We have to believe victims of harassment, even in conditions that we’ve been taught should excuse us from giving a damn: what the victim was wearing, what they’d done with the harasser previously, whether we even like the victim personally, and, perhaps most importantly, who the harasser is.
We want an excuse not to believe, because it would release us from the unpleasant matter of figuring out what to do next. This is an especially thorny problem online, where we act as if we only have two options: join the angry mob with pitchforks, hounding the guilty party out of our spaces and off the web (or out of the industry) entirely, or… do nothing.
I’m not a perfect feminist. You’ve never met one; they don’t exist. Any feminist theory worth spit will tell you that we are all products of a misogynist, patriarchal society which has gotten its hooks into each of us in one way or another. As a friend of mine lyrically puts it “The poison’s in us all”. Everyone on Earth is a recovering sexist, classist, ableist racist, including you, and including me.
Given we’re all at risk of perpetuating patriarchy, it stands to reason that we ought to take a very serious look at the question of reform and rehabilitation. What do they look like, and how do they come about?
This year, New York Comic-Con is taking harassment on their convention floor more seriously than ever before. Their brand-new anti-harassment policy is comprehensive and offers a great deal of protection for attendees. Still, we here at ComicsAlliance wanted to offer some tips for ensuring you and others around you have the safest, most fun convention possible.
“If the harassment is so bad, why don’t women just report it?”
“I want to believe these women, but if they’re not willing to come forth and put their name to these accusations, I just can’t.”
“These claims of harassment are all so overblown. I never see it happening.”
I have been a woman in the comics industry for a few months now. It has been wonderful. It has also been terrifying.
Terrifying in a way I’m used to, though. When you grow up enveloped in the miasma of “tits or GTFO,” “attention whore,” and “fake geek girl,” fear becomes the price you pay to enjoy your hobbies. You don’t even think of it as fear most of the time. Sometimes you join in the fear mongering yourself, enjoying the a**hole glamour of not being too pussy to call another girl a slut. Sometimes you hide in woman-heavy spaces, which go maligned elsewhere (“Tumblrinas!”) but do a pretty solid job of keeping you safe. The fear comes back eventually, though, as a slew of graphic rape threats or a simple joke about “feminazis” you are expected to chuckle along with. It might be in response to a screed worthy of Andrea Dworkin—or maybe you just tweeted something about disliking Guardians of the Galaxy. What matters is that you were a woman with an opinion on the internet, and now you must be punished. You must be made to fear.
This weekend marks the 22nd annual Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the best-regarded pure comic cons and the convention that was my hometown con for many years. In my experience, Heroes has never published a public anti-harassment policy, but that seems to have changed for the better this year, as organizer Shelton Drum issued a policy this year in the form of a personal letter to attendees. The move makes Heroes Con just the latest comics convention to publicly address the pervasive problem of harassment -- both sexual and otherwise -- that takes place at these kinds of events.
San Diego's Comic-Con International has a problem that it doesn't want to address. See, a few weeks back, a group called GeeksForCONsent launched a petition urging Comic-Con to adopt a formal harassment policy in place of the broad, basically unenforceable "code of conduct" that's currently in place. Like many conventions, SDCC has a huge problem with women -- particularly women cosplayers -- being harassed by other con-goers and dubious media "professionals", and the present policy offers victims little recourse.
“I think this woman is wrong about something on the Internet. Clearly my best course of action is to threaten her with rape.”
That’s crazy talk, right? So why does it happen all the time?
Honest question, dudes.
That women are harassed online is not news. That women in comics and the broader fandom cultures are harassed online is not news. That these women are routinely transmitted anonymous messages describing graphic sexual violence perpetrated upon them for transgressions as grave as not liking a thing… that is actually news to me, and it’s probably news to a lot of you guys reading this.
Comic conventions are often fun places where people can come together and celebrate their shared interests, but unfortunately things can turn sour when someone's behavior simply goes too far and harassment rears its ugly head.
The creative minds at Oni Press have stepped in to help. Taking a page from the yellow and red cards soccer referees pull out when players violate the rules, Oni has released a set of penalty cards that creators and convention attendees can use to let people know they're crossing a line. Check out the full set after the jump.
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