So, there’s been a lot of whining online by older white dudes about how conventions, especially geek and nerd centered ones are no longer welcoming to them. How do they come to these conclusions? Because of the Guests of Honor asking for their safety to be considered, for their to be codes of conduct, and procedures in place in case they are harassed at the event.
I mean how dare these things like safe spaces, or Codes of Conduct impinge on their good time right? This rant has been bubbling forth since the latest convention fuckery happened with OdysseyCon’s GoH Monica V. stepping down due to a known harasser not just being on concom, but named her GoH liaison.
It also resurfaced due to some epic, poor me, the SJW’s have taken over MY convention crying about this years Penguicon. This trash heap of a whinge is titled “make penguicon great again.” Here’s a donotlink connection to it so I don’t give it any more clicks than I had to in order to get the link.
It’s not like OP is alone, because another what about the poor white men thread was posted to the Penguicon forums. Again, a donotlink connection to avoid giving this ridiculousness any more traffic than needed to nab the link.
Let’s examine this though, and think about how so many white dudes, and frankly older white women (see Wiscon chatter post Frenkel FINALLY getting a lifetime ban from the convention) immediately go to; I’m no longer welcome here, I can’t do and say what I want anymore so this isn’t my home any longer.
Problem is, many fans who aren’t white, or straight id’ing, or neurotypical have felt like it’s there home at all. We’ve often felt like the guest a friend brought that is tolerated at best, given shady hostility and clear signs to leave, or at worst flat out told to go and build our own house, preferably where the unwilling host can pretend we don’t exist. Until they decide that us building that house of our own somehow excludes them and they demand entry because it’s not fair!
Well, life ain’t fair y’all. Conventions have a problem, well a lot of them but the prevalent ones are as follows:
Harassers are often allowed to flourish in convention spaces: Case in point; look how long it took Frenkel to get booted from Wiscon. How is he is still welcome in other con spaces. How he is somehow on the concom of Odyssey Con. How people rallied around him when accusations came to light with the usual but he never did that to me, or he’s a good guy, this is a witch hunt, etc. Now we’re seeing this again with OdysseyCon.
There’s no Code of Conduct or Anti-Harassment policy in place: This made me think of the Montreal International Games Summit (MIGS). A friend posted about how there’s no CoC [which has changed AFAIK] but the pushback was ridiculous. Also, the idea that merely having a CoC means that there will be complaints when none existed before. News, there are always complaints, there are always things that happen but without a CoC or anti-harassment policy & enforcement of it, no one is going to come forward. Hell sometimes there is one and people come forward, and nothing happens. See Mark Oshiro’s accounting of his horrific experience at ConQuest if you think this is not a thing that happens. That’s just one very public example.
Cons having a quiet room, or safe spaces for POC/LGBTQIA/Neuro-divergent is seen as pandering, etc: The very idea that one room, out of a whole convention is set aside for folks to take a break, get some needed me time or to decompress after a hard panel is seen as pandering to some SJW agenda or taking away space from others. You have the whole fucking convention to yourself. Let people have one room damn. It’s not always done well or right when it starts, I mean the first year I went to Wiscon, the POC safe space might as well have been a walk by zoo with how people tried to come and gawk. It’s better now but its fucked up that there are still people who will whine about it being needed/wanted by attendees.
A convention starts up that is targeted to/created by a marginalized group: Often when POC/LGBTQIA etc get fed up and DO start their own thing, we get the whining about being excluded. Um, what? I mean when GaymerX started up, when FlameCon and HavenCon started and focused on LGBTQIA gamers, comics folks, other nerdery there was the decrying of leaving straight people out. When BlerdCon, Universal Fan Con and other POC centric cons got going, again the what about white people screeds started up?
Well newsflash, if all convention spaces were welcoming, if I could go to PAX and actually see more than a handful of POC at one spot, if I could feel safe being out except in the diversity lounge, then oh maybe, just maybe I would not feel like a space dedicated to being a POC, LGBTQIA fan of things was needed. If I could get panels accepted talking about these issues and not have the people who already are on board be the ones at these panels it would be great.
If I could attend a con and not hear slurs from the open gaming area, or have a tabletop session where someone thinks before they say something insensitive or doesn’t try to have a slaver class in the game it would be fabulous. But that’s not how things are now, it’s not like fandom, geek/nerd spaces are all that welcoming to anyone who isn’t assumed default.
This isn’t a new thing either, the discussion of making fandoms and conventions more welcoming, kicking out harassers, those that don’t understand that cosplay isn’t consent, that a convention isn’t their personal playground simply for the price of admission and whatever they want to do and say goes because of the 5 Geek Social Fallacies and because of the idea that if we’re in a space for geeks, nerds etc that we are all one happy nerdy family.
Untrue, and the ways in which people respond to micro aggressions, the racism, homo/bi/transphobia in these spaces shows that we are still happy to divide ourselves among these lines. That the lie of being nerds in a pile that all loooove the same thing falls apart upon further examination. That fine thread holding it together is frayed, it is fragile and the merest puff of air will make it snap to show the ugly truth to conventions and other spaces that we don’t want to admit.
The fact that cons are now on board with Codes of Conduct, Cosplay is not Consent posters, having an actual anti-harassment policy & acting upon it isn’t a bad thing as these windbags would make it out to be. What’s happening is that conventions are FINALLY getting with the times and the old, bitter, unwilling to change guard doesn’t want this to happen. Because they have never personally been affected by harassment or assault or unwanted touches, they think that the con is moving against them.
Which circles back to the beginning of my post. Why these kinds of people are wrong as fucking wrong can be in thinking they are somehow unwanted or laughably unsafe. That in so many words, often too many they are asking that the very space they value sooo much becomes a safe space for unsafe, unwanted behaviors. That the boys club shut its doors to everyone but people like them so they can reclaim the good old days of when things weren’t political or had an agenda.
Newsflash, SFF, games, movies, media all of it has always been political or had an agenda. It’s not always in your face but these things don’t exist in a vacuum and if you think SFF was never political, well I don’t know what to tell you. Conventions are places to have those discussions, to also come together as this supposed happy family of nerds about X thing. But if all aren’t welcome, then it’s not fun anymore.
If I can’t go to a con without wondering what will happen on a panel I’m on, or if someone will try and touch my hair, or touch me in general and not have it acted upon by the concom, then that space is not safe for me or others like me. This crying over an imaginary loss of power is just …egregious when those traditionally without power or a place in fandom are just now feeling comfortable in these spaces, that are still predominately white and male and cis focused.
It’s an uneasy space to navigate, but the fact that cons are doing the work to make it less hostile, albeit slowly and often clumsily means we all can get to enjoy these spaces. If you want to whine about your imaginary perfect con no longer existing, and declare you wont’ come back? Ok bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
We’ll remain and have a better time for your absence.