There are two points I’d like to establish before getting to the meat of this entry.
1) There are numerous eyewitnesses to Rene Walling’s harassment of Genevieve Valentine at Readercon. There are others who have come forward to show that Walling has a history of stalking and harassing women at conventions. The Readercon Board itself says, in its statement, that the facts are not in dispute. Walling himself admitted to his behavior when he apologized to the Board. Put simply, there is no doubt whatsoever about what happened. Zero. None.
2) Genevieve Valentine behaved in the best possible way one could under those circumstances. She firmly and unequivocally told Walling not to touch her and to leave her alone. When he chose not to respect that, she took herself out of the situation and followed protocol, namely contacting the Readercon committee to report Walling’s harassment, confident that their zero tolerance policy would enable them to handle it swiftly and without question. In fact, Valentine has behaved remarkably calm and cool in the face of the Readercon Board’s betrayal of her, everyone else at the convention who wanted a safe place, and their own existing policy. I don’t think she has so much as used an exclamation point in most of the replies she has written to people’s comments on her blog. Instead, she routinely thanks them for their support and voices her hope that things can be made right.
The support Valentine has received from all over the Internet, and thus all over the world, has been amazing. A veritable flood of voices backing her up. Unfortunately, there has been some — not a lot, but some — Monday morning quarterbacking out there, too, as if any of the facts are still in dispute. We’ve heard from the armchair psychiatrists (“It sounds to my completely untrained mind like Walling is on the Autism spectrum; I bet he was just having trouble reading social cues!”), the armchair anthropologists (“Walling is French Canadian and they’re so touchy-feely, this whole thing is just a cross-cultural misunderstanding!”), the armchair jurists (“I don’t care what anyone says, I need to see transcripts and video tapes of the alleged harassment before I decide what actually happened!”), and the armchair psychics (“I don’t know either of the parties involved, but I’m sure Mr. Walling didn’t mean anything and Ms. Valentine is totally overreacting!”).
Among these mental midgets who believe that because the target was a woman she must be wrong somehow in her assessment of what happened (because it’s not like women deal with harassment all the damn time, right?) is a man named Peter Huston, who has written a blog entry that is the most blatant and desperate a cry for attention I’ve seen since the relatively unknown author Dwight Allen wrote an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books about how he doesn’t like Stephen King books and so no one else should, either. Alas, the Internet is built to give just these sorts of idiots the attention they crave, and were I a better man, I wouldn’t waste any pixels on Mr. Huston. But I am not a better man. Mr. Huston is an armchair psychiatrist, an armchair anthropologist, an armchair jurist, and an armchair psychic all wrapped up in one, like some kind of superhuman! To whit, here are some choice excerpts from his blog entry:
[After Readercon violated its own lifetime ban policy regarding harassment] Throughout the North American blogosphere one of those self-righteous, PC mobs was forming, demanding complete conformity with its thoughts along the way, and seeking blood or at least permanent banishment from Readercon for life for the alleged sexual harasser.
Ah, the old PC bugaboo. The last refuge of people who can’t articulate their own position. Mostly because they don’t actually know what they’re talking about. For Huston, it only takes until the second paragraph for him to raise the dreaded specter of the PC hordes. And they’re after blood! That’s the worst kind of PC mob! A vampire PC mob! And they’re coming to take away the rights of harassers…or something! Man, Huston’s victim fantasies are pretty elaborate. He should call this one I Am Legend 2: The Harassening. Here’s another choice bit:
Although the mob and the convention say “the facts are not in dispute” no one has actually said if they agree that the facts below are the ones agreed upon. But I’ll use them anyway because they are the only facts I have.
There are facts, and then there are facts, people! The facts may not be in dispute, but what facts? That the sky is blue? That the Earth revolves around the sun? I, Peter Huston, must know which facts they discussed in their private meetings about the incident, because THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME AND WHAT I NEED! (Uh, no. Refer to point #1 above.)
[Valentine] can’t communicate with [Walling] who is giving her unwanted attention, but can communicate with her friends about how she is so allegedly desirable that men cannot control themsleves around her. I’ve seen this before. Although I do not know the alleged victim, and have never even met her, it is a sign of a couple different diagnosable personality disorders –borderline and histrionic, look it up. If she’s got the latter, wait ten to twenty years and she’ll be seeking attention due to bizarre medical maladies that only she can detect.
Despite not knowing her, he is able to diagnose her personality with laser-like precision! Valentine is a shrieking hysteric! (Oh, wait. Refer to point #2 above.) Also, don’t forget, folks, sexual harassment makes you feel sexy! All it takes is one stranger grabbing you in a hallway, and suddenly you feel like Brigitte Bardot! Am I right, ladies? High five!
[From Valentine's blog] And when you have offended a woman with boundary-crossing behavior, you do not get to choose how you apologize.
ME: (Fuck you Bitch. –Yeah, I used the “B word.” But we both know you were going to accuse me of sexism and insensitivity anyway so I just decided to make your life a little easier when you do. Do too. And, as you have proven in this silly document, there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. AND IT’S NOT BECAUSE YOU ARE A WOMAN –IT’S BECAUSE YOU HAVE SHOWN YOURSELF NOT TO BE A FUNCTIONING ADULT WHO CAN DEAL WITH SIMPLE SOCIAL INTERACTIONS THAT HAPPEN TO ALL PEOPLE ALL THE TIME., YOU LIVE IN A FANTASY WORLD AND WHEN YOU LIVE IN A FANTASY WORLD THEN REALITY OFTEN INTRUDES LEAVING THE PERSON FEELING CONFUSED, UNCOMFORTABLE AND TRYING TO CHANGE THE ENTIRE PLANET SO THAT IT WILL CONFORM TO YOUR FANTASY.
And laaaaadies, he’s siiiingle! *wiggles eyebrows*