Con Abuse

I’m sure some of you kick-ass feminists out there have attended cons of some variety. Whether its a ComiCon, a gaming con, a programming con, or a craft upraising, a convention can be an amazing community building experience. I fondly remember my first event (APE, for the curious) as a mind-blowing explosion of art and fan-girling and meeting fellow comic bloggers.

But what happens when cons are an uncomfortable and violent place? And how does this destroy our beloved nerd communities? An account of sexual harrassment at San Diego ComiCon in 2008 by friend Kevin Church was terrifying. A positive effect of the sexist treatment was that our shocked community began speaking back, having important conversations about safety and responsibility that rippled through the blogs and forums. I can’t speak on behalf of the offenders, but having a frank conversation about proper behavior around women working in booths (ed. note: I refuse to use the term b–th b-bes for anti-sexist reasons) and treatment of women was in dire need.

Sadly, these incidents still continue. It’s heartbreaking and triggering to recount the stories, so perhaps it serves my purposes to weave a story of uncomfortable community interactions by redirecting you to Geek Feminism’s wiki page on reported incidents. Go ahead and catch yourself up, if you have the need or the heart.

With that sad groundwork laid, have you ever had an uncomfortable experience at a con? If not, have you witnessed behavior that made you angry? What is your tactic in handling these situations? While I am glad that a wiki exists, as information sharing is important to bring visibility to the fact that women do attend cons and have encountered sexism, we need to develop a strategy to calling offenders out on the floor. We need to learn to speak up.

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