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bear by san

March 2017



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criminal minds prentiss try me

if every angel's terrible why do you watch her sleep?

Some further thoughts on Readercon, and its signal failure to deal responsibly and within the boundaries of its own guidelines with the case of Genevieve Valentine's harassment.
  • A lot of folks--some of whom I know and respect, a few I consider good friends, and many of whom who have never been to a Readercon--are swearing never to attend, denouncing the convention broadly, or calling it an awful con. While I would never encourage anyone to attend a convention at which they felt unsafe, those last two arguments are, I think, a misreprentation of the facts and unfair to the Readercon community. Whereas the fact of the matter is that this is an unhappy turn of events in part because Readercon has dealt with similar cases much better in the past. Because Readercon is in general a progressive convention, with a focus on exploring the boundaries of the genre... because Readercon has promoted awareness of science fiction's diversity and literary merit by honoring guests such as Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nalo Hopkinson, Geoff Ryman, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Hand, and Greer Gilman... that is why this is a terrible disappointment.
  • I believe that the Readercon Board has made a serious mistake in their handling of Valentine's harassment claim. It seems--and my information has all come secondhand!--that the Board may have honestly believed that the perpetrator, René Walling, was contrite and horrified by his own behavior, and so they felt it was appropriate to make an exception. Of course I was not in the room or privy to any of these discussions, but I do not believe that this was an appropriate choice. People who push other people's physical and sexual boundaries in that manner--he put his hands on her uninvited, and ignored repeated requests to back off!--may not believe they mean anything by it, and when it's called to their attention they may be tremendously contrite--but it's my experience both as a former domestic violence counselor and as a survivor of abuse that contrite or not, such people are recidivists, that the behavior will reoccur, and that in many cases it will escalate. People who abusively violate other people's boundaries in this fashion are never safe to be around.
  • It is my understanding that the re-writing of Readercon's harassment policy was in part driven by the urging of Rose Fox, a member of the concom who was opposed to the board's decision to be lenient. If my understanding is correct, it was her position that if they weren't going to apply the zero-tolerance policy, they needed to revise it. (ETA: Rose explains in detail in comments.)
  • I think normally it would have been inappropriate for Readercon's Board to change their decision at this point (but in this case there is a detail that makes me feel differently--see below). That does not mean there is no ameliorative action that can be taken. For example, Readercon could issue a public apology to Valentine. They could also take the opportunity to create a holistic and sensible harassment policy that they are willing to commit to adhering to. I also think it would not be inappropriate, in the light of this failure, for further such decisions of the board to be made in a manner more transparent to the Readercon community.
  • However, there is another pending harassment claim against Walling, filed by Kate Kligman, which the Board, to my knowledge, has not yet responded to. This claim does not involve Readercon, per se, but it is evidence of the pattern of Walling's behavior. If this claim is supported (as, I admit, I expect it will be), I believe that the Board must, in order to regain any credibility, consider it as additional evidence, reopen proceedings, and extend the ban on Walling to a lifetime suspension of his membership. This is a serial pattern of behavior, and my experience and training tell me that it is very unlikely to cease.
  • If Walling wishes to truly demonstrate contrition and make some amends for his action, some of the steps he could take might include issuing a public apology to Valentine and to the Readercon community. He could likewise voluntarily choose to ban himself from Readercon for life. He should understand that Valentine has no responsibility to accept or even listen to his apology, or to interact with him further in any way, shape, or form. The only possible amends he can make at this point is to leave her strictly alone from this point forward. Respecting those boundaries would be the beginnings of corrective action.

At this point, I am not making any sweeping claims about my own future participation in Readercon. I am not about to toss my hair and stalk off in a huff; Readercon has always been a good con for me, and I am committed to the New England fandom community it (along with Boskone and Arisia and the smaller local cons) represents. 

My feelings on the subject of Readercon may change depending on the Board's actions over the next few weeks, however.


For these purposes, it shouldn't matter if someone is a BNF, a pro, or some schlub.
That's true.
It is my understanding that the re-writing of Readercon's harassment policy was in part driven by the urging of Rose Fox, a member of the concom who was opposed to the board's decision to be lenient. If my understanding is correct, it was her position that if they weren't going to apply the zero-tolerance policy, they needed to revise it.

The board made a decision not to follow our stated policy, and during the discussion that led to that decision, decided that the policy should be changed going forward, presumably because they wanted the policy to already have been different and allow for lenience. I was not part of that discussion or decision.

I have separately stated my general opposition to zero-tolerance policies.

I will probably be part of the group that works on rewriting Readercon's policy, which I agree needs to be done. In this case I feel a lifetime ban was absolutely appropriate, but I also think this sort of all-or-nothing approach is too blunt an instrument and we can do better while still absolutely prioritizing the needs of people who have been targeted by harassment.
Thank you!
As a long-time despiser of the idiotic concept of "zero tolerance", that all sounds good to me. It was bothering me that people on the right side of the harassment discussion were often supporting the idea of zero tolerance.
You know.
We aren't talking about throwing someone out of the sled, into the snow to die here.
It is only a matter of not allowing him access to people who are in a vulnerable situation.
If Patrick Stewart turns up at a con, he will be surrounded by security and no one will annoy him.
But there is a large population of sorta-important people whose presence walking about makes everyone happy.
There is a large population of regular people off-guard, partying, basically open.
No one is running security on them except their friends if they are lucky, or the con itself.
These are people who attend in the belief that they are entering a protected space of like-minded people.
If someone is a hazard, or even just a nuisance, it is well within the powers and the obligations of the people running an event to protect the experience of the others, people who have paid to attend what should be a safe and enjoyable experience.

It doesn't mean the end of this man's life, or even of his professional life.
He'll always have the interwebs.
It just means the man is not housebroken, and so cannot be trusted running about loose in what should be a safe space.
Contrition really doesn't matter - he's sorry because he was busted.
Yes, this.

Being banned from 1 con is not going to destroy his life.

Being banned from a con he values because of his own behavior MAY be a wake-up call that this behavior IS NOT APPROPRIATE, in a way he might be able to comprehend.

Instead, he got out of it. Yay for him? This is why we can't have nice things.

Yeah, pretty much this.</p>

I would be not opposed if the coming policy rewrite allowed for people who have been banned to petition for reinstatement - including those banned before the rewrite- but until that's an option for everyone and stated in writing with a clear process they need to stick the the stated policy. And it needs to be on him to petition and show change, not on the board to monitor his actions and extend the ban if they think best. (and two years I just...no)

Readercon's a good convention, and it doesn't deserve what the Board's decision did to its reputation. However, my discomfort with ever returning isn't a huff - it's a considered evaluation of my own comfort level and trust in the convention's willingness to protect members from predation.

IMO, "we have a policy but we don't really mean it" is worse than having no policy at all, because it creates an illusion of security.

Edited at 2012-07-28 06:35 pm (UTC)
That's perfectly reasonable, and well-reasoned. What I object to is the spate of people saying "Readercon is awful!"

No, Readercon is not awful. The Board just made a really terrible decision.
I have been watching the general reaction and by and large, the reaction of the community of people who go to readercon has been enormously heartening. It's that community that makes the con pretty damn awesome, actually.
Wow. I am officially even more disappointed in Readercon's board.
Precision and detail are key. Who knew what, when? Thank you for being precise.

The second serious allegation from a different convention and different target, known to the board when they decided glvalentine's case, does leave me struggling to understand the Board's decision in this case.
So there with you on your first bullet (and all of them, really). What so frustrating isn't that this is More of the Same, but that it's happening at (and to) a con that actually kind of awesome. The con and the community deserve better than the Board they have.
Yeah. This. Dammit.
How is the board chosen? If elected, this might prove enough of a spur to prompt replacement of some or all of them the next time elections occur....assuming there is no meaningful impeachment/no confidence process?
Time for a Readercon Spring?
If enough of the constituents feel the board's decision was sufficiently bad to warrant replacement, yes.

Were they working for me, they'd be looking for new jobs about now.

Against stated policy...check
Bad PR...check
opens the con up to potential lawsuits...check
potentially alienates a large number of con-goers/possible Guests of Honor...check

In these uncertain economic times it seems pretty clear to me. In the Corporate world this would be the time for the CEO to fall on his sword in apology and have a leadership shake-up/purge.
Gah. I'm so sorry the Board has chosen a charming persona over the legitimate concerns of the woman who was harrassed, and is messing up what has always sounded like a fine convention. I hope they recover their wits.

I don't have a horse in this race, because I doubt whether I'll ever be able to afford to go to a Readercon, so boycotting it would be an empty gesture (I might elect not to go for other reasons, but that's irrelevant here).

I am not, personally, a believer in the concept of safe space. I think life is inherently an unsafe space (hell, one's own body can on occasion do far more damage all by itself than other people are likely to do to you), and one just has to look that in its cold demonic eye and put on the proverbial big girl knickers. However, I do believe in fairness, and this does not seem to be a fair application at all of an existing policy.

If I had a serious issue at a con, I'd be more likely to handle it myself than take it to the concom, but that's not the point. I do think that a policy is needed in a social place that is also a workplace, to prevent assholes from behaving like assholes as far as humanely possible.
I think you should probably read the Readercon Concom's most recent statement:

Thank you and wow.
It has been hard hearing the angst and outrage of my friends over a convention many have suggested that I attend.
I, too, like mevennen have not gone to Readercon and due to financial consideration am not likely to.
I think that every victim has the following rights:

To Be heard – Silence is deadly. As evidenced by the uproar Ms Valentine has definitely been heard.

To Get justice - Getting justice is as individual as the crime that caused one to be a victim in the first place. Balance must be restored in the mind of the victim and the community. As far as I am concerned there has yet to be justice. There not being even a spoken apology was very much not okay. And I was even more upset when I found out there was another harassment claim against the perpetrator. With reading this post I, now, better understand the uproar. Unfortunately, to rectify the situation there will have to be some figurative "falling on swords" from both perpetrator and the board. This plus a reviewing of the harassment policy should right the wrong that was done in this situation.

To Restore their peace of mind - Restoring peace of mind involves forgiveness - forgiveness is about personal healing, not about forgetting the wrong. “Righting” Wrongs going forward is about justice. To Ms. Valentine I hope you can come to this point in your healing. This is about you controlling your own life and letting the "nasty event" be something that happened - stripping it of its ability to hurt you anymore. May you find the support and the inner strength that will bring you peace and balance going forward.

{Forgive any gramatical errors. I am a person who needs to be followed around by a copy editor.}