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.