Monday, February 10, 2014

Why LT3 will never attend Ahn!Con again

I've discussed my displeasure with Ahn!Con before, but to sum up for people new to this:  it's a small convention in Kansas City along the lines of Yaoi-Con. LT3 normally does well at anime conventions, so we decided to give this one a try.

For the most part it wasn't a bad trip. The con wound up being too small for us, but we weren't entirely opposed to maybe just sending one person in following years. We didn't interact with much of the staff, but the woman who came by to see if we needed water or anything was nice.

The only real problem was the vendor immediately behind us, who kept shouting (I mean SHOUTING) things that made us tense and uncomfortable. Having to listen to a man shout TITTY TITTY BANG BANG and other childish things for hours on end was misery. Listening to him proclaim (again loudly) that his friend had a rape face, did you see his friend's rape face, was even more miserable. So a few days after we got home, I wrote to Ahn!Con about it.

On January 19th I wrote:

Hello,

My name is Megan Derr, and I attended Ahn-Con with my business partners this year, representing our company, Less Than Three Press. For the most part things went okay, if not fantastic. I was appreciative of the woman who came by frequently to ask if we needed water or anything.

However, I was not happy with the behavior of the vender behind us, Anime Source KC. One of the men at that booth (Alex, I think?) was constantly shouting things that were either just plain irritating and mildly offensive (Tittytitty bang bang) or were highly offensive and inappropriate (look at my friend’s rape face! Doesn’t he have a rape face?). He was loud, rude, and off-putting, to vendors and customers alike. At best made us feel comfortable, at other times flat out unsafe.

Highly more problematic, we felt we couldn’t tell anyone at the con because his gross behavior was constantly encouraged/abetted by the con staff who sat at the table across the way selling con t-shirts and such.

If I cannot trust the con-staff to address these matters when they’re right in front of their faces, then I’m not certain it’s a con worth attending again. Any explanations or assurances you can offer on the matter would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Megan Derr


On February 8th, I received this reply:

Thank you for contacting us about your concerns.
We contacted several other vendors in your part of the room about the problems you experienced and only one could confirm any inappropriate behavior, but disagreed with your statement about feeling unsafe.  We have brought the issues to the attention of the vendor director, who was unaware of any problems, who in turn had a discussion about appropriate behavior with the vendor in question and a vendor staff who is friends with the vendor.  The staff member has been transferred to another department.
As these issues were not brought to the attention of con staff during the con, this is all that we can do about this issue at this time.  If you have future issues, we request you contact con ops and the situation can be monitored during the con and can thus be better evaluated.
Sincerely,
Matt Weston
Industry Relations
Ahn!Con


Now, to be fair and give credit where credit is due, they said they had a discussion with the vendor and a staff person who was friends with them. And that staff person was transferred to another department. 

OTOH, I am well aware of the uselessness of talks and transfers. I worked in Corporate America for almost a decade, I have seen 'transfers' and 'talks' and know exactly how much they don't work.

Whatever steps they claim they took to correct the matter, I have two major issues that completely undermine their efforts:

The very first sentence dismisses my concerns because 'only one could confirm any inappropriate behavior, but disagreed with your statement about feeling unsafe'. This is such BS. This is exactly the kind of thing people say to call victims of abuse and rape liars and dismiss their concerns. Well nobody else has ever complained about X so you must be wrong or have done something to cause it. That no one else complained or felt unsafe should not matter. We complained. We felt unsafe. Three people, ONE PERSON, is enough to take a matter seriously. Unless you don't want to, which Ahn!Con apparently does not.

Two, the reprimand that I should have said something at the con, which completely disregards my statement that con staff was party to it and so I felt like I couldn't (and given the responses to my email, I feel I made the correct call. I have no faith they would have protected our identities to keep us safe, and instead we probably would have been made miserable for the duration of the con. Again, I have seen this all played out in office and other setting. When people behave like Ahn!Con has behaved, it is the victim who is blamed and punished).

This is coupled with the fact that the staff had, throughout the entire con, been treating two good friends of mine like garbage. That I cannot go into detail about because it's their story to tell, but suffice to say that poor staff seems to be SOP for this convention

Whatever Ahn!Con claims otherwise, I watched people, I exchanged looks and words with attendees. I know for a fact they were making other people uncomfortable, not just LT3. But I also know all about keeping quiet because the fallout of speaking up will be worse. And according to the above email, they only spoke to vendors, not the many attendees who got sick of it and just left.

If you want further proof of their attitude problems, read their replies to me (and the friends who stood by me) on twitter.




I fully admit I should not have told them to go to hell, that was me letting my temper get the better of me. But to be perfectly honest, I'm not as sorry as I probably should be. I started my initial email as I did because I'm so used to these situations going exactly as this one did, and I no longer have it in me to be sparkles and niceness.

I'm tired of this sort of behavior. All they had to do was reply to my email that action had been taken, apologize for the staff's role in facilitating the behavior, and perhaps offer that a policy would be put in place to curb such behavior in the future. But they didn't. They started off implying that I'm a liar, or that I must be wrong because nobody else complained, and ended with a reprimand, and then were snide and flippant on twitter.

This is exactly how an organization should NOT act, and if they're this dismissive and abrasive over one small incident, I don't like to think about how they address more serious matters.

And that is why LT3 has blacklisted Ahn!Con.


3 comments:

  1. Oh wow. That's unacceptable. I did catch some of this on twitter, but enough to understand the whole picture. I do now. I understand why you've blacklisted this con. I would've too! Hideous behaviour. >_>

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  2. I've had trouble with con staff at a convention before, and it was ultimately the staff's fault that I refuse to give the con repeat business. When the ones you're supposed to go to are rude or condescending, it's... the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming.

    So I totally agree with your decision and I'm glad you told others about it - because if you didn't, someone might go and have a horrible experience. Ahn!Con had a chance to garner a recommendation as opposed to a blacklist, but they totally blew it. So thank you! I know not to go to that con in the future and be harassed. (not even being sarcastic, no, I'm being 100% sincere)

    Still, I'm sorry you had such an awful time.

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  3. Aside from the dismissiveness and the appalling attitude that places an undue burden on people *exposed to harassment* rather than the harrassers themselves, this bugged the hell out of me: https://twitter.com/AhnCon/status/432928921588219904

    "Since the events are unverifiable"

    REALLY? Even though the email says QUOTE UNQUOTE, "We contacted several other vendors in your part of the room about the problems you experienced and only one could confirm any inappropriate behavior"

    Okay, one, a company/vendor complained of inappropriate behavior, which is enough to warrant treating the complaint as valid EVEN WITHOUT CORROBORATION. That is Con Policy 101. On top of that, they admitted to reaching out to other vendors (not guests, which seems a weird oversight, but w/e), and then had the accusations confirmed. LIKE, RIGHT THERE. It's corroborated!

    I'm still so fucking angry about "disagreed with your statement about feeling unsafe." Yes, because a third party can absolutely testify as to feelings of *personal safety*. This is a power that people have!!!!!! EGGGGHHHH /HULKSMASH

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