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[Trigger Warning] Laurie Mann shows her ass by excoriating fandom over the horrible treatment of Rene Walling

[Trigger Warning] Laurie Mann shows her ass by excoriating fandom over the horrible treatment of Rene Walling

Due to a discussion on Facebook started by Scott Edelman, I’ve spent the last couple of days arguing with people about Rene Walling and what constitutes “real” sexual harassment. I have a lot to say on this subject, but it’s going to require a longer blog post and a lot of crafting.

In the mean time, I’d like to point you to the blog of Laurie Mann, who posted a stunningly ridiculous and stupid post in which she wags a finger at all the bad fandom people who are just blowing this whole ReaderCon thing out of proportion.

I left a comment on that blog, but I doubt it will escape the moderation queue, thus I am posting it here. You really, really need to go over to Laurie’s blog and read her post1 before reading this because of context.


I always felt very safe in fandom.

This right here is the crux of everything that is wrong with your post, Laurie. Just because you have always felt safe does not mean that fandom is safe or that other women do. This entire post is you positing that your experiences trump everyone else’s and all these evil friends of Genevieve are just being soooo unfair. It’s bull.

I can think of a couple of times having long discussions with men, sometimes in their hotel rooms during SF conventions. A few of them came onto me – a kiss, a grope, whatever. I said no, and we just resumed our conversation.

UM. Laurie. This is not in any way okay. Yes, it’s good that when you said no they stopped, but what the hell is it with you thinking it’s just fine for them to have groped and kissed you without permission? That’s the way you wrote it. That you were with them, they touched you, you said no.

Perhaps you’ve been socialized to think that this is just harmless flirting and, as long as they back off when you tell them to, all is copacetic. I’m here to tell you it is not. There is never a scenario in which someone touches you un-accidentally without your permission and that’s okay.

Here again we come to the real problem with your entire post and attitude: you have decided that certain boundaries are okay and attempting to say that anyone who feels differently is just blowing things out of proportion. You don’t get to decide that for others.

No meant no, but an unwanted kiss did not mean I’d just been raped.

It did mean you’d just been sexually assaulted. And I know you’re going to say “That does not rise to the level of ‘real’ sexual assault and by saying it does you belittle people who have actually been assaulted!” so I’m going to head you off by saying: Nope, wrong. Just because a grope is not rape doesn’t mean it’s not a violation and wrong. There is no getting around this.

Sexual assault is not a matter of degrees. It’s a violation of boundaries without consent. Period.

Fannish women knew how to stand up for themselves, right?

And yet you are angry at a fannish woman and her female and male friends standing up for herself because we’re a mob. It’s okay okay to stand up for yourself alone.

At the same time, I never heard about a woman being raped at a con.

Because you’ve never heard of it, it never happens. I’m so glad that your reality is the only reality, Laurie. It makes the world so much easier to live in!

Do you know how ridiculous you sound? Just because you knew women in college that got raped but didn’t hear from fannish women who were raped does not mean that the latter did not happen.

Perhaps the fannish women you know or don’t know didn’t tell you about their rapes or didn’t announce it. And perhaps they didn’t do so because women LIKE YOU would trot out of the filk room to say you’d never heard of anyone being raped at a con, plus that guy is totally nice and all, so obviously they must be wrong about their own experiences.

Why do you insist on invalidating other people’s experiences, Laurie? Oh right, because it makes your reality that much less real and more like a fantasy you made up.

Can I also point out that you’ve been told by multiple people at this point that your little summary of what happened at ReaderCon is both incomplete and inaccurate, yet I have not seen you correct it here on this blog post. That’s class, Laurie.

You ask for people to be respectful of each other, but you have not been respectful of the person who had to deal with the harassment at the con or of anyone who has ever had to deal with harassment, sexual assault, rape, and more.

Instead you’re sitting up here defending Rene Walling.

Keep being classy, Laurie Mann. You’re going on my list of people to avoid at cons.

Footnotes

  1. As much as you can stomach, anyway []

14 comments to [Trigger Warning] Laurie Mann shows her ass by excoriating fandom over the horrible treatment of Rene Walling

  • Delux

    Isnt Walling still alive?

    How has this been lynching, exactly?

  • Lori S.

    Read the original post. If this is fandom, I fucking quit.

    (Meanwhile, thanks for the response.)

  • But but but he just wanted to TALK TO HER! Like he had every right to do! Despite her not wanting to talk with him! Because he’s a man and he deserves to be able to talk to whoever he wants to and she’s just MEAN and WRONG and HOW DARE THEY expect a MAN to respect boundaries and not inflict himself on women! Now I’m going to tell you exactly what sexual assault and rape is and isn’t and explain how no fannish woman in the history of ever has ever experienced either. ta DAH! Problem solved.

  • Nina

    Thank you so much. As usual, you said all the things I needed to say but couldn’t. And all the things I really needed to hear, too. It’s never going to stop hurting when people speak out to invalidate experiences of sexual assault and rape, and it always makes me feel silenced. Your bravery and eloquence are perfect antidotes. <3

  • Steven S.

    Let’s see:
    Looking at Ms. Mann’s post:

    “Socially awkward” in Paragraph #1.
    Generalizing from personal feeling to universality in Paragraph #2.
    Absence of evidence as evidence of absence in P #2.
    “Blown all out of proportion” in P #3, and
    Free square…

    Bingo!

    Thank you — this was blistering & concise, which is exactly what we need in response to the sort of nonsense that makes people print up bingo cards. Thank you.

  • carolyn

    Perhaps you’ve been socialized to think that this is just harmless flirting and, as long as they back off when you tell them to, all is copacetic. I’m here to tell you it is not. There is never a scenario in which someone touches you un-accidentally without your permission and that’s okay.

    THIS to the 1000th power. You know how I first found out my husband was attracted to me as more than a friend? When he ASKED ME if it was okay to kiss me. Before that, he’d never, ever touched me without my consent during the many months we were just-friends — even if it was a hug, he either asked first or waited for me to initiate. It makes me sick that it’s 2012 and this is still the exception, not the rule.

  • Tam Chronin

    If she’s never heard of someone being raped at a con, she’s never talked to anyone who has worked security at a con.

    These days they don’t make the rape victim run around with a scarlet A embroidered on their shirts. They respect the woman’s privacy and don’t humiliate her by spreading it around.

    Sadly, I’ve heard of far too many rapes at cons. Thankfully they’re kept quiet, so the victim doesn’t have to spend the rest of the experience and beyond having to be reminded of the hellish experience.

  • Here’s the comment I tried to post on her blog, which I suspect will never make it out of moderation. I tried to be polite and everything!

    You’re downplaying what actually happened. I don’t know whether you’re doing so intentionally or out of ignorance, but this is a situation that can only be understood in context, and you’re leaving out or ignoring a lot of the context that matters. I will attempt to explain.

    No one has said Walling is a rapist. He has, however, been accused of repeatedly harassing women — and by “harassing” I mean stalking and groping and attempting to coerce into sex — not just at Readercon but many cons. He’s done it to at least two authors (including Valentine), to con volunteers and staff, and more. When Valentine came forward, these other women did, too — enough to show that Walling has a demonstrated pattern of doing the same thing everywhere he goes. People want him banned from Readercon simply because that’s what Readercon’s rules said. But this is why people want him banned from all cons: because he cannot be trusted to behave at any of them.

    Then you complain about the behavior of Valentine’s friends. But you don’t mention that Walling’s friends have not only protected him from con rules enforcement, but they’ve gone after some of the women who’ve complained about his behavior in the past. Some of the authors haven’t been invited to other cons as guests, some of the con staffers have been marginalized until they quit. In other words, Valentine’s friends are hurting his reputation, but Walling’s friends are hurting women’s careers. Women cannot feel safe at any con Walling attends in part because of Walling himself, and in part because Walling is surrounded by (relatively) powerful people who’ve proven more than willing to use their power to harm others on his behalf. And he’s also protected by a throng of random bystanders who decry any complaint about sexual harassment as a “lynch mob”.

    (Yeah, because asking a con to adhere to its own printed rules is totally like beating, raping, torturing, dismembering, and stringing someone up. Also, this is nowhere near “war”.)

    It’s lovely that you’ve felt safe at cons. You’re very lucky. But your luck does not mean that less-lucky women are imagining things. Or that their unwillingness to tolerate being groped — even though it didn’t bother you when it happened — means they’re overreacting.

    Sadly, the level of vitriol around this incident can set the general egalitarianism in fandom back by decades.

    There is no egalitarianism in fandom.

    There is a belief in egalitarianism. But it has mostly been used to support the usual suspects — the straight white men at the core of SFF — while marginalizing the usual targets — women, people of color, anyone the straight white men don’t like or want to objectify or want to own. When the usual targets complain about their treatment, they have to listen to what I like to call The Egalitarianism Speech. That’s the speech that goes, “Can’t we all just get along? Shut up a little and we can. Stop asking for change and we can. Everything was fine before you started complaining. We’re all equal here, after all.”

    We are not. But we can be, eventually, if things change. What is necessary to bring about this change is sometimes, yes, vitriol, because polite discussions have already been had — in spades — and they haven’t worked. Walling has apparently been Talked To before; it didn’t stop him from pulling this again. Readercon’s no-tolerance harassment policy came out of a previous incident and discussion and they ignored it. Only vitriol made them follow their own rules. All the anger right now is because politeness has been tried, and all that’s done has been to protect and enable more bad behavior. The anger, however, seems to be having a positive effect.

    So there’s your context.

  • it’s the people who decided it was a good idea to let Walling volunteer serving drinks who are the issue here, who are the people who are not taking sexual harassment seriously. Walling is beside the point at this point–it’s people like Mann and all Walling’s defenders who are flouting the safety of others here. And they’re saying if you can’t put up with behavior I find acceptable, get out–you’re not wanted here. They are telling all of us who consider this behavior harassment and make us feel unsafe to put up or shut up. And they dare to call us a “lynch” mob? Please.

  • Judy

    I hear what people are saying here, but there is quite a ways in action from Walling’s inappropriate behavior to him adding date rape drugs to alcohol he is serving at someone’s party.

  • Irene Vartanoff

    Excellent points.

    Some people seem to feel that at a con the usual rules of decent behavior and the laws enacted by our governments may be ignored. This is wrong, morally and legally. If this man doesn’t stop now, he’s going to earn a listing on the sex offender rolls, despite all his apologists.

    Getting off those lists is a lot harder than merely appealing to wrongheaded male fellow feeling or complacent (“it can’t/didn’t happen to me, so it didn’t/couldn’t have happened to you”) women–or blaming women for being harassed. Note I said “being” harassed, because there is no doubt in my mind that they were. If you feel harassed, that’s because you were. There is no mistaking male sexual aggression, however much we’d like to pretend it does not exist. I have known brave women who successfully laughed off being assaulted in public by stranger males, but that does not mean the assaults did not happen.

  • Nolly

    I agree that putting him behind the bar in the party was a poor decision, but I also want to make it clear that said party was not an official con function, and con staff / committee as such had no control over who was doing what there.

    That said, I’m not aware of anyone not being invited to cons or any staffers being marginalized into quitting over anything Mr. Walling has done or anything they said or did about it. Where were those incidents reported? All I’ve seen so far is the Readercon incident, Kate Kligman’s reports, and the report of the comment made while tending bar at the Commonwealth party.

  • Rock

    You know how I first found out my husband was attracted to me as more than a friend? When he ASKED ME if it was okay to kiss me. Before that, he’d never, ever touched me without my consent during the many months we were just-friends —even if it was a hug, he either asked first or waited for me to initiate. It makes me sick that it’s 2012 and this is still the exception, not the rule.

    This is an interesting statement. I recall as a young man two instances whereas I asked a woman for permission to kiss her and in both instances, I was told that I should not ask; I should just do it. In essence, I was supposed to know when it was ok to do so and asking sort of ruined the moment.

    Out of curiousity, did you ever feel the need to ask your husband if it was ok to hug him during those times when you “initiated”?

    A major aspect of men’s lives is having to wade through mixed messages.

  • Jesse

    Also to add to the discussion; Laurie has a little victim blaming flavour in the detail that one of the rapes “was in a fraternity basement” as though where rape occurs is a defining factor in responsibility.