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[personal profile] britgeekgrrl
ETA: this is a public post because, damn, this s*** needs to be talked about. A lot. Out loud and in public.

ETA2: But wait! There's more!

It's a topic that's been on my mind for a long time, but not one I've spoken up about because, honestly, people who are much smarter and more articulate than myself have said pretty much everything I've ever wanted to say.

However, recent events have me thinking that I have to put in my two cents.

For a long time - until quite recently - I was suckered into the notion that if I wore a costume at a convention, any kind of costume, I had to accept unasked-for remarks with good grace, even when they went far past the line of, say, appreciative and into creepy.

I would let people touch me - from arms around the shoulder to unasked-for back rubs - because I didn't want to be the bitch who told them back off.

Correction: I didn't know that I could say "Back off!" without there being horrible consequences.

During my too-brief sojourn in talk-therapy* one thing that was pulled out into the harsh light of day and thoroughly examined is that, because of a couple of traumatic incidents, I have very poor boundaries and great difficulty enforcing them.

Okay then. The lousy boundaries aren't my "fault", per se, but in failing to deal with some matters, I tolerated unacceptable behavior - and by tolerating it, I (silently) approved it and therefore perpetuated it.

So the guy who I let circle me and whistle and say something along the lines of "You've still got it, baybee" (this was a man who I'd threatened with a restraining order some years prior to that incident - we encountered each other in the hallway of a local convention) was not reprimanded by me at the time (I wanted to, even in my clueless state back then, his behavior enraged me) and I'm sure he went on to pull similar BS on other women. And, damn, do I feel stupid for not calling him on it.

At first, I didn't know such behavior was unacceptable. Young, clueless and insecure, I'd accept such things with the equivalent of "tee hee" and tossing my hair. Any attention was good attention, right?

Then, even after I twigged on to the fact that I had the right to be treated as another human being (paging Simone DeBeauvoir!) I kept my mouth shut as I had already encountered the privileged brushoff of "Geeze, calm down willya, it's just a joke!" and worried that not only would my thoughts not be respected, but I would be seriously marginalized. Fandom was the center of my social life. I couldn't afford to find myself booted out of it.

(Don't even get me started on the "But I'm a nice guy / paying her a compliment!" defense. Just don't.)

Tangent: A friend of mine who I consider one of the most liberal-minded and book-smart guys I've ever known told me a few years ago that, in all honesty, that he thought I was taking the whole Barbie-is-not-an-acceptable-role-model-for-little-girls thing "too seriously" and did I really overthink every advertisement in which women were objectified and children sexualized every time I watched TV? It was a few months before I could talk to that guy again. FWIW, he's moved on a lot and I think he gets it now. I think. But I was gobsmacked at the time that he didn't get it, and I see folks who I thought were similarly smart saying the same things. Anyways...

I'm insecure and kind of needy. I want the approval of my friends. I've been into SF/F since long before it fought its way into the mainstream and better-than-it-was gender parity. Many of my friends in fandom are male. Because I'm insecure and kind of needy, I was willing to accept objectification as a form of (male) approval.

Not any more. I've not worn certain costumes for several years and, believe me, the weight I've gained rendering those costumes a bit snug is only one reason of many.

True, I should feel free to wear whatever I want at a convention and if some asshat makes unwanted comments or - worse yet - touches me without consent, I should be able to tell that person where to get off, without fear of being accused of over-reacting, of being shrewish, or being hysterical.

I'll pause for a second while the female readership regains its breath from laughing itself sick.

Shrodinger's Rapist is a very real concern for all women - even at a "safe" event**. I have no way of knowing if the guy who I ask to stop giving me an uninvited backrub at a convention party is going to attack me in a stairwell after the party is over. I don't. So I let him give me the backrub and take a long shower afterwards.

Newsflash: women will "accept" minor assault - and that's what unwanted contact is - rather than risk something worse.

Newsflash the second: in my experience, unwanted attention at conventions (or other public spaces) has always come from men. Always. But that is, to be fair, partially attributable to the gender disparity at conventions, in that case. If BayCon 1996 had a 50/50 gender split, maybe I would have had women catcalling me when I wore the infamous black plastic minidress. Who knows?

And so I've quit wearing outfits that I fear will get me harassed, or that I'm wearing to please the male gaze (see: insecure and needy, above). I've started speaking up when I'm the object of unwanted attention - and speaking up like that scares the shit out of me. There are people out there who will react violently to what they perceive as rejection. Maybe not right then, but maybe later that night, or a week from now, or six months down the road.

But I have to speak up. Have to.

I've been encouraged by the growing awareness of the need to make conventions a safe space for everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, etc. More and more people are encountering unacceptable behavior and calling the perps to account for it. If I want to feel safe, I must join my voice with theirs, rather than try to shrug incidents off and/or convince myself I'm overreacting.

Harassment, marginalization, perpetuation of rape culture... all of that and a dozen more oppressive situations... silence equals consent.

People who feel threatened must speak up. We must support each other. We have to keep hammering on this topic, even when we're dismissed, told to "chill out", patronized and ignored.

We're making progress. Even I, Ms. Oblivious, can see this. Let's keep it up!

*Ended because of financial issues and a twit of a boss who wouldn't let me leave a half hour early twice a month to make it to my sessions. That's changing, now, thank heavens.

**What is safe? A place where I don't have to worry about dismissal, harassment or assault. It doesn't exist, yet, and so I must remain vigilant.
Tags:

(no subject)

29/7/12 05:14 (UTC)
ext_157015: Girl Genius (Feminine Protection)
Posted by [identity profile] noirrosaleen.livejournal.com
I've been very, very lucky to have almost never had problems with creepy/unwanted attention. The last time it happened - a guy I didn't know groped me in passing at Bondage a Go Go - I followed him, caught him at the bar, and calmly but firmly told him that was NOT OK and never to do that again. I think he tried to stammer something about it not being his fault, as if his hand bumped into me, but I ran right over him with "If you do that again, you WILL be thrown out of here. We don't tolerate this kind of behavior here." He seemed completely thrown, and embarrassed at being caught and called out for his behavior. He didn't call me any names or anything, so while it was a mild encounter, I still call it a win.

This entry makes me very, very happy - unwelcome comments, or worse, touching without consent, MUST be confronted, and the more of us do so, the better!

(no subject)

29/7/12 05:28 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
Whoa. Anyone who's at BaGG who doesn't understand that consent is, gawsh, the entire core of a place like that... well, he's lucky he didn't get his arms broken. Yow.

(no subject)

30/7/12 21:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] alryssa.livejournal.com
Seriously. What the fuck.

(no subject)

29/7/12 05:44 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] wintersweet.livejournal.com
More con staff need to be more serious about this, and not just in a reactive way but a proactive way.

(no subject)

29/7/12 05:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
And not in the "we're going to declare we have a zero-tolerance policy right up until we have to enforce it against someone we don't want to alienate" sense of the term (viz: the ReaderCon fracas...)

(no subject)

29/7/12 16:38 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mercede02.livejournal.com
Or TAM for that matter.....

-K

(no subject)

29/7/12 16:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
Oh do not even get me started on the fail that is TAM.

A little more than a year ago, I was really keen on (eventually) going to that event.

Now...? I'm with my friend Sasha - not a dime of my money is going to JREF.

Fortunately, we have a very nice (if very small) atheist/skeptic hoedown here in the Bay Area every year. I've only been the once, but felt as safe as houses.

(no subject)

29/7/12 16:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mercede02.livejournal.com
I admit to being deeply torn. I think that the JREF does very good work. I just think that the idiots that manage TAM (not the same people, pretty sure) are idiots and refuse to admit that they are in the wrong.

That said, I would love to know about this hoedown/shindig of which you speak, because obviously I need to be there. :D

-K

(no subject)

29/7/12 17:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
Is called SkeptiCal. I'll go find the information and paste it here.

As for TAM/JREF, TAM operates under the auspices for JREF and is a big fundraiser for them (at $600/ticket, I can see why!) so... yeah. No more money for them from me.

If TAM was cut loose from all ties to JREF and the money from TAM didn't go to JREF, I'd reconsider.

(no subject)

29/7/12 17:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mercede02.livejournal.com
*sigh* Yeah. I'd hate for the organization that I think is responsible for a lot of good stuff to be associated with a bunch of morons......

SkeptiCal you say? The next one is not until April. Shucks.

-K

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] alryssa.livejournal.com
This is a total hot-button, will-send-me-into-rage-mode issue for me. The 'you're dressing up to get attention so deal with it' comment I see a lot is absolutely NOT an acceptable one. It's merely another version of, 'you asked to get raped because you wore X' dressed up slightly differently for a convention. I will go full-out Feminist Hulk on people who make excuses for assault and reasoning that it's totally okay to invade your space just because you're in costume. That it's too much effort to simply ask the person in costume if they'd mind a hug, or a touch on the shoulder. No, women's bodies are viewed in general as public property and it's especially pronounced in geek culture, and this needs to stop.

Guess what, assholes: maybe the woman who's dressing up? Is doing it because she wants to do it for HERSELF, and because it's FUN, not for your lecherous benefit. You don't know her, so stop presuming a) you know what she wants and b) that she's straight and even interested in your gross comments and stares.


(no subject)

29/7/12 06:23 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
yeah, I'm with on defending a woman's right to dress how she likes for whatever reason she likes.

I take it you saw the Twitter fail that was Simon Pegg and the slave Leias at SDCC?

Damnfool went for the "But I'm paying them a COMPLIMENT! I'm a nice guy!" defense.

*sigh* I will somewhat forgive him in that I think he's speaking from a position of ignorance (aka male privilege) but he's burned his one strike, as far as I'm concerned...

(no subject)

29/7/12 23:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] alryssa.livejournal.com
I didn't see the original conversation that started it but saw the fallout that included at least one woman being harrassed by him and some of his followers, and was VERY disappointed with him over it. *sighs*

(no subject)

30/7/12 00:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
It's such a pisser when people we like and / or admire turn out to have feet of clay. Even more so when they dig their heels in and refuse to learn.

(no subject)

30/7/12 22:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] alryssa.livejournal.com
It really is. I'm not sure how to feel about it, to be honest: on the one hand, Twitter has helped humanise and make celebrity folks more accessible than ever, but it's also a prime outlet for those same celebrity asses to hang out, and it's ugly when it happens. On the other hand, I think it's a good way to remind said celebrities that they ARE in the public eye and that bigoted and misogynist statements are not going to be applauded, regardless of their celeb status.

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] madtom-o-bedlam.livejournal.com
I find most of your costumes quite hot. I don't believe that I've ever behaved inappropriately at a con, but if I have I'm sorry. You had to explain what a fanboy appreciation costume was to me, one time. I'm sorry that half the population doesn't feel safe much of the time. I'd say that it's unfair to lump us all together, men I mean, but you have no way to know which of us could be dangerous, I get that. I just don't like it. I never think of myself as dangerous...but there are many things about which I'm an idiot.

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
Ah yes, the "Fanboy Appreciation" costumes. Otherwise known as (and I bet you can see this coming) "I'm insecure and want your approval!"

Sigh.

Ignorance is bliss, sometimes. But it's still ignorance - in my case, at least.

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] madtom-o-bedlam.livejournal.com
Well you had my approval without the fan boy appreciation costumes..I just assumed that you enjoyed the flirtations gleaned from dressing up once in awhile. But I seldom look for problems until they bite me.

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:53 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
At that time I was clueless and/or in denial and/or frightened of disapproval.

In the instance(s) that you're citing, don't beat yourself up too much. I was kneecapping myself (so to speak) so's as to save the patriarchy the trouble.

These days, a statement like "You have my approval" from *anyone* (any gender) will have me snapping back "Oh really? I don't wear this for your approval!" and if you understand why I would say that, then all is well.

(edited for clarity)
Edited 29/7/12 06:54 (UTC)

(no subject)

29/7/12 07:16 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] madtom-o-bedlam.livejournal.com
I never believe that anybody needs my approval. That doesn't stop me from offering it. Really as long as you approve that is enough.

(no subject)

29/7/12 20:53 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] vvvexation.livejournal.com
The thing is, whenever you (generic-you) verbalize your approval, you do kind of imply that your approval matters--that you're in a position where you have the right to judge someone good or bad.

If your goal in expressing "approval" is really to be supportive, then substituting the word "support" for "approval" is an easy way to remove that baggage.

(no subject)

30/7/12 00:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
This. Very much so.

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
but you have no way to know which of us could be dangerous

Yes. Exactly.

Anyone who is part of a group that is marginalized or victimized constantly has to run a mental subroutine of "Is the person beside/in front of/behind me going to hurt me?"
Edited 29/7/12 06:48 (UTC)

(no subject)

29/7/12 06:56 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] madtom-o-bedlam.livejournal.com
Which is my thought whenever I contemplate letting a new person get too close to me...part of the reason I don't flirt..well don't flirt well. I don't usually worry about physical stuff, I'm a big guy and look scary if you don't know me, and I'm not talking...both of those, I'm told make me a lot less frightening...But it's hard for me to tell, at cons when somebody is breaking somebody else s boundaries if that person doesn't do or say something obvious. I assume a relationship to which I am not privy.

(no subject)

29/7/12 07:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
In these cases, erring on the side of caution will never steer you wrong.

(no subject)

29/7/12 07:41 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] noveldevice.livejournal.com
I saw one woman manhandling another across the street from me around midnight while I was waiting for the bus last spring. It made me uncomfortable, but I yelled at her and then crossed the street. The manhandler said she was the manhandlee's mother, but how do I know? When I yelled at her she let go and the younger woman took off running from her. I have no idea. But I still think I did the right thing.

(no subject)

29/7/12 07:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
I think that - in that particular case - you did, too.
Edited 29/7/12 07:53 (UTC)

(no subject)

29/7/12 08:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] noveldevice.livejournal.com
It's hard to say in situations like that. I never intervene in any meaningful way in something like that unless I am literally the only person around. If it's going down in daytime in a well-lit populated area, generally speaking I leave it alone or call the cops. At night, on a deserted street? Yeah, I'll interfere in anything that looks iffy.

I mean, with that situation, for all I knew, the older woman was a serial killer trying to reclaim an escaping victim.

(no subject)

29/7/12 15:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] elisem.livejournal.com
a serial killer trying to reclaim an escaping victim

The name Konerak Sinthasomphone is probably never going to be forgotten. Not by me anyhow.

I am grateful you intervened.

(no subject)

29/7/12 18:15 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] noveldevice.livejournal.com
Exactly--I was thinking of his death at the time, even, when I was debating intervening.

Ranj was friends with Bob Berdella. Serial killers look just like everybody else.
Edited 29/7/12 18:17 (UTC)

(no subject)

29/7/12 20:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] vvvexation.livejournal.com
If you ask me, whether she was her mother is hardly relevant anyway.

(no subject)

29/7/12 07:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] madtom-o-bedlam.livejournal.com
Cautious, yeah that's me. I may offend your sensibilities from a distance but never by getting too close.

(no subject)

29/7/12 18:07 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] kest.livejournal.com
You say you know it isn't your fault, but I'm not sure you believe it, so let me be clear, because I think it's important. It is *not* your responsibility to stop people from behaving inappropriately - it is their responsibility to not do so in the first place. While knowing you can assert your own boundaries is helpful and empowering and sure as hell doesn't hurt, YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG, not by wearing a sexy outfit and certainly not by 'encouraging' them through your silence or any such nonsense.

There is this idea that men are dense, that they do not understand 'no' expressed through body language and need it to be verbalized. While this is true of some nerdy types, studies have shown that pervs understand a body language 'no' just fine, they just choose to ignore it. And any case, lack of a 'no' is not the same as a 'yes'.

And that's what makes it scary, isn't it? Trying to ignore it, pretending that they just didn't understand, is in some way reassuring - allows us to fool ourselves into thinking that if we did verbalize it, it would stop - allows us to be in denial about the real prospect that we might verbalize it and still go unheard. When we don't say it, we maintain the illusion of our own control, rather than putting it to the test.

I'm not saying don't speak out, just don't blame yourself for not having done so in the past. And I think that supporting each other is really key. [livejournal.com profile] vito_excalibur, for example, was promoting the idea of back-up, sometime back - that if we see someone else in a situation they maybe don't want to be in, we can go over and see if they need an out. And if someone is bugging us, we can get a friend, con staff, or even a friendly looking stranger to help out, and that can be enormously relieving. You're not alone. And saying 'hey dude, you're bugging her' can sometimes be way way easier than saying 'hey dude, you're bugging me' and has the same result. Creeps shouldn't get away with it, for sure, and public censure is a great tool. (Sometimes I must admit I miss the culturally acceptable slap on the face for a man being too forward. It's visible to everyone around, and everyone knows if you got it you probably deserved it.)

(no subject)

29/7/12 20:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
There is this idea that men are dense,

Well... some are. But some aren't. Of course, victims can't tell the difference and thus I must assume the worst for the sake of my own safety, while listening to cries of "But I'm not like them. I'm a nice guy!"

*grinds teeth*

promoting the idea of back-up

Most women I know have backed each other up in some way or another. Me? I've sometimes seen Asshat X approaching with that gleam in his eye, grabbed a (male) friend by the arm and said "Quick. Look jealous!"

Then again, there are times when I've had well-meaning friends/acquaintances decide that I *must* need rescuing and stepping up to do so - without asking me first. Not even a bit of eye contact and a significant tilt of the head (I don't know about everyone else in the world, but I've managed to have some information-laden nonverbal exchanges - especially if I *am* looking for help!)

But I'll get into that in another entry and thanks for reminding me that I wanted to bring that up.

don't blame yourself for not having done so in the past.

I don't blame myself, per se. I regret the years of cluelessness / collaboration and I'm saddened and angry about when I didn't dare speak up even when I know better.

Unfortunately, I'm often STILL caught in the nasty vice that is social conditioning-combined-with-concerns-for-safety-and-poor-boundaries-to-boot. But, y'know, one day at a time!

(no subject)

23/10/12 17:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trinker.livejournal.com
If a man is that dense, it is still on him to know he's that dense and to curb himself from getting into situations where his denseness will result in harm to others, or harm to his reputation.

If he's so mentally impaired that he can't, then how did he get to that con, and surely he needs a minder in the rest of his life, and where are they in these situations?

There's no version of the story that makes it the responsibility of the harassed party. (Only, as you note, pragmatics that make it a necessity. Practical considerations despite ethical rights.)

(no subject)

1/8/12 22:47 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] fintach.livejournal.com
It's sad that the current social climate seems to make objecting to unwanted advances - physical advances no less - difficult and risky.

I hope that increased attention to the problem, and people like you speaking up, will help change that.

(no subject)

1/8/12 23:00 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
I think some kind of event horizon has been crossed / is being crossed right now, specifically in regards to safety at SF/F events. I'll be interested in seeing how things continue to pan out.

(no subject)

2/8/12 17:17 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] brithistorian.livejournal.com
I'm glad to hear you're feeling better able to enforce your boundaries, though I wish this safer feeling hadn't come at the expense of your costuming.

(no subject)

2/8/12 17:19 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] britgeekgrrl.livejournal.com
Well, as I say, there's more than one reason I've cut back on costuming. TBH, the biggest (ahem) factor is my weight. I'm just too darn pudgy to feel good in costumes right now...

(no subject)

2/8/12 17:23 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] brithistorian.livejournal.com
I can understand that. While I support the idea that people should feel free to wear whatever costume they want regardless of their size or shape (I cancelled my subscription to Men's Fitness when they published an article making fun of overweight people in costume at New York Comic Con), in actual fact I probably wouldn't wear any of the costumes I want to unless I was at least 50 pounds smaller.

(no subject)

30/6/13 04:39 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] sunlit-music.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for speaking up. You didn't deserve to be treated like that, and you did nothing wrong. Too often I meet people who blame themselves for getting harassed, so I *am* glad that you don't blame yourself for what happened.

Wearing an costume does not equal consent, and people need to learn that. I hope that con staff will be more proactive about addressing stuff like this. Stories about harassment and creepy behaviour at cons is why I have second thoughts about attending.