John Scalzi, the famed science fiction novelist, all-around übermensch, and friend to the oppressed, recently made a pledge. He will neither speak at nor attend a convention that doesn't have a clearly stated and enforced harrassment policy. He later made a thread for others to co-sign this policy and adopt it for themselves. At last count, I believe we were closing in on a thousand co-signers.
I'm not one of them. It seems like the sort of thing that I'd be totes on board with, being a long-time strident feminist and all. Yes! I think the pledge is a fantastic development and I'm delighted to see it spread the way it has.
The reason I haven't signed it myself is because I'm afraid.
It's no secret I'm on the side of calculating and ambitious. I go to cons for professional reasons, not purely social ones. My career is a tremendous part of who I am, maybe even the biggest part! I want to make amazing things, huge things! And when advice-seekers email me asking how to get started, I tell them: write a blog. Go to conferences. Try to speak. It's what works for me (or has so far.)
There are definitely things I'm not willing to sacrifice for my career, of course. I refuse speaking engagements all the time because that day is my daughter's birthday, or because it's Halloween, or because eight days is just too long to be away from my family. Sometimes it's just because I can't afford the travel.
And yet I am a small fish. I seriously doubt a SXSW or even a StoryWorld is going to adopt a harrassment policy on my account; they're likely to just move on and invite someone else. So co-signing the Scalzi pledge adds another filter to the already-tricky considerations I have for attending -- and the consequences of refusing to attend too many events are pretty significant for me. It doesn't come down to seeing my friends at another place or time. It's a question of finding enough people to become my colleagues, clients, and collaborators such that I can continue paying my mortage.
Opportunity is precious and hard to pass up. Right now, as I write this, I have a yawning void in my calendar starting in mid-August and I need to find work to fill it up. (It usually arrives in the nick of time, but the wait and the hustle to make that happen are always nail-biters. ...Hey! Need someone with my varied skills? Email me!) As much as I'd love to sign the pledge, I'm afraid I'd come to regret it by way of my checking account.
I've had to make the choice between my ideals and my checking account before. I'll probably have to make it again. Am I a coward or a hypocrite? Sure, but maybe I'm just being pragmatic. There's no shame in passing by the battles that you can't afford to lose.