This past Friday, the subcommittee announced their decision about the harassment reported by Elise Matthesen and Lauren Jankowski. Here’s the relevant part:
WisCon will (provisionally) not allow Jim Frenkel to return for a period of four years (until after WisCon 42 in 2018). This is “provisional” because if Jim Frenkel chooses to present substantive, grounded evidence of behavioral and attitude improvement between the end of WisCon 39 in 2015 and the end of the four-year provisional period, WisCon will entertain that evidence. We will also take into account any reports of continued problematic behavior.
Allowing Jim Frenkel to return is not guaranteed at any time, including following WisCon 42; the convention’s decision will always be dependent on compelling evidence of behavioral change, and our commitment to the safety of our members. If he is permitted to return at any time, there will be an additional one-year ban on appearing on programming or volunteering in public spaces. Any consideration of allowing him to return will be publicized in WisCon publications and social media at least three months before a final decision is made.
Based on the policies adopted by WisCon’s Harassment Policy Committee before WisCon 38 in 2014, Jim Frenkel has the right to appeal this decision to SF3, WisCon’s governing body. If he enters an appeal, we will make public statements both when he does so and when the appeal ruling is issued.
As you know, Bob, Fridays are among the best days to release news you want to bury. Also good are holiday weekends.
Jim Frenkel has a right to appeal this decision to SF3, WisCon’s governing body. Elise Matthesen and Lauren Jankowski do not. Neither does the membership.
WisCon has, with this decision, decided to prioritize Jim Frenkel’s reformation and redemption over the safety of the women who reported his harassment a year ago and over the safety of all the women over the years that chose not to report.
This is not okay. This is beyond not okay. How, exactly, is Jim Frenkel going to prove that he’s stopped harassing people? It’s not really possible to prove a negative–so what is probably going to happen here is that he’ll lay low for a year, appeal, and he’ll be back in 2016. Or in 2017? It’s hard to tell–there was a clarification posted yesterday that has some really disturbing information in the comments. Specifically that the reason for the four year ban has to due with an agreement he has with his former employer to not speak publicly about this–not even to apologize–for five years. I am honestly not sure what Frenkel’s agreement with his former employer has to do with WisCon.
Shortly after that information became public, Jacquelyn Gill–one of the members of the subcommittee–posted an extremely long and convoluted explanation of their process. A process which, apparently, didn’t bother using Google–since the comments show that the subcommittee had at least one individual on it who had no idea what had happened with Readercon two years ago.
Let that sink in. No. Idea. What. Happened. With. Readercon. As xiphias says, “It feels like Wiscon is lagging behind godforsaken mens’ rights neckbeards in terms of consent culture. Those people are fighting against consent culture — but it feels like Wiscon isn’t even aware that the debate is happening.”
Mikki Kendall is also reporting that she was asked for information about her encounter with Frenkel during the course of this investigation. And yet based on Jacquelyn Gill’s blog post, they kept to the contents of the incident report and whatever information they received from Jim Frenkel. Mikki’s written a summary of her experience with Jim Frenkel–along with a helpful visual aid.
I am appalled. I am further appalled at the comment left by Elise Matthesen in which she states that at no point was she contacted by the subcommittee and that one of the people on the subcommittee was present when she reported.
Everything that WisCon could have done wrong, they did. They took no action for a year. They buried themselves in layers of bureaucracy and then adopted a quasi-judicial model that is known to privilege the safety of established institutions over that of those who have been harmed.
Here are some other folks’ reactions (I will keep this list updated as I can):
- Lauren Jankowski on the decision
- Rose Fox’s “Pay a heavy price for it”
- Sunny Moraine On #Wiscon’s decision regarding Jim Frenkel
- Lisa Bradley’s Response to WisCon’s Statement on Jim Frenkel
- WisCon and Crossed Genres
- Geek Feminism Wiki has a timeline and links to reactions.
- Mikki Kendall’s WisCon…This is how you fail.
- Kameron Hurley’s Burn it All Down: Wiscon’s Failure of Feminism
- James Davis Nicoll’s LiveJournal always has a lot of good discussions happening in it and I find this provocative comment from ckd especially interesting.
- Sigrid Ellis on WisCon, Policy, Feminism, Change
- Elise’s Magic Earrings. This is a good and happy story.
- Elise on her plans for next year–which are Balticon, but she does hope to be at WisCon 40 the following year. Elise also adds, in email (which I have permission to quote):
I have, at this writing, received no reply to my request for apology from boxofdelights, who is a friend of twenty years’ standing. And that’s one of several such stories. I hurt. It’s going to take a while. But I’m not “swearing off WisCon” or leading a boycott or anything like that. And it’s not about feeling “unsafe” because of Frenkel; it’s much more about feeling betrayed by WisCon over and over. I’m taking time to do some self-care and to grow back. WisCon should probably also do some self-care and grow back. We’ll see how it goes. I reserve the right to do whatever the hell seems like a good idea at the time whenever that may be.
- Wiscon: Get your damn head outta your ass. (added 7/21 pm)
- A reaction from a Wiscon concom member (added 7/21 pm)
- Jacquelyn Gill has an update and apology: An apology and an update on Wiscon and harassment (added 7/21 pm)
- Mely with her thoughts about the Wiscon decision on the Jim Frenkel harassment case (added 7/21 pm)
- Storify of Genevieve Valentine’s tweets (added 7/21 pm)
- Alexandra Erin has two posts: WisCon: On transparency, jurisprudence, and responsibility and A few more words about the James Frenkel decision. (added 7/21 pm)
- Blue-Author on What I’ve been able to glean about the sub-committee’s decision on James Frenkel. (added 7/21 pm)
- Piglet, co-chair of WisCon 38 and the person who disregarded warnings about Frenkel’s attendance and who mishandled at least one complaint totally has her priorities straight: problems with pseuds being conflated with wallet names? Will be apologized for and handled quickly. Harassment complaints? Not so much. (Am not bagging on the use of pseuds: they’re important and should be protected; it’s the fact that this is what gets a fast public apology and that the fuckups have to go through some sort of consensus building process.) (added 7/21 pm)
- Also the absolute and total irony of this tweet from Piglet. Who has not publicly apologized to anyone who has been hurt by this debacle despite, again, her position as co-chair of WisCon 38–which makes her partially responsible for the fact that nothing was done until April of this year towards building a comprehensive safety policy. (added 7/21 pm)
- Catherine Lundoff’s WisCon, next round Or #notmyfeminism (added 7/21 pm)
- Update from the Concom: “…the concom is looking at all aspects of this process and decision.” (added 7/22 am)
- Mikki Kendall has added an update to her post from the other day–scroll down to the ETA. (added 7/22 am)
- Alexandra Erin on a question WisCon needs to be asking itself about the Member Advocate position. (added 7/22 am)
- File 770 on WisCon’s decision. Warning: there’s a dude in comments demanding to know what Frenkel did. (added 7/22 pm)
- It appears that, well. I don’t even really–the sub-committee solicited information from Jim Frenkel but provided their final report to Elise and Lauren as if it were final. (added 7/22 pm)
- secritcrush’s The Burden in which they call for the permanent ban of Jim Frenkel as well as this: “Debbie Notkin, Piglet Evans and Joanna Lowenstein should resign from the Concom effective immediately and should be banned from being members of the Concom for at lease five years.” (added 7/22 pm)
- HOLY SHIT. These two tweets from antarcticlust–she emailed Macmillan legal and they told her this:
Her follow up tweet:
(added 7/23 pm)
Note: As of 7/27, antarcticlust’s tweets are no longer available, due to her taking her account private. The gist of the tweets was that she contacted Macmillan legal and they told her that there was no NDA between them and Jim Frenkel: that is, he was lying about it. Presumably in order to get around apologizing.
- Cath Schaff Stump on WisCon. (added 7/23 pm)
- WisCon–Walk the Walk by Sandra Ulbrich Almazann (added 7/23 pm)
- Patrick Nielsen Hayden debunks the rumor that Jim Frenkel is working for Tor in any capacity. (added 7/23 pm)
- Apologies to those of you who aren’t paying attention to WisCon (added 7/24 am)
- So, if I can spell “hermeneutic” I guess it makes me the Regius Professor of Philosophy? (added 7/24 am)
- Seriously, Wiscon, WTF? (added 7/24 am)
- Debunking the Fairy Tale of WisCon, Feminism, and Safe Spaces (added 7/24 pm)
- On WisCon’s Epic Phail (added 7/24 pm)
- In Light of the Recent WisCon Meltdown… (added 7/24 pm)
- WisCon, Harassment, and Rehabilitation (added 7/24 pm)
- Ann Leckie will not be attending WisCon next year and won’t until they have a functional harassment policy. (added 7/26 pm)
- Update from the WisCon concom. The key piece of info here is that Debbie Notkin has resigned as member advocate, effective immediately. (added 7/26 pm)
- What Happened After I Reported Elise Matthesen has written a follow-up post, hosted at six different blogs (including this one). (added 7/28 pm)
- State of the Concom–announcement that a vote is ongoing and results will be announced on August 4. (added 7/30 pm)
- Writing From the Fringe, The Risk of Dreams Lauren Janknowski on risk and writing and dreams. (added 8/4 pm)
- The Wiscon mess Bogi Takács on WisCon–with a reminder that there is yet another harassment issue outstanding. (added 8/4/pm)
- The WisCon concom has reached a decision: Jim Frenkel is permanently banned from WisCon. I hope that this isn’t the end–that they institute better and more transparent policies and procedures so, well, we don’t have to go through this again. (added 8/4 pm)
But there’s something else.
I can’t find any public statement definitively announcing the permanent ban of Rachel Moss. I looked in the public posts on the LiveJournal community and on the WisCon News blog. I looked through old issues of eCube–the last one I could find for WisCon 32 was one issued 10 days before the convention happened. ckd found a glancing mention to banning Moss in the first eCube from the subsequent year, but that is it. No discussion of what process was followed, if any. Hell, Moss isn’t even mentioned by name. That is the most hard to find announcement I have ever seen in my life–my understanding is that eCube is the membership newsletter, so it makes a certain amount of sense that old issues would be hard to find, however: when you’re banning someone? Maybe you make an actual public statement in addition to a quasi-public one.
To my knowledge, Rachel Moss has never returned to WisCon. But I suspect she didn’t return not because she was banned but because of the massive backlash against her actions–not only by the WisCon community but by the forum she posted her pictures on. She had no support from any quarter and was not entrenched in the community.
I think WisCon 38’s administration was relying on the same sort of social pressure to keep Jim Frenkel away in lieu of an actual ban. The problem there, of course, is that the man had been getting away with harassing women at conventions for decades and his activity was the driving force behind Jim Hines’s efforts in 2010. And Stephanie Zvan wrote about an incident from 2002.
There was plenty of evidence that this was part of an ongoing pattern of behavior. Decades of predation.
Have any of the volunteers with WisCon received any formal training on how to deal with reports of harassment and assault?
What will prevent Frenkel from getting a hotel room during the convention weekend over the next four years and hanging out in public spaces? Is the convention committee working with the hotel to ensure this doesn’t happen?
How many resources were deployed to assist medievalpoc with their safety concerns? Did they need more people on their safety committee? I am absolutely not saying that medievalpoc’s outside harassment should not have been addressed. It was–and is–a serious ongoing issue for them and I am glad that WisCon stepped forward to work with the hotel to make sure they were safe.
But at the same time, I find it staggering that the convention chose to address their concerns while simultaneously allowing Jim Frenkel to register and sign up to be on programming (he was
pulled from programming after other program participants complained persuaded to step down from programming by a convention volunteer–but he was allowed to volunteer in the consuite). Is this a capacity issue? Did they simply run out of people with time and energy to work on safety? If so, this should have been recognized before the convention and addressed at that time.
Since medievalpoc’s harassers are from outside the community–as was Rachel Moss–they are easier to deal with than with a long-time attendee and former Guest of Honor. I completely understand that. It’s much more difficult to confront the predator who is part of us.
I don’t know what can be done, at this point, to salvage WisCon as an ongoing institution. They are clearly feminist in name only–if they were feminist in actuality, this would have been resolved last year. If you look at the names of the people who have been involved with both SF3 and the convention committee, year over year it’s the same group of people who have clearly become complacent. They do desperately need new blood–however, this isn’t how they’re going to get it. Publicly complaining about people not stepping up isn’t going to be how they’re going to get it, either.
I get that WisCon is a volunteer organization. And I get that their internal structure apparently follows that of a lesbian encounter group from the 1970’s. But if you can’t or won’t do the work then you shouldn’t be volunteering. From where I’m sitting–as an outsider to their community–WisCon is run by a bunch of people who talk a good game about feminism but when it comes down to it, down to making the hard decisions about predators in their community, they can’t actually do what has to be done.
With this decision, WisCon has shown where their priorities lie–and that’s with the straight white men who have connections. That’s fucked up. Going to conventions is not any sort of right–it’s a privilege. And if you can’t be a decent human being and not harass other attendees, you should lose that privilege. Fuck this provisional ban bullshit. Fuck it all.
My other posts on this subject:
And finally, a poem I keep thinking of as I read the discussions.
The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.
—Sonnet: Against Entropy, John M. Ford
She dabbles in writing speculative fiction and poetry, but non-fiction is her bread and butter. She’s known for her coverage of various issues within genre around sexism and harassment, and can be found on Twitter as @eilatan.
With Annalee Flower Horne, she is a co-founder of the intersectional geek blog, The Bias.