Here’s the Egregious, Mealy-Mouthed Clump of Bullshit That is the 2015 World Fantasy Convention Harassment Policy

It is thus, complete with shoddy copy editing (which I learned about via this tweet by Natalie Luhrs, and subsequently confirmed via two WFC members emailing me copies of the program they had been sent):

As a compare and contrast, here’s the New York City Comic Con policy on harassment, which for the last two years has been visibly and prominently featured on six foot-tall banners at the entrances of the Javits Center, among other places. Note well that NYCC exists in the same state as this year’s World Fantasy Convention, and is subject to the same state laws:

I am not a lawyer, but I expect that ReedPOP, the company that runs NYCC (among many other conventions around the US) has maybe a few lawyers on its staff. If NYCC is utterly and absolutely unafraid to promulgate a harassment policy even though there is a legal statute defining what harassment means in the state of New York, I expect it might have been possible for World Fantasy to have done likewise, if they chose to do so.

Now, over on the 2015 World Fantasy Convention Facebook page, there’s an argument that WFC calling something harassment that is not exactly in line with the legal statute exposes the convention to the risk of libel. One, see the NYCC policy above — either all these things are covered under the NY harassment statute, or NYCC/ReedPOP’s phalanx of lawyers determined that it’s actually okay for a private entity to state that for the purposes of their own private event, the definitions of harassment for that event are thus, and that those found violating those definitions would be tossed from the event, even if the legal standard of harassment was not met.

Two, if you’re absolutely paranoid that calling harassment harassment is libel if it does not meet a certain statutory bar? Then fucking call it something else. And indeed in its statement the WFC already does: “incorrect/uncivil behavior.” Dear World Fantasy Convention: if you cannot or will not create a harassment policy, why won’t you create an “incorrect/uncivil behavior policy?” That almost certainly will not leave you open to a libel lawsuit! And as a template, please see the NYCC policy above.

This also, incidentally, solves the appalling and utterly pathetic rationale the 2015 World Fantasy Convention gives for punting on having an actual and useful harassment policy, i.e., that the staff isn’t trained on recognizing the legal definition of harassment in the state of New York. Leaving aside the cogent point that the staff had most of a year to get up to speed on the matter, if they so chose, especially considering that they were apparently already consulting with the county district attorney and the local police on the harassment policy, if instead there’s an “incorrect/uncivil behavior” policy, the convention can define that behavior however it likes. It’s a private event which can define what it deems incorrect and/or uncivil behavior without referent to the legal statute on harassment. And it can very easily train its staff to recognize and act upon those examples of bad behavior, and it can likewise very easily communicate to convention goers what that inappropriate and uncivil behavior is.

Let’s call the World Fantasy Convention’s decision to hide behind the legal statute of harassment for what it is: Cowardly bullshit. The convention is abdicating its responsibility to provide a safe environment for convention-goers by asserting that it can’t do anything to deal with harassment unless and until it reaches a specific legal definition of harassment — which the convention doesn’t even bother to fucking cite in its material.

When your convention harassment policy boils down to “don’t bother us until you have to call the cops,” you have completely failed. The World Fantasy Convention should be embarrassed and ashamed to have let down its members this way. I’m not a member this year, but if I were, I would cancel my membership. I’d have no interest in attending a convention that decides the best course of action when it comes to the safety of its members is to punt.

(Update: Natalie Luhrs, whose tweet was the means by which I found about this, has thoughts on the matter here. She’s not happy either.)

(Update, 10/28: Via Jon Meltzer in the comments, WFC is attempting to improve its policy. Let’s see what it says when it’s finally published.)

184 Comments on “Here’s the Egregious, Mealy-Mouthed Clump of Bullshit That is the 2015 World Fantasy Convention Harassment Policy”

  1. John, I would add one more word for calling this spade a spade: irresponsible. Cowardly, irresponsible bullshit.

    It’s irresponsible for an event like this to skirt and deflect all responsibilities concerning the well-being of attendees and shove them unto the police department, whose resources should not be used for this.

    They’re absolving themselves of any kind of responsibility whatsoever, both in terms of whether anything bad may happen and in handling and resolving the bad thing should it happen.

  2. Thanks for posting this, John… here’s hoping that the issue gets enough attention that the WFC actually changes their stupid-ass policy. I know I’ll be sharing it.

  3. I hoped that this would be fixed after San Diego, given the issues there and that several of us devoted a fair amount of time–at the request of the con-com and Powers That Be–to helping WFC put together an anti-harassment policy that was supposed to be for all WFCs to draw from. Sadly, that was gone almost immediately, and has been going down hill since. I’d been starting to consider returning, and even visited for one day last year, but this solidifies that I’ll never go back unless there is *massive* overhall.

  4. Well and boldly said. It’s a tall order, attempting to open-crowd-source minimal decency, made more so by the general, willful refusal to confront the ugly reality that so many celebrated at these gatherings have earned it through monetizing faux harassment and far worse, and are engaged in a headlong race to the bottom of ever-nearer-depraved-reality. I’m afraid there are no words forceful and prominent enough to deal with a sick core without coming to grips with that awful nature.

  5. Given how many people are (justifiably) nervous around cops, all this is going to do is severely discourage anyone from reporting harassment. Getting the cops involved in anything rarely ends well for either party, and it’s not like most jurisdictions take harassment seriously. They never did for the cases I worked on or heard about back when I was a legal clerk (and we dealt with a lot of domestic violence cases, so we saw plenty of instances of cops ignoring harassment or worse, especially if the victim wasn’t white). They’re basically ensuring no one will report anything, because the more nervous sorts will say “oh well it isn’t bad enough to get the cops involved” and the sensible sorts will say “getting cops involved will probably make this worse”, and the cops won’t get involved and the WFC can claim no one violated their policy. What asshattery, WFC.

  6. I wasn’t happy when I realized that they were waiting for the election of the new district attorney before starting work on their policy. It seemed unlikely that they recognized the difference between a legal document and something that would protect the people attending the convention. Looks as though I was right. I’m glad I cancelled my plans and got a refund back in January. They stopped refunding memberships last week.

    Saying that “there will be no risk” is naïve and irresponsible. Harassment will occur even at a small con, such as Albacon (the annual LASTSFA event). Refusing to make an appropriate policy not only denies reality but increases the risk to members. I don’t want to be at a con when I know that harassment will be tolerated. No more LASTSFA cons for me.

  7. Ugh. If you on’t have anyone who is trained to recognize the difference (and I sincerely doubt you actually need to) then HIRE someone who does. Cowardly is right.

  8. World Fantasy con is run by a different convention staff each year, thus the differing policies. But the world fantasy board chooses the host, and has a lot of say in how things are done.

    here is a list of board members.

    If they wanted to, they could have this shit fixed before the con started on Thursday.

    I was indirectly involved in the shit show that was San Diego’s response to a serial harasser, and I had hoped the Board would have been far more clear and decisive about what is and isn’t acceptable. This whole situation makes me sad.

  9. I posted this response on the JOF thread about this:

    Wow. This is just a cluster of massive proportions.

    1) It is HILARIOUS that they think harassment reported to police will be taken seriously. I don’t care what their conversations with the police department have been. If I tell the police “some guy wouldn’t stop telling me he wanted to fuck me” they are not going to file charges against him. Not to mention, of course, that even if they DID file charges, that wouldn’t happen until long after the convention is over, doing absolutely nothing to address the problem NOW.

    2) I haven’t looked into the New York statutes, but I highly doubt most harassment is actually illegal. Harassment in the workplace? Yeah, illegal. Harassment between members of the public? Very rarely illegal. It’s that pesky freedom of speech thing. Some guy on the street is allowed to yell pretty much anything he wants at me – it’s immoral and gross and horrible, but it isn’t illegal.

    3) The idea that only acts that are criminal warrant action is….bizarre is the best word I can come up with. If someone was constantly interrupting panels with renditions of Sesame Street songs, refusing to stop even when told to by convention staff, we would kick them out of the con. Guess what? Sesame Street songs aren’t illegal. But it is bad behavior that warrants removal from the convention. The exact same thing goes for harassment.

    4) So, it looks like maybe they don’t want to have a “harassment policy” because they think “harassment” is only a legal term. Fine. Call it a code of conduct, or a safety policy, or a behavior policy.

    5) You know what is a great way to guarantee that no one comes forward with problems of harassment? Saying you’re going to report everything to the police. When a guy groped my breasts and my crotch and tried to force me to kiss him at a party, I would NOT have reported it to Operations if I had known they would call the police against my wishes. I know the police would not have taken it seriously (no proof), and even if they HAD, I do not have the mental energy to become involved in a case nine hours away from where I live.

    6) Apparently, their staff isn’t trained to understand harassment. That training is not some mystical blessing that only a select few have been granted. It’s actually quite easy to get, if you want it. Most rape crisis centers offer some kind of training.

    7) “Offenders will be prosecuted.” That’s adorable. I wonder if the Saratoga DA is aware World Fantasy is making promises on their behalf?

    8) The timeline on this is ridiculous. They released this 10 days before the con? Are you KIDDING me? I would rather attend a con with no harassment policy than this horrendous bullshit, and if I had been planning on attend WFC, I would be super pissed about all the money I would be out at this point.

    I just….I can’t believe this. Surely this is some kind of performance art? Someone moved April Fool’s Day? There is no excuse for how horrible this is.

  10. The fact that NY has a formal legal definition of harrassment has to be completely irrelevant! There’s still a common English definition. Just as with theft. The law has one definition, but there are kinds of theft that are perfectly legal, i.e. stealing from The Bard (who has been dead for a few centuries). If a writers workshop said they had a no-stealing-from-other-authors policy, and then tossed someone for stealing from Shakespeare, I can’t imagine that the perpetrator would think he had a chance of winning a libel lawsuit, when the definition the workshop followed is right there in the dictionary!

    Really, I’m having a hard time imagining an explanation that doesn’t boil down to the committee trying to protect harrassers from being inconvenienced.

  11. I guess they didn’t want to scare away their rude and uncivil contingent of fans.

    But seriously. Really? And having a new committee each year is no excuse. That’s why there are policies in the first place, so that each new con comm doesn’t have to start from scratch.

    There’s nothing about me that would inspire harassment, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it happen to someone else. I would not attend a con with this so-called policy.

  12. My immediate thought is that this policy was designed by a creeper who wants to excuse his creeping as not creepy. A rules lawyer and a munchkin who begins every defense of the indefensible with “now technically…”. If that wasn’t the con’s intention to come across that way, then a rapid redraft ought to be in order PDQ.

  13. Good grief. That policy is disgraceful.

    I’ve been to WFC, but given the terrifyingly clueless and callous assumptions in this misnamed anti-harrassment policy, I would be extremely reluctant to attend again or to take my family.

  14. “there’s an argument that WFC calling something harassment that is not exactly in line with the legal statute exposes the convention to the risk of libel”

    Nope. I’m pulling out my bar card and calling bullshit on that one, for the exact same reasons that you go on to explain. Conventions are perfectly free to establish their own codes of conduct and require that guests abide by them or get kicked out. No libel involved in that whatsoever.

  15. Interesting. By the time I got to the computer this morning, they’d changed their harassment policy to:

    New York State has strict legal requirements regarding harassment. We are developing a policy in concert with the Saratoga County District Attorney and the Saratoga Springs Police Department. It will be posted here and given separately to every member at registration. World Fantasy is a social event. Members are expected, as a matter of civility, to observe generally accepted social conventions. No means no. All members are expected to respect other convention members.

    I live and work in New York State. If using NYCC’s anti-harassment policy is too scary, ask a college or university about theirs… they exist in Saratoga County, believe it or not. Unless one specifically states what “generally accepted social conventions” are, not everyone is going to know what that means. I have a tendency to have a potty mouth at times… is that inside or outside the “generally accepted social convention”? There are some Special Snowflakes who have been offended, some people roll their eyes, most people ignore the colorful language itself and grok that I’m slightly (extremely) annoyed by whatever is causing the potty mouth behavior.

    This new and not improved harassment policy would definitely not instill confidence that I would have a safe and harassment-free experience at their event. I’m really glad I opted not to attend.

  16. Person A: “Please stop harassing this person.”
    Person B: “My behaviour is not harassment as described by New York Statute. Therefore you have libeled, or possibly slandered if this is a verbal conversation, me and I shall consult my lawyer.”
    Lawyer C: “This is an open and shut case. After all there is no other meaning to the word ‘harassing’ that a reasonable person would understand.”
    Person B: “You’re right Lawyer C, unless they read that enormous ‘Harassment Policy’ poster.”
    Lawyer C: “Damn it. Sorry, no dice. That’ll be $50.”

  17. ( I note that they might have access to a moon lawyer who will actually write letters and file papers and things and generally cause a lot of pseudo-legal trouble. Of course they might do that even if you say “Your behaviour is not in accordance with our code of conduct”. That sounds pretty libelous to me!)

  18. @Kelly Naylor:

    That’s not the new policy, that is the old placeholder policy that they’ve had on the website for a while promising that eventually there will be a policy.

    The new policy is not online. It’s only in the program sent to participants, I gather.

  19. I’m sure the hotel’s front desk staff is eagerly awaiting the chance to call in the police half a dozen times on Thursday afternoon so that the officers can clarify whether or not something meets the legal definition of harassment. Yes, hotels love nothing more than having their name show up over and over in a police department’s call logs, guaranteeing a safe and welcoming reaction to every person who has the guts to ask them to make that call. This cannot possibly go badly for the convention.

  20. From a legal standpoint, there are 2 types of harassment: criminal and civil. The first can get you charged, the second can get you sued. So relying on the criminal definition actually excuses a bunch of behaviour that would be civilly actionable.

  21. Seems pretty simple to me. Obviously, the organizers of the con know that women are so silly and sensitive that they will maliciously accuse any red-blooded he-man of harassment if he so much as wiggles his eyebrows at them. This is simply to save those good ol’ boys from being harassed by attention-seeking (and probably frustrated, amirite?) women unnecesarily. And here they are being harassed by people simply for trying to be helpful in a civil sort of way. Sad, that’s what it is. Like a sad puppy.

  22. This is such nonsense. The whole point of creating a harassment policy is to cover instances of unacceptable behavior that are not legally actionable. A convention doesn’t create a document that says, “oh, by the way, murder is totally unacceptable and will get you thrown out of the convention”, because that’s, uh, already covered by penal law.

    A policy like this is meant for exactly what NYCC is using it for. If a hotel can kick out a guest for entering the lobby wearing a wet swimsuit (and they can) then NYCC or WFC or any other convention can exclude people for any of the items listed in this document. In fact, they can kick people out for anything that isn’t specifically covered by non-discrimination laws. Which is why non-discrimination laws exist to begin with.

    Shaking my head at anyone who thinks “it’s not technically illegal” is a reasonable bar for their behavior.

  23. I don’t know why people are surprised at this state of affairs.

    Most of fandom is of the fan for the fan and by the fan. Every non Comic Con convention I’ve been to is run 100% by volunteers. Having been one of those volunteers and having been on a “let’s create a harassment policy” committee, I can tell you that the Entitled Elder States Geeks and Poorly Socialized Fellow Geeks get a lot of “they don’t mean it” or “they don’t know better” or, my personal favorite, “they only do that when they’re drunk.”

    I’m more impressed when an anti-harassment policy gets made.

    I’m astounded when I hear about the times they successfully get implemented and enforced.

    So thanks, John, for being the Voice of Sanity and Reason. There are, in my experience, only two reasons why harassment policies exist in fan-run conventions. A past victim said “This shit has to stop,” and a VIP says “That shit doesn’t work for me, so I won’t come to your convention.” The sad truth is that the former never gets any traction until the latter backs them up.

  24. Ahahahaha. I know the Saratoga police, having grown up near there and I am sure they definitely don’t want to follow up on calls of harassment for a convention. There’s no reason to waste tax dollars that way. Has the police even been asked about this? I’m sure that they would not not sign off on being the enforcers.
    Or, the con doesn’t consider it to be real harassment unless there are several witnesses and a video. Which I find more likely.

    I see this document and to me it clearly says, “we want creeper money more than we do the money of the people they creep on, especially women.” It’s a clear statement about the kind of people running this convention and how they don’t think harassment is their problem to deal with.

  25. I’m the one who posted the comment above. I accidentally posted under a page help manage. I’ll repost my comment here. Feel free to delete the first one, Mr. Scalzi. I apologize.

    I see stuff like this, and I’ve got to say, as someone with high social anxiety, just *going* to events is a huge thing for me, but going and knowing that *if* something genuinely damaging happened, I’d be on my own to deal with it, means that often, I just don’t seek out new events. With a book coming out, there’s pressure to ‘get out there’, but that’s not easy for someone who has social anxiety. My only saving grace, is that while I’m anxious about going places, I have zero problems standing up for myself, or defending my self. However, stuff like this, is one reason I will NEVER somewhere new without friends and family going with me.

  26. Um.

    Dear WFC:

    Welcome to the far-flung future year of 2015! Since your time, there has been a discovery that not all bad things are illegal, and that you are allowed to stop bad things from happening even if they are legal.

    We know that this strange and new future may be intimidating and scary to you, but there are wonderful things in the 21st century, too! We have people of colors other than pink! We have made the shocking discovery that “women” are actually a type of people, and have actual thoughts, intentions, and motivations of their own that AREN’T simply parasitic on normal male humans!

    Indeed, we have made many strange and wonderful advances here in this mysterious and alien 21st Century.

  27. I am on the committee and never saw this bullshit non-policy and I totally decry it. For one, I am trained–Arisia insists that all senior staff (and all security staff, and as many other staffers as desire) get trained. Not in NY, but still. For another, this non-policy never went by me (I’m head of dealers) nor the program chair (who’s defending it), and I suspect most of the rest of the committee. Third, other than “we’ll call the cops,” actions have no consequences; they don’t even offer to throw people out! It’s like walking away from a toddler playgroup and saying, “Now children, behave.” Finally, if you read through the NY statutes, they are pretty harsh on false reporters, which is extremely discouraging.

    Well, I don’t take harassment lightly and have little tolerance for bullshit. People can come to me; I’ll be in the dealers room most of the time.

  28. Jason Gilbert (@JasonGilbert9) says:

    “there’s an argument that WFC calling something harassment that is not exactly in line with the legal statute exposes the convention to the risk of libel”

    Nope. I’m pulling out my bar card and calling bullshit on that one, for the exact same reasons that you go on to explain. Conventions are perfectly free to establish their own codes of conduct and require that guests abide by them or get kicked out. No libel involved in that whatsoever.

    Yes. It’s like a site owner claiming that they can’t police the comments posted on their own website, because saying or implying that someone’s comment was deleted for being harassing/obscene/deliberately offensive/etc. might expose them to an action for libel.


    Leading off with “there’s an argument” is especially weaselicious. Does such an argument actually exist? I’m sure it does, because almost any statement can be temporarily construed as libel if you don’t mind being wrong, looking like an idiot, wasting everyone’s time and money, and exposing yourself to countersuits. This world is full of stupid arguments. But noting that an argument exists doesn’t mean it’s valid, or that a court will take it seriously.

    Cases where a convention was sued for libel for referring to one attendee’s uncivil behavior toward another as “harassment”: none that I’ve ever heard of. Meanwhile, harassment happens all the damned time.

    I can’t see any grounds to exonerate the leadership of the 2015 WFC. For years now, conrunners have been discussing the ins and outs of recognizing, policing, and forestalling bad behavior. Conventions large and small, some of them in the State of New York, have instituted attendee conduct policies.

    There’s just no excuse for a committee to balk at the whole idea of policing attendee behavior.


    One more thing. WFC has or had a longstanding “no costumes” policy. As far as I know, no committee ever protested that they’d be exposing the convention to charges of libel if they had to decide what constituted a costume, and what was just an attendee’s personal taste in clothing. IMO, that decision is a lot more ambiguous than deciding what constitutes inappropriate behavior.

  29. Check out what the Feds say about sexual harassment, according to Federal law. No matter what the WFC says, that’s the standard that they’ll be judged by. Lack of training is no defense and it would seem that a failure to train would help a person seeking a recovery under Federal sexual harassment legislation will have an easier time of doing so, since a business is supposed to know about the standards involved and have to implement a policy according to Federal law. The WFC needs at least one lawyer who’ll pull the board aside and say that this is not a valid policy and won’t protect them if they are sued for sexual harassment.

    Libel is not a Federal cause of action. Case law in most jurisdictions will say that filing a complaint or allegation of a tort or crime will not be libelous because if that was the case, it would deter aggrieved plaintiffs from taking legal action. If a lawyer told them this, then it’s to wonder how that lawyer passed the bar.

  30. @Alessandra Kelley

    That’s freaking unbelievable. And now, after having read Natalie Luhrs post and seeing the Facebook screenshot… I am well and truly beyond appalled. That particular con-com member should know better that to parrot the bullshit party line. I have no words to express how beyond fracked up that is.

  31. In the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, that policy is a lameburger smothered in weaksauce.

    Here’s hoping that the scrutiny and outcry forces a change.

  32. But… but… if we scare guys with big harassment warnings, how will fans flirt and perpetuate the species like we did in the good old days? I think we best leave it to the cops. I have seen New York police in lots of movies. I trust them. They can charge in all – “Yippee ki yay, mother harasser!!”

    But only with the bad guys, not the misunderstood and socially awkward good guys (not to mention those diagnosed by internet commenters as “maybe a little autistic, you don’t know”). Only real harassment-harassment, right? Not the false reports. Maybe we should add a “Don’t make false reports” clause. That’s important stuff, too, and can ruin someone’s life.

    (Ug, it’s hard to type that dumb. Did I miss anything? My brain hurts now. The consequences really are severs.)

  33. Folks, I have a full day of doing things and seeing people, so I won’t be participating much in this thread. I will, however, be checking in now and again to see how things are going. If something seems particularly off the rails, depending on how busy I am, I may temporarily punt it into moderation until I am somewhere I can pay better attention to it. In the meantime, please continue being excellent commenters; I appreciate it.

  34. Just a few quick disjointed immediate impressions because I’m supposed to be somewhere in a very few minutes:

    1. Yeah, like the NYPD is my first choice for sensitive and compassionate treatment of a harassment allegation. Aside from the growing impression nationwide that coming into contact with a cop means a good possibility of winding up arrested, injured or worse, of course.

    2. The best way to deal with harassment anywhere is a fast and tough response. One verified complaint and hand over your convention badge, you’re out of here.

    3. It’s gratifying that harassment is finally getting the attention it merits, even with backsliders like WFC. It’s proof that women and pro-women men are simply not willing to put up with things like this anymore as some kind of natural what-are-ya-gonna-do? activity.

    4. If you’re in doubt about your own actions, just ask yourself: would I be doing this if my wife/girlfriend/partner or mother were standing beside me? No? Then don’t do it.

  35. Wouldn’t a hostile environment be grounds for a lawsuit? An environment where somebody is constantly being harassed would definitely qualify as hostile. That may be only for work environments, though. Still, it would be beautiful karma if their attempt to avoid a libel suit gets them sued for permitting fertile grounds for harassment.

  36. Every Con should have an harassment policy. That being said the folks who run the ComicCons have a budget an order of magnitude or so above that of the WFC and can afford lawyers. They also do this for a living and are better equipped to deal with this issue.

    Furthermore, the criminal penalties in the NY code are far more severe than getting chucked out of a Con. I would recommend that the WFC statement be added to every Con’s policy. “Not only are we going to toss you out and forbid you from ever coming back …we’re going to refer your behavior to the local authorities for criminal prosecution.”

  37. For me the real slackass part of their policy is right at the beginning when they basically state any and everyone in any way associated with the convention doesn’t know how to define harassment per legal reasons. That says it all right there. Nothing says ‘don’t bother us with your problems’ better than that. And it’s not like they couldn’t hire or train people to handle this. They choose not to.

  38. I was at WFC San Diego and remember the clusterfuck that went on around the serial harasser, who I had the luck to interact with only briefly. If Jaym Gates hadn’t been there I’m almost certain -nothing- would have been done. As I heard tell later, the concom was busy fawning over Neil Gaiman (most reclusive con guest I’ve ever known of, though that may not have been his fault if the concom had him on lockdown) and couldn’t be bothered to deal with the harasser. I’m utterly unsurprised at the current behavior. WFC seems to believe that because a larger percentage of their attendees are Professionals (their capital, not mine) that this somehow means that people behave differently (better) than your usual con populace. “Gentlemen always have clean hands” is about how they handle matters of harassment.

  39. Anyone else picturing a bunch of kids going “not it!”?

    I can appreciate the temptation of resorting to the biggest available hammer to avoid the risk of not having one big enough, but not all problems are nails and some nails gets bent when hit with too big a hammer; not to mention the damage the hammer can do the object being nailed.

  40. One of the admins(?) over on the FB page, when told they were risking their members, *actually said* “There will be no risk.”

    If they’re interested in legal liability, holy hell but that sentence is a firing right there.

  41. What is bathroom policing? I see that listed in New York Comic Con harrassment policy. I hope its not ‘hurry the ‘bleep’ up, I gotta go’.

  42. Bathroom policing is questioning people’s right to use the bathroom of their choice, for example when presenting at odds with the gender the bathroom is supposed to be for, or vice-versa.

  43. Last summer I attended FlameCon, the first LGBT comic and gaming convention in NYC. They did a great job creating a safe space for all attendees. There were stickers available to let others know what gender pronoun you preferred (she/he/it/zir/ask me…) and it worked beautifully. The unisex bathrooms eliminated any problems with bathroom policing — although the handsome butch lesbian (or maybe trans guy…who cares) and I both got the giggles when our eyes met while using the urinals. The point is it was silly, fun,celebratory, but most of all SAFE for everyone to be themselves and celebrate our shared geek pride. I can’t find their anti-harassment policy online, but the organizers did a great job. If a first-time con can create a harassment-free environment, then WFC better be able to figure it out.

  44. @Guess:

    Apparently “bathroom policing” is people taking it upon themselves to judge in their opinion whether bathroom users in their opinion have any right to use that particular bathroom and harass and attack any poor soul trying to use the loo whose genital structure they do not approve of personally.

    In other words, it’s attacking trans people for using their preferred bathroom.

  45. Faruk Ateş – it gets worse. Sarasota Springs is a town of 27,000 people with a small police force, that WFC overtaxes with normal convention BS like Drunk & Disorderlies.

    Given the weaksauce sound of this policy, I have no doubt the local PD will basically blow any calls off unless somebody’s bleeding….

  46. (More or less) what Jody said. I don’t think the WFC policy should be copied verbatim, as miscreants should not be promised that any complaint they make (perhaps as part of *them* being the true harasser) will get referred to the police. But making it clear that it is routine (if not universal) for the convention to call the police is almost surely useful.

    As much as the ComicCon policy makes them seem more simpatico, I wouldn’t want to bet on which of the two policies (or notices) being discussed would actually prevent more harassment.

  47. Guess: As noted upthread by TNH, bathroom policing is harassment of transfolk who use a non-gender-neutral bathroom that matches their preferred gender.

    (TNH expressed some uncertainty regarding the meaning of the phrase; I am confirming she is correct. That’s what it means.)

  48. Last year a town near me put on a comic book convention. All volunteer, absolute beginners, and they had a great no-harassment policy which they posted on their site and in HUGE print on a banner by each entrance. Con staff were easily identified by badges, and had gotten trained (some had already had it since they worked for the library system). My point is that they chose to do it and do it well, with minimal resources. The World Fantasy Convention should take note.

  49. @mrtoads – well, you know all those POOR Men’s Rights Activists.

    To quote a far from Liberal former boss of mine – “My Heart Bleeds Buttermilk….”

  50. I’m sure many of you know this, but…

    I’ve worked a WFC.

    World Fantasy is a (mostly) fan-run convention for the benefit of the industry.

    And, in this case, it suffers in spades from “we’re better than them, harassment isn’t a problem.” Regular conventions in denial think “geeks are better than mundanes, we couldn’t possibly have those harassment problems the normal world does, ‘cuz we’re all friends!” WFC adds on top “pros are better than fans, because we behave professionally, and we’re all friends!”

    Never mind that we’re a microcosm of the rest of the world, we have the same problems. Never mind that just because we like the same things (or work on similar things), we’re not actually all friends.

    Never mind that sexual harassment is a problem in all sorts of different professional conference venues.

    And never mind that prominent genre professionals have been outed as serial sexual harassers.

  51. “Call the police” for harassment reminds me of a conversation I had one evening in one of those new-fangled elevators where there are no buttons inside. You may have encountered them – you punch the floor you want into a keypad in the lobby, a screen tells you to take “Elevator G” and you get in. With whoever gets in with you. And the doors close and you can’t change your destination, you can’t get off early, you can’t choose a floor with a restaurant – you’re stuck. And that’s that.

    I said to the guy, a big man and I’m a small woman, and it was just us, so I sort of laughed and said something like, I hate these elevators because I can’t change my destination if I feel scared, you know. No way to get off early. I understand the queue management theory, but I think they’re bad for personal safety and autonomy, and they make a lot of women really uncomfortable.

    His reply? “If you’re worried you can hit the alarm button.” — I said “Don’t you think there’s a whole lot of space between worried and the alarm button? And that doesn’t let me off immediately anyways.” He totally didn’t get it – I was speaking a foreign language, the language of self-preservation and having to consider the what-ifs.

    So yes, “we’ll call the police for harassment” – it’s that same “elevator alarm button” response. Completely useless to solve the problem or make someone feel safe.

  52. Not to mention the impressive level of ignorance displayed when they effectively tell POC that if there’s a problem, to call the cops.

  53. So if someone with a penis walks into the women’s bathroom a woman cannot say anything about it? I can’t see that going over well. Its not my problem, but I can’t see it going over well some a lot of women. I am keeping this as a ‘not my problem’ situation. Women are totally on their own on this one.

  54. In addition to agreeing with John’s post and many of the comments in the discussion here, I am also just… just… just GOBSMACKED that THIS was the position WFC chose to take after what has already been THREE YEARS of scandal after scandal after scandal in sf/f over various organizations (including conventions and publishers) handling the issue of sexual harassment so ineptly and inappropriately that our genre community actually makes the Benghazi committee look competent by comparison. I mean… great balls of fire, when did WFC2015 -think- would happen when they made that cowardly, irresponsible, useless, embarrassingly stupid, inept, unaware, and fumbling announcement? In there any time/space dimension in which they actually thought that announement would NOT spread smelly rotten egg all over the face of the con?

  55. I asked my attorney-and-writer friend David Szarzynski for his input and this is what he said:


    “Pathetic. It’s a private event for ticketed members. Of course you can have a private definition that you enforce with any penalties you care to put into the contract all attendees agree to by purchasing a ticket. Contract = private law.

    That the harassment might also rise to a criminal level is a separate issue that would let you charge the person with a crime, after you’ve already tossed the person from the premises and banned them for life.

    Libel or slander would require that there be publication of the offender in someway, along with the accusation not being true. That’s a shitty thing to hide behind.”

  56. For the record, Guess, I’m fine with it. Women’s public restrooms have stalls. I’ve no idea whether or not I’ve ever shared a public a public facility with someone with a penis or not–wait, no, yes, I have, likely, since I’ve used multi-stall unisex restrooms–but I don’t really care, so long as no harassment occurs. Inside or outside of the restroom in question.

    And as XtinaS says, not really on-topic, so I’m shutting up now.

  57. I remember when the SDCC had a weaksauce harrasment policy and it seemed like Emerald City CC and NYCC saw that as ‘Challenge:ACCEPTED!’, coming forward with such great anti-harrasment policies that it should have shamed the SDCC organizers. Of course, then there’s DragonCon, who’s policy on SELFIE STICKS is more detailed, strong-worded and lengthy than their harassment policy, which basically is the same as WFC’s, but in Atlanta.

    This policy is, in some ways, worse than nothing. Nothing holds open the possibility that the convention might intervene, help or at least listen. This policy abdicates all involvement, making it a Somebody Else’s Problem, in this case the local police. It’s laudable that they want to escalate the problem, but as commenters here have mentioned, there’s no gap between not-harrassed to calling the police. That puts the victim in a terrible position and puts the police in the unenviable position of con-enforcer.

    This policy seems to play right into a harasser’s hands; they know their behavior won’t cross into criminal territory, necessarily…and the convention choosing to look the other way until they’re given no choice basically says ‘we don’t value our guests safety and emotions’.

  58. For a lot of people, including yours truly who is white and presents as middle class, involving the police is fucking scary.

    Besides, the thought that you might get somebody in criminal law trouble is in itself a disincentive. It’s one thing to go to a con staff person and say, look, my ex is a sweet person, but they won’t leave me alone, and despite knowing that they’re harmless I am getting really fed up with it. Can somebody have a word with them? And a completely different kettle of fish to say “my ex is stalking me please call the police”.

  59. I live in the Saratoga area and I can say that the Saratoga police do not enjoy a local reputation as sensitive to issues of harassment. If some guy was following me around a convention floor or repeatedly asking me out or taking unwanted photos of me, calling the Saratoga police would not be my first instinct.

  60. The WFC “policy” proposes a nuclear option as the only option. Which is absurd.

    I’ve been working as a security officer for the last several years. And policy at every location has been to try and resolve a problem or situation in the least drastic way, escalating only as necessary:

    1) “Your behavior is [bothering other people here][against the code of conduct posted at the entrance]. Please stop.
    2) “If you don’t stop, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
    3) “I’m asking you to leave the property.”
    4) “I’m ordering you to leave the property. If you don’t leave you’ll be in trespass.”

    It’s only if the troublemaker refuses to leave after that last step that police are called. Doesn’t reach that point very often, and when it does the police generally have their own step-by-step escalation. (Ask to leave/order to leave/arrest the dumbshit.) This is also the point where we get out the office camera and get the person’s name and photo for the Big Book of Dumbshits binder in the Security office (so other security officers can recognize them if they try to come back).

  61. I actually can’t think of a scenario where the libel concerns are legit – and I work for a company where we have a lawyer on staff specifically to help us avoid and fight libel claims, so I’m fairly well-educated on this one.
    Also – just ask any university about using different standards than a court of law to discipline unwanted behavior. In nearly every state university system, you can be expelled for rape using an entirely different standard than would be required to convict you of rape. Hell, you can be expelled for rape even if a prosecutor declines to even charge you with it, because by attending the university you agree to to be under the jurisdiction of the university’s disciplinary policies and procedures.
    You can be thrown out of any business in existence for literally any activity they don’t like – you can’t even have an otherwise Constitutionally protected protest on privately-owned land if the landowner or current tenant doesn’t want it there.
    Don’t tell me a private convention with a paid membership honest-to-God believes they can’t have their own policies and standards in place for their own damn event. The only reason to take this tack is because they don’t want to have a policy – hell, this one even reads like they spent all the time they could have spent crafting a policy looking for vaguely credible-sounding reasons why they can’t.

  62. The wonderful irony of this is that it actually opens up the convention for civil suits, should someone get harassed. The DA can advise you whether something is a criminal offense, but isn’t going to do anything for civil offenses.

    “We aren’t even going to throw people out for being douches unless you call the cops” is a big fat negligence lawsuit waiting to happen.

  63. I propose that if they’re squeamish about calling it a “Harassment Policy” because of liable, they can call it a “No Asshole Policy”, where they can list behaviors that will have one listed as an asshole, have their badge confiscated and calmly escorted off premises. It could even be done ala Jeff Foxworthy style, “If you… you may be an asshole.”

  64. This post makes me smile far too much for something that is so so awful. Thank you for continuing to stand up to and call others out on their bullshit.

  65. I know everyone loves the idea of fan-run events, but given the scale of modern cons, it’s not tenable anymore. We need to have professionals who know what they’re doing in charge, with at least one lawyer to approve all policies. Because the way things are run now, it’s only a matter of time before something truly bad happens and a con gets sued for negligence.

  66. @Sean O’Hara:
    Well, for insurance reasons if nothing else, pretty much all the cons I know of are already incorporated. That allows the con to have a certain continuity even as the people running it change over time.

    And as for ‘the scale of modern cons’, that depends on what sort of con you’re talking about. Ad Astra, the local classic literary SF con, runs around 700 people, so it’s just fine on a purely volunteer level. (It’s also been running since 1980.) Anime North has an attendance cap of 17,500 (plus 5000 single-day attendees) so they don’t run into problems with fire regulations, and they’re a little more difficult to run on an ad-hoc basis, but it’s still mostly a fan-run con with a few professional people hired. Now, FanExpo clears 125,000 attendees, but it was a professional corporate marketing gig from the beginning.

  67. World Fantasy Conventions aren’t run by the World Fantasy Board. Each one is farmed out (licensed) to a local organization that hosts it. Most of the local organizations are fan organizations who have incorporated to run other conventions. You never get the same licensee two years in a row, and it’s often a decade between repeats.

    Now the World Fantasy Board sets rules that the licensees have to abide by. Of course, they tend to obsess over weird things (OMG! Hats in the dealers room! We can’t have that! Only books!) and ignore major things (operating committees need to have harassment policies, and this is the minimum policy needed).

  68. @canisfelicis:

    One of the admins(?) over on the FB page, when told they were risking their members, *actually said* “There will be no risk.”

    If they’re interested in legal liability, holy hell but that sentence is a firing right there.

    I know! That is an amazing level of No Clue-ness!

    They don’t want to run the risk of libel by calling something harassment when it’s not criminal harassment, yet there are no qualms publicly stating “There will be no risk.” Yikes!! Save a screenshot of that for any possible lawsuits. Even if it is much smaller than NYCC, this is a level of cluelessness around legal issues that is frightening.

  69. BTW, there are two avenues for complaint (and some of this is repeating things I said in a different comment, I think):

    The World Fantasy Board licenses the convention to an operating committee (usually a local convention running organization that already has some sort of business infrastructure to operate under). They set some rules on the licensees. Rules surrounding codes of conduct and anti-harassment policies are pretty weak. If you want to see some movement on this, you should contact the World Fantasy Board. But you may have to do some searching to get contact information for individual board members.

    As I mentioned, the conventions themselves are licensed to a local conrunning organization. In the case of 2015, I’ve been told it’s operating under the auspices of LASTSFA (The Latham-Albany-Schenectady-Troy Science Fiction Association). So they’re where your lobbying efforts should go to fix next weekend.

  70. Most of fandom is of the fan for the fan and by the fan. Every non Comic Con convention I’ve been to is run 100% by volunteers. Having been one of those volunteers and having been on a “let’s create a harassment policy” committee, I can tell you that the Entitled Elder States Geeks and Poorly Socialized Fellow Geeks get a lot of “they don’t mean it” or “they don’t know better” or, my personal favorite, “they only do that when they’re drunk.”

    — Victoria

    On that other thread when I said I wasn’t completely comfortable with the cultural concept of fandom with a capital “F” and thought it time to let go of the idea of tiered fandom because it had in the past been frequently used to exclude and excuse harassment — this is exactly the issue I was talking about.

    Because the way things are run now, it’s only a matter of time before something truly bad happens and a con gets sued for negligence.

    — Sean O’Hara

    Bad things have already happened. People have been raped and sexually assaulted at cons for decades. Serial harassers who got pinched more recently had been doing it for decades. And yeah, lawsuits are coming if cons don’t start taking steps, because it’s 2015. You don’t have to go get a lawyer. Just borrow one from one of the cons that have one, put it up everywhere, and train staff on straight reporting procedure. The means are there; they just want to pretend. They don’t want to have to deal with kicking anybody out, and in the process, they kick vulnerable people out of the place.

    That’s what happened just now with SXSW. They got bomb/attack threats and instead of calling the cops and beefing up security — which they can afford — they cancelled the panels about harassment that produced the threats. They claimed they had to do that to preserve a big tent. A big tent in which the targets of harassment — women, gays, etc. — are clearly not welcome over the fans who threaten violence apparently. And since the threat of violence was effective, those who did it will keep doing it, as they have been.

    With giant cons who have large attendance and industry sponsors like DragonCon and SDCC, it’s hard to get them to toe the line until they get hit with a civil suit about a murder; (you’d think DragonCon being co-founded by a pedophile who used to hunt the con for victims before going to jail for it would perhaps be more cautious.) But for the big reading cons, there is a simple way to get them to change — the big publishers say that they will pull out unless there is a harassment policy that protects their employees, (and the big name authors say they will pull out unless there is a harassment policy.) Watch how fast there would be harassment policies. In the meantime, online censure, author support, etc. has inched some cons forward. And the new cons have mostly been smart.

    A convention is a professional event for which money is charged and in which businesses participate. It doesn’t matter if it’s run by fan volunteers or paid professionals. The liability is the same. And patting the fan run conventions on the head for being clueless isn’t acceptable. The more people revolt, leave the con, refuse to show or do business with it, until it has a harassment policy, the sooner we get harassment policies in place as the norm. They were supposed to be the norm twenty years ago.

  71. Getting volunteer fans to run cons is pretty much the only way to both limit the amount of commercialization and keep the event somewhat affordable to the average attendee. Hiring professional event managers with both training and a stable of lawyers to draft and vet policy could indeed reduce the number of harassment incidents at such events, but it would also almost certainly result in significantly higher entrance fees and/or massive commercialization of the event in order to produce the necessary revenue to cover the cost of those professionals. And while this is just a guess on my part, I suspect that most or all of the small-to-mid-sized regional events would rather take their chances than incur the cost of hiring professionals.

    Case in point: I have witnessed a conversation between a group of veteran con-runners who were debating the merits of possibly getting liability insurance for their mid-sized event (which at that point had been run with NO insurance at all for multiple years). An unforgettable quote from that conversation was “yeah, if such-and-so happened, we could be held liable, but our community is better than that.”

    Someone who makes their living by managing and producing large events would sooner eat a live frog than rely on the goodwill of customers as a reasonable alternative to liability insurance.

    But a volunteer, even a highly intelligent and rational volunteer, looks at the situation filtered through the assumption “these are my friends, my tribe, and they would never hurt me/my event/other attendees,” and they forego the liability coverage, or the harassment policy, or the whatever. And there will never, every be anyone more astonished than those same con-runners when the feces hits the windmill, the harassment happens, and the lawsuits start piling up.

  72. @Kat: The breakdown between “fan” and “professional” breaks down just as badly in conrunning as it does in con attending.

    A better breakdown is “fan” and “promoter” (like “event promoter” or “party promoter”). Another good breakdown is “for-profit” and “non-profit.”

    Because there’s nothing that says the people behind a fan-centered non-profit organization aren’t allowed to behave like professionals. They just don’t want to behave like party promoters or greedheads.

  73. I once got 86’d from a bar for singing loudly. They didn’t make a noise complaint to the police. You can and should dictate, to some extent, how people conduct themselves at your event.

  74. Lawyer here (admitted in a non-NY state, but I don’t think that much matters for this particular analysis.

    1. There is no reasonable risk of liability for defamation when an organization implements anti-harassment policies like the New York Comic Con’s policy. I’d want to look into the defamation angle if the organization wanted to publicize the offenders (listing names, taking pictures and posting “mugshots” of violators, etc.), but even there it would be very do-able. If the WFC actually has a lawyer advising them about their anti-harassment policy – which seems questionable given the policy they published – the lawyer should be telling them how to craft an effective policy. I don’t see a competent lawyer advising any organization to make an anti-harassment policy like the WFC’s policy.

    2. By only addressing harassment that rises to the level of a criminal offense, the WFC opens the door to a lot of behavior that it should want to prohibit. Without going into too much legalese, criminal harassment statutes have to comply with the First Amendment’s speech protections, so they generally target only the most extreme harassing behaviors. More generally, criminal law is a terrible baseline for acceptable behaviors, because criminal law only addresses the kind of conduct that is so bad we throw you in jail for it.

    As a lawyer, I’d be concerned about the WFC’s message that everything short of criminal conduct is acceptable – not having an anti-harassment policy at all might be preferable. Are they exposing themselves to liability under New York’s anti-discrimination laws and civil harassment statutes? Are they negligent with regard to any duty of care they may owe to attendees? The WFC’s policy would make me lose much more sleep than the threat of a defamation lawsuit under a strong anti-harassment policy.

    3. It’s hugely irresponsible for the WFC to abdicate the management of their event to the police. Are members of minority groups going to feel comfortable complaining about harassment if they know it will result in an interaction with law enforcement? Are harassment victims going to get arrested for filing a false complaint if the police don’t believe them? Are people going to refrain from complaining about harassment because, while they want the harassment to stop, they don’t want the harasser to get arrested?

    My high school civics teacher used to tell us “The police aren’t your friends. They’re there to arrest you.” That’s true in too many cases. The police are part of a criminal justice system that is rife with abuses, and once you call them in you lose control over the situation. If you call the police to deal with harassing behavior, you have no idea how it could escalate, or who is going to end up bloodied, tazed, and in handcuffs.

    4. I’ve seen a few comments to the effect of “this isn’t a harassment policy.” It absolutely is. It’s a policy that the WFC is going to allow harassment. It’s a terrible policy.

  75. Volunteers handle events like conferences, conventions, gala dinners, and all events all the way to bake sales and Christmas craft fairs. It’s not the volunteers that are the problem. It’s the relatively small number of jerks who still haven’t woken up to the fact that they can’t pull that sh*t anymore. Anytime the emphasis in this discussion moves to something other than the actions of those jerks, then it’s going off course.

  76. @Teresa Nielsen Hayden: there is no ops or security as far as I know. There will be an office area with office supplies where the treasurer and facilities people and minimal tech equipment hangs out, but that’s it.

    I’ve decided to take matter in my own hands, which will, undoubtedly, piss off the chair and whomever crafted this weasely bullshit. It takes a lot to make me angry, but I am in a good righteous wrath right now. I hope the chair comes to his senses. Meanwhile, I’ll be findable in the dealers room, and around the con.

  77. Kat Goodwin says:
    Bad things have already happened. People have been raped and sexually assaulted at cons for decades. Serial harassers who got pinched more recently had been doing it for decades. [much snipping] It doesn’t matter if it’s run by fan volunteers or paid professionals. The liability is the same. And patting the fan run conventions on the head for being clueless isn’t acceptable.

    I agree with you, but I’ve been where the rubber meets the road. I’ve got the skid marks on my T-shirt to prove it. (Got the road rash, too.) However, I do think that Capital-F-Fandom should not be discarded in this because that’s like ignoring the elephant in the room. Changing the name of what is causing the problem doesn’t fix the problem. It just adds confusion to the process.

    Here are the problems fan-run (i.e. non-pro-run) conventions face.
    1) lack of institutional memory on the part of the convention committee. If you’re lucky, the predecessors trains the successors. If you’re not lucky, the wheel gets reinvented every single year. That includes things like do we have a policy? How do we enforce the policy and who has broken it and who has been banned for bad behavior. Written documentation is spotty. Word of mouth rules here. That can and has set up a catch 22 where “institutional memory” is verbal and the policy enforcement requires discretion and paperwork.
    2) the group of people who go to conventions are a self-selecting group with a long, mutual history. All the same faces keep showing up at the same things. It takes a special kind of person to buck the status quo and the “traditions” that grow up around it. Scalzi is a “bucker”. I’m a “bucker”. This “bucker” says that as soon as you stop getting in people’s faces about bad behavior they go back to doing it. The best we can do is train the next generation and the one after that. And the one after that, too. (And hope that those train the ones that follow them.)
    3) Victims self-blame in the self-selected group with an informal, word of mouth form of institutional memory. (see the Catch-22 above. See also “of the Fan, by the Fan, for the Fan”) “I should have known better. People warned me about That Person.” or “I don’t want to make waves and become The Squeaky Wheel.” or “I would report, but I have to Live With Them/See Them at Every Other Con I Go To.”

    When I first started attending conventions, I was so happy. All I could think was “I have found my tribe!” After time and experience, I came to the conclusion, “My tribe sucks.” At one point I started drafting a plan of action to deal with items 1, 2 and 3, but gave it up as a waste of my time and effort. A heart can break only so many times before you start to hate what you love.

    What Scalzi is doing helps. It’s not enough by any means, but it does provide some traction for change. That traction hasn’t existed before.

  78. Guess: “It’s not my problem”

    And yet, here you are.

    Question for you, Guess. Are you pointing out this “gotcha” clause you so proudly pointed out because (A) its a real problem that needs solving? Or (B) its a way to obstruct the anti harrassment policy?

    There really is only one of two choices. Well, the third option is you were trying to be clever and hit the failure mode.

  79. Let’s go ahead and table the bathroom policing thread of discussion, please. It’s a distraction from the larger topic and is going to end up as a derail.

  80. In my opinion, “No one wants to behave in a way that draws Police attention.” reads to me like: “If you’re harassed, we not only won’t help you, we’ll discourage you from calling the cops, & give them the “I know nuzzink!” treatment. It also makes me wonder if there are people in their organisation who have a history of trouble with boundaries.

  81. Cowardly bullshit indeed. Nobody wants to get the cops involved, least of all the cops.

    The concom, by this action, shows that they don’t really consider harassment to be a thing. They don’t care about their attendees.

    @Cogitationitis: good for you. Can you gather a few more like yourself into an unofficial ad-hoc group?

    @Smartypants: I’m thinking we need more LGBTQ concoms. Westercon 66 was run by Whatever’s own Andrew Trembley and his adorable husband Kevin Roche (head of the San Jose Worldcon bid), and I have never felt so free and non-harassed in my life. Everyone of every gender, color, creed, and sexual presentation was there. And happy. The heterosexual consensual flirting continued without any problems. (helloooo, Ctein ;) There probably were penises being deployed in the ladies’ room and vulvas in the men’s room, but I didn’t see any of either, so who cares?

    Have fun at World Fantasy GropeFest 2015, creepers! You’ll suffer no repercussions there! Pervs are welcome!

  82. That isn’t just a mealy-mouthed policy. That’s one that supports the harassers and tells them that they can go right ahead and harass anyone they’d like, so long as they either don’t do anything rising to the level of assault or they choose victims who are averse to calling the police. Given that creepers already tend to be pretty good at profiling people who are less able or less willing to stop them, I suspect the policy will make the convention a pretty unsafe place.

  83. Magda: Part of the problem is also the people who go “but what could we dooooo” while doing nothing at all. (Unless they’re also jerks, in which case disregard.)

  84. wow, that whole policy’s one giant dick move.

    I’m genuinely impressed. It takes real skill to come up with something this vague, ineffective, cowardly, and just plain BAD. This is like an active invitation to creeps and Gamergate rat-fuckers to come and be dicks all they want.

    Scratch WFC off my list of cons to attend; if you fuckers want my money you need to do at least the bare minimum; and this is NOT the bare minimum, this is a half-assed weak attempt at tripping over your own stupid feet.


    tl;dr: This is an impressively bad policy and I’m not attending this con ever until they make it several orders of magnitude better in every way.

  85. Looks as if they’ve weaseled away from their weaseling into even more weaselly weasledom. The website now says…

    “New York State has strict legal requirements regarding harassment. We are developing a policy in concert with the Saratoga County District Attorney and the Saratoga Springs Police Department. It will be posted here and given separately to every member at registration. World Fantasy is a social event. Members are expected, as a matter of civility, to observe generally accepted social conventions. No means no. All members are expected to respect other convention members.”

    See folks, its now “STRICT LEGAL REQUIREMENTS!!!!” Apparently the Law in the Weasel Kingdom is handed down directly from the Weasel God, and is not to be trifled with.

    I’ve never been to a con. This one won’t be the first. Too many rats.

  86. @Floored by Scalzi’s awesomeness I don’t know if it’s come up on your radar, but you might want to avoid Albacon as well. That’s LASTSFA’s annual event. Very small, very personal, which may be why Chuck is denying that harassment happens. It used to be one of my regular cons. Not anymore.

    Who is supposed to be calling the cops if there’s no official con security? Are con members supposed to do it themselves?

  87. Albacon? I haven’t seen their policy yet, but if they outright deny that harassment happens? Ugh. One more for the skip list…

  88. I’ve done local fan run cons that had NO harassment policy (that was, mind you, a different era, today most of them have something). That was better than this bullshit, because most likely, they just didn’t think about it. Had anything serious occurred, they did have security staff, who could have ejected anyone for any reason they felt valid. This, on the other hand, is a deliberate abdication of responsibility. Utterly reprehensible.

  89. @Floored by Scalzi’s awesomeness I retract that specificity. Reviewing my exchanges with Chuck, he doesn’t explicitly deny it. His statement on the con’s FB group that “There is no risk” seems to me to imply denial. There is currently no mention at all of a harassment policy on the Albacon page.

  90. @Cogitationitis: Well and good that you’re planning to be boots on the ground, i suppose – but why the hell should ANYONE trust you, given your past statements about harassment and harassers who happen to be friends of yours? Quoting you from your post about Walling, AFTER he was outed as a serial harasser (

    “Is flirting at cons now forbidden? When does flirting become harassment? Since I’m now fat, middle-aged, and monogamously married, I don’t have to worry about trying to flirt any more (or be the object of flirtation). But the new rules confuse me.”

  91. @King’s Rook Or you could quote this bit: “I hope they decide to announce a permanent ban.”

    Three years ago (at the time of that incident), I was much less aware of harassment than I am now. Last time LASTSFA hosted WFC, in 2007, I had a good time and never worried about harassment, though they didn’t have a policy at all then. This time, I’m not going and I’m appalled by this policy. I no longer attend conventions without sound harassment policies. My awareness and response have changed.

    People’s understanding of and attitudes toward issues can change. Quoting one line from a post giving a complex view on a situation isn’t fair.

  92. @King’s Rook: And then I went on to say that Readercon was perfectly right to ban him, ’cause them’s the rules, and fought to make sure the committee recanted and followed their rules. And I went on to chair Arisia 2014, where we banned several people, one whose misbehavior was all over the net (which did not effect our actions). I’ve been the victim of harassment myself. And as I said, after the Readercon incident I got training (courtesy of Arisia). I may not be perfect, but the con doesn’t have security, so I may be the best there is. I welcome anyone else taking this on, but so far I see a lot of complaining and boycotting and not a lot of doing.

  93. @morganbrilliant: Ultimately her “complex view” came down to “he didn’t MEAN it, and they should ban him but only because they need to be consistent”, and her replies to other folks in the comments support that reading of her opinion. Note that I also read, at the time, several other comments she wrote on other people’s LJs in response to the Walling situation — and notably, i have NEVER read anything suggesting she believes she has learned more about “how to tell flirting from harassment”.

    Based on having a broad picture of what she was saying about Walling at that time – and on the fact that i’ve never seen her retract her statements about social cluelessness – i personally would not trust her to appropriately handle reported harassment if the offender was anyone she knew and liked, or if the harassing behavior was “ambiguous” in any sense whatsoever.

    Other people can certainly make their own choices about whether or not to trust her! But this certainly seems to ME to be VERY RELEVANT information about how likely she is to support a complaint if the harasser is her buddy, or one of those “just clueless” people we hear so much about.

  94. @Cogitationitis: You’re right in that much, at least. I do appreciate that you are trying to help, and I shouldn’t be dismissive of that – I am angry at you about unrelated things, and that is probably unfairly coloring my opinion of your trustworthiness.

    I do, sincerely, hope that you HAVE actually revised your understanding of harassment, and that you can do right by anyone who needs you. Because given this shitshow of a policy, someone almost certainly will.

  95. I assume the con will be posting the non-emergency number for the local police prominently around the con, right? Seeing as how their official policy is for people who feel they are harassed to call the police. It would be irresponsible to have that be the policy and not hand out the number. Why it would almost make their policy seem disingenuous.

  96. What does “take matters into my own hands” mean in this case, cogitationitis? If an attendee comes to you and says that another attendee harassed them, what then?

    If you decide to expel a harasser, will the rest of the concom back you, or is there a chance that the person who was expelled will call or email another member of the concom and get their membership back?

  97. @Vicki, I will pull the badge and offer to bring it to the board, the police, or a refund (if needed). I will let the harasser chose which one. They can plead their case to the WFC board, I guess, if they feel I am in error. Yes, this is an unauthorized rogue action. Is there any choice? I welcome any other suggestions.

    Because of this non-policy, I will be required to ask people if they would like me to bring the matter to the police first. I expect the answer will usually be no.

    Per suggestions above, I’ll make sure to post the non-emergency police number: 518-584-1800. People can contact the DA (the source of this advice) at

  98. I am in no way endorsing the non-policy for the 2015 WFC–but a slight tangent, in case the above posts haven’t made it clear: the World Fantasy Convention is a professional conference put on by fannish organizations under the auspices of the World Fantasy Board. Aside from some very general rules (see above post by Andrew Trembley), each group awarded the WFC is pretty much free to put on the convention as they see fit, with little or no continuity of staff or policy from prior years. Evaluate each year on its own merits or lack thereof, please.

  99. Jereome: That is the language that has been on the website for months. The policy language that everyone else is talking about was sent out to members via email last night. It has not yet been posted to the website.

  100. I gotta say, I was not at all surprised when the Walling thing finally came to notice. I am not a SMOF, and am only on very rare occasions SMOF-adjacent, and I was told at the 2000 Worldcon that he was a known serial harasser. Of course, this was only known to women, so it wasn’t taken seriously. Because bitches be crazy or something.

    But there’s no excuse for this year’s WFC to be worse about a policy than the recent previous ones have, even if they’re different concoms. Nope, this is “We actively don’t care.” There’s also no excuse for a con that prides itself on being all book-only and literary to warn us about “severs” consequences.

    (Chris Klewe has some wonderful thoughts on the similar heinous fuckery at SXSW.)

  101. Getting volunteer fans to run cons is pretty much the only way to both limit the amount of commercialization and keep the event somewhat affordable to the average attendee.

    — Colonel

    It doesn’t matter if it’s volunteers or pros. You don’t need a lawyer. You don’t need to spend a fortune in training. That’s an excuse, and one that doesn’t look out for a con anyway. You borrow a harassment policy from the good ones out there. You put that policy up prominently on the website, in the program guides and all throughout the cons. You have standard procedures that everybody follows — again perfectly borrowable from cons that already have done it — they are happy to advise. You train your volunteers to follow those standard procedures. Not use their own judgement, not give passes to their friends — just follow the standard procedures. You’re consistent and you throw people out if they break the policy. You have a volunteer involved with the security team who keeps documentation on complaints and actions. You have a security team. It’s not rocket science. Many volunteer cons do it. Most of the new cons do it. It has little to do with cost.

    A convention, like any public event, is responsible for the safety of its attendees, whether it has liability insurance or not, whether it’s run by volunteers or not. And all conventions are commercial whether they are profit run or not. Anyone can buy a ticket to a con, large or small. The attendees aren’t staff’s friends (and weren’t in the old days either.) Even if some attendees are your friends, if you’re going to let them be harassed, you’re not much of a friend, are you? There is no excuse, especially when you are running a con with anywhere from 800 to 15,000 people in it. You have to have standard procedures for harassment and bad behavior that protects the victims of that harassment — the customers you have failed. And a policy also teaches and protects those who might stupidly harass — it tells them flat and simple what they aren’t allowed to do — and what behavior is going to be watched.

    Put it this way, when you have signs and staff telling people to keep their hands and feet and selfie sticks in the cars of a roller coaster, it’s clear that most people know already to do this on a roller coaster. But you have the sign and the warnings very evident to tell everybody not to just in case they are clueless. And if someone decides to do it anyway, you point to the sign with the policy that they clearly violated and you escort them out of the park. You don’t let them stick their hand out the coaster, have it get cut off and then have them sue you because there was no sign telling them not to stick their hand out. A harassment policy is a warning to everybody — here’s what you are not supposed to do and not supposed to put up with from other attendees, staff or honored guests. Here’s what happens if someone does what they are not supposed to do. So everybody knows the rules, and the convention covers its legal butt.

    Victoria — It’s not the name that’s the problem — it’s the cultural concept. That there are a group of fans who are exempt because they are Fans and thus can do whatever the hell they want, with a total lack of regard for the safety of their attendees. Incompetent people continue to run cons because other people let them and don’t take over or leave and start new cons. (Though sometimes they do.) You can’t run a con if all the other volunteers organize against you and insist that there’s a harassment policy or they walk. Of course getting that kind of cooperation is hard because many people are more concerned with protecting themselves and their reputations than with protecting others from actual harm.

    Some cons are insulated. Big cons like DragonCon and SDCC can gamble because they have Hollywood support — although not forever. WFC has the World Fantasy Award, and it’s a revolving con consequently. But even big reader cons with big awards can die off. New awards can be created. What we’re seeing with WFC and with SXSW cancelling panels in response to terrorist demands and claiming that the terrorists shouldn’t be upset and kept in the SXSW tent, but the women have to go, are people who believe that they are immune from consequences of harming others. And as you note, the more they get shown that they aren’t, the faster things change.

    And so, cogitationitis, while it’s great that you are volunteering as a resource, you don’t have enough authority to be effective. There’s no policy to let attendees know to come to you, there’s no security team to back you up — which is also negligent. But if you are in charge of the dealers — if their employees get harassed working their booths, then those employees can sue them. So maybe you can organize at least some of the dealers to demand that the WFC put up a harassment policy at the con. Because it protects their butts too. As Victoria said, those with leverage are the ones that force change.

    For me, I went to WFC a number of years back and quite liked it, although there were logistical problems. I am sad that I can’t go to it again because it will not set up a standard code of conduct policy. The people who run the con are incompetent, negligent and callous. The people who run whatever entity assigns the WFC to cons are incompetent, negligent and callous. They want to change and do the minimum amount necessary — great. If they refuse to change, they’re no different than the harassers and the con is not safe. Middle ground time, transitional time? That was back in the 1990’s, when cons lied to people about having harassment policies. Now, con command does it and displays it and has staff ready, or they are bigoted jerks who should be overthrown in revolution. :) It takes time, but the bigger the outcry, the less time it takes.

  102. Kat Goodwin – totally agree that it doesn’t matter who is running the con. My response was to someone upthread who observed that getting professional event managers might reduce the problem. It might, but most cons wouldn’t choose that option because of the cost.

    And the corollary point is that while it doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – matter who’s running the thing, based on empirical evidence it appears far likelier that volunteers will approach any situation, whether developing a harassment policy or getting liability insurance, from the perspective of “hey, we’re all friends here, we’re a community, we’re BETTER than that, we don’t need to worry about that.”

    No, it’s not right, and yes, every event absolutely should have, and post, and enforce, a clearly stated harassment policy. My observation was simply that it is unlikely for most cons to be run by professional event managers, and that as long as they are run by volunteers, we unfortunately likely to see crap like this happening at a certain percentage of cons. Whether they had the best of intentions and failed, or whether they just don’t care, a certain number of events are going to be creeper-heaven.

    So the take-away for me is that I need to continue to actively take responsibility for ensuring that the only events to get my money and my physical presence are those that actively take responsibility to prevent harassment. It would be lovely if I could just go to any event that interests me without worrying about that, but the evidence does not suggest to me that such a situation will ever exist in reality.

  103. @crystal sarakas:

    So far as I can rell the new policy was never emailed anywhere. It only seems to exist in print in the last physical progress report mailed out.

    That’s why there is no text of it online, but only a scanned image file.

    Somehow that seems more evasive to me, like the con committee was hoping no one would notice, or that if it weren’t online they wouldn’t be bothered.

    The policy reads to me like something created by people who are furious at the very idea of harassment policies but have to come up with one anyway and are using it to give the finger to members of the community they consider whiny whippersnappers.

  104. dirk: “Just put up a sign saying “No Creeps” ”

    I think that’s what they thought they were doing. I think they thought that was sufficient to keep out actual creeps, who I think they imagined were not real fans, not like them. I think they put all of five minutes thought into this and never bothered to consult with anyone knowledgeable.

  105. As an attorney, I can assure you they have a MUCH greater risk of liability from tolerating harassment, creating an environment where there’s an increased risk of someone getting hurt or raped and suing, than from their bullspit “libel” gripe. There is NO chance anyone is winning a libel claim for being ejected from a private event for harassment, even if it doesn’t meant the definition found in the criminal code. Private functions and businesses can and do eject people for all kinds of reasons not involving a criminal violation; as long as the ejection is not based upon otherwise illegal discrimination (no minorities allowed, no wheelchairs, that sort of thing) there is no problem.

    There is NO chance they consulted a lawyer before coming up with this garbage. Shame on them, and a boycott is appropriate if they don’t fix it quickly.

  106. That is the language that has been on the website for months. The policy language that everyone else is talking about was sent out to members via email last night. It has not yet been posted to the website.

    So they went from Weaseltown to Downtown Weaselopolis.


  107. See above link. They apologized on their FB page, and they’re adopting last year’s policy, which can be found here–

  108. With regard to the presumably soon to be adopted policy, I will say that a relevant concern is that, as it is being adopted almost literally at the last minute, the implementation side of things may be suspect. The WFC organization was willing to punt (i.e., let the police handle things) before, which does not lead to a huge amount of confidence that it will be able to handle it well if an actual harassment event occurs.

    So, adopting a harassment policy that actually speaks to harassment is a big leap forward, and good for WFC for making that correction. I do hope the implementation side of things backs what the new harassment policy promises.

  109. Alessandra Kelley – It was emailed out to members on Monday, which is how word got out about it (via Natalie Luhrs and others). The final progress report isn’t actually going to be mailed out physically until after the convention (which, is a different issue but not on topic here).

  110. They got the “legal advice of Saratoga authorities” but somehow they didn’t find time to get the advice of the people who wrote last year’s policy.

  111. Victoria wrote:

    [one problem fan-run cons have is a] lack of institutional memory on the part of the convention committee. If you’re lucky, the predecessors trains the successors. If you’re not lucky, the wheel gets reinvented every single year.

    Even if you have good institutional memory, fan-run cons face a problem that the professionals don’t – rare events. I’ve been working convention security as part of the Dorsai Irregulars for over 30 years – probably several hundred cons in that period. In that time, we’ve had a number of medical emergencies, ambulance runs, etc, etc – things that most cons get less than one of per year. Institutional memory can’t help you with things you’ve never seen. Nor can it help you with things that you’re now doing but nobody remembers why.

    As an example, we keep an event log of things that go wrong. We record time, date, and who wrote the log message. This is, frankly, a pain in the ass. And nine out of ten times, you don’t really need it. The problem is that the event log is needed for some really rare but really bad stuff. Especially those rare events which significantly raise the bar of responsibility and liability. Four such examples, from the past 10 years –

    One rape accusation, where both the accused and accuser were adults, for which the accuser was willing to file criminal charges with the police but was first reported to us.
    One death, probably by self-abuse but . . . and again, first reported to us.
    One lawsuit alleging physical abuse by a con staff member (no criminal complaint).
    One lawsuit by parent of a minor who alleged she’d been drugged and raped by an adult attendee (again, no criminal complaint).

    In all these cases we were hugely aided after the fact by the logs. But if we didn’t have those four events in the last 80-90 conventions, we might have become less diligent about event logs. Once-a-year cons either never develop the handling methods for those events, or they forget after ten years of turnover.

    So I guess my primary point is that institutional memory can fade rapidly for once-a-year things. The secondary is that most annual convention staffs never even see even one of the really bad things, so never have the opportunity to develop the institutional memory. Do I have a solution? Except for getting more professionalized security (and eating the cost in time, money, or both), no. It’s a hard issue, and even harder when you have outside security that may not understand your event at all. Do it wrong, and you risk spending a large chunk of the next few years in a courtroom dealing with civil or criminal issues. Most smaller conventions never even realize their risk, let alone plan for it.

  112. And in re the horrendous policy that WFC came up with –

    Clearly they didn’t speak to an actual lawyer. The lawyer will tell you that there is a huge difference between what is a public legal issue and what is a private function issue. I am not a lawyer, and actual law varies widely by venue, but in general here’s what I’ve seen.

    If you are having a function in which you sell memberships to the public and membership is a requirement for attending, you can make policy with respect to behavior largely as you please so long as you make sure the attendees should have knowledge what the policy is. That’s easy enough – have folks sign something when they pick up their badges that says they have read, understand, and will abide by the con policies. That’s trivially easy for most cons. And second, you must have a policy.

    The best policies are flexible and broad. I like the Anthrocon Standards of Conduct. There’s a fair amount of detail there, which you can read over as you wish. But the first rule, a meta-rule which ranks above all others, expresses it all in one sentence:

    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.

    That’s it. When coupled with a con staff and security staff which believes that attendees should have as much fun as possible without violating the meta-rule, we usually wind up on the permissive side of enforcement rather than the restrictive.

    More specifically, here is their harassment policy pretty much in toto:

    Harassment of any kind, including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions, will not be tolerated at the convention. If people tell you “no” or ask you 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. Remember: “A costume does not imply consent.” If you have been the target of harassment, we urge you to report the incident immediately to a member of Security or to Convention Operations. The sooner an issue is reported to us, the more appropriately we can address it.

    Taking that policy and the meta-rule together, I tell you that this policy works if the concom backs it up with actual expulsions. It doesn’t take long for people to figure out that yes, the concom will revoke your membership, and may follow that up with a one-year ban or even a perma-ban if they think it’s bad an issue. Conversely, if you never eject your offending attendees, your policy isn’t worth the electrons that display it.

    More specifically on dealing with harassment under this policy – we get more than one and less than 10 at each Anthrocon, and most people amend their behavior rather than being tossed. The others, well, get tossed. The concom stands behind the policy, and while they have final authority on who gets tossed, I don’t think they’re overridden the recommendation of the security staff in years. Similar results occur at a number of other cons which have used the Anthrocon policy as a starting point.

  113. Colonel:

    My observation was simply that it is unlikely for most cons to be run by professional event managers, and that as long as they are run by volunteers, we unfortunately likely to see crap like this happening at a certain percentage of cons. Whether they had the best of intentions and failed, or whether they just don’t care, a certain number of events are going to be creeper-heaven.

    The big media cons that are run by professional event managers often have the exact same problems. SXSW is a huge, professionally run, for profit multi-media rich tech con and look what they did. Whereas many new, small cons have good, solid harassment policies that they do a decent job enforcing. The difference is competence, not pay/no pay. When people who are incompetent and uncaring keep getting support and accommodation to be in charge, this is when the bad things happen.

    Institutional memory doesn’t fade because we still have it all the year round. We have records and receipts. We have the Internet all year round and these situations are recorded quite accessibly on the Internet for decades. And in numerous cases of serial harassers, the con runners knew about the problem, did not forget about the problem and covered up the problem every single year. Even if you’ve never run a convention before, you know what has happened in other conventions. And you also know what the hell is going on in the business, political and academic worlds, where you work, what’s going on in the news, what’s going on with abusive and sexist behavior towards the actresses you like in the shows you watch. Ignorance does not cut it as an excuse any more.

    For TEN years, at least, I’ve been hearing about SMOF’s. I’ve been hearing some SMOF’s say incredibly sexist, racist and callous statements in public on the Internet and in media interviews, watched them point blank refuse to have harassment policies and been left in charge, have them break what rules they have to protect serial harassers and deliberately try to damage women authors’ careers. Etc. If they haven’t learned in ten years — they aren’t going to learn and they need to go. Cons that keep them in charge need to lose business until they change or new cons take their place. There are other people who are better at it who need support. People like you and Victoria, who are trying. People who can learn from past mistakes and get training, like cognitationitis — that’s a step.

    Withdrawal of money, of staff and staff support, of dealer, sponsor, publisher and guest support — viral screaming — gets you change right quick, or at least in healthy increments. BuzzFeed, and the Verge, and some celebrities all threatened to pull out of SXSW if they were going to let terrorists run amok and control the con, and now that con is scrambling to fix stuff. ReaderCon got overhauled when staff wouldn’t let other staff do a cover-up on a harasser. WFC is now trying to shove the better policy into the con because the people who run it realized that they fucked up. Because the support and accommodation that let them pretend they hadn’t fucked up got removed.

    I can’t imagine that Scalzi enjoys having to do this rant periodically. I am certainly tired of the conversation. Geek conventions are joyous places, but not when the people who run them only want the joy to extend to a chosen few and won’t do their jobs. Won’t acknowledge that they let a whole bunch of people get raped and assaulted on their watch — sometimes in front of them — for years, that this has been a bad and regular part of con culture, and won’t vow to make sure they will do the basics needed to prevent it as much as possible. There are a lot of kids going to these conventions now — this is not a game. So yes, it unfortunately does become everybody’s job to stop it — or walk away and start or join a new con. Eventually, these policies are going to be standard and everywhere. The fight against them is stupid.

    Okay, I’ll stop ranting, promise. It’s just such a broken record.

  114. Punting down the field like that is pretty lame (we’re not trained) – I mean honestly, how much does it take to say “If person X does one of these things kick them out.”

    The only issue that I usually find comes up with these things is that if a staff member does not see the actual harassment it can turn into ‘he said/she said’ and that is always rough. I’ve thrown people out who were, in fact, friends for having too many and doing something inappropriate even when they denied it – but only when it became obvious that they were lying. Hated to do it , but people do lie – particularly when they’ve had one too many. They also misbehave.

    On the other hand, I’ve also seen people make stuff up to get someone kicked out (and caught them at it).

    Having a policy is a very good thing. Enforcing it – that can be a bit rough as things are not always cut and dried.

  115. And all of this is a reminder to check for a con’s harassment policy BEFORE mailing in that check and paying for travel arrangements, or agreeing to partiicipate in a panel. If they get enough messages frome people prior to the con saying “I really wanted to give you my money/be a guest of honor/be on a panel, but can’t due to your lack of an adequate harassment policy”, that puts them on notice that they are going to be hurt by not having one and we’ll all be less likely to run into last minute surprises like this.

  116. Very true about the professionally-run cons, Kat. Of course, when you get right down to it, the same thing is also true for a lot of workplaces and non-geek space, so F/SF doesn’t have a monopoly on doing dumb things over and over again.

    Your point about making noise and voting with our feet is quite apposite – and part of what gets so many of us enlisted in that effort is when people like Mr. Scalzi discuss it in a place like this one. I, too, suspect he’s sick and tired of it, and I, too, share that weariness. But he’s got a bigger platform than many of us do – certainly a whole lot bigger than I do – and I appreciate his willingness to publicly call out BS when he sees it.

  117. On Facebook, I just saw someone I used to know lauding WFC for “standing up to harassment policy culture.”

    So apparently that’s a thing now.

  118. Harassment policy culture. Huh. Whoever coined that term is going on my list right next to Illinois Nazis. Whom I hate.

  119. I’ve never been to a con. Attending one is not on my bucket list, but is in the category of “that might be cool, sometime, if it were nearby and affordable, etc.” Or rather, WAS in that category. I know now, after reading this blog for the last year or so and all the comments, I will NEVER attend a con of any type. Jeez, why would I? If harassment, rape, assault, and the like are so commonplace and widespread at these events, why does ANYONE go? If you have to have six-foot banners announcing all the COMMON dick behaviors that are not allowed – who would pay money to waltz in and say, “Well, there’s a SIGN. And a POLICY! So none of these things will happen any more and if they do, I know how to react!” Good lord. Count me out!

    Not that my non-attendance matters a whit to anyone. I’m an ugly old lady who spends no money on the advertised products, so not the audience for a con, anyway.

  120. @lawduck : regarding Jared Spool’s policies, Rachel Nabors has made a similar pledge to Scalzi – not to attend conferences without CoC’s. When Spool invited her to speak, they had a lengthy conversation on the subject, but couldn’t come to terms.
    I strongly recommend reading her essay at:

    [W]e can’t “design” misconduct out of conference anymore than Boeing can design a plane that will never crash. Codes of Conduct are like life vests and inflatable slides: they let customers know that we are putting their safety before our own pride and profit margins.

  121. Cons are parties with a lot of strangers in attendance and like visiting a new city. Go with friends so you can make up your own mutual support and happiness zone and they’re wonderful. Go on your own and the experience starts at confused and trends down frighteningly fast.

    A well structured and supported harassment policy is important but for heaven’s sake, go with people you know or find someone onsite who’s loving on the same things you’re into and invite them to hang out (don’t forget your ‘how not to be a stalker’ lessons). Just don’t go expecting some overworked volunteer behind a desk to be willing or able to take care of you.It’s NICE if they can but what if they cannot?

  122. Dear Folks,

    Since WFC has adopted the previous year’s policy, which seems adequate, I won’t rage on the con… but I will rage on their stupid defenses. Warning, this is going to be sooooo longissimus, non legi, but trust me, I will make it worth your while.

    It was a trifecta of lawyer-up, volunteer, formality fails (or dismounts, if your prefer). I will skewer them in turn.

    I want to make a couple of points about WFC, for folks who aren’t familiar with its structure. WFC isn’t like WorldCon. Yes, it’s run by a different volunteer group every year, but there is an overriding board that can make whatever policies and rules it wants that the convention-running group has to follow — e.g., no costumes. Equally importantly, David Hartwell legally *owns* WFC. He doesn’t rule it like a dictator, but if he wants something to happen it will happen, and if he doesn’t want something to happen it won’t. That’s where the no-costume rule comes from.

    So, when David posts that kind of worse-than-lukewarm “we might get sued” comment, it’s very disturbing. It suggests he doesn’t think preventing harassment is especially important. What makes that more than usually disturbing is that after the Jim Frenkel matter and the hit that both Wiscon and Tor took to their reputations over how long it had gone on and how badly it was handled, you would hope he’d learned something useful from that. It does not appear so.

    On with the skewering:

    1) The lawyer-up fail, a.k.a. “we might get sued.” Has this ever happened? Really? Has an ejectee even had an attorney write a threatening letter to a concom? Lots of concoms have codes of conduct now; quite a few people have been dealt with under them (nowhere near enough, but that’s not the point). How many of them have resulted in actual legal threats?

    Numbers, please? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it was zero.

    But, this keeps being raised as a bogeyman by folks who don’t want to do anything. Well, a partial answer appeared in the early days of the Frenkel business, when several fannish lawyers stood up and said they would donate their time in defense of Wiscon and Elise if Frenkel tried to go after either of them legally. Which didn’t happen.

    I think it’s unlikely it ever will. Still, I want to put down this bogeyman once and for all.

    I would like someone to establish an ongoing Anti-Harassment Defense Group.

    The group would have two components. One component would be lawyers who would pledge to either volunteer their time or work at a reduced rate to defend both reporters and concoms from legal challenges, should any ever arise. The second component would be folks who would pledge money to that defense (because even if an attorney is working for free there can be costs). Lawyers and Money would stop any attack in its tracks and slay that bogeyman.

    In point of fact, if such a group were created, the likelihood of any ejectee’s attorney going after a concom would be vanishingly small. An attorney will happily take on a client if they think the other side lacks muscle. When the other side does, it’s the legal equivalent of “You call that a knife? Now THIS is a knife!”

    I’m not willing to establish such a group. Someone else will have to bell that cat. But …

    I will put my money where my mouth is. If someone is willing to assemble such a group, I hereby pledge $10,000 towards concom/reporter defense costs.

    I am fucking serious.

    Anyone want to step up?

    (And, yeah, I know that can be small change when it comes to legal bills. My sister was an attorney; my other-significant-other is. I know how expensive this can get. $10,000 is a start, and someone has to step up first. I’m stepping up.)

    2) The volunteer fail, a.k.a. “we aren’t trained”. This one is total bullshit. If a concom’s treasurer screwed up the finances or the registrar screwed up the registration records and database, how long do you think a convention would stand for that? Would the “I’m just a volunteer, and this requires real training” excuse carry them for more than a millisecond. They would be out on their ass so fast…

    That’s because these things are *important* to a concom, while Codes of Conduct clearly are not. The latter is merely a perk, like having Coke Zero in the con suite. (Does anyone actually drink that stuff?) It’s not something the convention actually needs to put in any effort to learn about or train for, because it’s dispensable, right? [And everyone does understand the last several sentences were sarcasm, right?]

    Also, big clue, here, we have plenty of people in the fannish community who already are trained. Some of them professionally––I know at least one mandated reporter who attends WFC, and she could give the Concom excellent advice on how to train for this. Concoms don’t ask. They could put out the call–– a notice on their website saying they want to do this properly and they know they need training and can anyone out there help them out with this or provide references or recommendations. They’d get plenty of help. We have lots of professionals in our subculture. Not just attorneys, y’know.

    But it’s not important, so why ask?

    3) The legality/formality fail. That’s been tried several times. It DOES fail. Codes of conduct are not based on legal definitions of criminality. Not if they are expected to work. They do not follow criminal evidentiary hearing procedures. Not if they are expected to work. Even distinguishing between “formal” and “informal” complaints goes off the rails–– look at what happened internally to the Sasquan comcom. legal and formal distinctions are only excuses for people not to act, and they work counter to the inclination of the reporter to, well… report. these things are really, really bad ideas.

    Cut it out!


    Alright, I’m just about done ranting (it’s about effin’ time, the audience says). Just one last thought, and I am not recommending this… yet… because it is truly the Nuclear Option.

    If things don’t shape up it may be necessary, even desirable to Make An Example of someone. By someone, I mean a convention. Call it the “Anti-Harassment Plaintiff Group.” Find a particularly egregious case of harassment and lack of anti-harassment enforcement, throw Lawyers and Money the reporter’s way, and take on the convention. ‘Cause if concoms are really so afraid of being sued, maybe they need something real to be afraid of.

    I’m really, really not recommending this. Not yet. It’s a much tougher case to pursue, and boy-oh-boy would it start wars that wouldn’t die down for a very long time. Plus, as my dear departed attorney, the once-well-known-fan Fred Gottfried would put it, “If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you want to get screwed, go to court.”

    It’s very much a last option. But, it should not be off the table. And, yeah, if it were case I thought were winnable (that’s a big if), I’d throw money at it.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  123. No Great Shakes:

    Or rather, WAS in that category. I know now, after reading this blog for the last year or so and all the comments, I will NEVER attend a con of any type. Jeez, why would I? If harassment, rape, assault, and the like are so commonplace and widespread at these events, why does ANYONE go? If you have to have six-foot banners announcing all the COMMON dick behaviors that are not allowed – who would pay money to waltz in and say, “Well, there’s a SIGN. And a POLICY! So none of these things will happen any more and if they do, I know how to react!” Good lord. Count me out!

    That’s exactly the excuse some con runners use to try to keep from having a harassment policy and it’s bogus. Rapes, harassment and assault are not “widespread” — most people go to a con and have a great time. But they do sometimes happen, because they happen at any public event — music festivals and concerts, film festivals, banquets, street festivals, church and temple events, school events, amusement parks, dance clubs, bars and restaurants, business conventions, etc. If you are throwing a public event at which people gather, you have to be prepared for the people who do want to spoil the party for all or some. You have to have procedures in place for staff to follow to protect attendees and legally protect the event. It’s to make the event less dangerous, not more, and make sure all people are welcome and have resources, instead of just the harassers.

    If you knew an event was just going to let you lie there and bleed in the unlikely but still possible circumstance that you had an accident, would you go to the event? But if there was a big sign at the event saying, we’ve got a medical tent and an ambulance on call, you wouldn’t worry about it, now would you? If something does happen, you know there’s back up. Conventions often do have medical tents and let people know they are there prominently. It’s the same with harassment.

    The big signs don’t say danger. They say, we will be watching for this behavior and here’s what we’ll do if you do it or experience it. That’s a tremendous deterrent to most harassers, and a helpful primer for the younger set. It tells attendees they have back-up if anything does happen. And for female authors, dealers, cos-players entering competitions, and convention staff, it’s a real boon because if there is harassment, they are usually the major targets if harassers think harassment is going to be tolerated by the convention, in large part because they have to be there at the convention and at certain places in it to do their jobs.

    The difficulties with codes of conduct, prominently displayed and enforced, are not roving gangs at conventions causing destruction. It’s the attitude of those running the con about having them, and that’s because they’ve ignored the issue for so long. Lots of cons have good policies in place, and as a result, they are much less likely to have harassment incidents occur. Having a harassment policy is the minimal, basic, responsible thing runners of any public event have to do.

  124. Ctein: I think that most of your comment is great, but I think that your Nuclear Option is a very bad idea, for two reasons.

    The first reason is that I think you will get very weird results. Most of the conventions that I’m concerned with are fan-based, volunteer-run, and strictly amateur hour. I love these conventions. However, con runners have a somewhat cargo-cult reaction to The Law. An actual law suit about harassment is likely to cause confusion, panic, and a whole series of abreactions. There will also be a small contingent of people attempting to make hay, trying to prove that dealing with harassment _necessarily_ leads to being sued, and there are people who will believe that. I do not think that Making an Example will actually communicate anything. I think it will cause fear, uncertainty, doubt, and really stupid reactions from people who do not understand how law works. Most people can’t reliably distinguish between a civil and criminal matter, just for starters. A law suit could still happen, but I doubt that trying to engineer such would have good outcomes.

    The second reason I don’t like this is because I think it avoids what I believe to be the central issue, and it avoids it in an incredibly non-productive way. We must, as a community, come to understand that harassment is a community problem. We must, as a community, decide what kind of community we actually are. What are our values? What are our norms? What do we mean by “inclusive”? Which population do we care more about, the people who harass, or the people who do not wish to tolerate harassment? If we punt this to the legal system, it allows people to dodge responsibility, to walk away from grappling with the central question: who are we?

    There’s a reason that judicial cosplay is very popular when harassment comes up. It’s a way of dodging problem, of putting it off on someone else. It also tends to focus on single instance interactions between two people, as if this were the sum and total of the problem. The problem of harassment is rarely that simple. It’s a slow poison, to use Josh More’s analogy, and it spreads throughout the community. By focusing on exactly what party A did or didn’t do to party B, it permits the con runners to completely dodge the question of whether or not the environment that they are fostering is a healthy and consensual one, or one which permits creepers to creep unmolested. And that latter question, that’s the one we need to deal with. I don’t see the blunt instrument of the law as useful, here.

    But I do like the defense fund a lot. I wonder what it would take to set it up…

  125. While Kat makes a good point that harassment can (and does) happen in all manner of places – it’s worth noting that when I go to a business seminar, there is no prominently displayed harassment policy.

    I wonder why that is? There is often a fair bit of drinking, particularly after hours. There is occasionally misbehavior.

    So – why do we see this at conventions and not at other places? Why, also, does it seem to be more of a problem at conventions – because it does seem to be.

    When I run a wargaming event, I would never think of putting in place such a policy, nor can I imagine one being needed. Sure, it’s a smaller event and tends to be almost all guys, but the gals who show up expect (and get) the same treatment as everyone else.

    For some reason, F&SF conventions have more issues – and they DO have more issues (I’ve run both SF stuff and non-SF stuff and the differences are marked).

    Maybe, in addition to policies, we need to consider the realities of what goes on in our community that such bad behavior is more common?

  126. @Lord Commander

    At business seminars, most attendees have a standing code of conduct from their employer and the expectation of professional behavior as a representative of the employer, and the possibility of life altering consequences from their employer. Those are pretty big carrots and sticks that don’t exist at fan events.

    Of course, even then harassment still occurs frequently at professional conferences, so maybe they SHOULD have their harassment policies displayed prominently

  127. I can’t see it happening – but the point was this – even at non-business events these kinds of codes of conduct are not seen. One doesn’t see a code of conduct at a car show, a boat show, a get together for camping enthusiasts etc.

    Why do we see it and, more importantly NEED it more at fandom related events? I don’t think it’s merely a matter of a bunch of oversensitive people, although I’m sure that plays a part – but it seems to be partly that the fannish community lacks somewhat in understanding basic boundaries and social mores.

    Maybe we should start addressing that lack with panels and education, in addition to just posting lists of rules.

  128. Lord Commander:

    While Kat makes a good point that harassment can (and does) happen in all manner of places – it’s worth noting that when I go to a business seminar, there is no prominently displayed harassment policy.

    I wonder why that is? There is often a fair bit of drinking, particularly after hours. There is occasionally misbehavior.

    So – why do we see this at conventions and not at other places? Why, also, does it seem to be more of a problem at conventions – because it does seem to be.

    It “seems to be”, sure. Because people are talking about it, and addressing it. But is it really more of a problem at fannish conventions, or is it only that conventions are mostly not covering it up or ignoring it any more, while business seminars still do?

  129. Cally: “But is it really more of a problem at fannish conventions, or is it only that conventions are mostly not covering it up or ignoring it any more, while business seminars still do?”

    What I was saying in my comment is that this problem/issue/culture/whatever you want to call it of harassment and worse is the ONLY thing I know about cons. On this blog, particularly, it is mentioned and discussed way more than “look at the fun we had!”

    And I go to lots of other meetings and conventions – my professional society meetings for both state and national, volunteer organizations, sports fan shows, etc. Not only have I never been harassed, myself, I’ve never met/heard of anyone else experiencing it to the level described here. Nor have I ever seen or read a policy about these things, or seen any signs addressing behavior. Of course, bad behavior can and does happen everywhere, and I don’t exist in a bubble of unicorn stickers and glitter where everyone is nice to each other. But from what I read, here and elsewhere, it really is more of a problem at fannish conventions. If the point of these posts is to get fans to run in the other direction, as I am doing … mission accomplished!

  130. Yes, there is harassment and inappcropriate behaviour at business conventions. I’ve experienced it as both participant and organizer. Men hitting on women inappropriately seems to be constant throughout society.

    Maybe there should be banners at business conventions. Might smarten a few businesses up to the problem. It gets my vote.

  131. Apologies to John for consecutive posts: I know he doesn’t like it.

    Lord Commander: maybe you shouldn’t see it as a problem. Maybe the best way to look at it is that fannish conventions are ahead of the curve in confronting the problem. Business conventions might be displaying banners in a few years time.

  132. Dear Lydy,

    No particular argument with you on any points. I call it the Nuclear Option because, really, anyone who thinks nukes are a good idea is just fucking nuts. The only winning move is not to play.

    But one is so tempted, at times…

    In truth, I cannot imagine such a clearly-winnable case ever happening. At least, not on anything less than an incident that would be obviously legally actionable and likely criminal. In that case, finding a real-world attorney to take it either pro bono or on contingency would be much less of a problem.

    To get nitpicky about it, it’s not a “defense fund”, it’s a “defense group.” It’s not collecting money, just pledges to provide services and money if ever needed. That makes it a lot easier to set up and administrate, both practically and legally. The main thing someone who wanted to spearhead this would have to do would be to maintain the database of pledges, and periodically contact them to make sure they were still interested and the contact information was good. Importantly, they would have to actively seek out new pledges. Because, really, the primary value in this is making sure that the knife looks like a KNIFE, and also because in practice, when push comes to shove, a fairly large percentage of the folks who have pledged will be unable or unwilling to follow through at that moment. Consequently, you want a big question of potential resources. $10,000, my pledge, mostly serves as an exhortation to others to, um,… “man up.” [Ahem]

    The “judicial cosplay” (I like that––did you think it up?) or some variant of it could pop up even with the Defense Group. Certainly, one counter you will hear from folks who are either actively opposed to creating an anti-harassment culture for whatever reason or folks who are simply logic-and-brain-cell impaired will be along the lines of, “Well, if there really isn’t a problem of conventions getting sued for kicking people out, then why did you create this group?” To which the simple and correct answer is, “For the same reason that people who backpack may carry a snake bite kit and people with certain allergies an epi-pen. The odds are quite low that they will ever need it at any time in their entire lives, but it’s cheap insurance against a catastrophic loss.”

    Which will still not satisfy some people, but they are the willfully obstructionist and need not be dealt with.

    Or we can turn them over to my associate, Mongo. Mongo likes to play.

    Tangentially, as another example of the lawyer-up fail aspects of this, you don’t hear SFF conventions worrying much about getting sued over ADA violations, which are widespread, clear-cut, and most certainly legally actionable. Most conventions are well out of compliance; you’d think that if cons were so desperately afraid to avoid getting sued by a would-be attendee, more of them would do something about that.

    That they don’t shows that legal liability really isn’t a big concern of theirs. They’re just looking for an excuse to not have to do anything about that squidgy harassment stuff.

    (And, yes, I’m aware that this could be a massive derail, so please let’s not dive into ADA stuff here. I’m merely bringing it up as an example of how little conventions care about liability stuff in reality.)


    Dear Cally and Lord Commander,

    SXSW and any number of other conference incidents widely reported over the past several years demonstrate that harassment IS an issue at business conferences. Mostly, though, they simply choose to ignore it. This is driven in substantial part by a culture that says you need to be a team player and one of the boys to get ahead.

    In any case, this is a diversionary notion. It does not matter if SFF conventions have more or less of a problem with this than other conferences. Either we think we have a serious enough problem that dealing with it should be accorded importance or we don’t. What the rest of the world does or doesn’t do (or need to do) is irrelevant.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  133. The reason that voluntary leisure-activity conventions are getting all public about these codes of conduct and business conventions aren’t is that when it’s a voluntary leisure-activity convention, retaliation for whistle-blowing does not usually involve being fired from your day job.

    That’s it. That’s the difference. The women who insisted that ReaderCon enforce their own policy mostly had reason to believe that their livelihoods would be unaffected by their stance. You think a woman who was groped at a business event by one of her boss’s golf buddies has the same confidence? I don’t.

    Published and enforced codes of conduct are a sign of women having sufficient institutional power to reject abusive treatment. A lack of such codes indicates a lack of women with institutional power, not a lack of occasion for such codes.

  134. @Lis Riba: That is an amazing article! I’ve never thought that “no public code is necessary” is a valid position. I think Rachel’s stance is laudable, and based only on my reading of Medium piece I’m surprised to learn that Mr. Spool was so adamantly against putting a policy in place, even one that does nothing more than represent their already-in-place procedures.

    One quick thing on “we’ll get sued” as it relates to implementation; if you DO have a code of conduct, and then you fail to follow or enforce it, you WILL GET SUED, and rightly so. So, to the extent that the con organizers are oblivious, untrained, or otherwise incapable of grasping the mechanics of enforcement, copy/pasting a code of conduct does create a liability that wasn’t there before. If you make no promises and something terrible happens, at least you didn’t make any promises. To be clear: you’ll still get sued. Everyone’s arguments above that you’re trading one liability for another are completely correct. But if you’re sued, there won’t be a separate cause of action regarding your failure to fulfill your obligations under the posted code of conduct.

  135. Dangit, I should have left my comment open. There are some great responses to Jared’s article, but I had missed this one by Mozillian Ashley Williams, which echoes a lot of the themes in Rachel’s post.

  136. Lord Commander: One doesn’t see a code of conduct at a car show, a boat show, a get together for camping enthusiasts etc.

    The last car show I went to–admittedly, it was a big one–had armed, uniformed security something like every twelve feet. No, I’m not exaggerating. The last “outdoor enthusiasts” show I could have gone to was at the same venue, so I suspect that it were equally well equipped with security. I doubt they provided that level of security in order to avoid having a posted Code of Conduct, but I suspect it did make posters less necessary in the organizers’ minds. These are generally large, professional events, I suppose the equivalent of the big comic or media cons. Comparing them to smaller, private–volunteer run–conventions is really comparing at least apples and oranges, if not apples and bicycles.

    The non-sf con settings I’m most familiar with are academic conferences, which can range in size from quite small and volunteer-run to huge. I don’t remember any posters on the walls, but an academic who misbehaves at a conference is probably going to be in more trouble than the average business person; it’s a smaller world, and one very aware of harassment issues. That said, I kind of agree with earlier commenters, who pointed out that the absence of clearly posted and adhered to policies does not necessarily demonstrate a lack of need for such things . . .

  137. @Lord Commander: My first attempt at a reply is held up in moderation because I put in three links to harassment policies for gaming cons: PaizoCon, GenCon, and Origins. The latter, at least, is more wargaming/board gaming-oriented than RPG-oriented. I will grant that they’re all fairly short, but they seem to hit all the important points AFAICT (corrections welcome).

    I hadn’t thought about iiii’s take on it before, and I think it makes a great deal of sense.

  138. I realize this may be an unpopular position, but I intend to go in spite of the stupidity that is represented by this policy. I have a code of conduct that I live by; I am a gentleman, and to me that means being accepting and tolerant of others’ lifestyle choices I feel that, by being there, I can stand up and say “enough” should the need arise. I’m not nominating myself as lord high protector or something, but I can’t effect change and stand up against bigotry and harrassment if I’m not there.

  139. stevecsimmons says:
    As an example, we keep an event log of things that go wrong. We record time, date, and who wrote the log message. This is, frankly, a pain in the ass. And nine out of ten times, you don’t really need it. The problem is that the event log is needed for some really rare but really bad stuff. Especially those rare events which significantly raise the bar of responsibility and liability.

    This makes me want to work with/be one of the Dorsai Irregulars. Doing the PITA work when you don’t want to and enforce others to do it when they don’t want to is very impressive. Kudos to you and the Irregulars. Every convention should do this. Not every convention does, even when someone insists on it. Organizing a bunch of volunteers and running a convention is a lot like waging a war. People have to pick their battles and this isn’t one most people choose to fight. (Because conventions are supposed to be FUN not WORK.) …wait, let me engage the sarcasm font for that last sentence.

    Kat Goodwin says:
    It’s not the name that’s the problem — it’s the cultural concept. That there are a group of fans who are exempt because they are Fans and thus can do whatever the hell they want, with a total lack of regard for the safety of their attendees.

    I want to respond to this paragraph at length so very badly but I won’t. I don’t have the time. The response will also take our exchange off topic. So here’s a summary. I’ve tried to change my bit of the culture and tell people that they weren’t exempt. Every single attempt failed because the perpetrator of the harassment was themselves a victim of harassment at some point in their life. They’re just doing to other what was done to them. That, by the way, is in addition to Entitlement Blindness caused by people operating on the Lowest Difficulty Setting.

    Kat Goodwin says:
    Incompetent people continue to run cons because other people let them and don’t take over or leave and start new cons. (Though sometimes they do.) You can’t run a con if all the other volunteers organize against you and insist that there’s a harassment policy or they walk.

    I resent the statement that incompetent people continue to run cons because others let them. Let’s just say that volunteers are a mixed bag of skills. I would no more ask a goldfish to bark at an intruder than I would expect a dog to play the violin for my personal entertainment. Engineers and mechanics have saying, “use the right tool for the right job.” Competence is nothing more than assigning a person with a particular skill set to the job that requires those skills. While I have used the handle of a screw driver to flatten an item in a pinch when the need drove, when I know I have to pound something into submission, I reach for a hammer. Likewise, you don’t assign the social gadfly who has the attention span of a one year old to do something that requires months of processing information to complete. When no one else wants to do the work (and/or no one else wants to be responsible for finding someone who can do the work well), who is left to tell the Social Gadfly “no, you can’t do that job, and I won’t let you”?

    In the end, it all comes down to who is willing to do the work when no one else wants to do it. Fan-based conventions, are at their heart, parties that have been formalized and organized into annual money making events — even if the only reason to make that money is to throw next year’s party. Eventually the “right skills for the assigned task” people go away. Getting an equivalent successor to the predecessor is something that everyone hopes for, but rarely gets. For a detailed example go read about Punch Czars. I’ve seen this in action so many times.

    Kat Goodwin says:
    Of course getting that kind of cooperation is hard because many people are more concerned with protecting themselves and their reputations than with protecting others from actual harm.

    It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. Scalzi and other authors and editors and every Fannish VIP/GOH who says “I won’t go if your convention if you don’t have a policy” can force some level of compliance. The real problem is the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    Saying “We have a policy” is not enough, as demonstrated by the WFC. Shaming people into compliance has three immediate effects. One – some of the bad stuff stops happening. Two – some of the bad stuff gets moved to a place where the enforcers can’t see/don’t go. Three – victims self-shame and do not report because they don’t want the hassle or they don’t want to make waves or they don’t want to ______. And yes, I’ve had to stand by and watch harassment victims self-shame and tell me, beg me, not to write up the incident. The reasons vary, but it happens. With an official harassment policy in place, third parties now feel the need to report where before they didn’t.

  140. NoGreatShakes:

    When did the UC Berkeley astronomy department get an anti-harassment policy or code of conduct, and when did they start enforcing it?* And how many women did Professor Marcy drive out of astronomy in the years when there was no such policy, when friends and colleagues of his might have said “we don’t need a policy because we don’t have a harassment problem”? Where would you go to even find out how many women were harassed by the average policy-less fraternity or division 1 football team?

    *I can’t answer the first question offhand, but the answer to the second is October 2015.

  141. So – why do we see this at conventions and not at other places? Why, also, does it seem to be more of a problem at conventions – because it does seem to be.

    — Lord Commander

    That’s the lie that gets told, but it’s not reality. Harassment is rampant in the business world, especially in tech and science towards women and non-whites, and it gets really nasty. (And academia, schools, churches, government, the military, social organizations, etc.) And it’s not just sexual and sexist harassment; it’s also racial, homophobic, physical, religious, and other forms of harassment from making things difficult for the disabled to jokes about Muslim employees. And it goes on because people are forced to tolerate it and those in charge don’t want to do anything about it — or may be doing it themselves.

    So no, there are no codes of conduct signs at most business seminars because corporations already have employment codes for their employees that they deem sufficient just like WFC thought the police would handle things for them, because the business leaders refuse to have one, and because the victims will get their careers wrecked or get fired if they bring up a complaint. No point bringing it up if no one is going to do anything about it and will punish you instead. So instead, they just pass around secret word that such and such VP is a grabby hands you shouldn’t be alone with or that so and so vaunted business author tells n****ger jokes when he drinks and don’t complain about it. Can’t put up a code of conduct, because that would imply that there are problems — and the problems are supposed to be kept secret and the harassers are supposed to be reassured that they can harass freely.

    That’s the same rationale used at geek conventions for decades. Harassment would occur right in front of folks, quite often, and you were supposed to treat it as a joke and keep quiet, especially if the harasser was prominent. You’ve had rapes at your business seminars, you just are never going to hear about it, because the costs of talking about it are too high.

    Take Dark Horse Comics — a geek business, but a corporation nonetheless. And one of its co-founders terrorized employees for years, including sexual and physical assault. Complaints unofficial and official were made by employees and contractors, they lost talent, and the people who ran the company did nothing. That is until this year’s SDCC (the one without the decent policy,) where the guy bit someone in the face at a bar in front of people. If it was 1982, it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d done it in a bar in public. But because it’s 2015, it finally forced the company to act, and they are still trying to pretend they didn’t know there were any problems in their business. And this goes on all the time.

    But things change when people are willing to take on the costs to get change, and the Internet has helped with victims learning that they are not alone. And while a lot of business gets done at geek conventions, they are still largely recreational in nature. So the reason that you’re hearing so much about incidents, NoGreatShakes, is because people for the last twenty or so years have been speaking up and insisting on a code of conduct policy for geek, tech and book events and groups, even at risk to their careers and even against prominent authors, editors, tech lords, etc. We are in a transitional period where people work for the basic protections to root out these things from happening — and from being considered acceptable by those in charge. And many of those who run things keep sticking their heads in the sand and saying they don’t know nothing about no harassment, no sir. So Scalzi is using the leverage he has, as a white male author who is therefore less penalized, with a decent sized Internet audience, to help promote change and call it out.

    So, Lord Commander, you should have a code of conduct that is given to the paying players of your wargame events along with the rules of the game, and lets participants know that if they do get harassed or attacked, something will actually be done about it if they speak up. If you don’t, you aren’t doing your job to protect the paying players. The gender mix doesn’t in the least matter, because codes cover a whole litany of types of attacks going on under your little nose. Not to mention, just helps with regular game cheaters. You should especially do this because you are simulating military forces — and all the military in all the countries have some bad problems with harassment and assault among their members. That’s in transition too in North America, because people are finally speaking up about it and some of the leaders are taking it seriously.

    So no, NoGreatShakes, geek communities don’t have a worse problem than other communities or areas of industry. They’re just speaking up about their problem and trying to do something about it, and consequently getting a lot of flack and victim shaming (geeks must be really bad people, etc.) to try to keep the problem invisible. They’re doing it because geeks are brave and most of them do in fact believe in fairness. Conventions are fun, they have great gifts on sale, and you should try one. Just go to one with a code of conduct policy prominently displayed. Because those are the people who don’t turn their backs on others.

    And they’re smart. You can bet there are some conversations going on over at SDCC because NYCC rubbed their noses in the code of conduct policy. And the reality is, because big cons like NYCC and Emerald City did it and small cons are doing it, eventually everybody is going to have one. If you’re smart and you’re running a con, you get one, you display it and you enforce it in a standardized manner as soon as possible. Otherwise, by the time the policy has been implemented past your unnecessary roadblocks, you may have well been deposed because you were the incompetent who refused to do your job. Even if you aren’t, you’re still going to have to eat it. Because people aren’t going to be quiet and it is again, the minimum ANY event organizers can do.

  142. wow,
    “don’t bother us until you have to call the cops,”
    vs (yeah i know, false dichotomy, but still)
    “if you are here to make others feel miserable, we WILL kick you out, EVEN IF we hired you to be on hand to kick people like you out”

    Yeah, no comparison.
    I think i’m going to take the one resembling the rights/duties of every bartender ever (apply “you’re drunk, go home” to whoever you need to keep the place running and everyone present reasonably comfortable(including surviving the trip home), if this means your completely sober co-bartender, so be it, if this means the wasted owner of the place, so be it), as the good example.

    As for (those who see) false claims as an issue:
    The false claim to one’s face? ‘offensive verbal comments’
    The false claims to the organisation, effectively threatening others you’re going to get them kicked out? ‘intimidation’
    Any case of doubt on where to put it ‘not limited to’
    Yeah, the good example has abuse of their system pretty much handled.

    And no the ‘the ‘policy as written’ is outdated’-defense, if the new policy isn’t up, you indeed have an outdated policy, that’s not a defense of the policy.
    A ‘yeah, we’re not going to take it, the exact wording isn’t finished yet, expect something soon’ would be a real ‘working on it’, a ‘working on it’-comment whenever someone calls out the crap, not so much

  143. Victoria, your observation “Let’s just say that volunteers are a mixed bag of skills” is a thesis unto itself. Volunteers are wonderful, amazing people without whom many us would never have had the opportunity to attend an F/SF convention. But managing a group of volunteers can be like trying to ride herd on several thousand ping-pong balls, in the dark, with your hands tied behind your back. And all too often the person put in the position of managing those ping-pong balls has little or no prior management experience, leaving them with essentially no resources to deal with the challenges of hiring, training, and keeping good staff, reassigning tasks based on ability rather than on personal preference, disciplining or terminating incompetent staff, and all the rest – particularly since in most cases, if you can’t find a volunteer to do a particular task, you wind up having to do it yourself.

    None of which is intended to excuse or condone the lack of something as basic and fundamental as a harassment policy, mind you. And as all too many incidents have demonstrated, even with professional managers and well-staffed HR departments, harassment can and does still happen, as Vicki correctly points out.

    It does, however, emphasize just what an impressive job the successful cons really do. Because there ARE successes, and they’re growing.

  144. Just wanted to say how perfect Kat Goodwin at 7:58 was. And how happy it makes me that there are people like her and Scalzi who are forcing change. My daughter will be entering college next year and I hope there are folks there doing the same.

  145. lcmig: “even at non-business events these kinds of codes of conduct are not seen. ”

    Well, i’ve been working for N decades now and every place I’ve ever worked at had mandatory annual sexual harassment training. Maybe part of the difference is that in a business setting, at least some companies have been doing anti harrassment training for years, and its had an effect.

    The cons I’ve gone to, it seems there are a bunch of issues at play all at once. No one is going to a con that has 2 hours mandatory anti harrassment training. The people that go to cons do seem slightly off the standard population bell curve, specifically tending toward having much less social experience. And there is a bit of an attitude that I cant quite explain but in the “muggle” world, the closest analog might be “what happens in vegas, stays in vegas”. (Its a combination of anonymity, and yet feeling like you are part of the tribe, so its ok to get your freak on)

    Anyway, i think there are several factors that cause a difference in behavior at cons versus other venues.

  146. Sorry, I missed some posts, should have refreshed (I blame the antibiotics I’m on.)


    I realize this may be an unpopular position, but I intend to go in spite of the stupidity that is represented by this policy.

    You should totally go — you already paid and WFC deliberately left this till the last minute. And Saratoga has nice restaurants. But when you go, go on over to the con-runners area and let the con-runners know you were very upset about what happened with the code of conduct policy and that you sincerely hope that it’s going to be fully fixed by whoever runs the con next year, and that maybe they’ll have a panel about racism, sexism and harassment at the next con too. Put a comment up on Facebook if you want, or their web page. The more flack the con gets from attendees, the more they have to deal with it. Don’t let them sweep it under the rug — the noise produces change. They will counter with noise defensively, hoping to drown the complaints out. If they can’t, then they have to deal with it. That’s what happened online — first the whining justifications, then the scramble to actually fix the problem because people wouldn’t shut up about it. And have fun! Say hi to cognitionitis in the dealer’s room in solidarity, go to panels with female authors to support them, buy books from the two black authors who may have ventured to the con amid the sea of white people. Be boots on the ground, social justice warrior, and watch out for puppies. :)


    I’ve tried to change my bit of the culture and tell people that they weren’t exempt. Every single attempt failed because the perpetrator of the harassment was themselves a victim of harassment at some point in their life. They’re just doing to other what was done to them. That, by the way, is in addition to Entitlement Blindness caused by people operating on the Lowest Difficulty Setting.

    Oh yes, I got a full blast of the “I was picked on in life and the Fans took me in and now we’re all saints” rationale during the Fan conversation here. It’s so they don’t have to deal with the problems or can pretend it only has to do with others over there. You’re supposed to be quiet about those, so they can pretend all is sweetness and light for everybody and not do anything about others getting hurt. The we’re having fun together part of Fan culture is wonderful. It’s the refusal to deal with issues that might disturb the 1950’s suburban perfect picture of Fan culture that is the downside of the culture. And when you refuse to not shut up about it, they’ll call you every name in the book to get you to shut up. It’s a normal human reaction.

    But the job isn’t convincing those people to change their minds necessarily. They either will or they won’t, and if they won’t, they will have to be removed or abandoned if you can’t get them removed. The job is relentlessly bringing up the problem and insisting on change at cons whether leaders think it’s needed or not. And it’s hard. People have been kicked out of committees and cons for bringing up the problem. That’s the social justice warrior part — warriors can get hurt. That’s why folks stay quiet. That’s why geeks like you are brave.

    I resent the statement that incompetent people continue to run cons because others let them.

    And many of the people who run cons resent that others, like yourself, claim there’s a harassment problem that needs fixing. Doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. Again, just like in the Dawkins conversation, people don’t HAVE power. People are GIVEN power. (Even dictators need support to dictate.) The people who run cons do not have armed armies to sic on you. They were given power by the other people involved with running and staffing the con. And power given can be taken away if there’s not support. If you can’t whittle out support for their power, then a new con can be started by sane people.

    Yes, the incompetent people run the cons because no one else wants to do the work. (That’s often how government works. I believe it’s called the Peter Principle.) Others support the incompetent people by refusing/refusing to find someone to do the work instead but wanting the con. So it requires finding people who are competent to do the work, while meanwhile forcing the incompetent in charge who don’t want to do it to have to do something because of outrage, unrest and insistence that they are ignoring a real problem — by pressure. They’re the only ones willing to do the work is an excuse. It supports those in power by apathy.

    And yes, it’s really hard to get that organized and changed. People have lives and constraints. I’m not under any illusions about the cost of these things. (I’m the one always reminding folks that people talking to them about sexism and racism are actually risking their lives to do it and that it’s not a level playing field.) It will be fought every step of the way. And it does, as you and I both noted, require those with leverage to be willing to help withdraw their support if there isn’t change. To create bad (and honest) PR that those in charge have to deal with. To change the image of the convention as sweetness and light to a convention willing to throw people to the dogs and pretend their hands are clean. It requires a looottttt of screaming, as you know. But it has been done by conventions, it will continue to be done, it has to be done.

    Those are the three options — the people in charge change and deal with the problem effectively in response to pressure, bad PR and leverage; the people in charge have support withdrawn for being in charge and are deposed in favor of others who make the change (that happened at ReaderCon) ; or the event is abandoned by those who understand the problem and create a new event that deals with the problem. We can have fan events that are fun and safe. We do have fan events that are fun and safe. But it’s a long process and the more the incompetent who want to ignore the problem try to block exposure of and change to the problem, the more they are left in charge, the longer the process goes. So any support withdrawal that can be done — from the rank and file organizing as a block to the bigger guns whose support leaders need — helps force change. The downside is, you get called names and they try to hurt you and it’s exhausting.

    Basically, these people — very nice people who love all geekery — have an image of themselves (and their pals.) And that image is more important to them than the people getting hurt in the name of that image. (Every single equality problem we have comes from this and those who exploit it for gain, such as harassers.) And it requires others to relentlessly point out that people are getting hurt and that this is more important than their image and that it must change.

    I greatly admire what you are doing, Victoria, never doubt it. I’m not carping at you. But you know and I know that these people need to be moved out of the way if they are going to continue to let others — sometimes kids — get hurt for their image. And that requires the other people involved to work to move them out of the way. Or get them to change, hey, whatever is possible. And if neither is possible, then leaving and forming new, better conventions is the third option in this area. There is always room for new product in the market, as our libertarian friends like to say.

    Timothy — I am not really doing anything except that I took Scalzi’s pledge and I can talk a blue streak. As for college, it’s your daughter who will be making the change, and not just at college — be prepared to have your life criticized, because these kids are not impressed with our rate of change on these issues, or our tales about how much worse things used to be. Give it three months, and she’ll be helping other students protest the university president because of inaction about racism on campus. A lot of the change that has occurred with getting convention harassment policies in place has come from young people, especially young women, who cosplay and who got tired of being targets at conventions.

    Seriously, con runners who oppose having a code of conduct policy, you will not win this one. Give up now and just do it. Because it helps people.

  147. Do codes of conduct exist outside cons?

    Another data point for yes. I work for largish company (international, 10s of thousands of employees), and our company has an explicit code of conduct, not unlike the one the ones being suggested for conventions. It specifies different ways of reporting inappropriate behaviour, and penalties (up to and including dismissal with cause) for violating the code. All employees are expected to have read it, and to have acknowledge that they have read it.

    This doesn’t make the company a bad company. This doesn’t make the company one to be avoided. This is a good sign, not a bad sign, for this companies treatment of their employees, and for the employees’ treatment of each other.

  148. This “policy” is one of the most cowardly things I’ve seen of late, and I’ve been following the SXSW debacle. It’s pushing off the problem on to the victim and the police and taking no responsibility for making a safe space. I’m glad they’re working on fixing it and that the situation is getting the attention it deserves.

  149. @Kat – Actually thinking about it, corporate HR policies have also evolved a great deal over the years and likely contributes to their being a lot less issues about harassment in business venues (you should see the ethics read we have to do for my company – reading everything literally takes all day and I’m a fast reader). But, more importantly, they are very very serious about it. HR doesn’t joke around – not anymore. At least not here. Perhaps the fact that there are considerably more females than males in most of our surrounding departments (and in HR) is part of the reason for that.

    We do, in fact, have what amounts to a ‘code of conduct’ if you will, for our wargames convention in that anything which ‘brings disrepute on the hobby’ is subject to us kicking the person out. And what that is, is entirely up to us. If someone gets wasted and out of line, is unsportsmanlike, harasses or injures someone, cheats, or pretty much anything else – bang they are gone. We have never, in over a decade and a half of several conventions a year had to do this, although we have come close once or twice. The fact that it’s an intimate event with only 2-3 organizers and less than a hundred people make this much easier. At the 600-700 person SF con I’ve worked at for much of the last three decades we have a very detailed policy which is posted in several places and we definitely enforce it, including kicking out prominent people quite recently who have misbehaved.

    It’s an open question as to whether SF cons, though, have a bigger problem. Having worked a LOT of security/ops for them for the last thirty years, on and off, I do not agree that the problem is ‘equal’ in all areas of society. Sadly a lot of fannish people are less well socialized than the average people I encounter in business or in wargaming. Wargaming folks, by the way, tend to be a lot more toward the business end of the spectrum than SF fans. This lack of socialization takes two forms. First, some people are just flat out stupid and have no idea how to behave properly. They find themselves in a ‘friendly’ environment and cross lines that ordinary folk know not to cross. Often they are well meaning, but may have imbibed too much or what have you. These people, with a lot of work, can often be taught the error of their ways, although it is generally not easy to do so. The other type is harder. These are people who see the more socially challenged F&SF fans as victims who can be manipulated and conned, even bullied, into things that are inappropriate. These people are predators – and we’ve had to deal with one fairly recently. They form the kind of people that you talk about at Dark Horse. People at the top of the social pyramid (or at least who see themselves that way) who abuse that position. They can be nasty and usually see themselves as doing nothing wrong, despite truly awful and sometimes full on illegal behavior.

    So yeah, I do think that the issues are somewhat different culturally – and I do think that they need to be addressed differently and are not ‘one size fits all’. Different communities have different cultures and I think recognizing that is actually pretty important when we look at solutions.

  150. The military has codes of conduct which include both civil and criminal penalties. Rapes and harassment are still endemic. Large corporations have CoC, ditto. But these are covered up “for the good name of the country/company”. Boys will be boys, secretaries are for groping, underlings have to put up with stuff, Mr. CEO is “just like that, doesn’t mean any harm” when he’s telling “dumb n****r jokes”.

    Fannish organizations just have the bravery to admit “This happens. Let’s do something about it.” Without pressure from lawyers, without professional security (although the Dorsai are pros in all but money and badges), with no ability to affect people’s day jobs, we’re trying.

    WFC’s “policy” is standing athwart history, as well as being mewling chickenshit and stooopid.

  151. Lord Commander:

    Perhaps the fact that there are considerably more females than males in most of our surrounding departments (and in HR) is part of the reason for that.

    Ya think? :) And because those women speak up. But, the reality is that sexism is rampant in business and way more than any geek event. The guy at Dark Horse was a business person and vice president. It was and is an established corporate media business. The editor at Tor was an established business person. The reality is that women at your company probably still are paid less, promoted less, are evaluated under harsher standards than the men in your company, and have to be very careful about how and when they talk. Because that’s the case for women throughout the business world. Scientific study after scientific study has given us plenty of data on this. And most of the stuff that goes on at your company you will never hear about because the victims won’t report it to HR, as Victoria explained. They don’t trust HR. They don’t trust cops. Instead, they pass warnings to each other about the problem people.

    It’s very tempting to claim that the problem people are the problem and are just in that group over there, but it’s a dodge. The problem is that our society is largely for equality unless it disturbs the unequal status quo and the pretty picture attached to it that all is well in the world, whereupon they support the harassers. Women and their ownership of their bodies is way less important to most, for instance, than men and their desire to access bodies, for sexual or simply controlling purposes. Women are expected to be friendly, smiling and giving their attention to anyone who asks for it. We still believe, socially, that women are property.

    That’s why the code of conduct for conventions has “Cosplay is not consent.” Because the societal belief is that if a woman puts on a sexy costume, she has waived right of access to her attention and her body. That’s why con runners, men and women, don’t want to have code of conducts because they might get someone punished for “flirting,” i.e. if women (and others) are here, and men want their attention, they should give it to them. But that’s not a geek thing — it’s an everybody thing. Cops, who have been trained that the question is pointless, still ask rape victims what they were wearing, because obviously if they are wearing clothing that someone would find sexy, they were clearly asking for someone to grab their bodies. (Never mind that women in burkas are just as likely to get attacked.) Church pastors say women deserve it if they wore non-demure clothing or gay men deserve rape because they are gay. Abusers are not, for the most part, socially awkward misfits. Socially awkward misfits are usually deeply scared of people. Abusers tend to be charming, socially adept, often successful people who try to seem as ordinary and good-natured as possible, and work people’s concern that they be seen as nice safe societies to get the victims discredited and punished. (Because abusers are into controlling things.)

    But we like the perfect picture that the victims only have to worry about the strange people on the fringe, and not their boss, clergy, local cop, or relatives. Even when we have video evidence of this stuff, there is still the hew and cry that the victim must have done something to cause it. Geek conventions are confronting this problem out in the open, a lot of them. And people who glided right on by now can’t do that as easily because more people are listening when victims speak out and more victims are willing to speak out because there are codes of conduct that do show something might happen.

    But not all of them, and in business, it’s still quite often gliding right on by. I hope your company is better since it has extensive policies; I just won’t put my faith in it. It’s certainly better than it was — because women and others went to bat for it. But gay people are still getting fired for being gay, transgender people still are being banned from public restrooms, black kids get beaten up in schools by cops who are supposed to protect them from outsiders, women soldiers are getting assaulted by their commanders. This is a people problem, and the first part of fixing it is getting people in charge to admit it’s a people problem that involves them, that views need to change. And then there’s the whining and the screaming and the you will destroy the world if you change this ranting to be got through.

  152. Dear Lord Commander,

    This is sooooo irrelevant. It’s a weird kind of inverse comparing of pain– who has less harassment going on. Because, so what?!?! Harassment happens in all environments, and anyone who doesn’t believe that is living in a fantasy world. The social barriers to reporting harassment are very high in any environment. Again, anyone who doesn’t believe that? They ain’t playing in reality.

    And, truly, if you really think it NEVER happens at your events and goes unreported, you are living in an imaginary world, because there’s no place in this culture where that is true.

    It’s like the Monty Python routine– “But it’s got LESS Spam.”

    Yeah, but it’s still Spam.

    pax / Ctein

  153. Dear Lord Commander,

    Hmmm, process afterthought… (sorry, John! serial posting)

    Lord C., what’s going on here is that no one has the ability to judge the veracity of your claims (that you have a harassment-free event). There are two problems with us accepting that claim. The first is that the folks at the top are often simply unaware of incidents because of the barriers that exist everywhere to reporters “making a fuss.” The second is that it is standard for organizations and events to claim their space is “safe” and that therefore they need to do no more than they have done already. Which is almost always insufficient, vis the topic of this column.

    You may be different. You may not be failing on either point. We can’t tell, because all we have is your words. We can’t even look to your reputation, since we don’t know who you are… but even if we could, it wouldn’t change the fact that most people running the rhetoric you’re running are simply wrong, regardless of their rep.

    Hence, we’re tending to not believe you, and it’s not personal.It’s just that you’re not saying anything (and there probably is nothing you could say) that would distinguish you from the (unsatisfactory) norm. I can’t imagine what you Could say that would do that.

    I think this is an unwinnable argument for you for those reasons. Maybe you should think about just dropping it?

    pax / Ctein

  154. Comparing WFC with 850 attendees to New York Comicon at around 150K? Big disparity in resources. I understand one side of the controversy has been calling in fake bomb threats on gatherings of the other side? WFC might anticipate fake harassment reports as well and want to avoid civil liability, It is not like they can afford the kind of legal talent an even like NYCC can

  155. @Ctein – I’m not making an ‘argument’ I’m throwing ideas out to see what the response is – because that provokes thought and generates ideas.

    I don’t necessarily accept all the answers as ‘gospel’ or ‘accurate’ either – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t though provoking. I don’t, for example, think that things are as bad as Kat believes. But she does and she has reasons for her beliefs. Knowing what she believes and why allows analysis. Kat likes to speak as though all these things she believes are ‘facts’ but so, too does Christina Sommers and she would say pretty much the opposite.

    As to the smaller convention I run, I’m pretty confident that it’s harassment free in most meaningful ways we’re discussing here. That doesn’t mean there has never been bad behavior but the fact that it’s almost exclusively male limits anything sexual to nearly zero and the fact that it’s an ‘event’ based thing rather than ‘party based’ also has impact.

    On the other hand the larger events I’m involved in that have a more even mix of genders are NOT harassment free – not by any road. We do what we can to limit things. We write policies and we enforce them but even then there are still difficulties, a few of which have been discussed here on ‘Whatever’ in the past. Some, for instance, think that a single accusation should result in an auto-ban from an event, while others feel a more balanced approach is needed and still others somehow simply expect organizers and ops people to ‘know’ which accusations are true and which might be exaggerated (or even outright lies). I’ve seen ALL of those (truth, exaggeration and lies) over the last thirty years and plenty more where the reality is ‘we’ll never know’.

    People have these ideas that these are easy questions. Well they aren’t. Not really. No one’s answer is necessarily the ‘right’ one, but the discussions are worth having because they provoke thought and give reason for analysis. Sometimes one finds out things that one believed in the past are wrong – giving the option for change and improvement. Sometimes one finds out some people are just full of crap and then there is the entire range of possible results in between.

    So, it’s worth having the conversation, as long as it remains civil.

  156. [Deleted because bathroom policing was already tabled, and Scorpius should be smarter than to try to introduce it again at this late date. Subsequent discussion of it, along with Scorpius’ laughably wrong argument as to why this particular discussion was tabled, snipped out. — JS]

  157. “The reality is that women at your company probably still are paid less, promoted less, are evaluated under harsher standards than the men in your company, and have to be very careful about how and when they talk. Because that’s the case for women throughout the business world. Scientific study after scientific study has given us plenty of data on this”

    That’s complete nonsense; but I wouldn’t expect anything less from the science-denying left. I am a professional statistician, and have looked at the “pay disparity” studies the government puts out. Good studies all; highly detailed and accounting for a lot of features such as education, time on the job etc. What the studies found was that men and women’s earnings didn’t differ significantly, ceteris paribus. What the White house did was take that study, remove all the features, and boil it down to just median wage of men to median age of women. They did that as an overt attempt to politicize science since they didn’t like the facts science was telling them.

  158. Hey, Scorpius, perhaps you should consider that maybe, just maybe, the reason your personal analysis gets those results is that there’s still major employment discrimination against women, especially in higher-paying jobs? So women are stuck with lower-paying jobs regardless of qualification? ‘Cause it seems to me that if you can include all the balancing factors and get pay equality ceteris paribus but still have an entrenched median wage gap, that that’s PRECISELY the problem we’re dealing with.

  159. Dear Commander,

    “That doesn’t mean there has never been bad behavior but the fact that it’s almost exclusively male limits anything sexual to nearly zero…”

    Ummm, wha?


    Plus, codes of conduct include nonsexual harassment.

    Really, you’re gonna do a lot better if you just drop this claim from your arguments. None of what you’re saying about that makes you more believable or trustworthy.

    pax / Ctein

  160. Floored by Scalzi’s awesomeness: Please provide me with evidence and I will give it a fair hearing. I, on the other hand, have the stats showing that most college students are female, most graduates are female, most graduate students are female, and women outnumber men in most graduate programs (except the high-paying ones like Computer science, engineering, math, economics, etc.) I also know that programs like these at every university spend a lot of money trying to recruit women into the program; even going so far as lowering standards.

    So your counter-argument seems at best baseless; at worst completely wrong.

  161. And where did you get these alleged college-student statistics of yours, scorpius? Brietbart? Show me actual, unbiased evidence and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Further, this quote,

    (except the high-paying ones like Computer science, engineering, math, economics, etc.)

    represents exactly the problem I’m talking about. Want to know why those women aren’t going to higher-paying jobs? They’re STILL given massive social pressure from birth telling them that girls can’t do those jobs, if they work really, really hard they may just be a nurse someday.

    Scorpius, do you realize how much of an idiot you sound like every time you open your mouth? Your rebuttal literally provides evidence to prove my point, and the bit about “lowering standards” is, to paraphrase you, at best baseless and at worst a flat-out lie. Further, your original argument reads like a list of antifeminist talking points; “Science-denying left”, appeal to authority, accusations of politicizing science…

    If you want to be taken seriously, please do try not to be a clownish stereotype.

  162. BS,

    “They’re STILL given massive social pressure from birth telling them that girls can’t do those jobs, if they work really, really hard they may just be a nurse someday.”

    No, they are not. The social pressure is actually the opposite way. You’re making a lot of assumptions in line with the Social Justice Goosestepper narrative and are basing your “facts” on that. I, on the other hand, refuse to make assumptions and go by facts and evidence. So, of course I’m at a disadvantage to the zealotry of the SJGs.

    As to my stats, look at enrollment at universities and graduate programs. It’s easily come by.

    The fact is, no amount of money spent by departments like mine is going to make women flood departments such as economics, engineering, math, etc. because those are careers which tend to isolate you from people. And most women (not all, some of the most brilliant mathematicians and statisticians I know are women) do not like that.

  163. Scorpius, Floored:

    Deep breaths, please. Floored, don’t make it personal; Scorpius, try to retool your rhetoric so you don’t sound like a parody.

    Also, while I’m at it, it doesn’t look like your current discussion actually has much to do with the World Fantasy harassment policy. So maybe you should table it or take it into email, and get back on topic.

  164. Lord Commander

    As to the smaller convention I run, I’m pretty confident that it’s harassment free in most meaningful ways we’re discussing here. That doesn’t mean there has never been bad behavior but the fact that it’s almost exclusively male limits anything sexual to nearly zero and the fact that it’s an ‘event’ based thing rather than ‘party based’ also has impact.

    Even if that’s true, what would it cost you to put in place a harassment policy that specifically prohibits sexual harassment (and anything else you want to prevent)? If you did it now, when there are no actual issues, it would be easy: “Hey folks, we’re just codifying what we all already know and do.” Who knows, you might find there are more than a tiny percent of women interested.

    The push back against the policies being talked about is weird to me. There’s no down side to enacting them. You can literally cut and paste most of it from other successful policies. And if they are 100% irrelevant, again, so what? The expenditure of time and money and volunteer effort is so minimal.

    I can’t help but wonder if some part of the objection (not specifically talking about you here L. C.) is a fear that by putting these policies in place suddenly the behavior that is unacceptable now gets exposed, and that does mean more work. But the alternative is that the behavior remains secret. Either an event has no problem with harassment, in which case the policy is harmless and easy. Or it does, in which case the policy is vital and a move to making sure the harassment goes away.

  165. What a joke. People are tired of your constant screeching.
    What’s your response going to be? Threaten boycotts and call in bomb threats like usual?

  166. @kentuckydan: Sorry, that’s nonsense. As has been pointed out over and over again in comments you seem not to have read: WFC claims that they got advice from lawyers and the police in forming their policy; and if they really were concerned about legal liability, the policy creates more risk, not less. And a convention hosting 850 people nonetheless seems to have managed beautifully to negotiate its way through all kinds of other loopholes that involve obligations and potential legal exposure if they’re screwed up, like, for example, signing a contract with the hotel. A small convention can easily create a harassment policy by looking at other cons’ harassment policies, using the free Googles or things like listservs and discussion groups, and doesn’t need to hire an army of expensive lawyers.

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