Harassment at conventions

29 January 2014 10:20

I read a number of blogs by fellow authors, both obscure and well-known. One of the more famous blogs I read is Whatever by Science Fiction writer John Scalzi, who never fails to be insightful on a whole number of issues. It helps, of course, that I agree with him on many issues.

In the past few months, he has posted a number of topics on Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions and the presence of harassment policies, and last Monday he linked to a blog post by twistpeach where she details her experience of being harassed at a convention, and how the organization subsequently handled it. I could try explaining the situation, but if you’re interested in the details it’s probably best to just read her post.

Harassment policies are a good thing, even if I wish they weren’t necessary. Anyone should be able to visit whatever convention they like without being harassed for whatever reason. With Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions, some people may dress sexier than they otherwise would. This does not, however, give anyone rights to harass them, or as others like to put it: cosplay is not consent.

But I’ve been reading quite a few articles about cases of harassment the last few months, and lately it got me thinking: how does this apply to conventions I visit? I don’t visit a lot of conventions, really. I’ve been to Castlefest once, and to Elfia (formerly the Elf Fantasy Fair) twice, and I haven’t heard of any harassment happening at either. Then again, I am male, and generally don’t cosplay (feel free to do costume suggestions, however, I’m not opposed to the idea), so I’m probably less likely to be harassed. I am actually unsure if harassment is an issue at those festivals. I’ve never heard of it, but again, I haven’t been there that often.

So I went to the sites of both Elfia and Castlefest, looking to see if there was a harassment policy in place. To my dismay, I couldn’t find any such thing, and was even slightly disturbed by Elfia’s disclaimer against bodily harm. There were some regulations regarding the use of weapons (swords and such being common at those events) and firebreathing, but nothing whatsoever regarding the harassment of other visitors aside from a weak statement that you should respect other visitors, and that the organization reserves the right to remove attendants.

Maybe there is a harassment policy, and even a clear procedure on how to deal with it, but if so: it’s not being communicated in a clear way. It would be a very good idea to get these things in place, and make visitors aware of them.

I’m feeling rather conflicted about all this. Even if harassment isn’t an issue at either festival, I like the idea of there being a plan to deal with situations, and having�visitors know what to do if they feel threatened or harassed. These things are supposed to be fun, and no harassment is justifiable. I’ve never felt unsafe at any of those conventions, but males generally aren’t a target in those cases.