Readercon, an annual convention dedicated to written word science fiction, took place last month in Burlington, Massachusetts. A woman who attended the convention, Genevieve Valentine, blogged about being sexually harassed at the con by a fellow attendee, Rene Walling. He repeatedly made unwanted advances towards Valentine, both physical and verbal, and in front of witnesses.
Valentine did the right thing. She first let Walling know his attention was not welcome. When it continued, she submitted an official complaint to Readercon management.
Readercon claims to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. In fact, if someone is deemed to have committed sexual harassment at Readercon, they will receive a life-time ban from future events.
The Readercon convention committee reviewed the incidents and determined that Rene Walling had indeed sexually harassed Genevieve Valentine. Instead of banning Walling from Readercon for life, like their own rules state, they banned him for only two years. The reason? Because Walling was really, really, really, sorry.
Personally, I hate men like Rene Walling. If it wasn’t for creepy douchebags like him, people like me wouldn’t have to attend those stupid sexual harassment seminars at work. I don’t sexually harass women, yet because of men like Rene Walling, every year I have to attend a class at work, either online or in person, dealing with sexual harassment. I treat woman the way I expect other men to treat my wife or my mother. I don’t need special training on the proper way to treat other people, especially women.
The Readercon convention committee did the absolute wrong thing here. What good is having a zero-tolerance policy when it’s not adhered to?