I was reading an article written up in The Washington Post about Geeks for CONsent and the second paragraph leads with this:
Geeks for CONsent, founded by three women from Philadelphia, gathered nearly 2,600 signatures on an online petition supporting a formal anti-harassment policy at Comic-Con.
I am baffled. Comic-Con has no formal anti-harassment policy? I’ve known about Comic-Con for what seems forever now. It’s a massive gathering of geeks, cosplayers, aficionados, and much of nerddom in a place that emblematizes comic fandom and everything amazing about comic culture.
So I poked around, I found the convention policies (and code of conduct) but it’s a bare minimum of metal-on-metal “use common sense,” and “harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated.”
Sensible but hardly formalized.
By now, even people who do not participate in conventions know that women—and especially cosplayers—suffer a noticeable or even ambient amount of harassment. The article itself highlights complaints spoken to CONsent involving groping, being fallowed, and other forms of sexual harassment.
Yes. Much of this harassment follows women from the streets (from cat-calls to following) but in the charged environment of a convention this sort of behavior becomes even more sinister. A cosplayer wearing an outfit that restricts her vision or movement may not even be able to react to someone groping or grabbing her; and we need only look as far as the “Cosplay is Not Consent,” meme to see there’s some amplification of bad behavior going on.
While the Comic-Con Code of Conduct may have mentions of not tolerating harassment, there’s no definitive examples of intolerable harassment. There’s also no guide to the policies that Comic-Con engages in when such harassment occurs. What can victims expect from the Comic-Con staff when they bring a report to them? Saying, “go to security” is hardly enough.
Comic-Con could do a lot to set itself apart from other conventions by outlining a filled out guide to process, expectations, and policy when it comes to the treatment of conventioneers.
Why Comic-Con has not already done this feels like a massive oversight given the well-documented and widespread knowledge and continuing visibility of these issues is disappointing. Fix it already. A solid, formal anti-harassment policy, with a little compassion, would go a long way to making comics and fandom safer for everyone to participate in.