Samantha Henderson (samhenderson) wrote,
Samantha Henderson
samhenderson

Readercon harrassment and perceptions of reality

What’s surprising me – and I shouldn’t be surprised, because I’ve got delusions of some understanding of how the world works – about the fallout from Genevieve’s experience with harassment at Readercon is not so much those responding from the mindset of “Rene’s my friend and would never do such” or “fandom’s wonderful why do you want to ruin it” or “damn wimmins,” but the reaction of those who acknowledge that harassment took place but want her to take responsibility for “her part in it” – what her part is I can’t figure. Something to do with she should have had magical polite words that would have made him go away happy? Or equally magic ninja powers and shown him what for? Or she’s a woman and women need to understand they are, by their nature, responsible to some degree and in some way for everything that happens to them?

It’s reminding me of the time a co-worker accidentally set her office on fire (candles + messy, paper-covered desk = not a good thing). I looked up to see burning paper flying (it looked like one of the cautionary burning Christmas tree PSAs) around her office, bumping into curtains and such, so I grabbed the fire extinguisher.  She thought the fire was confined to a few papers on her desk, so she grabbed those and ran out the office to the bathroom and therefore didn’t see the wall-o’-flaming-paper.  There were raffle presents stored on her floor, so when I aimed with the fire extinguisher she yelled at me to stop so I wouldn’t ruin them. I didn’t stop, therefore the office didn’t burn down. But she was very angry with me, and insisted that I didn’t need to use it and create an unholy mess. It didn’t matter how much I told her that the fire had gotten beyond the need to be careful of presents. Finally she said we just needed to admit we were both at fault. I said no, actually, I’m not at all at fault – I would have been, however, if I hadn’t acted. She was very angry with me for a long time and I am sure, many years later, the scenario has morphed in her mind from a truly dangerous situation to a minor flare-up of a candle that I overreacted to.

Ultimately I understood that her need to find someone else responsible trumped reality, not unlike otherwise rational people (yes, not all of them are; I’m talking about my experience) needing so badly to buy into the birther agenda. I can only conclude that these people –men and women both – insisting that Genevieve did or didn’t do something, no matter how small, that would’ve prevented the Readercon incident, as if it would be reasonable to expect her to circumvent it, have to reconstruct reality to make it bearable. Maybe it’s because they recognize harassing behavior on their on part or, more likely, fear they may do it, even by accident. Or they need to believe that they could never be subject to harassment, because of (insert set of magic behavior/charms that will prevent it).

In the meantime, in some alternate reality, the office is burning.

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