I have been reading with interest the Readercon kerfluffle. And by "kerfluffle" I mean horrible mishandling of a case of sexual harrassment. They had a stated "zero tolerance" policy that was (if I understand correctly) supposed to result in a permanent ban from the convention. This rule had been created (and enforced in 2008 or after that year's con) to protect con-goers, and was designed for prevention in addition to punishment.
And then someone behaved very badly, to the same person, on multiple occasions
. The perpetrator was warned several times and at one point explicitly told NOT to touch the victim. He was reported and brought before the board, where he was banned for life.Except he was not - he was banned for two years.
Because he "is a frequent blogger for Tor.com and has previously chaired a Worldcon."
He is big in fandom, and serves on boards, and knows people. Readercon says that's not why.
And the fact that they spelled out "Hey, that's not why!" just makes it seem more likely that's part of it. Or maybe they're just really bad at handling things like this - one of their friends admitting to acting out and numerous witnesses to the fact, when they have seen no evidence of it in person.
So "zero tolerance" for someone the board likes means "Two years suspension, especially if he says he's super-sorry. He's learned his lesson so missing the next two years is more than enough punishment."
They did say they'd be reviewing his conduct in the years he missed to make sure he had changed his ways. Which means he could still end up with a longer or permanent ban, depending on how he handles himself at other cons and if he is reported for harassing anyone there.
Aside from not following their own rules, which makes them untrustworthy for congoers now (though potential harrassers may view this as a win, so maybe not everyone is upset), their "logic" in making a special case for this man seems to be a case of a serial harasser
charming the wool over the board's eyes. He has done this sort of thing before, and I'm going to say it's likely he's done it more than the two times I know about, and he was either not reported by his victims or he was reported and nothing came of it.
So the end result of the con's decision was to let someone who had harassed at their convention, someone with a history
of harassment, basically get away with it. Because he said he was sorry. And because they knew him.
Giving a harasser a lighter punishment because he's got power is so, SO wrong. You're basically saying that anyone who is important enough can get away with whatever they want. It may be "the way of the world," but don't con-goers deserve better? I think they do.
I don't think the con should have had a zero tolerance policy if they were not serious about enforcing it. I think they should have given this man a ban in accordance with their own rules. I think that if they really wanted to let him back in, they could have deliberated and rewritten that policy and maybe given him (and other transgressors) an appeal procedure.
I'm seeing more and more women speak up about their experiences at conventions; how they are receiving unwanted touching, how they feel they are often cornered by unwanted conversational partners, how they feel they have to move in a herd to keep each other safe.
And while I'm only now hearing about it, it's mainly because women are beginning to stand up and speak loudly about how wrong it is. It's not like con harassment is new. As others have noted, Isaac Asimov was famous for a "pinch on some resilient portion of a female anatomy...A young woman, Melanie Donovan...received the official Asimov seal of friendship -- a strategic pinch."
This is someone looking back fondly at someone else grabbing women. He's fondly nostalgic, for Pete's sake. Ah, the good old days, when we could just reach out and grab a handful of woman and not get any guff!
That's not okay. As someone who is planning to go to her first convention this Fall (and it'll be a small one, so I'm pretty sure none of this will be an issue for any of my fellow con-goers), it's fascinating and horrifying to learn just how common this sort of thing is. I'll probably be safe, due to my age, attractiveness level, and attending with Pres Man, but you can bet I'll be looking out for my fellow ladies and if I see anyone looking trapped or uncomfortable I will be sweeping in to offer them an "out."