Rape culture in action at Winnipeg’s Keycon scifi and fantasy conventionPosted: April 14, 2011
Keycon is a scifi and fantasy convention in my home town of Winnipeg. The events include a “Board game blitz” and “bedoiun-steampunk belly-dance”, all of which sounds pretty awesome.
But there’s a sinister side to Keycon, which isn’t advertised on the website: a culture of frequent sexual harassement and sexual assault. This was documented by succubus_esq on the Backup project community, it’s pretty horrifying. The organisers have so far responded by refusing to talk about the problem, and a planned meeting on womens’ safety at Keycon was recently cancelled. Succubus_esq has received anonymous rape and death threats.
I’ve sent an email to the Keycon organisers asking for a better response to the situation. Feel free to do the same: the relevant email addresses are along the right-hand side of the Keycon website.
There is also a Twitter hashtag #rapecon, if you’re on Twitter please take a moment to send a message demanding safety for all convention participants.
I’m pasting below my email to the Keycon organisers. If I get any response I’ll post that as well.
I’m writing to express my shock and concern upon hearing that numerous incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault occurred at last year’s Keycon. It appears that certain predatory individuals consider Keycon to be an environment in which they can carry out harassment and assault with impunity. I am sure that you are as horrified by this situation as I am, and therefore I was surprised that there is no mention of an anti-harassment policy on your website. I ask that you immediately add a prominent message to your website and to all other publicity materials, stating that harassment and assault are completely unacceptable at Keycon and that any person committing harassment or assault will be banned. While such a policy would not guarantee that harassment and assault can never occur, it would send a clear message that these crimes will not be tolerated, and thus would likely lower the rate of harassment and assault at Keycon.
It is important for you to create and publicize an anti-harassment policy ASAP, since a policy that was created at the last minute likely would not be well-publicized, and volunteers and organizers would not have time to familiarize themselves with it. If you are having trouble drafting an anti-harassment policy, you might find the Con Anti-Harassment project helpful.
Please reply to let me know the status of your anti-harassment policy, and what other steps you are taking to ensure the safety of Keycon attendees.
Finally, I was very disturbed to hear that a woman who was raped shortly after a previous Keycon, and who has been in contact with you regarding safety issues, has received death and rape threats from an anonymous email account. It is reprehensible that someone should attempt to silence this brave young woman with threats of violence, and unfortunately it seems very likely that the person responsible is in some way involved in Keycon. I trust that you’ll join me in condemning this cowardly and illegal act.