st_emma: (Default)
st_emma ([personal profile] st_emma) wrote2012-07-28 02:55 pm
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oh, readercon, no

I was unable to make Readercon this year, and now it looks like that non-attendance may become permanent. Here's the backstory:

Genevieve Valentine was sexually harassed by Rene Walling at Readercon, and a report was made to the concom.

Although I have never heard of him, Walling is apparently some sort of big name in fandom, well-connected, with a lot of friends. And in a move that I'm sure is not coincidental at all, Readercon's Board has decided that the "zero tolerance" harassment policy is too harsh, and fails to "allow for the possibility of reform", so they're not actually going to apply it in this case. They're going to give him a two-year suspension instead.

I'm not even going to go into the fact that "reform" can bloody well happen without a return to Readercon in the predator's lifetime.

I've been a regular Readercon attendee in the past. Readercon has been my favourite con, and I have recommended it enthusiastically to pretty much everyone I know.

I just can't do that anymore.

Presumably you knew what a "zero tolerance" policy would entail when you adopted it. The policy in place when Rene Walling decided to engage in sexual harassment was a permaban. Therefore, he should be permanently banned. It's offensive and wrong-headed to reconsider and revise the policy in secret just because the offender happens to be someone you like, and you're willing to take his apology at face value.

Newsflash: predators can be pretty good at feigning contrition when they get caught. Sure, you can say you'll kick him out permanently when/if this happens again (and if he's like most harassers, it will happen again), but do you really think victims (his, and otherwise) are going to feel comfortable coming forward with complaints after this? You've essentially taken the predator's side, here.

I am profoundly disappointed in the board's decision. I don't think this does anything to make Readercon feel safer - quite the opposite, actually - and I really hope you reconsider. I just don't think I can justify going back to Readercon until you do.

Zero tolerance policies are blunt instruments that are easy enough to apply when the malfeasors are not really part of the community. It's harder to apply them to the popular crowd. That alone should necessitate a rethink of the whole zero tolerance concept, but the message being sent here - and it's being received loud and clear by an increasing number of people who are backing away from the thought of attending future Readercons - is that if a predator is sufficiently popular among the right crowd of people, the rules will be bent for him. This little handslap doesn't make anyone safer - and the nonsense about requiring "substantiated reports of continued inappropriate behavior" to enforce their rules merely ensures that future incidents will occur well out of eyeshot of witnesses. That doesn't make anyone safer, either.

What would I have them do? For starters, follow their own damn rules. Since the incidents occurred when the zero tolerance policy was in place, that is the policy that applies. If they want to change the rules for the future, they are welcome to do so. If they want to change the rules to allow for an appeal after a set period of time - two to five years, say - that would be fine, provided that the final say on whether or not a harasser returns goes not to the board, but to the people who were harassed. Their safety - really everyone's safety - should take precedence over the alleged redemption of a known predator.