Jun 282013
creeper mermaid

creeper mermaid!

Lots of talking online today about [harassment at cons]. I did some tweeting but thought I might be more coherent with paragraphs.

I have been creeped on at cons and at parties. Guys (offhand I can’t think of any that weren’t presenting male) who got into my personal space, made inappropriate comments, hugged for too long, or just treated me like less of a person with less of a mind. I’ve never had an incident that I consider reportable, but (at least for the past few years) I’m comfortable pointing out this behavior and the people in question to my friends.

People with that pattern of behavior tend to 1. escalate, test boundaries, escalate more, get away with wrong things before moving on to escalate to horrific things and 2. carefully present themselves in a really personable way to non-targets. The behavior is a system and it increases their social standing to give them more credibility. Listening and believing and reporting help identify creepers who always do this so that action can be taken against them.

In the past when people have told me their stories about harassment, I haven’t always responded the way I wish: listening, believing, evaluating how I can help. Sometimes I’ve been good, others not so much. The right course of action is to always believe someone who reports being a target of abuse, but I will be honest and say there have been times I haven’t done that.

Now I will be more honest: I’ve been the bad guy. At a party once, I outrageously violated someone’s physical consent. It horrifies me that I did that. I’ve also made people uncomfortable with my jokes, my words, and sometimes my revealing outfits. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. I want to learn how to do better, how to be a good part of fandom, building and enjoying safe spaces.

Many of us have done incorrect things, made other people uncomfortable and so on. For me, taking a hard look at what I’ve done to other people and trying to learn from it helps me when listening to other people’s experiences. To put that backwards: being in denial about doing bad shit can mean trying to justify the same bad shit when someone else does it.

I want to be a safe and caring person to report to, even if the bad guy is my friend. I want to know when I screw up. I want people who aren’t serially, escalatingly abusive to not act they are, because not everyone who fucks up is that way, but to someone on the receiving end of some harassment or assault it doesn’t make a fucking bit of difference if this is everyday behavior or an isolated incident, it still feels horrible.

I don’t have good answers to the problem of convention harassment other than, hey, let’s keep speaking up, always listen, and work like hell to make safe spaces.

Jun 272013

I’m going to type this here on my blog, in the hopes that I STOP telling this boring non-story to people I end up talking to in Minneapolis.

When I was a kid, my family moved from 35th and Pillsbury to 33rd & 34th. If you know south Minneapolis, that might mean something to you, and if you don’t, well, just know that we moved from one neighborhood to another — crossing two neighborhoods into a slightly more affluent one while we were at it.

So in 7th grade I learned, not only to use the city bus system, but to not mind transferring at an ugly intersection. Dad drove me to school, and I took the 18 to Lake St, 21 home. That didn’t even go on very long; it was a stopgap measure while I finished the semester at one school before moving to a trimester at a new one.*

The point is, a couple years later, my friend Lori got me a job at Jubilee foods, 50-something and Chicago (Kowalski’s now?). So I was 15, and after school I went to work, and after work I took the bus home. I took the 5 and transferred at Lake St. At 9 or 10 pm. Until Dad found out my bus route, and then that was a problem, because back in the day** Chicago and Lake was, um, a little rough.

YET again… if you’re familiar with Minneapolis, you know this.*** The thing is, the fine city has worked very hard on gentrification at that particular spot. The giant department store has been rehabbed into condos and a great place to buy Oaxaca-style tacos or falafel. It still feels the same, because I never felt scared there in the first place, and Uncle Hugo’s is still around, and I bet I could still find an old lady garage sale with ’60s gay porn novels under the shoe box full of doilies, but also one doesn’t feel even a little at risk of getting caught in the cross-fire of a drug dealer and a passing K car.

It only feels a little strange to pass by these parts of home. Gentrification shifts the problems elsewhere.**** It can be an ugly concept. For me, though, so long as I stay the fuck away from Uptown, this city feels alive. It has changed in the last ten years, but mostly in ways that improve it.

I love it here.



* Chiron Middle School, behind the Basilica on Hennepin, if you’re interested, and no, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist anymore.

** I’m 32, so please adjust “the day” accordingly relative to your own, thanks.

*** If you’re not, just trust me, but if you’re from, like, NYC, London, or LA, or whatever, no, it wasn’t *that* bad, and I’m admitting it here so you won’t feel obliged to one-up me on childhood-bus-stops-that-put-us-at-risk-of-violence.

**** Today (literally today) you’d get a good sense of where the problems get shifted to by driving around and taking note of where trees from last weekend’s storms are still crashed across streets. HINT: NOT NEAR EDINA.