Sexual Harrassment at Conventions

I’m relatively new to this community, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a stand when something important is happening. And this ‘something important’ is critical, because it affects the community as a whole, fans, authors, editors, artists… everyone.

I’ve been reading about sexual harassment at conventions, and it is very upsetting. There seems to be an undercurrent of keep-it-to-yourself, but many are now taking a stand.

This blog was posted by several authors, including Seanan McGuire, Jim Hines, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Chuck Wendig and Brandon Sanderson. It can and should be read in full at one of these sites.

Elise Matheson wrote this blog to detail what she had to do to successfully make a report about sexual harassment, because not every report is equal. It needs to be truly ‘formal,’ and not anonymous, if it is to make a difference. She wrote,

…I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded.

Corporations (and conventions with formal procedures) live and die by the written word. “Records, or it didn’t happen” is how it works, at least as far as doing anything official about it. So here I was, and here we all were, with a situation where this had definitely happened before, but which we had to treat as if it were the first time — because for formal purposes, it was.

I understand why formality is necessary, because it is possible for an unfounded claim to damage a person’s reputation. When abuse of this sort occurs, especially regarding a corporation like a publishing house, there is a process for dealing with it, and those who suffer from attacks like these need to be willing to use it.

Elise offers a very straightforward and sensible guide to handling sexual harassment, specifically in the realm of conventions. Unfortunately, this ought to be considered beforehand so you don’t have to try and figure out what to do about it should it happen.

Though I would certainly boost Elise’s signal because it is important, I also have a personal stake in this. My wife, Heidi, went with me to WorldCon in Chicago last year and will be with me again in San Antonio. I expect that as my career picks up, we will attend more conventions. We don’t always stick together because we are interested in different panels.

I would like to feel confident that the community is aware of this, that the convention staff are vigilant against it. While sexual harassment is a possibility anywhere two or more people are gathered, I want to feel at home and safe when surrounded by like-minded people.

And, you know what? I believe that the sci-fi / fantasy community is fully capable of achieving this, with strong voices willing to speak out against harassment and abuse.

We, as members of this generally-amazing community, should not deny that sexual harassment happens, but should actively stand against it.

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