Category Archives: Uncategorized

Not-So-Insurmountable Barriers

for WisCon Member Assistance Fund

I first started hearing about WisCon in 2010, when I became good friends with people living in Madison who volunteered for the con every year.  Hearing about all the cool people, interesting discussions, and sheer fun to be found there, I gradually built up longing to go — but, unfortunately, couldn’t build up the money to match my longing.  So I sighed from afar, thinking wistfully of the awesome feminists who were talking about robots without me, and resigned myself to never doing more than reading con reports after the fact.

Then, in 2013, one of my Madison friends said, hey, can I nominate you for this assistance fund? And it was like this huge insurmountable barrier had just been poofed out of existence.

Of course, I didn’t say yes right away, because I struggled with the feeling that con assistance funds weren’t for people like me — they were for people more engaged than me, more productive, more active in various communities, with more valuable perspectives.  I didn’t see myself as valuable enough to be worth anyone else spending money for me to go.  It took a lot of psyching myself up to get past those feelings — especially that horrible capitalist shame that makes me constantly compare myself to others in terms of value, like a commodity — and realize that people genuinely wanted me there and that con assistance funds exist for anybody who needs them to go to the con.

As it turned out, I was the biggest barrier to me using the fund.  I was worried that there would be a lot of paperwork and record-keeping and receipt-tallying, but in the end it was simple.  I told the folks managing the fund how much money I needed, and for what, and they sent me a cheque.  They believed me about what I needed and didn’t place bizarre limitations on the kinds of things that could be covered — so the WisCon assistance fund ended up paying for the rental car, gas, food, and even the bill for boarding my dog for a week.  And, because it was all the same to them whether I drove or flew or took a bus, I was able to pack two of my good friends into the car with me, and WisCon gained itself three attendees for the price of one.

I had an amazing time that year.  I learned a lot, I made new friends, I talked with people who were excited about the same things I was excited about. The WisCon assistance fund taught me that I love going to WisCon, that it’s a great con for me; without the money to make my first WisCon possible, I might never have learned that.  I’m going again this year, with the same people I went with before, because we’re a little better situated financially and now know that the experience will be worth the expense for us.

I hope that, if you’re considering nominating someone or accepting a nomination, you will.  It doesn’t matter how valuable you think you are or aren’t: the assistance fund is for you.  People want you there.  I want you there.

And I hope that, if you’re considering donating to the assistance fund, you’ll give as generously as you’re able to.  This program brings new life, new blood, and new perspectives to the con, and makes it possible for people like me to join the discussion.  Your donation makes an enormous difference to both the con and to the people who receive it.  I couldn’t be more grateful to previous donors for the chance they gave me to be part of the WisCon community.

Donate to the Member Assistance Fund:

Or send a checque payable to SF3 to:

Attn: WisCon Member Assistance Fund
P.O. Box 1624
Madison, WI 53701

SF3 is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donations are tax deductible.

Submit programming and panel ideas for WisCon 40 – Deadline is January 29th

K. Tempest Bradford, Joanna Lowenstein, Tanya DePass

2016 is upon us — and WisCon 40 is just four months away! That means it’s time to submit panel and other programming ideas. (Technically, you could have done so right after WisCon 39, but this is the time of year we start talking deadlines and such.) To send us your idea, go to and fill out the form. Simple!

Who can submit ideas?

Anyone! Obviously, we encourage people who plan to attend WisCon to submit, but you don’t have to be registered to do so. If you think you might come to WisCon but don’t know for sure and really want there to be a panel about That Thing You Love if you do come, send us the idea. If you think there should be a conversation about a Very Important Thing even if you’re not there to have that conversation, send us the idea. If you’re coming to WisCon for sure and want a panel to happen but don’t want to be on that panel, send us the idea. And, of course, if you’re coming and you have a panel you want to happen and you want to be on it, send us the idea.

Does the panel have to be fully formed and perfect with the Best Title Ever and a description that would make the Restoration Hardware copy writers weep with envy?

Nope. You can submit sketches of ideas, half-formed thoughts, vague outlines. The programming team will do their best to interpret what you give us and turn it into a proposed panel with a title and full description.

If you would like to submit ideas with semi-polished titles and descriptions but feel like you need some input or help, you can always create a WisCon Brainstorming Thread on your blog or on social media. In fact, the comment section of this post is a free space for panel brainstorming and members of the programming team will pop in to assist up until the deadline.

Are we only accepting panel ideas, or are we up for suggestions outside of the 3 – 5 people sit behind a table and talk for an hour format?

We are very interested in any kind of programming ideas. Anything from roundtable discussions to group participation activities to performances to puppet shows and anything else. The only exceptions: Readings and Academic Talks/Presentations. Those are handled by other departments.

Please feel free to think outside the box and propose things we haven’t ever done before. We can’t promise to be able to make it possible this year. We can say that we’re open to new stuff. Just do us one favor: if you’re not registered yet, provide some way for us to contact you if we have questions in the description.

Is there a limit to how many ideas I can submit?

Nope. Well… okay, your limit is 100.

When is the deadline for submitting programming ideas?

January 29th.

What happens after I submit a programming idea?

Once the deadline hits and we gather all the submissions together, the programming team combs through them all and decides which panels will move onto the next step: the Programming Survey. The Survey is a list of all the viable panel ideas submitted, which is sent to WisCon attendees. The WisCon community votes on the panels, marking the ones they’d like to attend and which they want to be on as panelist or moderator. The panels with the most interest then move on to the final schedule.

How do you decide which panels go on the survey?

We try to err on the side of inclusiveness on that first pass. We weed out panels that are inappropriate for WisCon or that are just inappropriate period. We may also combine panels or other types of programming items that are very similar to each other. We also do some light massaging of panel titles and descriptions for clarity or, if they are simple sketches of an idea, we make them more robust. At this stage none of the descriptions and titles are final, and we welcome feedback from the community about language and appropriateness.

I’m ready to start submitting program ideas!

Awesome. Get to it!

WisCon’s new Anti-Abuse Policy: Reflections on the first year

Anti-Abuse Team and Safety

This year was the first convention where we had a formal procedure in place for what to do when individuals attending WisCon violate the code of conduct described in our anti-harassment policy. The policy is intended to be flexible to allow for different situations, but its basic idea is that if somebody reports a harassing behavior to Safety, the person responsible can be issued a warning and asked to do something differently (such as staying away from a place or person). If warnings aren’t attended to or harassing behavior escalates, the policy describes a few more options, including –– in the worst case scenario, which we hope to avoid –– that Safety and Chairs in consultation with available Anti-Abuse Team members can make a collective at-con decision to ban someone from WisCon.

Now that the convention is over, Safety has handed off their at-con reports to the full Anti-Abuse Team, which is reviewing reports that are still open post-con and evaluating how well the policy performed on- site. Here’s how things looked in our first year:

  • 11 issues relating to the anti-harassment policy were reported to Safety.
  • 4 attendees were issued warnings for harassing behaviors.
  • 1 disruptive non-member was escorted off the premises by hotel staff.
  • 1 person was banned, after several warnings, in response to reports both from multiple departments and from the hotel –– some relating to patterns of behavior going back several years.

What have we learned from the first year of the harassment policy?

Many members have stated that WisCon felt safer this year because they knew that the concom was explicitly trying to make WisCon a place where members could be free of microaggressions and harassment, even if that’s a goal we can’t ever expect to 100% reach. This is what we have been hoping for in our work on the policy and we are very pleased to hear it.

Other members have stated that they fear not being welcome because of the new policy; we have heard terms like “feminist thought police” thrown around. To this we can only say that we do not intend to be a disciplinary committee, and our intention is not to police but rather to be part of a community that holds its members accountable to the principles that we have organized ourselves around. But we also understand that the line between accountability and policing can be a hard one to walk, and we will continue to listen to your feedback on how well we are managing to walk it.

A member who received a warning stated that they would like further information about recourse: what is there for someone to do once they have been given a warning? We agree that this is a gap in the current policy, and we will revise the policy to fix this before WisCon 40. In addition to providing a process for members to appeal decisions with which they disagree, we want to be able to support members who receive warnings that they recognize as justified, so that they can reflect on their behavior, make amends if necessary, and work to be a part of change for the better in future. After all, the structures of white supremacy, patriarchy, cissexism, ableism, colonialism, and capitalism live within all of us as we live within them. Our aim is to make WisCon a place and time in which everyone can be liberated from these oppressions as much as is possible, not to punish those who misstep.

WisCon, WisCon, what did you think?

Chris Wallish
Media & Communications

The lobby of the Concourse Hotel.
The newly redesigned (and somewhat space age) lobby of the Concourse Hotel.

WisCon has, once again, come and gone, not unlike the Faerie Market of Wall, and just as full of strange and wonderful delights, although fewer hot dogs this year.

Were there any panels you’d like to have seen?  Were you inspired by the conversation of a panel to propose one for WisCon 40?  Our idea submission form is open and will be available for suggestions until January 2016.

What did you think of this year’s WisCon?  Our surveys will be open for about two more weeks (edited to remove link, as the survey is now closed).  If you have a few minutes, please tell us what you thought of programming and of WisCon in general.

This week we’re also going to be running something of a post-postmortem here on the blog.  The WisCon postmortem panel at the end of the convention is always an excellent time to deconstruct the weekend and offer suggestions on what could be improved.  But did you miss this year’s postmortem discussion?  Look for a few posts from us assessing the convention from a few angles and inviting your feedback.

And then onward to WisCon 40!

What I do: Dessert Diva

(First in a one-part series.)
Okay, okay, so that’s not the actual title, but it’s a lot more fun than Dessert Salon Coordinator, don’t you think? Plus, it comes with a sash. Seriously.

So what does a Dessert Diva do?

It starts at the beginning of the year when I contact our hotel’s banquet coordinator and ask for a list of desserts and prices. They talk to the pastry chef and eventually I get a list of 25 or 26 options from which I choose 20. I make sure we have a variety of flavors and textures and I make sure that we have plenty of vegan, nut-free, and gluten-free items. Then I start crunching numbers. Did you know we order 822 individual desserts each year? (A secret: We order 7 dozen chocolate-covered strawberries.) I not only have to balance flavors, textures, and allergens but I have to make sure that we order the right amounts. I order a lot of chocolaty desserts and a few of each of the vegan offerings. I don’t want you to be disappointed and we don’t want a lot of one thing left over because I ordered too much. I also want to make sure that everyone feels like they have plenty to choose from, even those with the strictest diets.

Once I decide on amounts of things—including the coffee, tea, and milk—I put it all on a spreadsheet which tells me how much it will all cost. If that isn’t too heart-stopping, I send it back to the hotel and then I kick back and answer your questions about allergens—which are sent from me to the hotel banquet coordinator to the pastry chef to the hotel banquet coordinator and then back to me—until the night of the Dessert Salon when I dress up, make sure you don’t have any questions or concerns, and order more beverages if we run out before the speeches start. The number of desserts I make off with is a closely-guarded secret. (Six, okay? I tried six last year. Don’t judge me!)
Did you know I can hold a dessert or two for you if you have allergies and want to make sure you get something that you’ll be able to eat? That’s part of my job, too. I even have an email address:

After the con, I contact the hotel’s banquet coordinator again and they tell me which desserts were left over and which disappeared really fast so I have an idea for the next year of how to better balance the order. Voila! Job done!

How did you become the Dessert Diva?

Well, in this case, it was all about who I knew. I had a friend who wanted to take a break and I just happened to be ready to take on a little responsibility. But you don’t have to know someone to get in on the action! When we have volunteer opportunities we post them on our blog. You can also check our at-con volunteer board on the 2nd floor for at-con volunteer opportunities.

It’s a delicious job, but somebody’s got to do it!

How did Where Is WisCon Going? go?

Doodle of panelists.The Where Is WisCon Going? panel on Saturday quickly opened the floor to audience members to ask questions and offer suggestions about the future of WisCon. Some excellent dialogue was exchange and really good ideas were offered and Mary Prince (whose work you can find in the Art Show, check it out!) doodled this picture of panelists Bronwyn Bjorkman, Sandy-sashafeather, and Jacquelyn Gill while we all enjoyed a session of Q & A. Not pictured, Kristin Livdahl and Shayla D (me!).

Auction Items Item

If you bid on and won an item in the auction and have not yet paid for it, you can find it in the Art Show on the display tables for the Tiptree Auction. The winning bid and bidder will be circled on the item’s tag. Simply take it to the front and hand over your cash. There are also Buy It Now items still available.

Art Show Highlights

While not, perhaps, actually art, Tahlia D.’s redesign of the art show layout is spacious and delightful. As a person with a visual impairment, I often feel like a bull in a china shop, so the wide aisles make me feel safe enough to actually stop and appreciate the art. Granted, I snuck in in the middle of the night… Regardless, it’s a space that feels spacious and lends itself to stopping and really appreciating the works of art being displayed and, as usual, they cover a wide range of media, subjects, and styles.
While voting ended last night for the “Best of…” awards, you can still vote with your pocketbooks and take some of this beautiful craftsmanship home with you.

Need To Know (Sunday)

We have several items in the Lost and Found at Registration.
* * *
There is an error in the listed hours in the program book. The Con Suite will be closing at 1 p.m. on Monday. However, we have been assured that the Disjunction Function will continue to function from 8:30 p.m. until your function has been thoroughly disjuncted. You heard it here first.
* * *
What you need to know today:
8 a.m.: Con Suite and Childcare open.
9 a.m.: Hotel registration opens for WisCon 40.
9:30 a.m.: Registration opens.
10 a.m.: Art Show and Dealers’ Room open.
6 p.m.: Childcare and Dealers’ Room close.
7:30 p.m.: Con Suite closes, Dessert Salon opens.
8:30 p.m.: Guest of Honor speeches begin.

Hotel Registration Opens For WisCon 40

As usual, hotel registration opens at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. You can call the reservation line and tell them you want the WisCon block, you can visit the link that appears on the WisCon website at 9 a.m. in the morning, or you can visit the desk in person and line up. This year, reservations are being taken at the front desk at the station closest to the grand staircase. There will be an area for queuing demarcated with blue tape.

Breakfast Buffet Change

In years past, the Concourse offered a breakfast buffet that included hot items in steam trays. Now, if you would like hot breakfast items, you order them from your server. While this may seem to complicate the process, it means your hot breakfast items are hotter and fresher when they get to you!

Errata for Saturday

54 Wikipedia Edit Jam
Science and Technology • Conference 1 • Saturday, 8:30–9:45 am
Liz Henry was unable to attend WisCon.

61 Fixing Policing
Feminism and Other Social Change Movements • Capitol A • Saturday, 10:00–11:15 am
Michelle Murrain has been added as a panelist. Naomi Kritzer is no longer a panelist.

75 Bridging the Generation Gap at WisCon
Feminism and Other Social Change Movements • Capitol A • Saturday, 1:00–2:15 pm
Jaymee Goh has been added as a panelist.

93 Feminine Agencies in Steampunk, Anime, and Video Games
Academic • Conference 3 • Saturday, 2:30–3:45 pm
Saba Razvi was unable to attend WisCon.

101 Where Is WisCon Going?
Fandom as a Way of Life • Senate B • Saturday, 4:00–5:15 pm
s.e. smith is no longer a panelist. Bronwyn B., Kristin Livdahl, and Sandy Sasha_feather have been added as panelists.