Thursday, May 1, 2014

SPWF's New Anti-Harassment Policy

I'm given to understand, from my dear friends Ay-Leen and O.M.Grey, that recently Jeff Mach, teddy bear and con owner of Steampunk World's Fair, introduced a working document of Jeff Mach Events Harassment Policy.

A cursory glance shows that it's a very easy-to-read document detailing what is considered harassment (stuff that ought to be understood and tken for granted by every adult reading it), what steps an attendee can take if they are harassed (a reasonable number of options including individual confrontation and escalation procedures), how con staff will respond (ideally; it remains to be seen how it actually will work out BUT it offers a nice standard for expectations), and finally a section on how to avoid being accused of harassment and what not to do if found guilty.

Jeff Mach had been in and out of touch with me several times before, requesting assistance in developing an anti-harassment policy in response to my post in solidarity with O.M. Grey's Order of the White Feather efforts to support members of the steampunk community who have been assaulted and hold the accused accountable. I thought it was very nice of him, so although I declined to work directly on it, grad school and all, I directed him to a few places where he could get started.

It's a pleasure to see that something has come to fruition. I find the language very clear, and the terms on what constitutes harassment is really quite reasonable. Some of the document could use tightening and reference to New Jersey laws, to be clear that harassment is unlawful and to impress on con attendees that here is a convention dedicated to making sure the law is on the victim's side. He should also put the staff through some professional training--it will be far more useful and those are useful skills for anywhere.

But what's this I hear? About a dust-up on the SPWF FB page protesting this step taken to protect potential victims of harassment? Well goodness gracious me slap my gun and call it Fanny I never.

..... That's code for "I am completely unsurprised" in case the sarcasm didn't get through. After what happened to O.M.Grey, after the backlash I received for even a hint of besmirching a steampunk idol, after all the "reasonable debates" I've both witnessed and had the misfortune to be a part of, I am not surprised at all that such a policy, that lays out clearly that what usually is tacitly accepted is now no longer acceptable, has received such a furious backlash. Apparently there are people calling it draconian. There are vendors threatening to pull out. This is only hearsay on my part, seeing as I do not have FB and therefore cannot witness this myself, and probably a good thing too, because I don't think I could handle this much casual misogyny at this point of my life.

Apparently being open about wanting to protect attendees from what is quotidian assholism (that oftentimes goes right into rights violation) is something worth getting riled up over. Apparently it's a bad thing to want to take initiative towards making a space safer and friendlier for women and other easily-harassed people. Apparently this is so ideologically-questionable it is worth giving up business for.

I think it is always worth saying, with a suitably accusatory finger, that if you choose to be angry over being told what you can't do towards women because it somehow violates your rights, you are most definitely part of the problem. You are part of the people who would rather be allowed to do what the hell you want to do at the expense of other people's discomfort, rather than rein in your own worthless self. You are part of the distress we face everyday just existing in public spaces. And if your response is to tell us to pull up our big girl britches then you clearly have more selfishness for your own desires than any care for women.

Fucking leave and never darken our doors again. We won't miss you, and you'll be replaced by people who won't have any trouble with the policy of openly declaring that harassers are a problem. They will be just as skilled and just as cool with the added bonus of not being fucking assholes. So get ye gone already.

I encourage Jeff Mach Events to stand their ground in face of the criticism because the safety of attendees is not something to be compromised on. Dedication to making a con experience better for vulnerable people also means getting flak from people who prey on them. Sure I expect some fuck-ups along the way in the enacting these policies, but I very much appreciate the initiative taken.

And I feel a bit sad, simultaneously, that it took this long.