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The following is a series of emails exchanged between editor Sigrid Ellis and the Odyssey Con Com. I have Sigrid's permission to repost. Since I don't have Odd Con folk's permission, I'm taking out their names and contacts but leaving the email text in. Know that I dearly want to include them but not wish to sidetrack this into a discussion of how "mean" I'm being to them or equivalent. Think of these exchanges as a primer of what not to do and how not to respond when folks attending your event tell you why you have a problem with safety at your event.


 It came to my attention today that the programming for this year's Odyssey Con has a couple of folks who've engaged in antisocial behavior at Wiscon. Specifically Richard Russell and Jim Frenkel.

 I've attended Wiscon for years, and have personally experienced and witnessed behavior from both of these men that does not support the ideals to which I hope we all subscribe. Russell has, for years, made explicitly and openly racist remarks during panels he ran. Frenkel has serially harassed multiple women for years and was finally successfully reported for it.

Neither of these men behave in a manner that supports an open convention that welcomes all fans.

 To accept them at your convention is a worthy thing to do. They can continue to grow and change and become the better human beings we all hope them to be, in a community where they have not yet acted so poorly. I thank you and your convention for this; everyone deserves a space in which they can try to improve.

But I am concerned about them being on your programming. That seems to indicate a certain level of endorsement of them, and their views, that I find troubling. Particularly when Frenkel is on a panel about how to be an adult, and Russell is on a panel about social justice going too far. I am concerned that they will ... double down, if you will, on their previous positions.

None of us can know the future, of course. And I always hope for the best, from everyone. But I would hate for Odyssey Con to find itself in the midst of another controversy with these men at the center. And I would hate for your guests of honor to develop a poor opinion of Midwest fandom.

 And I would hate, above both those things, for your attendees to suffer harassment or worse from panelists you selected, for those attendees to slink away from fandom ashamed and hurt and humiliated, unsure of what they did to draw such negative attention from men Odyssey Con put in positions of power and authority.

I hope, very much, that you have assurances that you can believe from Frenkel and Russell. I hope, very much, that you know, completely, that they will not harass or molest anyone at your convention.

 I am concerned. I hope my concerns are groundless.

 I wish you all the best,

 Sigrid Ellis

Con com response:

Dear Sigrid,

Thank you for your courteously expressed letter of concern.

I have been personally acquainted with both Richard and Jim for many years, and, as program chair, I am 100% certain that they will both conduct themselves in responsible and appropriate fashions. Both Jim and Richard have made valuable contributions to Odyssey Con for years and I expect that they will, given the opportunity, continue to do so for years to come. I believe Odyssey Con has a good record as a friendly and welcoming convention, which we intend to maintain.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write. I particularly appreciate your careful expression of your concerns. I am confident that they will be proven groundless.


More con com response, this time with the actual harassment policy included. Because, you know, you just put the words on paper. They don't mean anything.


Thank you for your concern. We have as a con-com discussed the issue of harassment and have taken careful steps to allow for people who have been harassed to have a safe space to inform the convention staff and procedure in place which includes escalation to an ombudsperson if necessary.


The following is a copy of our harassment policy which is on our website and also in our program book:

Harassment Policy

It is the intention of Odyssey Con to create a safe, friendly, welcoming environment where fans of science fiction and fantasy can interact with one another in a respectful manner. We will not tolerate harassment of any kind, including but not limited to:

-offensive verbal comments
-physical assault and/or battery
-harassing or non-consensual photography or recording
-sustained disruption of panels, signings, and other events
-bathroom policing
-inappropriate physical contact
-unwelcome physical attention

in relation to, but not limited to:

-gender and/or gender identity
-sexual orientation
-body size

Our policy applies to everyone at the convention. Exhibitors, Attendees, Speakers, Guests, Professionals, Staff, and Volunteers are all subject to our anti-harassment policy.

"No" means "no." Not "Maybe." Not "Ask me again later." If, when responding to someone, you mean "Not right now" or "Ask me later", please say that. If you ask and don't hear something like that, drop it and move on. If a person engages in harassing behavior, Odyssey Con staff will take prompt action in any form they deem appropriate, including, as warranted, expulsion from this year's con, banning from all future Odyssey Cons, and calling the police.

Keep in mind that you may not know someone, including what might offend them, as well as you think you do, and the possibility that you may be making someone around you uncomfortable or unintentionally giving offense. If you're not sure, ask.

Please be aware of personal space in sitting or speaking with other people. If someone asks you to back up or give them more room, please respect that.

If ANYONE does something that makes you uncomfortable, ask them firmly, but politely, to stop. Be honest and don't try to spare their feelings, but be as civil as possible. They may not realize they are making you uncomfortable. If they persist, please report the incident to the Convention Security staff, who can be recognized by their bright yellow badges. In addition someone can always be found at the Registration Desk during registration hours, or in the Security office marked clearly on the map in your convention program book.

Remember: Cosplay is not consent. If you would like to take a picture with or of another fan, always ask first and respect that person's right to say no. Be respectful, be nice, be cool and be kind to each other.

Our goal is to create a fun, safe, welcoming, event where fans of all kinds can come together and enjoy themselves. As fans ourselves, we understand the importance of creating a safe space for everyone who attends Odyssey Con.

 Thank you again for your concern,

Me: note, if you will, the disconnect between above and the decision to put a known serial harasser, one with decades of accumulated bad rep, on your con com as Guest Liaison. Then to put him on programming with a GOH who has already notified you that they have had problems with that person in the past. Never do these things.

catherineldf: (Default)
Or, here we go again.
My friend Monica Valentinelli has withdrawn as one of the GOHs at Odyssey Con next month due to well-founded safety concerns about the presence of Jim Frenkel at the con, on the con com and in programming. You can read her blog statement as to why she felt she had to do this. I support Monica completely and think she made the right choice. At least one other pro, Patrick Tomlinson, has also withdrawn in support. I have heard one of the vendors had pulled out as well but awaiting confirmation before I post a name.
Now, gonna say another thing. As many of you know, I had a front row seat to WisCon's epic mishandling several years back of Elise Matthesen's harassment complaint against Jim Frenkel. Many of the same people who now run Odd Con used to be involved with running WisCon. They gaslighted, prevaricated, blathered about redemption narratives and ableist b.s. and in some instances, lied outright to protect Frenkel personally back then. And in a more than a few instances, they worked with other folks to circle the wagons to protect the con from allegations they didn't want to be true since after all, Frenkel was a former GOH, a local hero and buddies with a lot of folks. Those choices destroyed a bunch of friendships and it almost destroyed WisCon. Protecting and promoting serial harassers needs to have consequences. Folks reporting them need to have support. Let's learn from WisCon (and Readercon before that) and do better. I sincerely hope that if there are saner heads left at Oddyssey Con, they are able to turn the con around. I certainly won't be considering attending until they do.

In the meantime and in the following post due to Dreamwidth challenges with on phone postings, Sigrid Ellis has given me permission to post a couple of emails that she exchanged with Odyssey Con about Frenkel and another fun dude who was also asked to leave the WisCon con com. I'm posting these to support Monica as well as to forestall the inevitable responses that range from "This can't be true!" to "How does this keep happening?" It is real and this is how.
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So…at WisCon37,  Tor editor James Frenkel was charged with sexually harassing  a female attendee at the con. The attendee (who I’m not naming right now because she got plenty of crap for it last year and because it is not germane to what should have happened afterwards) immediately reported the incident. She had cause and even witnesses, at least one of whom also got grief afterwards from the awesome troll communities invested in supporting guys who harass, assault and demean female-identified people at cons.  The incident was widely publicized and other women came forward to talk about their experience with both him and others of his ilk (he was long rumored to be a harasser, for the record). By July, he was a former Tor editor.

But here’s the thing: he wasn’t banned from attending future WisCons. Why this came about has to do with sundry convention policies about which I give not a damn except for the fact that they are wildly, wildly wrong in this instance. What matters is the impact. Frenkel was back at the con this year, making the rounds, volunteering in the Con Suite and being generally ubiquitous. If  there was anyone keeping an eye on him and his behavior, they were being quite subtle about it; neither I nor anyone I spoke to noticed any security or con personnel tracking him. He even informed one attendee that he was there to “prove what a nice guy” he is.

The point is that he shouldn’t have been there at all, not after last year. And he is not a nice guy (and yes, I do know he was a GOH at this very con back in 1994). But nice guys do not view women as property,  as objects they can do anything they like to regardless of consent. And this is WisCon, the premier feminist science fiction and fantasy convention, which means the stakes are much higher. It means expectations, an attempt to strive for an ideal. It means an implied commitment to try and create safer space. It means that as women, we should have the right to control access to our own bodies and that the con should be backing that up.

Not banning this man undermines everything the con stands for. It undermines the courage that it took for the women who experienced and witnessed his assault last year to come forward. It undermines every other person who considers reporting harassment at this or any other con by sending  the message that they don’t matter, that their safety doesn’t matter, when compared to that of an entitled jerk who doesn’t think they’re people. 

I have been going to this con for 25 years or so, give or take. I do not think I will be returning for WisCon39, barring a drastic sea change in the policies and an apology to the women he’s hurt in the past. I hate this so very much. This is the con I make time for each and every year. The con I love. If you were at or are normally at WisCon and want to share your opinion (respectfully, please. I suspect a fair number of the con runners were conflicted about letting him come back), the survey is here.

catherineldf: (Default)
My friend Elise Matthesen has an excellent post about reporting sexual harassment at cons making the rounds today.
It is splendidly well-written and very clear about protecting yourself first and the circumstances that made it a bit easier to report under these circumstances (WisCon, support networks, etc.) and I think everyone should read it. And I truly hope more cons and publishers act on these reports. Like most women of my vintage, I experienced plenty of harassment at work, on the street, at cons, you name, back in my salad days (and still occasionally do, but it's a lot less hand's on these days). One of the advantages of cultivating my Dorothy Parkeresque persona was that I got too scary for the run of the mill harassers, which was handy. But then I got the scarier, dumber ones, which was less wonderful. No one should have to experience this. NO ONE. There has to be reporting and there have to be consequences.

I'm going to add my own two cents about the kind of people who run around with serial harassers and defend them and deny the reports, generally attacking their victims at the same time. Your buddy can't keep his hands (or in some cases, her hands) to themselves? Doesn't recognize "No" when they hear it? They need to get kicked out of the con and banned if need be. You don't get to undermine or harass or threaten the victims, you don't get to deny other people their right to a safe, fun space. Whether or not you choose to keep friends like this is up to you, but I know I think less of you when you defend them and continue to hang out with them. And I've got a lot more company in that than I used to. I do understand that it's tricky in a small pond.

But on a related note, I will never read Jo Walton's Among Others. Why not? Because I was at her Hugo acceptance speech when she thanked her friend, Rene Walling, for his support and help---after he'd been kicked out of Readercon and publicly identified as a serial harasser and while he was harassing women at that very Worldcon.
That speech  completely poisoned her work on that book for me because it helped to undermine the less famous women who were trying to hold him accountable for known (notorious) behaviors. I think even less of the Worldcon committee that allowed that to continue. As a result, I'm contemplating no longer attending conventions that aren't making some effort to address the problems (see WisCon, CONvergence and Readercon for examples of cons that are dealing with harassment and taking it seriously) because I feel that my being there lends tacit approval to behaviors I don't condone. I'm pretty small potatoes by convention guest standards, but you're welcome to join me. The less acceptable this shit is, the less it will happen.

And if you need to report harassment or assault at a con and I'm there and you need back up, let me know. I'll go with you.


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