A Note On a Topic of Interest
Posted on May 24, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 1 Comment
I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con this July and I’ve seen some people wondering whether SDCC’s Code of Conduct qualifies as a harassment policy under my personal set of rules, and if not, why I would bend the rules for SDCC.
These are totally fair questions. If I’m going to publicly have a position on harassment policies, then I should be ready to have people ask me if I’m living up to that position. So let me address that.
1. I think the SDCC Code of Conduct policy fulfills two of the three of my requirements unambiguously: It says harassment/offensive behavior will be not tolerated, and tells attendees how to report being harassed. So that’s good. The third thing, being clear on what is unacceptable behavior, I think it falls down on — it says harassing and being offensive are unacceptable, but doesn’t give guidance on what are examples of such behavior. Having that guidance would be helpful.
And giving that guidance is not hard to do — see, as an example, the harassment policy at ComicPalooza, which I am attending at the moment. ComicPalooza notes that its guidance is not an exhaustive list, i.e., someone harassing someone else couldn’t get out of it just by noting they weren’t doing a specific thing noted. But by offering information the convention makes things less ambiguous both for people being harassed and for the people those being harassed go to for help.
Do I think SDCC’s staff would discount someone complaining they are being harassed? I would like to think not, or at the very least that it’s rather less likely than it used to be. This is a topic that’s been on people’s mind, and the SDCC folks have to know as that as “the” comic con, they will be under scrutiny more than most. But liking to think something isn’t the same as knowing something. Having some guidance of what constitutes harassment/unacceptable behavior is useful for everyone.
2. As for whether I am letting SDCC slide on something I wouldn’t let other conventions slide on: not intentionally, at least. SDCC didn’t ask me to attend this year (I was a special guest a couple of years ago, before my policy) and I didn’t approach SDCC to be a guest. I’ll be going because my publisher asked me if I would attend, a conversation which went like this:
Tor folk: Hey, were you planning to go to SDCC?
Me: No, because at this point it’s waaaay too much work. If you want me to go, you have to do everything.
Tor folk: Okay, we’ll get back to you.
And then I didn’t think about it again until my Tor folks told me I was going; I didn’t think they would make it work, because it’s SDCC, so why expend brain cycles on it. So I came into SDCC sideways, which meant I wasn’t paying attention like I should.
This is not me blaming Tor for anything, incidentally; Tor folks know I have my policy with respect to conventions (they know because I told them), but they also quite reasonably assume I pay attention to these things and would have given them heads up if there was a conflict. If there’s a conflict, it’s on me.
3. And is there a conflict? Well, I want to be able to say no — the SDCC’s Code of Conduct is clear harassment won’t be tolerated. But without the code of conduct offering guidance on what harassment is, I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling a bit squidgy about it. That’s something I’d want to see from any convention I am a guest at. It’s something SDCC, and all the conventions under the Comic-Con International umbrella, should have. It’s something I would ask for, if I had been directly asked by SDCC to be a guest. It’s something I should have paid more attention to.
4. With that said, here’s how I’m going to deal with this personally. I made a commitment to my publisher, and one should honor one’s commitments. SDCC says it won’t tolerate harassment, and I expect it will honor that commitment, too — I expect it wants to be seen letting harassment happen on its watch even less than I do. So I’ll be at SDCC this year, and am looking forward to seeing folks there.
With that said, again: providing clear guidance on what is harassing behavior is something SDCC should do — it’s not difficult to do, other comic cons do it, and it would help everyone who has to deal with this crap. So I think SDCC and Comic-Con International should add that into their Codes of Conduct (or even better, break it out under its own heading), and the sooner the better. I think it’s reasonable, and it’s something I look forward to seeing — and it’s something if I don’t see in the future, will matter to me, in terms of attendance.
This is a topic which I have no doubt would spawn a very active and contentious comment thread. Unfortunately I am busy at ComicPalooza this weekend and have literally no time to babysit the thread like I would if I were at home, so I’m going to go ahead and turn the comments off for now. I may turn it on at a later time. Thanks.
Also, a quick addendum to the entry above: I would note that this is my approach to my responsibilities with regard to my policy. Other folks who have signed on to my harassment policy are free to use their own judgment on whether SDCC’s Code of Conduct is sufficient (or insufficient) for their own attendance — and will.