Shannon Hale Complained About A Fan Convention's Sexual Harassment Policy — And Their Initial Response Was Really Disturbing
The #MeToo movement just hit Salt Lake City's FanX in a big way. The geek convention, formerly known as SLC Comic-Con, lost several celebrity guests after its co-founder, Bryan Brandenburg, doxxed Austenland writer Shannon Hale by sharing her private email address through the official FanX Twitter account after she expressed concerns over the convention's sexual harassment policy in an email. Doxxing is the act of sharing personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses, in a way that makes a person vulnerable to harassment. The tweet with her email address has since been deleted.
The incident began when Hale, who is also the author of Marvel Comics' The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, expressed to Brandenburg her concerns over FanX's first sexual harassment policy, which she says "blur[s] the conversation about consent and minimiz[es] women's experiences of harassment," according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The policy reportedly emphasized that fan-requested touches were still appropriate and acceptable at the convention, a concession that would allow many sexual harassers and assaulters the protection of saying that a fan, quite literally, asked for it. That line of thinking doesn't account for the fact that someone can revoke consent they previously gave, or for contact that doesn't match what the recipient expected and consented to — e.g. consenting to a friendly hug and receiving a lift-you-off-the-ground bear hug instead. As Hale noted in an email to Brandenburg, FanX's policy would "act in the interest of the abuser and assume the best of him and the worst of the accuser."
A screenshots of the email exchange between Brandenburg and Hale was initially posted by the official Twitter account of FanX. This tweet was deleted, but Shannon Hale took a screenshot of the tweets and posted it to her own Twitter account on May 21. (In her screenshot, she took precautions to hide her email address.) These screenshots show that Brandenburg wrote the following to Hale in response to her complains about the sexual harassment policy: "I wish I could put you in touch with EVERY woman that complained about sexual harassment at our event and then to their great satisfaction we solved the problem for them."
He added: "Most of the people that work with us [at FanX] are women and they were very involved in this." Brandenburg concluded: "Maybe it is best that you sit this one out and then wait to hear how it went."
On Monday, Brandenburg released an apology statement through the official FanX website: "I would like to apologize to Shannon Hale for the events that happened on Twitter today, and my overall handling of the reports of harassment from our last event. In an overly emotional state, I took to social media in response to a tweet that quoted an email exchange between the two of us. In doing so, I didn’t notice my screenshot still contained her personal email. This was overlooked and not meant maliciously." Brandenburg also said that all FanX staff would undergo sexual harassment and assault training "within the next 90 days," so that they could be prepared by the time the convention rolls around in September.
Brandenburg also claimed in his statement that FanX had updated its sexual harassment policy, which is now available on the convention's website. One of the guests who withdrew from the convention, author Brendan Reichs, criticized the new policy's "Confidentiality" section in a tweet, writing that "[a]s a protection, it's disproportionately weak to begin with."
As of this writing, a number of prominent guests have opted not to attend the 2018 FanX convention in September. These include RWBY voice actors Lindsay Jones and Arryn Zech, and authors Ally Condie, E.K. Johnston, Emily R. King, and Ilima Kahokuhealani Todd, among others.
Bustle has reached out to Shannon Hale and FanX convention for comment.