An inconclusive post about bad behaviour

In recent days there has been a renewed focus on some genuinely shitty behaviour by science-fiction writers and others in the SF&F community. I don’t have a lot to say about the specifics because a) I literally don’t know anybody and b) it’s a good time to listen rather than suck oxygen. The discussion has rippled outwards as well and while the specific behaviour initially talked about revolved around the behaviour of male authors and predatory, harassing or emotionally abusive/exploitative behaviour to women, there is a wider question of power-dynamics and bullying behaviour.

Those broader questions have then touched on issues in the semi-recent past, including events like RaceFail from 2009 and the issues around Requires Hate that came to a head in 2015. Those in turn raise the issue of nested power dynamics, in a complex and international community where publishing has its own hierarchies & positions of power, social media and size of followers has another power dynamic and these play out with existing social divisions around wealth, class, language, sexuality, gender and ethnicity (and ethnicity within both national and international contexts).

It is a complex ethical space and at the same time the issue at hand is very simple: STOP BEING SHITTY TO OTHER PEOPLE & START TREATING PEOPLE AS PEOPLE NOT AS THINGS OR GAME PIECES. I say “simple” and even as I write I use a paraphrasing of Kant’s categorical imperative and in this context have to point out that philosophers long and appalling level of racism and sexism. A simple idea that we keep failing at in fractal like ways.

Part of the self-reference in the issues of both bad behaviour and power dynamics is how we (as a community and as individuals) respond to people within our community acting badly towards others. Assuming we aren’t talking about behaviour that amounts to criminality* then we are talking about behaviour that we can only discourage/punish by the means of social consequences. Social consequences (which could amount to simply not following somebody on Twitter any more to something more substantial) are themselves acts which employ varying degrees of power dynamics between people.

And that circles back to systemic biases, specifically whether shitty person A and shitty person B end up suffering different consequences for similar behaviour of if shitty person A is a person-of-colour/woman/trans/gay/etc and person B is a straight, cis American/British white man. One of the big issues with systemic biases is they can are easiest to identify in aggregate: they often function stochastically and when looked at case-by-case there are (particularly in the kinds of behaviour I’m talking about) sufficient differences between case X and case Y that the difference in consequence can be rationalised away (X was dumped by their agent because of X’s behaviour but then Y wasn’t… but then X had done i,ii,iii,& ix and Y had done ii,xi, &xii etc where each of these are non-trivial cases of genuinely bad behaviour to others).

In workplaces or in more formal settings like a convention, a rules based approach can add a quasi-legal framework to things. By codifying both behaviours and consequences it can be easier to track both and look for inequities as well as providing frameworks to ensure that people who have behaved badly are still treated as people. In practice though, that doesn’t happen and we also have very recent examples of such structures being used as an instrument of bullying and power plays. Rules and power structures can be weaponised by people who act in bad faith.

However, the alternative that we have without those frameworks is a situation where I can say with confidence that probably different kinds of people are treated inequitably in these situations because I know in advance that our communities have not magically transcended systemic biases or hundreds of years of class, racial and gender biases BUT would struggle to spot whether a given case is an example of that.

Complex thing is complex! I don’t have any solutions at the end of this but I do know that worst thing to do in the face of a big ugly complex thing in which people are suffering genuine hurt is to give up. Seeing first that something is both complex (see above) but also simple (stop being shitty to other people) is part of interrogating a problem**.

*[or behaviour that arguably does amount to criminality but which victims have substantial reasons not to want to involve law-enforcement for so many reasons.]

**[and yes, I’m aware that seeing things in terms of ‘problems’ is also a cognitive bias of my own because I like problem solving and yet that is also a way of turning people into abstract things. Recursive thing is recursive.]

ETA: I finished that post and went to check my mail and there was a newsletter essay by Alexandra Erin that addressed the topic better (because she’s a better writer 🙂) https://alexandraerin.substack.com/p/more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger I liked this paragraph:

“You can’t win at sadness. No one wins at sadness. If you go with sadness, that means the game is over. Sadness means you’re out of moves. Sadness means there is no convincing the other person or people that you were right all along, that what you did was fine. Sadness means the final death of your last hope of powering through and coming out the other side untouched and unscathed.”

42 thoughts on “An inconclusive post about bad behaviour

  1. If you’re talking about the case x and case y I think you might be, then reports now say y has also been dropped by their agent and a previous publisher.

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  2. I realize that you’re talking about very specific people and events, but given my admittedly limited understanding of the inner workings of the “science fiction community,” I have no idea what you’re talking about. I am reminded of my favorite quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel: “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.” Of course, as a religious Jew, Rabbi Heschel’s perspectives might not be well received by everybody.

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    1. Hi James,
      Yes, avoiding names can make the issues seem opaque or vague but I’m also on the far edge of this. I didn’t want the discussion here to be about the individuals, mainly because there are better discussions elsewhere (but also as personal failing, I manage abstractions better than feelings).

      A post closer to the details is John Scalzi’s https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/06/25/when-friends-fuck-up-and-so-do-i/

      I do like that quote. It’s very true and I very much empathise with it. Professionally, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out intelligent people but looking back at the people who I actually appreciated working with and with whom I’ve done my best work *kindness* is the common feature. As the Doctor once said “Never be cruel and never be cowardly. And if you ever are, always make amends.”

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      1. Ah yes, Scalzi. I just read his commentary and I still have no idea who these people are. I read one of Scalzi’s books once and reviewed it, “The Collapsing Empire.” He does seem to be in love with the word f*ck. 😉

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    2. I like the quote, too. The fact that’s from a Rabbi doesn’t bother me either. People from all backgrounds can have insightful things to say.

      And yes, Scalzi is rather sweary.

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    3. That quote reminds me of one from the movie Harvey

      Elwood P. Dowd: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

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  3. It’s difficult to tell which of the recent allegations of sexual misconduct you’re referring to, simply because there have been so many and new cases seem to be emerging all the time. Right now, we seem to have advanced to the accusation and counteraccusation phase. And a lot of older gripes and beefs are being dredged up again as well.

    I didn’t go to cons when I was young and pretty enough to be a target for this sort of behaviour, mostly because I couldn’t afford it, so I was lucky enough to miss the convention harrassment experience, though like pretty much every woman, I experienced plenty of sexual harrassment in other situations.

    I was on the editorial staff of our university literature magazine and hung out on the fringes of the local literary scene. And there I saw the same shitty behaviour and abuse of power that is currently being discussed in the SFF community. There was the assistant editor of a magazine that paid in copies who abused his position to sleep with any woman he wanted. At least he didn’t harrass anybody, but left you alone, if you said no.Though he would veto your submissions at editorial meetings. There was also the ambitious newbie writer who would suck up to anybody who could be useful to further her career, treated those who were not useful like crap and even tried to sabotage those she considered competition. I think situations like this happen in every fairly small and closed community, where there is internal competition for limited positions and resources.

    It may be petty, but it feels very satisfying knowing how much me being a Hugo finalist in spite of not playing their games will piss those people off. And yes, they know, because the editor announced it on the magazine’s Facebook page.

    My university also regularly invited authors to do readings and workshops. And because I was on the staff of the literary magazine, i was usually involved in these events, manning bookstalls, picking up authors from the airport, etc… All of these authors were on the literary side. A few were already famous, but most were fairly early in their career. Of most of them, you never heard again, one went on to win the Clarke Award and one went on to win the Booker Prize and became famous.

    The future Booker Prize winner took a student half his age back to his hotel room – mere hours after reading a poem about his then recent wedding and how much he loved his wife. There was no coercion, the student went willingly and probably even threw herself at him, but he could still have said no.

    Not naming names, because it’s not my story – I was just a witness, not a participant. But whenever I see that guy’s name pop up somewhere in the books section of a newspaper or in a cultural program on TV, I always think, “I know who you slept with 20 years ago, jerk, and it wasn’t your wife.”

    And whenever there’s a new wave of sexual misconduct allegations (cause these things seem to go in waves), I hope that someone will say his name. Because I’m sure that my former classmate wasn’t the only one.

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    1. Correction: I did witness the assistant editor bothering a woman who was new to the group once. I’m not sure whether she considered his behaviour harrassment – she might have been his lover at the time. At any rate, I told him, “Either help [we were setting up for a reading at the time] or take it somewhere else.” Whereupon he reluctantly carried a box with magazines and then sulked and left.

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    2. I’ve only experienced the academic world tangentially but from what I’ve seen there are many abusive dynamics there. In particular the role of Phd supervisor over the person doing a Phd is one that can easily become toxic in my (limited) experience.

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    3. Pretty much all organizations seem to show the same patterns or potential for patterns of bad behavior. The people who care more about their position than the actual work. Abusers and predators who get covering fire from the group. The division between Us and Them.

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      1. Yes. There were similar issues and dynamics at work in the local sports shooting club (not a member myself. but I heard the stories and witnessed the yelling and shouting in the neighbourhood), when I was growing up. And sports shooting clubs in rural Germany are about as low stakes as you can get and more about socialising than competition anyway.

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  4. camestrosfelapton: However, the alternative that we have without those frameworks is a situation where I can say with confidence that probably different kinds of people are treated inequitably in these situations because I know in advance that our communities have not magically transcended systemic biases or hundreds of years of class, racial and gender biases BUT would struggle to spot whether a given case is an example of that.

    There’s no question that systemic bias results in statistically-worse judgments and penalties across the board for minorities and marginalized persons; U.S. incarceration statistics bear that out, but it is equally-applicable in the SFF community, where careers rather than prison sentences are involved.

    It’s a problem, though, when that systemic bias is used as whataboutism in individual cases to argue that a person who is minority/marginalized should be let off the hook for doing something really, really awful, because look at all the white people who’ve done bad things, who didn’t experience the same condemnation! (and yes, I’m referring to a specific notable case here).

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    1. //It’s a problem, though, when that systemic bias is used as whataboutism in individual cases to argue that a person who is minority/marginalized should be let off the hook for doing something really, really awful,//

      You’ve jumped to the point I was dancing around but also the question of severity: did X suffer more for what they did than Z etc.

      I just don’t know and that also sounds like cowardice on my part but these inequities should worry us but…shitty behaviour isn’t something we should accept but…etc

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    2. It seems to me as if a particular marginalised person with a long history of awful behaviour is trying to use this latest uproar to place themselves back into the good graces of the SFF community. It’s probably no coincidence that they also have a new book out.

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      1. Yes, and there’s someone defending them on Twitter saying that they were unfairly condemned not only because they are a POC, but because they were only 19! To which my response was,19 when they started, maybe, but 28 when their 10-year campaign of harassment and abuse was outed — so claiming that they were just a child being stupid is really not even remotely a valid excuse.

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      2. 19 is still a stupid age, but it’s certainly above the age of majority in every country on this planet.

        9 year olds who steal something from the store have to return/repay it, apologize, and go to their room with no supper to think about what they’ve done.

        19 year olds who do that get to talk to their local constabulary, and it goes on their dreaded Permanent Record.

        28 year olds who’ve been stealing from the same store for 10 years get a much harsher judgement.

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      3. Cora Buhlert: It seems to me as if a particular marginalised person with a long history of awful behaviour is trying to use this latest uproar to place themselves back into the good graces of the SFF community. It’s probably no coincidence that they also have a new book out.

        Oh, yeah, the attempt to retcon that as an attack on them as a POC — instead of what it actually was, a POC who engaged in almost a decade of harassment and abuse against others, many of whom were also POC — is in full swing on Twitter right now. The retconners are getting some pushback, but not enough (and apparently Twitter allows people to hide others’ replies to their Tweets from other people now, which is frankly reprehensible).

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      4. This whole thing is very surreal and even people I otherwise respect are suddenly defending that person. There’s so much retconning going on, including blaming an author for the whole thing, who was involved in an earlier uproar, but not in that particular one. Do they honestly think people don’t remember or cannot google?

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      5. Cora Buhlert: There’s so much retconning going on, including blaming an author for the whole thing, who was involved in an earlier uproar, but not in that particular one. Do they honestly think people don’t remember or cannot google?

        My perception is that a lot of the people on Twitter actually live on Twitter, and have very little Internet interaction outside of it. So when something happens and they don’t know the backstory, they do a search on Twitter instead of Google. And of course, people frequently later delete Tweets or limit their accounts to Followers-only, so limiting one’s research to Twitter means getting incomplete / insufficient / just plain skewed information.

        There’s also the phenomenon where people whose only interaction with someone has been positive seem to believe whatever that person says, that any negative claims about them are just shitposting, and — never bothering looking into it further — end up repeating the falsehoods they’ve been told as if they are fact. I think that’s where a lot of the retconning in this particular situation is coming from. The person in question is very manipulative, and has a long history of carefully selecting and programming people to be champions for them.

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      6. I think that is all true and also a series of connections between people and past conflicts (specifically RaceFail) which leads people to re-prosecute old arguments. Added to which is the Puppy Debarkle getting in the way of the immediate aftermath that left many things unresolved, PLUS a more broad issue of people saying “how come the issue with X was a big deal in 2015 when it took five more years to deal with these shitty guys”. That last point has a lot more teeth to it even without conceding any ground on the original issue.

        There’s a really long blog post that I definitely WILL NOT WRITE unpacking all that in my head – where it will stay forever because I’m not going into that giant mess 🙂

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      7. This will be my only post on the subject, since I know how “the SFF community” treats anyone who dares to suggest that Sriduangkaew might not be History’s Greatest Monster. I was on LJ starting in ~2002, and a reader of her various blogs, and I witnessed many of the events that have been reported on happening in realtime.

        Nobody — not her and not the people who are angry that other people are lying about her — is trying to get her back into anyone’s “good graces”. She’s already not part of “the community”. (She lives on another fucking continent from almost everyone yelling about her, she doesn’t go to cons, and she talks to very few people who are involved in organized fandom or prodom.) She’s already got basically zero professional network left, and never will have again. She is yet again being stalked by people who do not give a single shit about her victims.

        What she wants — and what all of her defenders, including myself, want for her — is threefold:

        1. For her to be left the fuck alone to talk to her friends on Twitter (which is her only social networking activity other than private Discord chats)
        2. For people to stop outright lying about her “continuing abuse” and accusing her of being Literally Satan Playing 11th-dimensional-chess every fucking time someone else in SFF stubs their goddamn toe
        3. For the people who are outright stalking her, gleefully, with zero care for any of her actual victims, to stop that (for an example of this, see for instance this gentleman who admits to employing a PI: http://archive.fo/OHDUK )

        That’s it. That’s all. Tell the true stories but stop telling the false ones, quit bringing her up to distract from people who are CURRENTLY behaving badly, and leave her the hell alone as long as she leaves “the SFF community” alone.

        Also, JJ, she didn’t have “a decade” of shitty behavior. She had about six years of it, from about age 17-18 to about 24-25. (She’s in her early thirties NOW, in 2020.) Even if you are taking the Mixon report as gospel (which you should not, because some of it is made up), the earliest allegations of bad behavior from her are from shortly before Racefail (so 2007-8, give or take), and the latest are from around the time of the Mixon report in 2014. If you find anything from before 2008, fine, we can look at the evidence; but that doesn’t push her age in 2014 upward (time travel is impossible); it pushes the age at which she started *backward*.

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      8. Hmmmmm.

        Seriously, I don’t think a comment like this in any way helps Benjanun Sriduangkaew.
        For example quibbling about 6 years versus a decade isn’t going to substantially change anybody’s opinion of the ‘Requires Hate’ era – instead it invites a fact checking argument about the dates. Likewise Sriduangkaew age now invites a similar argument, where past claims about her age will get thrown about (and as a pseudonymous being, I sympathise with any steps she might have taken to protect her anonymity, so I get why she might have left a few red herrings but likewise I really can’t expect people to wholly trust things I might claim about my personal background when I have repeatedly claimed to live in a town and county of England that doesn’t exist). Likewise Sriduangkaew living on another continent…think about your audience…I live on yet another continent and I don’t go to cons either and many of the regulars on this blog don’t live in the US either. I’m not the most connected person either but I’m sufficiently connected to have been a Hugo finalist AND when I look at my Twitter followers I’ve got some overlap with followers of Bee Sriduangkaew.

        I’m pointing that out NOT to get in a quibbling argument with you but to point out how your comment presents itself. It is littered with disputable points that people WILL dispute and is presented in a way that invites argument.

        And note, I’ve actually been trying to steer the argument AWAY from Requires Hate bashing — not brilliantly but still this blog is very much NOT “bringing her up to distract from people who are CURRENTLY behaving badly”. For flips sake, I’ve multiple posts now on how various parties including former Sad Puppies are bringing her up to distract from the likes of Myke Cole and why. And yet, here you go with a comment that is 100% guaranteed to shift the conversation onto re-hashing the Requires Hate era.

        Yes, I get the Mixon report is flawed and that there’s a mythical Requires Hate that stomps through recent SFF history dis-attached from the factual one but the process of demythologising Requires Hate (which I think I could do if I put my mind to it) really, really, really doesn’t help Bee Sriduangkaew because the factual version really is bad. Each time somebody debunks the Mixon report, it is another time that people go through another giant heap of emotional pain because of that significant kernel of things that Requires Hate did then. At the end of such arguments people go away with their original positions more strongly confirmed and people new to the argument will see some genuine examples of very bad actions (which I know Sriduangkaew and her genuine friends concede). And where does that get Bee Sriduangkaew other than a renewed alienation?

        I wasn’t talking specifically about Bee Sriduangkaew in this recent post https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/neither-law-nor-war/ but I was mindful of how the ‘Requires Hate’ situation played out and there are relevant aspects to it.

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      9. King’s Rook Four: she didn’t have “a decade” of shitty behavior. She had about six years of it, from about age 17-18 to about 24-25. (She’s in her early thirties NOW, in 2020.) Even if you are taking the Mixon report as gospel (which you should not, because some of it is made up)

        If you think that saying “it was only 6 years of adulthood, and some of the things attributed to her were not true” in any way mitigates BS/RH’s behavior, you are very much mistaken. It wasn’t a brief exercise in youthful stupidity. It was a many-years-long organized campaign of harassment and abuse by an adult which would have required several hours’ effort on pretty much a daily basis along with a spreadsheet to keep track of websites, e-mail addresses, pseuds, and comments of various targets.

        As Cam says, your attempts to minimize and excuse BS/RH’s behavior are not actually going to convince people that what she did was a brief youthful indiscretion. The truth which remains is still overwhelmingly awful.

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      10. “With friends like these…”

        You say you just want her to be left alone, yet you’re the one coming in here and stirring the pot on a post that’s nearly a week old. And then coming back and responding after saying it would be your only post. 🙄

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      11. Camestros,

        She isn’t pseudonymous. I mean, she is, but she was doxxed by her stalker (and i mean DOXXED — not only her wallet name but her birth records and several other bits of identifying record) around the time the Mixon report came out (i think the dox were dropped in 2015? but I’m not perfect on the timeline), and those dox spread across the internet by, among other people, Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Laura Mixon. I personally witnessed TNH tweeting the dox; that’s not something I’m getting secondhand.

        YOU may not know her real identity, but many fandom insiders definitely do, so statements about her age and such are quite falsifiable.

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      12. You are both missing my immediate point and also illustrating EXACTLY my wider point. Sure, let’s have an argument about Requires Hate’s age – what’s the go-to evidence? a flipping DOXXING! I’ve *zero* interest in digging into her birth records and effectively repeating something of at best dubious morality! For flips sake!

        And *who would that serve*? Would it help Bee Sriduangkaew? Hardly. Would it anyway undermine the use of Requires-Hate as distraction? Nope, I’d be off checking birth certificates and wondering about the chances that the wrong person was doxxed (I’ve a hilarious story about that).

        And at the end of the process (assuming it all checks out) then the connection between the toxic Requires Hate identity and the Sriduangkaew is either reconfirmed or revealed anew to people who weren’t aware of it but maybe had quite enjoyed one of Sriduangkaew stories. Again, why would I do that when the net effect would be to further demonise Sriduangkaew?

        My wider point: this kind of argument doesn’t help Sriduangkaew. It helps *repeat* the more dubious aspects of campaign against Requires Hate.

        My immediate point about age and pseudonymity: Us pseudonymous beings don’t get to complain about how we end up with confused and murky backgrounds when we went to such efforts about making our backgrounds confused and murky!

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      13. I don’t have any particular interest in Sriduangkaew, who harassed people and lied, or in Mixon, who harassed people and lied, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Sriduangkaew has anything to do with any of the situations that have recently come up about abuse in written SFF or comics or other fandoms.

        What has happened is that a young author, Alexandra Rowland, brought up abusive behavior including gaslighting that she experienced from Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear, who are married, several years ago when she was starting out, as well as abusive experiences with some other SFF authors, which was related to abuses happening to young authors from those they saw as mentors that were being discussed (re grooming, emotional abuse, discrimination towards women authors in the community, etc.) And Elizabeth Bear, facing some heat from this, floated the idea that Rowland’s and others’ negative remarks were somehow engineered or influenced or magnified by Sriduangkaew (re RaceFail.) There was no evidence of this and it seems a deflection. But it’s one that has been taken up by a lot of people since it was suggested because it’s apparently easier than dealing with much more thorny and uncomfortable recent situations.

        So there’s really no point in rehashing past events related to Sriduangkaew, however you view her. It’s been tempting for a lot of people and it’s come up indirectly because of discussions also going on regarding discrimination against BIPOC in the publishing industry as part of the BLM movement. But it doesn’t have much bearing on recent incidents/discussions of sexual harassment, sexist discrimination and emotional abuse and manipulation in fandom and at conventions that are occurring.

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  5. I think that the biggest problem for bystanders is knowing who to believe. These cases often boil down to he said-she said – at least to those of us remote from the events. In the majority of cases the accuser is telling the truth (in a broad sense) and refusing to believe them would be harmful. But there are cases where the accusations are substantially false – even if the accuser believes them – and we do have to guard against those cases to some extent. But not to the extent of throwing up our hands and refusing to take an opinion when the evidence is weak.

    Sometimes there are warning flags in the accusations. One such came up on RPG.net a while back (the accuser’s account looked awfully like something a stalker might write). In others we can hope for corroborating evidence. In the very recent case being discussed here (I think) other people familiar with the events and people have weighed in on the side of the accused and they seem credible to me, although I have only seen one side of it so far.

    I think that the imperfect best we can do is to tentatively favour the accuser’s version but to be prepared to listen to all the evidence and try our utmost to weigh it fairly. And at the same time we have to try to avoid adding unnecessarily to genuine hurt – on either side,

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    1. I suppose I should add, that while there is one specific case out there In SF land that is looking dubious there are a bunch more – like those referred to by Scalzi – which don’t.

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  6. “In workplaces or in more formal settings like a convention, a rules based approach can add a quasi-legal framework to things. By codifying both behaviours and consequences it can be easier to track both and look for inequities as well as providing frameworks to ensure that people who have behaved badly are still treated as people. In practice though, that doesn’t happen and we also have very recent examples of such structures being used as an instrument of bullying and power plays. Rules and power structures can be weaponised by people who act in bad faith.”

    There’s an American political writer, who’s a woman of color, who admits to leaning towards libertarian beliefs because of the countless times laws meant supposedly to protect PoC, or even just people in general, are then applied against them instead. And obviously that’s true and that same principle is involved in the quoted paragraph.

    At the same time, doing nothing is unacceptable and signals that the existing status quo is acceptable, allowing for it to continue unabated, and for new people to the community to believe that it is acceptable as well. Things have to be done, even if those efforts do not work as intended, at the very least to signal that such behavior is unacceptable, so as to prevent it from continuing, and people need to keep working to modify those efforts when they go wrong to adjust them so that they can work better for their intended purposes.

    This is not an easy problem to solve, and it’s one that’s painful to see come up so frequently. There is no single immediate fix, but short term fixes will result in more people coming forward to make the problem more apparent, and in situations coming out where the true victims and abusers aren’t easy to discern (one of those this week in particular). But if COVID has taught me anything in America, it’s that what matters just as much as the rules one puts in place to prevent something from happening is the signaling that comes from people in authority and elsewhere that something is NOT acceptable, and without that things will just continue.

    I’m kind of rambling now, so I’m gonna stop here.

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    1. /// There’s an American political writer, who’s a woman of color, who admits to leaning towards libertarian beliefs because of the countless times laws meant supposedly to protect PoC, or even just people in general, are then applied against them instead. And obviously that’s true and that same principle is involved in the quoted paragraph. ///

      Absolutely! Canada passed a strong anti-pornography law in the eighties—an alliance between feminists and religious conservatives. The result: enforcement was put in the hands of individuals with basically no accountability. If the border guard thinks that same sex relationships are a sin? Good luck getting your AIDS-awareness leaflets through!

      The one unanswerable argument on the small-‘l’ side is “Who decides?” I have a partial answer: not me, not most of the people I know, DEFINITELY no one with strong pre-existing commitments on any points of controversy.

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    2. I am torn between thinking that once you start doing something people will come around to the idea that this is a problem that needs to be solved and be more open to the idea of additional changes in the future, and between thinking that some people will take the idea that you’ve done something as an excuse to ignore the problem because you’ve done something about it, so it’s all fixed now. I am unclear what proportion of people who might be initially opposed to doing anything might fall into either group. And, of course, some of those who might not be initially opposed to a change might fall into the second group too.

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  7. Basically, information was made public on several men working in comics, mainly involving Dark Horse Comics, one of whom was already notorious for it but who was coddled and had a great deal of power over women working there, which produced a new reckoning. And that spilled over into written SFF, partly because some of the SFF writers also work in comics, so stories came up. There was one particular case where an up and comer author with a successful series had been apparently manipulating and being abusive to a number of young women in the field, as well as lying to other people about them, affecting their careers. All of the cases that have come up recently are not the result of one accusation but multiple ones and has led to further discussions by women and others about their experiences of abuse and discrimination at conventions, networking events, dealing with publishers, readers, booksellers, etc. — the entire system that discriminates and limits women authors and professionals.

    That’s the main structural aspect of the current set of cases — a lot of incoming writers, especially women, are hampered by how they are treated, which is as potential reward targets and threats to men writers’ careers who are not considered equal professionals or worth much in the field, and they don’t feel able to speak out against it because of fears about their careers. They tend to also believe that established men authors as “mentors” have more power to control their publishing careers than authors actually do (fiction authors don’t have much sway with publishing houses with which they do license business, even if bestsellers; it’s not Hollywood,) which again leads them to feel unable to speak out and consequently lose out on career opportunities, ability to function as equals at cons, etc. And part of this belief in written fiction is fed by abusive men who declare it to be true and use it to try and manipulate women into putting up with sexual advances or staying in a romantic relationship with them, etc., creating trauma for women and some of them dropping out of the creative fields altogether. It’s a dominance game for the men, like all this stuff, to make them feel more powerful, and it happens in SFF publishing just as it happens everywhere. It happens because we’re all taught that it should happen since we were kids and breaking away from that training, that societal structure, is not necessarily rewarded if you’re dominant and highly dangerous if you’re marginalized.

    The social norm we all still live with is “what men say, goes, and women shouldn’t talk about it, (and non-binary people shouldn’t exist)” as well as the social norm of rape culture for all kinds and targets of sexual assault as normalized and mostly acceptable. So if a woman or other victim does bring up sexual harassment, assault, sexist emotional abuse, all of which creates discrimination, it then becomes a problem that people in charge of things — agents, publishing folks, convention runners, media people and so forth, who are dealing with all the parties then have to deal with. And not only are they dealing with the particular incidents of one case, but dealing with it requires admitting that the abuse is built in as a factor of the entire structure of the culture (structural racism, structural sexism, etc.), that authorities have ignored, dismissed, covered up and been actively complicit in continuing. It means overhauling entire events, companies and industries to deal with the wider issues and most of those in charge don’t want to do that, don’t want to change the status quo on the grounds that “it’s not that bad” or “it’s just one incident” and so forth. Witness the raging and chest beating of convention runners over creating codes of conduct for conventions and consistently and effectively enforcing those codes of conduct with staff properly briefed.

    So these things get buried or passed around on the whisper defense warning networks because trying to get them fixed may indeed lead to victims getting fired, getting a rep as difficult to work with or irrational, loss of networking and publicity opportunities, threats and further harassment and all the rest. Because it’s not just one incident of someone abusive or even someone being serially abusive. It’s the entire culture that supports treating sexual assault as an acceptable occurrence, especially for women, and women as inferior and not entitled to equal opportunity or equity in the industries as authors, editors, critics and so forth. When women band together and speak up together, there can be cultural change and consequences for abusers, but there are also still discriminatory and dangerous, retaliatory consequences for the victims speaking up, even if they do so together. Cassandra wasn’t listened to because she brought bad news. Women dragging up the issue of sexual and sexist abuse are bringing bad news and upsetting the social order people are used to overtly and covertly accepting as reasonable and natural. They are being uppity (women shouldn’t talk about it.)

    Back in the 1950’s-1970’s women’s movement, one of the many things women were fighting to culturally change that was discriminatory were asspats and groping in the office. Women were expected to accept those actions as the due of men, their superiors even if co-workers, and even regard it as a “compliment.” When women stood up against that norm, they could be demoted, fired, physically threatened. Another was men using their higher positions (due to sexism,) to abuse the power differential to manipulate and discriminate against women in their industries. Women still have to put up with asspats and groping in the workplace, including conventions and networking parties, and still risk being demoted, fired and physically threatened for speaking up about it and demanding change — they are still treated as inferiors in the workplace, despite laws and corporate procedures that feminism helped put in place to protect their rights. And women are still dealing with men being in higher positions due to sexism and using those higher positions and more established places to abuse and discriminate against women and keep women marginalized in every field of endeavor, through conscious action and unconscious, trained bias. And men are still pretending that doesn’t happen (is not a problem that they want to deal with and women shouldn’t talk about it,) while insisting the entire system of it stay in place (what men say, goes.)

    A few bricks got knocked out of the sexist wall in second wave feminism and subsequent efforts, with women pushing for equal treatment, reparation equity and consequences for abuse. But women constantly and exhaustingly have to keep pushing against the wall, with many falling by the wayside. Sometimes they have to push against other women who have gotten to better positions thanks to equality efforts, but who think the current status quo has to be preserved and men protected in order for themselves as individuals to continue succeeding or at least be seen as good people. Which inevitably doesn’t work out that well for them — they’ll never get to an equal level because the culture does not see that as a reasonable and normal thing to have happen. And this is the same process for racism, abelism, homophobia, queer and transphobia and all the other structural bigotry hierarchies we have as part of our societies and commerce, sometimes cross-intersecting.

    It’s not “bad behaviour” (or behavior as the U.S. spells it.) It’s not purely individuals, though we try to focus on individuals, hoping to excise the problem as random, infrequent happenings, which they aren’t. It’s ACCEPTABLE behavior in society, especially by those who, by virtue of being men, are considered overall superior, rational, well intentioned, etc. and should be given many chances to succeed and receive forgiveness while their victims should forgive, accept and shut up, whatever problems they’ve had. It’s behavior we teach children is accepted and excused in the society and even sometimes praised. What all those men in comics and written SFF did is considered acceptable or at least dismissable behavior by men/those with authority in our society.

    Structural sexism is structural — not random, not “bad”. Even if one or two men or others who do sexual abuse or sexist discrimination get hauled out and face consequences for the behavior because of large protest, the billions of others who also do so or support it and make and enforce laws and procedures that protect it as culture do not face consequences. And women and other victims continue to face dire, discriminatory consequences for speaking up, not even to punish individuals, but to call for cultural change. In fact, calling for cultural change — the culture that created the abuse opportunity and the woman feeling she had to stay silent about it — is considered a much worse crime by the woman than complaining about an individual man. Because the one bad apple defense means no structural change has to be looked at or attempted to implement, even if one man faces consequences. The discrimination can stay part of the system and women can continue to be not equal anywhere in the world. It’s not individuals weaponizing the system, as they aren’t really in a war — it’s individuals following the accepted social norms of the system and testing how fully those norms can have power.

    So that’s the big issue. These men didn’t do anything all that bad according to the accepted cultural norms of our society. And the few men losing contracts or agents or friends because women spoke up about what they did and there was a large protest — that may or may not cause wider change. Going against workplace asspats and gropings in the 1970’s western cultures did help women a little, but they still deal with workplace asspats and gropings, meant to keep them inferior and limited in the workplace, even though some men get into trouble for them once in a blue moon. And if women protest them, they often still get punished for it, even if the men face consequences. Only if there is mass protest and significant overhaul that isn’t lip service do cultures start changing. Only if kids are exposed to diverse representation and not trained as much in the structural bigotry norms of their parents because of system overhaul do cultures start changing. And there are a lot of people always fighting that, because they don’t think what is normal to them in society should be a big deal (women shouldn’t talk about it,) and they’re worried about their status if there is change towards a new, more equal social norm.

    Civil rights movements take decades. Right now we’re in the middle of another set of massive attempts at equality. Which others will decry as unfair invasions, etc. Structural hierarchies don’t go down easy. Because people are used to them and don’t see them as “bad,” don’t want to see them as discriminatory and have to change it. But within those movements, those in marginalized groups do then find strength in numbers to speak up. Even if them banding together in numbers is then classified as a dangerous and irrational army. People will never stop trying to get equality, despite the risks of going against cultural social norms, both open and covert.

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