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Jun 29 2013

Opening Ranks

Yesterday, Elise Matthesen told the world that she had been sexually harassed at an F&SF convention by sharing details and tips of how to report and make it count. The response from well-placed individuals in the industry has been heartening, uncharacteristically so for situations of this sort. I think that requires some recognition.

First, we have the six authors who shared Elise’s post, making sure it was widely seen:

Of these, Jim Hines also confirmed that this was the same editor whom a number of people had named privately in 2010 as a harasser. Mary Robinette Kowal also took everyone through the reasons to be afraid of naming the harasser and the reasons why they didn’t apply to her. She then named him as Jim Frenkel, editor at Tor.

This is where, in my experience, things would normally go badly wrong. They didn’t here. Nobody started dredging up dirt about Elise. No one started saying that Frenkel was such a great guy that this was impossible to believe.

In fact, the opposite happened. People went out of their way to be supportive. Yes, even at Tor. Several Tor editors have Twitter accounts. Here is a sampling of what they’ve looked like. (Tweets are shown in reverse order.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

Tweets from Patrick Nielsen Harris. Text reproduced in the post.

Tweets from Patrick Nielsen Harris. Text reproduced in the post.

Tweets from Patrick Nielsen Harris. Text reproduced in the post.

Retweet: @blogwhatever: Reporting Harassment at a Convention: A First-Person How To http://bit.ly/19CqlLM

Retweet: @seananmcguire: Our conventions need to be safe spaces. Our community needs to be a safe space. We need to stop taking silence as consent.

Retweet: @Krasnostein: don’t be afraid that you will be blacklisted by editors – there are ALWAYS more editors.

Retweet: @seananmcguire: “I am good at my job” is no compensation for “I am a raging asshole who will not respect your bodily autonomy or right to be safe.”

Retweet: @MARIADAHVANA: It’s really shitty that often what happens is that one’s friends have to circle up and protect you from someone harassing.

@pnh: #ff @MaryRobinette

Retweet: @tdelucci: Victims of harassment have a host of reasons for not speaking out. And the guilt of not reporting can be as bad as the original incident.

Retweet: @AlecAustin: Re: “no one else said anything” – often people are too blindsided by transgression to react in the moment. “Did I really see/hear that” etc.

Retweet: @michaeldthomas: I am not scared to walk around an SF convention by myself. It is BULLSHIT that my friends & colleagues need escorts & safety plans.

Retweet: @michaeldthomas: It is especially BULLSHIT that they need escorts & plans to protect themselves from people who are representing companies at an event.

Liz Gorinzky:

Screen capture of Liz Gorinsky tweets. Text included in post.

@2muchexposition: Wow. Internet exploded during my meeting. If you’re behind, start w/ @MaryRobinette‘s posts http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/on-sexual-harassment-at-conventions-elise-matheson-speaks-out/ … & http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/category/journal/ …

[In response to a tweet saying those blog posts were upsetting.] @2muchexposition: @joemts Yeah, no freaking kidding. @MaryRobinette

@2muchexposition: @rosefox I really admire @LionessElise & @MaryRobinette for writing them. Wish I cd say more, but can’t comment right now for legal reasons.

@2muchexposition: @MaryRobinette Your blog is your dominion, ma’am. I’m glad you use it responsibly.

@2muchexposition: Dined&danced w/ @MARIADAHVANA last night. Today I’m haunted by things done to her, to me, & all us gals, but we still have our lovely nights

To the best of my knowledge, Gorinsky is Robinette Kowal’s editor and Nielsen Hayden is Scalzi’s.

Beth Meacham:

Screen capture of tweets by Beth Meacham. Text provided in the post.

Retweet: @seananmcguire: Following up on @Krasnostein‘s tweet: if an editor doesn’t want to work with you for reporting harassment, YOU DON’T WANNA WORK WITH THEM.

Retweet: @seananmcguire Here’s a good way to check yourself: the second someone says “Please stop,” THAT’S WHEN YOU STOP.

Kristin Sevick:

Screen capture of tweets by Kristin Sevick. Text provided in the post.Screen capture of tweets by Kristin Sevick. Text provided in the post.

@SevickBrown: These next three RTs are very important, writers, conference goers, please take note.

Retweet: @seananmcguire: Following up on @Krasnostein‘s tweet: if an editor doesn’t want to work with you for reporting harassment, YOU DON’T WANNA WORK WITH THEM.

Retweet: @seananmcguire: I have had several editors, at several houses. None of them would say “nope, we don’t wanna publish you” for enforcing safe boundaries.

Retweet: @seananmcguire: And you know what? That’s part of how I know that they’re GOOD EDITORS and that I want to keep working with them.

Retweet: @seananmcguire: “I am good at my job” is no compensation for “I am a raging asshole who will not respect your bodily autonomy or right to be safe.”

@SevickBrown: Ok, so it was 4 RTs. I didn’t become an editor because of my math skills.

Other people who have worked with Frenkel have also weighed in:

Ellen Datlow:

Screen capture of tweets by Ellen Datlow. Text provided in post.

Screen capture of tweets by Ellen Datlow. Text provided in post.

@EllenDatlow: @BrianKeene @twicewild @NMamatas @seananmcguire @scalzi Just caught up on my twitter feed.

@EllenDatlow: This is not ok. I’ve known the editor in question for a very long time and worked with him on and off since the… http://fb.me/1fG6ZGcTq

@EllenDatlow: @seananmcguire @BrianKeene @twicewild @NMamatas @scalzi For good reason. Jim Frenkel has been a friend/my editor since the late 70s & I’m

@EllenDatlow: @seananmcguire @BrianKeene @twicewild @NMamatas @scalzi truly pissed off that he would do such a thing once, let alone apparently a LOT.

@EllenDatlow: @seananmcguire @BrianKeene @twicewild @NMamatas @scalzi My immediate reaction is WTF! Is he out of his mind? (I never experience bad

@EllenDatlow: @seananmcguire @BrianKeene @twicewild @NMamatas @scalzi behavior from him.

Matt Forbeck:

Screen capture of tweet by Matt Forbeck. Text provided in post.

@mforbeck: Sad to see my editor at @TorBooks be reported for sexual harassment at @Wiscon37. http://bit.ly/15Nyupg  I like Jim, but that’s flat wrong.

Kelly McCullough:

Screen capture of tweet by Kelly McCullough. Text provided in post.

@KellyDMcC: I’ve known Elise Matheson 30 years & Jim 14. Jim used to be my agent. I like them both. I believe Elise, and harassment is unacceptable.

This is the way a community is supposed to react to the news that one of their own has repeatedly sexually harassed many of their own. I don’t know whether it’s happening in this case because Elise is so well-established and well-loved here. That may be the case, or it may be simply that all of the education that people have done has taken root among what is basically a decent group of people.

What I do know is that this is what I’ll point to any time I need to show people how this should be done.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    Owlmirror

    Spelling nit: “Patrick Nielsen Harris” (is not the name of any editor at Tor)

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    No, it’s not. That’s what I get for writing thoroughly distracted and in a hurry. Thanks.

  3. 3
    Anthony K

    That’s great! Nice to see a positive response for a change. Thanks for posting this, Stephanie!

  4. 4
    surreptitious57

    Harassment should be reported if the harasser does not stop when first asked : I
    think that all public spaces should be harassment free not just conferences : And
    that should be so for everyone not just for women : No one should harass anyone
    There is no reason to : I hope that those involved learn from their mistake and / or
    have proportionate punishment : Now I do not always agree with everything which
    Stephanie posts over here but on this issue I fully support her : Also I congratulate
    those that came out and I hope this is resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned

  5. 5
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    That’s a great response.
    And I’m really glad I found the works of Jim Hines: It’s great to read entertaining books written by a decent human being

  6. 6
    maddog1129

    I very much appreciate the arc this story has taken. I am reminded of the Catch-22 that Jen McCreight described last year when she talked about first-time attending a conference, and being warned away from some of the male speakers. (See her post “Dealing with badly behaving speakers” on May 22, 2012.) If you name names, you can expect backlash. If you don’t, you are disbelieved, AND you make it possible for the harasser to continue to operate. I can’t help wondering if things wouldn’t have gone much better in the past year, if the harassing speakers had been identified instead of reliance being placed on the backchannel warning system. Maybe it wouldn’t have been possible to say, e.g., that there were never any harassment reports made at TAM or other conferences. Maybe no one would have been able to pretend that harassment policies weren’t needed or useful. In any case, I’m glad that people seem to be behaving properly this time around.

  7. 7
    blorf

    I have to note that the thawing of peaches in this particular case somehow has not yet drawn attention. Interesting that your ignoble foes are afraid to even comment on harassment suddenly.

  8. 8
    Jadehawk

    oh, they’ve commented. a few of them, anyway. one described the reaction as the “mature, empowering, coalition-building way SF writers dealing w sexual harasser editor”, which was a “contrast” to “everything pathological about Orwellian-named freethought blogs & cadre”.

    make of that absurdity what you will.

  9. 9
    blorf

    Jadehawk, I see you have delved deeper into the slyme than I have the stomach for, thank you for that.

    So harassment never happens, we need no policies, even implying it might is to smear and demean an entire gender… but the F&SF community handled harassment perfectly by following the policy & by naming and shaming the perpetrator?

    And they actually used the term Orwellian? Have they found someplace recycling scrap irony by the pound?

  10. 10
    jmb

    There are already some “free speech” and “presumption of innocence!” yelpers in the SFF community. It’s very useful to weed out the people whose books I never want to read, along with the ones I now want to check out, true.

    Partly, it is a gathering storm, or a rising tide: the last few weeks there have been (in reverse chron order) the Rod Reese “untethered breasts” / Jo Fletcher Books frozen peaches mess, the Vox Day vs NK Jemisin rolling trainwreck, the SFWA bulletin rolling trainwreck and this is the follow-up to a previous outrage by, as it turns out, Jim Frenkel at a WisCon a few years ago, which got a lot of discussion on the need for harassment policies at cons, but lots more back-channel whispers that never “trickled down” to the people who were most in need of it.

    Oh, and a fake repentance thing from JF, whose crocodile tears really fooled Jim Hines at the time, according to his post, but no change in his serial harassing behavior.

  11. 11
    jmb

    I forgot, yelps of “lynch mobs” and “witch hunts,” in comments on the above posts, too. As I am sure everyone is shocked, SHOCKED to discover…

  12. 12
    Anthony K

    one described the reaction as the “mature, empowering, coalition-building way SF writers dealing w sexual harasser editor”, which was a “contrast” to “everything pathological about Orwellian-named freethought blogs & cadre”.

    And the GOP has always cared deeply about the autonomy of cun—er…women, the energy of wetba—uh…immigrants, and the dignity of ni—um…black people.

  13. 13
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    First: I’m glad to see this response from the community. It’s been a while since I was an active participant (as a fan, and very amateur writer), but I’m starting to get more involved, and seeing this makes me even more eager to jump back in, start attending conventions again, maybe even send in one of the short stories I’ve been working on…

    If I thought JREF would give a shit, I’d drop them a note on the issue, letting them know that my (very) limited funds for travel and conventions are much more likely to go to a Sci-Fi/Fantasy con than TAM, right now, and detail exactly why. Wow, it’s almost like we knew what we were talking about, and respecting women, taking sexual harassment seriously, and supporting those who bring up important issues (instead of ostracizing them) can only increase participation and enthusiasm!

    Second, concerning Patrick Nielsen Hayden…if I remember RaceFail ’09 correctly (I’m going through the links now, but there are about 5 million and it’s not the easiest thing to sort through), he certainly didn’t stand up for writers who dared to criticize the racial undertones (and even explicit racism) of certain authors. And I’m almost positive his wife directly threatened writers on Livejournal with blacklisting in the middle of the whole clusterfuck. Which, at least at the time, he didn’t challenge. His “solution” was to call those of us who raised concerns “trolls” and handle the situation by deleting his journal–loosing quite a lot of thoughtful conversation on the issue, incidentally. Has he now changed his opinion? I haven’t been an active member of the community in the last couple years, so if he changed his view and apologized, I didn’t see it–but it’s totally possible I just missed it. Or is sexual harassment different than racism? Editors blacklisting people who point out sexism and harassment in the community is unacceptable, but it’s totally fine against people who point out and discuss racism?

    (This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate his reaction now, and, like I said, it’s totally possible that I missed a subsequent apology from him. But I clearly remember him being absolutely awful to people I really respect and care about during RaceFail. I’m trying to find the direct links now, though, so I’m not just making baseless accusations, but it’s taking hours to go through all these old entries.)

  14. 14
    Stephanie Zvan

    EEB, an awful lot of people messed up badly in RaceFail, and there’s been quite a bit of intensive education going on in the community since then. I can’t tell you where anyone stands these days.

  15. 15
    Stacy

    Refreshing response from Ellen Datlow. She’s never personally experienced any harassment from Frenkel–yet somehow she refrains from using that fact to undermine other womens’ experiences.

  16. 16
    Jadehawk

    Jadehawk, I see you have delved deeper into the slyme than I have the stomach for, thank you for that.

    I didn’t even have to delve for that one. Because I tweet about sex work issues and the atheist community, pitters and similar occasionally @ me on twitter. The bit I quoted from above simply appeared in my mentions a few days ago.

  17. 17
    jenny6833a

    Could someone direct me to a detailed, corrobberated account of the sexual harassment incident that’s been alleged?

  18. 18
    lumi

    I am not familiar with either Matheson or Frenkel, being a non-writer, non-convention going SFF fan. But I read Whatever daily, as well as Hines and McGuire. The thing that really struck me is that in every post about this incident, there was a wiscon rep asking for reports from this and previous cons. That shows that they are taking it very seriously and when I finally get brave enough to go to a con, that’s the one I feel I can trust.

  19. 19
    maddog1129

    @17

    Why?

  20. 20
    Johnny Oizys

    Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a volunteer organization you could turn to present at conferences? Someone you knew didn’t have an interest in sweeping harassment under the carpet and who knew how to handle reporting it and not least, someone to be there with you so you didn’t have to approach the conference organizers alone?

  21. 21
    jmb

    @17

    Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas, the hosts of the launch party where it took place, have both corroborated (correct spelling) the incident. Your prurient curiosity does not need to be satisfied.

    http://sigridellis.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/how-to-report-sexual-harassment-by-elise-matthesen/

    http://michaeldthomas.livejournal.com/253783.html

  22. 22
    jenny6833a

    @ #19

    I’ve only found essays on how to report incidents, but no account of the incident itself. Until I know what happened, beyond reasonable doubt, I’ll not form an opinion. That’s the American way.

  23. 23
    Stephanie Zvan

    No, actually, that’s the American criminal legal system. This is a blog.

  24. 24
    shari

    @22 – jenny6833a – I am wondering what level of detailed corroboration you need to form an opinion.

    One of the things i am always astounded at is the level of tunnel vision I see when people talk about the sinful ‘choice to live a gay lifestyle’. As if our judgemental society is so kind to those who are different that anyone can easily make the choice to ‘come out’. As if they won’t be insulted, mocked, and threatened for trying their best to live as normal and honest a life possible. People who make a choice to come out about being gay are basically setting themselves up for abuse.

    Victims of harassment who step forward and report are also setting themselves up for more harassment. It’s happening now. It happens when you come on to a blog demanding details that don’t concern you unless you are the harasser or the victim.

    If you have harassed someone before and are only now realizing that some behaviours are not ok, you can get help for that – therapy if necessary.

    If you think you have been harassed and are trying to figure out the details as to whether that was a crime, I am guessing you don’t need the details of someone else’s incident to figure it out. And there is help for you too.

    Getting the corroborated details of what happened isn’t necessary before you ‘form an opinion’. You either think she is a liar or you think she isn’t. Knowing he has done things like this before (corroborated by HInes) shouldn’t make your opinion-forming very hard.

  25. 25
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    @17 – Elise Matthesen purposefully left out that information. That is the prerogative of the victim. Personally, I think it was a good idea. There’s no need for people to get bogged down in the usual quibbles about what constitutes actual harassment, whether or not Finkel is a good but misunderstood dudely dude (with potential neural development disorder) or how it wasn’t actually rape or anything. Whatever happened it was enough that Matthesen made a formal report. The content of this report did not surprise anyone in her community. We can assume that the incident was worth reporting.

    Perhaps if the skeptic community paid more attention to how sexual harassment affect their own members instead of playing pseudo-lawyer and myopic fact-finders, the rifts may not have gotten so deep.

  26. 26
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    That would be Frenkel not Finkel. My subconscious is getting the better of me.

  27. 27
    jenny6833a

    Shari (#24) says, “Getting the corroborated details of what happened isn’t necessary before you ‘form an opinion’. You either think she is a liar or you think she isn’t.”

    I’m one of those odd (to you) people who seek facts before forming an opinion. At the very least, I want to examine the testimony of the accuser and accused. Otherwise, no opinion.

    Shari continues, “Knowing he has done things like this before (corroborated by HInes) shouldn’t make your opinion-forming very hard.”

    So, anyone who has been accused of a crime in the past is automatically guilty if accused in the future. Is that it?

    Shari, when you’re a bit older you’ll take a civics class. Maybe even an ethics class too. I’d advise you to pay attention.

  28. 28
    Stephanie Zvan

    And jenny6833a has now left more comments on this blog that serve to do nothing but demonstrate the Dunning-Kruger effect in a caustic fashion than she has left comments that contributed anything to the conversation. She’s done.

  29. 29
    maddog1129

    @ 22

    I’ve only found essays on how to report incidents, but no account of the incident itself. Until I know what happened, beyond reasonable doubt, I’ll not form an opinion. That’s the American way.

    You have correctly identified that the essays were ABOUT how to report incidents. That’s the only thing about which forming an opinion is required for purposes of this discussion.

  30. 30
    shari

    oh, good. Thanks Steph. Now I don’t have to explain everything I learned in ethics. And civics. and how i have finally reached the age where I am forecasting the weather with my arthritis. ‘preciate it. :-D

  31. 31
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    @28 Stephanie, thank you.

    Reading that defensive, aggressive mess at 27 made me sigh and pinch the top of my nose in exasperation. I was prepared to wade into the fray* but not having to is a great relief.

    *Matthesen has by deepest respect. The response of the SF community is unusual. Other high profile cases in different communities have had less empathetic results. She could not know what the outcome might be and still went ahead.

  1. 32
    Why Does Talking About Creepers And Harassment Make People So Angry? | Popehat

    [...] at a convention, and out tumbled two things: anger, and stories of women putting up all the time in this subculture with creepers. The experiences are not new; perhaps the willingness to talk about [...]

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