When you've been going to a particular convention for a long time, it becomes a home away from home. Even if you don't speak to other attendees, you know their names and faces. You develop traditions (the first night of the con we go to this restaurant, we stop by these stores and these places in the dealer room) and memorize the hotel layout. So when something upsetting happens at the con, it affects you too.
Last year, a well-known editor who was employed by Tor harassed at least two women, one of whom is my friend. (What's especially upsetting is that this was my friend's first-ever convention.) One of the women wrote about the experience here. My friend's report about this year's convention is here. WisCon apparently misplaced the reports these women filed, and the former editor (he got fired after the incident became public) was allowed to attend this year's WisCon. A ruling finally came out last Friday, with the result that the guy is banned for at least four years and may be allowed to return if he demonstrates improved behavior.
I know this guy by sight, but I haven't had much occasion to speak with him. From reports I've heard, he has a long history of harassing women, which makes me glad that I got rejected from Tor ages ago. This history suggests that any changes to his behavior may be superficial or temporary. I don't know if WisCon has had to deal with a situation like this before; it's possible the ruling was issued this way to establish a precedent, allowing future harassers a chance to redeem themselves. However, this ruling doesn't do much (IMO) to address the victims' safety or mental well-being at the convention. Why would you return if you risk encountering your harasser again? And while I don't know how this decision was reached, I know this guy had connections. It makes me wonder if there is some power play behind this decision. I'd like to think the committee was as objective as possible, and maybe no decision would have pleased everyone. But even the suspicion of power plays supporting a harasser at a feminist convention is upsetting.
I normally register for next year's WisCon and make my hotel reservation while at the convention, and I did so this year. WisCon is the first con I ever attended, the birthplace of Broad Universe, and it's set in the city that I love. I see friends here that I don't see outside of WisCon. I don't want to boycott this convention. I just want it to walk the walk when it comes to supporting women. Whether that's something ordinary members can accomplish, or whether it's a matter for volunteers or committee members, I don't know. It's not an issue that can be solved in a single blog post. I don't care if Tor stops throwing parties at WisCon; I care that all attendees feel safe, no matter who they are. I intend to look for more information from WisCon and other people in the WisCon community as the countdown to WisCon 39 continues.