In years past when I have done my post San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) article, I usually latch onto an issue the show highlighted which I feel affects the entire convention scene. I even had a subject all lined up to cover, the effect of exclusives on the convention scene
And then news started coming out that has changed this from a look at exclusives, to a follow up on a previous column about the SDCC harassment policy. I guess I’ll look at exclusives another time.
You can go here to read my previous column. For quick review there was a petition to have SDCC adopt a more comprehensive anti-harassment policy. SDCC’s director of marketing (Daniel Glanzer) rejected the idea as he said it would suggest to the media that SDCC had a harassment problem.
So how did the event go?
Well there was a major incident that has been reported that suggests that Glanzer will need to rethink his position.
Adrianne Curry, a Model and Actress who is also a well-known cosplayer, was attending the event with friends. One of Curry’s friends was dressed as the Marvel character Tigra. A man approached the friend from behind and tried to put his hands in the bottom of her costume. When that failed he yanked the bottom of the costume down.
Curry, who was dressed as Catwoman complete with a bullwhip, immediately went after the man. Using the whip as a weapon she drove him off. One point to be made here: this incident happened in a crowded area, but not one person stepped forward to help Curry or her friend. In fact, the only thing most did were pull out phones to take pictures
This was, of course, not the only incident reported.
So what now?
It would be easy to say that this would have happened anyway, and maybe it would have, but then again maybe not.
San Diego Comic Con is not just an event, it has its own culture. To fight against harassment, it helps to make that fight part of the culture. We’ve seen other conventions adopt detailed policies that have led to the culture of those shows embracing anti-harassment and helping police themselves.
But step one is that the convention needs to make it clear what is and is not acceptable. The vague policy of SDCC is clearly not cutting it. My hope is the Glanzer and the rest of the governing body of SDCC will wake up to the fact that they need to address this.
Until then, it is our job to keep expressing the need for these changes and doing everything in our power to move the culture in the right direction.
Once again, we find ourselves wading into the issue of harassment in geek culture. This time it hits the big arena that is San Diego Comic Con (SDCC).
The growing awareness of the issue of harassment at conventions has led to many conventions addressing this issue in increasingly clear language. I have written about this several times. We have seen good examples (such as the policies put forth by Emerald City Comicon and The Calgery Expo), bad examples (such as with Fan Expo Canada), and even tragic examples (as was the case with Aki Con).
But unlike these shows, SDCC is well known to mainstream culture. It is THE big show, sells out in 90 minutes, and getting to go is akin to getting the golden ticket.
In light of all these factors, a group called GeeksForCONsent created an online petition to urge SDCC to create a specific anti-harassment policy. Right now, what they have is a broad code of conduct that mentions harassment, but does not define what it means.
Specifically, the SDCC code of conduct is as follows: Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.
What GeeksForCONsent is looking for is a more clearly defined process that includes a visible reporting mechanism, signs around the convention outlining the policy, and staff training on how to handle these issues. If this sounds familiar, it is because I wrote about it here detailing Emerald City Comicons anti-harassment effort. These are also the steps that The Calgary Expo and many others adopted this year.
Unfortunately, any hope of this petition having any effect right now is stalled. We know this because the director of marketing for SDCC (Daniel Glanzer) has commented on the petition in an interview stating that he did not favor creating a more explicit and visible policy, because it may send the message that there is a harassment problem at SDCC.
I understand if you need to take a minute after reading that last sentence.
Glanzer’s stance is that he thinks that SDCC has taken sufficient steps to deal with harassment and anything else would just cause bad press. I want to go on record as disagreeing with Glanzer. While I do not think a policy needs to be point by point, I do feel it needs to be specific enough that it points out what harassment is defined as, and what mechanisms are in place for someone to report it and get help. In reading Glanzer’s, response I feel his message was that SDCC marketing and publicity was more important than making the convention a safe space. Not only do I find their position unsettling, I worry that they are sending a message to other convention organizers that they need not worry about their own harassment policies.
We are at a point in geek culture when the issue of inclusion vs harassment is now a major issue. Not every convention has a good policy, but as more incidents are having light shed on them, more organizers are taking steps to address the issue. The effects of these steps are visible. Conventions that make sure they are a safe space are reaping the benefits of good will and strong attendance. Conventions that ignore the issue are getting bad reputations and are starting to see more people staying away.
My biggest concern is that SDCC does not have as much incentive to change, since it is the big dog of conventions. Even staying with their lack luster policy they are going to sell out. The only thing that might be able to change their position externally is a lot of very bad press, or boycotts from major figures in fandom.
My hope is that someone with clout, either inside or outside the organization, can convince them that updating their policy is in everyone’s best interest.
Until then, it is up to those of us in the trenches to keep pushing this message and demanding better.