Comic-Con International. It’s a convention where celebrated superheroes and science fiction stars come to life. And, with thousands behind masks, it’s also a hot spot for misbehavior, according to reports.
As the event launched in San Diego this weekend, backlash over allegations of sexual harassment prompted a prominent science fiction author to hold his event away from the site in protest of what he called lax anti-harassment policies, the Los Angeles Times reported. And Geeks for CONsent, founded by three women from Philadelphia, submitted a petition, which now has more than 2,600 signatures, urging organizers to make those anti-harassment policies more public and establish a more formal anti-harassment policy at Comic-Con, the Associated Press reported.
They group is collecting stories on its Web site, like this:
I was cosplaying as a female anime character of somewhat large chest proportions. I happen to be large myself and wore a padded bra to slightly enhance it. Multiple times throughout the con, people asked to take pictures with me, and I agreed, but a few times men thought it would be awesome to grab a breast for the photo. When I got angry, they acted like it was no big deal and I was called a ‘bitch’ and other things for standing up for myself.
By the time I could get the attention of con staff each time but one, the offenders were no longer nearby, The other time, the staff member was dismissive. I also received inappropriate sexual comments from both attendees and exhibitors. Being that I was fully clothed from neck to toe without tight clothing, and STILL getting that kind of treatment, I couldn’t possibly feel safe dressing in anything that would draw attention to me, and maybe even not then, because I got rude comments while NOT cosplaying as well. I have so little desire to return until they can fully convince me the atmosphere has changed.
— Calico (@ManedCalico) July 27, 2014
Mariah Huehner, author of the “True Blood” and “Emily and the Strangers” comics, told the L.A. Times that a few years ago she experienced the harassment first hand at a nighttime Comic-Con party.
“One of the guys suddenly had his hand on my butt,” Huehner, 35, told the newspaper. “It’s a shocking reminder that you’re seen differently.”
Although groping, cat-calling and kinds of sexual harassment are a global problem, Geeks for CONsent said the issue is amplified at the festival.
“It’s a separate, more specific issue within the convention space,” 29-year-old Rochelle Keyhan, director of Geeks for CONsent, told the AP. “It’s very much connected [to the larger problem] and it’s the same phenomena, but manifesting a little more sexually vulgar in the comic space.”
For the first time this year, San Diego Comic-Con sent attendees its anti-harassment policy via email two days before the event, NBC Bay Area reported.
On Sunday, Comic-Con International told the AP in a statement that Comic-Con has a code of conduct online as well as in the events guide given to each attendee.
“Anyone being made to feel uncomfortable at our show is obviously a concern for us,” Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer told the L.A. Times. “The safety of our attendees is a primary concern of ours. For this reason we have more staff and security than other events of our type. In addition we also have a command post in the lobby of our event that is staffed with members of the San Diego Police Department, fire and other emergency services.”
Earlier this year, Seattle’s Comic-Con event put up “costumes are not consent” posters to publicize its zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy, NBC Bay Area reported.
But sci-fi author John Scalzi told the L.A. Times, “I found Comic-Con’s policy to be deficient.” He held his book reading and signing away from the convention center this year.
“Every section of culture and society goes through this, where a group who has put up with a lot of harassment says, ‘No, we don’t want that anymore,’” he said recently. “There’s always that moment where the world shifts. Nerd culture is in the middle of that now.”