Consonance, 2015

What is harassment?

For this discussion, "don’t harass" really boils down to don’t do things that make other people involuntarily frightened, uncomfortable or upset - particularly when you ought to know better.

To go into a little more detail, here are some

Things to do:

Be friendly. Have fun. Enjoy the music and make some of your own if you feel like sharing.

But... try to give people an easy exit - physically and socially, so that, whether they are uncomfortable or just busy, they don’t feel trapped. Back off if someone looks uncomfortable. _Ask_ before touching people (or their stuff) and take no for an answer graciously. Respect other people’s identity, beliefs, ideals, experience, lifestyle and boundaries even when you don't agree with them.

While people can, do, and should be free to form romantic and sexual relationships at Consonance, remember that the point of Consonance is primarily a gathering to share our love of music and SFF.

Remember that lots of people are raised to be polite, even to people who are annoying them. Remember that many people are trained to be particularly polite and placating to people who scare or annoy them. Which means that they will not, and in many cases, _cannot_ tell you to buzz off by direct means. Try to pay attention.

Remember that just because something wouldn’t be threatening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t (or that it shouldn’t be) to someone else.

Remember to eat, sleep and stay hydrated. Plan some quiet time during the convention. Being overtired and overwrought from all the FUN FUN FUN makes us more likely to do rude/mean/stupid things unintentionally. Besides, you’ll have more fun yourself if you're not too knackered to cope with life's little surprises.

... Which is not to say you shouldn’t talk to strangers and acquaintances! We are bang along side making friends and being friendly! Just be considerate and reasonably polite. Take a hint. Take no for an answer.

Some things definitely not to do include (but are not limited to):

Well... mostly a lot of things you probably weren’t planning to do.

Don’t touch people who don’t want to be touched. Don’t take people’s pictures or record them if they ask you not to. [We suggest not doing so even if they’re just obviously camera shy.] Don’t make patently offensive comments to or at people. Don’t creep, stalk, pester, pick on, follow around staring at, threaten or actively intimidate people. Don’t poke at people (physically or metaphorically) to get a rise out of them. Don’t hang around or persist in trying to interact with someone who doesn’t want your attention. And so on and so forth.

When you realize you just did something stupid:

We do put our foot in it sometimes. However, having screwed up - just stop immediately. Don’t make a fuss trying to explain yourself or make yourself feel better. Where an apology is appropriate, keep it short, unqualified, and in a form that does not require the other person to acknowledge it or you. Don’t do it again.

If it does come to the point that you are identified in a harassment complaint, please remember that, whatever your intentions, you did wind up scaring, hurting or upsetting someone badly enough that they asked for help. The best way to make it up to them is to cooperate with our questions and requests as graciously as you can.

Notes on content and artistic expression:

Filk is an art form, and it can include a wide range of subject matter and treatment. We understand that there are going to be songs that don’t work for everyone. We do not and cannot pre-emptively declare particular subjects or themes off limits. Context is everything.

However, there is still a practical difference between not knowing that a particular person is sensitive to songs about rototillers and deliberately playing one to push their buttons. In the former case, you apologize and move on. In the latter - don’t do that!

The hard parts lie in the edge cases. You know - those pretty or fun to sing songs with the "problematic" lyrics. Maybe they have curse words, or a lot of sex, draw heavily on dodgy stereotypes, are a bit too scary, touch on a particularly contentious political or philosophical subject, or maybe they're just in questionable taste. We sing lots of these. They can be great songs and perfect for the occasion. But...it depends a lot on the way you present it, and - most critically, your audience’s mood, expectations and tastes.

This should sound familiar. A key performance skill, often as or more important than singing on pitch (!), is reading your audience. As a community, we need to understand that even pretty wonderful people do get it wrong. However, as a performer, if you aren’t sure of your audience, you might ask first, or give a heads up so people can bail, or you could just switch to a song you’re more confident will suit.

The point is not to cultivate the bland but to remember that when you sing for an audience, you normally want them to enjoy the experience :-)