Where Personal and Professional Life Collide...

My life in 8 words: Organized chaos, by preference. Exhausting, but never boring

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On conventions, creepers, and making it official
stop that
This past week, news broke in the SF community that there had been yet another complaint about sexual harassment lodged against a well-known editor. This editor had been censured previously, back in 2010, but it turned out that none of the complaints had been "officially" registered.

That has now changed. And the fact that previous complaints were swept under the table by HR (because nothing "officially" had been done) has ignited a new push to teach people HOW to file a complaint so that it WILL be heard.

Sadly, the news didn't surprise me - or, probably, anyone who has ever worked in a power imbalance industry (read: pretty much everywhere).  There will always be people who try to take advantage of that.  But it's far wider a problem, affecting those outside the author/editor corridor.  DAW author Kari Sperring has reprinted her essay from 2010, "What Safety Means to Me" about her experiences at conventions, and she's speaking for a lot of us.

And if you're still thinking "oh, but...."  then you need to read this:  "But He Didn't Know He Was Hijacking your Ship: On Conference Creeps", from Maria Dahvana Headley.

Every convention, ever since I was fourteen, there's been at least one guy who gets up in my personal space, gets handsy, thinking that he's being charming, or seductive, or just plain entitled to me.

I get less of the harassment than is described by others (although I still get more than should exist, period, like the individual who started telling everyone that we were a couple. That was...creepy as fuck). I've always assumed that this was because I started out professionally as an editor, which protected me somewhat - I was higher in the food chain than a twenty-something writer would normally be** and that has carried through to now.

Or maybe, like so many others, I've just excused it as "another offensive male who doesn't have a clue how to behave in society" and ignored it, because we're trained to be nice.

Screw nice.   I have a responsibility to the rest of my community, to not excuse it.  To not allow it.  If you're out in public, there are expectations as to your behavior.  Going forward, if someone behaves like a creeper, I'm calling them out as a creeper. Your physical existence entitles you to nothing other than your own existence.  Do not presume.***

*Although the one time someone tried to give me an unexpected, unasked-for, "friendly" back rub, I almost broke their nose, purely by reflex.
**I got a different kind of harassment, with a number of writers thinking that the way to a book contract was down my pants.  I got very cynical very early, because of that.
*** when in doubt, walk up to a woman and say "hi, my name is X, you look interesting, can I buy you a drink and talk to you for a while?"  That is how you flirt in the real world, not by laying hands or leering.  And the direct polite approach often works.  Really.

Originally published at Writer. Editor. Tired Person.

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I'm (probably) older than you, and so when this stuff happened in my early adulthood and I called the men on it, I was called "a cold fish," "hostile," and "Frigid!" They would tell me that if I ever wanted to Get A Man, I would have to Loosen Up and be Modern. A manager where I worked in the early 1980s used to give "shoulder rubs" and "back rubs" and would tell us (at the time I was in my twenties) that he rubbed his daughters' backs all the time and that he felt fatherly towards us. I would jump when the guys sneaked up behind me and cringe if they grabbed at me, so I was mocked as a "cold fish" and told to "grow up to match your body's maturity level" and stuff like that. At the time, there had not been a sexual harassment movement, and it was unusual for an unmarried woman to be able to fend off everything like this. In fact, the older engineer in our group would routinely come up behind us when it was our "time" at the ONE terminal (this WAS 1983) and say, "Get off, girlie, I need to input." I went to my manager about this, a man of around the same age who was really a generally good person but of his time, and he said, "Well, I know it's tough to put up with, but just move off and get yourself another time. I don't have the power over him because he has seniority." And this was WITH a sign-up sheet. It was a dismissive attitude and often men thought it was manly of them to kiss you on the head (no, REALLY) or pat you in a "friendly" way. Women who were born after 1990 have usually not experienced all this at work and at school. So they don't know how GREAT it is that there are now some recourses!

I guess I am sort of a "cold fish" and I am not touchy-feely. My mother was always one to grab people's arms and all that stuff, but I automatically respect people's boundaries and usually don't initiate contact. But these guys need to understand that THIS IS OK. If I want to be NOT touched, then they'd better get with the program and just talk! Talking is usually good!

When I was at Berkley, our publisher at the time was very touchy-feely. His saving grace was that he was touchy-feely with everyone, which was amusing because it made the straight guys far more uncomfortable than the women.

I have clearly defined personal space. I've learned to defend it. Politely, for the most part.

Yes. This. I have spent so much of my life restraining the desire to punch the lights out of such pests.

I'm afraid I had many, many years of such behavior from a number of men at cons, including the accused (more than once), before I got old and fat and before I had breast reduction (the difference THAT made was pretty eye-opening). Never once did I report him, because I had the "I'll make sure you're blacklisted as a freelancer" always implied in the background, but never spoken aloud (well, unlike when a certain man named Fawcett tried that once and I just laughed myself sick, which made him angry but nothing came of it, thank God).

I have to say, I wasn't surprised, but I was surprised he tried it on Elise. I wouldn't have been that ballsy.

Occupy Genre!
And thank you.

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