Look at Yourself

There’s been an interesting to me conversation going on in various quarters about the role of alcohol at genre conventions. The aspect of it I’m interested in is whether how we use alcohol hampers our efforts to be welcoming to a diverse crowd.

In other words, if you don’t drink–for religious or medical reasons–do you feel able to participate in the kinds of informal socializing that goes on at cons that can lead to friendships and publishing deals and opportunities of all sorts?

The point I kept trying to make is that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people sitting at the bar and chatting, but, if you know there are people who feel uncomfortable at the bar, are there also activities not centered around alcohol where this kind of socializing is also done?

I was, then, a little taken aback to see the number of people who insisted that bar culture at cons is fine, that you don’t have to drink there, that everybody feels comfortable there, that there isn’t a problem. Even in the face of people saying that hotel bars can be very hard for people with disabilities to navigate and people saying that the way drunk people can get aggressive made them avoid bars.

And I can’t help but marvel at this. Do people really think that when a man at a convention, say, slapped a woman on the ass, that he thought he was saying “You’re not welcome here? You’ll always just be something for me to fuck, not a real fan?”

I mean, duh, of course not. Most dudes thought they were saying “Whoa, hey, I noticed that you’re here and I’m really glad about it!” And then probably with wiggling insinuating eyebrows.

We’re still fighting about this, with ass-slappers still claiming it’s in good fun and ass-slappees still explaining that, even if meant in good fun, we don’t like it, it makes us feel unwelcome, and ass-slappers should stop.

So, why, then, would people on the side of “let’s expand the group to include all kinds of people” be so hostile to the idea that they could be doing things–well-meant things they think of as awesome kindnesses–that don’t come across that way to others?

Is this not an ongoing problem at cons? Do you think you’re immune from these problems just because you’re on the side of goodness?