So last year Wiscon had a harassment problem when Elise Matthesen was harassed by somebody who later turned out to be Tor editor Jim Frenkel, who was fired for this and similar harassment. This year Wiscon still has a harassment problem, as Jim Frenkel was allowed to not only attend, but play an active role in the con. Which inevitably led to at least one of his victims being made to feel unsafe.
At best, this is a massive fuckup from a convention that should’ve and could’ve know better, at worst this was a deliberate abnegation of responsibility on the part of the concom.
I mean, this is not some kind of borderline case: Frenkel admitted to what he had done and even his employer found the evidence for his harassment clear enough to fire him for it, so hard could it be to just refuse him entry? As well, both the case and Frenkel are well known enough that anybody on the concom should know who he was and why he shouldn’t have been at the con the moment they saw his name on a membership list or volunteer sheet. Or is that the problem, that he was a well known fan, a friend or acquintance perhaps, who had done something wrong but had apologised and it seemed unfair to punish him further?
But of course, as we all know, to be lenient to a harasser at a con means making your con unsafe for his victims and potential victims, means excluding these people from your con, means you make a choice in favour of harassment. That’s the message that Wiscon has sent out by allowing Frenkel, a year after he was called out for his behaviour, back into the con. Its actions show that it isn’t a safe place, that in fact as an organisation it doesn’t take harassment seriously and thinks the right of the harasser to go to the con trumps that of his victims to feel safe. If I had been harassed by Frenkel or somebody like him, I certainly wouldn’t return to a con that not only hadn’t prevented this harassment, but hadn’t even seem fit to exclude the harasser after the fact.
Again, it’s not as if Wiscon couldn’t have know this would happen, or didn’t have the resources or knowledge to have handled this better, considering the Readercon example, another con that went through a high profile harassment case and then actually took the time to improve both its policies and policing of harassment. Nobody at Wiscon thought to talk to them?
Is it just me, or does this all seem to point at Wiscon not taking harassment at all seriously, thinking that as a feminist convention it couldn’t happen there?