First I had a ball, meet loads of old friends, and made a number of new friends.
I am not going to give a blow by blow account of the event, as it was a four day marathon of 8.30 to 2am days! And i actually had an extra day at the start as certain nameless friends convinced me to come and build Ikea furniture! We built something like 12 couches, 24 chairs and 6 Tables! or some other set of numbers i lost track! so i can't recall it all.
There are certain things that define events like Eastercon, and one of those was that while building the furniture, who should show up to give a helping hand? Paul Cornell. Paul was a GOH at the convention, so he could easily have spent the entire con as a king, instead, proving once again that he is the nicest man alive, he was in helping! but i digress, which is going to happen a LOT in this piece!
i am going to attempt to limit my thoughts to just talk about the two panels that really got me thinking. Not on the many other exciting events that happened at the convention!
The First was a panel on sexual Harassment at conventions. I missed the very start, however i walked in as one of the panelists went through a list of things that had happened to her in her 30 years in Fandom. This was a very disturbing list.
I should explain the structure of the panel, it was two women and two men, one of the women was an Author who i am well aware of, and has been on the list of people i need to read (this list is now twice as long as last year) I am unaware who the other was, as i missed the introductions. I was aware of who both of the men where, as i had encountered them at last years Eastercon.
SO, anyway, after this incredibly long list of events, (including several that if anyone ever did to a friend of mine, and it wasn't welcome, would probably provoke a violent response), the question was asked, why these incidents were never reported. The answer was the normal, expected answer. The Woman involved thought she would not have been believed.I say this not as a "why did this woman think that" but more as a "why didn't Fandom try harder to make it clear it would listen"
Now the panel went on to a general discussion of what could be done about this, and i am not going to go into the back and forth, because i don't remember all of the details, and am likely to misrepresent someone.
1. Generally it was accepted, that as much as we would like it to be, Fandom is not a Safe Space. We can work to make it a space where people are respected, and that is something we should work on.
2. Conventions need to have an element on Sexual Harassment included in the code of conduct, to make it clear reports will be listened to, and not be swept under the carpet. That people can have the membership removed if they are breaking that code. They should also think about this in advance, rather than in a panicked committee meeting during the convention.
3. Convention committees, need to be aware that they may have to call in the Legal Authorities, in extreme cases, as any other action could involve them in a conspiracy to cover something up! They should also make it clear to the Staff of the convention, that this can, and should be done! Sometimes removing membership is not enough!
These are the things that The convention committees should be doing. However as was pointed out Women often go out with friends who look out for each other. However often people, not just women, come to conventions not knowing anyone. So people need to keep a watch out for each other. They need to check that people aren't been trapped in the corners, that things that may be happening are consensual!
The committee can't be everywhere, but if we keep an eye on each other, we can hope to remove some of the worst elements from the scene.
The only issue i had with the panel was the time slot, at 11pm, it was in the last slot of the day, and i k ow i was tired and didn't give it my full attention, however at the time, there was no one to say stop, the panel then ran 30 minutes over, which was a good thing, as so much more was discussed.
The other panel that made me think was the "Minorities" panel.
Now as was pointed out by a panelist, it was a misnamed panel, as it was not about minorities, instead it was about ethnic minorites, as there was no presence(AFAIK) from the LGBT community, or so on. However it was always intended to be about Ethnic minorities, as there were other panels on Gender, Sexuality and other such things.
it did have a good gender balance, 2 men, 2 women. I must note that most of the panels i attended had good gender parity, and i did not hear any complaints about the issue at this years event, so i am giving them a passing grade on that one, unless someone tells me different.
So anyway back to the panel. The panel had people of various ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom. They talked about the first convention they attended, and they seemingly had very different experiences. some felt welcomed, some felt they had been isolated. So to some extent, Fandom as a whole can do a lot better in showing everyone the same welcome. I know that i was made welcome at my first Eastercon last year, but a lot of that was i already knew a lot of people.
Its hard to say what can be done different to make people more welcome, and some of those ideas where good, though need some thought. There was a suggestion of a badge for first timers, which sounds good at first pass, but a few minutes thought, and consideration of some of the information i had picked up at the Sexual Harassment panel made that a very bad idea.
Many sexual predators pick on people who are isolated, and providing them with an ID badge for all the first timers, and who are at a higher chance of been isolated would be a bad idea. There was a suggestion, on Twitter today, that instead there be people who have a come talk to me badge. We tried that at Octocon, but i I don't know how that worked, as i forgot to check back with the people wearing those badges to see if people had approached. I had forgotten to such an extent i didn't even suggest it at the panel.
However these suggestions really were aimed at making everyone welcome, and in the end the panel weren't sure what could be done different to make Ethnic minorities more welcome. However having the conversation with people who are of those minorities, and asking the questions is probably a good first step. More work will need to be done.
So anyway, in closing, both of these panels have me thinking about what can be done to make sure that Octocon is a respectful place, and a welcoming place....