What has so far not followed has been a public apology for the victim-blaming that has taken place (detail here) because, you know, who notices and remembers stuff like that? *Bangs head slowly on desk* Really kids, it's not like the good old days when one would wait three months for a apazine to come out with the latest news. Stupid shit con runners say and do goes out almost immediately and stays out on the Interwebs FOREVER, something which I thought should be obvious by now, but apparently not. Were it not for the deliberateness of this tactic, its repetition and the very blatant choices made to value Frenkel's comfort and voice over those of Elise, Lauren and every one else discomfited and outraged by this, it would be easier to dismiss this as colossal cluelessness.
But we've played that card in the past and it's not in the deck anymore. The report about Frenkel was On Every Major SF-related Site and blog and feeds and emails. People making decisions about whether or not he should have been permitted to attend this year or ever again should have been well aware of what happened, should have known that there were other reports, unless none of them had gone near the Web or other human beings outside a circle of 6 in years. Claiming a lack of information as a rationale for poor decision-making is no more viable than the victim-blaming was. Certainly, the chair of the committee should have been well aware that information was missing, if indeed it was never presented to the committee as a whole.
And so we have a convention that has consistently espoused high ideals with regard to inclusion, accessibility, activism, and, wait for it, safer space. Notice this is not the same as "safe space," but rather "safer." The convention committee has been understandably proud of what they have achieved toward these ideals. Even justifiably proud, in some cases. Remember that WisCon provided the networking opportunities and startup cash for the Carl Brandon Society, Broad Universe, Interstitial Arts and the Tiptree Awards. Remember the quality of the discussions held there, even the acrimonious ones, that have driven a wide range of activism in the field. There are many, many things I would know far less about had it not been for things I learned about at WisCon. It has informed my thinking and my understanding and been my convention home for many years and I am grateful.
But none of this changes what's happened in the last two years. Most of us, outside whatever magical charmed group that has no issues with all this, are left with the option of taking sides: we can either believe that a prominent male pro is capable of what he is accused of and side with his accusers, or we can reject that categorically. Until it happens the next time. But remember that WisCon is very high profile, and well known for its ideals. Remember that there are women out there right now being harassed and assaulted at other cons. Remember that now they will say to themselves and perhaps a trusted friend, "Well, if WisCon didn't support the women who reported harassment and they had formal reports and witnesses, who's going to believe me?" And those women will be damaged by their experiences and that is the genre's loss as well as theirs. This is #notmyfeminism.
The Friday committee report leaves open the possibility of Frenkel's rehabilitation, of a change down the road. Now rehabilitation is something that would require a sense of wrong doing. Frenkel informed con attendees this year that he was back because he's a nice guy and completely innocent. Rehabilitation would also suggest that this was not a pattern of behavior so ingrained that a single weekend's con going could impact it, could convey the meaning of "consent" so that someone like him could absorb it. Remember, too, that predators tend to be recidivists, particularly when they do not face consequences.
So where does that leave us? And who is us, exactly?
These are important and critical questions. Ideals and trust are very fragile things and when they are broken deliberately, they are extremely difficult to rebuild. Any rebuilding begins with creating safer spaces and feminist-friendly spaces at other cons and in supporting harassment reporters. But WisCon's ideals were good ideals. We must remember them and we must help WisCon to remember them, and act upon them. The question is how to go about that?
- I think Sigrid Ellis makes some excellent points here in "WisCon, Policy, Feminism Change"
- And there's a good analysis by Karnythia - WisCon...This is How You Fail
- There is also a full and growing list out on The Radish Reviews
And while I'm at it, stop saying things in public that make it look you're incapable of understanding the issues you're up against and recognize the need for a tear down and rebuild. Change is hard, but the utter destruction of ideals, of all the good that has been achieved and could be achieved is much, much harder.