Anti-Harassment Policies at PNW Conventions: A Follow-Up

My post last week documenting anti-harassment policies at conventions in the Pacific Northwest got a lot of great feedback from readers, as well as con staff and volunteers. It was largely inspired by John Scalzi’s Convention Policy, refusing to attend or support conventions that do not have anti-harassment policies. Over 700 people have co-signed, myself included. If you’d like to co-sign, you can do so here.

So in planning 2014, I needed to evaluate which cons actually met the policy and which didn’t: the resulting research and documentation effort exploded with the help of commenters, and a list of eight cons grew into a list of sixteen. After the effort, I would say there are only three cons which I would not attend as a result of co-signing the Convention Harassment Policy: those are PAX, SteamCon, and RustyCon.

I feel like I should throw up a bunch of disclaimers: one, this is my opinion and my judgment call only. I’m not an authority in this area, just a fan who’s done some research. Others may reach different conclusions than me. PAX, for example, does have an anti-harassment policy, it’s just extremely short and rather vague about what constitutes harassment (UPDATE: As of 9/19. PAX has improved its harassment policy. Thanks to Merus for bringing that to my attention). GearCon, which has a slightly better harassment policy (and which I judged as being over “The Scalzi Threshold”), nevertheless definitely has room for improvement and others might not be willing to give it a pass. So I encourage folks to do their own research and decide for themselves.

Second, this is based only on anti-harassment policies. I did not consider past history, panels, or thematic content of each con. So even if you consider PAX’s harassment policy okay, you might still feel uncomfortable attending, given the controversies surrounding the Dickwolves T-shirts and/or Mike Krahulik in general. That, of course, is up to you; my list is about official anti-harassment policies only. I did try to cover cons’ commitment to enforcing those policies (in so far as how easy it would be to find staffers, security desks, etc), but I didn’t consider history. Another example is GeekGirlCon: in my evaluation of their anti-harassment policy, I didn’t consider their name and their backstory, even though many folks might be more comfortable attending it simply because of the theme. Making that call was out of my scope.

And my final disclaimer, particularly important given what about I’m say, is this is based on my experience only. I can’t judge the on-the-ground conditions at cons I’ve never been to, although I did try to update my post with addendums when con volunteers or ConCom members chimed in via the comments. Other folks may have different experiences, or bad memories that may make them uncomfortable attending certain cons no matter what their official policy is. And conventions that were very fast and responsive to my inquiries may not be similarly responsive to everyone; this is based on my experience only.

That said, I can’t help but feel that the speed and attitude with which a con responds to questions about its policies may be indicative of how quickly, fairly, and thoroughly it responds to violations of those policies. A con which responds quickly to inquiries, will, I hope, also be fast on the draw in responding to incidents. Similarly, I have no reason to believe that a con which is slow or non-responsive to inquiries will be any better or faster in responding to actual reports or incidents. In the process of doing my research, I e-mailed at least half the conventions listed in the guide, and here’s a general overview of how they responded:

The Good

Norwescon, Foolscap, OryCon, ECCC, and RCCC responded quickly to my e-mail queries. ConCom members from RadCon and Foolscap also posted in the comments of the original post. Norwescon and RadCon updated their sites with brand new harassment policies while I was researching, and OryCon quickly modified their anti-harassment page as a result of some minor suggestions I made. Foolscap and RCCC made sure to post their already-existing harassment policy online.

The Not as Good

GeekGirlCon, GearCon, SteamCon*, and RustyCon have not responded to my e-mails in the past 7-10 days. GeekGirlCon has a robust anti-harassment policy in place, and my e-mail was mainly just inquiring after some details. GearCon has one in place, though I ranked them at the bottom of all the cons above “The Scalzi Threshold” and there’s definitely room for improvement.

SteamCon* and RustyCon, from what I can tell, do not have anti-harassment policies (at least not online), and I never heard back any information from them indicating otherwise. If anyone associated with either con has any information on this, please leave a comment or get in touch with me via the “Contact” tab so I can update the original guide with accurate information.

(*On 9/20, the SteamCon Vice-Chair responded to my e-mail with a statement that a new Code of Conduct was in the final stages of approval and would be posted in time for the con.)

(*RustyCon now also has an online harassment policy.)

I plan to keep the original guide up-to-date going forward, so as cons modify or add anti-harassment policies, I will update that page. If I’ve missed any cons that you think should be on the list, please leave a comment and let me know. (And if you can link to information pertaining to that con’s anti-harassment policy and save me some research effort, all the better!)

Finally, I hope folks have found this useful. If you have any suggestions for improvement, or ideas for future research efforts that could also be useful to the community, feel free to leave a comment. Even if I don’t act on the idea, maybe it’ll inspire somebody else.

Here’s to hopefully making conventions as safe and inviting as possible for as many fellow geeks/nerds/human beings as we can.

8 thoughts on “Anti-Harassment Policies at PNW Conventions: A Follow-Up

  1. I have a contact who may still be in touch with what’s left of Rustycon — I’ve emailed him to call his attention to this. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I’m afraid it’s all I’ve got. Last I saw, Rustycon was in a sad downward spiral, and I don’t know if it’s managed to reverse that.

    As a long-time attendee/panelists at Orycon, I’m truly delighted with that con’s response — I would have hated to forego it, but I signed the pledge too.

    • Thanks, Beth. I’ve only attended RustyCon once (in 2011), and I know they’re a pretty small con, but I can’t speak as to how they’ve grown and shrunk in the past couple of years. I’ll be curious as to what they say.

    • I got an e-mail from SteamCon this morning– not sure if it was a result of your prompting or just coincidence, but I’ll update the post. Looks like they’ll have one in place in time for the con, although not having seen it, I can’t vouch for how good it is.

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