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September 2014

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bad girls firefighters

what is the sound of one heart breaking?

If you're not up to speed on the current Readercon harassment flap. I invite you to read here and here and here.

Readercon is my home convention, the con I have sold to friends from other parts of the country as a delightful change of pace and a chance to relax and talk about books. Most of those friends, over the years, have been female, and many of them have come back.

Most recently, I brought my boyfriend.

I am absolutely heartbroken and dismayed by the Readercon Board's decision to assess Rene Walling only a two-year suspension for stalking and harassing Genevieve Valentine.

I am deeply disappointed in and saddened by the con that is, in a very real sense, the con of my heart.

Walling may regret his actions, but that does not change the fact that his undisputed actions made Valentine feel afraid for her safety. As a woman, perhaps I need to explain that when a woman complains of a man harassing her, she is not complaining about an annoyance or an inconvenience. She is complaining about a potential threat to her personal integrity, her well-being, her very life.

Well-meaning men need to understand that women respond to male stalkers in this way because in large numbers, men kill, batter, and rape women, and for no better reason than perceived ownership, sexual jealousy, and issues of control. If women react to such reports convulsively, it is for one reason: the only significant natural predator the human female has is the human male.

We are defending our lives.

This is not hyperbole. This is not hysteria. This is a hard fact that every human woman--gay or straight, cis or trans--lives with every time she is confronted with a human male. He may try to kill me.

It's not paranoia to think so. In a small, but statistically nonzero set of cases, this is true.

I once met a guy at a Rocky Horror screening. I found out later he had called every house in my neighborhood to find out where I lived.

I once said Hi to a male neighbor at a bus stop. He invited me to his place; I declined. I found out later he had sexually assaulted another young woman.

My uncle murdered my aunt because she asked him for a divorce.

Did you hear that?

My uncle murdered my aunt because she asked him for a divorce.

And that is why women are guarded. And that is why Readercon really, really, really screwed this up.

Women are not angels of the house. We are not fading flowers who cannot look out for ourselves. We are not frail crystalline things that can't handle a sexual come-on.

We are physically smaller, physically weaker human beings who live every day with the knowledge that the only lethal predator we have is a random selection of human males.

And we can never know which ones.

We are not calling for Walling's punishment. We are calling for the right of Valentine and other women to exist in an environment without predators.

It's not about the man, Readercon.

It's never about the man

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Yes.

This.

I don't understand their decision either. It makes me wonder what kind of back room drug deal is going down for the board not to rule in favor of their own freaking policy. Not that they would miss my attendance perhaps, but hundreds of us, maybe.

Yes.

Thankyou for articulating this.
I didn't want to clutter up the Readercon post with a reply agreeing with you there, but: Yes.

I'm sorry that a convention that's so dear to your heart has gone this far astray.
And we can never know which ones.

Thank you for your eloquence.

Some years ago, I sang with a women's a capella group, and we had been singing at far too many vigils for local murdered women. At one such vigil, a woman came up to us and asked "How can you tell which ones are dangerous? There must be some way!" I had no answer then, now have I now.

Well, that's it, isn't it?

You could be married to somebody for twenty years and still be a bit shocked when he strangles you.

I wish I had an answer.
I am completely creeped out by this.
Funny way to define zero-tolerance.
We are physically smaller, physically weaker human beings who live every day with the knowledge that the only lethal predator we have is a random selection of human males.

And we can never know which ones.

We are not calling for Walling's punishment. We are calling for the right of Valentine and other women to exist in an environment without predators.

It's not about the man, Readercon.

It's never about the man



Yes.
Thanks for posting about this. I'd heard about Genevieve's experience, but not the aftermath. Readercon has completely failed in their duties here.
On average, smaller and weaker. I'm as tall or taller, and as strong as most male martial artists I've worked with, who I generally suspect are stronger than the population at large - which is not to say that there aren't plenty of people bigger and stronger than me. But also not only some pretty different socialization in terms of threat response, but also some pretty significantly different biochemistry (I'm thinking of adrenaline response in particular) and responses to threat stimulus (nature or nurture, that one we don't know).

I wasn't surprised when my ex hit me. Or rather, I was, in that moment, but not really that it happened. He'd tended, over the years, to attempt to use physical intimidation when he was upset and I wasn't doing what he wanted. (And I tended to get stubborn and somewhat contemptuous.) At some level I figured that if it came down to it I could take him. Well that and at some pretty major level physically attacking someone as a way of resolving arguments was still pretty foreign to me.

It wasn't until after he hit me that it started really getting through that "safe" isn't the same thing as "can probably handle myself if it comes up".

I suspect at some level I filtered the guys I was attracted to partly on the basis of not feeling safe with someone who was substantially larger or stronger. I seem to do that less, now, actually, though I filter so much more strongly generally it's a little hard to tell.
Yeah. I'm much bigger than the average woman. I'm much bigger than the average guy--I am the size of your average linebacker, no exaggeration. Heap big woman, I am. Also: I'm not exactly shy and retiring. The best description of my personality might be "appallingly excessive." I'm of the Roseanne Barr tribe of loud and raucous, with a side order of trained orator's voice.

But you know what? Doesn't make any damn difference. I'm startled by how often people on the sidewalk just plain don't see me, presumably because I am not a young, hottie female, nor a man. I have been bumped into by people while I was wearing a fire-engine red, puffy winter jacket. That's kind of like not noticing a car (except I'm taller than cars, so should be more noticeable!).

My size and strength, which are obvious to people who look, avail nothing in the way of "prevention" when so many people are acculturated not to see. Every fight I've ever been in has been with a man who was physically smaller than me, who made utterly incorrect--and obviously incorrect to those with a brain--assumptions about how I would react to physical assault.

The fact that I have successfully kicked male asses in honest-to-Crom street fights does not make me want to have to deal with more of them. I am, as they say, too old for this shit. Just because I can pound someone into the pavement, doesn't mean I want to. I would much rather not be bothered.
You had so totally sold me on Readercon that I was starting to save up for next year's. Maybe they'll fix it? If they're invested in the con more than their egos?
Yes, the most charitable things I can say about the Readercon Board's decision are that it's puzzling and disappointing. This is not how to foster an environment that creates a safer space for women.

I don't understand their decision at all...
I am so sorry to hear this. I've never been to Readercon but I know a lot of people who love it, and this is wretched, full stop.
Not to defend their decision, which is pretty much wrong, but what MAY be happening is something I've seen elsewhere with other issues.

Being male, there are some realities that I will Never be able to completely "Get" the way my wife does. Not be cause I'm stupid, or don't want to, but simply because my reality is so different.

I can understand the issues intellectually, but deep down, I'll never have that same visceral reaction.

The same applies to some issues of race and sexuality.

Unfortunately, because the people making the decision don't "Get it", it can be all too easy to minimize another's trauma.

They look at the situation and decide that since the stalker has apologized and they've "Punished" the man, that the situation is resolved, not understanding that even if that were true, they've done nothing about the underlying circumstances that allowed the incident in the first place.

In fact, by not taking further steps, they are in effect, disclaiming any responsibility for allowing those circumstances and/or failure to take more effective action at the time.
Two of the five names on the BoD are female. While they still might not "get it" - not all women have the same experience, and not all women have a visceral understanding of these things, and some men do - I find it unlikely.

But then, I don't think anyone would be giving them a pass, even if they were all male.
Well, hell.

...

Thank you for writing this, Bear. Because yeah.

Right on.
Baffling, disappointing decision from a convention that otherwise has a sterling reputation. What a shame.
I've never actually been to Readercon.

And now that I know they actively set out to avoid creating a safe space for people, given the opportunity, I never will.
Have never been to Readercon. After hearing this, I don't think I am likely to attend. There's a reason I wander around in armor. . . .
Very much this.
The irony is: you report and your a hysteric. You get raped and they say "look what she was wearing, why didn't she say no and cut the guy off earlier, why did she put herself in that situation?" Excellent post.
And if you don't report, you get told that it's your fault if anyone else gets targeted because if more women were just brave enough to do something, then these things wouldn't happen. On the other hand, if you warn other people without making an official report, you're obviously lying.

There is absolutely no way to win.
It's called "stalking" because that's exactly what it is - a predatory behavior. There is "intent to harm" involved.

· 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the U.S.
· 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime.
· 77% of female victims and 64% of male victims know their stalker.
· 87% of stalkers are men.
· 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner. (these are 2007 statistics)

When a ruling body doesn't come down on the side of "that is totally unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated," they are aiding and abetting that behavior -- at least in my book.

sadly... there are more and more women coming forward saying " he harassed me too" ...
and it looks more and more like big name fan gets off with slap on wrist.

the board has said the "facts are not in dispute" one of those facts is that he blamed the victim....
"you make me"
and someone under his name has been reportedly posting for some time about how the women who "dress like that" at cons are asking for it.

of course he is VERY sorry and UNDERSTANDS... he got caught! what did they expect him to say ? oddly if he DIDNT understand, and wasnt at all sorry i would have more hope that he could reform...
because he didnt have a clue
but this kind of track record? and a glib and very sincere sounding apology?
plus blaming the victim?

intolerable
I, um, realize this isn't what you were setting out to talk about, and it was probably quite a while ago, but still--Jesus, I'm sorry about your aunt.
I was in junior high school, and yeah, it was pretty awful.

Thank you.
Readercon was the last con I ever went to. I'd sworn off them. Wasn't going back, because what good there was in a con didn't outweigh the bad, and I can't talk about all the bad that went down at cons. And the vast majority of the bad that went down at cons went down because I am a woman.

Between this and the friend I wanted to visit in Austin getting shot at for no good reason just the other day, I don't know if I'll swipe up enough courage to try and overturn the "no con ever, not ever again" verdict.

Sorry.
Genevieve's experience, and the response to it has sickened me.

Women need to be able to know they can exist in an environment safe from such predators.

Yes.

Harassment is a solvable problem in a limited community. Each time a harasser is banned it is one less person around to habitually ignore boundaries. The concom doesn't seem to understand that the banning isn't about punishing the harasser; it is about protecting everyone else. We don't f-king want them there, and we shouldn't have to think about "is this the year they let the boundary-ignoring dude back in? Or is that *next* year?"

I worry now that ReaderCon will, in the longer term, alienate the people I would most want to hang out with. Even beyond the people I know are feminist, I saw a ton of backup ribbons at ReaderCon this year. I can't imagine this is going to be a popular decision among its core attendees. I just have no idea what they were thinking.

Re: Yes.

GOOD POINT.
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