This weekend I (Doctor Sarah) had the chance to attend Fan X Salt Lake 2018 as Press. Now, this story is one that has become long-winded and difficult. When the stories of the sexual harassment problems came to light for me, I decided not to participate. However, when I was refused a refund for my photo-ops I decided to attend and cover the event for Geek Parenting Podcast.
Let’s start with the good stuff. It was fantastic seeing my friends who still attended. It was great to see the hard work of the volunteers and staff come to fruition. Getting a hug from Lucy Lawless will be a highlight of my life and I’m grateful that I got the chance to tell her what her characters mean to me, and what they do for my Gender Studies courses.
The Gaming Rooms (D&D and Table Top), run by Michael Sanora and his group of volunteers was outstanding. I even spent some time teaching beginners D&D basics and assisted in helping them create characters. The panels I attended were top notch, the vendor floor was full of diverse offerings, and artist alley was amazing as always.
There are still problems that need to be addressed.
First and foremost, the majority of the panels addressing sexual harassment and bullying were held on Thursday, when attendance is the lowest. By not highlighting these panels on Saturday, and perhaps even asking some of the female celebrities to attend, I truly believe that FanX Salt Lake demonstrated that there is still a problem.
Signage claiming Consent is Key looked low quality, and in other areas larger signs consisted of a TL:DR format.
The signs in celebrity row demonstrated an attempt to address the issue but still left a bad taste in some attendees mouth.
There is a huge difference that has gone unacknowledged by FanX between acts of warmth and affection, and sexual harassment. Comments I’ve seen have ranged from “this is tone deaf,” “gaslighting,” “If you don’t like warmth and affection, it’s on you.” Let me state, I acknowledge that this is an attempt at minimizing sexual harassment claims but it’s usually not celebrities that are the problem.
The biggest problem still not being addressed is that cosplayers have been intensely sexually harassed, by both attendees and staff. One cosplayer I spoke to told me she was nearly banned from the con for defending herself from an attendee who grabbed her buttocks. The problem is that FanX Salt Lake is not doing enough to fully educate their fans about theses problems. By placing advocacy groups along a back wall, instead of in a prime location on the floor, it again shows that there is a lack of interest in actually attempting to fix these issues.
I spoke to several members of the “Council” who assured me that things are changing. They need to change very quickly, and I am still concerned about the lack of transparency in what is being done behind the scenes to insure these changes take place from the top, down. So, show us what you got FanX! We know you’re not going away any time soon, but we need you to be transparent, open, and willing to talk to those of us who are concerned.
We, as geeks, also need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of behavior. Saturday night I received a message from someone, calling me a “bitch” for attending after being so outspoken. Bullying and harassment go beyond the Con…and we all need to be better.
I love this event, with my whole heart. I always walk away exhausted, and overjoyed. This year I walked away exhausted, overjoyed, and sad. Sad, that I didn’t see the friends I am so used to seeing every year. Overjoyed, that I saw members of the Council, doing their best to make it better. WE ALL NEED TO BE BETTER.