Code of Conduct, or, How to Make Sure Everyone Has A Good Time.Posted: January 18, 2013
We want everyone at Eight Squared Con to have as enjoyable a convention as possible. Crucially, nobody should be subjected to threatening, harassing or unwelcome behaviour.
As a committee we have extensive experience of running and attending fan and workplace events. We know that for the most part conventions are safe and welcoming environments where instances of inappropriate behaviour are rare. However ‘rare’ is not ‘unknown’ and we are aware of such incidents at recent UK conventions. Our behaviour policy is a clear statement of how we hope to ensure that such incidents don’t occur, and how we will deal with them if they do.
Inappropriate behaviour can involve actions or language that are or may be criminal offences. Behaviour which is less serious in purely legal terms can still be profoundly distressing for the people who experience it. Unwanted touching, persistent unwelcome attention or taking pictures of someone against his or her objections are all examples of inappropriate behaviour. Equally, while we want to encourage open and vigorous discussion, abusive, hectoring or intimidating language can be very upsetting and is also inappropriate.
In discussions of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour it’s often said that a convention should be a ‘safe space’. This can be ambiguous, because ‘safe’ means different things to different people. Is a ‘safe space’ one where you can express yourself as you want to, while being safe from harassment or prejudice? Or is it somewhere you are safe from behaviour or attitudes that upset you? Consequently, there can be times when what one person feels safe in saying or doing may make someone else feel unsafe.
The key to making a safe space work for everyone is respect for others. We should all understand that other people may enjoy conventions in different ways to us. We should remember that we all have boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. We should accept that somebody else is entitled to have different boundaries to us.
The most practical step we can all take is to be aware of our own behaviour and that of others, acknowledging that at times our sense of (or sensitivity to) other people’s boundaries may not be what it should be. Conventions are exciting events where we often sleep too little and drink rather more than we otherwise might. It’s easy to forget how we can come across – or even not to think about it in the first place. So we should all be aware of our own behaviour and how we might appear to others.
Remember to respect boundaries. If you want to take a photo of someone, ask. If they don’t say yes, don’t take a photo. If you’re talking to a writer, don’t monopolize his or her time in the bar or during the Q&A in a programme item. If you’re trying to sell your convention or your book, then talk to the con committee about the best time and place to do this. Don’t go around hustling other con members at breakfast! (Yes, we have all seen this happen.)
If you are trying to get to know someone better and they don’t seem as interested in you as you are in them, please don’t push it. In particular, be mindful of context and surroundings. Behaviour that’s fine in some situations may be very unwelcome in others. For instance, there’s nothing wrong in principle with flirting at a convention. However coming on to someone when the two of you are alone in a lift or empty corridor can make them feel very uncomfortable. Try to ask yourself what you would think if you saw someone doing what you’re about to do. Would you think that it looked ill-advised or likely to cause offence? If so, don’t do it.
If you see someone who looks unhappy with someone else’s behaviour, then check that they are OK. Obviously, this does not mean wading into a situation in a way that makes it worse. Alternatively bring the matter to the Committee’s attention; you can do this by finding a committee member (we will have distinctive badges) or by contacting Ops.
If you see someone you know personally behaving in a way that seems to be making someone else unhappy, have a discreet word. If you think a friend’s sense of what’s appropriate might not be 100% (see above on the effects of too little sleep etc.) then – quietly and politely – have a word. You could well nip an awkward situation in the bud. If you wish to do this with a Committee member’s support, find one of us (see above) and explain the situation
In an ideal world such guidelines should go without saying. But for the avoidance of doubt here they are.
– Unwanted or unwelcome touching is unacceptable. We shouldn’t have to say that groping is wrong, but it has happened. Less blatant forms of unwelcome touching also go on. No matter how friendly the atmosphere, don’t assume everyone wants or welcomes a hug or the offer of a backrub.
– Unwelcome attention need not be physical. If you’re taking a photograph of a particular person, ask first.* If they aren’t comfortable, don’t take a picture. If they are wearing a no-photo badge, respect it.
*Events such as panels are different. Even then, though, be considerate of the panel members and audience: please don’t stand up in front of the panel and take picture after picture. Yes, we’ve all seen that happen too.
If an announcement is made at the start of a programme item asking you not to record it, please don’t disregard it. Some of our speakers or panel members prefer that what they say is for the audience rather than the world at large and we ask you to respect this.
– Your fellow con members are people, not objects, so treat them as people. Men – you won’t make a woman feel comfortable by conducting conversations with their chest. If you want a close look at what someone’s wearing, ask if they mind first. Above all, what someone is wearing is their outfit, not an invitation. We will give very short shrift to anyone who tries to justify unwelcome behaviour by saying otherwise.
– Convention committee, staff and helpers are all unpaid volunteers who are doing this to help make a good convention for everyone. If you’re having a problem with the convention, we want to do what we can help resolve it. But we are not here to be shouted at, abused or insulted. The same goes for hotel staff. If you have a problem with the hotel, speak to us or the hotel management.
– Unwelcome attention and harassment can take place online these days. Abusive texts, emails, Twitter posts or the like from one attendee to another or to a member of convention staff will be taken just as seriously as if the behaviour was face-to-face. Cyber-bullying is no more acceptable than the traditional sort.
We will do our best to resolve problems as quickly and as amicably as possible. However, we will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour. If an incident is serious or if a member engages in repeated inappropriate behaviour we have the right to withdraw membership and require a person to leave the convention.
In particular, we cannot allow anyone to pose a risk to other members of the convention or indeed themselves. If such a situation arises and cannot be resolved that person will have to leave. We have a mutual agreement with the con hotel; if either the Committee or the hotel management requires someone to leave the convention or premises, so will the other.
If this all sounds rather serious we emphasize that we very much hope and expect there will be few if any such problems at EightSquaredCon. We don’t anticipate having to take sanctions against anyone attending. But we do want to reassure our members that if need be we can and will protect them. By far the best thing we can all do is bear the above guidance in mind. This should ensure that everyone at Eight Squared Con has a happy and enjoyable convention.
We look forward to seeing you in Bradford!
The EightSquaredCon Committee
19th January – please note the clarification that inappropriate/aggressive behaviour online will be considered equally unacceptable. Our thanks to those who suggested that we make this point explicitly.