Sadness of the creeper

As some of you are aware, there was a craptastic sexual harassey creeper at World Fantasy Con this year. He was offensive to many many women, was kicked out of parties repeatedly, and while complaints were made he kept turning up and the convention was slow to respond. Many people have spoken about their experiences. Jaym Gates is collecting people's experiences and working on a Sexual Harassment policy for WFC. Hopefully out of the ashes of this conventions in general will have leading practice around sexual harassment policies and the actions a convention should take to create a safe and inclusive environment.

Many people have stories about how he inappropriately propositioned them and they told him to go away. I may have accidentally fed into his delusions and that makes me a little sad.

Context: This guy clearly has serious mental health issues, in some ways this is handy, he was so clearly unhinged the convention was forced to take action and many people are galvanized. Hopefully future sexual harrasors do not need to be so extreme for a convention to take action.

Story: I was late to the Australian party (btw Tina Connolly's play reading seriously rocked and you should go to anything she organizes because it will be good) and was wandering around chatting to people. A person I had met at a previous convention said hello to me, I said hello warmly in return and as we struck up conversation the person next to him (I assumed his friend) asked for a hug.

I think I might have said "do I know you?" I certainly, after a moment's pause, said "no."

He looked a bit sad and said something like "but I would like a hug." or "please" or something. I paused to think about it. He had just seen me hugging a bunch of people. I love to hug people. Humans are relatively physically isolated these days and safe non sexual touch is good for mental and physical health. It's a nice form of acceptance and celebration of another person's human-ness and it's just a happy thing to do. I'm also fairly physically confident and can hug like a marshal artist if need be.

I assessed the guy and he seemed non-dangerous and a bit sad, so I thought, fair enough, everybody needs hugs,  and being a total softy I thought, what if my hugging of other people is making him feel sad about his own physical isolation? That was the deciding factor for me, as I didn't particularly want to hug him, but I hated the idea of making someone feel like an outcast... another sub-factor was I didn't feel like engaging with the guy further around whether I would hug him or not and hugging him was easier than entering into a debate.  So I decided I shall give this guy a hug. I said something like, "Why not?" hugged the guy and then went back to chatting to his friend. The guy I hugged just sort of stood there for a while before wandering off.

Later I discovered the exact same guy had then followed an escalating path of abusive behavior and unreasonable demands. He also believes that he has magical powers and can spell people into following his commands.

And this makes me sad, by hugging a fellow human being because they asked me to I actually fed into his psychosis. He probably thinks he spelled me into hugging him. I actually fed the flame of delusion and escalating demands. Ughhhh.

Human beings need hugs and safe physical contact has enormous health benefits. Women especially are trained to be nice and give things to people if they are asked to... and I wonder how much shit this guy has got by demanding at less professional and assertive conventions... how many cosplayers has he harangued into physical contact? How many larger conventions has he been to where he hasn't been called on his actions? Or people have complained, but voices have been lost in the crowd and dismissed?

As I write this I'm wondering what to do if I get propositioned like that again. Perhaps If some guy asks for a hug and they clearly need a hug (this guy did seriously need a hug... but I think he also needs serious therapy and medication and in my wishful universe this convention is the convention that showed boundaries and helps him get the mental health intervention he needs and the magical finances/insurance to get it)... perhaps if a guy asks for a hug I shall see if I can delegate the hugging to physically confidant man in the nearbye area. Sure, have physical contact, but not with me and my tits, get some from this nice man. Perhaps a crazy idea, but certainly a response someone like motorhead shirt would not be expecting... and it is an entertaining thought to have!

So damnit that creeperness exists. It took a pretty extreme case from a guy with low social status to get action, but hopefully this will flow on to a lot of improved processes. And I'm sorry to everyone who had to deal with motorhead guy and that my innocent hugging actions fed into his delusional psychosis and escalating demands.

Edit, later comment that I think is important:

I should add, that although I think this guy has serious mental health issues, that isn't an excuse in my books, just part of the factors. Some of the most emotionally self aware and amazing people I know have serious mental health diagnoses and utilize effective self-management techniques.

Self management techniques that I really wish more successful people in suits would use.... how many suits do you know who, during strategic planning meetings, say "I'm sorry I'm feeling a little bit emotional, I'm going for a walk so I can come back in a minute with a clear head, and look at things in a more balanced way."

Edit 2, where to now and the problems of rape culture 

Jaym Gates has been doing a stellar job tracking stuff and putting herself through a lot to turn shitty stuff that goes on into a more positive outcome. It's easy to get cranky about an individual, but there is a lot of systemic stuff to deal with, that is really important to deal with. Jaym has written up her experiences of the creeper (plus an insight into the impact taking lead on some of this stuff is having on her). You can read it here.
Manga Liz

A Study in Flesh and Mind - now up on Daily Science Fiction

Subscribers have had it in their hands for a week, but my story is now available free for everyone on Daily Science Fiction. A Study in Flesh and Mind.

The feedback has been really nice thus far, which has been really nice. I may have to revisit the Albury-Wodonga Academy of Fine Arts and Neuroscience sometime.

Daily Science Fiction doesn't have bio photos as part of it's formatting, but if it did here's a link to my earlier blog post with a very rare life model photo. How safe it is for work will depend on your workplace (it is lifemodel-ly but not pink bits-y. Photo taken while the Canberra Times were interviewing me for an article about the Parisian Life Model strike.)
Manga Liz

Mothers day and other website updates

Heya all,

I haven't been doing as I said I would and cross posting to here as changing the markup between lj and wordpress has been making me cross. But I have blogged recently:
Mother's Day http://lizargall.com/2011/05/mothers-day-in-gratitude-and-in-my-thoughts/
Norwescon http://lizargall.com/2011/04/norwescon-further-reading-and-little-lesprit-de-lescalier/
love letters to inanimate objects http://lizargall.com/2011/04/love-letters-to-inanimate-objects-clarion-writeathon/
Manga Liz

Cranky post update

Well, draft 1 of my comments to the Mercury got up and I think it has made a difference. It is hard to tell, but there haven't been any more comments, which means no more toxic comments proliferating either. Makes me happy and hopefully makes life easier for others too :-)

I've been riding out a couple of storms recently, but I'm hoping most of the storms have passed. Yay. Now to actually get some fucking stuff done!
Manga Liz

My Birthday

ZOMG Birthday!

Hello hello lovelies,

I am having my first ever birthday part in AMERICA. 31! I will officially be in my 3rd decade!

Saturday, April 9, 2011
6:30pm if you want to cook foods on the BBQ and dine together, 8pm until late otherwise.

Let us know if you need the address

We have the community centre (with pool table, outdoor BBQ, theatre-ette etc) until 10:30pmish. It's on the second floor, we'll buzz you in. Then (depending on weather and inclination) return to our apartment #238 or rampage out into the park across the road.

What to bring:
Your good self, the invite is pretty open, but please let us know if you're bringing someone we don't know. RSVPs are awesome where possible (liz@lizargall.com). It would be a sad thing to make tasty foods that go uneaten.
Dancing shoes or music making instruments if you have the inclination
If anyone has fire-twirling gear that would be fantastico. Fire is a happy thing... and there is this park across the road.
Other stuff...

Optional Theming:
Chiaro Oscura (bonus points for Italian flamboyance)... we will provide glowsticks for extra light.
Manga Liz

Dear Internet

I know it is foolish to read the comments section on any newspaper article, but when it's a friend gone you kinda want to read everything. After the comments on a number of posts by the Mercury (Tasmanian Newspaper http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2011/03/25/217131_tasmania-news.html) I got pushed too far, wrote a blog post with many fucks in it and then got to a quieter place where I was able to write this. I don't know if they will publish this comment:

Dear commentators on this and previous articles,

Please do not tell us how to process the loss of our friend. Personally I find it tiring and offensive the way some commentators make assumptions about our competence and the ways in which we are creating resolution in these tragic circumstances. Rachel has strong activist friends and if we were unsatisfied with the way the police were conducting themselves we would be doing something about it.

Please do not assume that just because she is a woman she is automatically a victim. When commenting please consider if you would make the same statement if the person disappearing in rugged wilderness was a man. By assuming that woman=victim you are perpetrating sexist notions. Rachel was a wonderful feminist who battled sexism in many arenas, don't contribute to what she fought so hard against. Know that there are smart people who love her and are not afraid of having opinions who have been involved in her search from the outset. If there is cause to accuse the police of incompetence (and as far as I am aware there is not) let it come from them - they know a lot more about the case than you do (unless you have _actual_ information, in which case go to the police now).

Let her have dignity and not be some chew toy for your fears.
Manga Liz

Nice things said - Campbell Awards

Amidst writing stuff for Rachel I totally neglected to cross-post my happier writing from my website (also, if you go to my website and scroll down a wee bit you can see my Norwescon schedule).

Hugo Award nominations and Campbell Award nominations are due at the end of the week. I haven't done much spruiking in this regard, other than keeping my writertopia bio page up to date.

But Mary Robinette Kowal wrote about me here, amongst other worthy candidates.

And the Ferret (also eligible for the Campbell) wrote this lovely stuff here.

Thank you both. I am happy to be in such excellent company.

Rachel Funarai in Memorium

Rachel Funari went missing while backpacking in Tasmania and was last seen on March 3 2011. Given the rugged wilderness area she was in and the searches conducted she is, in all likelihood, dead. More information here.

I first met Rachel at the Banana. The Banana was a S&E’s place with a large, yellow corner couch that could envelop a dozen people with ease. The Banana couch was an institution, after a pleasant night out with friends someone would say “Banana?” to which the reply was invariably Banana. Towards the end of my degree the Banana was often where I would be, for tea, coffee, comics and politics. E introduced me to great indy comics like Dykes to Watch Out For, Joe Sacco’s Palestine and what felt like half the back catalogue of Fantagraphics.

And it was on the Banana that I met Rachel Funari. She had a prophet-like glow to her eyes and E was so excited to finally introduce us. Rachel had the insane passion to start a magazine. I was bowled over by Rachel’s determination, passion and how she was going to make it happen come hell or high water. Her own lip magazine, Australia.

I was pursing the mad passions of indy comics while Rachel pursued her indy publishing path and I became one of many people she drew into the magazine. I became a staff writer amongst other things, writing an insane cooking column I’m a little bit embarrassed to think about – from crepes with stewed apples, to a student food survival special that started with tinned mackerel and soba and finished with 2 minute noodles with peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce. I wasn't the most involved by a long way, but I prided myself on being a 'go to guy.' If she asked I'd be reliable, I'd deliver. If I could I'd give her want she needed and if not I'd tell her up front - be it a burly girl to carry boxes, a musical performance, an article or opinions on content.

While scrabbling around, trying to create while going from one burn out job to another, I felt less of a failure to see “Staff Writer, lip magazine” in my line of credits. It helped me feel believed in during long cold days when I felt like I was nothing.

I remember long indy publishing conversations – the horror and money drain of newsagency syndication and exploration of alternative distribution chanels. My continued involvement with indy comics gave me a different body of knowledge to draw on. Rachel was a terrible business-woman in some ways… I remember her saying “What’s a wholesale price?” followed by “But retail price and the wholesale price have to be the same, we’re a not for profit!” and me almost swallowing my tongue in shock.

I remember saying “I’ve called 20 high schools and sent samples and no one wants to subscribe because of the nipple tweaking woman in agony/ecstasy that is always at the top of our sexuality columns.” But Rachel would not cave no matter how I argued - that nipple tweaking woman was too important to her and those five subscriptions would not have saved the print version of lip anyway.

Rachel had something much, much more important than business sense. She created a space where young women felt valued, included and their minds could chase the far horizons. She captured brilliant people to support her mission (like the indomitable Michelle Lovi who has now founded Odyssey Books). At 21 I sometimes felt like one of the grumpy old ladies and I think of how much it would have meant to me when I was 14 to have someone in publishing say “You are smart and important and we need you on our editorial group.” Rachel pushed for a sense of creative collective and I was continually astonished by what she was able to achieve across so many levels. Through sheer passion, through inclusiveness, through smarts and politics, shanghai-ing people to do stuff and a hell of a lot of grit.

I liked being in the trenches with Rachel. There are many who can claim a closer tie, but I loved having her as a comrade… just knowing she was out there doing stuff. I had always expected in years to come to see her name popping up around awesome things. Rachel was supposed to be one of those people I could read about in the newspapers or popping up as the head of some organisation and I could say “I remember when…”

And Rachel was on that path, she had handed the reigns of lip over to a new generation and was flying into new horizons. And it fucking sucks that I don’t get to see what she would do next.

It fucking sucks that she is dead and it fucking sucks that her family do not get a body to weep over. But at least she lived. And at least she did things she set her heart on. And at least she gave a shit and helped others give a shit and more than that, helped people DO.

And I take comfort that she was part of a cohort, the things she cared about are not dead. lip lives. Women who are smart, active and have voice live. I think of feminist women of my cohort that contributed to lip (either passing through or deeply in the heart of it) who kick arse. I think of the wonderful women and men I have seen come together through the long days of searching through the Facebook page. And how people have risen to the challenge of this enormous sadness.

I am sad she is gone, but happy I am part of her extended community, and while I don’t get to look at her new achievements and say “I remember when…” I am glad that there are other wonderful, brilliant people of our cohort I can admire from across the seas and say “I remember.”

* photo by Michelle Lovi, April 2009