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Genevieve Valentine Comments on Readercon Harassment in “Things You Should Know About the Fallout”

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

Genevieve Valentine. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Genevieve Valentine. Photo by Ellen Datlow

Author Genevieve Valentine, who was the victim of a sexual harassment incident at Readercon 23 that resulted in the resignation of the entire convention board, has posted a lengthy and thoughtful essay on the continued repercussions of the event, titled “Things You Should Know About the Fallout”:

Nearly two months ago, I went public about harassment I experienced at Readercon. Things happened. The outcome was positive….

However, for those thinking of going public with their own experiences with con harassment, I want to talk about how it looks nearly two months on. Because it’s still going, two months on.

In particular, she addresses the naked hostility she has faced from individuals who were not present at Readercon:

The fallout may not be, but will certainly seem like, a Kafka novel.

There will be creeps in comments. (I’ve opted not to publish some anonymous ones, including the person who informed me, “You have absolutely no right to deny someone looking at you or in your eyes.”)

There will be threats. (I won’t link to the worst of these, but it’s not hard to find if you search Readercon and “they take people like you and kill them with rocks” together. Trigger warning for pretty much everything. It’s not a fun read.)

The responses by self-proclaimed rational people questioning your veracity, or the necessity of the discussion, will be somehow worse. In discussing the idea of actively discouraging harassment at conventions, they will use phrases like “thought police” and “mob mentality” and “lynching.”

It’s a fascinating and insightful read. You can read the entire post here.

11 Comments »

  1. Thank you, John, for your posts about the events at Readercon. This is important stuff.

    Back in the Late Cretaceous Period, when I was in my teens and just discovering fandom, I had several experiences of harassment at cons. The most common sort was that some total stranger would walk up behind me and start massaging my shoulders without any introduction or warning. When I pulled away or objected, the harassers would act as if I were the one being unreasonable.

    Nobody ever spoke up or intervened on my behalf.

    After the sixth such event in three years, with different strangers harassing me each time, I concluded that stealth groping must be an accepted norm of fan behavior at conventions.

    So I didn’t attend another one for fifteen years.

    What finally got me past my aversion to cons was that, back in 2004, a friend said–as only a very good friend could–“Sarah, you were a nubile teenager back then. Now you’re not. The creeps will be less interested in you than they used to be.”

    And once I dipped my toe back in the water, I remembered the totally non-harassment-related reasons I had given the con circuit so many second chances back in the day. There’s a lot to like about fandom–more now than back then, even.

    One change I especially like is that the community no longer accepts that being culturally geeky justifies being invasively rude.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - September 11, 2012 10:33 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Sarah.

    I’ve been telling myself that, despite all the pain Genevieve has had to go through (or perhaps BECAUSE of that pain), this event and the discussion it has caused are ultimately good for fandom. That it has shed light on some of the things I’ve seen in my decades as a fan, and forced everyone to acknowledge that harassment does exist, and that those brave enough to speak up about it deserve support.

    While I’m very sorry to hear about your experiences — and especially that you felt it necessary to withdraw from fandom for 15 years — I’m very relieved to hear that you’ve noticed the same change I have.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m glad that you’re going to conventions again. I look forward to crossing paths in person one day!

    Comment by John ONeill - September 12, 2012 11:29 am

  3. First, your facts are not correct and Genevieve Valentine has misstated some things as well.

    My understanding is that the Readercon volunteers decided she had been “harassed,” not “sexually harassed.” Although the point sounds moot, when I argued on my blog that she could not have been sexually harassed because it was not a work environment and there was no power differential involved, many took me to task for failing to make this distinction. I suggested there that if she had been sexually harassed an appropriate response would be to go to the relevant legal authorities as sexual harassment is a very serious matter and people who commit sexual harassment should be punished. Some thought I was being sarcastic I was not.

    Secondly, what Genevieve Valentine describes as a “threat” was not a threat. It was taken out of context. I would not speculate on her motives for doing this, but think that, like sexual harassment, a claims regarding a matter as serious as an alleged death threat should be double checked before being repeated and spread.

    The context of the statement was that with all the problems women (and other humans) face in the world today, it would be better if people would stop focusing on Genevieve Valentine’s alleged problems and instead focus some energy on real problems such as human trafficking and the killing by stoning of women in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

    There is a great deal of hysteria surrounding this incident and it would be best if all involved would try to check their facts before publicizing it further. Ultimately, one could argue, a woman went to a convention and someone flirted with her and she didn’t like it and failed to communicate clearly about it. He then tried to apologize and instead of listening she complained to the authorities.

    This has now become a bizarre claim involving claims of sexual harassment and death threats, neither of which has been proven to have occurred and both of which are serious enough matters so they should not be thrown around casually without proof.

    Peter Huston
    peterhuston.blogspot.com

    Comment by hamchuck - September 12, 2012 12:08 pm

  4. Peter,

    Thanks for the comment. First off, since neither you nor I witnessed the incident in question, our opinion on the matter doesn’t really amount to much. However as I see it, you and I come down on very different sides of the fence.

    After reading the reports of the incident, including the various witnesses, I choose to support Ms. Valentine. I stand by what I said above about victims of harassment who are brave enough to speak up deserving support, especially when there is this much corroborating evidence.

    You however, for reasons of your own, have chosen to attack her.

    > Secondly, what Genevieve Valentine describes as a “threat” was not a threat.

    There’s a lot in your note I could question, but this is the statement I find most problematic. Since you were not AT Readercon, how is it possible you are in any way qualified to judge? Since the evidence of those who WERE at Readercon seems to point very clearly to the existence of a threat, no amount of contradictory statements on your behalf will matter very much, no matter how stridently argued.

    I try hard to be open minded, but the truth is that in a scant six paragraphs you have convinced me that you are in no way objective or even rational about this incident.

    In fact, while you complain about ‘hysteria,’ you seem to be the one in the room shouting the loudest. I note that on your blog, virtually EVERY SINGLE post since July 30 (with one lone exception) has been about the Readercon incident. Ms. Valentine has shown a much healthier range of interests in the last two months, and she was the victim.

    In short, I’m not sure what your interest in the affair is, but you have very quickly convinced me that you have absolutely no appetite for rational discussion on this matter.

    Black Gate is a site for rational discussion. We cherish and support fantasy authors, including Ms. Valentine. Should you choose not to do so, you’re welcome to continue your attacks on her on your blog. But not here, please.

    Comment by John ONeill - September 12, 2012 12:53 pm

  5. Please educate me. You said she was threatened at Readercon. What was it that people threatened to do her? And why, of the thousands of people present, did none intervene at the time? Thanks. I’m just trying to understand where and how I am misinformed. (BTW, you’ll also note I only rarely log on to my blog, but I’ve received more hits on this issue, than probably on all others in the last year. I think if there’s one thing we can agree on it’s that there’s something absurd about that strange fact.

    Comment by hamchuck - September 12, 2012 8:53 pm

  6. John, by the way, your statement on the content of my blog is not factually correct. I rarely post to my blog, and there are very few posts. Several in the last couple months have been on this, but not all. Thanks again, and, please, if you’re going to publish on things, check the facts. Take care, Peter Huston

    Comment by hamchuck - September 12, 2012 9:10 pm

  7. Peter, thanks for the response. I’m not going to try to educate you on the facts of the case — partly because they are very succinctly stated elsewhere, but mostly because it seems to me you’ve already made up your mind and are not interested in real discussion.

    > I rarely post to my blog, and there are very few posts. Several in the last couple
    > months have been on this, but not all. Thanks again, and, please, if you’re going
    > to publish on things, check the facts.

    Fair enough. Let’s look at your blog posts since July at peterhuston.blogspot.com:

    – Readercon Hysteria: More nonsense and lies (Sept 12)
    – Readercon Hysteria: Praising heros and non-praising non-victims (Aug 7)
    – Readercon Hysteria: More thoughts on what’s wrong with reflexive, unthinking PC intellectualism (Aug 4)
    – Does America have more problems than other nations? (Aug 2)
    – THE READERCON ISSUE –DOZENS OF SF FANS SHOUT “PETE’S SO IGNORANT AND STUPID–OOOH! LET’S ALL READ!” (July 30)

    Just to make sure I’ve got my facts straight, other than the lone Aug 2 exception I mentioned above, which of these posts is not about Readercon?

    Comment by John ONeill - September 12, 2012 9:36 pm

  8. Now, you have your facts on my blog’s recent content correct. As stated I rarely use the blog and the latest post on this matter was made when I checked yesterday and received about 200 hits in one day about this issue. (By contrast my posts on such things as assisting refugees with college admission tend to get about 2 hits a day, so I knew something was up and tracked some of it back to you. And please don’t say I enjoy the publicity. Honestly, I’m neutral on it. People have hated me before, and with less reason, too, and far between writing projects with nothing to promote. Which, again, is one reason I rarely use the blog.)

    Now, as for the rest of your approach to this matter, quite frankly I don’t understand your approach to journalism. (i.e. you don’t seem able to consistently state if you do or do not know what happened at this party, or if you consider seeking knowledge of the events important or simply that facts are something to be taken on faith, which is fine, except when one is trying to explain to others what happened concerning an allegedly important event, which you seem to be trying to do. (I think.)

    In the meantime, if you or someone else show me some concrete evidence that this person was threatened with physical harm while at Readercon, (which you seem to state to be true) I will take every single one of those posts down and offer a very sincere apology to all involved and do what I can to make amends. Heck, I’ll just settle for a police report that harassment was formally charged, followed by court records of how events unfolded. (I don’t know about Massachusettes but in New York harassment is a violation and the records are public.)

    Believe it or not, I actually have spent a great deal of time in the middle of real problems of this sort and know how ugly they can get and if someone can show me real harassment occured, and I am wrong, I would like to make amends. In the meantime, I suspect the harassment is about as real as the (non-existent) threats she alleges were made against her on my blog.

    All the best, the world could use more short story magazines. I hope you keep publishing fiction for a long time. Seriously.

    Peter Huston

    Comment by hamchuck - September 13, 2012 12:49 am

  9. Peter,

    I apologize for not being more clear.

    I’m not interested in having a debate with you. I make no claims to be a journalist, and have no interest in doing your homework for you.

    Most importantly, I will not allow you to hijack this forum to continue your attacks against Ms. Valentine. They are not welcome.

    Continue, and I will be forced to delete them.

    Thank you.

    Comment by John ONeill - September 13, 2012 1:56 am

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