Why am I afraid to name the editor?

Okay… here’s the thing.

That thing I said in the previous post about not really having to deal with sexual harassment at conventions? That’s true. But– but I still deal with the societal baggage that goes with it. For instance — I know who Elise was reporting and I know that because I fielded another complaint about the same editor.

So why aren’t I naming him?

These are events with witnesses. He has a reputation. This isn’t a case of it being a one time thing.  So why am I afraid to say his name out loud?

Here are some of the reasons:

  • He’s been nice to me. Given the balance of power, I’m not someone that he could get away with harassing. But, if he’s harassing my friends, is he still a nice guy? Why am I silent?
  • He’s an editor at my publisher.  And I know that Tor takes this seriously. So why am I silent?
  • I didn’t actually see it happen. No, but I have reliable witnesses that did. There are a lot of things that I haven’t seen so pretending that this isn’t a pattern of behavior in the face of evidence is like pretending that Japan doesn’t exist because I haven’t personally seen it.
  • I don’t want to rock the boat. I’m worried about rocking a boat when I should be warning people that there are holes in it? How does being quiet make it any safer?
  • There’s a formal process for this. Right? Yes. And that formal process covers his employment, but what about at conventions? What about in our community?
  • Naming him could ruin his career. Yes. It might. Why am I trying to protect him instead of new writers?
  • Naming him could hurt mine. I don’t actually believe this, because anyone who would support this behavior is not someone I want to work with.
  • What if I get sued for defamation of character? Well… that’s a concern, isn’t it? But only if I’m repeating something that’s not true.


So while I’m telling people to stand up for themselves, and make reports — while I know that reports have been made in the past — I’m using my inside voice. I haven’t been directly harassed, and yet I am afraid. I am letting all of that power frighten me into being silent and complicit in allowing this person’s behavior to continue.  My silence. Mine. Yours. That is what allows this to continue.

This is the power of sexual harassment and how it affects everyone you know.

The editor that people have reported is Jim Frenkel.

EDITED TO ADD: On July 11, 2013 Patrick Nielsen Hayden reported on Twitter that “James Frenkel is no longer associated with Tor Books.”

pnh on frenkel

114 Responses

  1. Nene Ormes

    I’m glad to see this companion-post to Elise’s. I’ve now read _all_ the comments to that one (here, on Scalzi’s and on JC Hines’s) and all these comments and it is heartening to see so many from our commuity speaking up, being supportive and listening.

    It also freaks me out to have such a big statistic sample of comments intended to discredit or silence the conversation or cast doubt over the incident (no matter if that was the concious intention of the commenter or not, the rethoric is there, by socialization or by design).

    I am very glad to see the reasoning behind the arguments for keeping silent made visible. And I’m glad that they are not enough to keep silent at this time.

  2. Sylvia

    I’m so glad you posted this.
    The worst part of being too scared to speak up is that you think OMG Coward Everyone Else is braver than me, and shame at not speaking up + shame at being the only coward is such a lovely combo ;(

  3. a. mouse

    Awesome. So, now that you’ve named the accused, is anyone yet allowed to know what it is he’s supposed to have actually done? Or is “sexual harrassment” as detailed of a report as the public is allowed to have?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      To be clear, the reason I named him is because there have been repeated incidents of sexual harassment over the course of several years.

      “Sexual harassment” is a very clearly defined thing. So yes, that’s all you get unless one of the women making the reports to the employer choose to give details publically. As an anonymous person, you have no right or need to know.

      1. Kerrie Lynn Hughes

        Not to be a tick in the blanket of truth but I did some research on sexual harassment and it was only clearly defined and illegal in the workplace setting. Unfortunately it’s quite vague elsewhere. Which is why stalkers and trolls are nearly impossible to prosecute. I do predict that this will change over the years. I also expect that this outing of the Frenkel will cause a chain reaction of new and revised harassment codes at conventions. 🙂

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          From the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission:

          It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

          Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

          Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

          Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

          The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

      2. a. mouse

        “No, you aren’t allowed to know what actual actions were performed, you just have to believe that it was sexual harassment.”

        Got it.

        1. MadGastronomer

          “No, you aren’t allowed to know who I am, you just have to believe that I’m actually concerned about sexual harassment and its victims, instead of a rape apologist misogynist.”

          Got it.

  4. Recovering Writer

    Writes who worked with him, as I did, actually had a verb for it–we called it getting “Frenkeled.”

    As in: “I’ve been Frenkeled,” and “I hear you’ve been Frenkeled, too?”

    But it didn’t refer to sexual harassment. It was the word we had for what it was like to work with him–what he did to your career, your finances, and your physical and mental health as your “editor.” After I refused to keep working with, the word was introduced to me by other writers who had also refused to keep working with him. It took me several years to recover from being Frenkeled.

    Some of those writers have been in touch since this incident went public. Given everything we went through him as under-contract writers, and how totally indifferent Tor was to the way he screwed and screwed and screwed with writers and books, we’re very skeptical they’ll do anything about his sexually harassing women at cons.

  5. CarrieS

    Thank you for this post. I found it incredibly powerful, because it speaks to why harassment is so detrimental not only to the victims but to us all. An atmosphere in which some people are made to feel afraid is one in which, inevitably, we all feel afraid. Men, women, all of us are smaller and weaker as individuals and as a community when we allow anyone to be preyed upon. In the words of Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free”.

  6. traci

    The fear of getting sued is real. You can be sued even when you tell the truth. A SLAP lawsuit can drain your resources and force a settlement. When it’s your word against his, your word doesn’t mean much when he’s powerful and no one else will speak up with you.

    1. MadGastronomer

      Frenkel is an editor. I doubt that he has the resources to mount frivolous lawsuits, especially ones he WILL lose if the thing does go to trial, and may wind up paying the defendant’s legal fees as well. It’s really expensive to mount one of those, and while I’m sure he’s comfortable, I’m also sure it’s not enough to fund a lawsuit that’s meant to drain someone else’s resources. SLAPP suits are for the wealthy, corporations and individuals, not for middle class schmucks.

      1. traci

        I had it happen to me, and the man was not rich, either. All he had to know is that I was poor, and that it was across state lines, and that I could not even afford a $1500 retainer to get someone to draw up the papers to answer the SLAP. I don’t care if he’s middle class, he had more money than me.

      2. traci

        Also, this isn’t just about Frenkel. This is about the reasons why women are afraid to speak.

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