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Unread 05-02-2013, 08:53 AM   #1
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For-profit vs. fan-run cons and harassment/bullying

I have only ever attended fan-run conventions as an adult, and only recently have I started wearing anything resembling a costume (steampunk garb).

I've never experienced spontaneous* sexual harassment at a con, first-hand. I know it happens, I know many people who it's happened to, but I don't know the specifics of where or when. The sort of harassment I'm talking about is the stuff I hear about on this board all the time -- the catcalls and "here's what I'd like to do to you" behaviour, as well as the fat-shaming, slut-shaming, and other unsolicited offensive comments ("tuck in your muffin top", "cover up that gross scar", general comments on someone's appearance as a male or female especially in crossplay or if the costumer is trans, etc.) from guys who should be minding their own business.

My question, for those of you who have gone to lots more cons than I have, is: do you find that the fan-run events do a better job than commercial events of trying to prevent this stuff from happening or taking action against harassers?

What about the likelihood of harassment at big cons vs. little cons?

Or is it costume-heavy cons vs. the ones where costuming is a side attraction (i.e. are the offenders just attracted to the cons where they know they'll see lots of female bodies on display)?

* I say spontaneous because I did have a run-in with a guy who seemed to have schemed and plotted to get a group of women around him in a consuite and then tell them stories that would make them uncomfortable. That and picking a fight with a member of concom got him banned.
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Unread 05-02-2013, 09:46 AM   #2
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LOL, that guy sounds like a real winner.. o_o;

To be honest, I have only attended somewhat large conventions before (about 5,000 people and up), but I feel like this sort of thing would be more prominent at larger conventions, where someone can easily get away with getting lost in the crowd after shouting something obscene as a cosplayer walks by. As for the REAL creeps though, they can be anywhere. I was stalked and harassed at a con that had over 10,000 people attending - that dude didn't give a damn who saw what he was doing. He was going to do it until myself and hotel security made him stop.

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Unread 05-02-2013, 10:05 AM   #3
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I think that's sort of where I'm going, "I feel like" it would be easier to get away with crap at a big convention, but I want to know if there are statistics to back it up.
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Unread 05-02-2013, 10:11 AM   #4
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I've never been to a fan convention and the smallest I've been to is probably the Baltimore Comic Con. I'm use to large conventions like San Diego o NYCC.

I do feel that at a larger event you can get "away with" more. Like someone else said, someone gets lost in the crowd, maybe you think someone said something but it's too loud to be 100% sure, it's easier to say an ass grabbing was an "accident."
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Unread 05-02-2013, 10:24 AM   #5
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There are also two things we can break this out into.

1) How likely is it that someone in a crowd will cop a feel or make a comment without being noticed by anyone but the target, or without being identifiable?

2) If they are identifiable by you or the incident is noticed by other people, how likely is it that con security or concom will take action against the abuser?

The small fan cons I've been to have been good at both. In the first case, these tend to be small enough that everyone knows everyone, so if someone behaves badly in public people know who they are. Even if they have friends who would defend their actions, there are also enough impartial witnesses who would still know the guy's name and be able to point him out to security. And like I said, I've only really seen it happen once, and it was someone who was building up a case against himself on several fronts. But it seems like in general the community is closely-knit enough to police itself. (Barring, of course, incidents that are unknown to everyone but the abuser and his target.)

In addition the fan cons I attend have been good at addressing the concerns of people who have been made to feel unsafe, and trying to prevent that kind of thing from happening in the future. The attendee base is small, they value everyone who is a well behaved attendee, so they want them to be happy about going to the con.
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Unread 05-02-2013, 10:45 AM   #6
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I help run a small convention in Canada (attendance this year was 1400 ish), and to be truthful it can even depend convention to convention based on what age groups/type of attendee (gamers vs cosplayers etc) show up.

I know from the staff side of it, we really encourage people to come to us if there is a problem so we can deal with it because if they don't more people might be affected and we'll never know why some people don't come back the following year.

I honestly haven't had much issues with comments, actions etc when I've been in more revealing costumes but I only go to a few select cons with good atmospheres. Now having said that I do wear a lot of large mascot costumes and I find I get more hassled at large for profit conventions because they advertise a lot more to get the non con goers to come to their conventions and they just don't have the handle yet about con etiquette. So I think that has a lot to play into the large cons you can get away with more.
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Unread 05-02-2013, 02:22 PM   #7
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Its a problem at smaller conventions as well. One of the only times its happened to me was at a tiny 2,000 people scifi convention.

So i guess its con dependent.
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Unread 05-02-2013, 03:15 PM   #8
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I don't think there's a real divide on this between "fan-run" and "for-profit" or "big vs. small". It's just really a case-by-case basis on whether the con has a harassment policy and how well they enforce it. I've seen a mix of well-behaved and unruly attendees at cons all across the big/small and the fan-run/profit spectrum.

It's all about that particular con's policies and how good their security is. If people know they can't get away with that crap and will get removed from the con, they generally won't do it. If they know that no one will stop them, there will always be some bad eggs ruining the experience for others.

If I go to a con that does not have a harassment policy and/or does not enforce it, I don't go back and I notify those running the con, when I can. Eventually, they will fix the problem or others will follow suit and that con will die out sooner or later.
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Unread 05-02-2013, 04:08 PM   #9
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To be honest, I have no idea whether any of the cons I attended were for-profit or fan-run. So I can't comment on whether it's better at one or the other. Personally, I've found it to be a bigger problem at small cons than big ones. That seems a little odd as in a big crowd, there's a greater chance someone there is a jackass.

Maybe the big crowds deter people because there's a lot of people to witness wrongdoing? It could also be that at larger cons, the staff seems to care more (in my experience anyway).
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Unread 05-04-2013, 08:48 PM   #10
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I have seen it at both, fan-run and for-profit cons.

The worst was at anime north last year, i was sitting at the Friday night skits and there was a row of young-adult males. When any female came on stage they loudly were cat-calling and saying what they would like to do it her. It was revolting...I was shocked because I hadn't experienced that at a fan-run con before.
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Unread 05-04-2013, 10:07 PM   #11
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Levels of harassment I am finding are more based on region that the con is being held rather then size of the con or their tax status
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