One Thousand Co-signers
Posted on July 10, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 42 Comments
In just over a week, over a thousand people have co-signed onto my convention harassment policy, which says that I won’t attend conventions that don’t have harassment policies, that don’t publicize them or choose not to enforce them. Among those thousand people are writers, editors, publishers, artists, musicians, athletes, convention organizers and staffers, not to mention people who simply like going to conventions and having a good time there. This is just a start, but I think it’s a good start.
I’ve been asked how I plan to make sure all those people who co-signed stick to their pledge, and the answer is: I don’t plan to. Either people will do it or they won’t. I didn’t make this policy to police or nag other people, and I put up the co-sign thread because people were asking me to. Everyone who co-signed is on their own recognizance in terms of keeping to it. The only person I intend to hold to it is myself. Such was my plan all along. Bear in mind that I couldn’t (and didn’t) make anyone co-sign this policy; people did it because they wanted to. If they wanted to co-sign, I generally think that means they agree with it and want to put it into practice for themselves. That’s good enough for me.
I’ve also been asked whether my policy is binding only on science fiction and fantasy conventions, or whether it applies to conventions outside the genre, to conferences and writing seminars/book expos/trade shows/festivals/workshops, etc, and whether it applies to conventions in places other than North America and/or the English-speaking world. My answer here again is to tell people that, outside an obvious “a convention is a thing that calls itself a convention” rule, they should let their conscience guide them. Personally speaking I’m applying this policy to all the conventions and conferences I might be asked to attend; I’ve been a part of that world for a decade now, and I know how conventions and conferences work and run. Everything else, I plan to look at it case by case, but my default line of questioning will always be: If you don’t have a policy, why don’t you, and my default will be to skip events without them. Book Expo America (as an example) is a different on-the-ground experience than Comic-con (as an example), but creepy harassing people can show up both places, and both places need a process to deal with it. A policy — and the willingness to enforce it — is always better than none. There is literally no good reason not to have a harassment policy.
Another question I’ve been asked: What about conventions one had already agreed to attend prior to co-signing? Does one withdraw if they don’t have a policy? Personally speaking I would attend the things you’ve already committed to and exercise the policy going forward. But again, that’s just me. I believe, as nearly all the co-signers are grown humans with functioning brains, they can make the correct decision for themselves.
Shorter version of all above: I am not your dad; use your common sense. But if you co-signed onto the policy, you did it because you believed in the idea behind it. Act on that idea to the best of your ability. It will matter — right now and for the future.
And by all indications it has already begun to make a difference. Conventions that have been hemming and hawing about harassment policies have begun implementing them. People on con staffs have been asking their cons to develop policies when they haven’t had them. And lots of people are asking their local and favorite cons to adopt these policies if they have not already. Again, all a start, but a good start.
I’ve already explained why I chose to do this, and while I am happy to have been able to move the ball here, it’s important to note that at the end of the day I am just pointing toward work so many others, and particularly women, have already done on this score. Others had to deal with harassment on a personal level and push hard against a culture that was inertial at best and hostile at worst. Others had to develop the policies that do already exist, and push to have them adopted by the conventions that already have them. Others have had to fight the same battles, over and over, about harassment in a culture they are part of.
All I am saying is “look, they’re right, I support them and I won’t be part of a convention that won’t support them too.” I recognize that in many ways this is literally the very least I can do — it’s easy for me not to go to a convention. I don’t even need to leave my house to do it. I’ve been getting a lot of credit in the last week for the policy I’ve made, and I am not so lacking in ego that I don’t appreciate it, or don’t appreciate — and in indeed deeply humbled by — the fact that so many people have co-signed my policy. But I want people to know that I know where all the hard work is being done in all this. It’s not by me. It’s by others. Lots of others, and over a very long time.
And to them, let me say: Thank you.
Proud to be part of this.
This is awesome! How many of the co-signers were editors, publishers, and authors, and how many were fans like me?
Cheers for all this – have just got my act together to start asking the major conferences in my field about their anti-harassment policies (non-existent, as far as I can tell). First I’m likely to be going to are in 2015; I have my hopes they’ll sort something out by then…
Sorry you’ve had all this trouble. You seem like a nice guy, so I just don’t get it. It seems like some people do not have enough constructive things to do, so they bother others who are busy being productive. Peace be unto you.
Why is there no “like” button on your blog page?
My exhausted self is a little less exhausted today, thanks for helping actions that work towards making SFF a safer space for everyone.
… so very tired, it’s good to get things to celebrate.
It may not take much effort on your part to use your influence for good, but the effect is apparently all out of proportion. I hope it’s pleasing you very, very much, because it ought to.
Floored, he’s not counting them up. It’s too much work. Not everyone comments under their birthname either (you and I being examples). How can he tell if “Hogan Flute” is a writer, editor, or publisher?
@ Xopher: Oooh, good point. Maybe one of us should be “volunteered” to do the counting? Or would that be pointless?
Dude, you don’t need my praise, but tough! Well done, as always!!
This kind of stuff makes me wish I went to conventions.
I really do think this will be marked as one of the acts that ultimately Changed Things for the better. Just having these policies in place will go a very long way toward ending the bad behavior in question, if only because the people who have been behaving badly will a) realize (if they didn’t before) that their behavior was bad, b) realize that the tide of sentiment is heavily against said behavior, and c) stop attending cons or (unlikely) change their evil ways so they can go. In any case, the sensible people come out ahead.
As with the saying about evil and good people doing nothing, in this case, good people ARE doing something, and making it clear that they are in the majority. There’s never any truly getting rid of entrenched bigots and assgaskets, but at least forcing them back under the bridges from whence they came is a step in the right direction.
Floored, it’s not just that it’s too much work, it’s also ultimately impossible, because you can’t tell who’s what.
Maybe the particulars of my upbringing skewed my perspective, but I’ve always thought of the SF “universe” as being friendly to women in principle.
I am left to wonder why it took this to turn it from principle (if the principle ever was) into fact.
Heh, I don’t think this anti-harassment policy should be applied to conventions at all. It should be applied to the WHOLE FRICKING WORLD. I’m a white working class guy in a western nation so as they say, I’m playing on the easy level. I bumped up the difficulty a bit by being deaf which largely precludes convention attendance (and female friends) but websites like this blog and Rock Paper Shotgun (not linking cos I’m not a link spammer, just google it) have made me aware how much crap women have to deal with day to day from many guys, ranging from the socially awkward to the total douches.
We’re in the 21st century FFS, why is this even a topic?
Floored — what about people like me, who are all three? Where do we get counted? *grins* Hey — I’ll be counted three times for this. *nod nod nod*
I just attended my home convention over the holiday and your harassment policy decision was very well discussed. We have a “decent” policy online and easily accessible and are very committed to making everyone safe and happy. That said….it is a little weak in details and there is no comprehensive training of the regular volunteers in how to actually implement the policy. I see a lot of meetings and upgrades in the future Thanks!
Thanks, John, for your ongoing activism. It’s making a difference.
Related note: James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books. Patrick Nielsen Hayden (@pnh) posted on Twitter a couple of hours ago.
I was struck this morning by how topical the requirement for a harassment policy is when I was listening to an interview of a journalist who had travelled in Afghanistan and written extensively about the plight of women, particularly young women. In essence, many Afghanis want to see education continue for all. And simply put, when women prosper, society as a whole prospers. This has been shown time and time again by the UN and other organizations.
This idea that a business or other entity will have to show that it will not tolerate harassment of any form is one that needs to be widely propagated and accepted. And perhaps I am reaching a bit here, and I apologize if this taking things off track, but perhaps remediation is the other side of the coin that needs to be considered. Perhaps we need to think about how to help the afflicted and get them back into the fold.
I would expect that reporting sexual harrassment will still remain optional. If a woman for some odd reason decides to sexually harrass me, I won’t be reporting it. Too much of an ego trip.
I did get sexually harrassed at yoga last year. I was doing a downward dog and a woman whistled and made comments about my butt. Now she was nearing 60, but I am 39, so I’ll take the little attention I can get.
Got sexually harrassed by a gay guy at hot yoga. The temperature is 105 degrees, so I just wear shorts and have my shirt off. When I was walking out he eyed me and ‘looking good’. My response was ‘why thank you’. I had just lost 25 pounds and he was the first person to notice. Though that isn’t my thing, I was glad someone noticed. I refused to report that either.
You got me going, John. Checking on ABA’s Bookexpo America and what sort of policy they have in place for sexual harassment.
Wow, Guess, I’m impressed. You got sexually harassed two whole times in the last year, and yet somehow you found the fortitude to ignore it. What a strong man you are. Here, have a cookie. Because being dripped on a couple times from a leaky pipe is exactly the same thing as water torture.
@ Xopher: Ah, yeah. I guess it was a silly idea anyway.
On another note, I am impressed by the fact that so few people have had to be Malleted on these threads. That has to be a good thing, right?
Seems to be. The usual suspects are being fairly half-hearted in this case.
I think that the Fundraiser Drive of Pure Awesomeness did the trick. Maybe absolutely nobody at all and his nonexistent minions have decided to go back to being assholes in private.
“Got sexually harrassed by a gay guy at hot yoga. ”
I can’t tell if Guess is trolling, and if so, about to be malleted, or just incredibly clueless, but it needs to be said:
Compliments are not harassment per se. In both your examples you felt complimented, not skeeved or threatened. A woman in the same situation might react in exactly the same way. Men and women have offered me compliments and I’ve been grateful because being a fat, ugly, bald old broad means I don’t get many of them, and never have.
Harassment involves inappropriateness, pressure, objectivication, nastiness and/or a degree of threat. “Looking good” in passing is most often lovely to hear. “Nice ass” to wait staff or a subordinate, or a woman trapped alone with you in an elevator or the like, is skeevy and is an abuse of the situation and position.
If you really don’t know the difference, then I suspect a world of hurt awaits you when you hit public spaces.
This is more than a little off-topic–but I can see nowhere else to put this right now.
“Sharknado” is on SYFY, and I’m going to go watch it. And then I am going to start a Snailquake fundraiser on Kickstarter if my mother lets me stay up that late. All Hail Snailquake and Mr. Scalzi!
I think it’s very important to speak up, as you have here, and let convention committees know that their honored guest won’t play with them if they don’t have such a basic human rights policy in effect. That’s why I co-signed, even though I haven’t been to a convention in nearly twenty years (haven’t had the opportunity). If I ever get to go to another one, I expect there to be a harassment policy in effect or they won’t get my patronage or my money.
Good for you – civility is undervalued. Good job taking a stand.
Well done John. Well done.
@cally: It was meant as a joke. you see the part about ‘for some odd reason’. I know that guys see this different than women. To me its nice for my ego. I even got a kick out of the gay guy making comments and I dont swing that way. Atleast someone noticed…
Phew. That’s good to know, Guess.
Joke or not, it resonated with things I’ve heard over and over. “You should be flattered that those guys on the street corner complimented you on your breasts”. Why aren’t you happy that those construction workers said you were sexy?” “When I backed you into the corner of the elevator while starring fixedly at your chest, that wasn’t a threat. It’s not like I *did* anything. I didn’t even touch you! And getting between you and the door was a game!”
Some compliments aren’t compliments. And when you’re presented with literally hundreds of these non-compliment compliments a year, some guy saying “a gay guy hit on me once and I was flattered” looks like yet one more instance of “why aren’t you HAPPY that those guys in the passing car considered you worthy of yelling a suggestion that you perform a sex act on them? After all, they SAID you were hot! That’s nice of them, right?”
If, twice a year, someone hits you on the shoulder, it’s nothing. It’s just a comeradely thing. If hundreds and hundreds of people a year hit you twice each on the shoulder, you won’t be able to use that arm any more. Quantity has a quality all its own. And it makes people who are constantly being hit on the shoulder understandably quite worried when someone looks like they’re coming up with their hand raised.
And then we get well-meaning people, who get hit once or twice or even ten times a year saying, “why are you so defensive? It’s no big deal!” Umm, no. It really is a big deal. But it hardly ever happens to you, and it hardly ever happens around you, so you don’t have a visceral understanding of the constant thwap thwap thwap thwap thwap of blows to the shoulder.
“It was meant as a joke.”
Guess, if your ‘joke’ is indistinguishable from the postings by trolls and even privileged male non-trolls, then I’d say it’s failed. Maybe you could use a [/jk] tag next time to spare the blood pressure of those of us who’ve seen this crap posted in all seriousness, over and over again.
Also, what Cally said
Mr. Scalzi, I haven’t been hanging out here for very long, and I’m here now for the first time in weeks due to an injury. I don’t think I’ve had a chance to say this, so let me take the opportunity now.
You’re a classy guy. Thank you.
I just want to thank you for all the work you have done for the SFWA. A sign of a truly great President is one that, when she/he walks out of the organization, it is completely different from when she/he stepped into it. You have completely changed the SFWA forever, and that’s a good thing. Thank you for not putting up with those RSHD idiots. The SFWA is a better organization because of you. And of course thank you for the work you are continuing to do even after your term has expired. Let the SF world now know, sexism will no longer be tolerated.
BTW, I really did donate 10k.
I don’t know which is sadder, that the policy is required in the first place or that some people want to make your simple stand into some sort of complex quasi-religious exercise that must be performed in a dogmatic fashion
One of my favorite conventions, one where almost 50% of the attendees are women and where I’ve always felt safe, didn’t have an official harassment policy in place, as I was shocked to discover. They are now presenting a draft harassment policy to the concom and hope to have it published by the end of summer. Win!
I’ll only attend conventions with a soap and deodorant policy.
I don’t suppose anyone has compiled a list of cosigners? I am busy drafting a policy for an organization, and a list of awesome people who are not you who we’d never have as guests would be handy. (Not that you’re not awesome, you’re just a very short list.)
Daryl, it’s because there’s a recognized 7-stage process whereby geek communities undergo transformation to become safe for previously marginalized groups like women, POC generally, LGBTQ etc. it involves sexists and especially molesters suffering consequences for actions which they enjoy getting away with but know are unethical. some get fired, some humiliated. today’s vicious commenter is tomorrow’s job hunter with a soiled name and, in the USA, no unemployment insurance.
now do you get why they lash out? to every act there is a purpose…