Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pay the Toll to the Troll

by Allison Pang

I'm paying closer attention to the troll aspect of this week's particular subject - for a number of reasons. First is because I seem to have picked up a troll of my own. (Yes, she's a puppy...but even at 8 weeks, I can tell she is going to be a sassy, back-talking little troll. Whee.)

But on a more serious note, I tend to be fairly concerned about the trolls that routinely hang about the convention scene - simply because it is so prevalent and often it's disguised as "compliments."

Of course, some of this depends on the sort of convention you're attending. Sometimes writer-based cons tend to be a bit more mellow (particularly the romance ones, as there is often a higher female to male ratio. The exceptions, of course, were stated earlier by some of my fellow word whores - there are some cons that do employ male cover models and sometimes attendees can get out of control. There is no excuse for the sort of thing. Ever.)

However, that being said, the majority of trolls/harassers at most cons do tend to be men - you've got the cosplay creeps who decide that just because someone is wearing a skimpy costume, that gives them free range to touch/poke/be lewd or whatever. And god, the catch-22 thing kills me. Often said trolls will look down upon female cosplayers for being "slutty" - after all, why would they dress like that if they didn't want attention? Oh wait, maybe because the many (male) comic book artists draw their superheroines with melon ball breasts, costumes made of metal and dental floss and have them "expressing their STRONG FEMALE POWER" in poses that aren't actually possible. It's basically a self-fulfilling prophecy breeding ground of dudes who are used to comic books catering to their gaze and then complaining about being "friend-zoned" when lady cosplayers object to being treated like a piece of meat.

And no, not all guys are like this, and some are obviously completely socially oblivious - but there are plenty of professional trolls who know exactly what they're doing and how to go about doing it. (Women are often taught that it's not polite to say "no" - it can make it very difficult to call someone out, because then you're accused of making a scene and hey, he didn't actually mean anything by it...)

Part of the issue is that many cons do not have clear rules as to what constitutes as harassment. (In fact, SDCC is under fire for having some pretty vague rules - they actually admit that having a more clearly defined policy in place would indicate there are problems at their con.) *blinks*

The good news is that many cons are listening and doing what they can to educate con-goers and also to provide safe places for people who are feeling threatened. Cosplay Is Not Consent is one such page on Facebook that is committed to trying to stop the perpetuation of this sort of behavior.

Now, cosplay trolls are perhaps the most obvious, but there are still those people who use their industry power to get what they want - I've seen that at gaming conventions, comic conventions...and yes, writing conventions.

In some cases, said perpetrators are well known to be such, but because of who they are, convention planners are sometimes unwilling to make a stink about it because they don't want to offend the person. (However, in recent years, I've noticed that this is no longer the case - several high profile attendees are being called out as being inappropriate and are no longer welcome at some conventions.)

For a somewhat depressing look at the convention harassment timeline, check out this link - it goes back as far as 1973, so this is clearly not a new issue in any sense.

In the end though, the only thing that is going to make things better is for people to speak up - not just those being harassed, but those who associate with trolls - if a friend of yours does something inappropriate, call them out on it. Silence is often seen as consent, approval (or at least lack of disapproval). It also means better harassment policies and a better implementation of those policies.

It also probably helps if we start seeing each other as people and treat everyone accordingly.

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