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lauriemann's Poll [Sep. 9th, 2006|02:33 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

A week ago, lauriemann posted a poll about Sexually Inappropriate Behavior in SF/F Fandom. Now that people have had a chance to respond, I thought I'd summarize a few things and hopefully open up a bit of discussion...

To begin with, a LJ poll is not going to be a highly reliable and rigorous source of statistics. On the other hand, it's better than nothing, and it's a very good starting point. Thanks again to lauriemann for putting it together.

About 150 people responded to the poll. Around 2/3 were female, 1/3 male, and 1 individual who identified as female-to-male transsexual/transgender. 75% of respondents identified as fans, and 25% as pros, with the majority entering fandom in the 80's and 90's.

When I checked, there was a perfect 50/50 split between those who had and had not been touched without permission in fandom. 25% said they had been groped without permission, and 6 people (4%) said they had been sexually assaulted in fandom.

Perpetrators tended to be fans more often than pros, and the vast majority were male.

In my mind, I think about "touched without permission" as those situations where people come up and give unwanted hugs and back rubs and the like. To me, this is where the buttons or stickers could be most useful, as a simple way to spell out one's boundaries for the clueless touchers. If the intent is malicious, buttons and stickers aren't going to do much, but I believe a good number of these were probably motivated by cluelessness and poor assumptions. ("Oh, so-and-so is hugging her, so obviously I can too!)

I was a bit surprised that pros weren't listed as a greater percentage of the perpetrators. I had assumed that the pros, being in a position of power and privilege, would tend more toward the whole entitlement bit. "I'm the pro, and these people are here for me, so I have the right to do whatever I want," and so on. Of course, at any con, the fans will vastly outnumber the pros, which would also skew these results. It could be that pros truly are more likely to grope and grab, but that there are so many more fans that the numbers lean in that direction. I couldn't say one way or the other.

I'm a bit curious why twice as many women answered as men, though I have my assumptions ... rape and sexual abuse and harassment and groping and the rest have usually been classified as "female issues," and not things guys have to worry about. I think that's changing somewhat, but I'm still a little disappointed not to see more men participating at the poll.

Unfortunately, one of the weaknesses of LJ is that there's no way to break down the data. I'd love to see how the numbers of people who were touched/groped/assaulted correlated with the people's gender*. I'm assuming this stuff happens to far more women than men, but the numbers don't tell us one way or another. (Which means we need more data. Anyone need a Master's or Ph. D. level research project?)

The poll isn't perfect, but it's helpful. 150 people isn't too shabby for a sample size, and the results show that there is a problem. Unwanted touching happens to half of us, groping to a quarter, and sexual assault to 4%. That's a real problem, and it is a big deal.

I would encourage people to keep linking to Laurie's poll. The more people respond, the more impressive the numbers. I also think this is something we could show to convention organizers, to encourage them to include a statement about inappropriate behavior in their convention guides, and to show that these incidents need to be taken seriously, including removing the perpetrators from the cons when appropriate.

I'd be interested to hear what other people think of the results!


*Technically, you can see what each individual user replied, but many of the LJ user names are pretty androgynous. I also wonder if the fact that the results aren't completely anonymous might have affected people's answers.
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(no subject) [Sep. 9th, 2006|01:12 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

For me, the timing of this discussion has been interesting. I've recently returned to the fold, as it were, of SF/F/H after a fifteen-year absence. After spending years working on mainstream/lit fiction, I've been discovering and reading such incredible work by so many talented writers, that I've been trying to remember why I left in the first place.

Now, thinking about everything that's happened and been said since the Hugos, I'm starting to remember why I left.

My con experiences were limited, but I had my share of unwanted and occasionally forced attentions, all from fanboys (this was in the 90s). Luckily, I was a tough little broad, even at 18, so I could verbalize my outrage and generally look after myself. I observed that other people, however, weren't as forceful as I was, including some of my friends, whom I had to ride herd on to make sure they were safe.

But as I said, I only went to one or two cons. Most of my negative experiences came from comic and SF/F bookshop owners or employees, Ren Faire merchants, even a writer (a fairly minor one) at a book signing. I was groped, pinned against walls and pulled onto laps because those things can be done quickly and offer deniability when the perpetrator backs off. Unless someone is watching at that exact instant, or is videotaping, it is all too easy to be gaslighted into wondering if you imagined the whole thing. And even though I had the ability and wherewithal to confront them effectively, I was angry, humiliated, and demeaned.

The message I took away from all of these things was, this is a boys' space. These are boys' words. These are boys' images, even and especially when they are images of women. You are welcome to come and play here, but only if you accept that these are the boys' rules.

I didn't want to play by those rules anymore, so I left. I found other things to read, other communities to be a part of. Looking back, I now see the problems with my perception, but obviously it didn't arise in a vacuum. These are the kinds of problems I'd like to see us address as a community of writers, editors, and fans.

Seeing so many people, women and men, reacting to this in brave, constructive ways has made me happier than ever that I've come back to spec fic. Thanks.
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CafePress [Sep. 4th, 2006|12:58 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

The group now has a (very small) shop at CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/bellwether

At the moment, all that's available are buttons with the design Frank has given us. There is no markup, but we're looking at $1.25 + $1 shipping for a single button. The 10-pack is much more reasonable ($10 + shipping).

The basic shop does not allow more than a single kind of any one item, which means as more designs come in, I'll either have to rotate what image is available, or else upgrade to the "premium" shop. I haven't looked at this in too much detail yet, but I will.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to pick up a 10-pack of the "Hugging Good, Grabbing Bad" button for your group, now you can.

I'll post info and updates as they occur.
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Sexually Inappropriate Behavior -- A Poll [Sep. 3rd, 2006|11:20 am]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

lauriemann has put together a poll about Sexually Inappropriate Behavior in Science Fiction Fandom.

It's not necessarily a full-blown scientific study, but it should give us a more clear idea what we're all dealing with. If enough people participate, the numbers might even be enough to convince people to take things a little more seriously.

So I would strongly encourage people to participate. If you're willing to post a link and send other people Laurie's way, so much the better!

(Cross-posted to my own LJ.)
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First Frank Wu Pic [Sep. 3rd, 2006|09:36 am]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

Frank Wu e-mailed me the following yesterday. Looking at it, I'm thinking this might make a good button.

From Frank: "Feel free to copy, disseminate, put on buttons/websites,
whatever (and tell others to do so, too) ... Or, if you think it needs changes, lemme know."

He'll be working on a few other things as well. Hopefully including the multi-armed alien, since that one seems to be so popular.

Pic behind the LJ-CutCollapse )
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Erasure [Sep. 2nd, 2006|06:21 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

I'm going to say something else about discourse, history and "erasure."

First, I attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA. This is the only remaining women's college on the West Coast. I am grateful for this experience. At that time, I gained exposure to and knowledge of lesbian, bi, and transgender people and their points of view and feelings of being marginalized.

My college years were in the 80's, where people were having difficulty with, and struggling with, issues of diversity, and when I, for one, absolutely was interested in not only my own academic and intellectual development, and in "becoming a writer," but also in the degree for which graduates of my school were also well-known - the "MRS." Graduates of Scripps were known to marry graduates of the nearby Claremont MENS College, which had recently been made coed and named Claremont McKenna College. I dated top students from both CMC and the other nearby school, Harvey Mudd College (for engineers).

At this time I confessed to my fiance, who was the top student at Harvey Mudd, that I loved science fiction, and wanted to be a science fiction writer. Pete, who I don't mean to ascribe sexism or anything bad to, responded immediately by saying, "But you have to be smart to write science fiction!"

I never forgot this, and the tale is recounted in the intro. to my first collection, WITHOUT ABSOLUTION.

But these issues - a girl, not a man. "Dumb," not smart. Popular and "normal," not a "geek." THIS IS MY LIFE. This is my writing.

I have worked for more than ten years to assist homeless families. These are primarily single, minority parents, mostly mothers, with very young children. I worked in Redlands, successfully, and now work in downtown Los Angeles, for an innovative, nationally-recognized organization. The world does not recognize these women - at all.

When I say "erasure," I experienced this not only myself, but in my own family. My mother was, among other things, the first female editor and publisher of the college newspaper at the University of Redlands -- the Bulldog, just as 40 years later, I served that role at my own college. After college, she attended Chouinard Art Institute, which became Otis-Parsons, and is now Otis College of Art and Parsons Institute of Design. She went to work for Disney as an art director, and left after one year, exclusively due to extreme sexism and bias against many diverse people. Her working partner throughout her career was Bill Melendez. Bill is over 80 now, but well-known as one of those who brought Peanuts to the animated screen.

My father said to me that my mother "Could not have made it as a fine artist." I have a degree in Studio Art, as well as British-American Literature, from Scripps (and an MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman). He was wrong. That was a sexist comment. And I know he loved her and adored her and respected her. It took me five years to forgive my father for that comment.

My mother throughout her career as an art director of animated films worked for UPA and Playhouse Pictures, and at the end of her life, had gone to work for Charles Schulz. She won two Academy Awards and five Golden Palms. Her work was "erased." She died of pancreatic cancer in 1962. Her work, which involved creating the appearances of and natures of cartoon characters we know and love today, notably Mr. Magoo, who was based on my father, was appropriated by any man who had the ability to do so in the intervening years. The studio owners, the producers - anyone. Today, a book called CARTOON MODERN is being published, that tells the true story of my mother, and three others whose work was also appropriated, stolen, and falsely credited to others. These others are men so this cannot be credited exclusively to gender bias and sexism.

That said, I have fought my way up in this field, that I chose.

You want to talk about painful? I know that people are crude, rude, selfish and inconsiderate in this field. I know that their worldviews encompass the very small boxes in which they live. I've always known this. I know I could write the absolute best thing in the world and some of those in this field would ignore and denigrate it because I'm a woman - a "girl."

If they can, people will take it. Appropriate it. Erase it.

We have to make each other strong - help each other to be strong. Speak so loudly and clearly that no one else can have any doubt. Yes, do speak out, do say "No more!".

Maybe in the end, in the final sense, if Harlan can see that this helped good things happen in the long run, it will be okay. Because I know he has always stood for that, and taken action on that. I am not the most aggrieved, by a long shot. I am guilty of not speaking out on many occasions in the past.

But we have also suffered greatly, in my line. It has never been easy, as a woman working in a "man's world." I am speaking out because I am not afraid. After the death of my son, there is nothing that truly "scares me." The sexual harassment and comments are terribly wrong. The marginalization is deeper, and far worse. And the "erasure," with such ease, is the worst of all.
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What do you think of these? [Sep. 2nd, 2006|05:16 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

First off, one member wrote this:

>>Does unacceptable behavior discussed here include only touching and other sexual harrassment, or does it also include verbal harrassment, stereotyping, unfair discrimination, and other such behavior that might discourage women, girls, and minority groups from participating fully in SF conventions?>>

Among the many negative effects of this controversy, no positive attention is being paid to such matters as the panel we held, "Is SF/F for Girls and Boys, Too?" at WorldCon. We were encouraging the young women and men in the audience to participate, and asked the audience members fairly to speak. It was a great experience. I also attended a panel on "Why is SF so White?" Of course all panelists but one were "white." Even so it was a good discussion, with good participation from audience members.

All of the above are things that people need to be educated about. The larger, deeper issue is, "Do people see or read things they can relate to?" Based upon their interests and feelings as human beings.

That said, I'll put a list of things that happened to me, or that happened to others that I know to be true. No names attached.

* The Writers of the Future "Prize" - 1998 - Ten minutes before the award ceremony, a well-known writer who I'd met only a few minutes before was standing in a group with me that consisted of the other three female nominees, and two other men. The two other men went to get refreshments. The group was discussing the film director James Cameron. Someone mentioned they thought they had heard that James Cameron had beaten his wife. Hearing this, the well-known writer grinned and seemed excited. He stepped toward me, raising his hand. Before I could react, he slapped my face - hard. Then he sidled next to me and I felt his hand GROPING (as in for approximately 10 seconds) my butt. At this, he announced, "With an ass like hers, you just know she loves to be spanked!" At this point, as I was standing stunned and humiliated, frozen in shock, the two other men returned. This guy shot away from me so fast . . .

* Let's Watch the Fireworks! At the WorldCon in the very same location ten years ago, I was watching the fireworks from a window in a party suite. I thought my friend was with me. I thought, "He's getting fresh!" Because a hand was caressing my butt (why my butt?). After a few moments, I thought, "That's too much for me, even from this fellow I like" and I turned to see ANOTHER famous writer that I barely knew -- grinning like the Cheshire Cat. When I cried, "I thought you were my friend -- what are you doing?" the fellow ran away.

* I LOVE You Bay-Bay. After being savaged online for an extended period of time by an writer who fancies himself quite an intellectual, upon being introduced in-person to the same writer at a convention in the SFWA suite, the fellow approached heartily, grinning as if I was his long-lost best friend and demanding a hug - which was entirely too familiar and grope-y. Again - the butt.

* My HUG and The WonderBra: I care about the perpetrator in this case, but this perpetrator also demanded a hug upon meeting me for the first time, and inquired about my undergarments, notably was I wearing a WonderBra and could he see it (at least - not my butt this time). Someone in SF in a position that no one would "go against" - at least not at that time. He was "just joking" about the bra but really did want the hug.

* A Business Opportunity For You!: Upon chatting with a well-known writer and his current paramour, also in a writers suite, the writer learned that I was at the time, unattached. He announced that he wanted to introduce me to his friend, who he described as a young scientist protege of his with a high security clearance, and top job making six-figures. This fellow needed female companionship, he said (the exact words) - and he figured that I'd only be interested in people making six figures (also exact words).

* Sit on my Lap, My Lovely: I was forced by a powerful figure in the industry to sit on his lap (as in grabbed, spun around, and placed on the lap). In moments, as I struggled free and stood, complaining, he then pushed me toward a well-known, shy writer and demanded that the two of us "hug" for his benefit. We awkwardly were forced to physically comply. This embarrassed both of us, and to this day, I don't know if the other, shy writer avoids me because of this embarrassing incident.

* Scary: At a party with fans, I started chatting with two seemingly nice young guys. At first, nothing seemed amiss. The next thing I knew, the two had inveigled me into a corner, with the bolder one insisting, "You don't have on any underwear." (Again, the butt). He then asked if I'd be interested in a threesome - i.e., had I ever been with two men at once? As I tried to physically extricate myself, an imposing woman who I am sure was with the Con noticed this situation, came over, and helped me physically get away from them. She was very forceful and took immediate action. When she came up, she asked, "What is going on here?" and "This lady looks uncomfortable. What are you doing?"
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Why Bother? [Sep. 2nd, 2006|02:58 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

So as I'm thinking about this group, it occurs to me that a good chunk of the people stopping by probably see no reason for it. For myself, as both a male and as someone who tends to avoid the party scene at conventions, I've never personally been groped or grabbed or any of that. Some folks might conclude the problem doesn't really exist, or it's only a few isolated incidents. I don't believe that, but for those without any first-hand experience, I can see where they might come to that conclusion.

So I'd like to ask people, if they're willing, to talk about why they're here and why they feel this is important. I don't want to pressure anyone into it. Share what you're comfortable with. If you want to comment anonymously, feel free. If you wish to post anonymously, e-mail me at jim -at- goblinquest.com and I'll post it for you. If you want to post a friends-locked entry, that works too. If we want to work toward creating safe spaces, I say we start here, creating a space online where we can talk about what we've seen and experienced without being told, "Oh, that's nothing" or "I'm sure whoever did that didn't really mean it" or any of the other minimizing or excusing commentary.
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Woo hoo! [Aug. 31st, 2006|08:57 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

[mood |excitedexcited]

Huge thanks to shaolingrrl!!! Thanks to her, we have a (two-time) Hugo-winning artist offering to help us out. That's right, the disgustingly talented Frank Wu has agreed to do a logo or image for the group.

So we need to figure out what we want. So far, I'm aware of the following:
-Multi-armed alien, with text that reads "I don't care how many hands you've got. Keep 'em to yourself." Or words to that effect.

-Groping hands, with the circle and slash over 'em.

-Some sort of bellwether-style image (sheep or ram with a bell)

It's been suggested that humor will help make the message easier to hear, and less intimidating (for those inclined to feel intimidated.)

So, thoughts? Other ideas? Support for a suggestion? I can update with new ideas as they're proposed...
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introductory questions [Aug. 31st, 2006|03:56 pm]
Bellwether: The Safe Zone Discussion Group

I'm here at <lj user=sistercoyote>'s suggestion.

I have questions.

Is this for creating sub-spaces within SF conventions that are safe from touching and groping?

Is it for promoting understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behavior at SF conventions?

Is it for gathering support to pressure people who routinely engage in unacceptable behavior?

Does unacceptable behavior discussed here include only touching and other sexual harrassment, or does it also include verbal harrassment, stereotyping, unfair discrimination, and other such behavior that might discourage women, girls, and minority groups from participating fully in SF conventions?
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