alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin
I keep wrestling with whether or not to say this, but my brain keeps coming back to it.

We have a culture that will excuse, ignore, or sweep sexual misconduct under the carpet, especially when it's done by a "respectable" white man. This is something that is going to affect even an institution that positions itself as WisCon does. I don't bring up the fact that it happens to say we should accept it; I bring it up to say that we should expect it, and expect to have to deal with it.

But one of the two specific complaints on the table involved a book being thrown by Mr. Frenkel at a young female writer's head. This was an act of violence. Suggesting that he did it in anger or frustration (I don't know which description would fit better) would be a mere descriptive gloss, not an excuse or even an explanation, really.

It's harder to imagine that being swept under the rug, especially given the lack of other dynamics like race.

Now, this might sound insensitive, but it seems to me like the presence of an attempted physical assault, a violent, angry outburst, should have simplified matters. Does it really matter what the other complaint consists of, when one of them involves this kind of outburst? Does it really matter whether the twenty year history of similar behavior can be brought before the sub-committee or not, when you have this on the table?

I don't say this to minimize the other complaint or the history.

But this is the question I keep coming back to.

If the only complaint on the table had been that someone had thrown a book at someone's head during a WisCon programming item, would there have been so much hand-wringing and dithering? Would it have been as something that requires a table so much as a swift and obvious action?

I have a hard time believing this to be the case.

I feel like... and I try to think of other ways to interpret the chain of events, but I can't... but I feel like not only does the handling of the incidents and Mr. Frenkel's history fail to account for the seriousness of what he has done, but I feel like the consequences are less severe then if he had "only" tossed a book at the head of a writer he was dismissing, if that had been the only formal report.

I don't want the other complainant or the other people who have come forward to tell their experiences to think I'm blaming them for having muddied the waters. Obviously, more offenses should equal more consequences, and a more obvious course of action.

But I try to think of circumstances under which someone could behave in that manner and not be shown the door, and I can only think that the hand-wringing and half-measures that too often greet reports of sexual harassment must have had something to do with it.

The problem is that we view certain transgressions, no matter how gross or obvious, as "a kind of gray area". The evidence that suggests--if not proves--that this happened here is that even with the presence of an offense that doesn't fall into that area, the result was still hamstrung by such hand-wringing and half-measures.
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