Boundaries and Reporting Problems at Cons

Celtic Wheel

Today, a serious matter. I am sharing a guest post from Chuck Wendig’s blog titled: “How To Report Sexual Harassment.”

The post uses a personal circumstance to offer a “how to” guide for what you should do if you have a problem at a convention. It’s a good article and I wanted to share it with you, because this is the appropriate action to take if you’ve been harassed. If you decide to properly report your situation, it should/will trigger an investigation, and much of the advice here will help bring about resolution.

Sexual harassment is a serious, legal matter, which is why I’m boosting the “how to” signal, because it’s not said often enough. You have the right to have your issues heard and addressed. This is how you do that. Then, time will tell. Legal matters, corporate processes, organizational investigations… These things don’t happen overnight. If you make a big deal out of a case prior to it being investigated, that could work against you. Seriously. E-mails? Are legal. So are Tweets and Facebook posts, people. That’s why there’s a process in place to follow up.

Thing is: if you feel what you’re saying might be inappropriate to that particular person, consider your audience. If you don’t, and you make a mistake, expect there will be consequences. Own up to them. No one has the right to just say whatever they want whenever they want to. Madness! Remember: there are lots and lots and lots of people out there who don’t like confrontation. An inquiry could happen because that person was offended and you didn’t even know it. It could also happen if you tell the person: “No, I am uncomfortable. Back off.” (Inquiries never happen if shy people don’t speak up, either. So don’t be afraid to protect yourself.)

So pros? Pay attention. This is the world we live in. If you’re not good dealing with people, and that is very, very common in the creative industries, take ownership of that. Learn. Get help. Consider it part of your job. Social skills CAN be improved, but if/when you’re in the spotlight, you should expect that people WILL criticize you moreso than somebody who isn’t. This is me saying I feel that: “When you’re in a position of power, that comes with a certain amount of social responsibility attached.” You don’t get a “get out of jail free pass” because of the position that you’re in.

Here’s how I deal with people: I don’t show “me me” unless I really know somebody. That means my friendship/acquaintance cycle is probably longer than most. It takes a long while for me to open up. If it seems like I do? I’m probably not. Onions have layers, yo. That’s my built-in mechanism to ensure that I am respecting people and that I will be in return. Why? Because I understand that people have key word here—-> boundaries and that I might come across as being abrasive. Different people have different boundaries. To get along with people, to not piss them off or be jerks or offend or whatever? Respect them like an adult. It’s as simple as that.

Does that mean I should automagically run away from people? That I’m inherently broken or wrong? NO. All I’m saying is that when you deal with social situations, err on the side of professionalism. That’s all. I’m not going to change who I am for anybody, but I am going to be respectful of new people (ergo: why I’m shy) when I meet them for the first time. Crack a bad joke to one person and they’ll laugh. Crack a bad joke to another and they’ll cry. It’s just that simple. Even within the realm of “bad behavior” there are different boundaries on what people find acceptable and what they don’t. That’s part of the reason why I try and stay out of internet kerfluffles. I am so disconnected from what happens at these places that reading blog posts on the internet doesn’t give me the full picture. I learned that working behind-the-scenes with so many people, so many companies. Rumors you hear about folks are really hit-or-miss. I could spend all my time just proving/disproving those, and I just don’t have that kind of time.

To me, when these things happen, and they do often and daily, if you consider it harassment then in my mind this is the ideal and most professional response: report it, trigger an investigation, and move towards resolution. This is how shit gets done and really, I applaud the action because it means that the “r” word I prefer, resolution, will happen for the individuals involved.

I posted this in a comment on a Facebook thread, but I do feel it bears repeating, so here goes:

“There are a lot of conventions without clear policies in place, which I’m sure is the underlying reason why people take to the internet to report what has happened. I get that. I understand the need to do it. And I’m not saying that it’s “right” or “wrong.” But, social pressures via the internet don’t always reach the right ears in order to have a situation addressed and investigated. The situation gets exacerbated when other people who weren’t present chime in and speculate. It’s impossible for HR to follow up then, which they would have to, because sexual harassment is actionable in a court of law. It can also lead to termination, and companies can get sued for wrongful cases. There needs to be a clear trail of events in order for appropriate actions to be taken that doesn’t boil down to a pile of updates on the internet. So, if it makes somebody feel that uncomfortable, then yes… Absolutely… Report it, but be smart about how you’re doing it.”

Remember this, though. I feel that if you are offended because something happened to you, regardless of what that was about, your feelings are personal and unique to you. If you are offended, then you are. No one can take moment away from you or rationalize that out of existence. I believe, with all my heart, that feelings are never wrong. We may make mistakes. We may read into things. We may misinterpret situations. But feelings? You have them. You have them in response to your thoughts, your experiences. They’re not bad, they are a part of you. If you truly feel offended or uncomfortable, if you firmly believe you’ve been sexually harassed, then get help. See things through to resolution. Just be prepared, that you may have to follow a specific set of steps or deal with the situation over a longer period of time.

There are a couple of things I need to say as a response to this: I know where the event took place, was at the con, recognize the person accused (and his wife) as an acquaintance, and I live in Madison. But, that’s the end of it. Does this mean I’ll never speak to this person again? No, but it does mean I’ll be more aware in the future.

I feel like I had to say that, because I am often disconnected from community-related events, and… in many ways… I’m very new to the science fiction and fantasy community. I really don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know enough people on the “me me” level, and that makes me a bit self-conscious given my outrageous personality. :-p (I am NOT new to conventions, by the way. Ten years on the pro side and counting.) Doesn’t matter what I have out. Publishing is about people and I know full well how I come across (e.g. bull in a china shop), so I’m very careful about when I’m “me me” and when I’m “pro me.” Recently, I’ve teetered into “me me” land, but I often err on the side of professionalism.

    Mood: What happened to this week, anyway?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Switching off of soda suuuuccckkkkksssss.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A lot of activity. So much, today I’m sore.
    In My Ears: GTalk blips and boops.
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy XIII
    Book Last Read: Paranormal Great Lakes: an Encyclopedia
    Movie Last Viewed: The Mummy
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology and for gaming, a fun Scion: Extras (Supplemental Yet Can Be Somewhat Useful On Occasion Scions)






About Monica

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, game designer, and consultant who lurks in the dark.

Monica has published both original stories as well as tie-in fiction for games like Vampire: the Masquerade. Her short stories have appeared in many anthologies and collections including Extreme Zombies, Don’t Read This Book, and New Hero Volume 1.

Have a Cup. Take a Seat. Be Social.

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