Salt Lake FanX is back in the news, and it’s, once again, not for anything particularly positive. Recently a local author was not invited back to the convention following allegations that he had repeatedly touched a female author without her consent. When New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale emailed Bryan Brandenberg about making sure that a solid policy regarding harassment was in place, she didn’t get the best response. Then the Twitter account for Salt Lake FanX doxxed her (whether intentionally or not) by posting the email correspondence without redacting her email address.
This is what @fanxsaltlake does to a woman who publicly speaks up about harassment at their con: publishes her email without redacting her private email address (I did that on this screenshot) but deletes the parts of the email that makes them look bad pic.twitter.com/8m2dgwtm9P
— Shannon Hale (@haleshannon) May 21, 2018
The tweet has since been deleted. The most telling line of the email is the following:
“Maybe it is best that you sit this one out and then wait to hear how it went. I don’t think there is anything we can say to convince you to come and quite frankly I’m not willing to try. I know in my heart that we take this seriously and I don’t think you get it. I have four daughters and I’ve been sensitive to these issues for decades, long before it became trendy with #metoo.”
There are a lot of things wrong with that response. First, there is the way Brandenberg dismisses her and tells Hale that she should “sit this out” like the issue is only about her when she was clearly looking out for the well being of other women. He also used the defense that “I have four daughters and I’ve been sensitive to these issues for decades” as if if his daughters somehow give him a pass for how he handles this situation. This would like Brandenberg insisting he works with the gay community while dismissing the concerns of the community at hand when dealing with a controversial guest. The fact that he closes this portion of the email by calling the #metoo movement “trendy” misses the entire point that it’s been so hard for women to speak up about these issues in the past and now they feel empowered. Someone posting your personal email address when you’re trying to address these sorts of issues is one of the reasons women haven’t spoken up.
This had led to multiple authors taking to Twitter about how they have tried to work with FanX about this new policy without any success.
For months, authors have been asking for a better sexual harassment policy from @fanxsaltlake. What happened publicly today on twitter is an indication of how women have been treated privately by those running this con. https://t.co/lJeYb30dC9
— Ally Condie (@allycondie) May 21, 2018
I can't stress enough how many private emails were sent, by many people, and how much we did NOT want this to go so badly. We're tired. We want to write our books and go to public events and not be touched and harassed. That is all. Please.
— Ally Condie (@allycondie) May 21, 2018
This thread is what I basically came here to say. Allow me to add that I spent MY ENTIRE TOUR emailing back and forth with one of the con's programmers, and could not get him to say "yes" when it came to whether they would enforce their shiny new policy. https://t.co/qCAH81ZU9G
— Jessica Day George (@JessDayGeorge) May 21, 2018
It's just empty words when a convention claims zero tolerance for harassment, but then protects the rich and powerful while doxxing victims.
And by "empty words" I mean "absolute hypocrisy," and "dangerously misleading."
— Howard Tayler (@howardtayler) May 21, 2018
Over on Facebook, Brandenberg decided to “poll” the group for feedback on the policy while leaving only two negative options.
Author Brendan Reichs also announced that he is withdrawing from the convention and posted part of the policy in question that FanX violated when they posted Hale’s email.
Here’s the confidentiality section in the new FanX harassment policy. As a protection it’s disappointingly weak to begin with—“legitimate business interest?”—yet @haleshannon had a private email REGARDING A HARASSMENT COMPLAINT published with clear identifying info. On Twitter. pic.twitter.com/qQo5Rgs9u5
— Brendan Reichs (@BrendanReichs) May 21, 2018
This far from the first time that Brandenberg and company have put their foot in their mouth when it comes to handling sensitive issues. Before the previous event the convention was thinking of inviting Orson Scott Card and ended up backing out after a huge public backlash. They aren’t sending a great message here, as Hale put it in a Salt Lake Tribune article:
“To me, that was sending a signal to abusers that ‘You’ll get a pass here,’ and to victims, that if you speak up, we’re not going to take you seriously.”
Brandenberg has since made a public apology on his Facebook page.
For a con that seems to believe they are on their way to being the next Comic-Con International, this kind of attitude toward the harassment of your guests is not the way to go.