As someone who takes in a lot of television, movies, and pop culture I get super excited about conventions. I’ve only been to a couple in my lifetime one of which is Dragon*Con in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. I went in 2008 and had an absolute blast. I went to a couple Torchwood panels, sang along at the Buffy Horror Picture Show and the Doctor Horrible Sing Along Blog. I met Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto from the Torchwood series) and he told me I was lovely *blush*.
My husband and I are going this year as well and I’m super excited. We have costumes lined up (something I didn’t do last time) and I’ve got the app installed on my phone with the panels selected that I hope I can get to. I’m also pretty mentally prepared for the fact that it will be 4 days surrounded by a massive amount of people. I normally try to avoid crowds and I tend to get overwhelmed easily in them. That’s why I’m glad I was able to get us a room in one of the 5 host hotels. When I’m feeling like it’s all too much I’ll just retreat to my room.
One of the reasons I don’t like crowds (and there are a few as to why they make me nervous) is because you never know who you’re brushing up against. For woman it’s always on our minds that some creepy person may feel free to reach out and grab whatever they’d like. When there are this many people shoved together anything can happen.
When I went to Dragon*Con four years ago I never felt endangered, but I did recognize that taking extra caution was needed. Usually I was hanging out with one or more people, but occasionally I was on my own. And luckily nobody accosted or assaulted me. This year I’ll have my husband with me for most of the time.
Having seen first hand what a popular convention is like I applauded the Backup Ribbon Project. The incident that caused its founders to begin this project occurred the year I was at the Con. Basically two girls came across a man accosting/yelling at another girl and people were too afraid to step in and help her because they weren’t “official” in any way. The ribbons are for people to recognize those who are willing to help anyone in danger get them to a safer spot. They are also for people wearing the ribbons to know it’s ok to help anyone that looks like they may be in danger. From their website: If you take a Backup ribbon or you wear a Backup t-shirt, you are promising one very simple thing: You WILL be That Person to help out anybody being harassed. Gender, orientation, presentation is irrelevant. You WILL find a way to help, whether by directly intervening, getting help from elsewhere, or simply listening the person being harassed. You WILL be there for them. You WILL accept that they believe they have been harassed. You WILL NOT question them or doubt them, You WILL give them whatever help they wish.”
They have received reports about “backup” helping to break up fights and help others get to safety. Their goal is laudable. I’m not sure how anyone is against helping female fan con-goers feel safer.
Unfortunately the people running Dracon*Con don’t feel the same way. This post was made saying they won’t sanction or support it. The Backup Ribbon Project’s response is here. People are pretty outraged. Instead of helping to solve an actual problem (females DO get harassed at Dracon*Con and other conventions) they are trying to solve a potential problem. I recognize that it is possible that there may be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or other “bad” person posing as someone willing to help that takes advantage of the situation. However, the very real problem is that there is a lack of security at Dragon*con and a absolutely terrible to non-existent harassment policy. As the Backup project points out, their policy boils down to “don’t be a jerk.” To be clear, there is no policy in place to take any action against anyone that has harassed another member of the con. After reading the comments on the Live Journal post it appears that there is no training for security at the Con. There are no requirements or anything of the like. Badge and hotel key checks are great, but what is the ratio of security to con goer. The Backup Project asks some really great and pertinent questions in their response to Dragon*con.
I also agree with them and the other outraged attendees that this new policy makes me sad and angry. In a year that has seen women lose more and more of their rights it just makes me bitter. Having to see a fan convention that I am excited to go to turn a blind eye to a real problem for women is disappointing.