboots – and were about as approachable as a cactus on fire in Chernobyl.

    Our solution is several fold to this issue, and is built on the way our convention works. It may not work for other groups, but again, perhaps our experience will help some folks. Our convention (for anyone who bothers to look since my name is attached to this post – that would be Keycon in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada) uses a four lobed system. A little background is in order:

    Keycon is a smaller con. Usually a total membership of around 700 throughout the entire weekend and not all 700 are there at once. At the busy times, it’s maybe 400-450 on site simultaneously. That would be Saturday afternoon and evening and at the dead dog.

    Because of this we generally have several ‘areas’ of the ‘con based on the convention culture. One of this is the ‘Consuite area’ a tradition our ‘con is known for – where there are a bunch (usually 9-10) F&SF themed suite rooms with munchies, games, booze, videos, sometimes actual food etc. A place to go sit in a Klingon bar and have qua’pla for instance (yes they did that one year). This makes up a lot of the ‘social heart’ of the convention and at least in our current hotel only has three access points – stairs at each end and the elevator bank.

    We also have a couple of floors of function rooms connected by a grand staircase. Those are also accessible readily only through the elevators as they are on the 11th, 12th and 13th floors. Registration is on the 11th.

    We have an Operations room on the Con Suite floor but it is more a closed office/storage/counselling space than a manned site, unlike reg.

    So, here’s how we handle our four ‘lobes’ for convention reporting. First of all we be sure that our code of conduct is prominently printed in the program book, along with a cell phone number for the head of Ops/Security (in the past few years – myself). That number is also posted by the elevator banks, posted and known at and by registration and also provided to all of the convention suites. It’s also on the door to the Ops office (at least that’s how things are supposed to be done, last year the printing people messed up so it wasn’t ideal, but we managed).

    So lobe one is the con suites. There are a bunch of them and the staff all have an Ops contact number for emergencies. And it does get used. – This is the primary way people contact Ops/Security at Keycon. The second ‘lobe’ is reg – as you mention. It’s easy to find and there is usually someone there. The third ‘lobe’ is having it posted in the program book and in key access points throughout the convention.

    The fourth ‘lobe’ is done through patrolling. Security/Ops staff roam the ‘con, generally quietly and intentionally unobtrusively and correct problems. Mostly all that is required is a gentle word and their less visible presence makes things feel less like a police state. We are a small enough community most people already know who to go to for help anyway, and those that don’t have multiple means of quickly getting access if they look at all or ask someone.

    I have no illusions that this approach would work for something like the SDCC with it’s thousands of attendees, but it works very well for us.

    We have had some advocates in recent years – most of whom are too young to know about the debacle we had with uniformed security in our early years – who have suggested that it should be tried. Us old grey folks have to dissuade them based on experience they are generally too young to remember. That said – in other communities that might work and for large conventions I would tend to agree that something like it is essential.

    Even we, when we had issues with non-convention people being disruptive, got the hotel to loan us uniformed security to sort that out – basically to keep the morons off our floors. That worked pretty well and took some of the load off our own security folks.

    Again, I have no illusions that this approach would work for a different convention, but for our particular con-culture it works very very well. I appreciate John’s tolerance in allowing me to air it – perhaps our experiences and our discussion will help someone else at a convention somewhere.

  195. Mike Major, great comments, and you’ve actually reassured me here a lot in terms of showing how this can be made to work. Your observations on venue size affecting policy also seem acute to me.

    One follow up question: it’s true that a very big con like SDCC can tap into any number of volunteers, but do you think this sort of thing scales up linearly?

    With regards to the smaller venues, what would you suggest for them given the shallow volunteer pool?

  196. @Mike When I think “uniforms” I think con t-shirts (for all staff frankly) & a ribbon on the badge that says “security” rather than generic “staff”.

    I’m curious as to what you tried for security uniforms. I can see a number of ways that severe security uniforms would cause additional problems/make everyone feel like they were being policed.

    I personally like the idea of printing on the back of badges who to contact in case of emergencies – both medical & security/harassment but I know that adds cost and print time so I’m not sure how feasible it is for many cash strapped cons.

    I believe (I could be misunderstanding online policies/procedures) the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center provides training to staff for a couple conventions in the MA area. I wonder if similar rape crisis centers are able/willing to do the same in other parts of the country. Some training may even be available online only requiring a few hours from overworked volunteers. Yes I know that’s asking a lot from already overworked staff members but if this is something cons are committed to it might be part of a solution.

    It’s possible online training/testing that one could do at times most convenient to them could also be designed (ADA initiative/some organization project co-funded by a number of cons?). It may not the ideal/as good as in-person but could help with role-playing and what-if scenarios.

  197. Dear Greg,

    “If there is anything specific I said that was hostile, please let me know and I’ll do my best to clean it up. ”

    Assuming you are sincerely interested in clearing up this misunderstanding, and I believe you are, please allow me to point out a way in which your discourse is conveying an impression you don’t wish to convey.

    A key thing you’re doing that’s triggering that reaction is in that phrase “anything specific.” What people are mostly writing about here are the patterns; you pick away at individual facts and phrases, in a fashion that makes it seem like you think that negates an overall pattern. Rhetorically, it’s talking past the topic (kind of like when someone responds to “most men do X” with “but I don’t”). It also comes across as a kind of obstructionism (the death by a thousand paper cuts) and argumentative for the sake of argument. For example, when you quibble with me over exactly what Lowell said about women and loving them; even if I agree with you about the appropriate paraphrasing (and I don’t) either way, my point about the pattern still holds. The response goes to a familiar pattern that we’ve seen many times before and that usually means there’s a bit of a problem with the respondent.

    When the kid says “the dog ate my homework” and you are trying to defend the kid by saying “but he didn’t actually say ‘ate,’, he said ‘buried.’” you are really missing the point.

    Similarly, you created a very strong impression that you didn’t think the Frenkel investigation should look into his behavior outside of the convention but concentrate solely on the complaint there. Again, focusing on a specific instance rather than looking for a pattern. And that looks argumentative (which equates to a defensive/hostile impression) because that’s really not the way the real world works. It’s not the way harassers work, and it’s not the way people deal with harassers. You almost never catch a harasser the very first time they do it, and generally they are repeat offenders (I suppose it’s possible that some guy might say to himself, “Oh I think I’ll see if I can get away with this… Just once… And if I can, then I’ll never do it again” –– personally I’ll favor the possibility that I might get a winning lottery ticket).

    In other words, pattern is highly germane. For a very good practical lesson in this, read Mike Major’s comments about how he’s handled harassment incidents.

    Now perhaps you don’t see all this nitpicking as being quibbling, but many of the rest of us do. It’s also not remotely persuasive. So, I would gently suggest it is not serving you very well––it’s creating a poor (mis)impression of you and it’s ineffective.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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  198. Dear Melissa and Tasha,

    I may have missed someone mentioning this already, but I don’t think it’s been pointed out that Wiscon DOES have Safety staff, who wear bright colored vests with the word “safety” written on them in large letters, and attendees are encouraged to find one of these safety people if anything happens at the convention that puts them in an uncomfortable position.

    I don’t believe the staff, though, receives any kind of real training or role-playing, just a familiarization with the written guidelines. Which, as noted, presents a problem. They are very mixed in their effectiveness, although they provide very good “security theater” which is a valuable social function in itself.

    If I’m wrong about the lack of training I apologize in advance. That’s my impression; I would love to be corrected on that.

    Totally agree, by the way, that simulation training is extremely important. “Book larnin’” isn’t the same thing. Even running through just a couple of role-playing scenarios gets that into most people’s heads, and they’re consequently a lot more careful in the field. Not that one or two play sessions makes them skilled… But it lets them know that they aren’t skilled, and that’s a valuable lesson.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
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  199. @Greg people in positions sometimes go crazy with power. Some people like to sit back and be armchair critics – never taking on responsibility but always finding fault with those that actually do stuff. Sometimes a volunteer is great. Sometimes not. Sometimes an employee is great. Sometimes not. Bosses and senior people in companies can go crazy with power I’ve seen it happen. Politics in the workplace is part of life IMHO.

  200. @ctein – nope nowhere has anyone mentioned in the various discussions on the topic that security at Wiscon wears uniforms making them easily identified.

    I’ve not seen anything about training staff at Wiscon which I think antarcticlust/Jacquelyn would have mentioned had it been something they’d gone through. I’d also welcome being wrong.

    I’ve not attended Wiscon as it’s far from me and I have health issues so it’s been on “when I get healthy I’d like to attend… Or maybe not”.

  201. Dear Tasha,

    It’s not really a uniform, it is just a vest with “safety” scrawled on it. I think the intent is to avoid something that looks off-putting like a uniform but is clearly identifiable from a distance.

    I think you would likely enjoy Wiscon. I entirely understand people who are staying away to protest its failings. If I were asked to do so by one of them, or as a show of solidarity, I would strongly consider it. It sends a useful political message.

    But, by and large, the number of incidents of unpleasantness of any sort are very small there. The odds are extremely good that you would encounter none. On the purely personal basis, the reason Wiscon comes in for such heavy criticism is that we expect better of it. In fact, we really expect the best of it. If they can’t get things right, a lot of us feel like there’s even less hope for other conventions. In other words, we are striving for perfection… or at least a much, much lower level of imperfection.

    The odds are not so good when you’re part of an underrepresented group. People of color is the most commonly noted one. But it isn’t the only one. Those who are overtly religious or of immigrant status have had problems with a certain level of intolerance and insensitivity. Ditto, folks whose sociopolitical leanings aren’t seriously progressive. Not a problem for me, but I have a friend who is unabashedly a feminist and passionately cares about all the issues in all the right ways, and she’s a Blue Dog Democrat. With which group, I have no sympathy for whatsoever, so I’m not even going to try to defend her politics. But she’s observed that in any conversation that gets into the political arena, she becomes seriously marginalized even when she has useful and productive things to contribute. Because she’s one of “them.”

    These social/political problems are not unique to Wiscon. But they’re raised more prominently there, because they should be.

    Oh yeah, one last problem with Wiscon; their party scene pretty badly sucks. So much so that Laura (my other significant other) and I are seriously thinking of throwing a room party next year, just because the convention is so badly in need of improvement.

    Yeah, I know, first world problem. Maybe zeroth world problem [grin].

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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  202. Tasha: I believe … the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center provides training to staff for a couple conventions in the MA area.

    Woah. That… that would be an awesome resource to start from.

    ctein: Similarly, you created a very strong impression that you didn’t think the Frenkel investigation should look into his behavior outside of the convention but concentrate solely on the complaint there. Again, focusing on a specific instance rather than looking for a pattern. And that looks argumentative (which equates to a defensive/hostile impression) because that’s really not the way the real world works. It’s not the way harassers work, and it’s not the way people deal with harassers.

    I was looking for something I said that was “hostile” that needed apologizing for. I’m not apologizing for disagreeing with someone in a reasonable manner about a topic which has no hard answer. If the mere act of disagreeing with you is “hostile” regardless of how its done, then there’s a much bigger problem at play here. If the only way to not be “hostile” here is to agree with everything you say, then there’s a much bigger problem here.

    No, I don’t think a committee should look at stuff on the web as part of its investigation.

    some of my reasons.

    First, I was on jury duty for a single case that stretched out for a number of months. i.e. serious charges. The standard instructions to the jury was to not look into the case on our own but decide only on the evidence presented to you in court. When the case was finally finished. I did some googling, and found a LOT of hits about the case and they were all over the map. Newspaper articles and less “official” pages. Many of them didn’t match any of the facts we heard in court.

    Second, the other standard instruction for the jury was to not discuss the case amongst ourselves, but to wait until all evidence was presented and we were in deliberations. Which we did. When we finally got into deliberations, the first time we got around to doing a guilty/not-guilty vote, it was split pretty much down the middle. A bunch of people, whose only job they had was to listen all day for months to the evidence and decide what happened, split down the middle as to what happened. That was with judges making sure all the procedures were followed, lawyers were arguing both sides of the case, and every step of the way was given its best chance possible. And the first vote was a total split.

    Half the jury was wrong on the first vote.

    Anytime I hear someone talk with such absolute certainty about guilt or innocence, I think of that first vote. And I can just imagine how much more of a nightmare it could turn into if its a harassment committee with no real policies or procedures, with members who decide to take it upon themselves to go onto the internet looking for evidence, and do so without any sort of feedback from the accused. Kafka comes to mind.

    Third, a friend of mine was falsely accused of rape, was arrested, spent a few days in jail before he could get out on bail, and spent thousands of dollars on lawyers before the woman finally dropped the charges just before trial.

    So, yeah, I have my reasons for holding at least some doubt for what people say, on the internet, and elsewhere. And all that is based on the same “real world” you invoked to defend your position. You cite the real world. I cite the real world. You came to one conclusion. I came to another conclusion. That isn’t me being “hostile”, it’s me disagreeing with you on equal footing with you.

    If a committee insisted it absolutely must search the internet for the “truth”, then I would push to have the policies and procedures deal with it to put some checks and balances into that process. Maybe compile a list of “findings” extracted from the internet that are assumed to be true about the accused. Let the accused see the findings and where they came from and give them a chance to rebut them. I’d probably push for some sort of “statute of limitations” on any “findings” pulled from the internet or outside sources for the same reason there are limits in legal processes: people forget. memories change. evidence disappears.

    I think that would be a horrible process, but it would be better than letting people operate without procedures, in some opaque manner, and come to whatever conclusion they come to without any means for correcting it. Because half the jury was wrong on the first vote.

    It isn’t “hostile” of me to say all that. I’m not insulting you. I’m not attacking you. I’m defending my position with the same vigor you’re defending yours.

  203. Greg, you need to apologize for nothing. Those of us who have been reading the comments for years know exactly where you stand on women’s issues and issues of harassment. Please, defend with vigor! This is how we shine a light on things that like to crawl in the dark and hide under rugs.

  204. Well you know this was going to have to happen. The bad boy can’t resist slapping some feminist ass when he is told not to. The toothless declarations against harassment only makes him more aggressive. Frenkel knew he could get away with this and so do the others. And so this will go on, you may as well get used to this, cheap words will only be sneered at by these guys when they know that there will be no actions to follow. I’ll bet RSHD is laughing his ass off right now over the “rabbits,” and right now, they are winning.

  205. @ctein I have a severe chronic illness which keeps me bedridden most of the time which was not helped by being hit by a truck in 2012. I’m also an Orthodox Jew (dress obviously) with strict dietary needs which makes traveling difficult and exhausting as I have to bring much of my food. Right now my cons are limited to Boston area where my family lives, getting kosher food is easy, and friends run the cons so I know people are looking out for me and trying to make sure I don’t overdo it. I attend 1-2 cons every 2 years. I wish it could be more.

    I’m also the survivor of multiple sexual abuse so my tolerance for places that get handling sexual harassment/assault wrong aren’t going to be on the top of my list of cons to attend. I don’t have the spoons right now. I believe that Wiscon can turn this around and get it right if they choose to.

    I do hold Wiscon (calling itself feminist) and cons with friends on concoms (Readercon, Boskone, Arisia, possibly Worldcon 2017) to a higher standard. It may not be fair but it’s the way I am.

  206. Betsy: know exactly where you stand on women’s issues and issues of harassment.

    Yeah. don’t harass. and have good policies, procedures, and training in place to deal with it. (crawls around in the dark) Horrible, I know. (flicks antenna) Oh look, a rug!

  207. Dear Greg,

    OK, I’m giving up. I was believing you wanted to know why some people were perceiving you as defensive/hostile. Instead, you think it’s all about being right, or not.

    It is so not about that.

    But, I’m done trying.

    pax / Ctein

  208. Well again, Mike illustrates the problem of reluctance. The first guy was like Frenkel — a missing stair, harassing freely because everyone was reluctant to look at his behavior, hid his behavior, made the environment hostile to formally reporting on his behavior, and made excuses for his behavior as acceptable. Attendees don’t come to the con for the purpose of him hitting on them. As a member of con staff, none of his hitting on women was okay. It shouldn’t have been tolerated. But providing a comfortable and safe space for women to enjoy the con was not considered needed. Providing a safe space for this guy to get his groove on was considered needed and normal. And that’s from the social systems and attitudes we have in place — thou shall not interfere with a man forcing his sexual attentions on women.

    When one woman did speak up, the con was reluctant to properly investigate and the investigator was reluctant to do anything about it. So that woman had to dare retaliation towards her to speak up again, and the con finally decided it wasn’t going to be able to ignore the problem. After which, all the women who had to sit on the information because the con didn’t want to hear it, felt safer to speak up. And surprise, the guy is a predatory harasser — except it wasn’t a surprise. It was known; it was just ignored until people started screaming.

    The second incident, the guy was a serious threat to the con, but the woman wasn’t believed, she had no witnesses, and society is such that she did not feel safe approaching the police. The con was reluctant to deal with it when they didn’t have to and so ignored it. If the guy harms another woman, well then the con’s all set and will finally evict him. The woman who gets attacked next because the guy was still allowed in won’t have had fun, but hey, the key thing is the guy might make the fuss, not a woman.

    Based on those two stories, if I knew about them, I would not want to go to that con or have my daughter go. I would not feel safe that the con would do much about incidents that might occur. I would be safer in a bar with bouncers. And that’s not because the people running the con aren’t nice people; it’s because they are reluctant to deal with men who force their sexual attentions on women. It is reluctant to remove those men from the con in order to protect the peace and safety of the thousands of other con attendees’ experience. And so the atmosphere of the con would not be particularly inviting.

    Sometimes women venture into spaces anyway, though, because you don’t have that much choice. Why should they be kept out of public spaces so that the men can go after women? But they have to have strategies — move in a group, pass on information about predators that the con ignores, keep alert, keep your back to the wall in elevators, etc. that makes everyday life for women a hassle. It becomes particularly difficult for women authors, who have to work the con as their job, interact with folk, and may not be able to travel in groups.

    If you have signs up about the harassment policy, that’s great. But if women find that the con doesn’t actually enforce the policy, they don’t trust the con. And they are getting tired of not trusting cons. So expect more screaming in further years.

  209. ctein: why some people were perceiving you as defensive/hostile.

    If you said I was hostile and then pointed to a post where I called you “shithead”, then I would apologize for the name calling. I’ve screwed up on Whatever before, I’ve apologized, and I’ve worked to change my behavior. But I need something more specific than you waving in the general direction of a post where I disagreed with you about a matter of policy.

    For example, here’s something fairly specific: Betsy just compared me to a bug crawling around in the dark. If that sets the bar for “non-hostile”, then I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted anything as hostile as that on this thread.

    you think it’s all about being right, or not.

    The entirety of my last post was about how EVERYONE is fallible, everyone including me, and how the system needs to be designed to account for that. transparency. checks and balances. separation of powers. those exist so that the system doesn’t get abused and misused.

    How is that such a horrible idea?

  210. @Kat thank you. I’ve been trying to find a polite way to discuss Mike’s second situation/case example but I’ve been unable to do so. You did it beautifully. I wouldn’t feel safe there.

    What’s more the event happened in a private hotel room, not convention space, and in private. Technically – legally – this is none of the convention’s business at all

    As far as I’m concerned what convention guests do at a convention be it in private or public areas is the business of the convention. If you believe one guest sexually assaulted another while at your convention the question is do you want someone you highly suspect of such acts coming back and doing such a thing to another guest(s) next year? If your answer as a convention is yes than your a convention I’d advice my friends to stay away from.

    Your code of conduct and/or SOP might need to be looked at from the perspective of Why do you have one? What’s its intent?. Modify as needed once you’ve answered those questions unless the answers are not “safety of con-goers” and “preventing future liability”. Because if you thought it was serious enough to call the cops think about the next person he assaults and the lawsuit when that person finds out you let him back after his behavior. And your con being the next one in the hotspot the way Readercon was in 2012 and Wiscon is today.

  211. Kat, that’s kind of an ungenerous reading of Mike’s comments, imo. In the first case, what I got was that if you have more people like Mike, then things work out. He conducted his investigation with great competence. Yeah, the first person screwed up and had to be replaced, granted. I’d like to think with better screening of personnel you get more Mikes.

    The second case is a tougher one. I think the call to ban could and probably should have gone the other way. But the con would be taking something of a risk here based on the facts.

  212. @Tasha – the difficulty is fairness and consistency.

    This isn’t a matter of ‘belief’ (personally both I and the other folks on the committee are fairly sure that the young lady in question was telling the truth). The problem is PROOF – of which we have none – and more than that, consistency.

    Say we made the decision to ban this fellow, based on this one (entirely unproven) allegation. Next time we get another accusation – this one from a bitter and angry ex about a person’s behaviour (note – gender does not matter here, it could be a guy accusing a gal, a guy accusing another guy, a gal another gal – it doesn’t matter). We have a public precedent set – any accusation = banning.

    So – what now?

    The angry ex wants their ex partner NOT at the convention knowing it will make them miserable. So they make an accusation. The other person, not lowering themselves to the same level, makes no counter accusations – simply says, “That isn’t true.”

    Okay – in this case perhaps the committee decides that they DON’T believe the accusation. Then what? The screaming starts. “Why did *I* get banned when someone said that about ME but not THEM?” All credibility is lost, no matter how good the intention. This is a community which is small and most people know each other at least slightly. There will be unavoidable and impossible to defend against claims of favoritism, cronyism etc.

    Basically if you ban one person based on an accusation, you have to ban EVERYONE about whom there is an allegation. At least one in which the basic premise is similar as regards levels of proof etc.

    Now – it’s different when there is an accusation and a dozen people who don’t know each other all saw it. You have evidence, witnesses, you can ban based on that. If there is a police record, you can ban based on that.

    But a single allegation? Without proof? No, we cannot ban based on that. Two of them about the same person, particularly if from folks who don’t know each other? That probably. It would at least be defensible.

    When our ancestors came up with the premise of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ they had good reasons to do so. All societies have to accept that with justice comes a certain amount of risk.

    Yes, conventions can ban whomever they like. They are private parties. However if you get a rep for doing it unfairly or willy nilly or unethically – you will quickly have no convention at all. Perhaps such an effect was the goal of the accusation in the first place? We’ve seen stuff like that in the past as well.

    The reality is that none of this is EVER easy if you take it seriously and try and be fair, honest and ethical. You will always have someone pulling apart any decision you make after the fact and saying ‘We could have done that better.’

    Perhaps they are right. If so, I would encourage them to step up and try. If they are serious in that endeavour, however, they will find it much harder than it looks.

  213. I think this is why there is talk of the whole Burn It To The Ground and start over. That’s the only way to start with mentality that protecting people from predators at a con is more important than protecting a predator from “false” accusations. Base line thought should not be that victims are lying.

  214. @Tasha

    As regards uniforms, the group in question went with a sort of Napoleonic soldier effect. Black uniforms with tall boots, lots of braid on the jackets and sabers.

    Now, the uniforms were as much a cosplay thing as official ‘security’ and their swords were tied in. The issue wasn’t so much the uniforms as the attitude which came with them.

    Police and military wear uniforms for good reason. They enhance a lot of aspects of certain visual and emotional cues.

    ‘Staff’ or ‘Security’ T-shirts would be better – but even such an innocuous item can still become enough of a ‘uniform’ to create the tin god effect. Just look at what happens at rock concerts etc.

    There is also another, more practical factor – and I cannot speak for if this is unique to our con culture but I suspect it is not. When you are readily visible, a great may people want your help. And most of them do not need it.

    The reality is that at Con there are people who are socially challenged and like to get attention. These people can – and will – waste a truly phenomenal amount of your time given the chance. It was a lesson I learned my very first time running Operations and I have tested it several times since. And while these people are taking up your time they are stressing and tiring you out, wearing you down and fraying your patience. None of which is good for someone trying to do what can already be a difficult job.

    There are a lot of arguments about the cost/benefit ratio of uniformed/marked security. They do have their uses and I would not even try and run a large scale event without at least some of them. However for our particular purpose in this context, they have proven to be a detriment and not an advantage and not just a few times.

    BTW, I love your idea of putting a contact number on the badge back.

    As to training – there might be an agency which could handle it. We have a central committee member who is a manager at a women’s addictions center and generally rely on her expertise when we are unsure how to handle something. So far that’s been plenty.

  215. @flaviousX

    My experience is almost universally with smaller events so I wouldn’t want to comment from experience on scaling.

    That said, my gut says you’d really want some combination of both uniformed/formal and hidden/non-formal operations/security at large conventions. Both have their uses and at a large event I think the sample size would be big enough both would be needed.

    As to smaller scale events – a lot depends on the culture of the group and the nature of the volunteer pool you have. One of the hardest jobs on a convention is Ops/security. If you are doing your job correctly, no one ever sees you (and most will forget about you and never thank you – which you should take as a job well done). When it goes badly few will appreciate it and many will abuse you. Finding someone with the right characteristics to handle that is very tough and most who want the job are people you should NEVER let do it.

    In fact if I’ve learned anything about Ops/sec over a couple decades doing it – it’s that your best people are those doing it with some slight resistance because it needs to be done and there isn’t anyone else terribly suitable. Those are generally your best candidates.

    Also, build up a good cadre of ‘eyes and ears’ which can be a much broader group of people who you can use as extensions of your own senses and will come to you when something is out of line. That can work very well, but again, I wouldn’t try it at a giant convention. You’d need to break something like that up into sections or some such for a process like that to work and it might not be feasible at all.

    And thank you, by the way. I expected a lot of the commentary I’ve seen here (I’ve seen it before) but am glad that the effort was appreciated at least by some.

  216. @Greg – thanks for the Fruit Punch Czar reference. Yes, I’ve seen that a fair bit as well. That’s one of the reasons I’m down on uniformed security. Too many of them are Yoricks and Jans.

  217. @Betsy

    I cannot speak for others, but any society which adopts an approach of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is not one which I would care to spend my (limited) free time associating with.

    Reality is that some people DO lie. Note – no gender discussion here – just people. All genders. All colors. Almost all beliefs. People can lie. People can be jealous and people can be petty.

    That isn’t very nice, it’s true. It is also the way things are.

    YMMV

  218. Nobody is asking for that, Mike. What we are asking for is that the SAFETY of the people at the con be the priority over the feelings of the predator. It’s so simple.

  219. Nobody is asking for that, Mike. What we are asking for is that the SAFETY of the people at the con be the priority over the feelings of the predator.

    You’re assuming that the predator is, indeed, a predator and what one side said was, indeed, truth.

    That’s easier with third person omniscient.

  220. Mike: I beg to submit that “people DO lie” is not the issue. The issues, in my opinion, are: 1. Whether the concept “innocent until proven guilty” means, “I assume the victim is lying until otherwise proven,” and 2. The old chestnut about the tradeoff between safety and freedom. This, too, is not a simple matter, because neither safety nor freedom at an SF convention mean the same thing it means in society at large. That is one of the things that each concom needs to address, and that isn’t as easy to get a handle on as it might appear from outside.

  221. @Steven

    Oh I know. I’ve been doing this for decades – from the inside.

    In such cases – (a single unsubstantiated complaint) there are, as I see it, three possible general course of action:

    1) Assume the complaint is true and act accordingly (in this case banning the person) with all the risks that comes with it.

    2) Assume the complaint is false and tell the victim to screw off (which is absolutely heinous)

    3) Make no assumptions but try to be fair and cautious. Watch the accused for related behaviour and see if a pattern forms, however do not automatically assume guilt.

    We went with the latter.

    I fully admit that there are many possible takes and others would make different choices. We (the entire committee – this wasn’t a decision I made, it was a group one) went with #3 after hours of debate. In the end, the decision was pretty much unanimous that – in this particular instance – it was the best choice.

    Others would, I’m sure, have chosen otherwise. Perhaps rightly. I’m simply conveying our experience and the reasons and thoughts behind it. I am not even entirely sure myself if it was the right thing to do. I think it PROBABLY was, but if someone gets hurt because of it, I will have a hard time with it.

    Yep, it’s a risk. Sucks but there it is. If even a little bit of corroborating evidence turns up against this guy, I’ll be the first to re-open the whole thing.

  222. @gwangung

    Precisely. There is that risk.

    I personally have been accused of some nasty stuff by a bitter ex – without a whit of truth to it. I know from personal experience some people do lie.

    I also worked with the national police in a case investigating a double sexual assault/attempted murder and homocide and helped put that scum away behind bars.

    I’ve seen both sides – and that’s one of the reasons why I’m somewhat conflicted on the issue personally.

  223. At any rate, thank you folks for the discussion and I hope it at least provokes some thoughts on the matter and perhaps discussion. I think I’ve said about all I have to say on this.

    If anyone has any questions I may be able to help with, feel free to message me privately.

    Safe journeys folks,

  224. I’m going to use RAINN stats (I wonder if they could train con members/help create a training program) https://www.rainn.org/statistics

    60% of rapes are never reported.

    Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.

    I believe the number for false reports for rape is around 2-8% (not on RAINN for some reason)

    A convention is not a court of law. No one goes to jail based on the conventions decision.

    This is why I brought up the questions about the purpose of the code of conduct. Check out ADA initiative as it better explains the point I’m trying to get at: https://adainitiative.org/2014/07/handling-harassment-incidents-swiftly-and-safely/

  225. flaviousX:

    Kat, that’s kind of an ungenerous reading of Mike’s comments, imo. In the first case, what I got was that if you have more people like Mike, then things work out.

    So relax, little lady, and the nice man will always rescue you? Um, no, that’s not how it works. And it’s part of that reluctance to actually deal with the problem until you can’t avoid it anymore. The person they assigned didn’t rescue anyone, the con staff didn’t attempt any rescue until there was repeated screaming from the victim and others, and Mike thought a main member of staff harassing women attendees — “hitting on women” — was okay, as long as it didn’t cross what Mike felt was bad, never mind what women felt about being safe or not. This is the standard social attitude — men hitting on women at an event is normal and must be allowed. It’s not considered a disruption. It’s considered the guy’s right to do it and women know they are expected to suck it up. And that the guy is staff and so should not be making attendees uncomfortable by harassing them — that didn’t even occur to this con as a problem.

    The con had a serial harasser, they knew he was one, they let him operate and ignored it, they made it clear that women wouldn’t be listened to so women just passed info among themselves about him until they thought the con would finally take them seriously. And meanwhile this guy harmed a lot of women and a teen at their con. There are probably a lot of women who stopped coming to that con because of this guy being there.

    It’s nothing personal to Mike or anyone at the con, but if I knew about that incident and, more importantly, how the con handled it, then that’s not the con I’d choose to give money to and attend, at least not for several years until new people run it or they have enough incidents that they finally change their reactions and actually follow a con harassment policy enough for people to believe that they will actually follow it. Because look at Elise went through, at what the woman at Mike’s con went through — do you want to be the woman who has to go through that? No, you don’t. And since the con has shown that being that woman is exactly who you have to be, why go there? (Women will sometimes decide to go anyway and try to change things; it’s a personal risk assessment decision that women have to make about going into any public space.)

    So Mike’s con is trying, but because of the social attitudes in transition, the con is slow to move. That’s not a crime, it’s just not an inducement, and it’s a very good example of the same thing occurring at WisCon and ReaderCon. As for the second case, again, if I knew that there were sexual assault claims and the person was allowed to keep coming to the con, I don’t want my daughter there. I would not trust these people to “watch” this guy, given their past record.

    Mike makes the argument that if you throw out or put on a probation ban everyone who has a sexual assault claim against them, then no one will come — that’s an interesting claim. (And also makes one wonder just how many sexual assault claims this con is getting.) It is again the social attitude that male sexual aggression must be catered to and allowed unless it’s in public in front of dozens of witnesses or in the courtroom (and not always then.) That if they toss that disruptor, then men who want to get sexually aggressive won’t come to the con, and that’s the big audience that they don’t want to lose. The reality is that if your con is known to not be safe, women, kids, men who feel vulnerable or are partners — they won’t come to your con. That’s a lot bigger audience for a con to lose. And the lawsuits are a lot more costly and likely to occur, because if that guy comes back and rapes another woman? Yeesh.

    Harassers are smart. Unless they start getting compulsive — which occurs — they try to harass and grab when the woman is alone. They try to avoid witnesses. Because they know that the victims won’t be believed, even if it isn’t the first time there’s been a claim. And they know that because women know they won’t be believed without it happening in Times Square, those women probably won’t report them, meaning the con can ignore the pattern, no matter what the whispers, because there are no “formal” reports and the con doesn’t want to deal with it.

    The con’s stance is the harassers have to be accommodated at the private party, the victims do not. The two cases Mike described are nearly identical to the two cases at WisCon (Frenkel and one other,) and nearly identical to two cases at ReaderCon. The reaction of the con staff is nearly identical to the staff at ReaderCon and WisCon. ReaderCon is starting to turn it around. WisCon may. Mike’s con may. But they are all clear examples of the minefield that women and other vulnerable groups still have to walk through just to attend a public event, and the transition that is still going on with harassment policies, now that more cons have them.

  226. What I meant by more people like Mike, is more people willing to investigate with an open mind. Based on his account, the first investigator botched the job completely. Didn’t even bother, near as I can tell.

    But I agree that these con investigations need not be held to the highest standard of evidentiary proof. Even as a legal matter, that’s strictly a criminal standard. Civil cases only require preponderance of the evidence, i.e., more likely than not. And cons aren’t legal or even quasi legal entities.

    I myself would have banned in the second case Mike mentioned based on a balance of risks. Not a legal standard at all, but a prudential one. Weighing the risks of leaving the guy alone versus banning him, more or less. There’s downsides each way, and I think more with leaving him alone based on Mike’s comments.

  227. The three largest and most rigorous studies of false rape reports have found a false report percentage of between 2-8% . Those are Kelly, Lovett, & Regan, 2005 – a UK study sponsored by the Home Office, Heenan & Murray, 2006, based on police data from Victoria, Australia, and the MAD (Making a Difference) study, a joint US/Canada study in 2006. The US Department of Justice estimate is 2%. The FBI estimates false reporting at about 4%.

  228. Some more thoughts on legal standards of proof.

    They are very high. They assume a supporting framework of legal counsel, testimony under oath, depositions, etc. And the stakes are very high, either in terms of dollars or criminal penalties.

    When you lift those standards of proof into a non legal setting, you’re going to get poor results. The primary task of private security, it seems to me, is threat and risk assessment. Something can become a real risk at a point far below legal proof. If you wait to act on that risk until proof is available, that risk may go from a probability to a certainty. And then it’s too late.

    Let the lawyers worry about proof. Security should concentrate on their own different task. Somebody mentioned bar bouncers uptopic, and that’s a good example. They won’t take your blood alcohol level if you get rowdy; they’ll just toss you and call the cops (who do have legal issues to worry about.)

    If a lot a of cons are mixing these two functions of legal proof and security, they are committing a basic category error.

  229. Betsy: What we are asking for is that the SAFETY of the people at the con be the priority over the feelings of the predator. It’s so simple.

    Well, its simple because you skipped over the part of actually doing ANYTHING remotely reasonable to figure out if the accused is actually a predator. If we got to use that logic, then I could have saved myself months of jury duty and just throw everyone in jail that is charged with a crime. That would certainly be simpler. ANd it would be a nightmare.

    Good governance isn’t simple. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. Vengeance is simple. Fear is simple. Anger is simple. The thing is, the simple solution is lying when it tells you it will solve the problem anyway. It’s just anger telling you it will end well so it can exert force on someone else. That’s all.

    The thing is, the case with Matthesen isn’t evidence against good governance, because it was horrible governance in the first place. Good policies and procedures in place, with transparency and with an eye to wanting proof beyond some minimum doubt, would have banned Frenkel.

    The standard Fox News lie is that following procedures lets the bad guys go free. The standard Fox News lie is that the principles of due process is some sort of suicide pact. But in this case, the problem was that this was horrible procedures, if there was really any procedure at all, not good procedures. It was horrible procedures and people letting their personal squick factors get in the way of due dilligence that came to the result it did.

    bunwat: The FBI estimates false reporting at about 4%

    That disproves assertions by MRA types of rampant occurrences of false accusations of rape by victims. But it doesn’t prove that we should drop due dilegence and good governance and just hang anyone accused. Googling says there were 200,000 rapes reported in 2005. 5% of that is 10,000 people who were accused of rape who were innocent.

    No moral scale can weigh those two numbers and decide the 200,000 outweigh the 10,000 and get rid of due dilegence and due process. And besides, it’s a Fox News channel illusion that dumping due process would make the 200,000 rapes go away anyway. No rubber stamp court/system ever produced such a result. Most made matters worse.

    The underlying lie going on here is that a hanging-court would clean up all the problems while any court with any sort of good governance/due process would let all of the bad guys go free. But the reality is we’re not looking at an example of good governance here. This case was a joke process. ANd the reality is hanging-courts don’t make the problem go away anyway.

  230. flaviusx: Somebody mentioned bar bouncers uptopic, and that’s a good example. They won’t take your blood alcohol level if you get rowdy; they’ll just toss you and call the cops

    THe difference being the bouncer usually sees the guy being rowdy right in front of him.

  231. Dear Mike,

    “Basically if you ban one person based on an accusation, you have to ban EVERYONE about whom there is an allegation.”

    That’s a huge logical fail. No. You don’t have to do that. You do not have to believe two people equally. In fact, in the world at large, you never do. In any kind of an adversary negotiation or proceedings, there will be people on one side or the other or even both who lie to benefit themselves. Happens all the time in courts, in arbitration and mediation proceedings, everywhere. You get “conflicting testimony.” So what do you as the mediator/judge/jury member/whatever do? You decide who you believe more. Sometimes you do it cold, sometimes there is supporting material, but you still do it. You never, ever decide everyone gets treated equally––that everyone is either believed or disbelieved.

    It is not arbitrary, it’s called using judgment.

    What is in fact arbitrary is deciding that you’re never going to believe an unwitnessed, unsubstantiated accusation, no matter how serious. That is arbitrary.

    In the hypothetical example you give, it couldn’t be more clear-cut. Obviously the real incident (of sexual assault) is vastly more credible than accusations and counter accusations between exes. That doesn’t mean the accusation is untrue in the latter case, but you’re basically equating a problematical situation with one that you really don’t believe is problematical at all, and declaring you have no way to differentiate between them.

    I repeat, arbitrary.

    “However if you get a rep for doing it unfairly or willy nilly or unethically – you will quickly have no convention at all. ”

    But having a reputation for tolerating sexual assault because you cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt in criminal court that it occurred, that’s okay? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be yes– that doesn’t damage your reputation at all, and Kat pretty well nailed down why. Because your culture takes far, far more seriously that a man might be unjustly accused and have his privilege of attending a convention removed than that a woman was physically assaulted at that convention.

    When the putatively-false accuser starts to scream, “Why did you believe her and not me?” you don’t have to answer. Or, you can answer with “Because we believedher and we don’t believe you.” You seem to think that is worse somehow then de facto declaring “we don’t believe any of you.” Because that’s what you’re doing when you give the assaulter in your second case a pass.

    As for your vague concerns about legal liability if you review some admission to your convention? God dammit, go pay for a fucking lawyer and get an answer to that. I can’t speak to Canadian law; I’m pretty damn certain under US law that you have the right to refuse admission to anybody who isn’t part of a protected group. Men, as a class, and harassers as a specific instance, are not considered a protected group.

    Or maybe, just maybe we need to get some women to sue some conventions for failing to provide a reasonably safe environment, just to put the fear of God in them the other way. It wouldn’t be my favorite solution, but as long as we have conventions copping out by claiming that they were afraid of being sued for refusing admission to somebody, maybe we need to apply some leverage the other way.

    Or maybe we just need to set up an indemnification, ala Popehat. Create the “anti-harassment legal fund” which will pay your legal bills up to some fairly high amount if some mail is stupid enough to sue you over this. That you can at least guarantee deeper pockets than he has. I’ll contribute.

    I totally get that you guys are trying to do the right thing, but you seriously failed in the second case and your analysis of why you had to do it that way is seriously flawed.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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  232. Mike, in the second case, did anyone interview the guy who was accused?

    I remember reading somewhere that some crazy large percentage of convictions come from confessions. Of course, cops get lots and lots of training to get suspects to confess. But sometimes its as simple as telling him about the accusation and his first response is some tough-guy thing, deep down she liked it, or some such nonsense, at which point, you’ve got a confession. Just escort him out the door, fill in the documents, and have the committee put a ban on him.

    If he denies the accusation, then its a matter of documenting everything you can, the victims report, the accused’s response,, and your assessment of both, and give it to the committee to decide. If nothing else, its on file if another accusation comes up against the same guy.

    lapel (video) cameras would be great for documentation and would be great to convey to any committtee who is believable and who isn’t. It also means security can focus on the interview and what’s being said, rather than trying to keep up and write everything down.

    I think if you document both sides of the story, and if it comes down to he-said-she-said, then I would say if the committtee decides the accuser is more believable than the accused, then that’s still enough to ban the person. With sufficent transparency and procedures….

  233. Dear Greg,

    Good suggestion– it’s remarkable how many people will tip their own hand.

    pax / Ctein

  234. Again, it’s not a personal thing towards people at the con. It’s simply that women and other vulnerable groups have to make risk assessments when going out on the street and to any public space event. If a con like ReaderCon, etc., has been reluctant to deal with harassers, have let harassers on staff operate freely, and don’t do well with reported claims, then a lot of people, especially women, who know about it are not going to come to that con because they judge it not safe and the atmosphere not fun.

    That’s the attendees. For vendors like Elise and female authors, it’s a much stickier situation. They are working the cons for sales and publicity, they have to engage with the attendees and they are often not able to do so in groups. They are highly visible, so they are popular targets of harassers (as are cosplayers who may be there to compete in contests.) So all of these people who are at the con not simply to have a good time, they’ve got to assess a trade off. Go and very possibly get groped or worse and have difficulties selling (or competing in contests, etc.) or stay away and miss out on the career opportunities the male authors, etc., get. So how the con handles things matters a lot to not only their person but their livelihoods.

    For me, for my daughter, if a con has an open serial harasser working as a main part of their staff for years, does nothing about his behavior until someone risks screaming, messes up the investigation until the victims go through more hell and screaming — that con is not safe and we’re not going, no matter how nice the people who run the con are. There are other cons who will give better service.

    The big Comiccons are tricky because obviously it’s a huge event that’s exciting. But because it’s a huge event, there’s a lot of harassment going on and the con can easily hide and ignore it, even serious assaults. You might go to a giant con if there seems to be some policy and some action to deal with problems, even though it’s risky. But I did take Scalzi’s pledge. So I would more likely wait till they catch up.

    It’s a business issue as much as it is a social issue. When cons get that their business requires a safe environment, they eventually fall in line. That’s not a lot of help for someone like Elise, though. And in the meantime, two things happen — some people don’t go to the con because it’s not safe, they choose another con. And second, women and women authors, etc., aren’t going to be driven out of the cons altogether. They will go and they will scream if things happen until the cons start dealing with it the first time, not faintly the second time.

  235. Hi everyone. I’ve never commented before, but I think something hasn’t been addressed yet that is important. For a little while now on this thread, people have been considering the prevalence of false rape reports using numbers from various studies (FBI, etc.). I’m fairly sure (please someone correct me if I’m wrong) that those numbers are for false reports, not false accusations. So the 10,000 falsely accused in Greg’s scenario is too high of a number. 4% of 200,000 is 8,000 and if those are the number of false reports (which, as a group, is necessarily higher than those reports that specifically name the rapist) then the number of people falsely accused is going to be even less. I don’t believe that this fundamentally changes Greg’s argument in any way, but I felt it should be noted.

    I also just wanted to say that I think this discussion has been really informative for those of us who love going to cons, but rarely consider the behind the scenes bits. Thanks for that!

  236. You’re assuming that the predator is, indeed, a predator and what one side said was, indeed, truth.

    gwangung, the problem here is that con committees – Mike’s included – are mixing up two kinds of “fair”. The first, which I think we all agree on, is that there needs to be a fair and consistent process for handling complaints; the idea that ‘we’re all good people here, we’ll figure it out’ is not going to work well, particularly in a community where people are friends of one or more of those involved.

    But the second problem is that Geek Social Fallacies get folded into this process of ‘fair’. And when we focus dealing with a harassment problem on “but what about if the harasser changes” or “but shouldn’t we give them a chance to undo the ban someday”, then yes, we are focusing on the feelings of harassers at the expense of the people they prey on.

    I’m not trying to pick on Mike here, but I am going to point out something from his example of how he, as part of his con, dealt with a serious problem:

    Nonetheless, the person is gone and will likely never be allowed back. At least not without showing that they have had a lot of professional counselling etc. and have really changed. That last is necessary both legally and morally – as people are considered legally to be able to change and, morally – well sometimes people do. Even really bad people really do change sometimes (I have seen this personally) so while one needs to be very careful, one really must not entirely slam the door on a human.

    Why would it be “necessary both legally and morally” to allow a harasser the opportunity to show they have changed? It certainly isn’t “legally” – try suing that bar that 86’d you because it wouldn’t let you back in after you completed an anger management course – and it isn’t “morally”, either. Change does not entitle anyone to an Undo button, or to wipe out the effects of their previous bad behavior. It does not require anyone, cons included, to welcome them back, or, more importantly, to take a gamble on the sincerity and permanence of that change.

    Because seriously, if you think it’s hard for a bunch of con volunteers to figure out an incident that just happened, you can’t possibly think that they’re more capable of figuring out what somebody is going to do in the future. Asking con volunteers to be rehabilitation specialists and therapists, to determine whether somebody may change in the future or whether their professed change is insincere, is unfair and frankly impossible. But that’s what is being asked when a con committee says ‘we have to allow for the possibility of change’ or ‘this ban is only provisional’.

  237. As a not entirely idle point on curiosity, Greg, why on Earth are you talking like it’s remotely reasonable to use standards of evidence for a criminal trial for a con safety decision which is not only not capable of delivering any sort of punishment (let alone equivalent punishment) but not capable of doing the investigations required to produce said standards of evidence in the first place?

    I have seen a lot of commentary about security cosplay and cargo cult due process going around, and this is the one that really genuinely amazes me. I cannot figure out how someone can do the mental gymnastics such that standards used to adjudicate whether or not someone may be locked up for a decade are the correct way to determine whether or not someone is welcome to attend a private gathering.

  238. @kiya_nicoll: Geek Social Fallacies, probably. Exclusion, especially on the level of public expulsion from a given community, is the worst thing imaginable. Add that to a community that as a group has little direct experience with being in the criminal justice system, and you could see why – on an emotional level – you get this inability to fathom that ‘you may not come back to this convention’ and ‘the government will deprive you of your freedom and brand you a criminal’ are, like, seriously different things.

    (To be fair, it IS the case that for many people, being excluded from a convention would be a hardship, because it’s the only one close or their friends all go there or it’s a professional opportunity, or whatever. But as a universal constant? Not really.)

  239. [quote]
    the idea that ‘we’re all good people here, we’ll figure it out’ is not going to work well, particularly in a community where people are friends of one or more of those involved.

    [/quote]

    This is a particularly cogent and apt observation. From what I know about this particular debacle, I suspect that this lies at the crux of the matter, accompanied by generous amounts of “this is making me really uncomfortable so I shall ignore it in the hope that it will vanish in the mist.”

  240. Kiya is making some excellent points here. I also think that Colonel Snuggledorf’s observation about ” generous amounts of “this is making me really uncomfortable so I shall ignore it in the hope that it will vanish in the mist.”” may have some unconscious connection to wanting to set the standard of proof very high. Because if the standard of proof is high enough, if we can’t act without incontrovertible proof, we don’t have to act. We don’t have to wade into the squick but can stand on the edge of the pool saying, well, there’s no real proof…

    Another thing that occurs to me is that so far this discussion has focused very closely on to ban or not to ban. Which, given that it started with discussion of the handling of a specific complaint, well I can see how things went there. I do think however there’s a danger of falling into the assumption that the task of making con spaces safer is the same task as locating and banning all the harassers and abusers. If we could just get rid of the bad apples all would be well.

    There are other things that can be done to make con spaces safer too. There are things that can be done to make the space hostile to abuse that aren’t about hunting the malefactors, but about making the environment not conducive to that kind of behavior.

  241. @Greg– You talk a bit about your experience on a jury, and the various restrictions on the information that you received. What you don’t seem to be factoring in, here, is that there is a byzantine process by which that information is pre-selected. There is an adversarial process where the prosecution and defense jockey for which information can and cannot be introduced, adjudicated by a (hopefully) impartial judge. There are a lot of reasons why our judicial system works this way, but it is important to note that this requires a rather massive infrastructure which cannot possibly be emulated by a convention.

    When a convention is looking at an accusation of harassment, it actually has two questions to address. The first has to do with the actual, reported incident. It needs to determine if that incident is being reported accurately, and it needs to consider the appropriate response in light of the reporter’s situation. While the convention may or may not be able to make the victim whole, certainly the convention needs to at least consider the victim’s needs and desires. However, the second question is also real and vexing. Very, very few harassers are so preferential that they only harass one person. And with a substantiated report of harassment, it then becomes necessary to consider what other damage this harasser may be doing to the community. Because harassment is under-reported, it can be difficult to assess the actual extent of the problem, but nevertheless the convention should be considering the problem as a community problem as well as an interpersonal one. In another venue, I suggested that only looking at the single interpersonal reaction is like only dealing with symptomatic members when the noro-virus was loose at the convention, rather than doing the things that really need to be done, like bleaching everything in sight, changing how food handling is done, and so on. (As all analogies are, this is incomplete and can be misleading. Use with caution.)

  242. @mgwa didn’t get a PM but not sure where it went to.

    (This is Mike M by the way, this is the account my phone wants to use).

    I wasn’t going to comment again on this but it occurred to me that, this being an international community, some clarification may be relevant.

    I use the term ‘sexual assault’ in my posts above in the Canadian legal sense, which is extremely broad.

    To clarify, the very WORST allegations in both cases I mention were legally sexual assault in that context. No one got raped, nor were there any allegations, substantiated or otherwise, to that effect.

    In both cases the worst allegation was of groping a fully clothed body part.

    This did play a part in our decision on banning. If the allegations had been more severe than that I expect the outcome would likely have been different.

    Don’t know if that matters or not to the discussion here, but didn’t want anyone thinking I was in any way good with a rapist running around.

  243. kiya: why on Earth are you talking like it’s remotely reasonable to use standards of evidence for a criminal trial for a con

    I never said a con committee has to meet “beyond a reasonable doubt” standards. I never said they even have to meet “preponderance of doubt” standards. I just said that there should be good procedures in place to deal with the problem that has some modicum of transparency and checks and balances so that one Fruit Punch Bowl Czar doesn’t start banning people for stupid reasons, so that it makes at least some effort to discern false accusations, and so the accuser and accused can follow the process, correct mistakes, and have their side heard.

    The biggest lie going on in this thread is that good procedures would never work, or it would let people like Frenkel get away with stuff, that the only solution is to take any accusation and immediately and without further effort, throw the accused out. The next huge lie going on here is that anyone suggesting good governance type procedures must be wanting people like Frenkel to keep harassing.

    The thing that a lot of folks don’t seem to get is THIS CASE DIDN”T EXHIBIT GOOD GOVERNANCE PROCEDURES. The reason Frenkel got a slap on the wrist was because this was ad hoc Lord of the Flies response and produced an ad hoc Lord of the Flies result. Original reports were lost. Somehow Frenkel got to talk to the committee but Matthesen didn’t. Take the smartest people and throw them into a Lord of the Flies situation and don’t be surprised if you get shitty results.

    But people see this Lord of the Flies process let Frenkel off and then argue that it was Good Governance Failing, and therefore this “proves” we can’t have Good Governance and the only thing we can do is get rid of any process and just ban anyone accused of harassment, with no filter, full stop.

    standards used to adjudicate whether or not someone may be locked up for a decade are the correct way to determine whether or not someone is welcome to attend a private gathering.

    The NoFlyList won’t put anyone in prison for decades. All it does is prevent you from boarding a commericial airliner, i.e. private property.

    The list has been around for a decade or so, and the process is essentially completely opaque. Who is on the list is not known. Who can put you on the list is not known. There is no way to get yourself off the list once you’re on it. There’s been some recent pushback, but meh.

    The point is this is a perfect real world, current day example of what Lord of the Flies type approach looks like: i..e Absolutely horrible. And my point is we shouldn’t do that. And we shouldn’t try to justify it just becaues it doesn’t put someone in jail.

    Doesn’t mean I’m advocating letting Frenkel keep doing what he’s doing. Come up with some good procedures for a good process, make sure it has some transpaerncy and some checks/balances, and have it produce good results.

  244. Dear Greg,

    “The biggest lie going on in this thread is that good procedures would never work”

    Citations, please? I missed that.

    pax / Ctein

  245. Dear Folks,

    So, with all the worrying and handwringing about punch bowl czars or a convention kicking out people willy-nilly for unsubstantiated charges of harassment or getting the pants sued off them for doing so, or being broken by getting a bad reputation for doing so… all these dark and dire fears of the disaster that will result from failing to bend over backwards to protect the rights of the accused…. I gotta simple question:

    How many conventions has this happened to? How many have fallen into this dark and deadly trap? Show of hands, please?

    OK, now how many conventions are having problems with women being harassed, made to feel unwelcome, unsafe, and/or uncomfortable?

    ‘Nother show of hands?

    Uh huh.

    But, yes, it’s ooooooh, soooooo important to put huge amounts of energy into avoiding the currently-hypothetical and likely non-real dangers of rejectionism run amuck, even to the extent that we don’t deal with the second and entirely real problem.

    I totally get that. Makes complete sense to me, how fair, logical, and utterly reasonable that position is.

    (damn, where’s that Comic Sans font tag?)

    pax / Ctein

  246. But… just think of how many women won’t attend a Feminist SyFy convention if some guy complains that his unwanted attentions weren’t, indeed, harassment? Said convention can’t risk losing THOSE attendees. Meh, to the women worried about their safety, livelihoods and, burden free good times. There can’t be very many of those paying attendees… so… shrug! I mean, they’re women. So their primary concern should be Mr. Gropers feelings.

  247. Dear Betsy,

    You’ve convinced me.

    Thank God there’s a spokesman,ummm,woman,umm, person like you who can keep me informed. I never do understand what women think. I am now much better informed.

    pax / Ctein

  248. bunwat:

    There are other things that can be done to make con spaces safer too. There are things that can be done to make the space hostile to abuse that aren’t about hunting the malefactors, but about making the environment not conducive to that kind of behavior.

    That’s what the having a harassment policy, having it openly and clearly communicated to attendees on the website, at the con, etc., and having that harassment policy followed all come into play. This isn’t actually about hunting malefactors at all. It’s about the con seriously taking making a safe environment, not ignoring problems, and properly processing claims according to their policy. A clearly stated policy lets harassers know that forms of behavior are less tolerated, lets women and others know that if they get harassed it will be taken seriously, etc. At least it’s supposed to. But when the con staff is reluctant to follow their own policy, then it’s communicated to women that the con isn’t even attempting safety. Better to go to another con, if possible, that does.

    Another thing is having panels with groups talking about harassment, gender and civil rights issues, in the entertainment and in the community, working with groups trying to improve convention spaces. The con I went to did that, a con like WisCon certainly should be doing that. But if the staff won’t enforce their own rules in this area, that’s not going to be considered a safe environment. Remember, women are used to being told that there’s nothing that can be done and they should keep quiet about it. When a con staff communicates that message, they are going to get both people leaving, and people lodging protests that are not good for the rep of the con.

    Mike —

    Nobody thinks that you think rape is a good thing. But groping is assault — it’s not an overly broad term. It’s the same as punching the woman in the face. Someone who gropes can also be someone who rapes — for women, groping means that a con isn’t safe unless the con takes it seriously. Groping is also, as women know, not necessarily about sex. (Nor is rape really about sex.) Harassers often know that they aren’t getting sex from the woman. They just want to humiliate and scare her, make her feel upset and helpless, exert power and control of the environment, and mess up her con and then watch her squirm because nobody gives a shit.

    Your con’s incident is almost exactly like the WisCon and ReaderCon incidents, and bears resemblance to others both more and less extreme, such as DragonCon and recent incidents at NYCC. Specifically, the con staff has a serial harasser as prominent staff, lets the harasser operate for years in positions of power with excuses and ignoring the problem, until they are forced to confront the problem by someone being brave enough to make a claim, usually then followed by many other claims that had been squelched, then trying to bury the problem, until more screaming ensues, and then finally dealing with the problem. It’s that reluctance that adds these layers of delay and mess. Meanwhile, your con lost a lot of customers from that — word gets out. And people are more likely now to raise holy hell if there are claims and let the greater world know if the con drags its feet dealing with it. They certainly will at least talk to each other in warning about it. If the con can have a better track record, then that’s going to strengthen it. But first, you have to deal with that reluctance to have the better track record.

    I’m sure that Elise does not believe that the con staff were happy that Frenkel harassed her and others. They still threw her under the bus anyway. Good wishes don’t mean squat when you’re dealing with whether a con will be seen as safe or not.

    And it’s going to get more and more important because the women and non-whites, and teen girl cosplayers, etc. are not going away. Women authors and vendors are not going to accept discrimination for their careers. And they will keep raising hell because raising hell has been effective in getting cons to have harassment policies and then actually follow them. The climate is shifting and cons need to catch up. It’s a good time for cons now, but that just means that the people throwing the party are going to have to work even harder at this issue, instead of wishing it would go away.

    It’s really an education issue. But it’s a difficult one because many very nice guys are totally unaware that women deal with this stuff every day, first off, so you have to expend a lot of energy convincing them the problem exists in the first place. And then the general social attitude is that men should have the right to prowl and harass in public spaces and women should put up with it or at least not get so upset and vocal. That is part of the social attitude that women’s bodies are property and women are lesser. (We’re focusing on the women here because they take the brunt of it, but it extends to others including straight men.)

    So it’s not a matter of chasing bad apples down and persecuting them. It’s a matter of dealing with the nice people who pretend the problem is not there and then try to make it go away, allowing the bad apples to cause a lot of damage. Who do not, with the best of intentions, live up to their word — the harassment policy. That’s why Scalzi did not go to SDCC itself — they had their policy but they aren’t living up to it. But SDCC was moved, because of complaints, to start at least making a half-hearted assurance that they will live up to their word. But not everybody’s buying that yet. But they are aware that they are going to have to eventually change.

  249. To summarize what I’ve gotten from this conversation so far (265+ comments). We agree we need to find a better way to make cons safer for people – harassment is bad.

    A few people managed to derail us by focusing on due process, false accusations, menz not coming because their actions might be mistaken for harassment, crazy banning so their will be no one to come, etc..

    Things I felt people mostly agreed on:
    1. Cons need to keep in mind the reason for Code of Conduct and SOP is to minimize harassment/maximize safety at con (this seems to be missing as a step in many SOP and decisions causing outrage)
    2. Cons need a well stated code of conduct
    3. Cons need a good SOP before a crisis
    4. Training of staff is desperately needed (possibly before drawing up CoC & SOP) – in-person, online/role playing (local rape crisis center, RAINN, ADA initiative, crowdfund a group for cons – combination?)
    5. Cons need to uphold their CoC – don’t have one if you aren’t going to enforce it (or conversely state that harassers are welcome)
    6. Everyone from the reporter/harassed to the people charged with enforcing the CoC are likely to have sqick/icky factor when a crisis arises – be aware – think in advance how you are going to handle this (SOP & training/role playing)
    7. Try to have as few conflicts of interest as possible with the group making a final decision on how to handle a particular situation (co-workers/BFFs/etc. probably shouldn’t be deciding unless no one else is available)

    We, those who’ve been abused and our allies, are no longer willing to continue being harassed, groped, yelled at, spoken to inappropriately, frightened, raped, etc. We are demanding action be taken.

  250. Ctien:

    I read your reply as a sarcastic joiner to my comment. (Perhaps I had a detection fail?) I keep my comments brief in order to avoid malleting when my blood gets angry. I value all of your input deeply, as it gives me hope, education, and brings me back down to a rational space. Thank you.

  251. Greg: “The biggest lie going on in this thread is that good procedures would never work”

    ctein: Citations, please? I missed that.

    well as a recent example:

    ctein: But, yes, it’s ooooooh, soooooo important to put huge amounts of energy into avoiding the currently-hypothetical and likely non-real dangers of rejectionism run amuck

    the lie here is that good procedures must be huge amounts of energy. The lie here is that good procedures must be all about hypothetical, non-real dangers.

    So, yeah, right there is the lie that good procedures won’t work, are too much work, can’t be implemented, and are worried about things that dont exist. You provided your own answer.

    How many conventions has this happened to? How many have fallen into this dark and deadly trap? Show of hands, please?

    This is a strawman. That isn’t the only concern. It isn’t the only worry. I had a friend who was falsely accused of rape, was arrested, put in jail for a while before he got bail, spent thousands of dollars on a lawyer, and then the woman dropped charges just before trial.

    That’s real world. And you can try to pose the “show of hands” question so that it avoids this reality, but it doesn’t fly. The reality is this: THERE WILL BE FALSE ACCUSATIONS. And it might be 5% but if you have nothing in the procedures to deal with that, then I say you’re making this either/or when it doesn’t have to be.

    i.e. you’re argument only works if our choices are limited to: (1) either we let harassers go to avoid punishing people falsely accused. or (2) we punish everyone accused and to hell with procedures because procedures, my god, they’re, what did you say, oh yeah, huge amounts of energy.

    I’m saying we can have good procedures/policies to deal with false accusations and still ban people like Frenkel.

    Your framing this using a fallacy known as “bifurcation”.

  252. Dear Betsy,

    Uh, yeah. I was following in the “Comic Sans” vein that I started with my “simple questions” and you responded to. I kinda assumed everyone would get that, seeing as it’s not like either of us are shy about hiding our politics in these matters and they’re pretty clearly in accord, and understand we’re riffing off each other.

    Clearly, bad assumption.

    So, yeah, John, I totally got it. My bad, I shoulda been less subtle.

    Apologies for any confusion that ensued.

    (godammit, i want that font tag!)

    pax / Ctein

  253. I’m so tired of hearing about “that one dude who was falsely accused of rape that one time” as if it has anything to do with the discussion at hand. But then, this is the struggle that we encounter whenever we try to focus any time and energy on the targets of harassers. It’s always brought around to how important it is to focus on the accused. Thus, reinforcing the idea that the baseline thought is that the victims are automatically assumed to be liars. I simply cannot understand why there is such backlash against changing that baseline thought. Is it because women (and victims in general) are used to it, and golly, why change the status quo?

  254. Dear Greg,

    I never said, won’t work. No one else did, to my reading. No one even implied it. Citation-fail on your part.

    I’m fed up with comparing kicking someone out of a con to being put on the Do Not Fly List, prosecuted for rape, required to file as a sex offender or whatever other bit of nonsense you want to trot out. Equating all that is like equating a BB gun and a Howitzer.

    All the rest– misread,misconstrue,failfailfail. Really, not even going to try with you.

    Have a nice day … arguing with someone else.

    pax / Ctein

  255. ctein: I never said, won’t work.

    Oh give me a break. good procedures do not require huge amounts of energy. Good procedures are not unworkable. It’s a lie. You’re heavily sarcastic “huge amounts of energy” post was entirely a strawman that had nothing to do with the reality of good procedures.

    If you want to play language lawyer games because you didn’t use the words “won’t work” even though your point was this is completely and totally unworkable because oh so much energy, then you’re not arguing in good faith.

    Betsy: I’m so tired of hearing about “that one dude

    First of all, I personally know that one dude and all the shit he went through for something he didn’t do. A good chunk of time in jail and thousands of dollars he had to spend and never got back.

    as if it has anything to do with the discussion at hand.

    because its not just one person. If you think there will never be a false accusation of harassment at a convention, you’re being naive. If you think there will be false accusations but you don’t care, then you’re being irresponsible.

    Which is it?

    It’s always brought around to how important it is to focus on the accused.

    It’s not one is more important than the other. We can have both. We can deal with real harassment like Frenkel with a system that filters false accusations. Frenkel wasn’t let off because people thought Matthesen’s accusation was false. Frenkel was let off because of ad hoc procedures gave totally ad hoc results.

    reinforcing the idea that the baseline thought is that the victims are automatically assumed to be liars.

    It’s not a binary thing. It’s not just “truth” or “false”. There is a third, and very important, state called “unknown”. When I was on jury duty, I started from a point of view of “I don’t know if this person is guilty or innocent, lets look at the evidence”. That to me is how good procedures would deal with it.

    That’s not the same as starting out with “the victim is lying”. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you. But you’re horrendously strawmanning the issue.

  256. Dear Greg,

    No that was NOT my point. It was not anyone’s point. You’ve made that up.

    That’s not a “laywer” game, You are massively misereading. It’s hard not to see it as intentional. I’m working at it, but you’re pushing…

    pax / Ctein

  257. Dear Betsy,

    Amen!

    (Should that be “awomen”?)

    [Yes, yes, yes, that's a joke! Comic Sans, okay?]

    Anyway, what you said.

    I have a profound aversion to ad hominem arguments, but I think I’m allowed to perpetrate them on myself. Many decades ago, I was falsely accused of rape at a convention. I was lucky. The woman who accused me was known to be highly unreliable, and I don’t mean that in the male sexist “don’t believe women” unreliable way. I mean as in the “when people expressed doubt, she asserted that I had used witchcraft to render her senseless” way. Not making that up.

    But, you know, it could’ve gone the other way. She could’ve been someone credible enough that by even the much more sexist attitudes of the times, her charge would’ve been taken seriously. It could’ve happened to me.

    You know what? Hasn’t changed my attitude one bit about how seriously such complaints of assault and harassment should be taken. Shit happens. Sometimes there are miscarriages of justice. Sometimes the innocent are convicted. And I have done butt-stupid and inappropriate and insensitive things in my much younger days (note, details will not be forthcoming). I’m lucky; shit hasn’t happened to me. But it could, and that doesn’t mean the system is a failure or that I’m going to turn into one of those horrid MRA types because, you know, I could have been shat on.

    Actually, it’s not luck. It’s privilege. Other than the queer thing, which is easily hidable in this society, and the nonpracticing Jew thing, which is nowhere as big a handicap as it used to be, I not only get to play on the easiest level I get automatically given a whole bunch of free lives and bonus points. It protects me from a lot of shit.

    And I don’t even have to pay any attention to that, which is a lot of what I hear in all this chest beating about how awful it would be if someone got banned from the convention and they weren’t actually guilty, not to mention the dire predictions of mass ejections if we don’t bend over double-backwards to avoid such a heinous miscarriage of justice. It’s massive privilege. It’s a geek rejection syndrome, coming from men who honestly seem to think that the absolute very worst thing that could possibly happen to them would be if they couldn’t go to one particular convention.

    To which my sincere and unsympathetic reaction is: boy, do they lack imagination. And perspective.

    It’s the same lack of imagination (and perspective) that lets them equate being rejected from a convention with being prosecuted for rape in the criminal courts. It conflates the trivial with the profound and declares them all to be comparable. Because, you know, it’s The Principle Of The Thing.

    Finally, here’s my thinking on the (dubious) 95%-5% statistic. Let’s assume you buy into that… and let’s assume you’ve straitjacketed everyone into a one-size-fits-all policy (kind of like what Mike Major’s con did). That’s still telling you that if you believe the woman, 95% of the time you’ll be eliminating a harasser… And if you don’t believe the woman, 95% of the time you’re going to be leaving him to run free at the convention. So if you’re going to err in your policy, which way is the sensible way to err?

    In truth, it wouldn’t even be as bad as that, because people will apply judgment and they will attempt to sort reliable from unreliable testimony. Unless they’re buying into the idiot “we have to treat everyone exactly equally” trope, they will use nuance and adaptability. And, there will still be the pervasive-as-air culture of denial that will encourage people to discount accusations or even to report them.

    So, I’m imagining, maybe one man in 100 who’s ejected for harassment will turn out to be entirely innocent. The other 99 will no longer be able to harass women at that convention. I can live with that. Really easily.

    Oh yeah, let me know when we actually reach the level of 100 fans having been ejected from science fiction conventions for harassment. So I can start to feel sorry for the unknown one [comic sans, again]. I’m guessing I don’t need to start feeling sorry yet.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  258. ctein, Greg:

    Best you two separate for the rest of the thread. Further comments from either of you directly to each other will be snipped out. IT’S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.

    (Which means that Ctein has gotten the last word. Sorry, Greg, luck of the draw, there.)

  259. Dear Folks,

    OK, just in case it’s still not clear.

    I got sarcastic in my “show of hands” comment. Betsy responded with a “what you said” in . Which I totally got, so I played “what you said” back, continuing the sarcastic vein.

    Which somehow got lost in the perception.

    Betsy and I are good. We are in accord in that exchange. We were riffing. But, it appears to have created genuine confusion.

    Mea culpa.

    pax / Ctein

  260. AAUGH, word salad!

    Meant to write: “Betsy responded with a “what you said” in a similar sarcastic vein.”

    pax / Ctein

  261. Scalzi: Best you two separate for the rest of the thread.

    Sure. If we can’t even agree what the word “work” means, going in circles seemed inevitable.

    Sorry, Greg

    me too.

  262. Quoting Kat:

    “That’s what the having a harassment policy, having it openly and clearly communicated to attendees on the website, at the con, etc., and having that harassment policy followed all come into play. This isn’t actually about hunting malefactors at all. It’s about the con seriously taking making a safe environment, not ignoring problems, and properly processing claims according to their policy. A clearly stated policy lets harassers know that forms of behavior are less tolerated, lets women and others know that if they get harassed it will be taken seriously, etc. At least it’s supposed to. But when the con staff is reluctant to follow their own policy, then it’s communicated to women that the con isn’t even attempting safety. Better to go to another con, if possible, that does.

    “Another thing is having panels with groups talking about harassment, gender and civil rights issues, in the entertainment and in the community, working with groups trying to improve convention spaces. The con I went to did that, a con like WisCon certainly should be doing that. But if the staff won’t enforce their own rules in this area, that’s not going to be considered a safe environment. Remember, women are used to being told that there’s nothing that can be done and they should keep quiet about it. When a con staff communicates that message, they are going to get both people leaving, and people lodging protests that are not good for the rep of the con.”

    The first paragraph is very much what I’ve been saying to people in person when the topic comes up. While I think the whole process is very important–how complaints are handled, how accusers, harassers, and accused harassers are treated–we, as a community, aren’t going to be able to Fix It All Right Away.

    But what I see, after each incident and each flurry of outrage, is the idea that somehow because we can’t fix it all right away, we can’t fix anything. People get bogged down in the macro (the big issue of harassment) and stop trying to deal with the micro (what can we do right now to start changing community standards and habits).

    Having a harassment policy.

    Posting a harassment policy.

    Having a specific safe space that people know exists and can find easily.

    Training people (teaching people, if you prefer that term) how to respond when someone says something happened (and not just safety/security people–everyone needs to know what the procedure is, even if the procedure is “call this number.”).

    Keeping track of what is reported both during a con and from year to year, so that repeat offenders can be identified.

    Having some form of visible safety team (t-shirts or hats or whatever) and/or an easily found, prominently displayed (or on the badges), phone number to reach security/safety people.

    Talking about what harassment is–in panels, in discussion groups, wherever.

    Encouraging people to step in and stop it, to respond negatively when they see it happening in front of them (even if the offender is a friend). To document (cell phone camera) if possible.

    Changing what happens at conventions should happen even before/while the larger processes are created and tried out. Otherwise we’re all just shouting into the wind.

  263. lol and then I read on and saw that Tasha said pretty much everything I just said. So ignore me.

  264. Oh, and my thoughts about the “what about the false accusation” issue?

    We’re not talking about sending people to jail.

    And no one is saying that punishments should be one-size-fits-all. I don’t think anyone here has advocated perma-banning for a single incident/accusation, absent demonstration of pattern.

    Being asked to leave a convention, being banned for a year or two, is not the end of the world (even if it happens as the result of a false accusation). There are many conventions that people can attend.

    It’s an interesting derail, but it’s beside the point. Even if someone wants to insist that it isn’t.

  265. MNmom and Kat Goodwin, you both said Frenkel was in on the planning of the event. He was not. Not sure where you’re getting that. God knows we screwed up, but not in that particular way. He did volunteer, which was a bad enough idea.

    I see several lessons:

    Don’t have single or small group points of failure. The ConCom as a whole needs to stay alert that those entrusted with a task are on course.

    Do weigh safety and comfort of attendees over redemption. This doesn’t mean zero tolerance, but it is a shift in mindset.

    Don’t consider only the reported incident. The question is not whether a particular incident was serious, but whether this is a person you want to allow back. That means you have to look at their history of behavior.

    Do make sure you have those procedures in place, and people able to handle them year-round.

    Allow for the squick factor in everyone involved. (Thank you, Teresa!)

    If something makes your heart sink, speak up. This one is a personal failure I’ve been guilty of more than once.

    Being of good will and working hard on something doesn’t guarantee a good result.

    I’ll probably think of more.

  266. Melissa Ann Singer:

    But what I see, after each incident and each flurry of outrage, is the idea that somehow because we can’t fix it all right away, we can’t fix anything.

    That’s a common defensive stance. It’s “you’re angry even though we tried and so nothing we can do will make you less angry so we might as well give up and completely ignore the issue because it’s impossible and the women attendees, vendors and authors will have to suck it up and not make such a fuss.” It’s not that they want victims to suffer. It’s just that reluctance to deal with the area of difficulties. (I guess that is indeed the ick factor.) That will change because more cons will have workable policies that they actually follow and the other cons will eventually follow suit.

    Lenore Jones:

    <MNmom and Kat Goodwin, you both said Frenkel was in on the planning of the event. He was not. Not sure where you’re getting that.

    According to numerous accounts, Frenkel was involved in the programming for the 2014 con and as such was possibly going to be on some panels. However, some people involved raised an outcry when the news got out, and so Frenkel was demoted to just volunteering in the con welcome suite. Which also raised an outcry.

    Since he didn’t actually appear on any panels or other programming, it’s an otherwise not that important point, except that it shows perhaps part of the cluelessness that was going on. It’s possible that there is confusion on this point; you’d be in a better position to find out.

  267. Kat Goodwin: I see what you’re saying. That’s not being in on planning, though. Signing up for programming is done online by the prospective participant. The planning part of programming is done by the Programming staff. Once they’ve come up with a program, they match interested people with panels and send out the results to discover conflicts. Where we failed was in A) not anticipating Frenkel signing up as a participant; and B) not making any decision about it even when we found out. We were relieved when he backed out due to the outcry, but did nothing to make it happen.

    I am, by the way, incredibly grateful for all the careful thinking going on here. This is a culture change, and feminists are affected by our culture, too. It turns around and bites us on the butt sometimes when we don’t realize how affected we are. I’m so sorry Elise and Lauren and everyone else got caught up in it. We are working very hard to change things now. (Many hundreds of committee emails go by between public updates. It may look like nothing is happening sometimes, but it’s not so. There’s a lot of anguish and a lot of hard work. No guarantee we’ll get it right, but with all your help I trust we’ll get there.)

  268. Lydy, the point of the jury duty story wasnt to lobby for a massive byzantine process for conventions. The point was that even given all the process to present the best evidence to a jury in the most fair nd just way possible, the first vote we took had half the jury say guilty and half the jury say not guilty. The point waseven under the best circumstances, the first assessment resulted in half the jury being wrong.

    An ad hoc process will produce even worse results.

    Procedures for dealing with harassment dont need to be byzantine like a criminal trial. But they need to be responsible for the reality that a large chunk of the people who will enforce the policies will likely get it wrong at firat blush. Some people will get squicked out and want to make it go away as quickly as possible. They might sweep it under the rug or just automatically ban everyone just so thry dont have to deal witg their squick reaction. There will be Fruit Punch Czars who will view a decision to ban as a reflection of how impressive they are and will view no-ban as a reflection of their weakness. There will be people who have been harassed who will be biased in their assessment. There will be people who know the accused or the accuser and will side with them no matter what.

    The point is any one designing a process for dealing with harassment needs to start with the notion that even under the best circumstances a large chunk of people could be wrong, and try to design at least a minimal process to try andcorrect for that.

  269. Since this looks to be winding down, I’ll just sign off on Tasha’s list and thank everyone here for filling me in on the details. It’s been educational. Apologies for occasionally coming off as confrontational, but I came into this with a ton of questions and wanted them answered. By and large, they have been. Best wishes to all and hopefully we’ll see gradual improvements on the matter.

  270. Lenore: “dont have single or small group points of failure”

    This. The importance of transparency is specifically to enlarge the number of eyeballs on the issue so more people can raise a flag when it goes off the rails. Having the entire concom would be better than having one person make a judgement.

    The other way to widen the group size would be to keep the accuser and accused informed of the process as it moves along. Like “this is the report that eill be presented to committe for a decisiin”. And if, for example, the victim’s side is completely watered down, there is a chance to correct it before the decisiin making process starts.

  271. A friend who organizes academic conferences added a couple of ideas when I posted the gist of this discussion on Fb. I think these are worth passing along.

    1) in addition to having the code of conduct on the website, make reading/agreeing to the code a requirement to purchase membership. Now, we all know that most of the time people just click “agree” when they see the little boxes, without reading the TOS or Terms and Conditions, but it would be a start.

    2) if there is a local rape crisis center, in addition to considering asking them for help with training, ask if they can supply volunteers to the event, either on-site or on-call, to deal with reports. This would potentially eliminate some of the squick factor for organizers and volunteers.

  272. @Melissa, those seem like great additions, especially proactively involving people who are already trained as part of the volunteer crew or as paid consultants if you can budget it (they survive on a shoestring budget and do awesome work, so anything to help them cover costs is important).

  273. I’d just like to mention that when the initial statement/decision came out, I was startled by how people read it. I mean, it was hedgy and I was not happy with it either, but reading between the lines I was pretty sure that “compelling” evidence meant something along the lines of “divine intervention by at least three goddesses from at least two different pantheons.” Took me a while to catch up and realize that the subcommittee were privileging redemption.

  274. Great additional points @Melissa.

    @Xopher an additional point I’m thinking needs to be added based on your comment:
    When making a statement to the public about your decision run it past a few people who know nothing about the decision to make sure it’s easy to understand and says what you want it to say

  275. In re uniforms and ribbons: I’m a big fan of brightly colored T-shirts or vests. Preferably red. Preferably bought by the con and returned to con as staffers leave. Badge ribbons saying “Security” are also good, but they’re hard to spot across a room. We (members of the Dorsai Irregulars) also have our distinctive hat-with-flag, and hats can be spotted across a crowded room when shirts cannot. Alas, some of our members are short and some of our staff are non-Irregular volunteers. So we go with the shirts or vests.

    Shirts/vests also have an ancillary benefit: take them off, and you’re essentially invisible as security. We tell our folks to take off their shirt when off-duty. The last thing we or the attendees want is for a security staffer to say “sorry, I’m off duty” and not help them. So if they wear the shirt off-duty, we and the attendees read that to mean they’re available to be grabbed now when something comes up. Yes, wearing the shirts off-duty does make a nice visible deterrent. You just have to be willing to accept the responsibility that comes with it.

    Non-con uniform security: It can work great as ancillary support for con staff, given the right security groups. We have uniformed off-duty Allegheny county officers at Anthrocon, and we adore them. I think they were uncomfortable with us the first year, but after that it’s been great. I’ve also seen some off-duty police staff that I wouldn’t want to work with ever again – and no doubt they think the same of us.

    Knowing what these guys get paid, I doubt smaller cons can afford it.

    Quoted for truth from Mike Major:

    We have had some advocates in recent years – most of whom are too young to know about the debacle we had with uniformed security in our early years – who have suggested that it should be tried. Us old grey folks have to dissuade them based on experience they are generally too young to remember.

  276. Sorry, I’m getting way off topic for the original post. A couple of things I want to add w/r/t to the general discussion . . .

    @Mike Major: In re your “episode two” assault case – been there, did that. Your actions may have made you and the reporting party uncomfortable and unsatistfied, but it’s the best that can be done. I salute you for doing the right thing.

    In re your “lobes” description post – awesome. If it weren’t a 20-hour drive between our venues, I’d be happy to have you and yours on our Anthrocon staff; and would be equally happy to work for you at Keycon.

    @elusis: Nice taxonomy of volunteers and their good and bad points. Deadly accurate, too. I would add that without the work that some of the less flawed volunteers get done, most cons would not happen. Eliminate them, and (mostly) eliminate the cons. It’s why such flaws are often tolerated.

    In re security volunteers: we do not accept walk-up volunteers at the more difficult cons. We insist on trying them out as low-level staff at small ones where we can see them in action. And there are some volunteers (usually dressed at jack-booted thugs) who we reject instantly. Far too many volunteer security staff want to exercise power rather than gently maintain order. But let’s not go into our own history . . . been there, did that, learned. Continue to learn.

    @Melissa Ann Singer: Thank you for general, sensible overall discussion. Should we ever meet face to face (clearly we run in some of the same circles) I’d be pleased to shake you hand.

  277. I know, I said I was done, but am still catching up on the thread:

    In re putting security/conops contact phone number on back of badge: Brilliant. I smack myself about the head and shoulders for not having thought of it. Just went and checked my recent badges for most large cons attended, and yep, they all have stock per-con printing on the back. Have passed the idea on to those cons.

    In re “doing it right” (having policy, definitions, process, and training in same) requiring a great deal of energy vs not requiring a great deal of energy: I think the diversity of opinions here and the strength with with some of the positions are held answers that question decisively. It is hard, it must be kept up to date, it will require ongoing training, and therefore it does require a great deal of ongoing energy.

    Finally, there’s more than one hand I want to shake here, so nobody should feel excluded just because I didn’t call them all out.

    And with that, I’m up to date.

  278. @Kat Goodwin: I think what bunwat was trying to say was 1) a disciplinary reaction is not the be-all and end-all of stopping harassment and 2) it’s bad if a con uses the existence of a harassment policy as an excuse to do nothing else. Especially when doing something else might mean uncomfortable discussions or conflict, like telling a con committee head too stop hitting on the new volunteers at planning meetings, or nixing programming art that makes the con look like it gets ts stock images from the Loviatar Pin-Ups and Bondage Models Graphics Company. If a harassment policy is simply something that everyone uses to congratulate themselves on being proactive, and to assure themselves that the problem of harassment is now solved forever, that is itself a big problem.

  279. @Steve: thanks, and I’d be happy to shake your hand as well. I haven’t been much on the conference/convention circuit in recent years (single parenting, and also, I don’t edit much sf/f these days, mostly horror/UF, mystery/thriller), but now that my daughter is starting college, I hope to travel a bit more. So you never know where we might bump into each other!

  280. I note with interest the announcement that the convention committee has revisited the issue, and “by an overwhelming majority,” has voted to permanently ban the individual who perpetrated the offense. http://wiscon.livejournal.com/420368.html

    That is an excellent first step, and I am very glad to see it. I hope it will be followed by many additional equally productive steps. In a perfect world, some of those steps might even be informed by the commentary in this thread.

    We can but hope.

  281. Colonel Snuggledorf, this thread is being read by members of the Concom and their friends and minions (I’m a friend and minion myself). Lenore Jones, who commented earlier, is a member of the Concom, and can be relied on to be sincere when she says she’s grateful for the helpful suggestions.

  282. @Obsidian Blue: While it is, of course, your choice to not attend a con… it is discussions like these that make cons an even more wonderful place for all people to gather. There is a lot of shouting about instances of harassment because we are trying to change the culture of ignoring harassment and protecting the predators. By and large, the con experience is wonderful and packed with astounding characters. It’s just that we’re done with suffering any and all boundary crossing. For me, I want to be able to report when I have been groped (by yet another man or woman), have it taken seriously so that other people don’t become victims, and return to my good times without it being shrouded in frustration and anger.

  283. Dear Folks,

    I gotta say that “antarcticlust” has done a fabulous job of communicating clearly, openly and calmly with the outside world, in the face of a huge firestorm of (entirely justified) criticism that would drive most of us into the bunkers.

    She has several new valuable explanatory comments at the above livejournal link.

    A big, big bravo to her. Gold stars

    pax / Ctein

  284. @ctein – could you please provide the link? I’m not finding any recent comments by her, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong place (wouldn’t be the first time).

  285. Colonel: voted to permanently ban

    Good end result. Hopefully, they can get some processes and procedures in place to improve their odds of getting good results more consistently and without having to visit, revisit, and visit again, the prior decisions. The fact that Matthesen’s original report wasn’t included in the committee report as some kind of addendum just boggles my mind. Including it doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, but it does mean her version of what happened is part of what the committee bases its decision on, rather than someone else’s watered down version. Maintaining even a basic papertrail probably would have averted this entire problem.

  286. I’ve realised that my desire to award the large platinum star to Elise might be construed as denigrating antarticlust’s role in this; that was not my intention. Anyone who has read the immensely long exchanges on her journal as she began to recognise the immensity of the problem, and her own part in it, must, I think, recognise her willingness to abandon the cargo cult beloved of those crying ‘due process’, and get into what actually happened.

    She responded to almost all of the posts, and she was undoubtedly shocked by what she learned from Elisa and others, and downright horrified when she realised that the con had simply accepted that Frenkel couldn’t apologise due to a NDA from Tor without even bothering to check this was true with Tor. It wasn’t; the guy had lied.

    So, kudos indeed to antarticlust’s efforts: her apology was the real thing, in an Internet knee deep in pseudo apologies, and her efforts to get a vote out to override the allegedly final result have been rewarded.

    I expect that people will now start wailing about how dreadfull this is for Frenkel, but I really don’t care. I’m interested in the safety of people who attend cons, and it seems to me to be reasonably sure that his banning will increase the safety of those attending cons.

    I’m glad that Elise’s willingness to engage, on a number of levels and a number of fronts, has finally resulted in something which has been dragged under the spotlights and challenged…

  287. Greg,

    There was a vast amount of stuff not passed on, but sadly I doubt that a paper trail would have fixed it: I’d love to believe it, but it was the mind sets of the people involved in that insane decision who brought it about; mind sets are not easily overturned by anything so trivial as evidence…

  288. Stevie, my understanding is that the number of committee members who resigned did so because they found out that they had been made to make a decision lacking even the most rudimentary information. I assume that had they been given even the basics, like Elise’s original report, they would have voted for a different result. Otherwise, why would they resign in protest other than to protest the process they had been a part of?

    It might not have changed the initial decision, maybe they would have been outvoted anyway. But I think the odds would have been very much improved simply by having the original report and a good papertrail, given how many resignations there were.

  289. Elise has been nothing short of heroic, despite outrageous behavior by Frenkel and outrageous failures by WisCon.

    And, of course, people are complaining about this decision. The very first comment on the Livejournal page is a complaint about the decision being revisited, and not allowing an appeal. It ends “I have to wonder if WisCon really as inclusive and enlightened as we would like to believe.”

    Inclusive? The use of that word makes me wonder. I’d be surprised if this is a Frenkel sockpuppet, but I’m sure we’ll be hearing from one (or more) before too long.

  290. [quote]
    … Frenkel sockpuppet, but I’m sure we’ll be hearing from one (or more) before too long.
    [/quote]

    Oh, yah, you betcha. Got a bet going with myself as to which one is gonna be first, too. He’s on BFF terms with several folks who really ought to know better.

  291. New Rule: If you file a harassment complaint, make sure you keep a copy for yourself.

    It could come in handy in case they “lose” their copy.

  292. I don’t know any of the people involved. Reading Elise & Lauren& Makki’s posts about all they’ve been through I’m amazed by the strength they showed to keep putting pressure on Wiscon to take their complaints seriously and hold them responsible for their Code of Conduct.

    antarcticlust willingness to talk about how the subcommittee created a process and came to a bad decision and admit how and where things went wrong as well as making repeated apologies hopefully will help in creating better processes in the future. I was impressed with her ability to not get overly defensive or shut down the discussion.

    Between Readercon and Wiscon very public disasters we can hope that other cons are taking steps to not be the next big disaster. It would be good to know that this was a learning process for the larger community and that discussions about what went wrong and suggestions for how to tackle these issues will be put to good use.

  293. I was recently invited to a writers’ conference based at a university. I asked about the harassment policy and was told that the university’s policy would cover the writers’ conference. I’ve read the policy and it’s a fairly standard one for a college (I’ve read a lot of college ones in the last year as my daughter has been applying to colleges).

    However, apparently as a result of my inquiry into the policy’s existence, the conference organizer is planning to have the link posted on the conference’s registration page in some obvious manner.

    So there’s that.

  294. Xopher: your scare quotes are uncalled-for.

    meh. If the plan handles the worst-case scenario, then it usually handles better-than-worst case scenarios. So, plan for the worst, and its the only procedure you have to remember.

  295. Greg, are you saying you meant in case some future receiver of a harassment complaint is hostile and circular-files the complaint, and did not at all intend to imply any deliberate wrongdoing on the part of the receivers at WisCon? That inference is why I said that.

  296. Xopher, much of what I’ve been saying on this thread is to have policies and procedures in place, and to train for their use, so that in the event you need to implement the policy, and you find yourself “squicked” out or afraid or rendered otherwise speechless, that at the very least you have a chance to revert to training. That conversation has always been forward looking, at least from my perspective, even if it is informed by a multitude of historic failures and human nature.

    I assume your defense of WisCon against charges of deliberate wrongdoing stems in part from your friend/minion status to person(s) on the committee(s). Much of what I know about this case is based on what would qualify as hearsay. I am not close enough to the facts to know either way whether it was lost or “lost”. But, given how many, many, many times WisCon screwed up, and given how far away I am from the facts, I would not rule out either possibility.

  297. Sorry, I didn’t think xopher and I were arguing.

    Xopher, apologies if my post came across as an attack. Wasn’t my intent.

  298. Greg, your earlier post did, but your last-but-one explained what you really meant. We’re cool.

  299. Darn. I missed this when it was posted.

    This is a common problem. It happens in just about every organization. The only way things get fixed, is to do what Elise did, and report on the action (or lack thereof) taken.

    Thanks Elise, for having the guts to do the right thing.

    Wayne

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