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AJ
ann_leckie
Everyone knows what this is about.

So, many people have already said more or less what I'd want to say about the thing that this is about. But there's another thing I've seen going on. Not a lot of it, no, most people I've seen comment are (completely understandably) outraged. But a couple comments I've seen--that no, the facts aren't in dispute but really we should be making sure there's actually more than the undisputed facts to go on before rushing to judgment, combined with another comment decrying the possibility that If This Goes On it might no longer be possible to flirt at conventions--those are what I'm thinking about right now.

No, don't get mad at them, at those individuals. I think the couple people I've seen say this sort of thing have either rethought their position or have deliberately chosen to disengage with the discussion. I'm not interested in castigating them personally.

Particularly since I've seen this reaction before. It is not confined to one or two outliers, but actually is a reaction I've seen to any number of anti-harassment initiatives or regulations. "But when you make all these rules about sexual harassment, how can you talk to a woman without getting in trouble?" or "How could you ever date anyone?" It always makes me think of the time, shortly after the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas thing, an elderly gentleman came into the faculty club and came up to the bar--which, I was bartending that day--to order a martini, and the first words out of his mouth were, "What can I say to a lady bartender that won't get me in trouble?" I smiled my waitress smile and said, "How about, Hello, lady bartender." I'd probably have lost my job if I'd given him a more extensive answer. Oh, the waitress smile, it has gotten me through any number of difficult situations!

But here's the more extensive answer. If you really think that "speaking to women" is indistinguishable from harassment, there's a problem and it’s not with the rules. If you really think anti-harassment rules bar flirting, you've got an idea of what constitutes flirting that really needs some re-evaluation. I mean, if someone said, "Hey, we should outlaw rape," and the guy standing next to you said, "But that's the same thing as saying people can't have sex!" you wouldn't say, Wow, good point!. You'd look at him sideways. Or, sweet unconquered sun, I hope you would.

If you speak to women the way you'd speak to someone you respect, someone whose boundaries you respect, you generally won't have any problems with women accusing you of harassment. End of story.

When you worry out loud that anti-harassment policies might outlaw flirting, you as much as sharpie a sign on your forehead saying "I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU WANT AS LONG AS I GET WHAT I'M AFTER."

And the thing is, like I said, this is not an outlier attitude. By default, women are supposed to be available targets of men's desires, and men are expected to have the right to act on those desires. Women's desires are immaterial. You see this whenever someone complains that some nicely dressed woman in a bar (or at a con, or really anywhere outside the house) expressed a lack of interest in male attention, or even annoyance with it, when she ought to just deal with it if she's going to dress the way she did. *

You see this whenever someone says "but men don't understand subtle signals, did you say really clearly that you wanted him to fuck off?" and the woman in question says, "Yes, actually, I did, I said fuck off I'm not interested. About five times." And the first someone says, "But you have to be really clear about it, maybe he was on the autism spectrum!" (Or my other favorite response to that one, "But did you have to be so mean?")

You see this when the reaction to an accusation of harassment is to worry about the feelings and motivations (and possibility for reform) of the harasser, and to wonder how anyone will ever have happy fun sexytimes if women start taking offense at having their boundaries disrespected and being physically assaulted.

You see this in "romantic" movies, where the key to the guy's success is to stalk and harangue the woman until she gives in. You see this every time someone pops a hugely public surprise** proposal. She can't say no on the jumbotron in front of all those hockey fans, can she?!

TV and movies and people's conversations, they all constantly reinforce this narrative of men's desires and women's obligation to fulfill those desires. This narrative of men being people who want things for understandable reasons of their own, and women being objects who exist only in relation to those men's desires. It's a really, really powerful narrative, it affects the behavior and attitudes of people who would, if you asked them, completely disavow the underlying structure, that "women are objects that exist to satisfy men" thing. Men and women both.

And yet they keep telling those jokes and those stories, keep applauding those put-her-on-the-spot proposals, keep talking about how women who go to cons dressed all sexy are only doing it for male attention, keep reacting to accusations of harassment by wondering if the woman really did what she ought to have done, and how we can make things better for the poor harasser.

___________________

*It' s been said many times, but it bears repeating--women do not actually do everything with men in mind. Sometimes women go whole hours doing things because they want to, never even giving a moment's thought to what some random guy will think about it. Yes, we are living in the end times. It's true.

**The "surprise" here is key. If you already know what her answer is and you've just decided to announce it to the world on the Jumbotron at the Cards game and show her how happy you are about it, no sweat. If you think you already know what her answer is and are really invested in putting her unexpectedly on the spot in front of thousands of people, I highly, highly recommend rethinking why that might be.

***It occurs to me that a good number of the people I've met who get bent out of shape thinking about how supposedly feminists think all sex is rape are the same people who repeatedly demonstrate that they, themselves, are not actually clear on the distinction between the two.

This post is so awesome! Oh my goodness me so awesome! *posts it everywhere she can*

This post is made of extreme awesomeness. Brava!

Thank you.

I really liked your post on the "but he might be on the spectrum!" excuse. I mean, seriously, "socially awkward" is not the same as "on the spectrum" is definitely not the same as "unable to control their behavior in any way, or learn better." It's horrible and hurtful for people to grab onto that as an excuse, and it's worse when, as you said, the person in question obviously has demonstrated a good deal of social competency.


Hear. And also hear.

I'm in the relationship I'm in now, sitting across an office typing at another writer, because of cons. We met at a con, we became friends at cons, we bonded at cons, we eventually evolved the status of our acquaintanceship from "A couple of divorced bitter people bitching about divorce" to "A couple of divorced people with romantic designs upon one another" at a con.

Never once did he offer me a shred of disrespect, or anything that could be construed as harassment. And yet, somehow, we managed to get our intentions across, once those intentions developed.

Thank you for saying this.

Never once did he offer me a shred of disrespect, or anything that could be construed as harassment. And yet, somehow, we managed to get our intentions across, once those intentions developed.

It's a miracle, is what!

I wrote (and deleted) a snarky paragraph in the post, about how actually, if your aim in going to cons is to find people who'll agree to have hot monkey sex with you, the fact of the matter is people will feel much safer with a partner who has already demonstrated that he'll respect your boundaries. If you feel safe and secure with someone, you'll be much more willing to get kinky knowing that if they say, "Wait, stop!" they'll listen and, you know, stop. Someone who has, from the moment they opened their mouths, demonstrated that they really don't care about your boundaries, this is not someone you're going to be comfortable getting naked and vulnerable with, right? So actually, not stalking and harassing is more likely to get you fabulous hot monkey sex! Who could have guessed?

Thank you for this.

And I am so glad that you are on the board of SFWA.

I actually can't handle the "men are just like that!" comments from people anymore. I just. No. If they're "just like that" it's because they've been trained from birth that they don't have to give a flying fuck about whether or not their behavior/posture/demeanor/comments/opinions/propositions/groping is at all threatening or offensive to whoever's on the receiving end.

It's bullshit. Sexual harassment policies do not prevent mutually admiring people from hooking up in a consensual manner. They DO, however, make men who are used to just not thinking about this shit suddenly go "wait, you mean I can actually get in trouble for remaining willfully ignorant being clueless about how I'm negatively affecting women???"

If men were all required to put as much thought into whether or not their behavior is threatening as women do into avoiding that threat, we'd live in a much less shitty world.

(And, of course, gender is much more complicated than this, but talking about broad patterns of how sexual harassment USUALLY happens, talking about men and women was a useful short-hand.)

Also, if men are "just like that," then they need proper supervision and control. If they want the rights and privileges of being reasonable adults, they can damn well learn to act like reasonable adults.

(Deleted comment)
But here's the more extensive answer. If you really think that "speaking to women" is indistinguishable from harassment, there's a problem and it’s not with the rules. If you really think anti-harassment rules bar flirting, you've got an idea of what constitutes flirting that really needs some re-evaluation.

YES. And thank you.

This bit, and the reference to remaining willfully ignorant, struck me as particularly great.

How you'd wish everyone who read your post just said, "yeah, duh", and wondered why anyone would feel the need to point out such self-evident stuff. Alas.

Yeah. Absolutely.

It's amazing how something so self-evident can be so invisible to people, isn't it.

Many thanks for this.
I'm another one who's here via a link. I've been on the wrong end of harassment far too often (and I've heard 'How could you be so mean' more often than I can remember). I've been shouted down when I spoke out. Recently (this year's UK Eastercon), I was on a programme item on sexual harassment in fandom, in which I spoke about all these things at length and the related issues
Afterwards a man backed me into a corner and proceeded to tell me what *all* cons must do, and how to implement it, how women should behave etc etc. In the face of comment about how this would be more appropriately addressed to the seated con committee and how perhaps men should talk to other men about this -- about managing their behaviour -- rather than women (both topics the panel had raised in detail) and how I'd like him to stand further away and let me leave, please.
He was *different*, you see. He was On My Side. My opinion of this was not a bit relevant, I was just there to admire, agree and reward him.
I've been around in fandom since 1975, from age 13. I've been harassed since I was 15. I'm now 50 and it shows no sign of letting up. We are having the same conversations about it as we were having in 1987. And we are still being diverted into protecting male interests. I'm on the committee of the next UK Eastercon, EightSquared. Our gender parity policy has provoked a whole new round of Outrage! here in the UK, because, well, We might miss getting the menz Best People.
So, again, thank you. It's wonderful to see all this discussion. It is, I think, too late for those of us who're in my age range: we've had to live with it and we now face being discounted because we're too old to be worth anything. But I have hopes for women younger than me.

He was *different*, you see. He was On My Side. My opinion of this was not a bit relevant, I was just there to admire, agree and reward him.

Well, how can us silly girls get anything done without a man to show us how? Unconquered Sun, sometimes you just want to beg people to please not be on our side.

I've been kind of fortunate--I didn't go to a con until I was in my forties, and I didn't run into any harassment--though I did meet a reporter who wanted to interview congoers for the local paper who greeted me with "A girl at the con!" And I had just spent the weekend hanging out with all sorts of awesome women and there were women everywhere. I'm afraid I did not manage to muster up my waitress smile for him.

I'm on the committee of the next UK Eastercon, EightSquared. Our gender parity policy has provoked a whole new round of Outrage! here in the UK, because, well, We might miss getting the menz Best People.

Oh, goodness, yes. And rather like "but how will we flirt" folks not seeing what it is they're actually saying, I continue to be boggled at the "but gender parity means we won't get the Best People" folks who have no idea that basically they're saying flat out that women just aren't as good. You point that out and they say "No, I'm just saying we shouldn't choose people because of their gender!" It's standing right there, painted bright orange, but somehow it's invisible to them.

It's tiring, and sometimes it seems like we haven't gotten anywhere. But bit by bit, surely, it moves, and every little bit adds up. It will, someday. I keep telling myself that.


Here via a friend. Thanks for making this post.

Once again, I don't have a finger on the pulse of SF/F currently (you're on the board of SFWA, huh? congrats!), and have no idea what specifically this post is referring to. Regardless, this is something that needs to be said until people--men, women and everything in between--hear it and take it to heart.

Gaming fandom is trying, in its own very special way, to come to terms with the fact that girls and women exist, too. You see people trying to gently introduce Feminism 101 to the "default" straight white male and at times see responses that are nothing short of the crazed raging slavering of beasts. Look up "Anita Sarkeesian" on google and prepare to be appalled. (and amazed at how brave she's been in the face of some truly horrifying shit.)

I saw the thing with Anita Sarkeesian! That was sickening. But not, sadly, all that surprising.

http://blog.bcholmes.org/the-readercon-thing/

There's a link roundup. Essentially, Genevieve Valentine was harassed over pretty much the entirety of Readercon, and reported it to the con administration. Readercon has a zero tolerance policy in place, which states that harassers will be banned from Readercon for life. They'd applied it once before, a couple of years ago.

Except this time the harasser was a BNF, not some mentally ill guy no one liked. And he said he was really, really sorry and had seen the error of his ways. So they banned him for two years. And decided not to make a public statement to that effect, but instead to just tell Genevieve that.

And then the internet exploded.

There are people who have said no on jumbotron in front of all those fans. Google "proposal fail" if interested....

I am well aware of that. There are also people who have fought back against harassers and reported them to authorities despite considerable pressure not to do so. Either one takes courage, and either one is a shitty position to be in.

I'm also here via a link on fb. Great post!

I'm one of those oblivious females who hasn't been harassed very much and for many years (I'm now 51) just didn't get what the fuss was about - or, at least, didn't want to rock any boats. It's starting to sink in, though.

I wanted to make sure that it's okay for me to quote you? Specifically the splendid first * footnote that Jet Clark also applauded.

-Allison

Absolutely! Quote away! :) And thanks!

Lucid, insightful, straight to the point.

Thank you.

And your icon made me smile. I love it.

"But when you make all these rules about sexual harassment, how can you talk to a woman without getting in trouble?"

Augh! The stupid, it burns. Possibly, and I'm going out on a limb here, you could talk to women *while* following the rules? I mean, doesn't knowing what women don't like save you the effort of trying things that don't work?

You would think!

But that presupposes that you actually care what women like, or think that what women like actually matters enough for you to minorly inconvenience yourself by, you know, thinking before you speak.

(here via linkspam)

You know, listening to someone complain about not being able to flirt because there are actual consequences for sexual harassment is like listening to someone complain about not being able to cook because there are actual consequences for touching a hot stove.

Yes... thank you for that. :)

I'll have to bring that up, if I may, the next time I get any such idiocy.

The "on the spectrum" thing is bullshit anyway, since a) it is a really quite small percentage and b) yes, people on the spectrum may have difficulty picking up social cues, but they are perfectly capable of changing behaviour once asked to (something harassers tend not to do). If someone on the autism spectrum doesn't change their inappropriate behaviour, they are an arsehole on the autism spectrum..

Oh, yes, this so much.

I don't have any family members on the spectrum, so I can only imagine the hurt and anger when someone trots out the "but maybe he's on the spectrum!" thing. The whole romanticization of Aspergers is really ugly, and ugliest, from what I can see, in the way it's used as a supposed excuse for jerkitude.

If someone on the autism spectrum doesn't change their inappropriate behaviour, they are an arsehole on the autism spectrum

Yep. Truth.

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You see this whenever someone complains that some nicely dressed woman in a bar (or at a con, or really anywhere outside the house) expressed a lack of interest in male attention, or even annoyance with it, when she ought to just deal with it if she's going to dress the way she did.

The really fun bit is that if I don't dress "nicely"/feminine, mostly because I don't find it comfortable, and also because I do not want to send signals that could be read as "hey, flirt with me!", I get "helpful" women telling me I should do those things to make more contacts.

So, I'm supposed to do things that make me uncomfortable to make contacts with people who only want to talk to me because I do things that make me uncomfortable. I don't understand why in the world I should want to have anything to do with those people, but mainstream society gives me chaff for not making my life revolve around looking "good-by-their-standards" for other people. Oh, I think you said that, "By default, women are supposed to be available targets of men's desires".

It's so very, very frustrating.

Oh, yes. Very true.

And of course there's an extra bit to that double bind--it's not just other women who "helpfully" advise this. Some men are quite happy to police it. In my opinion, that's what's behind the whistles and comments women often get when they're, say, dressed in sweats with practically everything covered up, sweaty from work or the gym, and not the least bit dressed in a way that would attract the "why did you dress that way if you didn't want attention" thing. This is more common in some places and situations than others, but I've definitely experienced it. Dress "nice," get harassed and told it's your fault for dressing that way, if you didn't want to be a target for men's desires you shouldn't have dressed so sexy. Dress sloppy or deliberately unattractively, get the same comments. As, it seems to me, a punishment for not making yourself an available target for men's desires.

I think the social pressure to "dress nice" is so strong that once many women hit that double bind, they decide to stick with the "dress nice" end, all the time trying to negotiate that extremely narrow place where they're maybe, mostly, allowed to exist without too much trouble. From that angle, they genuinely are trying to help you because they see that narrow place as the only safe place to be.

So, I'm supposed to do things that make me uncomfortable to make contacts with people who only want to talk to me because I do things that make me uncomfortable.

Yeah. It's like "The Rules," isn't it. Where there were all these things you had to do if you wanted to convince some man to marry you--because A)Of course that's what every woman wants and if you don't find a man willing to marry you, you'll die a lonely failure and B) Men, not being actually interested in marriage or family or anything like that, need to be tricked into it--if you wanted to get a man to marry you, you had to pretend you didn't know as much as you did, and let him have his way over pretty much everything, and bend over backwards to make him feel like he was strong and dominant. Which, all right, lets say that works, it's bound to in at least some cases. You end up married to a guy who thinks you're a doormat and he's happy with that, and you have to spend the rest of the marriage shoring up his sense of superiority and pretending you're not as smart as he is. Hooray, sounds like paradise to me!

*applauds in agreement*

Three More Signal Boosts: Flirting, Harassment, and The Broken Stair

User browngirl referenced to your post from Three More Signal Boosts: Flirting, Harassment, and The Broken Stair saying: [...] by Megpie71 at Dreamwidth and this untitled entry [...]

I'm sorry, but I think you are totally and completely wrong. Your whole position is based on the idea that there are clear boundaries, and that everybody knows them. That is just *not* true. People come from different cultures, have different micro-cultures, have different personalities, and they DO NOT AGREE on the boundaries.

These boundaries change depending on subtle social signals which some people cannot read, or only guess at. They change depending on what's just happened to the individuals involved. Actions which would be acceptable from a person that you find attractive are unacceptable from a person you think is weird.

And these rules *do* cast a pall on social interactions, because you don't know whether some particular action that was fine to some other person in some other circumstance might not get spread all over the internet.

I find the self-congratulatory smugness of this article and all of the other comments from people who agree with them repellent.

I think the punishment that is being demanded is way out of line with the actual harm. Genevieve was not physically harmed or threatened. She was made uncomfortable. Wowee. It was over at the end of the con. Any time you get a group of people together in circumstances like that, somebody will be uncomfortable. You *cannot* make rules to control everybody's behavior without swerving in the direction of totalitarianism or repressive, rigid societies.

This sort of "feminism" is not demanding equality; it is demanding special kid-glove treatment which is the opposite of equality.

Your whole position is based on the idea that there are clear boundaries

There is a simple clear boundary that applies. It is to leave someone alone when they tell you to leave them alone. This is not unclear, and this is not subject to cultural relativity or misinterpretation of body language or other nonverbal signals.

If someone can't respect that boundary, they need a minder if they're going to be in social situations.

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the dark side of 'prom for nerds'

User sunhawk referenced to your post from the dark side of 'prom for nerds' saying: [...] and social manners that works more broadly as well: http://ann-leckie.livejournal.com/181598.html [...]

Here via sunhawk.

Thank you for this post, you've stated what I feel about this whole mess so much better than I ever could! I'd like to link to this if you don't mind!

Thank you! And link away. :)

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