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Kids @ Cons [Jan. 27th, 2010|04:29 pm]
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[mood |quixoticquixotic]

Way back in '91, (or was it '92?) I ran a convention and very deliberately insisted on a panel about being a parent and staying active in fandom. It had two two fan mums on it. Back at that point, I think I knew three people with kids that were still active fans.

There were quite a few more who had basically dropped out for various reasons - time/money constraints, had moved on to other interests, lost interest in fandom in the face of the new little person who needed them, just felt they couldn't do both, etc.

That was why I wanted this panel, because there were people dropping out simply because they didn't think they could do both, be a parent and an active fan. I wanted people to be able to hear from some parents who were still going to cons and clubs, and to be able to pick up some tips, so they could do the same if they wanted to.

What amazed me was the sheer lack of attendance. Especially by women who were talking about having children themselves. Because, to me, it wasn't a subject that was just about keeping yourself in fandom, it was about how to maintain the aspects of your life that you wanted to hang on to in the face of the world altering addition of another person in your life.

I thought this way a decade and a half before I even had kids, because I knew that many people will end up looking after a child at some point. And it'd be a shame to lose them simply because they didn't think they could do the stuff that they enjoyed, and still care for their kid. No-one wins in that scenario.

There are people who say that kids shouldn't be allowed at cons, and I can honestly see their point. Kids can be disruptive, excitable, loud, and annoying. They can run around, bump into people, and wave things about with no regard for the people nearby who might be hit. They can be a huge imposition to those around them who genuinely shouldn't have to put up with it. People have paid to enjoy the convention, they shouldn't have that enjoyment lessened by some out of control child.

Of course there are more than a few adult fans the above paragraph applies to as well. I can think of instances where I have seen supposedly mature adults doing all these things. In some cases at con after con after con.

Shall we stop them coming to cons too? 'Cause I'm sure I can easily list a few names that I'd rather not attend cons any more. People who always fucking yell stuff out from the audience whether it's warranted or not, especially the ones who think they're funny. Who drink too much and then proceed to be completely obnoxious fucking tools for the rest of the night. Panelists that never seem to prepare, or who always seem to talk over the top of their fellow panelists. Con-runners that never try to do a good job, but always aim for average, and con-runners that will step on whomever they please because running cons is not about community but power.

These people seriously lessen my con experience. They lessen it substantially more than any child ever has. (Except perhaps my own, but he basically kept us trapped in our room most of the time, and was pretty delightful to everyone else, so I'm prepared to put up with him - for now!)

But, you know, at the end of the day, if a child is acting up in any way, the first person who is aware of it is usually the parent. In fact, they will often be cringing. They will usually try to sort the situation out in fairly short order, and if they can't, they will take the child and leave. And as annoyed as you may be by the two minutes of a kid annoying you, how about a bit of thought for the poor parent who has to leave the item they wanted to see and continue dealing with the unruly child.

Oh there are some selfish parents. People who will just let their kid do what it wants, won't keep an eye on it, or worse, will expect other people to do so without being asked. But you know, it's not hard to go up to them and ask them to do something about their disruptive child. And if you don't want to be the bad guy, it's usually not hard to find a committee member who can do it for you.

I have Chaired four conventions and been on several committees, but I've never had a situation where I had to ask a parent to take their child and leave. I have, however, had occasion to chastise and threaten with expulsion a couple of adults, and I've had to ask one professional author to leave a con for breaking convention rules that he was well aware of beforehand.

Maybe kids don't belong at cons, but I prefer their behaviour to some of the adults who attend, because at least the children have a legitimate excuse to behave immaturely.

[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:22 pm (UTC)
There is an issue regarding the person you link to - what they did wasn't at Swancon. That presents a serious problem, because if you're going to start banning people for things they've done outside the con, where do you stop? If someone has been done for shop-lifting, do we not allow them to come to the con?

I'm not trying to trivialise what he did by comparing it to a minor offence, I'm just trying to make the point that it's a complex issue, and it's easy for things to get out of control.

Which leads to the problem with con security - it can go to people's heads. The security can become a bigger problem than any member ever was.

Put it another way, when a female security team drags two people to a room and genuinely threatens to strip search them, not because they think they have stolen anything, but as a way to get information, you've got a problem.

This happened to me and a friend. Fortunately they had picked the worst possible people to try this on, but they didn't know that. My mate and I could have sued the con for the threat alone. We just shrugged it off. But what if we hadn't been the type to shrug it off? What if we had been litigious, or had been traumatised by the experience?

At most cons the committee do security, and that's good enough for me.
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2010-01-30 06:15 am (UTC)
I would like to disagree with you. He groomed me and gained my trust at Swancon. He walked around Swancon with a massage oil bottle in his pocket and massaged con-goers at the drop of a hat. He made a lot of people *very* uncomfortable.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-31 03:14 am (UTC)
I'm well aware of your situation, and it's a horrible one.

What I will say is that if he was making people uncomfortable, then those people needed to say something to the con committee(s). That would allow them to go up to him and say that they've had complaints and so could ask him to stop. If he'd been warned away from such behaviour, he may have been in a lesser position to groom you in the first place.

The committee are busy running cons, it's just not practical to assume they will know that one individual out of 300+ is acting in a way that makes people feel unsafe or uncomfortable if no-one makes the complaint in the first place.

Let me stress, I am not blaming you in any way. However, if other people failed to complain, they have unwittingly helped him by allowing his behaviour to continue unchecked until it's too late, and someone, in this case you, has been hurt.

I studied full body relaxation massage. The reason you've never seen me massage people at cons is that over 30 years I have seen way too many people across Australia who gave massages that I thought crossed the line between massage and groping. For me, I'd rather not give people massages than be potentially thought of as another of the creepy feel-up merchants. The feel-up massagers also tend to gain a group of people who welcome that sort of massage, and will actively and publically ask for one, which further blurs the line for con committees.

I will also state that I have also seen people who give genuine massages, but they do tend to be in the minority.

If you want to know what I would have done if I'd been on committee regarding your situation, write to me directly.
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2010-01-31 04:25 am (UTC)
What you're describing is part of the idea of "Rape Culture", so I agree with you. I realise how difficult this is for committees, I really do.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-31 05:37 am (UTC)
I figured you'd understand the committee issues. For the record, I think you've dealt with this whole thing quite well.
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2010-01-31 06:37 am (UTC)
I completely understand. It's just the way the laws and everything are set up.

My only aim in my discourse with this is to protect other con goers. My ability to go to the con without fear is a bonus.

And, in a pure, selfish, horrible way, I wish he'd be held culpable for something horrible that he's done. But, you know, that's just me raging at the universe, I don't expect anything from the committee cause that's fucking unfair.

Either way, I don't know that my attacker would really have much fun at Swancon, to be honest. He'd be a pariah. I only know of a few people of a certain subset that wouldn't be cold to him. I guess it'd be enough to keep going though.

I have this naive, silly thought in my head that if he was sorry, really sorry for what he did, he wouldn't come to Swancon anymore and just let me go and do what I need to do to have a place in the community and contribute and network and stuff.
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