Monday, March 23, 2009

Doing Something About Decorum Violations

A Reply of Sorts to "Con Behavior: Clues for Free"

After SF conventions there is a species of rant that appears like mushrooms after a fine warm rain. Complaints that to a person's shock and horror there were attendees who did not adhere to the ranter's standards of behavior. Then large numbers of people jump in with self congratulatory agreement and their own examples of such from the same or other conventions.

I'm going to tear into one of these rants, not because it particularly needs to be done, but because it amuses to dance in minefields of the mind on occasion. I'm going to take this in order of how it best fits in with my own counter rant.

For example in her 7th point there were many fine suggestions under this heading, but one struck me as hypocritical nonsense. "Do not tell people how to stand, what facial expression they should wear or what other aspect of their conduct they should modify to please you, especially when you have no actual friendship or other positive history with them."

Boy, if you really believed that you should not have written your essay. I see nothing wrong with criticizing other people or pointing to behavior that I think should be avoided, but I'm not two faced about it. Though she did not make it clear in the body of her rant she's talking about men making personal comments to women about uncrossing their arms and smiling. Yeah, that's bad behavior and if I had been there I might very well have said something in reply to the man along the lines of, "Lose 30 pounds so you're more pleasant to look at first." But the the fact is that what she wrote rather than what she intended to convey gives the appearance of a contradiction.

Like in point number 1 she stridently makes the point that people at conventions should all bathe for the purpose of not smelling awful to others. Personally I'm all for this, but how does that square with what she writes later on? Maybe someone at the convention thinks that saving water is more important than adhering to the arbitrary American standard of removing all body odor. Or is from France or another culture where they're not as hung up as Americans are.

I make this point because despite being a person with a near religious devotion to personal hygiene (I shave my armpits, wear unscented antiperspirant, bathe with vigor daily, and usually wear a modest dash of cologne to boot when attending public events) I am sure that at some point or other at a convention I have smelled less than fresh. We all have off days and in a crowd of many hundreds or even a few thousand people there is sure to be a person who's had a inadvertent deodorant failure or simply the combined funk of too many people in too small a space. Not to mention that some people, despite everything they might try, are simply more smelly than others.

Many of her otherwise sensible bits of advice are similarly sabotaged by conflict with her other points (especially that one about the conduct other people should have) or by not taking into account the full breadth of the human experience.

I do not disagree with the notion that there should be standards and decorum at conventions. But I think that such standards and decorum should be modified with the knowledge that we all make mistakes at times, especially when excited.

Much more importantly it is my opinion that writing an essay on the internet isn't a useful response to problems at a convention. It's venting, no more or less. In order to correct bad behavior you personally have to be willing to do something about it rather than just standing by and blogging about it later. And with criticism you have to accept that sooner or later you're going to be criticized yourself.

The alternative is to accept the fact that there are folks you don't want to have anything to do with at conventions and move elsewhere. I do this all the time because I cannot take yet another libertarian rant on what's wrong with the world and I'm sure that with my flamboyant gay mannerisms I've caused others to do the same.

That's life. Sometimes you bend like a reed in the wind and sometimes you stand fast like an oak.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I loved the last sentence of this post.

And I read the original rant and have not noticed much of this behavior at Mile Hi Con. For which I am eternally grateful. She has a lot of very good points, and I think she's just targeting all the bad behavior she's run across in her years of experience with cons. I see where you are coming from, though, as well.