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Friday, August 15, 2008

Because You Need To Read This 

The post below was written by John DiBello, and I'm reposting it here with his permission because I think it addresses an important topic and I'd like to help bring this discussion to as wide an audience as possible.



Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the
balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys
looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he
narrated: "These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed
her ass, 'cause I wanted to see what her reaction was."
This was
only one example of several instance of harassment, stalking or
assault that I saw at San Diego this time.



1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She
was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her
to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.



2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was
closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started
taking photographs of her, telling her she was the "prettiest girl at
the con." They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing
her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and
scared, but they left quickly after doing that.



3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a
man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and
sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor
confirmed he'd targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and
criticism.



Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should
never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or
attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There
are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault,
whether it's to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed
women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable
behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how
you're dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit
or business casual for running your booth.



On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I
pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who
you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book
there is a large grey box outlining "Convention Policies," which
contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts,
recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica
weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about
attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.



Page three of the book contains a "Where Is It?" guide to specific
Comic-Con events and services. There's no general information room or
desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to
the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk;
she's sympathetic to the situation but who doesn't have a clear
answer to my question: "What's Comic-Con's policy and method of dealing with
complaints about harassment?" She directs me to the nearest security
guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of
the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their
harassers, there's little that can be done.



"I understand that," I tell them both, "but what I'm asking is more
hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on
harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and
exhibitors, and if so, what's the specific procedure by which someone
should report it, and specifically where should they go?" But this
wasn't a question either could answer.



So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for
smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on
the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the
con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about
harassment or the like. I would like to see something like "Comic-Con has zero
tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or
exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con
Office in room XXX."



The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims
the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to
someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being
unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment
and violence one more red-tape loophole to hide behind.



I enjoyed Comic-Con. I'm looking forward to coming back next year.
So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I've retold above. Aside
from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those
instances of harassment shouldn't have happened at all, and that they
did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites
the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.



I don't understand why there's no such written policy about what is
not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at
Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist
in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that
could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced,
for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture
world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel
comfortable and safe.

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© 2007 Dorian Wright. Some images are © their respective copyright holders. They appear here for the purposes of review or satire only.