Last week, the cartoonist Julia Wertz wrote about the street and online harassment she’s received in recent years, and the disparate response to it:
A lot of men responded by asking me if I was okay, which, don’t get me wrong, was sweet and very much appreciated, and I know they were just looking out for me. By no means am I saying this is NOT something you should ask someone, it is! But it backhandedly proved a level of naivety that women have long since shaken. Women are accustomed to harassment, they already know the person being harassed is okay, and they just commiserate with the frustration. And that’s where people get the “angry feminist” idea, but what’s really happening is that we’ve long ago gone through all the other emotions, and we’re just fucking fed up.
Which brings me to why some people are afraid to address harassment publicly. The idea of the “angry militant feminist” is losing ground, but it definitely still exists. We’re also often accused of overreacting, which is infuriating and demeaning. All of it is infuriating, and sometimes it’s even scary, which is why when women address being harassed, we bring to it all the harassment of the past, and because we keep it all bottled up, it comes out with a lot of emotion and anger. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but hopefully the message will come through the (totally justifiable) anger.
Let me cosign: as a woman you get catcalled on the street, rape threats in email, cartoons suggesting you should be raped, questions about your behavior and activities to the extent that it is the norm of our existence. We’re not talking about [name of any country that you would hold up as an example of a lawless state] but New York City right here and right now. It’s our daily life and the fact that anyone is surprised by this is surprising to me.
New York Comic Con has had some problems in the past with treating cosplayers and other female attended as honored guests and not objects on parade, but admirably, they have changed that attitude 100%. Cosplay is not consent signs were every where and diversity has been embraced. But there are problems elsewhere.
This past weekend was NYCC. I attended, and stayed at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel, same as the last two years. I was joined by a female friend. I won’t share the specifics of her story, because I want to keep the focus on the most important parts of this experience: the actions taken by The Wyndham New Yorker.
My friend was sexually harassed. Although I don’t believe in ranking severity of harassment, she was physically unharmed and the harassment was primarily verbal, along the lines of street harassment. A Wyndham New Yorker security guard was present and didn’t intervene.
Let me repeat that: a security professional was present while my friend was being harassed outside the front door of the hotel and he did not intervene. When the harassment ended, my friend was scared and asked to be escorted to her room. I was asleep at the time, or else I would’ve been there for her.
She was told that she’d be fine, and to call the desk if she had any problems. So to be clear, security did not intervene when she was being harassed, and then refused to escort her, a guest at their hotel, to her room when asked.
Despite later attempts to complain about this negligent behavior by a SECURITY GUARD, no one would admit it was wrong and in fact, the security manager asked what she was wearing during the harassment.
I’ll throw this in here: The New Yorker hotel (now owned by Wyndham) is not a great location and has been the home of much riff raff over the years, so I can see some jaded behavior among the hotel’s security but these guys were not born yesterday and they know what street harassment is. And if a woman dressed however she damn pleased felt unsafe then ALL THE MORE REASON FOR HER TO BE ESCORTED TO HER ROOM. I mean, isn’t that what security is for?
Jordan found something even more ironic on the Wyndham website:
What I find interesting is that The Wyndam New Yorker has an entire section of their website devoted to helping women travel safely: http://www.womenontheirway.com/wyndham-wisdom/travel-safety/
They clearly understand that guests want to feel safe, and provide resources to help women build awareness. In fact, the mission statement from Women on Their way includes the following:
“As a female traveler, you are one of our most valued customers. We believe you have important things to say and we want to know more, which is why we ask the tough questions and really listen to your answers.
From our women’s advisory board and research, to personalized surveys and requests – we’re committed to constantly improving, so your travel experience is relaxing, revitalizing and completely worry-free.”
How did the actions of the security team help my friend have a relaxing, revitalizing and completely worry-free experience? How did they uphold the values they claim are so important? The answer is they did not. The Wyndham New Yorker had three separate opportunities to do the right thing and they did nothing. They very clearly wanted her, and then me, to shut up and go away.
I’m guessing that the hotel was laughing at the Comic-Con freaks who were attending and didn’t feel that acknowledging a woman’s safety was of any importance since everyone was dressed like Iron Man or Poison Ivy any way. I’d like to think that once this complaint gets more attention, the Wyndham will offer some apologies or more.
The sad, jaded familiarity that Wertz, myself and every other woman have with this behavior is in marked contrast to the shock that men often display when told of it. It is my experience that such shock is often in direct proportion to the utter cluelessness of said men about their own actions and attitudes.
I’m not saying that’s what Justin Jordan did here. In fact his behavior might be called a model of how such things might be dealt with by men, actively seeking redress as opposed to idle speculation from a place of safety over what the victim did to bring such a thing on herself.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: harassment is men’s problem, not women’s. The security of society is judged by the “weakest” members not the strongest. Until harassers step back and see their behavior is harmful and not “a funny joke” it will never end.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.