One Consequence of Creeping
One of the reasons guys harass women is that they can. Their actions get excused as harmless flirting, or simply, “Bob being Bob.” The target of their aggression, whether it’s unwanted physical contact, stalking them around a convention, focusing unwanted attention and commentary on her body, or whatever, has generally been conditioned to not raise a fuss. If she does say something, she’s told she’s overreacting, or looking for reasons to be offended, or simply to lighten up.
So much of the time, the harassment appears to go unchecked.
But you know what? Fandom is a fairly small, interlinked community. People in fandom tend to know each other. Take a purely hypothetical situation where you, a random writer, were harassing a woman at a convention. Maybe she didn’t say anything to you. But–hypothetically speaking–she might have said something to a friend later, warning that friend about you. They might have started keeping an eye out for you, watching each others’ backs and passing the word.
They might even have mentioned what happened to someone like me.
I admit, I sometimes have to fight my own White Knight syndrome, the desire to charge out on my horse and smite creeps like you from our ranks. But of course, I didn’t witness what happened. And this was told to me in confidence. The only reason I’m talking about it here is that it happens so often that there’s no way to identify the specific person–the specific people–I’m talking about. Heck, just at ConFusion, I’m aware of at least three different instances of this kind of crap happening to people, and unfortunately, that’s not unusual.
If you’re worried that the creeper I’m talking about might be you, well, that seems like something you really need to sit down and think about.
I won’t get the rapier out of storage and go on a smiting spree. Nor will I call down the Wrath of the Internet to publicly shame you.
On the other hand, I get a fair number of review copies from various publishers. And what do you know, I recently noticed that you were the author of one of those review copies. Yes you, the same dude who was creeping on a friend of mine. What a fascinating coincidence, eh?
Guess which book will never get reviewed on my blog.
Guess which author will never get a retweet, a linkback, or any kind of promotion from me whatsoever.
I may not have the biggest following on the internet, but I’ve built up a pretty good readership over the years, and your actions toward this woman–actions you probably didn’t even think about…actions you assumed would have no consequence–have cost you the chance to have your book plugged to thousands of SF/F readers.
It’s a shame, really. And I can’t help but wonder how many potential readers you lost, all because you couldn’t treat a woman with more respect…
Hypothetically speaking, of course.
January 28, 2013 @ 9:39 am
Very proper, sir. The nice thing about being asked for your thoughts about thing/person/action/whatever is the ability to withhold those thoughts because said whatever is something you do not wish to encourage in any way.
Nicely done. I would expect no less from a man with legs like yours.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 9:44 am
“I would expect no less from a man with legs like yours.”
Daniel D. Webb
January 28, 2013 @ 9:46 am
This post makes me happy.
January 28, 2013 @ 9:52 am
Well, I picked a good day to come across this blog – a “white knight” sounds apt to me! I’m one of your presumably many new followers thanks to that great BBC article, and just wanted to stop by and let you know that a blog like this will hopefully not only change some minds about book covers with integrity, but that you’re likely to turn some Internet admirers into fantasy readers. I love to read, but have pretty well staged a silent protest against books with glaring sexism – fantasy and Harlequin romances alike. This might just break down the wall and give some books a chance.
One thing I often do, which you might find interesting when you write reviews, is doing a Bechdel test – (1) are there more than two women, (2) who actually talk to each other, (3) about something other than men? It doesn’t mean it’s totally sexist if it fails, or that it’s progressive and fair if it passes, but it’s worth asking sometimes! Many, many movies fail. I’d be interested to see how books fare. 🙂
January 28, 2013 @ 9:56 am
If such a hypothetical thing were ever to occur, I might hypothetically think you’re awesome. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
January 28, 2013 @ 10:07 am
Bravo! I’m a new reader to your stuff (tried one randomly at my library over Christmas) and I’m hooked, tracking down all of your books I can find.
This makes me even happier to be reading your books.
A friend sometimes covered tables at different Cons for the company she worked for and had lots of horror stories. She eventually started bringing her (220 lb, 6′ 2″) husband with her because having a guy with her would dissuade most of the creeps from even approaching.
It’s a general shame to both males and the community that this is so prevalent. It’s wonderful to see yet another person push back against this sort of crap.
January 28, 2013 @ 10:20 am
I never enjoy even having to think about such cases. If they are clearcut, they are easy to deal with:
* An freelancer working for us was inviting a woman in a verbally abusive way to his bed. She may have felt restricted since she wanted to sell to us. Luckily another employee (male) noticed and reported it. All contracts with him were terminated within one day and our CEO called her and apologized.
This is easy and there was no discussion and nobody even suggested an alternative measure.
But usually it is more complicated and a gray area:
* People working for long time together can develop a peculiar humor that may be abusive in language and even sexually charged. Evil is not intended, everyone gives and takes and they don’t even think about it. Now add a 18 year old female trainee to the mix.
How do you tell them to cut back but not to treat her differently than the other guy? This is a lot more difficult ;-).
January 28, 2013 @ 10:30 am
I, for one, very much appreciated your White Knightiness. Please continue on as you have been.
January 28, 2013 @ 10:39 am
For the record, I pay attention to the books you mention on your blog. I’ve purchased a not-insignificant number of the titles you’ve called out.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 10:40 am
Oh yes, I’m rather fond of the Bechdel test. You’re right, it’s not the be-all and end-all determinant of sexism, but looking at just how many works fail the test is a pretty powerful statement about our assumptions and the prevalence of sexism.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 10:40 am
My hypothetical thanks 🙂
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 10:46 am
Thanks, Dan. It’s depressing how often this happens, but I’ve been very glad to see more people speaking up in recent years, and more action being taken to try to put a stop to this crap. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s a start.
January 28, 2013 @ 10:47 am
Actually, this isn’t the situation which was being discussed at all. What I understand Mr Hines to be talking about is the perfectly usual situation where women share information about which men in their circles are Not Safe In Taxis. Generally speaking women are perfectly clear about which such men are and, indeed, the same characters have frequently featured on such informal lists for years if not decades. This, though an oldie, is a good example of how institutions cover up for the NSITs, and therefore the informal networks becomes an essential safety valve for the women effected:
Baker & McKenzie Marty Greenstein case.
Suggesting that this is all inexperienced women misreading and overreacting to an established workplace dynamic is just another variant on “Bob being Bob” and therefore an excuse not to combat NSITs.
and suggesting that their perceptions are skewed by inexperience or misinterpretation of an ongoing dynamic or anything else is just another example of the phenomenon this piece opened with
January 28, 2013 @ 11:01 am
I feel bad as I still haven’t read any of your books but my excuse is that I just recently discovered your blog (found you through John Scalzi’s blog, which I discovered through Wil Wheaton’s blog. So, it’s Wil’s fault that I’m harassing you online). I have to say though that your attitudes and opinions alone are making you one of my favourite authors.
We all need to take a stance on harassment when we see it and giving some one a metaphorical “slap” for their behaviour is definitely appropriate. Why offer support of a person’s work, if the person behaves objectionably? The pocket book is definitely the right place to hit these people. Though maybe directly pointing out what they’re doing and why it’s wrong wouldn’t hurt either.
PS: I really do want to start reading your stuff. If you were going to recommend one book as the best place to start, which one would you recommend?
January 28, 2013 @ 11:13 am
Sorry, if i got this across wrong.
I don’t want women having to rely on informal networks. I want creepers to get immediate and clear feedback and all the consequences to carry. Institutions have to provide a safe environment.
But in order to do so, you are bound to act already early on. And this turned out more difficult than i thought…
January 28, 2013 @ 11:16 am
I’m a new follower too courtesy of the BBC, and have started the stepsister scheme 🙂 please carry on being the white knight 🙂 I think its a brilliant plan 🙂
Sneaky too (in a good way)
January 28, 2013 @ 11:26 am
You may not want women to have to rely on informal networks and I agree; they are a rotten solution to an endemic problem. But given the problems outlined above, namely that women are not generally believed when they raise issues of this type and institutions (by and large) are only interested in providing a safe environment to the extent that they’ll be sued if they don’t then informal networks are going to be the way to go for the foreseeable future, and drawing attention to the fact that other people may tap into those networks and make judgements accordingly makes those networks more effective than formerly.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:01 pm
I don’t think Martin’s example indicates that it’s putting any blame on a coworker’s inexperience. His example shows that two people have developed a relationship that they both find acceptable, but will almost certainly be unacceptable, in a harassing way, to a participant unfamiliar with this particular relationship. I don’t think it matters if the new worker is 18 or 65, male or female, trainee or mentor. Especially because the new person doesn’t know the relationship, things that were “no problem” yesterday are now inappropriate (and depending on the new individual’s personality, may never be acceptable). It’s not that the perception is skewed, it’s that the behavior itself is in a different situation than it was.
Of course that leaves the point that if the behavior itself is unacceptable in any situation, even if typically acceptable, then one should re-evaluate the behavior anyway. A sexist joke is still a sexist joke even if the marginalized gender isn’t present. A personal comment directed at one person, however, may be acceptable in private but not appropriate in public — my wife and I discussing our physical relationship, for example. So that would depend on what the behavior itself is.
The real concern I have with Martin’s comment, though, is the “cut back but not treat her different.” There would need to be a lot of definition of terms there. Of course you “treat her different.” You’re not going to use the language and innuendo you were using before. You can still treat her as a peer and a human being though.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:04 pm
If inexperience or gender isn’t being cited as an issue, why specify that the trainee is 18 and female?
January 28, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
A reasonable and thoughtful approach to a most-troubling trend. Even if it’s only hypothetical…
John G. Hartness
January 28, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
Thanks for staying on the white horse, Jim. One trend that I’m enjoying is the sudden growth of “Nerdiquette” panels at several of the cons I’m booked at this year. The first time I saw it was at Illogicon this year, and they do panels on how not to be a creeper to educate people on how to interact with each other. It’s a shame that these panels are needed, and it’s a greater shame that the people who need them the most are the least likely to attend, but at least it’s a step by con organizers to acknowledge that there’s a problem. See you around!
January 28, 2013 @ 12:13 pm
Bravo Jim! Don’t give the [hypothetical] creeps negative publicity. Give them NO publicity.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:16 pm
Well Id have to agree. I don’t know if it’s increasing incidents of this creeper behaviour or more coverage or maybe I’m paying more attention but it seems there’s a definitive increase of these types of behavioural malfeasance in 2012. From the argument of fake geeks versus real geeks and women cosplayers and convention goers being basely harassed I feel it comes down to a few key misconceptions that actions (either online or in person) don’t have consequences. You’re right Jim in your assessment that there’s a lack of accountability for these actions. I getting on my soap box here but we, as men who presumably do not engage in that behaviour bear a lot of the fault for allowing this to take place. Until we realize that there is a collective burden on the males in the genre community that looks the other way (as you say awkward attempts at flirting or “Bob being Bob”) but then admonishes the person after the fact only perpetuates the issue.
While you may not want to play Don Quiote to the windmill of sexism, you can point out behaviour that you find reprehensible (provided you have witnessed it.) I see no issue calling someone out on their behaviour; now I know there is a move not to humiliate creepers publicly but I’ve tried the quiet pull aside conversation and was told it’s my opinion only. Until they suffer very real consequences creepers will assume their behaviour is acceptable, and you know what? Maybe we’ve made it acceptable; maybe our complacency has turned to complicity. We worry about hurting feelings or embarrassing the person, but maybe we need to worry more about the damage that behaviour does to the community as a whole.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:23 pm
This is one of the reasons why I like you. That and you look hot in fishnets. 😉 Seriously though, the world needs more men (and women) like you standing up and saying, “This is wrong, and there are consequences.” It can be so difficult because sometimes the harassment is subtle. I had a creeper boss once who made a few veiled comments that he could just blow off as, “I was only kidding; it was a harmless joke. You’re blowing this out of proportion.” I never said anything — and frankly, how could I? He was it — it was a small company, he was the president, there was no “human resources” — I had no recourse except to quit my job and stop eating until I found a new one. He knew he had the power. Creepers know how to leverage whatever power they have, they know how to work the system, and they know how to choose their victims — just like every other sexual predator.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
I recommend Goblin Quest as a first book to read.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:27 pm
Shunning is such a wonderful thing.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:31 pm
I never knew how prevalent this was, just because I never went to cons.
I’ve now been to V-Con (up here in Vancouver) twice, and this last time there was a full panel on this subject that was very eye-opening.
I have never had the displeasure of seeing this behaviour, so I haven’t had the chance to step in, but I like to think I would if I did see it happening.
Something like what you’ve said above, I’m sure these creeps have never even considered.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:32 pm
You continue to be a shining light for how men should behave. You give me hope for the future.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:33 pm
You have my permission to go smiting. Smite away, Jim, smite away!
January 28, 2013 @ 12:37 pm
Jim isn’t a White Knight. He’s a caring human being who listens and acts! 🙂
White Knights swoop in and don’t necessarily listen. White Knights might think it’s natural that their work around battling creepy behavior gets valorized in a way that women doing similar work does not… because White Knights are about rescuing and that creates a active-hero->passive-victim relationship.
Jim’s a great ally and does great work. Part of that is that he fights alongside and his feminist action isn’t a big white charger that tramples over and renders invisible all the other feminist action that’s going on.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:38 pm
You rock, sir. I hope this creep recognizes himself and reacts accordingly.
Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey
January 28, 2013 @ 12:39 pm
I don’t think it’s new or increasing: rather, it’s the situation where if you encourage people to react and act, you suddenly get a surge of reports of what was going on unremarked all these years. I do think that all these years after second-wave feminism hit mainstream society, the message is really starting to percolate down to those circles of fandom that don’t attend Wiscon. I was once young and desperate and certainly cringe at some of what I did back before I found and married the femmefan of my life [32 years come June 12].
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 12:40 pm
Thanks for those links, Liz. I forget sometimes that not everyone uses the phrase the same way. But yes, this is what I meant about fighting my own White Knight impulses.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:46 pm
Think about yourself and what you were like at 18. For myself – I was not at all assertive, I was easily shocked, and I lacked the breadth of experience that I now have regarding social and work situations. Men are trained to be more assertive in general than are women. I believe that is why the hypothetical newcomer was both young and female – because she is more likely to feel threatened and not to know how to deal with it.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:47 pm
Jim, you are a White Knight, in the best possible sense. You are standing up and saying, as a man, that certain behaviors by men toward women are unacceptable.* As a woman, I applaud you and the public stand you take on this issue. It’s only when members of BOTH sexes make it clear that harassment is unacceptable that people will begin to change their behavior — and eventually, one hopes, their thinking. It’s sad but true that when women speak up, they are often dismissed, brushed aside, condescended to, or turned upon.
What I see in your post above is completely consistent with what I see in your writing and in your cover pose posts: you are a man who respects women as fully equal individuals, with every right to feel and be safe from objectification and sexual harassment/intimidation. For that, I thank you. If I hadn’t already discovered your books, I would be racing off to read them right now. Suffice it to say that I will be buying your books from now on (as opposed to waiting for the library to get them.) You are absolutely right that one way to discourage poor behavior is to hit the perpetrator in the pocketbook; well, one way to reward admirable behavior is through the pocketbook as well!
*I would add that the same behaviors by women toward men are also unacceptable, but rarer. They also go against culturally traditional roles, which means they probably don’t have quite the same psychological effect on the victim.
January 28, 2013 @ 12:47 pm
Jim has challenged books to duels?
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 12:49 pm
AND I HAVE THE PAPER CUTS TO PROVE IT!
January 28, 2013 @ 12:51 pm
January 28, 2013 @ 12:52 pm
Dear Mr. Hines,
Thank you. I will be making it a point to read your books, and checking your blog for author recommendations. And, I have to tell you, I am here through John Scalzi’s blog, and I appreciate that men are calling out other men for being creepy jackwagons, through means subtle and not so subtle.
Supporting non-creeping, one author at a time,
January 28, 2013 @ 1:04 pm
Not just his being a decent human being but also his wicked sense of humor is what made me (and keeps me as) a fan. The first time I heard him on a panel, he was so entertaining that I immediately went up to him and purchased all his Goblin and Princess books and made him sign them all.
After reading them, I lent them to my mother who also loved them and had to buy her own copies.
I find wit to be a rare thing and do my best to reward it as much as I like to reward goodness, talent and kindness. It’s wonderful when they all come in a complete package like Jim.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:05 pm
“Libriomancer” was my first of Mr. Hines’ books and I highly recommend it. 🙂
January 28, 2013 @ 1:06 pm
I found you through Wil Wheaton referencing your book cover photo shoots with John Scalzi. I’ve heard your name before in the SF field, but I have been sticking with female authors for some time now, due to my preference for strong female protagonists and finding that much more often with female authors.
So thanks to Wil’s repeated links to awesomeness of yours, I’ve been reading your blog. I deeply admire what you are doing, with the photo shoots and this post among others. I want to start reading your books. Where do you suggest I begin?
And keep up the good work. The world needs a lot more guys with your attitude.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
Thank you, Rob. Correction from within the peer group (i.e. from other con-going males) is going to go farther, faster, than any amount of nagging and finger-pointing from outside.
That is not to say that I disagree in principle with nagging and finger-pointing. People behaving badly should be shamed as frequently and as loudly as required to prompt an amendment to their behavior.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:12 pm
Good point, Liz, and you’re right, Jim is not That kind of White Knight. One of the ConFusion incidents to which he referred involved me; Jim deftly intervened with finesse and grace that managed to get the “that’s uncool” point across without causing any sort of scene. Not once did I feel as if Jim swooped in to rescue me. Instead it was a “got your back” that I’m quite grateful to have had. As a bonus, the offender offered a sincere apology and perhaps attained a degree of enlightenment. 🙂
January 28, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
Another voice of appreciation from a new (female) fan.
The common, garden-variety American harasser typically offers a lot of excuses for his behavior, most of which boil down to “she asked for it.”
This response is, in my opinion, a FAIL in any situation; and particularly in light of recent events in India, to which a hefty proportion of the male population are responding by saying “she asked for it.”
Sara Taylor Woods
January 28, 2013 @ 1:18 pm
Thanks for being a hero, Jim. It’s awesome to be at cons, having a lovely time with people with whom you share all kinds of great fandoms, meeting new people–but once there’s that record-scratch of sexual harassment/creeping (whether it’s you or a female friend or just a random stranger), it can suck a lot of fun out of the whole experience. Flirting and/or trying to make new friends is all fine and well, but being made to feel powerless–even if you’re the one witnessing it and don’t want to say anything because, hey, you really just need to lighten the hell up–is awful. I know many of these offending creepsters don’t mean to be gross, but that doesn’t keep them from being just that. Guys, we’re here to have a nice time, same as you, but that doesn’t mean we’re here as part of the scenery and available for your recreational purposes. When everyone behaves like a human, everyone has a nice time.
Hearts & stars, Jim. It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones who notice it–and recognize how gross it is. Hero status!
January 28, 2013 @ 1:19 pm
I am a professional massage therapist. I have worked at Cons. I am a man.
I make my living trying to get people (and, the way the market is skewed, mostly women) to allow me into their personal space, to do relatively intimate things to them (if touching a persons back, and arms, is “intimate”; definitions vary). This is something that does not happen when the people I am seeking to work with do not feel safe around men.
So, I have a very personal, selfish reason to appreciate your efforts to educate people against creepy behavior.
Totally aside from which, I still think you are right, and awesome.
Thank you for your efforts.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 1:20 pm
Thank you! I hadn’t actually seen Wheaton mentioning the cover shoots. I don’t suppose you have a link?
As for the books, let’s see … Goblin Quest would be good if you like humorous send-ups of some of your typical fantasy cliches … The Stepsister Scheme if you want a fairy tale retelling with Snow White as a witch and Sleeping Beauty as a martial artist … and Libriomancer is my latest, and is about a magic librarian from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula who kills sparkling vampires, among other things. I’ve got previews of everything linked from the main page of the site.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:24 pm
As a married woman I don’t have to deal with this too often anymore, but still happens and I see it happen to other women all the time. I appreciate that more guys are noticing the problem and acting in what ways they can. Also, the sexism in fantasy art has annoyed me for years, and I applauded when I saw your book cover work recently!
I have not read any of your books yet, but your work was on my to do list, and I will be even happier to donate money to your coffers now. All the best.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:32 pm
I agree that I was horribly upset the first time I experienced significant sexual harassment in a workplace situation (I was 22) but I dispute that the problem of harassment should be blamed on lack of experience and/or lack of assertiveness on the part of the victim. That’s what this post was all about; the fact that harassers harass because they can, and hence actively target the young, shy and non-assertive.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:34 pm
Sorry, for the delay in answering. My dentist was doing a root canal on me in the time between ;-).
From there back to the topic: If i had to chose between having to handle a type 1 incident (from my original comment) and receiving a root canal, i would choose the root canal any time.
Incidents are always bad for an institution. But you have to solve them the hard way. I am not sure if the original event portrayed by Jim is such an incident. It sounded like one. In that case an informal reaction like Jim’s is better than none but it is far from the best solution.
The main goal of an incident response should be to minimize the chances of a re-occurrence. As long as the culprit experiences no negative feedback associated with the event, the chances rather for a re-occurrence rather rise. I don’t know if Jim (or someone else) communicated to the person causing the distress, that he has been noted.
But even in the event of a full scale incident response, the chances for a real learning are rather slim. The person, like the one cited in my first story, feels too much humiliated to analyze their own behavior. But at least the chances of a re-occurrence has been reduced by physically removing him from the scene.
That’s why i mentioned the second story. No real damage has been done there yet. The chances for a learning experience are much higher. The desired outcome is “Develop an antenna what is appropriate around other people; in doubt err on the side of caution” and not “No dirty jokes when around X”. That’s what i meant with “cut back but not treat her different.”
Such learning is much required, when the levels of power (e.g. boss – employee) differ a lot. The levels of power (at least the ones perceived by the less powerful person) between an 18 year old trainee and a veteran nearly three times her age differ a lot.
It is hard to cover that topic in a forum posting. I am going over the comment for the third time and i am still missing some nuances. But so be it…
Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey
January 28, 2013 @ 1:38 pm
As proud president and long-time steward of a 94%-female union local, I can assure you that harassment happens to 50-something-year-old women as well, if the harasser can get away with it. For some of them (not all), it’s like rape: it’s a power thing, not a sex thing.
For others, of course, it’s a complete-cluelessness thing: “This is how we are around here, how dare you try to change it! Nobody ever complained before!”
January 28, 2013 @ 1:40 pm
Yes, exactly. I have an issue at work where this guy is constantly touching me and asking me out and I’ve told him multiple times to stop and brought it up with his supervisor and other coworkers and have been told everytime that I’m over reacting, that its not like he’s doing anything bad and isn’t it cute that he has a crush on you and that’s just how he is you know he’s a bit stupid anyway. When that’s the kind of attitude then a network is definitely necessary (except in my case I’m one of 3 women so not much of a network especially when one of the others is 60+ and the other is the president of our company’s wife so they’re not really targets for this sort of thing)
Lauren 'Scribe' Harris
January 28, 2013 @ 1:41 pm
I’ve been going to various conventions since I was fourteen, and it’s strange that–in high school–my girl friends and I came up with strategies to avoid unwanted attention. I’m a cosplayer, and while the costumes I wear give everyone, men and women, the invitation to look, it’s harder to impress upon them that a corset is neither an invitation to touch nor a display of goods for sale or rent. I’m a fairly lenient person in regards to punishment, but I have no problem calling out creepers. That said, I am also not yet a published author who might need to worry about upsetting fans or gaining a reputation as a “troublesome” guest at conventions. I have a number of friends who ARE published female authors and have had to deal with, or watch their friends deal with, this uncomfortable, self-compromising balancing act.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:42 pm
In the local area (Ann Arbor) we have had our share of creepers. I can think of two in particular.
One attended a panel on Fannish Ettiquette, recognized himself, and GOT BETTER. (And once when he backslid, although I didn’t know him well, I felt okay going to him and mentioning the transgressions. He apologized and I’ve heard no further complaints.)
So might your hypothetical “never” be revisited if his behaviour turns around enough to be mentioned by a preponderance of women?
The other was someone I’d known fairly well for a fair length of time, who was behaving in an inappropriate manner toward a woman, limiting where she felt safe. I could recognize who it was by the behaviour she described. I confronted him, and he suggested that she was just being too sensitive.
So if someone thinks they can’t POSSIBLY be the creep you were talking about, perhaps they should think again.
January 28, 2013 @ 1:46 pm
As a fifty something woman, I know.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 1:47 pm
Margaret – I’d say that if someone demonstrated that he (or she) had heard, understood, and acted on feedback regarding his creepy behavior, then yes, I’d probably take another look at that “never.”
January 28, 2013 @ 1:57 pm
The question with all of these incidents is of course whether there is any desire for real learning. You stated fairly categorically when describing the second scenario that “evil is not intended” but all of your assumptions assume good faith on the part of the institution concerned and on the part, in the second case, of the people going in for “peculiar humor that may be abusive in language and even sexually charged”. However, one of the classic forms in which workplace cultures become toxic is in-group/out-group behaviour of that type, where the use of abusive and sexually charged language is used to demonstrate “being one of the gang” and is therefore used as a barrier against outsiders joining the team. In those circumstances even those who actually feel uncomfortable with the type of language are intimidated into appearing to go along with it. And then you’re left with the situation of how does someone who finds themself in that environment cope with it.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:00 pm
“If you’re worried that the creeper I’m talking about might be you, well, that seems like something you really need to sit down and think about.”
I might add that if you are positive you are not the creeper you might also want to think about your actions as many perpetrators think they are the good guy. The number of times I’ve listened to a guy upset by “creeper” or other bigoted behavior (done to someone they care about) that immediately turns around and does the same to a stranger/acquaintance/co-worker is sad.
I was brought to your site by a Scalzi post a while ago. I love what you are doing to help bring attention to sexist problems.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:02 pm
Do you happen to have suggestions on how females without popular blogs might politely discourage creepers? Ignoring them does not make them go away…
A good post from Jim C Hines on creeping and the consequences thereof… | Andrew Jack Writing
January 28, 2013 @ 2:03 pm
[…] One Consequence of Creeping […]
Thomas M. Wagner
January 28, 2013 @ 2:05 pm
What’s worth mentioning about the term “white knight” is that it is simply a silencing term thrown at men who are supportive of women in situations like this. It’s designed to embarrass us and make us think our masculinity is phony (in the same way that “mangina” is meant to make us think our masculinity is basically nonexistent) if we ever come out and say that sexism is a bad thing. Sexists like their sexist privilege, and there’s really no depth to which they won’t stoop in defending it.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
That’s a very good point, thank you.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:09 pm
I wouldn’t say that incidents are happening any more or less than they ever did, but people are more willing to speak up when they do happen, and that’s making a huge difference. Fandom desperately needs to get over the idea that we’re a magical safe space or that fans are somehow more enlightened than the non-fan. It denies reality, silences those who are victims of harassment, and provides cover and encouragement to the predators. The more we talk about these issues, the better — and safer! — it’ll be for everyone.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 2:10 pm
Depending on the situation and your comfort level, one option is to simply confront the behavior: label the behavior and tell the person to knock it off. Another option would be to report it, again, depending on where you’re at. (I had a post a little while back on reporting sexual harassment in SF/F circles.
Being loud can be very effective, but it’s still important to balance things like your comfort and safety.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:12 pm
Then Goblin Quest and Libriomancer will be my first two. Thanks to you as well chacha1.
Daniel R. Davis
January 28, 2013 @ 2:17 pm
From one white knight to another, thumbs up, my man! Sometimes what a person does to promote their idiocy really does come back to bite ’em on the arse. Many kudos!
January 28, 2013 @ 2:26 pm
Thank you Jim. I am glad you brought this up. It’s a tough situation to handle for females in male dominated industries. You make good points and I love the discussion that has ensued in the comments.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:32 pm
Oh, how absolutely rotten for you. And I’m quite sure that he’s far from stupid in the sense that if he knew there was any likelihood of serious fallout he would cut it out. The worst bit I’ve found in my own experience with that sort of thing is how one ends up self-limiting, eg there are works events that you’d normally go to but you end up calculating the chances of the harasser being there, and work out when you have to leave so as not to get trapped in a corner with him and all that sort of jazz. But the worst is that everyone sits around telling you that your perceptions are wrong; that’s more insidious even than the primary harasser’s actions.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:35 pm
Nerd drama sounds like to me. Not sure what this is all about and it gets “A” for effort but if said bad boy is good enough then your boycotting him will not have any impact.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:35 pm
You are, of course, correct. You cannot look into the head of people.
But usually i assume the capability and willingness to learn and the lack of evil intent. I would say in 90+% of my personally observed cases, this has been a correct assumption.
I can (and have been) proven wrong in the past. But if the educational measures don’t work, there are more forceful measures.
Respect for the colleagues (of any gender, race, sexual orientation) is a “sine qua non” condition for any company where i will work. I know that this is easily said, but this is the standard i want to be measured against.
But if you see something that may turn into such a toxic environment, fetching the club may bring you less results than some teaching.
As i wrote before, there are so many nuances to the topic. I can easily imagine details to the discussed scenario that would require immediate and massive action.
January 28, 2013 @ 2:36 pm
I forgot to add that the other benefit of the informal network is that nothing is more liberating after that sort of “you’re overreacting/misinterpreting signals/being mean” treatment is just hearing some other woman say, “Oh, God, not him again.” The sheer joy of being listened to by someone who’s been there too just has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 2:42 pm
Well shoot, and here I thought my boycotting him would singlehandedly destroy his career and bring about a worldwide end to sexual harassment everywhere.
Thank you for setting me and my fellow nerds straight.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:05 pm
There’s an extreme to the “white knight” behavior, though, that takes it from helpful into another kind of sexism.
Say that I’m carrying a stack of books into a building. They’re heavy, but not more than I can manage on my own.
Some men might let me open the door by myself. It’s a bit tough, but okay — I wouldn’t have taken such a large stack if I wasn’t able to carry them on my own.
Some men might open the door for me. That’s cool; a bit of help is welcome, and small acts of kindness are awesome.
Some men might offer to carry some or all of my books. That’s cool, too. Offering to help is great, but it’s up to me whether or not to accept it. Respecting my judgment means a lot to me.
But then some men might just take the books out of my hands without asking and carry them inside for me. Maybe I don’t say anything because I’m embarrassed or flustered, or worried about what this strange guy might do to my stuff if I complain. Maybe I do protest and am blown off, overridden, or ignored. The point is, I didn’t ask him to carry my load, and I really was fine by myself, but now I’m in suddenly the position of “owing” him gratitude. I’m disempowered, put in a position of helplessness, and while technically I *can* complain, the entire weight of my culture tells me that to do so would be horribly rude.
That last guy? He’s the bad kind of White Knight.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:08 pm
“Stop” isn’t a word you should have to use multiple times and the reaction of the company you describe is a massive organisational and moral failure.
I agree with AJHall that they’re not only negligent but assisting your harasser.
Viewed from my background, it is humiliating that such organisations can actually survive in our present time.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:37 pm
I’ve worked for five organisations over the course of my adult life. Of the five, three of them would have acted (did act) like the one Mai describes; obviously I’ve no way of knowing whether those organisations I left some time ago have moved on and changed but I will say that the biggest thing that caused any changes of which I’ve been aware in the industry has been the big stick not the quiet word.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:49 pm
Golf clap, good sir, golf clap. You’re doing on a grander scale what is one of my standard tenets of promotion. Anyone of the douchecanoe variety who comes into my radar gets a good hard dose of The Flick.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:49 pm
Mai, if you’re in the USA, and your company has an HR department, then you do have at least one alternative.
Retain a lawyer to make sure this is the right advice first.
Keep track of the times and dates that this happens. Continue to say “stop” and “no.”
Go to a supervisor again and mention it.
Keep track of the date you speak with supervisors. If necessary, record the meeting.
Then, when you hear “You’re overreacting” you can go to HR and say, “This is the last opportunity you have to stop the sexual harassment of this individual against me. I will sue.”
Continuing to ask even ONCE for dates, sexual favors, whatever, after being told not to do so ONCE is sufficient grounds for sexual harassment charges, if it’s clear that you are not interested and do not want that kind of attention.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
Perhaps there is one thing that may work beside the big stick: younger heads.
I come from an industry where i (a few years below 50) am considered a grey-beard. In total i have about 10 companies i work closely together with and where i have a varying degree of influence. In none of them i could ever get away the behavior Mai is describing.
So i’m hoping that if reason alone does not favor decent behavior, perhaps time will.
Please don’t destroy my hopes for humankind ;-).
January 28, 2013 @ 3:54 pm
Thank you for this post. It’s so good to see men who understand this issue and are willing to help. It’s been years since I’ve been to a con, but used to go as a teen (way back in the 70s) and remember my disenchantment about finding out the hard way that Very Famous Author was a lech. It’s encouraging to see more awareness of this and acknowledgement that it’s a problem.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
I think this is a diversion from the situation described by Mr. Hines, and kind of a rat-hole, but it’s generated some interesting comments.
A workplace is not the same thing as a convention, for most people anyway.
Public behavior in a “semi-public” place where someone feels “safe” is not the same as public behavior in a workplace.
The ‘difficult’ situation you describe is not a normal one, but here’s the point: At no workplace is it appropriate to allow behavior that would make any member of the team feel personally marginalized (code phrase for ‘oppressed’), threatened, or unsafe.
Words, every much as actions, have an effect not just on the participants but on everyone around them.
If you have people whose joking relationship includes the kind of thing that would make an innocent 18 year old feel terrible then it isn’t an appropriate relationship for the workplace. Period. They need to stop, immediately.
That’s the answer to your hard question.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:06 pm
Oh man ,where to begin and not sound like an asshat.
Jim, while I completely agree that repeated unwanted sexually advances and/or groping is totally unacceptable, I feel the need to caution you in your efforts to chastise people for their behavior at a con.
I say this because what my limited (4) experience with cons has taught me, and what I often expound to others unfamiliar with them, is that cons are a place where people of all walks of life who share a similar interest can come together. It can’t be denied that these interest are not always limited to the defined theme of the con. For example, Penguicon is an Open Source Software/Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention, yet it has panels on polyamory, the LBG community, erotica, and other adult theme events. Many of the people who attend Penguicon also attend Confusion. My point here is that many people attend cons to hang out with other con goers. I am not saying that other people’s interest in these topics gives them license to harass others, but it could be said that people gather at these cons to escape the societal norms present in their everyday life. In the “real world” they are required to march to the same drum as everyone else. If cons are meant to foster an acceptance of everyone, how can you place limits on their behavior? Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that there are boundaries that need to be enforced, but sometimes those boundaries are very gray. Especially to a congregation of people who, on the aggregate, are not known to fit society’s opinion of “normal”. To put it another way, a convention can be a place where someone who is normally excluded from participating in social activities due to their perceived differences can gather with others who they know will be accepting of them, regardless of their social awkwardness.
I understand that this is a very touchy subject, but I feel it is worth discussing from all angles so I will provide an example I experienced at Immortal Confusion. A friend of mine received several unwanted advances at the convention, but it can’t be said that they were unsolicited. She wore a corset that accentuated certain features and definitely drew the attention of others. She was there with her boyfriend and was not interested in acting on any advances, but at the same time, I could tell she relished the attention. We even discussed many of the advances afterword and had a chuckle over them. My friend was not offended in the least and I feel it is safe to say she was flattered. I know this sounds like I am perpetuating the false “she asked for it” view, but I am really not. What I am saying is that some actually DO ask for it, even if they do not intend on acting on the advances.
To further this point, I recently read a Reddit post that asked why many women fawn over the arrogant, condescending, over confident male and the response surprised me, but it made complete sense. I have always been on your side of the aisle when it comes to respecting women and treating them as equals. I have even been called out for being “too nice” to the point where I seem condescending because I treat women with kid gloves in an effort to not offend them. (side note: I have been very happily married for over ten years so these views are from someone who is an outsider to the whole dating/flirting scene) A woman’s reply to the Reddit question was along the lines of “When we see a confident male who treats women in a way that objectifies them or puts them on a pedestal, we feel that they are very discerning with women. The reason we are attracted to them is because we want to be that woman. We want to be the one who meets their high standards. We don’t want to be the one that a less confident male settles for because they lack the confidence in themselves to be discerning.” Many women agreed with her post with one even saying “I feel like you are in my head”. So with that knowledge, how does a convention attendee who may already lack self confidence (I know, gross generalization) act when on one hand they are told that almost any advance of a sexual nature will be frowned upon, but on the other hand they know that there are many people who attend cons in order to receive that kind of attention? It is quite the conundrum.
I have great appreciation for what you are doing with your charity and the cover poses. They are ridiculous and you are drawing much needed attention to the problem. With that said, I want to mention something else I experienced at Confusion. I attended the cover photo reveal and was giddy with excitement when you asked Pat to explain his pin-up calendar. I thought, “Here we go. An unstoppable force is going to meet an immovable object. This should be good. I wish I had popcorn.” Unfortunately, I was vastly disappointed when I realized that the situation set Pat up to be humiliated (not intentionally of course). The whole room was full of anti-objectification energy and then you asked Pat to explain why he helped create a calendar with the obvious purpose of looking at half naked women. His inevitable failure was evident when he asked the room for a simple show of hands from everyone who “likes looking at beautiful people” and only about 2% did (including my wife and I). What this told me is 98% of the people in that room were liars who were caught up in the moment. It is in our DNA to like looking at attractive people. Everyone’s opinion of what is attractive is different, but anyone who denies enjoying looking at what they consider attractive is inhuman. By not raising their hands they essentially said they find nothing and no one attractive. I only wish Pat were not exhausted from the con so he could have stood up for his beliefs.
To summarize, I agree that some go too far with their advances and am in no way defending harassers, but the only solution to the problem is to completely sterilize conventions and make them no different from any other social situation that many in fandom loath due to the inherent limitations placed on them by having to meet the lowest common denominator of societies (prudish) views of acceptable behavior.
Bring on the hate.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 4:14 pm
Don’t have time for a full response here, but…
-Pat and I talked about the pin-up calendar beforehand, and he specifically encouraged me to bring that up.
-Reddit had a whole range of interesting opinions, from some awesome and well thought-out discussions of SF/F to an area where rapists are praised for talking openly about their crimes.
-There’s a big difference between flirting and harassment.
-Finally, you asked, “If cons are meant to foster an acceptance of everyone, how can you place limits on their behavior?”
Cons don’t foster an acceptance of everyone. I would love to see conventions become more accepting and welcoming, but part of that process is to set some boundaries and make it clear that certain behaviors are not accepted or welcome. If we try to be accepting of people who repeatedly cross boundaries or harass others, what we’re doing is creating an environment that’s *less* accepting–in fact, is downright unwelcome–to those being targeted by the behaviors in question.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
The hard question is not, if it has to stop.
The question is how to achieve the best results. As i wrote in a different comment, what you want to achieve is “Develop an antenna what is appropriate around other people; in doubt err on the side of caution” and not “No dirty jokes when around X”.
The later is easier to achieve and any hammer can do it. But this will also incur costs on the person you try to help. So this is, at best, an emergency measure.
The first result benefits more people and has a lasting effect. And getting there is hard.
Furthermore you first have to determine whether a person feels uncomfortable in the situation.
Personally i wouldn’t make the same wide distinction between companies and conventions as you do. Both are organisation where we have stronger (boss/author) and weaker (employee/fan) members. Both have to make sure, the differential in power is not abused.
Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey
January 28, 2013 @ 4:20 pm
To the extent there is even a perception that an author has more power at a con than a fan, we have degenerated from fannish ideals. One of the joyous parts of fandom is the ideal that a “dirty pro” is just another fan, who happens to make a living with the stuff. Now obviously if the pro is an Asimov the ideal is weakened; but that should be the attitude we seek to cultivate.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:21 pm
High five! Good to know karma still bites people back.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:23 pm
Funny you should mention Asimov…
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
I was just thinking that same thing…
January 28, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
I agree with your ideals, but reality has chosen a different implementation. I didn’t mean my statement as an insult to cons but just as an observation. I hope i don’t touch of another comment storm.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
Mr Jim “The WHite Knight” Hines, you remain one of the most amazing people on earth. Thank you for this post.
Jim C. Hines
January 28, 2013 @ 4:26 pm
::Starts handing out umbrellas::
Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey
January 28, 2013 @ 4:28 pm
‘Twas no accident that I pulled that name out of my memory banks; although I could name a few more, including at least one allegedly “hip” New Wave icon with a nasty sexist streak that shows through in his writing as well.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:28 pm
P.S. I am not an expert on cons. But one thing my job told me is to recognize power structures and how to work with them.
You can observe the same thing any software conference between the people working for companies writing the software and the customers (who theoretically have the power since they carry the money).
January 28, 2013 @ 4:29 pm
Do you ship to Germany? In that case i take one ;-).
January 28, 2013 @ 4:31 pm
See my comment elsewhere in these comments on my teenage con experience…
January 28, 2013 @ 4:40 pm
For me personally (and I speak only for me, not anyone else of any gender)I usually don’t mind the initial advance within reason. If I am at a social event (especially in certain costumes), if a person wants to approach me in a civilized (no touching, no derogatory terms etc.) manner I usually don’t mind. It’s once an individual is turned down or rebuffed and than they won’t leave you alone, or makes an initially innappropriate approach that it becomes not ok for me. I especially hate it when I say no to a person and that person then starts to make disparaging remarks on the reason I turned them down or just won’t take no for an answer, that is unnacceptable. Also, unless you know me and I give you permission, please don’t physically touch me, that is always creepy. Sorry about the spelling/grammer errors 🙂
Lauren 'Scribe' Harris
January 28, 2013 @ 4:42 pm
I am going to reiterate a point I made earlier.
I’m a cosplayer, and while the costumes I wear give everyone, men and women, the invitation to look, a corset (nor any other form of revealing attire) is neither an invitation to touch nor a display of goods for sale or rent. A compliment is one thing. An expression that the other party finds me attractive and would be interested in getting to know me is acceptable, as long as my answer–whatever that may be–is respected. (That goes for guys too. I know guys who have been followed and harassed.)
However, if the comment or “compliment” is made in a lewd or sexually aggressive/derogatory/demeaning way where not explicitly invited (any manner of dress does not count as an invitation), that’s unacceptable.
I agree that conventions should be a place where people who are polyamorous or into BDSM etc. should be welcome. That does not, however, give anyone permission to assume that any or all other people at the convention will be comfortable with that sort of behavior.
It’s not hard. As John Green says: Use your words.
Introduce yourself. Indicate you find him/her attractive. If that goes well, express interest in him/her. If that goes well, ask if he/she’s into whatever it is you’re into. If at any point the response is negative, for the love of all that is awesome about conventions, STOP.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:50 pm
I forgot to add I love your books, can’t wait to start Libromancer and think you are an amazing human being for trying to make all of humanity as equal as any one person can do Thanks!
January 28, 2013 @ 5:02 pm
<iIf we try to be accepting of people who repeatedly cross boundaries or harass others, what we’re doing is creating an environment that’s *less* accepting–in fact, is downright unwelcome–to those being targeted by the behaviors in question.
Cons and comment threads have that in common: you can’t accept everyone. If you don’t make the active choice to exclude assholes, you are making the passive choice to let assholes exclude others.
If someone doesn’t understand that Yes Means Yes and No Means No even in spaces where ‘adult’ activities are occurring or being discussed, that person has no business in those spaces. Full stop. The fandom folks I know who are involved in the kink community would be the first ones to tell you that.
In practically every discussion about bad behavior at cons, someone pops up to say that it’s not fair to hold people accountable for harassment and assault because some people just don’t know any better. We’re talking about people who select targets who are unlikely to protect themselves, engineer situations where they can creep without consequence, and plausibly deny their behavior later. That kind of maneuvering takes excellent social skills. And saying we shouldn’t do everything in our power to put a stop to it because it would mean only prudish behavior would be acceptable is like saying we shouldn’t hold world-class pickpockets accountable because it might stop people from asking their friends to spot them a dollar.
I’m glad your friend had fun engaging in consensual flirting. Good for her. But the fact that she was wearing a corset wouldn’t have given anyone the right to stalk, harass, intimidate, or assault her.
Getting bullied is awful. What I don’t understand is why someone who will rush to the defense of men who are bullied for poor social skills isn’t equally willing to rush to the defense of women who are bullied just for being women. We’re geeks too. Don’t we deserve a place where we, who are normally excluded from participating in social activities due to our perceived differences, can gather with others who we know will be accepting of us, regardless of our perceived sexual availability?
January 28, 2013 @ 5:05 pm
It is clear grounds but that doesn’t mean that it is safe for a woman to make those arguments in a company. It could cost her job, and in a recession, that’s no small fish. In many states in the U.S., for instance, they have gotten “at will” laws up so that employers can fire an employee for any reason, and bugging them about a guy bothering you they’ll use, even if they give a lip service other reason for firing. So if the woman believes the HR and supervisors will possibly help or react to reminder of lawsuits, then she has a resource. If she can afford a lawyer, she might have another resource, but a lot of women can’t. If she doesn’t have that support, then banding together with other women or sympathetic men at work to try and protect herself may be the best she can do, or simply putting up with the harassment because she needs the paycheck. And in the many, many companies that women work for that are not large corporations and don’t have HR departments, and the harasser may also be a boss, women are pretty much screwed. Only if there is a business culture society-wide that this behavior is bad for business and will not be tolerated do women have much protection against sexual harassment. And given the laws and striking of laws that are currently occurring — such as the blocking of the Violence Against Women bill in the States — the business culture is not advancing very much because it doesn’t have to, especially in a slow growth/recession situation.