Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

October 15, 2013

Rash Of Harassment Incidents Indicates Attention Necessary Across The Board At All Cons, Festivals

Heidi MacDonald has a nice, summary report here about a bunch of harassment incidents at the New York Comic-Con, and about such incidents more generally. I imagine there's slightly more of this stuff than there used to be simply because there are more people at these events and because cosplay is a bigger, more public part of these shows and for some reason that gets certain people going. I would also imagine that we have proportionally way more discussion of this kind of thing than we used to because a) folks have ways to document incidents and to keep pressure on, b) our culture took a big shift into "fuck that [object]" territory about, I think, halfway through mid-2012 and thus I think people are much more impatient for results with those things that upset them. This is something that upsets people. And it should.

It hits me that there's a pretty big break coming up in terms of the major convention season: November through March except for a few, growing shows and a couple of big ones overseas is largely empty. I think it might behoove everyone involved with any sort of comics show to take a second look at their harassment policies, run the scenarios presented in Heidi's article through at least a mental version of that policy, and generally reflect on the rampant idiocy of bottom-line unacceptable behavior of the super-asinine kind at cons and festivals.

I think this can improve. As I share with Ulisses Farinas a fear that incremental thinking can let bad behavior linger, I think this situation can improve dramatically almost instantly if the willpower and honest effort is there. I don't think it ever gets perfect: people do certain things. The best policy in the world probably won't keep someone from making a pass they shouldn't have at 2 AM in a bar somewhere. Some 14-year-old kid at his first show might stare at a lady in costume far longer than he should. Someone may get a hug they don't want at an awards show. And that sucks. But the vast, vast majority of this kind of behavior can and should be blasted off the table right away, just flat nuked, and none of that comics-culture "if we can't do it perfectly, if we can somehow find some theoretical objection, let's not do it at all" horseshit. My Mom, my best friend, my seminary faculty advisor and my friend's kids should all be able to go to any show they want without any of this in their faces. It's wrong, and it's slightly embarrassing that I even had to write the last sentence.

By the way, I think there are good models all around for everything that's important to keep their place. If there are serious objections and worries, and I'm not sure there are, I think they can be figured out and dealt with pretty quickly. Like sometimes I'll hear from someone that not letting people flaunt sexual material is some sort of blow against free speech, but back in May Gengoroh Tagame sat right in the middle of the Toronto Reference Library selling that PictureBox book of his that is harder than hardcore and didn't have to be a depressing public spectacle in order to get his art into the hands of the people that enjoy it. If comics can figure out how to weather its collective distribution-centric near-suicide 20 years ago and survive the most recent economic collapse with the best, most consistent artistic offerings in pop culture and make it to the year of our lord 2013 with over 2000 devoted brick-and-mortar stores, we can figure out pretty quickly and pretty thoroughly how not to tolerate deplorable nonsense. Let's start 2014 armed to the teeth to fight this fight.
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

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