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.”
114 thoughts on “Why am I afraid to name the editor?”
Right is right.
Thank you, Mary, for posting this, because it further clarifies the severity and reach of the problem. It’s tough to know where to draw the line in situations like this, but those who have suffered such abuse need to know that they should speak up.
Thank you for all of this, Mary.
Also please note: while these are the reasons we writers might not name someone, editors at the same company are constrained by the terms of their employment not to discuss an ongoing legal matter. So if you’re looking at your favorite editors going, “Why aren’t they saying something?”, the answer is that they could quite legitimately lose their jobs.
Absolutely. At a company, the formal process is very definitely the way to go.
Is there still an ongoing investigation? If so, naming the accused (or, really, any of the parties involved, including witnesses) while things are in progress can seriously jeopardize the effective finding of fact.
Serious question. If anyone knows the answer, please speak up!
Mary said “the editor that people have reported”. That’s exactly the same as “the alleged” which you hear in all media reports on everything from petty theft to mass murder.
In the US, the media reports the names of the accused and sometimes the victims and witnesses all the time, from the moment of accusation right until the fact finding is done.
Sally, the difference between the media reporting the name of the accused with the “alleged” qualifier and this situation is that no one has been charged with a crime. Yes, Mary was very careful to protect herself by using the “that people have reported” phrase.
But others have not been so cautious.
Just so we’re clear: I’m not looking to protect the accused. Indeed, it’s just the opposite. I appreciate, respect, and agree with the need to report these things, and to not be afraid to do so.
That said, I’m asking if there is still an ongoing investigation on the part of the convention or TOR, because if there is, the lack of anonymity can seriously screw up the finding of fact by neutral third parties, and if that’s messed up, it can be difficult for any employer to officially levy sanctions on the offending party.
I speak from experience as a former HR manager who had to deal with investigating harassment situations more than I would have liked.
Well said, well done.
Thank you. I think sometimes we don’t realize how harassment happening to one person spiders out to affect others. This is it’s own kind of bravery and helps to protect others.
Thanks, Mary. Well said.
Thanks Mary for posting this and for helping cross-post Elise’ how-to. Exposure is vitally important in these types of situations, and to lessen the chances that it will occur again. Everyone suffers when these kinds of things are allowed to persist. I hope when my daughter starts attending cons that this kind of behavior is a distant memory.
Good for you!
Thank you. I know first hard how hard it is to report this kind of thing (although my experience was not in fandom). *hugs*
Yeah. I suspected this for quite some time. Only met the guy once and he didn’t do anything actionable to be. But the way he looked at me felt–wrong.
Same here. Skeevy. We need to learn to trust our instincts and stop being afraid.
Mary, you’re an inspiration to us all by speaking out here. Bravo.
I agree with the importance of not being afraid, and applaud Mary for reporting the harassment. But as a victim of a false accusation myself, I’m not sure I can quite applaud the “trust our instincts” sentiment.
Every cry of “wolf” diminishes the power of the real victims’ complaints.
Again: the courage to report sexual harassment when it happens is the great thing.
The thing about the boy who cried wolf was that it was all *him* crying wolf. It was not multiple boys crying wolf and all being wrong.
Anyone who honestly believes one person crying wolf takes away from other people’s complaints (I’m not sure you do, I think you may be reporting on the general phenomenon of how society thinks about these matters instead) is someone who doesn’t really want to solve the social issue in question. It makes them feel yucky. They want it to go away.
I suppose once in a great while you might have a defamation conspiracy on your hands but that’s pretty rare. Meanwhile, each individual complainant should be taken on an individual basis. That’s fairest.
This took courage. Thank you.
Well said and bravely done.
The trouble here too, I think, is this is the Internet age. There is taking proper action against such people, there is punishing people, and then there is turning someone’s life into a horrific nightmare. Once something like this gets out into Internet land anything can happen. I remember during the Trayvon Martin controversy some celebrity tweeted the address of “George Zimmerman’s parents”, and an innocent couple completely unrelated to Zimmerman had to leave their home for days to weeks, fearing for their safety. The celebrity apologized and voluntarily paid some damages, but he couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.
I’m not saying this is a comparable example, but by taking such things public in this day and age there is not only the risk of subjecting the editor to abuse that may or may not outweigh his actions, but also igniting a backlash against Elise as well. There are, sadly, some sick people out there with too much time on their hands, and who know how to make someone’s life miserable simply because they can, and the target popped up on their radar somehow.
This may never go beyond the writing community, in which case this level of exposure may be appropriate to help ensure this does not happen again, but it could inadvertently take on a life of its own and spiral out of anyone’s control. I’m not saying Mary’s wrong to “name-n-shame”. Though this possible outcome wasn’t on Mary’s list, I’m saying I think Mary’s right to think this through and to use caution first.
Given the rate at which women get threats versus men when posts similar to these are written, I’m gonna suggest that women who write these sorts of posts already do the caution-math first. But I’m sure your urging for caution is appreciated.
It’s a damn shame when those being earnestly advised to use an excess of caution are the victims and not the harassers. No wonder harassment flourishes.
Now that gets right to the heart of that particular matter. Would you mind if I used that? (With attribution, of course. I’ll link back to the comment.)
Thank you. This post took guts, and I admire you for it.
Thanks for this. Because we always get those people who say, “Well if you didn’t say anything it must not have been that bad”, but they have *NO IDEA* how paralyzing this can be. I had a recent conversation about this with regard to rape; but, it is all related psychologically, because it is all about power and dominance.
So yes. Thanks, Mary, for being honest about this. People need to know that this paralysis isn’t weakness. It is complicated and related to professional, personal, and power dynamics.
The fact is, Mary, you could have continued in silence but made the choice not to. Everyone gets to make that choice for themselves based on their own comfort and conscience.
I’m proud of you, not just for standing up but for giving it the thought it is due and making a choice.
My heart sank when I started reading this, knowing the silencing was pressing on you, too. ‘No, not HER, not MRK!’ But good on you for taking the step to break it. THANK YOU. We’ve got your back.
Thank you, Mary, for listing the reasons (excuses?) many of us tell ourselves to justify staying silent, even and especially when we are the targets of harassment.
This is why you are one of the “good guys” (so to speak). How incredibly brave. One shouldn’t have to compliment someone for doing the right thing but it’s so much more rare these days. You are awesome and I’m so honored to have met you.
Mary Robinette, I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. We (women) have lifetimes of built-in “be quiet, don’t rock the boat” to overcome in these situations, plus there’s the shock. The self-doubt. You overcame that.
I’d like to think I’d be a&&-kicker in a like situation and it’s easy to couch-quarterback; but then there’s the real thing. When the real thing happened, you were a&&-kicker.
You’re quiet for so many reasons, as I was quiet for so many reasons when an Big Name writer decided that sharing a meal with several editors meant I intended to sleep with him. I was young and clueless, but he was not a scoundrel and I got out with my dignity intact.
But I never accept an offer of joining a group unless I’m paying my own way.
And I always have a roommate, if I’m at the convention hotel. Buddy system. I always come back to the room–so if I don’t, my roommate knows to notify security if I don’t surface by 9 am.
Ripples in time….
We all know this fear. Thank you for acknowledging it. And going through it.
As the old folks in my neck of the woods say, “Speak the truth and shame the Devil.”
Thank you for laying this out so clearly.
(to the other side, I meant.) Kudos.
You were already one of my favorite voices in SFF, but now even more so.
For what it’s worth, there are some other reasons people might want to be quiet: Naming him takes this in part out of the realm of generic advice and into being about a specific person — which invokes a conversation about that person (and people defending him and arguing about the matter) that wouldn’t happen with just the “how to report” advice as it stood. So, yes, that’s something that can be a scary thing to invoke, because it’s big door to open for people to tell you that your view of reality is wrong. Good on you for being willing to take that risk and stand up to that!
I am, by the way, glad that this conversation has not been about what the particular action was that Elise reported. The conversation about whether it really was harassment, or was “bad enough” harassment to be appropriate to report, is not one that would be productive in the middle of this. Likewise, although it’s good to name the editor in question, I’m glad that’s being a separate conversation than the “how to report harassment” posts.
Yes, I think we all felt like it was important to separate the two conversations.
I read this whole post, and the whole time I was nodding along with each point and thinking, “But she’s still not going to say it. Because even with all these counter arguments to the reasons to stay silent, it’s still a giant scary thing, and just by pointing out the problem, she’s doing something important even without that extra step…” Then I got to the end, and I was actually surprised that you said the name. Like really surprised. Like my heart skipped a beat. I may have gasped. People in this coffee shop may have looked concerned. Which is another indication of just how strong the pressure to stay silent is. Because it scared me that you would name him. It scared me for you. And it scared me for me realizing that I didn’t expect you to. Even after all that.
This was exactly my process.
Mary: Thank you so much for itemizing the sequence of thoughts and your responses to them. It was very valuable to me.
The thing I kept coming back to was that everyone knew who we were talking about but no one besides Sigrid was willing to say it.
I admire your bravery in coming out about this, but I do think it’s fair to expect that now that names have come out, the specific allegations should be made public as well. Otherwise, you and Misses Ellis and Matthesen have just made Mr. Frenkel into a target and put him into a position where it’s very difficult to defend himself. Without making public the specific nature of these allegations, people are going to assume things about this man that might very well be untrue and unfair.
I’m not trying to defend Mr. Frenkel, but I do think that given the power that you and the other accusers wield in this situation, having made his name public, the specific accusations should be made public as well. Otherwise, this has the potential to turn into an internet witch hunt with the potential not only to harm Mr. Frenkel unduly, but to create some serious schisms in the SF&F community as well.
It seems to me that the person responsible for putting Mr. Frenkel in a “position where it’s very difficult for him to defend himself” is, in fact, Mr. Frenkel. Did you miss the part of Elise Matthesen’s story in which the people at HR & Legal made it clear that she was not the first person to have experienced such behavior from Mr. Frenkel, just the first to make an -official- report? Clearly, Mr. Frenkel has established a pattern of behavior and, up to now, he just hasn’t been “officially” called out on it.
The victims of his harassment have no obligation to tell you the “specific nature” of the things that happened to them. You mention the power that those coming forward with stories of harassment wield, but you refuse to acknowledge the power that Jim Frenkel has wielded for years — both professionally and as someone who felt free to harass women in professional & social spaces — and the power that he STILL wields, and which is the subject of Mary’s post.
If people assume that this man is someone who may potentially sexually harass them should they run into him at a con, it will only be because he has sexually harassed people at cons. Why should we be worried about someone being disciplined (through proper channels and socially) for something he did wrong? Why should we be more worried about Jim Frenkel than Elise Matthesen? How’s about instead we step up as a community and make it clear that this kind of behavior is unprofessional, damaging to the people it’s enacted upon, and won’t be tolerated?
I agree, the power balance has been very much skewed toward Mr. Frenkel, and that that continues today. You’ll get no argument from me on that. Certainly, he is the only one responsible for his behavior, and for that he must be brought to account.
But we have, in this community, some of the most imaginative minds in the world. If we point the finger at him for doing a Very Bad Thing, and we don’t specify at least the nature or degree of that thing, people are going to make him out to be worse than a child molester. And even if that’s what he deserves, I don’t think it’s fair to him or beneficial to the community to lynch him based on imagined offenses alone.
Perhaps the specific details don’t need to be made public, and I take back what I said on that, but I do think we should know at least the scope of the offenses, before we overreach.
None of the things being discussed are “imagined offenses.” The “Very Bad Thing” that he did was sexually harass someone, in plain sight of witnesses. This was not the first time. This was a pattern of behavior that has gone on for decades. I would say that the scope is clear.
No one is getting “lynched.” Lynching has a specific meaning and a specific history.
What is happening in this case is someone getting called out on and held to account for his poor behavior towards others, primarily women. He did this while operating under professional capacities; sometimes he did it to other professionals in his field.
You say you don’t want to defend James Frenkel, but then everything else you say speaks toward protecting him from the consequences of his actions, and casting doubt on the experiences of the victims. To do this is to defend him, and to defend the cultural environment that lets harassment like this continue within our community.
I appreciate that you’re trying to take a calm and reasoned approach here. The problem with this is the implication that by talking about it, but naming him publicly, the rest of us are not acting in a reasonable fashion. Imaginative folks can imagine or say whatever they like — the facts, as far as the public needs them, have been made plain. And the fact is that this kind of thing happens often, mostly to women, within our community, within professional & social spaces, within spaces where we should have an expectation of safety.
So when do we get to start actually fixing this problem and protecting victims of harassment by holding harassers accountable for their choices? By saying that this is not okay? Or are you content to continue with an environment that tells victims that the community will be more concerned about the feelings of harassers, to the extent that it makes it easier NOT to officially report harassment?
Lynching is when a group of white people torture and hang a black person, then sit around laughing, taking pictures and cutting pieces off the body as souvenirs. It bears no resemblance to what is actually happening here. It is all kinds of messed up to refer to it as lynching, specifically being silencing of those who seek to discuss and redress harassment, and being very racially charged. I suggest you rethink your wording if you do not want people to think that you are a covert racist.
People ARE going to think you’re providing cover for sexual harassers, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. You think you’re being terribly reasonable and rational, but your precise argument has been used for many, many years to defend harassment, assault, even rape. It is a classic part of rape culture. If you want to stop contributing to rape culture and giving cover to harassers, I strongly suggest you go educate yourself about the actual issues and the way these things actually work, instead of repeating ideas that have been demonstrated to be damaging.
I don’t think any of us can deny at this point that this story has gone viral within the sf&f community, and that a great many people have been inflamed, including some very influential people. What happens next is going to have implications not only for Mr. Frenkel, but for the community as well. That’s what I mean when I say I’m worried about the “internet lynch mob”–are we going to pull together over this, or is it going to drive the community further apart?
I am not at all saying that Mr. Frenkel should not face up to the consequences of his actions. I also don’t doubt any of the stories I’ve been reading about him. I’ve had some very unpleasant interactions with him myself, which square with those stories. More power to the victims for coming out and sharing their experiences about this.
By no means do I want this culture of harassment to continue. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from, and I can only conclude that you’re projecting, at least in part, in your assumptions about me. I do think it’s not enough just to name the harassers publicly, though, because that creates a McCarthyesque culture of victimhood where all it takes is an accusation to run someone out on a rail. And how is that any better?
Joe: First of all, when I say “Back away from the keyboard,” I’m being gentle. I am, in fact, extremely annoyed to find a comment from you that’s a half hour after I asked you to stop commenting.
Second: If you have actually been following this story then you know that what is happening is not just a naming of the harasser publicly. In 2010, everyone did what you are suggesting. Formal reports, no naming of names publicly, and letting the process handle the situation.
It is 2013. The behavior is still occurring. And it is occurring in a large part because the fear of reprisal is very strong.
Third: While you are demanding other people provide specific detail, all you are willing to say yourself is “very unpleasant interactions.” Think about what it would be like to have been actually sexually harassed.
Fourth: I know you want to be an ally. Your desire to be fair and balanced is having the opposite effect. You are, currently, providing examples of several of the reasons that I was afraid to say his name. Please think about that, and the list. Please read Jim Hines’s post on rape culture and think about how it applies to this conversation. In specific, please examine your own stance that this “McCarthyesque culture of victimhood where all it takes is an accusation” because that stance starts from the assumption that women are lying.
Fifth: Your reaction is likely to be a desire to defend yourself right now and reply to this. I make this guess, because I have also been an ally who felt like people weren’t getting what I was talking about, and that really I just wanted people to be fair. What I failed to realize was that I was undereducated on the topic and that if my responses were provoking anger in the people I was trying to be an ally for, then I was doing it wrong.
Walk away from the keyboard. Spend a couple of days thinking about this and reading about sexual harassment before replying again.
Mary, may I make one final response to Joe? I wouldn’t do it just to get the last word, since you’ve asked us to step away, but after some thought, I came up with some wording that might make my point more clear. I won’t post if you’d rather I didn’t, though.
A comment about the larger conversation is fine.
A comment directed at Joe is not, simply because I’ve asked him to walk away and continuing to talk to him puts him in a bad position.
If you doubt, send it to me and I’ll take a look before you post it.
No, it’s a direct response I wrote up earlier. I could probably rework it, but not now, as I’m falling asleep. Probably not worth it, anyway.
Thank you for the post, and for hosting a conversation on the topic.
And yet, that is the effect your attitude has. I refer you again to a point in my post, a reason I hesitated for years before saying anything.
Look, I understand that you want to be fair and I respect that. The thing is that this idea that people need to give all the details, in public, so that we can all collectively decide what is true protects the harasser. How? Because someone who has been sexually harassed has already been violated. Asking them to them expose themselves to more scrutiny makes their position even more vulnerable. Asking them to expose themselves to more scrutiny so that the harasser can “defend” himself puts them into a position where the harasser can continue to violate them, verbally and in public.
Now, you are correct that a person should be able to defend him or herself from a report. That’s why there are formal procedures to go through and why Elise’s post covers how to do that. That’s true for an isolated incident. What I’m talking about today is a long term pattern of behavior, with verified witnesses, and why, even knowing about the full details, I was still afraid to say anything. And why?
At least in part because I knew that someone would come along and tell me that saying his name was “unfair.”
You’re right, and I take back what I said about making public the details of this incident. And I don’t think it’s unfair to name him publicly–not in the least. But I do think it’s unfair to go public with just enough information to stir up a lot of emotion without giving enough information to help people stay reasonable.
Everything I’ve heard has left me with a lot more questions than answers, and I don’t want to assume anything about anyone, no matter how repulsive, until I have a clearer picture of just what is going on. The stories that other people have been sharing on their blogs has helped me to get a bit more of a picture of this man and his pattern of behavior, and that’s been very helpful. I appreciate that. But I don’t think it’s enough just to say that he did a Very Bad Thing, especially when that alone is enough to inflame the community in a potentially destructive way.
You’re right. “A Very Bad Thing” is a broad category. Fortunately, that’s not what this discussion is about. It’s about sexual harassment — not sexual assault, not child molestation, nor any of the other Very Bad Things that you are trying to raise as things people might think he did. The accusation is very clearly, very specifically “sexual harassment.”
Wikipedia, because I’m tired: “Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”
Thanks. For the benefit of the male members of your audience who aren’t personally familiar with this type of abuse, it’s helpful to make that clear.
Whatever you are “trying” to do, what you are in fact doing is defending Mr. Frenkel. You are doing exactly what has always been done to enforce the silence of victims. You are one of the people who makes us afraid to name people.
It’s not Mr. Frenkel I’m defending, so much as everyone’s right to the benefit of the doubt. Far from enforcing silence, I want the people affected by this to come out, so that we have a clearer picture of just exactly what has been going on. Perhaps my thoughts were poorly worded, or perhaps I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this (since, as a man, I’ve never faced this type of harassment), but there’s a lot I don’t understand about this case that I would like to be clarified. That’s all.
The benefit of the doubt is what you give to someone the first time they make a mistake.
After the first time — heck, I’ll even give someone a couple of chances because I know how hard it is to change ingrained behavior that you don’t realize is wrong — but after a decade of the same behavior, I think you’ve moved from extending benefit of the doubt to being complicit in allowing the behavior to continue.
In real life, you are actually defending Frenkel. You are also actually defending harassers in general. And, finally, you are ACTUALLY silencing people. This is the real effect that your words and others just like them have. Your intent does not matter, because the real effect that it has is to silence victims and defend harassers.
You have been given an extensive, but incomplete, list of why people, especially women, who have been harassed do NOT come forward, and all the same things apply to what details they’re willing to disclose. Neither Elise nor anyone else has any responsibility to disclose anything they do not want to publicly, just to satisfy you and others like you.
To be honest, MadGastronomer, it seems that you’re trying to silence me a lot more than I’m trying to silence anyone else. Is that what you want? Because as much as you want to make me out to be The Enemy, chances are I’m actually on your side.
I agree with you, Mary, now that other people are coming out about this pattern of abuse. Please understand though, until twelve hours ago, I had no reason to assume that Mr. Frenkel was anything other than a cranky, snobbish old man with disdain for beginning writers and bad taste in facial hair.
Joe, I’m going to ask you to back away from the keyboard.
MadGastronomer, please do as well.
I’m going to bed and don’t want to have to moderate a conversation right now.
No, you do not need a clearer picture. It is none of your business exactly what Elise Matthesen or any other victim had to endure from James Frenkel. You can look up the definition of “sexual harassment” (or let a woman do it for you, like you did) and let your desperate need to imagine what happened fall within the constraints of that definition.
Then you can either choose to *not* believe the victims, or you can choose to believe them. But either way, you can seriously stop asking everyone else to stop believing them without further invasion of their privacy.
I also don’t appreciate your insinuation that people who believe the victims are easily-stirred, overly-emotional extremists who will hallucinate elaborate rape scenarios and then look up a harasser’s home address and release rabid bats into his shower. What you don’t seem to realize is that women are constantly aware of a variety of creepy men that they must avoid, and at no point do they release rabid bats into his house. They just share the information with each other, for the safety of everyone. If anyone does the bat trick, it will be because they are already violently insane, and not because they were driven that way by reading a statement on the Internet.
Oh yes. All of these and more, and we have all made those same judgements again and again, for those same reasons. Now we can look at the pattern – not just this individual or this subculture – and see those decisions we made, understand why, and challenge ourselves and each other to do better hereafter.
Thank you for helping us to start winning those silent little debates that go on in our head.
And one thing more: when you see someone else speak out, *back them*. Don’t let them ride out alone while you barricade yourself in the fort where it’s safe. Bullying, harrassment, abuse: know it and name it and call them out.
Thank you Mary.
Was my comment seriously deleted, or is there a technical glitch that’s keeping it from showing up?
Gotcha. No worries!
I have a wife.
A foster daughter.
You are brave. You are right. If any man says anything to you, send him to me and I’d be happy to beat the shit out of him. (As long as you can name it, I can, too.)
“I’ll beat him up for you” does not seem like a very productive response. It implies the person harassed cannot defend herself in a reasonable way, and that we can’t as a society come up with ways other than vengeful, violent outbursts to address unwelcome power dynamics combined with misogyny. It suggests perpetuating horrible violence. It is not your wife, daughter, and mother you should worry about here, Guy. It is your own brain and the damage patriarchy does to all of us and social trust. Another common but unhelpful response is to suggest that the woman harassed should hit the harasser, for example as described here: http://geekfeminism.org/2011/12/06/re-post-why-dont-you-just-hit-him/ Think about it a little more. Who do you want to be? What society do you want to live in, really?
I withdraw the last two sentences.
Thank you, Guy. As much as anything else, it heartens me to see people who are really listening and demonstrating that.
Unless the offender keeps offending. I would rather see the victim or the victim’s relatives beat the snot out of the harasser than see the injustice system take this on and probably screw it all up. I don’t even necessarily see it as violence. I agree with Starhawk’s definition of violence as “the imposition of power-over” or, put in more lay terms, “using force in a bullying manner.” Punishing someone for being a bully just doesn’t sound like bullying to me. Maybe I’ve seen too many superhero cartoons.
Thank you. I’m not a writer, but I’m a man in a male-dominated industry (tech). And husband to a woman who has experienced this kind of thing. And father to a teenage boy who absolutely needs to know that certain behaviors are absolutely unacceptable.
Again, thank you.
Drop the mic. And thank you.
I’m an audio book narrator. My engineer would kill me if I dropped the mic. 😉
I think my girl crush on you just got serious. You are awesome! <3
Good for you!
Doranna – I guess you can, like me, only imagine how many others have been in similar or worse circumstances.
Also, this man is married. So there is a family to consider as well, even if he hasn’t much thought of it.
You are a good egg. I think we’ve all sat there and “took it” not thinking twice, or thinking twice and deciding as you describe.
Ahhh. Good on you.
When I was younger and greener and vulnerable, I once worked with Jim Frenkel. During that process he said endlessly inappropriate things–sly, thick innuendos regarding things about which he had no business even considering, never mind out loud. Fortunately, it all happened over the phone.
It didn’t even occur to me to make waves about his comments, which I guess says a whole lot more than I wish it did about the power equation and how much we simply swallow without even thinking about it. I hope I would be louder if it happened today–and blogs like this make it just a little bit easier to speak up.
I’m glad to see someone who’s actually worked with him commenting. Because I worked with him, too.
And the reason I am unsurprised by these recent revelations about sexual harassment is because sexual harassment is completely unprofessional behavior–and Jim Frenkel was the single most unprofessional person I ever worked with in any line of business. Also incompetent. Also abusive–WHAT a gaslighter!
Very early on, I realized I needed to save all correspondence and keep a detailed log of events. Good thing I did. I wound up needing it on a number of occasions.
I couldn’t believe this guy didn’t get fired, but he didn’t–no matter how badly, how often, or how repetitiously he screwed up, and no matter how mendacious or abusive he was in his attempts to evade blame for his own behavior. It was clear on many occasions that Tor Books was well aware of the problem, but they never did anything about it. It just went on and on and on, without any consequences for him–but plenty of consequences for the writers who worked with him, including me.
I got through it by sheer dogged determination, and then I walked away. Refused to work with him ever again.
On the bright side, I think that the revolution in ebooks and self-publishing is changing the power equations in the publishing industry, so that writers don’t have to feel that editors hold all the cards and determine the course of their future careers. Because of this shift in the power equation, and how much power over people’s dreams has traditionally been concentrated in the hands of so few “gatekeepers,” I wonder how many more victims will have the courage to come out like this in the coming months and years.
This is very true, Joe. And what a pleasure to a business executive, development officer and writer to see these developments in the works and be a part of them.
Oops, sorry Mary. I was still typing while you guys finished that conversation up there. My hands are off the keyboard 🙂
But if you hadn’t posted that, I never would have gotten a laugh out of the thought of “rabid bats in the shower”. And that is a delightful piece of wordplay, although of course it should never be done IRL. Might be good in a horror movie, though.
Coming to SyFy: Rabid Shower Bats!
When I read the previous post, the reasons I thought you didn’t reveal the name were:
1) You didn’t want to muddle up the conversation.
2) There is a former process going on. And it’s like witnesses not discussing the case or give interviews until investigation is over.
So when the comment was revealed in the comments section, I was wondering whether it would turn into people gossiping. It didn’t, which showed maturity on everybody’s part.
And I have no doubt and know you are brave enough to do the right thing.
I actually read the name over on Scalzi’s website in Sigrid Ellis’s comment, and I think I had a physical reaction as some others have mentioned. Because I really didn’t expect to hear the name. A few years ago, I remember there being an online discussion of con harassment and the power differential, and a lot of talk about an editor at a big publisher being a serial offender. It was obvious he was an established missing stair in the community. But no one named names.
I very much understood why they didn’t — all the things you’ve so eloquently listed — but at the same time, I was terrifically frustrated. Because that was a period when I was actively going to cons, and I wanted to know for myself, for my own precautions. I was nervous. I was stuck thinking, “Where is the women’s room wall of the internet, where someone may have scrawled this information?” I’m glad to finally know. Thank you.
There is more than one, unfortunately.
<3 <3 <3
You are my hero.
Very brave, Very commendable. As a woman who has seen and been the victim of harassment, and one who did not speak up, for all and more of the reasons you mentioned, I admire your courage.
What happened to me was back in the time period (yes, I am that old) when the idea that one was a “victim” of anything just because the abuse was verbal, and perhaps, subtle was considered almost absurd. It does not make it any more or less reprehensible. Nor does it make a valid excuse for not speaking up. But fear is a powerful thing, and it silences more than it should. I only hope that if I should experience or witness something now, I would have the courage to speak up. Because if we continue to let the fear rule us, things will never change, and those who use such tactics will continue to think it is okay. It is not.
That is very brave, and I applaud you for speaking out. Also for the point/counterpoint deconstruction of why people don’t talk, and why they should.
i. Obviously there’s a case to be made that false accusations are a potential problem. (Not in this case, I stipulate, but please allow that they could be in other cases.)
ii. That potential problem would be avoided if formal accusations were to remain private until proven.
iii. If privacy in these circumstances was expected, it might also lower the emotional barrier for victims deciding whether to make formal reports. It would be easier for folks to “speak up” as victims or witnesses if we thought it was serious but private.
It seems to me that treating these crimes seriously but privately would be an improvement both for victims and for the falsely accused.
Have I missed a point?
You have missed the point.
In this case, formal accusations have been made privately. The first was in 2010. He remained employed.
The most recent for the same individual was in 2013 and the woman making the formal complaint was told that there had never been another one.
I did miss that point, yes.
Thanks for clarifying as well as for ev. else you have already done.
Has TOR made a statement about this yet? Or is the investigation ongoing? Does anyone know?
(My original question from days ago.)
Fraser’s points are exactly why companies have confidentiality clauses in their sexual harassment protocols. I can’t speak to whether or not TOR has such (does anyone know?), but there are very good reasons to have them.
Keeping the circumstances of a sexual harassment claim confidential *while the investigation is happening* is *not* the same as “staying silent” or defending the accused.
Tor has not made a statement, although several editors have said that they cannot comment on it. I believe the investigation is ongoing, I’m just inferring from comments.
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.
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 ;(
Boom! Just wanted to stop by so you knew a real person in addition to “state credit ratings by state” appreciates your explanation.
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?
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 for the post
+1 for this comment
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. 🙂
From the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission:
“No, you aren’t allowed to know what actual actions were performed, you just have to believe that it was sexual harassment.”
“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.”
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.
I have it on good authority–*very* good authority–that Tor *wants* to do something. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s waiting for emails on sexual harassment.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Also, this isn’t just about Frenkel. This is about the reasons why women are afraid to speak.
Comments are closed.