Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sexual Harassment In Comics -- still going on

I know, I'm naive right?

No, I really am.

Somehow I bought the idea that we are all in a more mature place, and that these are not concerns anymore, cuz we're all adults here.

But apparently -- no.

"On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the "prettiest girl at the con." They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that."

This shit is still going on? Women groped and stalked at SDCC? This is 1990s stuff!

My motto: "let the 1990s (in comics) stay in the 1990s."

And as several people have suggested, the answer is for San Diego Comic Con to have an official policy regarding sexual harassment.

Such official policies -- when actually enforced -- are everybody's friends. They prevent misunderstandings and tragedies (and tragic misunderstandings).

There is only one thing from the above-referenced post by John DiBello I would nit-pick at -- and I'm doing it based on my own experience.

It's this:

"Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he'd targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism."

I don't think this instance (as unpleasant and crappy as it is) should be added to an official complaint about the sexual harassment for the following reason:

Assholes who don't want to do anything to fight sexual harassment anyway will point to that quote and say: "oh, now we're not allowed to criticize a woman's drawing ability?"

That can be used as a strawman argument to discredit or make light of the other complaints.

I learned this from a sexual harassment attorney. She said I couldn't include claims of being yelled at and other abusive (yet not explicitly sexually harassing) behavior, because then it could be said that "I just couldn't handle the pressure" of my job.

NOW -- we all know that things like excessive criticism or verbally abusive behavior specifically towards women could very damn well spring from misogyny.

But I'm trying to tell you about some of the tough questions that come up, and how jackasses use certain things to excuse shitty behavior.

That all said -- SDCC needs a sexual harassment policy in place by next year's con. It will be good for them, it will be good for women, it will be good for men, it will be good for everybody.


  1. I don't think you are Native' Val. The incident of those four jerks with that woman at the con sounds like a drunken frat boy's wet dream.

    I don't get it. I wouldn't DREAM of touching or kissing a woman (or man for that matter) who I did not know VERY well and was SURE that she would have no problem with any physical contact. Perfect example... I know you online Val. I feel that you've shared so much of yourself that I know you quite well for someone I never met. We're both New Yorkers... ect, etc...

    If I ever met you at a con or even on the streets of Manhattan, I would offer my hand for a handshake... nothing else. Should I presume that I know you well enough from the online contact and reveals online that we are "friends"?

    No. Friendly aqaintances, yes. However, it would not give me the right to act in a more intimate friendship manner.

    People seem to have the wrong idea of a woman at a comic con that might be dressed in a provocitive costume or manner... like it gives others the right to manhandle her due to the way she is dressed. That's the old "Looka t her... she was askin for it" mentality.

    I did a story (years, and years ago) for a newspaper where a prostitute brought a man up on rape charges. I actually got into an arguement with my editor about the focus of the story. While he never actually said it, it was obvious to me that he felt the charges where stupid because how could a prostitute claim rape? My stance was that "No" means "NO" no matter what the situation is and despite her chosen occupation it didn't give someone the right to just assume they could do whatever thay wanted to a girl based upon that assumption.

    Now, I am in NO WAY comparing the woman from the comic con situation or other harrassment incidents to being like a prostitute. What I AM trying to say is, that despite an assumption from ANYONE on what a woman is doing/wearing/acting like/has done in the past NO ONE should be allowed to act however they please towards them.

    To me, it's just commen sense. I cannot seem to understand the lack of respect for woman or people as a whole.

    I fail to see why there would be any resistance towards a physical harrasment policy. It's something that should be a slam dunk. You touch a person in any way that is deemed suggestive to the person being touched... you get tossed. Like I said above, if you aren't 1000% positive you are safe touching someone, you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

    I can see that people would be concerned about a policy that includes remarks (which also should be common sense, but I know there are WAY too many idiots in the world who have to make themselves feel better about themselves by talking trash to woman) because there are a lot of people (especially at comic cons) who just might say something the wrong way and not mean to be disrespectful at all.

  2. Anonymous2:33 PM

    A friend of mine is very interested in Asberger's Disease and has made a point of trying to recognize it in others. It's interesting, but I wonder how many of these people are just secluded from society (and therefore don't know how to interact with anyone else) and how many may have some sort of physical/mental problem.

    Well, I guess there's a third category, too. They could just be assholes.

    Anyway, do you think some kind of stated policy would help? Would it really curb behavior like this? Or are you thinking it could be used as a basis for kicking the asshats out?

  3. The only disorder these guys have is their heads being lodged up their excratory orifices.

    This behavior is unacceptable on EVERY possible level.

  4. Man, this stuff burns me up. Anyhow, YES, making a policy DOES help, because it reinforces the very obvious fact that what you are doing is WRONG (for the "perps") & that what has been done to you is NOT OKAY (for the victims). This is bread & butter stuff, man. Do it.

  5. You know we all all have partners, sisters and mothers that shouldn't have to deal with this crap but they do.

    If the policy would/could be used to "charge" these jerks with sexual harrasement or misconduct and stop this crap from happening then it should be implemented...


  6. I was hoping that you would speak on this topic. I was looking forward to your perspective on it.

    I think enforcement is the key. These harassers are getting more and more bold because they are getting away with it. Saying you have a no tolerance policy is good, but you need to show it. Boot these creeps out.

  7. I read about this over at MightyGodKing, and one of the things that sprung from the discussion was news about Project Backup.

  8. Anonymous5:59 PM

    At NYCC I noticed an odd little man going up to women in costume (and some not in costume), having them hold a microphone and do one of those "now back to" things while he filmed them. But the guy was alone and not affiliated with any show I've ever heard of. I got the feeling it was just a weird little fetish for him. Yeech.

  9. This is why I support giving every woman a handgun.

    I saw plenty of pretty girls at Gen Con last week but wasn't compelled to grope them.

  10. This was the subject of my ComicMix column this week (yes, I dropped your name as well!), to which I added a comment after receiving a very exciting email from Heidi Meeley about a new initiative called CAHP...

  11. I think there should be an anti-harassment policy at SDCC and it would both curb behavior (if it were publicized enough) and aid in kicking asshats out.

    Basically, there are already laws in place- or at the very least social constraints- to handle these miscreant behaviors. But the enforcement of said laws needs to be consistent and it also needs to be publicized. People need to understand or be aware that a comics convention is not a free-for-all zone. That's what having a definite anti-harassment policy in place would achieve.

    Other cons have policies in place, and other types of events have them in place. Ballparks, shopping malls, airports. No one is asking anyone to do anything, they're just asking certain people to refrain from doing something. Something societal approbation and the notion of "knowing right from wrong" should have already taught them.

  12. But oh yeah- my personal policy has always been "My hands have no business on your hands have no business on me." That goes for anyone, man or woman.

  13. i agree. that behavior is ridiculous.

    you dont see me doing that to other guys. they would be sooooooo offended if a gay dude grabbed their ass, yet its ok for them to do that to the ladies? bullshit.

  14. why are comics dying? because the fans are whining bitches that can't seem to function in society.

    curious - are there booth babes at the big cons? i've only been to the tinier ones in DC and I think Kaluta was the biggest celeb to show up.

  15. and this is why comics aren't taken seriously as an artform

  16. What those guys did has nothing to do with comics. Some people seriously have problems. That poor lady must have been so creeped out!

    I was at a club a while back where this guy was "dancing" with girls by pinning them against the wall & thrusting on them. He even went so far as to take of his shirt at one point during one of his assualts on a girl nearly half his size. Me & others had to step in several times to get him to back off. I was SHOCKED that anyone, alcohol or no could go all out like that at public & angry that security didn't kick him out sooner. I honestly can't believe stuff like this happens these days, yet there it does. Disgusting.

  17. Anonymous3:02 AM

    It's going to get worse now that Felicia Day is a geek celebrity.

    I'm not sure she realizes the amount of hormones that regularly fly around the SDCC.... and she's a girl that actually is an ubergeek.

    This will not bode well.