In 2008, in keeping with its own policies regarding sexual harassment, ReaderCon kicked out one Аɑɾση Αɡαѕѕι¹. For life, because he we skeeving on a woman and ReaderCon had a policy stating that there would be no tolerance for that kind of shit. And not a tear was shed, except by Αɡαѕѕι himself. In fact, many parties were no doubt held in the honor of his permanent absense.
This year, in defiance of those same policies regarding sexual harassment, ReaderCon kicked out one Rene Walling. For two years, because he said he was vewwy sowwy
. When I was first directed to this post
by the woman he harassed, I figured that either Rene was a BNF or possibly SMOF², or that the previous harasser was a special case. Then I read one of the posts she linked in her post about Rene and discovered that the first harasser was the infamous Аɑɾση Αɡαѕѕι, above. It made me wonder if the No Tolerance rule on sexual harassment was a reaction specifically to him³.
Then I read that Walling had co-chaired a WorldCon. Yeah, that explains a bit.
For what little it's worth, I'd like to add my admittedly tiny voice to the already-huge chorus of voices condemning ReaderCon's Board of Directors. I would say that this was a bad decision akin to Lincoln deciding to go see a play, but that metaphor would only work if Lincoln had been warned ahead of time that John Wilkes Booth would be at the theater with a gun and decided he still wanted to see the play.
One: at the risk of stating the obvious, rules only work if they're enforced consistently. At best, some other would-be harasser will probably be emboldened by the fact that Walling got off easy. At worst, they've given Аɑɾση Αɡαѕѕι ammunition to appeal their previous decision.
Two: this particular rule was intended to make people -- women in particular -- feel safe. Again, applying it inconsistently sends a message. In this case, the message is "hey ladies, we'll keep you safe from creepy nobodies, but if someone with clout decides to get in your face, follow you around, or pinch your ass, rank has its privileges. Surely you understand."
Three: if you've ever wondered why so many sections of fandom seem dominated by men who are wondering why women don't come to conventions? Wonder no more. (The answer, of course, is that women aren't going to those
conventions. I went to BasCon once. That convention was attended by several hundred people -- and I was one of three men there. And believe me, if one of us had been less than a gentleman, we would have been lucky to be merely arrested.)
Four: Walling was apparently very persuasive when he apologized. Have you ever caught a six-year-old doing something they damn well know they shouldn't do, and threatened them with consequences for their actions? They can be very persuasive, too, for all the same reasons.
In closing... to paraphrase Heinlein: they shot an error into the air, and it's still falling everywhere. This decision is the shot being heard around the world
, at least in fandom. This is where ReaderCon has to decide which direction it's going to go. And it needs to decide soon, because a whole bunch of people are deciding that if they're not made to feel safe at this convention, they might as well stay home.
- A few words about Аɑɾση Αɡαѕѕι, here: he is a tenth-level creeper in a five-level reality. I first ran into him on GAFF because he's about as bad as Nicky the Wondergoth at writing, where he discovered our website in his his referrer logs and proceeded to tell us all how misinformed we were and that his work was brilliant. While other people were commenting on how bloody awful his writing was, I was attacking his source code. He insisted that this was also a bold artistic decision... because when you have a site devoted to your written prose, what you really need is several large non-transparent images with high z-index properties. (For those of you who don't do style sheets, read this as "large images obscuring blocks of text.)
Of course, we were all just having fun making fun of the pretentious twit with delusions of competence. It wasn't until later that I discovered that he regularly gets kicked out of cons, usually for being a creeper. Y'see, he thinks he's a hypnotist. He thinks that if he stares at a woman long enough, her eyes will go all spirally, and soon thereafter she'll do all of those fun things with his dick that he no doubt sees in porn. If a lady leaves, he'll follow her. If she finds security and gets him ejected, he'll claim there's a conspiracy against him to keep him from staring at a woman long enough for his hypnotism to work, and maybe leaflet the con with bizarre incoherent pamphlets claiming that he's being discriminated against. People have tried to convince him that hypnosis doesn't work that way. They had no more luck than I did when I was trying to explain elements of bad web design.
In short, he is the clueless loser dork stereotype made real and dialed up to eleven, down to his appearance. I won't attack him for being fat, which he can't exactly help... but I'm sure he could learn basic grooming, basic hygiene, how to do laundry, and how not to look like he smells of year-old fun-yun and cheeto crumbs.
One last thing: I've rendered his name, above, with a combination of Greek, Cyrillic, and IPA characters that resemble the letters in his name. This is because I do not want him here -- if he comes here explaining that he's not a harasser because he stares at women seductively and not creepily, I may spontaneously develop cockpunch-over-internet-protocol powers, and I'm not entirely sure I can be trusted with that kind of power. If you comment in my post, please do not link to his site, and if you must refer to him at all, use "AA" or "that creep." Or copy and paste his name from my post.
- BNF -- Big Name Fan. SMOF -- Secret Master Of Fandom. The movers and shakers. Walling is clearly one of these. But, I should add, the author he harassed is one as well. So... I guess that means that he who has the penis wins?
- Cons in general don't like rules much, and many rules exist as reactions to specific events that made them necessary. The six-second rule, the no-peanut-butter rule, the no-substances-in-the-pool rule, the no-costume-is-no-costume rule, and no doubt many others, all exist because of a certain kind of behavior they were written to stop.