Norwescon Apologizes for Sexist Volunteer Poster

5 Jul

nwcvolunteerThis week (6/2) I posted the photo on left to the SFFragette Facebook page. I took it with my phone at Norwescon 36 this past spring, and was really sad to see it as NWC is one of my favorite cons, and local to me–I attend every year. I wasn’t the only one: commenters on Facebook and Twitter chimed in with their disapproval, some going as far as to say it was enough to make them cross NWC of their list of cons to attend–ever.

Around the same time I attempted to send a message to Norwescon Chair Peggy Stewart via the NWC site asking for her assurance that she understood why the poster was problematic (and requesting a progress update on an anti-harassment policy from NWC, more on which later). I’m not sure my email got through, as the little spinny thing was still spinning quite a while later, so I’ll wait a few days and resend if I don’t hear anything.

But meanwhile, I received this tweet:

…and this comment on the photo on Facebook:

Screen shot 2013-07-05 at 11.32.05 AM

I’m really happy to see this, and I want to thank everyone who helped bring attention to it. And thanks to Norwescon for responding in a timely manner and taking appropriate action.

As for Norwescon’s anti-harassment policy, they don’t currently have one. Information wasn’t easy to find on their website, but a search for “harassment” dug up a post from January stating the following:

Norwescon’s concom has formed a committee consisting of members outside the executive team to address a possible official written harassment policy for convention membership.

The word “possible” above gave me pause, and as I said I (hopefully) have an email off to the con chair (and will resend if I don’t hear something soon). A member of this special committee posted on the SFFragette Facebook page that they have made a recommendation to the con committee, and I hope to be able to report soon that they are putting something in place before Norwescon 37. (If you have information about this, please let me know.)

12 Responses to “Norwescon Apologizes for Sexist Volunteer Poster”

  1. Ellen Eades July 5, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    it’s surprising and disappointing to me to see how few cons have a visible anti-harassment policy, even if it’s a simple “don’t behave like a jerk” sentence. I just went around looking at a half dozen cons I could name off the top of my head, and maybe two had something, while none had anything very long or specific.

    • Rosie July 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Yeah, I was really surprised that there was nothing readily accessible on the NWC site. And going forward, it’s going to be a recommendation for any con I attend (along with hundreds singing on to Scalzi’s pledge), so I certainly hope they all get it together soon.

  2. Bobafettsix July 6, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Wait… So the pic of the girl surrounded be the guys is also sexual harassment? You know, the other half to this poster? What would be a good replacement? And before I get blasted and called sexist and an enabler, I would really like to know. I would like help in seeing what is wrong with this SET of posters ( not just the one)

    • Rosie July 6, 2013 at 6:32 am #

      I never saw the “other half” to this poster, but even if I had, this one would still be problematic because any attempt to balance or cancel out the sexism in this poster by gender-flipping the concept ignores the fact that we live in a culture that pretty consistently treats women as sexual objects in all forms of media.

    • Bridget McKenna July 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      I haven’t seen the other poster either, but if the “girl surrounded by guys” is pretty much like this one, then I think it’s sexist, too. I don’t think the other volunteer poster gets a pass on objectification because the roles are reversed, and I’m known to get really pissy when people use their own oppression as an excuse to oppress (or in this case, their own history of being harassed as an excuse to harass).

      That said, Rosie has an important point in that the objectification of women is so prevalent in our culture that we’ve pretty much stopped seeing it, much as the Norwescon committee failed to see the harm in that poster until a few people called it to their attention. Now they’ll stop using it–both versions of it–which is the best response of all.

  3. Peggy Stewart July 6, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Norwescon meant no offense by the poster. It was something from years ago and no one really gave it any thought. You have opened our eyes to it and it will no longer be printed.

    If you would please resend your email, I would be happy to answer it. It did not go through as neither my Vice Chair or I got it. I can’t answer what I don’t get.

    As to an anti-harassment policy, no, Norwescon doesn’t have one right now. We formed a committee that put in a great deal of research to determine what will work best for our con. Our Safe Committee has made a proposal and the Executive Team will proceed with it at our planning retreat this August. We fully intend to have a policy in place by the con, sooner in fact.

    I hope this will put you all at ease. We have an excellent concom that means no offense even in the light of the poster and we will do everything we can to keep Norwescon safe for all.

    • Simeon Beresford July 6, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      If you offend someone unintentionally you stop offending apologise and move on. Making a big deal of it is in no ones interests. Norwescon’s response is exemplary..

    • Rosie July 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Peggy, thanks for the reply, and for the confirmation that you didn’t receive my email. Everything I wrote about is covered here, so I’ll just await the new anti-harassment policy. Thanks!

  4. Whtcrow March 24, 2016 at 1:21 am #

    They have a panel on thursday called ‘how to get laid at a con’ which has me seriously second guessing going at all. There are creepers enough at the con as it is without their hosting panel to train and encourage more.

    • Rosie April 4, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

      FFS. I totally missed that one.😦

    • Loree Parker April 5, 2016 at 4:49 am #

      Hi there, I’m Norwescon’s programming director. And that panel title is salacious on purpose — it’s a honey trap. It’s part of a set of education panels I refer to as our “social hygiene” series.

      It’s really only about 5% about sex, and that’s mostly just to get people in the door. The other 95% is about social skills, and talking comfortably to people of your preferred gender and orientation, and taking a no graciously, and how to be friendly with someone without giving them the wiggins, and personal hygiene, and personal responsibility, and how the Friend Zone is a load of crap and let us tell you all the reasons why. But if we called it How Not to Be a Gross and Creepy Stalker Who Gets Kicked Out of This Convention for Life for Being Gross and Creepy, maybe 1% of the people who really need that advice wouldn’t show up.

      We always staff it with a strong moderator who’s a dedicated and vocal intersectional feminist, one who’s not afraid to shut down problematic topics and redirect unacceptable comments — whether from the audience, or from fellow panelists who didn’t get the message that the panel is really intended as social education.

      • Loree Parker April 5, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

        Er, that would be “maybe 1% of the people who need that advice WOULD show up.” #thisiswhyimnotacopyeditor

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