I’m distressed to see that some folks who were planning to come to Sasquan are thinking of skipping Worldcon this year.
Because they’re frightened.
I understand why people are frightened, given the racist, misogynistic, and dishonest screeds they’ve been subjected to. It isn’t — alas — unusual for verbal abuse to escalate into physical abuse; and anyway verbal abuse is no fun to begin with.
But I was thinking about what might help counterbalance the situation.
Have you seen news reports of people responding to threats against a particular group by offering “I’ll ride with you”? Here’s the first Google hit off that phrase:
I will walk with you at Worldcon.
Finances being what they are, I won't be attending any of the large US/UK conventions this year, thus there is no decision for me to make. However, if money were no obstacle, what with PuppyGate and Vox Day continuing to be exactly what he is and the general climate of the SF&F publishing scene...I'm not sure if I want to attend.
So I'm pleased to see #illridewithyou translated into the con-going crowd, with other Worldcon attendees offering to walk with anyone who doesn't feel confident roaming around the con. The culture of ribbons and badges is an already set up means for advertising this, and I've seen mention of formal organisation by the con organisers. What with more and more conventions implementing and enforcing anti-harassment policies, I hope this is another step toward making the convention scene less threatening and intimidating.
It's actually wonderful to see this without being directly involved. #illridewithyou will always draw an intense and rather complex emotional reaction from me, and I suspect it will be some time before I can write about it coherently (just composing this post has been difficult, and it isn't even that great a post). This I can view as someone offering to stand with me. Even though I am not attending and don't know most of the people stepping up in the comments, just seeing how many and how quickly people have volunteered for this is a warm ribbon around my heart. Visible and unconditional solidarity matters, it really does. I cannot speak for anyone else, but knowing this has started matters to me.
Once again, this doesn't have to be about the privileged being white knight for the oppressed. Those who feel threatened by what is going on in the scene, by the culture and climate of the world we live in and the fact that the bigots seem to be getting desperate and dangerous in their resistance to change; remember that you are not helpless, nor do you need physical prowess or the right gender or skin colour to act of your own agency.
I created #illridewithyou as a non-white woman who learned of another non-white woman aiding a third non-white woman.
The solidarity and support of allies matters, but needn't be waited upon. If I could attend, I would put my hand up too, advertise my presence, and just be visible. For my sake, and for all others who feel the threat and encroaching silence.
I might have created the hashtag, and I might be one of many grains of sand on the SF&F beach, but right now I'm not the person to seed this idea on this beach. Thank you, Vonda, for taking that first step.