World Fantasy’s “Anti-Harassment” policy

Have you ever noticed how certain conversations have to be had again and again and again, because nobody pays attention to them the first two dozen times?

It’s anti-harassment policies this week. AGAIN.

Last night, Natalie Luhrs posted about this year’s World Fantasy con’s “anti-harassment” policy. I use the quote marks because, wow, that thing definitely doesn’t look like any of the good anti-harassment/code of conduct policies I’ve seen at cons that actually take this shit seriously.

John Scalzi has also chimed in with some commentary on it, which is typically on point and on the nose.

That policy is bullshit. Utterly bloody useless. Of no help to man nor beast, and certainly no help to someone actually experiencing the kind of harassment and abuse that has been documented over and over at cons. Only doing something if it’s criminal? No discussion of safe spaces, listeners, escorts, or expulsion from the con for perpetrators?

Bull. Shit.

Some people experiencing harassment may want to report the incident to the police. Maybe. A good code of conduct policy will lay out how the convention will help them to do that and the support they’ll provide.

Most people won’t. Hell, most of the behavior that causes issues isn’t actually criminal because it’s not actually illegal to follow someone around a con and ask them to fuck every ten minutes. Nor is it illegal to constantly interrupt panels to spout gamergate driven rhetoric or spew racist garbage. But you know what? These things happen. Regularly.

(SXSW has just cancelled a panel on harassment due to…fear of harassment from gamergate. Like I said, it’s the week for it. Their approach is no better than this useless policy.)

A good code of conduct policy (and that’s a better term than anti-harassment policy, I’ve always felt) lays out what is unacceptable and describes the support a convention will provide. It discusses safe spaces, escorts, listeners, and the consequences for the harasser, with the potential for the harasser to be banned from the con without refund. Look at NYCC’s policy in Scalzi’s post. That’s a good policy.

When I worked Operations at Loncon3, we were all given material about how to handle any reports of harassment: who to call, what to do, what not to do. We employed trained listeners who were on call at all times, so that minimally trained ops staff weren’t the only people dealing with an incident. We posted the code of conduct prominently in the PRs, on the website, and around the convention.

Dublin 2019 has already developed a code of conduct policy that I’m proud of (and can’t link to right now, but I’ll grab the link later).

There are sample policies out there. It’s not that hard to create one from those templates.

Conventions shouldn’t be afraid to set out what is not acceptable behavior and take real action when people report it. The only people who will be put off going to a con with a good code of conduct policy are the people who would actually be doing the harassment, and we’re better off without them. For people who aren’t sure where their behavior crosses the line, and worry they may cross it unintentionally, that set of guidelines about what’s unacceptable is helpful because it shows them where the line is.

If we’re serious about making conventions more welcoming, about encouraging people from historically unrepresented groups to come, we’ve got to get serious about this.

World Fantasy con’s current policy is a steaming turd of uselessness. Shame on them.