by Doctor Science
As abi sutherland said on Making Light, It’s been a heck of a week for feminism in our neck of the internet. Or maybe month. Or year ...
The particular items I'm considering at the moment have to do with women being harassed at geek cons. Specifically:
- Readercon is a very bookish New England con; I went a couple of times in the late 90s and enjoyed it immensely. Summary: pro writer Genevieve Valentine was harassed at the latest Readercon, which has an official Zero Tolerance, One Strike and You're Out policy against harassment. She formally complained, and the Readercon Board decided to change their policy after the fact and only suspend the harasser, René Walling, from attending for 2 years. Walling is a BNF (Big Name Fan) who has held many important fannish positions over the years, including for convention organizations. B.C. Holmes has excellent link roundup of the ongoing firestorm. >
- Defcon is a long-running computer hacker convention, held in Las Vegas. KC, a female hacker talked about the atmosphere of harassment and objectification there, including from the supposed Security staff, and how it affected her experience.
- There's been an ongoing effort from feminists (of all genders) to get secular/skeptical cons and other events to have harassment policies; the efforts, and the pushback against them, are being documented by Jason Thibeault. I blogged about the earliest stages of this process last year.
I have a question for those of you who go to non-geek cons -- here defined as "work-related conventions not for the computer/internet industry, or play-related cons not for Greater Media Fandom".
Do such cons usually have a harassment policy? Do women at such cons have problems with harassment comparable to those reported for e.g. Readercon, TAM?
The work cons I've been to have been academic, often with 50% or more female attendees, and there's been very little time for chat (much less chatting up), so I don't think the fact that I didn't notice harassment means much. Also, I developed a rather brassy or even brass-knuckley personal style early in life, which tends to be off-putting to harassers.
Anyway, I wonder if this kind of harassment is more common in geek communities. Are we looking at some aspect of the Geek Social Fallacies of Sex, especially:
GSFS 3: Cool chicks don't worry about sexism. This isn't exactly a sex thing but God does it plague some geek circles. I know because I've been the cool chick. I've played the "don't worry, I'm not like those other girls, I'm not into gossip and drama" card; I've played the "well, you have my permission to objectify me, because I take it as a compliment" card; I've even played the "that mean lady was such an uptight no-funster for having boundaries" card.Or is this just a Human Being Thing, which I am only seeing in geek communities because (a) they're what I know, and (b) geek targets of geek harassment are more likely to speak up than mundanes are in comparable situations.
What's your experience? Alas, if you've never been a target of harassment and you don't notice any at the conventions you go to, your evidence is meaningless. Most harassment is visible only to alert and suspicious bystanders, and if you've never had reason to be alert you probably aren't.
Basically, our theory is that Apollo is the God of Socially Awkward and Occasionally Creepy Geeks. In his case, of course, there's also the fact that he's kind of gay ...