Chesya Burke on Safety At Conventions
Reposted with permission from Chesya Burke's Facebook:
I’m going to say something, and it’s probably going to piss some people off. But, hey, when has that stopped me?
It seems that some people are just now realizing that genre conventions and some publications are not, and have not been, safe or welcoming spaces for certain people. Whereas SF and fantasy has been dealing with these issues for a few years, the horror community, it seems, is lagging behind yet again. Of late (as in 2016) there have actually been people who have compared being minority to being a vampire in order to justify not liking/publishing some types of people and stories those types of people tell in response to a White Supremacist being placed as a juror for one of the only awards in the genre, and more recently it has come to light that an attempted rape was covered up for years by a man who physically assaulted another woman.
For those counting at home, that’s two assaults, blatant racist behavior and those condoning it because, you know, vampires are people, my friend.
But, a few incidences is not enough. Let me just outline some more so you understand why this is important to me. And should be important to you.
I have been followed around more conferences than I can count (to the point that my longtime friend, Maurice Broaddus, watches me, waiting for me to make eye contact just in case….), I have been offered money for sex, and called “Aunt Jemima” in front a group of white male writers in order to put me in my place. I have seen and/or know of a woman writer being touched and rubbed by a big name writer without her permission, a trans woman being openly mocked and practically laughed out of the genre, a man who was arrested for molesting children at a conference, and well, Ed Kramer, who many writers (in this fucking genre) still defend to this day.
In other words, these are not isolated incidents. I can guarantee you that they happen at every single convention that you have been to, every single one, every single year. Just because you have not heard about them, or done any of these things yourself, does not mean that they don’t happen. It does not mean that the people who must deal with these types of micro and outright aggressions should hide away, and does not mean that they are lying if you didn’t personally see them.
It means that you need to pull your head out of your own ass and fucking believe that different people have different experiences than you. It means that you, as a person who is relatively safe in these spaces, have not done all that you can to help those who are not as privileged as you are.
Instead of acknowledging this, some argue that if you’re too scared to simply be around other people (as if this is the argument), then maybe you shouldn’t go to conventions.
First off, this is dismissive as fuck. Really? If predators have been given space to prey and oppress others within our genre, we should not seek to eliminate them, but to chastise those who want to stop them? Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit. Every single person should feel just as safe as you do entering that space (and not safe by your standards, but their own), and if they don’t, it’s not their problem, it’s our problem as a community. We done fucked up.
Moreover, some argue that “common sense” and “logic” dictate that we are over reacting by having harassment policies and creating safe spaces because they see conventions as some of the safest public gatherings anyone can attend. Anyone not believing this, of course, is inciting hysteria.
Because if conventions are safe for them, they must be safe for everyone in equal measures. In other words, you know, women are hysterical and men are the calm, logical ones. Right….
But what’s the end game here? We create an environment that women aren’t raped, molested or attacked? That racial minorities, gay and trans people aren’t humiliated and oppressed? That everyone is safe and comfortable in the spaces that we all inhabit? So…. This is good, right?
I’m going to be very blunt here. The only reason that I see anyone as having a problem with this is if you are a rapist, racist, sexist, homophobe or some kinda combination of these.
If you are, cool! You have every right to be some or all of these things.
Just don’t expect the rest of us to play along as if you aren’t actively harming us.
For those who support us, thanks! We need and value you. For those who don’t, move the fuck aside, we’re moving on. This gets tiring, and there are way too many diverse stories to tell to continue living in a past that is not welcoming for us. Or in a present that some want to keep that way.