There is a huge problem within geek culture that I think people needs to be addressed, especially with some of the recent things I’ve heard about from Readercon. The basic story goes that a very influential fan (yeah for some reason we have those) was reported for harassing a female author. The harassment wasn’t fought by them an in question and when the convention (which has a zero tolerance policy) got wind of it they just slapped the guy with a suspension. Mostly because he was this super-fan.
Readercon did go back and actually give the guy a lifetime ban. But there are numerous stories about this and there is a large problem with sexism and harassment in the science fiction/fantasy community. This same problem spreads to the video game fandom and their conventions (which probably isn’t made any better by them hiring models to parade around in bikinis to attract men to the booths and calling them “Booth Babes”).
There are times when it’s a joke and even the women involved laugh and it’s not meant to be malicious. But we can’t just have a good time picking on someone when it hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable. I have friends that really don’t mind picking on one another and even then there are times where it can go too far. Even then, you can usually tell when something comes from a malicious place.
In 2010 there was a Penny Arcade comic featuring a rape joke. The joke itself I didn’t even see as being offensive and when there was a slight uproar on the internet about. The comic had been around for years and made many, many edgy jokes. They’d even touched on rape before and they admitted to not being advocates of rape or hating women. They’re both married and have gamer wives whom they seem to keep very close to them and the business.
But the appalling thing to me, at least, was that people started to champion rape and harass women who had actually been raped to support Penny Arcade. They even made a Team Rape website in support of the comic and that was when the site’s creators stepped in and made their apology. While the situation debatably started out as an innocent joke, the way it was handled by a lot of fans just reflected badly on men in general.
There are other stories like this, like about the girl who was wanting to study sexism in gaming and got slammed with a first hand experience of sexism in real life. Even when I was a regular on an anime forum some years ago whenever there was news story posted about rape a lot of the men and even some of the women would blame the woman involved for being stupid or even claiming she was probably a slut who lied about what happened to cover her reputation.
And when you hear about the treatment of women in the Middle East or China or Africa and you think, “how can someone let this go on?” You have to remember that right here we still have issues with women doing everything a man does. Or we have a lot of men who think they can say anything sexist to women who are attractive because they put themselves out there for that. Remember that we have a whole group of men in geek culture that want it to be boys club and want to treat the women who step into it like objects or receptacles for abuse. Probably more frightening, we have people like Atkin who think date rape isn’t real rape.
I would like to say that I think a lot of the problem is related to the comment I made earlier about making women being receptacles for abuse—I think that it really comes from men being upset with women and feeling like they can’t get what they want from the women they want. In turn they take it out on the women they have access to.
The way to deal with this best seems to be to have awareness. Treat the problem seriously and if you see someone being made uncomfortable by someone else or being picked on, it’s okay to step in if they won’t stand up for them if they won’t do it. If you’re being harassed by someone you really don’t need to take it, we need to get the word out that it’s not okay. It seems that a lot of people seem to think it boils down to women whining (which is pretty offensive). At one con a woman who was harassed and reported it was told to go find a man to corroborate the story because then they would know it was true (which is funny because some Middle Eastern countries have a rule that four men have to have witnessed a rape and report it for it to be true).
We need to treat this like what it is, harassment. Just because someone is a woman doesn’t mean that she’s not just as much a fan of something as you(or more so). And just because someone is dressed a certain way doesn’t give you permission to harass them.