By Doug Porter
The one of the largest collections of make-believe comes to San Diego this week, kicking off Wednesday night with Preview Night followed by four days of events running Thursday, July 24 through Sunday, July 27. More than 130,000 are expected for Comic Con 2014.
What should be a dream-come-true event for fans of the genres involved has turned out to be a nightmare in recent years as an institutional malaise about dealing with harassment issues has surfaced. Last year photographs of attendee derrieres were posted online after Comic-Con as some sort of sick tribute to the misogynist mentality that’s flourished in recent events in San Diego and other cities.
A group calling itself Geeks for CONsent is fighting back this year, circulating a petition aiming at getting Comic-Con International in San Diego (SDCC) to update its harassment policy. They’re asking for a “full harassment policy,” as well as anti-harassment signs and trained volunteers to deal with complaints.
Afraid of Bad Press?
Here’s Comic-Con public relations director David Glanzer in an interview with Comic Book Resources responding to questions about the petition:
I will tell you, though, that because we’re really an international show, and have 3,000 members of the media, I think the story would be harassment is such an issue at Comic-Con that they needed to post these signs around there. Now, people within the industry, and fans, know that isn’t the case, but the general public out there, and I think the news media, might look at this as, “Why would you, if this wasn’t such a bad issue, why do you feel the need to single out this one issue and put signs up about it?” I think that’s a concern.
Many fans were less-than-thrilled about that response.
Here’s Martha Thomasese at Comicmix.com:
So SDCC would rather ignore the real, frequent instances of female cosplayers feeling targeted or unsafe than send a message that harassment is a problem. That’s infuriating, but also unwise—the many women who attend the event would likely respond positively to seeing their experience validated and their safety concerns taken seriously. Were Glanzer less blind to the existence of girl geeks, he’d know that anti-harassment signs would do the opposite of begriming SDCC’s image. In March, the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle drew tons of happy publicity with a poster campaign called “Costumes Are Not Consent.” But asked about Seattle, Glanzer told CBR: “What works at other conventions might not necessarily apply to ours. I don’t know. I think we’re comfortable in the policy we have.” My PR translator renders this: Yes, but. Status quo. So comfy, like a flannel shirt.
Comic Con’s official response to the petition has been to a)make its harassment policy on its website visible and b) send all attendees an email last week including a “Code of Conduct/Anti Harassment Policy”.
“Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.“
TheMarySue.com pointed out that this was all fine and dandy, except:
…it’s important to note while this message was sent to regular ticket holders and professional attendees it was not sent out to press and that’s a huge omission. People accepted as press for conventions have been known to be the biggest offenders (professionals aren’t immune either) and comic creator Lea Hernandez has desperately been trying to get Comic-Con’s attention specially after seeing Mediocre Films’ comedian Greg Benson harass cosplayers on camera (Marlene, aka ilikecomicstoo has documented this pretty well) with no repercussions.
Other policy changes don’t seem nearly as threatening to the Comic-Con management, as TheMarySue.com also pointed out:
Yes, while it’s taken decades for Comic-Con to put their code of conduct on the website and discuss the issue of harassment publicly, the very first year it’s possible for the general public to be wearing Google Glasses at the convention they’ve made sure to include them in their no-recording policy (and in no uncertain terms). You see, piracy is a very important issue.
Nothing (Homeless) to See Here
The 10News report from Saturday concerning the SDPD evicting homeless people from the blocks surrounding Comic-Con has gotten some national play.
Here’s a snippet of the coverage in Raw Story:
A well-known San Diego homeless advocate has accused the San Diego Police Department of running off some of the the transient San Diegans who populate the downtown area around the San Diego Convention Center before attendees of Comic-Con arrive in town.
David Ross, known in San Diego as “Waterman” for handing out bottled drinking water to the homeless living on the street, told San Diego 10 News, “People on these streets are unsightly to the public, to the general public and certainly to visitors coming in from out of town.”
San Diego Comic-Con International is the largest convention of its kind in the world, drawing over 130,000 attendees over a four day period, in a celebration of comic books, film, television, and pop culture.
Ross, along with several homeless people who have been given “stay-away orders” threatening them with jail if they return to the area, believe the city is trying to hide it’s homeless problem from visitors who are expected pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy via direct spending, hotel rooms, and dining in restaurants.
The 10News story included the official denial that the “cleansing” was underway:
10News called San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office to see if this was true. A spokesman told 10News he spoke to San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and called the claims untrue, saying “Comic Con is nearly a week away” and why would they “crack down this early?”
The spokesman added the only thing police are doing now is homeless outreach and getting beds and meals to those in the worst condition.
Cracks in the Comic Book Ceiling
While we’re on the subject of fantasy worlds, I’d like to point to Liz Watson’s article at The Daily Beast on the increasing diversity in the world of comic book heroes and the essentially conservative nature of the genre.
Last week Marvel Comics announced some its major characters (Captain America & Thor) would be undergoing some radical changes in the near future.
The Internet erupted into a chorus of fanboy kvetching in the wake of this news, with some fans up in arms over “political correctness gone mad.” Others applauded Marvel for providing some much-needed variety to their stable of white, male heroes. As superhero juggernauts DC and Marvel enter the 21stcentury, the debate over diversity in comic books is picking up steam. A black Captain America and woman Thor are just a few of Marvel’s many triumphs in what’s been a banner year…
…The irony is that a format characterized by the boundless scope of imagination is ultimately extremely conservative when it comes to risks with character or story. Major developments like deaths or marriages are almost always undone, via fantastic contrivances ranging from deals with the devil to time-travel. Characters are de-powered, murdered, raped, aged up and down, and yo-yoed between universes with an alarming lack of fanfare. It’s the same problem suffered by long-running soap operas, where catastrophes are regularly smoothed over or forgotten in order to keep the premise going. At least on soap operas, actors leave over contract disputes or pass away. In comics, the stories can go on indefinitely. As such, the limitless nature of comic book fantasy is used, by and large, to keep limits in place.
The San Diego Free Press will have coverage from a variety of writers attending Comic-Con as the week progresses.
Back to the real world…
Downtown Vigil for Minimum Wage Set
Raise Up San Diego, the coalition that organized support for increasing the minimum wage by the City Council, is hold a vigil on Tuesday morning, hoping to urge Mayor Faulconer to sign the ordinance.
“We urge Mayor Faulconer to sign the measure,” said Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice. “It will stimulate San Diego’s economy by putting $260 million a year in the pockets of hard working San Diegans, enabling them to achieve dignity. The American Dream is to reward hard work and initiative with the opportunity to take care of your family. By signing this measure, Mayor Faulconer will literally enable hundreds of thousands of working San Diegans to afford child care and to not be penalized for staying home from work if they are ill or have a sick child.”
They’ll be meeting at the Civic Center plaza at 8:30am Tuesday morning, July 22nd..
Meanwhile UT-San Diego is ranting and raving for downtown interests to force this measure to the ballot box. Later in the week I expect we’ll be hearing that the coming heat wave is being caused by worker justice advocates.
A Meaningful Pro-LGBT Executive Order
While Mayor Faulconer dithers, President Obama today signed an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) federal contractors. The howling we’ll soon be hearing from the right about “religious freedom” is due to the fact that there are no additional exemptions for religious entities.
From The Washington Post:
Today’s signing comes after two extraordinary meetings in the West Wing within the last two weeks between a small group of leaders from the religious and LGBT communities. Gatherings that happened after folks in the religious community who are friends of Obama started pressuring him to shield religious entities from complying with his impending order. According to an administration official, the meetings, which will be ongoing, were “very constructive and deeply moving.” Because the participants “listened and sought to put themselves in the other’s shoes,” they were able “to have really open and honest conversations” about religious freedom and the need to protect people from discrimination. The president’s action today shows the two are not mutually exclusive.
Once Obama signs the order, LGBT employees who work for federal contractors will be protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, bias against federal employees based on gender identity will be prohibited. They have been protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation since President Clinton’s executive order in 1998.
On This Day: 1877- Local militiamen were called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advised giving the strikers “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” 1925 – The “Monkey Trial” ended in Dayton, TN. John T. Scopes was convicted of violating the state law for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. 1984 – A die-cast operator in Jackson, Mich., was pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot and died five days later. It was the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human
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