Thursday, June 4, 2015

WisCon: Your Microaggresions Aren't Welcome Here

photo via BuzzFeed
WisCon, first started in 1977, a sci-fiction and fantasy convention that bills itself as the leading feminist science-fiction convention in the world. The convention as a whole, and it attendee and convention committee members in particular, have been paying special consideration in recent years towards creating a safer convention space more inclusive of people of color, marginalized identities, those with disabilities, even as the convention itself has some ups and downs.

Author, tech writer and blogger K. Tempest Bradford, (who's also been the organizer for the safer space for people of color at the convention and is also a committee member) recently posted about how microagressions are everywhere (inappropriate comments, touching of hair, questioning of disabilities, accommodation, etc) and how she wasn't sure what she could do:
Thee most obvious one for me is to be that person that calls folks out when I witness such situations and encourage others to do so as well. That’s only workable so long as there are people willing and around. You can’t be everywhere. And while that could eventually grow and grow into awareness for everyone, that could take time. And while that’s happening some people still won’t feel welcome at the con. 
What didn’t occur to me is that WisCon the organization could do something to address this behavior. As of this year, we are. The Safety chairs made it clear that con goers should, if they felt comfortable doing so, report such behavior (labeled microaggressions) to Safety, and that the on duty staff as well as appropriate department or con chairs would take steps to address the problem with the involved parties. That could mean having a discussion with someone about their inappropriate words/behavior and giving them guidelines around further contact with the person who filed the complaint (such as: do not approach them again), as happened this year. 
That’s not the only recourse. The idea is to make WisCon a safer space for everyone, not just some certain kinds of people. To make WisCon the type of con where you are not required to let things roll off your back and ignore or laugh off microaggressions and othering so you don’t disrupt everyone else’s good time
The outline of what WisCon is doing in particular ends with a powerful exhortation to fandom to make this something that becomes part of fandom and community at large:
As a community, can we make it clear that othering is not okay? That microagressions are not appropriate? Can we make it our problem to address as a community and not only a burden individuals have to deal with? Can we agree that allowing this crap to drive people away (and it does) is untenable?

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