Summary Notes from the Standing Up to the Mob panel. This was a discussion at Norwescon 40, with Cat Rambo, the current President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Michelle Mickey Schulz, the Editor/Publisher of Geek Girls Rule!, veteran cosplayer Torrey Stenmark and fan fiction maven Minim Calibre.
Going by memory, I would say that these were the highlights and generally agreed-upon conclusions:
1. All women who are visible and active as creators and critics in fandom and tech are targeted for hatred, harassment, and erasure. Do not deny this fact, do not disbelieve their reports, and do not equivocate any experience you’ve had as a Dude Creator with what women are getting. It’s not equivalent. And never will be.
2. The purpose of a lot of the on-line harassment that women receive is to overwhelm and silence the victim.
For this reason, if you’re trying to engage and “draw fire” for a woman on-line, you need to actually behave as if you’re tanking a Monster that has an AoE attack. Get AWAY from the intended victim. Remove the tags that link her to the conversation, get her out of the loop, do not drag her back into the fire.
3. During a hate blitz, offer whatever help or support a woman asks for. BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT GESTURE YOU CAN MAKE IS FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR HER WORK. Beyond that, you can offer to handle her email for a while, and just deal with the death and rape threats so that she doesn’t have to. This method worked for Mickey Schultz when she was being barraged by psychotic fans of a famous web comic; it had the additional benefit of giving her husband much deeper empathy, not only for her but for all women in fandom.
[3a. “Taking a Break” from on-line interaction is a completely valid way to decompress and exercise self-care as a female creator or critic. You are allowed to leave the party at any time.]
4. A little extra vigilance in what you share as a female creator in production or fandom, in terms of on-line information, can be helpful to avoid being a priority target for doxxing. Some women have had their names removed from a company directory at work, some avoid mentioning their children, pets or partners on-line, etc..
Your safety is more important than sharing every aspect of your life.
5. Do your best as an ally to hire, support and create safe and sane work environments for women.
Do not allow misogynistic hate speech on your company channels and forums and in the comment section of articles on your website. Delete that stuff with a mighty “hammer of loving correction”.
Protect your employees and female guests who are interviewed or contribute content to your feed.
Hold male creators ACCOUNTABLE for failing to deal with their toxic male fans, as well.
6. The community’s actions to deal with serial harassers, creepers and sexual predators is VERY important. Raise and uphold community standards in every social space you occupy.
Don’t just warn people about the Missing Stairs. Fix the stairs and make it as safe as you can.
Please feel free to share. If you were there at the panel and I’ve forgotten anything important, please mention it in the comments.