To the end of ... - Eastercon 2012

About Eastercon 2012

Previous Entry Eastercon 2012 Apr. 11th, 2012 @ 12:14 am Next Entry
So the weekend just past was Olympus, the 63rd Eastercon.

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....
Current Location: London!
Current Mood: tiredtired
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From:mollydot
Date:April 11th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
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There was a post about harassment at cons with good comments. It convinced me that there needs to be something between ignoring and throwing out–an "we'll keep an eye on this person" system. I'll see if I can find the post.
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From:mollydot
Date:April 11th, 2012 12:25 am (UTC)
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From:omegar
Date:April 11th, 2012 08:13 am (UTC)
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I read that post when it first came out, as Stina is a friend, but i rarely follow comment threads. I suspect i shall now have to go and read the 100 plus comments now!

Thanks :)
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From:deannawol
Date:April 11th, 2012 07:46 am (UTC)
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The newbie problem is one that bothers all types of conventions. It's kind of like you want a buddy system but without going so full on. When you go through ideas like that, you can go back and forth on meet and greet sessions coupled with the "Come talk to me buttons", where people proactively watch for the people who just sit in corners. But even then, you are going to get the frightfully shy people who will always say they are fine and back away from any pseudo-forceful 'I'll be your con-buddy' attempt. We can't make people be friends. The best you can really hope for is that people arrive in groups.

Thankfully, I'm happy to say that I've never had a problem being female at a SF con, but, and this makes me sound a little bad, I'm not the sort of girl who lets that be a problem. I tend to deal with situations head on and if I feel uncomfortable, I get out of the situation. Not everyone has that option and not everyone can do that. At gaming cons, occasionally I have had issues, but, again this sounds bad, once I had made a bit of a name for myself, they really couldn't say anything or do anything. The more involved you get with the community and the more friends you make, the easier it gets for you, I think anyway. But yes, definitely educate both your committee and any helpers-out that you have on the day. It may be a good idea to search around for or talk to people about signs to watch for, and keep the number of the local Garda station at front desk, just in case. The other thing that I've heard of people doing for large conventions is pre-warning the Gardai beforehand that there is a convention on and while they don't expect trouble, would it be okay just to call the station if there is? Make sure that they are pre-warned. It usually means that they hold back one or two 'beat cops' just in case for quicker response times.

You know by now that running a con isn't easy and that people will always be critical, but I admire that panels like these have you thinking and planning.
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From:omegar
Date:April 11th, 2012 08:11 am (UTC)
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The ideas raised about been more inclusive are generally useful, beyond just dealing with minorities, and i suppose its important that committees try and make their event more welcoming. This is important for ongoing events, who want to get people to come back to the event. Sometimes self interest will get people doing stuff, that they would otherwise complain about.

I suppose i should make it clear that I have never received a compliant about someone at my convention, and that i would probably not react at all well if i did. Still If i can think my way through i should be in a much better state, right!

While you are lucky to have avoided these issues, i wodner how much of that was because of small event, combined with been friends with the committee? Still hopefully you will never have this issue.

I am not sure i would pre-warn the Garda station, but doing so for a larger crowd might be worthwhile. Though i will have the number of the local station (Harcourt St!) to hand over the weekend,
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From:deannawol
Date:April 11th, 2012 08:49 am (UTC)
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Was reading the link posted by the person previously and the commenter had a couple of really good hints there as well. Worth a look.

At the end of the day, there is something that you do need to keep in mind at the end of everything else: You can encourage people to have fun, but you can't make them have fun.

I think that part of the fact that I've been lucky tends to be that I'm usually busy at conventions. I volunteer to do insane things and as a result, I tend not to stand still for very long. But I do wish that more people had my experiences rather than their own. I'm had a fairly good con life, SF and Gaming.
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From:mollydot
Date:April 11th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
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I suppose i should make it clear that I have never received a compliant about someone at my convention, and that i would probably not react at all well if i did. Still If i can think my way through i should be in a much better state, right!
It's not a nice position to be put in, but if you think about these sort of things before they happen, you're likely to react better.
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From:themountaingoat
Date:April 11th, 2012 10:25 am (UTC)
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At SMOFcon there was a panel on this subject which was in direct response to what went on at WFC last year. One of the panellists (and I don't remember who) recommended the Capricon Code of Conduct policy as being particularly good and that the language they had used made it universally suitable for a lot of conventions.

We have adapted the document for use at TitanCon but the respect for others section is unchanged and this covers issues of sexual harassment, aggressive and violent behaviour and potential consequences for breaching the rules.

http://titancon.com/2012/code_of_conduct.php

I can email a PDF of the original Capricon code of conduct if you want to read that, the original is kind of difficult to track down on the web.

We are going to go over the details of the policy with our volunteer team at our volunteers meeting before the convention so that everyone is aware of the policy and will know what to do if they should see something.
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From:omegar
Date:April 13th, 2012 09:22 am (UTC)
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If you could please send me that document, I would be grateful.

G
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From:hatgirl
Date:April 11th, 2012 11:12 am (UTC)
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I have been taking a (thankfully academic) interest in this topic since the trouble at last year's World Fantasy Con. The suggestions that I have nodded the most emphatically to are:

1) Publish your policy in the Con booklet and on the website. No point in having a policy if no-one knows about it
2) Have a non-committee person named in the Con booklet as some-one people can go to if they are nervous that the harasser is a friend of the committee, or a member of the committee.
3) Acknowledge assault can happen to anyone - male, female, straight, gay, guest or attendee. While drunk or sober, scantily dressed or fully covered. And that it can be perpetrated by the same list.
4) Have a clear appeals process. The bloke who caused all the trouble at World Fantasy Con 2011 was the spitting image of someone I know. I keep imagining him being hauled out by security crying "you have the wrong bearded nerd!"

Would love to think this would solve every problem, but it's only the start :-(
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 11th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
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(This is Aisha from twitter, failing to log into LJ)

I think Octocon has the added factor of being quite an intimate con - which means it's really intimidating (everyone knows each other!). The one Octocon I attended was fun - the panels were great and I did know a couple of people - but it would have been easier to fit in and meet people at a bigger event.

This also means that it needs to be made extra clear that you're making an effort to make people feel safe and welcome. The sexual harrassment thing, for one - everyone I met a couple of years ago was lovely and I had absolutely no problems from that angle, but reading this post I'm wondering, if I had, whether I'd have felt comfortable speaking up, knowing that since practically everyone there was already friends, I'd be accusing someone who the organisers knew and liked. :/
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From:jinxed_wood
Date:April 11th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
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A few years back, I attended an Irish Con and, because I was so involved in online fandom at the time - and keeping tabs on the then ongoing debate dubbed Racefail09 - I found myself picking up on certain things that I didn't before. I wrote a post about it at the time but it's locked (and I named the convention so I won't unlock it) but here is a cut and paste of my thoughts at the time:

In light of the recent racefail09 discussions. I couldn't help but notice, as I looked around at the panels, the complete and utter lack of PoC on the panels - not even one! The audience was exactly the same, predominantly white and middle class (I could count the exceptions on one hand - and still have fingers left over). Twenty years ago, there may have been some some excuse for this, as this was a country you emigrated from, not to, but nowadays Ireland has a very healthy Black and Asian population, and Dublin might even be termed as multicultural.

None of this was evident at [Con's name]


The thing is, in retrospect, I do feel like a bit of coward because a niggly little part of me felt this is something I should have brought up at the actual Con, but it's a sensitive subject and people things get defensive about these sorts of thing and - lets face it - I ain't exactly the smoothest of conversationalists and I'd more than likely would have made a haims out of it and upset everyone.

But it seems to me that a good first step towards making Irish conventions more inclusive and attractive would be to make an effort to include authors of colour and different ethnic backgrounds on the panels.

Edited at 2012-04-11 10:14 pm (UTC)
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From:hatgirl
Date:April 12th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Mmm.... I agree in principle, jinxed_wood, but name a non-Caucasian SF&F author who was born in Ireland or is/has been resident in Ireland. Give it another five to ten years and I feel it will be a very different story, but right now I can't think of a single person (and if you know of someone, please add them to this kick-ass list of Irish SF&F authors)

Which means the guest would have to be brought in from Abroad (ah, Abroad.... such an amazing place). Irish cons have very, very small amounts of money to work with, so Abroad narrows down to The UK & Western Europe, i.e. places that have cheap Ryanair/Airlingus flight routes. And if a Con is shelling out that much cash for some-one, they want that person to be some-one who will draw people to a Con.

You may think that I am then going to shrug my shoulders and say "so that's why there won't be any non-white faces on an Irish panel." No. I am saying "that's why you, an Irish fan, need to speak up and name authors you want to see at an Irish Con". I just finished Hugo and Nebula nominee Aliette de Bodard's Servant of the Underworld last night and it was awesome. I'd love to see her at in Irish Con. Who do you want to see, jinxed_wood, everybody?
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From:omegar
Date:April 12th, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read any of Aliette de Bodard's stuff, but i am getting around to it.

I have heard great things about her, but sadly did not make any of her panels at Eastercon this year.
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From:jinxed_wood
Date:April 12th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
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And this is where I come up against a wall too, although I suspect this is because of a lack of breadth in my reading material, rather than a lack of Black or Asian British/European sci-fi and fantasy authors! I seem to have no problem thinking of Black American authors – I'd love to hear N.K. Jemisen speak, for instance, or Samuel R. Delaney (that would be brilliant!) Ted Chieng would also be on my wish list…

I’m going to consult my flist! Lots of British readers on it; I’m sure someone will come up with a tempting author :-)

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From:hatgirl
Date:April 12th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
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There's Malorie Blackman, of course, author of the YA Alternate History Dystopia series "Noughts & Crosses" . But according to her website March and October are her two busiest months for school appearances, so she's unlikely to ditch a well-paying gig for a fun-but-cash-poor event like P-Con or Octocon. Although if the Wexworlds folk happen to read this blog post: hint hint hint!
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From:omegar
Date:April 13th, 2012 09:26 am (UTC)
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I have the feeling that the Wexworlds people are unlikely to read my blog.

I suggest dropping then an e-mail!
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From:joexnz
Date:April 13th, 2012 09:09 am (UTC)
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On this note, when in the last couple of years did Irish gamers start throwing round the term rape like I was the equivalent of shaking hands. It isn't! It never will be and it's makes them look like a bunch of intimidating stupid twats and it's really really been putting me off alot of people (most of whom I'd expect to be old enough to know better)

Though I suspect I'd be on a bit of a one grumpy crusade if I tried to stop them
Which makes me as much part of the problem, sadly
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 13th, 2012 09:19 am (UTC)
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I will join you in that campaign/crusade!

I also wish to campaign against the word frape! Someone posting as you on your Facebook, is in No way similar to rape!

People need to cop on!

(omegas having phone login issues!)
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From:joexnz
Date:April 13th, 2012 10:14 am (UTC)
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Yeah I just posted something, when I have it more coherent, I'll post to FB and g+ see if people notice

I'm not sure how to approach a con comiette about it though, I kind of feel it just needs people to turn round and point out its not appropriate, lots. Rather than passing some kind of edict that most gamers would just laughing try to find a way round
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