ONTD Political

Women call for sexual harassment policy at Comic-Con

9:48 am - 07/30/2014

Geeks for CONsent brings sexual harassment to center stage at San Diego's Comic-Con convention

July 28, 2014 4:53PM ET Source is here:

An estimated 130,000 people attended Comic-Con International in San Diego last weekend, but the annual celebration, where many fans dress as fantasy heroes, seems to have brought out a few villains as well.

At comic conventions across the United States, women, especially ones who arrive in costume, report being groped, verbally harassed and subjected to strangers taking “upskirt” photos of them.

To combat this, three women started an organization to highlight sexual harassment in the world of comics and create a new policy to make women safer at these conventions.

Erin Filson, Anna Kegler and Rochelle Keyhan launched Geeks for CONsent, which has lobbied the organizers of Comic-Con with a Change.org petition to write a new anti-harassment policy.

By the time Comic-Con started, more than 2,600 people had signed a petition for the event to create a new way to report harassment, put up signs to publicize the policy and train volunteers to better respond to reports of harassment.

Despite some of them saying they have faced harassment, the number of women attending comic conventions has increased in recent years. At the New York Comic-Con, female attendance has grown by 62 percent in only three years, making up over 40 percent of the audience.

The trio had previously formed HollabackPHILLY, the Philadelphia branch of the anti-street harassment advocacy group Hollaback!. As part of their anti-harassment outreach, they decided to create a comic book for middle and high school audiences.

This is the age, 29-year-old Keyhan said, “where the behavior starts.”

But in making a comic book and hearing more about cosplay events, where attendees dress up in character, they learned about the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Keyhan said the character a person is playing is sometimes viewed as separate from the actual person inside the costume. If that character involves a scantily clad outfit, other cosplayers might inappropriately assume that the person was asking for sexual attention.

“It’s another way people justify the behavior,” she said.

Comic-Con, which concluded on Sunday, said its code of conduct clearly covered sexual harassment, telling The Associated Press on Sunday that the event “has an explicit code of conduct that addresses harassing and offensive behavior. This code of conduct is made available online as well as on page two of the Events Guide that is given to each attendee."

But Keyhan said the event’s code of conduct was too vague, telling attendees to call an emergency contact number if they were harassed to the point of feeling unsafe, which she said was “almost like calling 911.”

“People already have trouble talking about this,” she said. “People just want to feel that if they do experience something [like harassment], that the convention is going to care. It shouldn’t be that someone literally has to squeeze my breast for someone to care.”

Karen Rivera, a New York-based reporter who has written about cosplay conventions for the site Pixelitis, including a piece about cosplay etiquette, says the relative newness of cosplay and comic-related events in the mainstream view has meant some attendees haven’t learned how to behave properly.

She said she has seen people openly leer at a female cosplayer in a revealing costume or photograph cosplayers without their permission.

“Being respectful of people and asking their permission to take a picture are the two most important things a person can do,” she said.

Geeks for CONsent’s Keyhan said the goal of her group is to raise awareness about harassment in this subculture, not to denigrate cosplay as a whole. While they received some negative reactions to their campaign, “we’ve gotten an abundance of positive feedback,” from both men and women attendees, she said.

“Our goal is not to demonize the convention setting,” she said. “It’s really just to get the conversation started, to make each other feel more included and make the space itself feel safer. And we’re hoping that that conversation will be enough.”

chaya 30th-Jul-2014 02:58 pm (UTC)
Anyone else kind of amused/creeped out by the choice of header picture at the source?
bnmc2005 30th-Jul-2014 09:35 pm (UTC)
I don't know anything about the characters they're playing.
spiegel11th 30th-Jul-2014 10:26 pm (UTC)
Blue woman is Mystique (X-Men, Marvel), woman in white is humanised Princess Celestia (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic). I don't know why someone would be "amused/creeped out" by that, though.
chaya 31st-Jul-2014 02:32 am (UTC)
Either they changed the picture or my computer at work cropped it weirdly - when I saw it there, you only got the middle of the picture. (Meaning, it was focused in on the boobs, and there was almost no face at all.)
moonshaz 31st-Jul-2014 02:35 am (UTC)
Oh wow, that would be....weird, to say the least! Glad it's not showing that way now. Yeesh.
spiegel11th 31st-Jul-2014 08:42 am (UTC)
Wow, no, I can see why that would be... disconcerting.
nesmith 30th-Jul-2014 04:05 pm (UTC)
the relative newness of cosplay and comic-related events in the mainstream view has meant some attendees haven’t learned how to behave properly.

What's really depressing is that if we had a decent society that taught respect for women's bodies AS A FUCKING DEFAULT, we wouldn't have to teach these fucking neanderthals proper behavior, which I usually call "behaving like an adult instead of a baboon."
bnmc2005 30th-Jul-2014 06:30 pm (UTC)
This. And I also like how they try to pass the idea that harrassing women isn't something we see every.fucking.day in the mainstream.
soleiltropiques 30th-Jul-2014 08:15 pm (UTC)
So far, in my (not so well informed) opinion, it doesn't look as though cons are doing such a good job of addressing harassment.

(1) There was the Readercon debacle in 2012, where a woman complained about being harassed by a man, and the con board contravened their own policy to merely ban the guy for 2 years (despite having an existing policy of lifetime banning in response to this). It was only as a result of substantial pressure and people openly stating their intention to avoid the con in question that they finally elected to follow their own policy. (See here for a summary: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_and_Readercon)

(2) Wiscon 2014: in 2013 a woman complained about a harassment incident and made a formal report. The next year the man was back at the con. (I haven't summarized things very well here, but here is a WAY better summary: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/07/28/what-happened-after-i-reported-elise-matthesen-wiscon-and-harassment/. See also here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/SFF_harassment_revelations_2013)

Also, I'd REALLY suggest avoiding the comments at the source, which are basically variations on blaming the victim.

*is depressed*
callmetothejedi 30th-Jul-2014 08:42 pm (UTC)
And it's situation like Readercon 2012 and Wiscon 2014 that cause me to add those two cons to my own personal "List of Cons I Shall Never Attend".

And then you have people like DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who plead guilty to three counts of child molestation, and got credit for time served, and who only had to serve 34 months of house arrest.
moonshaz 31st-Jul-2014 02:51 am (UTC)
It sounds like Wiscon may at least be trying to address the situation you're talking about:

Concom update for July 26th, 2014
Update From the Concom, Monday, July 21, 2014
WisCon Subcommittee Statement on Jim Frenkel, Friday, July 18, 2014
Statement from Joanna Lowenstein, WisCon 38 Co-Chair, Monday, July 7, 2014
Statements from WisCon Safety Chairs, Monday, June 30, 2014

The situation seems to be evolving as we speak. I am favorably impressed by the (at least seeming) transparency of this process, and I think it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
soleiltropiques 1st-Aug-2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
Not disagreeing with you, but I do find it unfortunate though, to put it mildly, that it takes this amoung to public pressures for cons to even live up to their own anti-harassment policies (and that's if they even have them).

It's very depressing, IMHO.
girlomega 30th-Jul-2014 11:55 pm (UTC)
I stopped going to Orycon because of the shady shit that I kept seeing, year after year. And I was a minor when I was going, I've got at least one sexual harassment story per con year. This has been happening for way too long and I'm glad that it's finally being talked about but sad that it took us until now to have a widespread voice about it instead of just on message boards and mailing lists.
qara_isuke TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault, Violence31st-Jul-2014 05:45 am (UTC)
And somehow, there are people that laughed at these women.

17-year old in critical condition after Comic Con assault.

My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family. I sincerely hope she recovers fully, and is able to heal both physically and emotionally from her ordeal. I also hope her attacker is convicted to the fullest extent of the law -- they have a man in custody now, but we don't know yet whether or not he's the guilty party.
soleiltropiques Re: TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault, Violence1st-Aug-2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
OH DEAR GOD.

How horrible.
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