Yesterday when I found out about the open source boob project I figured I should write something up for FSFBlog about it. Something more comprehensive than WTF PEOPLE. However, Liz beat me to it! And brilliantly. Everyone should go read her post, cuz she has awesome links.
I am as impressed with the swiftness and voracity of the response to the original post as Liz is, but not entirely surprised. I think there is a lot of built-up, sometimes unspoken, anger about the issue of sexual harassment or skeeviness at cons or with the community in general. And it’s not just with the obvious crap from inappropriate touching or overtly creepy people, but also that subtle shit or with people who take advantage of the politeness, introversion, or shyness of the people–usually women–they are creepy and inappropriate and worse with.
And because it’s not completely over the line stuff like actual touching or actual verbal abuse, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do. Even I find myself struggling to get past the barrier of basic human politeness and have the courage to say, “Dude, you are creeping me the fuck out.”
I’ll give an example, since I’ve been telling folks about this a lot lately. I was at a big con a while back and met a person through mutual friends. Upon first meeting, this person seemed to be nice and friendly and someone I wouldn’t mind knowing. Later, at a party, I saw this person again when they approached me and proceeded to compliment my various physical attributes and declared me hot and sexy.
On the surface, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But the majority of the people reading this journal know that there’s a way in which someone can compliment your looks that is flattering, even a turn on. And then there’s ways they can compliment you that makes you want to have a very hot shower, perhaps with a nice exfoliating piece of brillo, just to be sure the slime goes away. But the person didn’t say something disgusting, didn’t slip me his room key and wink, didn’t touch me, didn’t threaten. It’s right on that edge of not cool, enough to make me go EWWWWEWEWEWOMGNO on the inside. On the outside, I just smiled and accepted the compliment (as young ladies are taught to do) and resolved to not go near that person again, if I could help it.
But, like I said, this was a friend of a friend, so I did see them again over the course of the con, and they continued to flirt and skeeve in my general direction. (and after that, friended me on LJ, moving into virtual skeeving. Lovely.) And even I marveled at why I couldn’t just say, “I do very much mind that you keep flirting with me, since you asked, because you’re ICKY.” But then, that’s really mean.
I suppose, when it comes down to it, I have ideas about when it’s appropriate to just cut someone down and when it’s not. Someone says something racist? Yes. Someone touches my person or the person of someone I know for a fact doesn’t want to be touched? Yes. Someone is just being generally creepy? Not so much.
Perhaps I should re-evaluate this. Because this is a problem. Not just at cons, not just with guys. (If I counted the # of times some women of my acquaintance have been completely inappropriate with the flirting and skeeving all over a person she KNOWS to be in a relationship… gah! Don’t get me started. Though I do recognize that the power dynamics with that are different.) And, at this point, as this boob touching thing has proven, even mild creepiness calls for swift, loud, direct correction. Honestly, how else is this crap going to stop?
I just realized I am sitting here getting angry because I was imagining the kind of bullshit I would hear from people if I were to ever go off on someone for being creepy but not over the line. People telling me that I’m being MEEN, or that just talking to someone privately would achieve more, and why should I completely embarrass that person when they may not even know they’re doing something wrong, or similar sentiments. Preemptively I say to that: BULLSHIT.
Just as I will not, WILL NOT, put up with racism or sexism when it’s seemingly not overt, I also will not put up with this skeeviness. Our community should not. And if I have to be the one to loudly proclaim “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME” in order to get my message across, regardless of who it embarrasses, then I will just have to.
That’s my project. Don’t have a cool name for it, though.