Safety at conventions is a topic I care a lot about, and it is receiving a fair amount of attention recently in the community of convention-goers and convention-runners. This includes a large amount of email discussion on the SMOF (Secret Masters of Fandom) email list. I posted to the SMOFs list recently in response to a thread in which people were discussing (and dismissing) someone’s expressed concerns about safety at conventions and within fandom. Here’s what I wrote:
No place is utterly safe from danger. There is a wide continuum to describe people’s experiences of safety at cons, and if you (generic “you,” not any person specifically) have had an easier time feeling safe than others, you are lucky, but that doesn’t mean other people are wrong to be concerned for their own safety.
Sincerely, Crystal Huff (Who chaired Arisia 2011, Relaxacon 2011, Readercon 23 and 24, and is chairing Readercon 25 as well as co-chairing JOFcon I next year…)
I’ve been on several panels at conventions this past year, on the general topic of safety at conventions, harassment, and codes of conduct. The differences between each was striking.
My panels at Arisia 2013 (a year ago) were rough and emotional for me, but the panelists and attendees were very clearly invested in listening and addressing the issue. Readercon 23 had only recently happened, and some of us were still in shock, but trying to grapple with the issue of harassment.
At Eastercon last year, while I was frustrated with the panel topic being the question of whether the convention should have a code of conduct or not, I was impressed by the con’s intention to deal with challenges, and the sexist con newsletter comment that was brought up by an audience member was something the con staff on the panel wanted to address, as opposed to running away from it.
Readercon 24 had a lot of programming on this topic, as you might imagine, in an effort to address the issue with our community and keep the commitments we had made in our public statement after Readercon 23. I was too busy chairing the convention to be on many panels, but I did preside most memorably over the feedback session at the end of the convention. Several people felt that Readercon overreacted and should have emphasized far less the importance of safety and addressing sexual harassment. I believe, however, that the safety of others is more important than my personal comfort, and the Readercon committee stood with that belief as a group. We do not regret making a clear statement about prioritizing safety.
I was on a fantastic panel at Swecon, the Swedish national convention, this past fall. The panel deserves its own post, really, when I have time. There was a moment for a real-life learning opportunity within the community, in addition to everyone really wanting to tackle how to make their conventions safer. The attitude in the room was very productive and engaged. I felt comfortable talking about the complex way in which we all make mistakes, using myself as an example. It was a great discussion.
Then the panel at Smofcon last month, titled “Sexuality and the Human Fan,” was a different kind of trying to address the issue. I think that went the least well, frankly, of the panels I’ve been on. The more times someone uses the excuse “that’s just the way things were, back then” or says that if someone is feeling harassed, they should call the police … Well, this entire post was left on my drafts pile to see if I could better tackle just how poorly some of that panel went, and I think I’m going to set it aside for future contemplation rather than continue to sit on this post.
As we’ve come to a new year in Arisia, I’m on two panels this year:
“Addressing Sexual Harassment in Our Communities”
“Shame on Slut-Shaming.”
You can see the full Arisia guide here. It looks great, and I’m greatly looking forward to the convention this weekend.
I’m also very intrigued to see what conversations we will have at JOFcon in a few short weeks!