So, the other day my husband started laughing for no apparent reason, as he generally does several times a day, holding out his phone saying, “You gotta see this!”
It was an Onion article: Comic-Con Once Again Marred by Increasingly Popular Bully-Con
Considering just how bad I had it (and how really really bad some of my friends had it) at times, growing up, I really wasn’t in the frame of mind to find that funny. “It’s funny cause it’s true!” is trumped by, “It’s not funny cause it’s true.”
So, I kinda groan and ask, “So, did they mention what would actually happen in that situation?” Of course not, because that wouldn’t be as funny. It, in some cases, would just be disturbing.
Case one: The convention without the whole hotel.
One of the sci-fi/fantasy conventions I went to a very long time ago had most of a hotel booked. There was also another group booked: a football team. Now, football players get a bad rap sometimes. Not all of them are over-privileged, narcissistic yet strangely self-hating misogynists whose fathers withhold affection from them unless they succeed in everything expected of a stereotypical alpha-male. No, seriously, many of them are awesome people who just enjoy a particular sport! No hate.
For the most part, this odd arrangement went without incident. Well – for the most part. However, there were a few instances of a couple members of the athletic team being jerks, ridiculing con goers, and making sexual comments. The tension was high enough that the hotel staff had to be consulted and at some point we felt the need to ask a police officer working at the hotel to help diffuse the situation.
I wasn’t privy to the conversations with the hotel, but I do know that it was decided that, in the future, they would always book the entire hotel.
The police officer essentially said it wasn’t his job. Until fists were flying or someone was being sexual assaulted (not sure he would move from his spot for the latter, seriously), he wasn’t going to get involved, or even bother walking around. His attitude was, and I’m trying to get as close to a quote as I can, “It’s not my job to be a deterrent.”
So, the whole time, I was pretty worried. It was bad enough that the people at the con, who were looking forward to feeling comfortable and having fun with their friends had to deal with this crap. However, I was worried about something much worse. What was I worried about?
Let me explain by illustration.
Case two: The concert.
I was at a concert once that had a mosh pit. If you aren’t familiar with the sort of odd “dancing” practice – it involves people running into one another and jumping up and down and that sort of thing. This isn’t one of those really violent types of “pits” where people show off their black-eyes and broken arms afterward, but there was quite a bit of physical contact, generally shoulder-to-shoulder. In the center of the pit was a very sizable man wearing a white T-shirt (that part is important to the story), in the self appointed position of pit-boss making sure nobody got hurt.
Word got out that somebody was using the mosh pit as an opportunity to grope women.
So, as you might suspect, the pit-boss wasn’t happy about this. He and a couple friends escorted the offender out of the venue. Now, that’s what should happen right? What’s the problem? What’s the worry?
Well, for the rest of the night, I tried to avoid running into the pit-boss while enjoying the now-creeper-free mosh pit, because he literally was sporting an honest-to-goodness bloody hand print on his chest, complete with streaks downward signifying that the completely out-matched lad had fallen on his face.
For me, this was very uncomfortable. Yes, the guy was a creeper. He did deserve to learn a lesson. He shouldn’t have gotten away with it. But this?
I asked, “Hey, is that guy okay?” but didn’t really get an answer.
So yeah, that’s what I was worrying about. Not for a second, did I think that anyone was in physical danger from the small group of harassers that happen to be at the sci-fi/fantasy convention.
I knew who they were dealing with. They didn’t.
So, when the Onion says that Bully-Con is ” for people really into making life miserable for those weaker than themselves”, I call bullshit.
Sci-fi/fantasy conventions are full of giant 7-foot tall 400 lb men who are itching for an excuse to protect those who might not be able to protect themselves; who are likely holding in their souls a repressed seed of seething rage. It is filled with fierce women and girls who are much more likely to be belted in a martial art than the general population and will F you up and will not take your shit.
So, what I was worried about is not that someone on “our team” was going to be preyed upon by the big, strong, alpha-dudes, but that one of the hapless mundanes was going to cross a line by not getting the “costumes are not consent” memo and I was going to have to avoid the resulting bio-hazard for the rest of the night.
When the official channels break down… When there isn’t an avenue to deal with problems in an effective, reasonable way… When frustration kicks in…
…the unofficial, vigilante, serious shit hits the fan.
That is how harassment policies protect everyone (including bullies) and that’s a good thing.