This is a report that someone blogged about their personal experience with harassment at Comic Con. Let me start by saying I believe this report to be true. It is good. It does a good job of really describing the situation of harassment that even on the off chance isn’t true for the blogged is most decidedly true for others.
So why am I blogging about it? Because it gives us good insight into the reality of harassment at conventions like Comic Con. Once we have a solid grasp on the reality of harassment then we can make good and useful rules to combat the harassment. This is the point that most discussion about harassment at cons misses, what is the reality of the situation.
So this is the situation. Three guys come up to a pretty girl under the pretense of whatever. After a few lines of dialog they make a very graphic sexual reference and run off. This is the reality of the situation. A group of three people that know what they are doing is wrong, but do it anyways. This was three people harassing a women in less than 20 seconds.
So I like numbers, lets look at some numbers. The attendance to Comic Con was about 100,000 with 35% female and 65% male. At the convention we had 35,000 women and 65,000 men. This group of 3 men that where dedicated harassers only take about 30 seconds to harass someone. Lets just assume that they found a new target and harassed them every 5 min for 12 hours a day for the 4 days of the con. This one group of three people could have harassed nearly 600 women. Now lets assume that there isn’t just one group doing this, but 3. That’s 1800 women harassed, or about 5% of the women attending. This is not a small number. This is not insignificant. Comic Con being hostile to 1 in 20 women really is worthy of taking action about. But lets look at the other side of that coin. 1,800 women where harassed, but only 9 men where doing the harassing. While 5% of women where harassed, only 0.01% of men where harassers. This is a tiny number. This is not a significant number. Men are not the problem.
Any solution that targets men’s behavior is painfully misguided. Men are not the problem. 0.01% of men are the problem. There are a handful of individuals that are the problem. The solution isn’t to fix men, because only 0.01% of men are the problem. The solution is teaching women how to better report and identify the harassers. I know at Origins everyone was required to wear their badge in a visible way at all times. This is by far the biggest and most affective thing that can be done to minimize harassment at cons. Security can very easily identify people that are hiding their badges. They can take appropriate steps to insure that the badges are visible on everyone. We can also teach women to actually look at the badges!!!! Removing these three harassers would have been exceptionally fast and simple if security had a photo of their badges clearly showing names and id numbers. It would have been trivial to remove the harassers if the victims could have simply read their name tags and told security exactly who they where.
The solution is not to fix men, because men are not the problem. The solution to harassment at cons is to teach women how to better handle and report the situations when they occur.
So lets look at some failures to make this clear.
Cos-play is not consent. This does nothing but muddy the waters. It makes people that are doing nothing, but are not very confident, question themselves. It makes Cons hostile to males that are well intentioned but shy and unsure of themselves. It does nothing to reduce harassment. Harassment isn’t done by people that don’t know better. It is done by people that do know better but don’t care. Telling them “no” one more time will do nothing to change their actions.
Then there is this. If you don’t spend enough time around geeks outside of cons to know about and expect these behaviors, what are you doing at the con? Comics and gaming are the domain of the socially awkward. If you don’t know this before putting on your “costume” of 2 pasties and some dental floss you really need to do better research. When ever any artist of any sort does any sort of art, it is as much about the audience as the art. You don’t hand a doctoral dissertation to 2 year old and expect them to understand. You don’t play Bach at a night club and expect people to dance. You don’t play stripper at a con and expect to not be ogled. This is not harassment, but shaming the awkward for being awkward.
And one doing it right.
Clear rules for what is unacceptable behaviors and an accessible polity/procedure for dealing with harassment reports. No demanding unreasonable restrictions or shamming people that are socially awkward. Gender isn’t even mentioned, this is not “to protect women” but to make the con more enjoyable for everyone.