That Readercon Thing

By now, most of you have heard about what happened: Genevieve Valentine, an excellent and accomplished writer, was stalked and harassed at this year’s Readercon. As soon as she went public with her story, it turned out that the man is a serial harasser/stalker. Readercon has an official zero-tolerance harassment policy; Genevieve notified the con and provided information about people who witnessed her harassment and had experienced harassment from the person in question (one Rene Walling, who is apparently a big name fan).

Readercon “banned” him for two years — a mere formality, obviously — and is now revising their policy. Here’s the statement from the (predominantly male) board.

So the things to take away from all this:

1) We privilege male-driven redemption narrative over women’s need for safety. (NB: His apology was sincere, according to the board. Apology was also the method he used to stalk Valentine. He’s good at apologizing!)

2) We privilege a clever serial harasser who can say he is sorry over someone who, by the board’s definition is “clueless”. Socially awkward=ban him! Sociopaths are okay though!

3) Cons are places where professional writers often go for job-related purposes — book promotion, networking, publicity. We are there to work. Allowing harassment at cons is JUST ONE MORE BARRIER for women writers to deal with. No male writer had to ever sit around and think, “do I choose promo or safety”? (Disclaimer: I rarely go to cons, and there certainly is a penalty for not being seen in person. There’s so much one can do online. I made my choices; I hate to think how many women writers do not make these choices freely.)

4) Women are harassed a lot. The board doesn’t seem to understand how vital it is to make cons safe spaces for all members. Accommodating a harasser is not being inclusive, it is endangering multiple other members.

5) Readercon is one of the very few cons I occasionally attend. No longer. This is the sentiment that has been expressed by many others. I hope that Readercon will respond to the drop in attendance, bad publicity, and threat of reduced pro presence; however, it would’ve been so much nicer if they just responded to the initial complaint, substantiating reports, and enforced their own policy without the need to reassure the harasser.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 28th, 2012 at 2:09 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “That Readercon Thing”

  1. jeff ford Says:

    I think the Readercon board that made this decision must think a little too highly of Readercon by only giving this guy a 2 year suspension. Would it have just been too cruel to have denied him Readercon for the rest of his life? It’s always been a fun convention, but seriously, it’s a fucking SF convention. Believe me, there are actually worse fates out there in the world than being denied access to Readercon. No one is disputing the incident as far as I can see. The guy may truly be contrite — all well and good. But setting up a situation not far at all down the road where the victim of his stalking and harassment will, if she wants to attend, have to be confronted with his presence again is really callous. Not only callous but actually stupid from a legal point of view. What this guy allegedly engaged in is against the law. Beyond that, though, and more importantly, this kind of bullshit has been going on at SF conventions forever. I was hoping that Readercon would be a place where the line would finally drawn, but I guess not. It’s a shame I won’t be able to attend anymore either.

  2. Under the Beret » The Readercon Thing Says:

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  3. Administrator Says:

    Seriously, it’s Chris Brown with his two year suspension from the Grammys all over again. I also feel that part of being truly sorry is realizing that even though you may recognize your errors, there will be consequences. And SF cons are really terrible — they love the rhetoric of inclusive fandom blah blah, but it very clear from the actual behaviors that women, no matter how professionally accomplished, are there just for male amusement. So yeah, and thank you for your support, Jeff. I hope enough people will refuse to go to make a perceptible difference in programming.

  4. Monado Says:

    Ten years would be more appropriate. Two years in a professional setting is nothing: I expect an average 18-month lag before networking efforts bear fruit.

  5. Ekaterina Sedia Breaks Down Readercon’s Problem — The Hathor Legacy Says:

    [...] Maria on July 31, 2012 Ekaterina Sedia analyzes Readercon’s inadequate response to sexual [...]

  6. Glauke Says:

    I have a hard time believing that Walling is in fact socially akward. He’s a Hugo committee chair and a translator/interpreter. Those are not the functions of someone without social skills.

    And having a policy without actually applying it in practice means you don’t have a policy in reality. I don’t have books to promote, but I would like to feel safe when I geek out with other readers over stuff we love. If this is how you deal with serial harrassers and stalkers, I cannot feel safe.

  7. Just A Compliment, Geez | Simpson's Paradox Says:

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