World Fantasy’s Harassment Non-Policy

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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October 26, 2015

The final progress report from World Fantasy was emailed to members this evening.  It included the harassment policy, which is legalistic and is essentially useless.  For posterity, here it is:

WFC-Harassment-Policy

And what’s on their website isn’t much better:

screenshot-www.wfc2015.org 2015-10-26 21-46-05

I will note that they they had the better part of two years to come up with a policy and this was apparently the best they could do. Despite the existence of a number of other policies that they could have used and despite Geek Feminism’s sample policy, this is what they come up with.

At this point, a week before the convention, they know that this is a sunk cost for most people–travel is arranged and paid for, memberships purchased.

This isn’t a harassment policy. It’s garbage.

And I’d email the con comm to tell them so except I can’t seem to find an email address that goes to an actual human being and not “chairwfc2015 at aol dot com” I am not even joking is anyone even checking that email address? Who’s the chair? Does anyone know? Because I have looked and I surely cannot anyone’s name or email address on the website.  I guess I’ll email “Chair at wfc2015 dot org” (as given in the progress report–will that go to the same place as the aol dot com email? WHO KNOWS? It is a MYSTERY!) and recommend that if you have a membership and care about harassment policies that aren’t garbage that you do, too.

Edited to add: three of the last five World Fantasy Conventions had harassment incidents that were publicized: 20102011, and 2013.

And while I’m editing to add things, there’s a discussion happening on the convention’s Facebook page right now, too. They didn’t want to get more specific because they didn’t want to be accused of libel. LIBEL, y’all. screenshot-www.facebook.com 2015-10-26 22-51-50

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13 Comments

  1. Natalie Luhrs

    Text of an email I just sent to those two email addresses:

    I am a member of WFC 2015 and I am writing to express my deep concern about the harassment policy as published in this progress report. I believe this policy to be inadequate and I urge you to review and revise it per the best practices outlined here at Geek Feminism: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

    WFC 2014 had a decent policy last year and many SFF conventions also have good policies that you could have leveraged for your event and I am honestly very confused as to why this legalistic and minimal policy was considered to be sufficient, considering the history of harassment in our field—harassment often perpetrated by people who make their living in this industry.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Michael Curry

    I think their sending this out to members only 10 days before the con can be explained in part by their refund request deadline being October 22nd, so they’ve made sure those who have a problem with this terrible policy can’t get their money back if they now decide not to attend.

  3. Lisa Hertel

    I was trained in MA by Arisia. I will be in the dealers room. I will have righteous wrath.

  4. Genevra Littlejohn

    “There will be no risk. ”

    Ohhhhhh man. Did he actually say that where people could screencap it? Foolish foolish and legally dangerous.

  5. --E

    I need to start making official prognostications about conventions. I had a bad feeling about this WFC more than a year ago. Nothing I could put a name to, but I love that part of the world, I had a person asking if I wanted to go and room together (a close friend I’ve happily roomed with before), and it’s a drive, not a flight, so relatively inexpensive.

    And yet. There was a whiff. I don’t know what that whiff was. The scent of folks not being as organized as the could be?

    Aside from the complete stupidity of this so-called policy (I guess “we’ll fob it off on people who don’t want it” is technically a policy), the last-minute nature of it says they didn’t think about it at all. If there had been any planning or thought, I would expect right now to have some concom members popping out to say, YES, WE TRIED, BUT THEY WOULDN’T LISTEN. At best I’ve seen a few folks saying, “We would have objected if we knew what was happening.”

    My guess is the PTBs kept putting it off as hard as they could until suddenly whoops, they needed to have something, so they half-assed some garbage. (I mean really, this isn’t even good quality garbage.)

    I’m sorry for everyone who is headed to this convention, not just because of this crappy non-policy, but because the whole thing smells of “poorly run convention.”

    If the convention sucks and you have a car, get yourself out into the NY countryside. It’s a beautiful part of the world, well worth just driving around in. At the very least, take the Northway (I-87) up to exit 19 (Aviation Road), hang a right, and go for breakfast at the Silo Country Store. There will be a line, so leave yourself time.

  6. Day Al-Mohamed

    @Natalie Luhrs:
    Natalie, I’m so with you. What you posted is a non-policy and does NOTHING to ensure safety. There isn’t even a reference to NY harassment law (Articles 240.25-240.31, for those interested). Are people supposed to GUESS when it meets a legal standard?! It is a clear abjuration of responsibility. Using a policy that results in a “required” police presence at a convention (because that is what would happen), rather than addressing the issue directly, is not what I would call a “winning” plan.
    Day

  7. Christina Marie

    They “aren’t trained to recognize” what’s illegal and what’s rude? GET PEOPLE TO TRAIN YOU.

    You can tell they know they didn’t do a good job with this BECAUSE of that lack of contact info. They put up a paper shield and then run and hide because they know everyone will see right through it. They’re too chicken to protect their female fans. Unbelievable.

  8. Laura Resnick

    Hm. So as I understand it, if someone spends most of WFC approaching female attendees to comment lewdly on their breasts, approaching black attendees to comment rudely on skin color, Asian attendees to comment slyly on the shape of their eyes, and male attendees to comment loudly on their wedding tackle… WFC has absolutely no intention of intervening in any way whatsoever, and if multiple people complain to WFC about this individual, the convention’s response will be, “Call the cops if you’ve got a problem with this person’s behavior.”

    Do I understand correctly that THAT is WFC’s official policy and stated intention in such instances?

    Well, uh, have a nice time at WFC, folks. I am now very glad I won’t be there.

  9. J R in WV

    A problem with libel won’t be nearly as expensive and horrible as a claim for rape or sexual harassment not properly responded to, now will it? I’m a 6′ 240 lb male and unlikely to be attacked in any way but verbally, but if I see a 4’8″ female being stalked or touched or otherwise being treated inappropriately, I will take action, and will blame Con management for not having policies in place and trained staff equipped with information and policies to deal with people not behaving appropriately with members of protected classes. Which is all humans in my book.

    This is a dangerously disorganized cluster, which leaves those who would harass or attack others with every opportunity to take advantage of the unorganized staff and undefined rules. The very disorganization would seem to me to be far more likely to lead to civil or criminal liability for negative events happening to guests, who have a right to expect a clearly defined set of rules for behavior, staff given rules for dealing with unruly behavior, and an organized method for feeling capable of protecting themselves by relying on staff to help them with that protection.

    None of this will be available to attendees. No organized staff, no defined rules for acceptable behavior, no staff prepared to take charge of people tending to veer off accepted standards of behavior in public or private events or groups.

    All set up to fail the first time anyone attempts to take advantage of another attended.

    Good luck, folks.

    I think if you feel unsafe without clear policies for dealing with people breaking clearly defined rules for safe behavior, then given the appearance of these non-rules late in the organizational time frame, that refunds should be demanded for the organizers lack of proper planning for behavioral standards and rules for staff enforcing behavioral standards in a timely manner.

    If I was female, of GBLT,etc gender, young, small, not prepared to engage in self defence, I would not attend this gathering, which seems preordained to have terrible potential for unhappy events from day one. And I would want to reimbursed for the lack of security provided by the people in charge. They had plenty of examples to follow that provided improved proper behavior for other such group events, and failed to exploit those examples. They have failed their responsibilities as leaders, and owe people who wanted to attend either safe conditions or full refunds.

    If people used credit cards to make reservations, you could dispute the charges by informing your credit companies that the event turned out to be dangerously disorganized, with undefined behavioral requirements, unsafely poorly trained staff, and you could not attend and feel protected, so you dispute that you owe payment because the product being supplied was so below anyone’s expectations as to be completely unsatisfactory and unsuited for its purported purpose.

    My $0.02. That’s one way to get a refund. Either write a letter to potentially be sent to your CC customer service group and show it to the organizers asking them to refund your monies, and THEN send it to the CC company if the organizers fail to do their responsible thing and let you go on made whole.

    How stupid. More afraid of potential libel accusations than the actual potential for people being physically or sexually attacked. Good way to rank potential downside events there. I never made any management decisions with that kind of potential downside rankings, thank FSM>!

  10. Rafael

    This and SXSW…just bad…really bad.

  11. Rose Fox

    Wow, I’m really disturbed that some people seem to think “If you need someone to be wrathful on your behalf, come and find me” or even “I will be violent on behalf of anyone I see who appears to be in need of help” are appropriate responses to the absence of a safety policy. Vigilante “justice” can often make situations MORE dangerous. The whole reason official safety policies are so important is that convention staff have a measure of authority that permits them to de-escalate situations. “Knock it off or we revoke your badge” improves safety; “knock it off or I will yell at you/punch you” does not.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      I agree, Rose. I’m bothered by the idea of people taking matters into their own hands as well.

  12. Laura Resnick

    IIRC, there have been specific incidents previously recounted not only of harassment incidents at WFC, but also of someone who was then a senior editor with a major publisher harassing people at WFC several years ago. Given that it is already awkward and intimidating for a writer or aspiring writer to come forward about harassment from a senior editor at the genre’s biggest publishing program… WFC’s policy is that people enduring that experience at WFC should contact the *police* about that editor? Or else just accept that the editor will keep harassing them and others at WFC, because WFC itself has no real problem with it, as long as you don’t think the editor’s conduct warrants involving law enforcement?

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