Help with “Missy” Response?

In the post-ReaderCon sexual harassment revelations and groundswell, something that incensed me equally didn’t get much discussion. With autumn con season upon us, it’s on my mind again, and I welcome input.

Genevieve Valentine’s account of her harassment at ReaderCon also included mention that she, while on a panel, was referred to by a fellow panelist as “missy.” I find such belittlement, of anyone for any reason, colossally offensive.

Having at the time just moderated a ReaderCon panel myself, I immediately wondered, what’s the best response to something like that, when it’s happening?

I’ve thought about it, but I’m not the most socially adroit, so I would appreciate hearing others’ thoughts.

I think the response would be different depending on what role I was in: audience, fellow panelist, or panel moderator. Here are the responses I came up with. All comments welcome.

As an audience member: when the panel opens for questions, ask the disparaging panelist a two-part question. ‘Did you actually call that other panelist _____, and if so, why in the world would you disrespect a fellow panelist like that?’

As a fellow panelist: when the disparaging panelist finished, or maybe even interrupting them, ‘Did you actually call this other panelist _____? If so, then I’m not interested in a single other thing you’ve got to say.’ And leave the panelist table and walk out of the room.

As the moderator: when the disparaging panelist finished, ‘Did you actually call this other panelist _____? We don’t belittle people like that, at least on any panel I’m moderating. If you do it again, you can answer to the con-com.’

(My vindictive side would like to include in that last one ‘or I will call security and have you removed’ or the Conan-esque ‘or you and I can step outside and discuss it.’ But those don’t seem wise. :) )

Any thoughts? I do think it’s something that deserves pointing out in the moment. But if the disparager chose to get belligerent, things might get tense.

I hope to never need this. But if I ever see this sort of thing happen, I would like to have an idea of what might be a good thing to do.

Thanks very much for any comments.

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4 Responses to “Help with “Missy” Response?”

  1. Tom Snyder Says:

    I had a coworker years ago who referred to almost all women he dealt with as “love”. He simply could not grasp why it offended so many. “Missy” seems to carry no polite connotation, though. Ugh … people.

    Another response you might add in any of your scenarios would be informing the perpetrator that saying such things diminishes their own standing in the community. It becomes difficult to respect a person’s comments when they become tinged with sexism (or any discrimination, for that matter.)

    Good luck with it. What a shame to have to deal with it at all. :(

  2. Scott H. Andrews Says:

    Yeah, this sort of thing is sadly not uncommon in science fiction fandom, where there’s an older (much older) generation who is out of touch re: such wordings and attitudes.

    And feel obliviously self-assured of their standing in the community (often whether they have one or not). Your suggestion is quite good for folks who might be less oblivious, but most of them are the ones who self-censure their language, at least in public. :)

  3. Larry Hodges Says:

    Hi Scott, I’d recommend you just turn to the person and say, “What you just said was inappropriate. Please don’t do it again.” If he/she does it again, then ask him to leave the panel.

    Now I’m worried David Louis Edelman brings his wife and I call her “Miss E.”

    (I also put this response on – sorry about the duplicate postings.)

  4. Michael J DeLuca Says:

    Trouble with interrupting a panel to verbally smack the inconsiderate, you run a strong risk of derailing the topic people came to see. Talking down to someone is a sign of an overinflated self-opinion. In my experience, hijacking a panel often works the same way. So depending on how egregious the instance and how well the panel was going otherwise (holding attention, making good points, etc), I might wait until afterward to give the person a piece of my mind. But yeah–I do definitely think it’s something we all ought to be more vigilant about calling people out on.