WisCon members who attended a WisCon 33 panel entitled “Take Back the SciFi,” have expressed serious concerns about the panel’s focus and moderation. They have raised important questions about comments and decisions the moderator made in guiding the conversation and accepting questions during the discussion of personal experiences.
The panel was intended to focus on the use of rape and sexual assault in science fiction writing and the influence of rape culture in the genre. The panel was described as “Sexual assault and rape frequently get used as symbolic plot devices with no consideration about the realities of how these events effect survivors and the people around them and the larger social realities of this epidemic. Sometimes these stories get told well but often they perpetuate social myths and stereotypes that normalize predatory behavior and make survivors complicit. How do authors work to create a culture where stories that perpetuate rape myths are not acceptable? Examples?”
However, as can happen in programming on topics such as this, the discussion shifted to personal experiences of rape and sexual assault. Unfortunately, the panel also became a place in which male survivors, their families, and friends felt marginalized and re-traumatized.
We are very sorry that this occurred. As organizers of a feminist convention, we understand that rape knows no gender.
We thank the panelists and attendees who have expressed their concerns. WisCon’s Convention Committee (ConCom) will continue to discuss these concerns and to respond to people who contact us directly. Also, ConCom members have spoken with the moderator, who may choose to respond individually. Moderators, like all program participants, are volunteers who express interest in a panel. Although we believe the moderator had no intent to harm, we know that harm occurred and we take that harm seriously. In response to member suggestions, this programming item will be offered again at WisCon 34 in a facilitated discussion format to encourage audience participation.
We understand that panelists and attendees will continue to engage in dialogue about this panel, and we welcome any additional suggestions that arise from these discussions. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.