So I was at WonderCon on Sunday, as it turns out, and yup, I saw that shirt. Yup, I turned that information over to Exhibitor Relations. And yup, I followed up with an email to CCI’s exhibitor email address:
Dear WonderCon 2014 exhibit staff:
First, congratulations on a great year! Hopefully everyone on the con committee is pleased, looking forward to the 2015, and getting some sleep.
Unfortunately, I’ve come to disturb your well-earned rest to ask you to consider extending your harassment policies to exhibitors, and to make the harassment policy more obvious to congoers, in the same vein as Emerald City Comic-Con and SakuraCon.
While I was visiting vendors and Artist’s Alley tables on Sunday afternoon, I spotted a T-shirt at Tankhead Custom Tees, booth 888, that read “I like fangirls how I like my coffee. I hate coffee” with an emblem of a spilled coffee cup, as depicted in the photo creator Landry Walker took at the con:
I saw that shirt too. I knew that I should find someone in con operations and let them know it wasn’t okay. Not finding a clear policy on exhibitor trouble on your site, I went to your volunteer table. The kind staff pointed me to Exhibitor Relations, a floor manager was called, and I explained, including Landry’s photo. She told me they would investigate.
I hope you have. And I hope that you’ve made it clear to the man running Tankhead that his custom is no longer welcome at CCI conventions going forward… but he’s the obvious symptom of the larger problem at hand.
Men in comics culture often adopt a woman-hating stance, and what a shirt like that, sitting out at the top of a corner booth on an aisle at WonderCon or SDCC or anywhere else, says is simple: “This con is OK with me hating women. Hating women is normal in comics. This shirt is OK for me to sell here because misogyny is normal here; in fact, it is OK for me to brandish my woman-hating shirt above my other shirts like we’re in Westeros and it’s my banner.”
We’re not in Westeros. It’s not OK to hold up “I hate women” as your banner any more. And I know WonderCon doesn’t want to be these guys’ bannerman, judging by the number of women and young girls I saw on the con floor this year. I managed to make a report to Exhibitor Relations because I am persistent and kept looking for a means to do so for half an hour. Not everyone is as persistent as me, but everyone should be able to help you keep your con welcoming and safe without going to the lengths I did.
Yes, I know. Con operations cannot and does not want to be everywhere at the con at once looking for harassment. I work behind booths on a regular basis for events like w00tstock, and we can’t be everywhere. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Your attendees, properly informed and regularly reminded, will do this work for you.
Signage in every common area of the convention reiterating your attendee anti-harassment policies will give people experiencing harassment the information they need to report if they feel they need to do so. Extending your anti-harassment policies to exhibitors and the material they carry, and adding that to your signage— “If you experience any abusive behavior from an exhibitor or believe an item violates our policies, please come to Exhibitor Relations at the back of Hall A”— will let people know where to go to find a floor manager and have the problem addressed.
This sort of “bombard the common areas with resource-filled material” approach, combined with a low-to-zero-tolerance harassment policy, has made both Emerald City and CONvergence (the originators of the “Cosplay is not Consent” poster meme) very welcoming places to attend and do business. WonderCon can do it too! Amend the policy to include exhibitors, poster the hell out of the common areas, and let your attendees know that this is not a con that welcomes woman-hating behavior even when exhibitors are involved. We will help you. We will rise to the standard you set.
And, well, if one lady with 28 years’ comic fandom can’t convince you, please listen to NYT bestseller and Eisner nominee Greg Rucka. He’s a smart guy: