Category Archives: Safety

Yes, Codes of Conduct Are Required.

Anyone who’s spoken with me over the past couple of years, after Readercon 23, probably knows that I have a strong opinion about harassment and how we handle it, particularly in fannish events like conventions (and parties, and work weekends, and all sorts of other fannish gatherings).  I’ve also been in HR in my professional life, so hopefully I know something about the topic, at this point, from multiple perspectives.

Let’s be clear, though — I developed some of my strongly-held opinions and beliefs after experiencing harassment myself, and I did a lot of reflecting on the topic during my three years as chair of Readercon.  It infuriated me to read the following email about whether or not a convention needed to have a code of conduct (which I won’t attribute because I don’t have permission to do so and suspect I’d never get permission from the person in question)…

“Do we need such a thing?   I have never heard of this being an issue at [convention name redacted] and see no reason to open a can of worms that is best to keep closed until there really is a need to open it.

“And if we do need one, I’d rather have a very short ‘act reasonable, don’t do dumb things, or we may ask you to leave.'”

I would like to say, unequivocally, that we DO need such a thing as a code of conduct.  The time of pretending that harassment doesn’t happen is behind us (not that that was ever an appropriate decision to make, on the part of people running events).  Now is the time of making sure that our conventions are as safe as we can make them, and that when someone behaves in an unsafe fashion, their behavior can be addressed in a clear and unambiguous fashion.

As for a “don’t be stupid” statement in lieu of having a real policy?  Pardon me, but that’s bullshit.  Poorly-developed policies don’t serve anyone well, as we’ve experienced in the past.  Poorly-defined policies don’t set people’s expectations for what they can or should do when they have a problem, other than that people might expect the problem won’t be handled well by the event organizers.  The only thing a lack of policy or barely-existing policy might do is send people the message that you don’t care if they harass other members of your convention.  That’s not quite putting out a welcome mat at the door of your convention for poorly-behaved attendees, but I do note this:  at [convention name redacted] referenced above?  I experienced being harassed multiple times, and no longer want to attend it.  I don’t trust the convention staff to take it seriously if I report a problem, nor address problems appropriately.

I have been the convention chair of Arisia in the past.  A few years ago, despite some objections about it “not being relevant to science fiction” (among other things), I was one of the people who started the tradition of inviting BARCC (the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center) to run workshops with Arisia staff in order to offer some helpful training and tools for addressing harassment and other inappropriate behavior at our conventions.  Since then, I have helped coordinate workshops with BARCC for Readercon, Arisia, Vericon, and local SCA staff.  Readercon ran BARCC workshops as part of the convention programming in 2013 (and possibly also 2014; I can’t recall).

I believe it really helped to have these workshops.  Fandom is not historically good at dealing with harassment, but I hope we are improving, as evidenced by things such as this post about harassment at RWA 2014 and this post about dealing with harassment at Arisia 2014.  I have hope.

But I base that hope partly on having codes of conduct that help set the tone for attendees.  So yes, I think codes of conduct are required.  Not having one is a different message you send to your attendees, if that’s what you choose to do.

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Filed under Fandom, Readercon, Safety, Worldcon

Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse in Helsinki?

I’ve been helping out at the info tables for the Helsinki in 2017 bid for Worldcon a lot this summer, and this means I’ve heard some very interesting questions posed!  After visiting Helsinki several times in the past two years, I feel more prepared to answer questions than some volunteers.  I have to admit, though, I don’t know it all.  The question that stumped me the most this month was … “What happens if there’s a zombie attack in Helsinki during the Worldcon?”

R from Warm Bodies

This zombie might eat your heart out …

That seems more likely to happen then than at any other time, honestly, and I have to admit, after reading several Seanan McGuire books, I can’t say I’m not afraid of a ‪‎zombie‬ attack … particularly after seeing photographic proof of a Mika Loponen zombie in the Helsinki‬ area

So! Research time! Here are some resources I’ve found for if there’s a zombie attack in Helsinki during Worldcon!

Here are some reasons why it’d be relatively easy to weather a zombie attack in Helsinki.

It’s very important to figure out if it’s a real zombie. Safely, if possible, determine whether it might be someone alive participating in a zombie walk, like this nice individual.

You might want to make sure it’s not a practical joke, (whether or not it’s April 1st) …

Be particularly cautious if you might be dealing with a zombie Viking‬ (they might just be participating in a LARP) …

And our Canadian friends have been teaching Zombie Survival Camp for a few years now, apparently!

I didn’t actually find much in the way of a plan from the city of Helsinki in the case of a zombie attack. Anyone care to add info (or write something up), so we can build it into the next iteration of our FAQ? We can’t possibly be prepared for all potential issues we might face at Worldcon if we win … but this one seems too fun a question to let slide by!

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Filed under Helsinki, Safety, Worldcon

Safety at Conventions

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.

Now, I am totally one to hope for sunshine and rainbows and kitties. I like to keep things positive, and have fun. I do consider fandom to be a place where I am relatively safe, generally speaking. I also received death threats as a result of my chairing Readercon 23, and I don’t think that’s sunshine or rainbows or kitties. I chose not to report them to the police because I didn’t figure they would be followed through on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have that experience, along with many other negative experiences in a fannish context.

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!

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Filed under Fandom, Safety