Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Dangers of Standing Next To Hitler

For one thing, you might get killed by a time traveler. Think about it.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m saying that if you raise a controversial topic, the way I did in my last post, there will be people who will be only too happy to attack you for what you didn’t actually say.

I call it being Hitler-Adjacent, and it goes something like this:

You are researching World War II Germany for a school paper or an historical novel. Of the many facts you learn about that period, you happen to discover that Adolph Hitler happened to have been surprisingly good at golf. Huh, you think, and you post this random discovery on social media.

And then you get attacked for saying the leader of the Third Reich was an alright kind of guy.

You of course said no such thing - all you did was mention he was fairly proficient with a nine-iron. The trouble is, if you write this sentence - Hitler was good at golf - too many people will only read those first three words: Hitler was good. The taint of who he was and what he did covers all else.

I thought I’d been really clear when I wrote my post about the FHRITP incident that I wasn’t defending Shawn Simoes or his ‘right’ to say whatever he wants in public without any form of consequence. However, my calling into question the right and power of an employer to fire someone over things they’d said and done on their own time (and asking what the implications of such power might be) wasn’t done at a safe distance from the sexism and assholish behaviour of the FHRITP incident and thus couldn’t escape the taint.

I will be better prepared for the fallout next time around(and yes, I’m sure there will be one). Still, nothing could have prepared me for the perils of moderating the discussion in the comments that followed my Facebook link to my post(whew, that's a mouthful and a half!). During the worst of it I felt my identity as a writer called into question; dare I speak my mind again, if I can't handle the consequences? Hmm... speaking one's mind, and consequences... how very relevant!

But that’s another post for another time. Until then, I’ve still got quite a bit of taint to scrub off.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fired Over FHRITP

This week the acronym FHRITP entered the lexicon in a big way. A bunch of soccer fans verbally harassed CityNews correspondent Shawna Hunt while she was delivering her report, saying things like “fuck her right in the pussy” from whence the acronym comes. Ms. Hunt turned and called them out on their assholishness, and the video of the encounter went viral. As a direct result, one of those assholes (Shawn Simoes) lost his job at Hydro One.

Actions have consequences, justice is served. The world now knows bad behaviour like that is not to be condoned, or written off as ‘boys being boys’. Karma’s a bitch. As Metro columnist Rebecca Kohler said, "Boo her right in the hoo!"

That dude totally deserved to get fired, right?

No. No, no, a thousand times no. Of all the issues brought to light by this incident, this is the one in which the full implications been overlooked.

I’m sure a bunch of readers have no doubt run off to tweet and blog about what a bastard I am for defending sexual assault and being a dipshit. It is impossible to raise a difficult topic without incurring the wrath of those who did not read the entire post. If this were a conversation, I would not have even made it this far before someone cut me off saying:

“So you’re saying it’s okay to degrade women?”

“So you’re saying he didn’t deserve any punishment whatsoever for what he said live on television?”

“So people like that are people you wanna hang out with, is that what you’re saying, Timothy Carter?”

And a world of etc.

For those of you who’ve noticed there is still plenty of post left to go, I thank you for sticking with me.

Let me be clear: Shawn Simoes was an asshole for saying what he said. He got called out for it and publicly shamed. Good on Ms. Hunt for not putting up with it, because for deity’s sake she shouldn’t have to. No woman (or man, or anybody) should ever have to put up with that kind of crap. The dude deserved to have that assholishness come back to bite him.

But I don’t think he should have lost his job. Answer me this: what is the connection between his reprehensible behaviour and his job performance? How is the work he does related in any way to something shitty he did on his own time?

I’ve heard that Hydro One made a statement to the media about how they don’t condone that sort of behaviour. Good for them. No workplace anywhere should allow that sort of thing. But unless Mr. Simoes was yelling FHRITP while at work, did the company really have grounds upon which to fire him?

First of all, this isn’t the olden days when everybody in town knew where everyone else worked, and could draw a direct line between a person and who they work for.

“Yeah, but people know he worked for Hydro One, Tim! If they didn’t fire him, they’re basically telling the world they’re okay with his asshole behaviour!”

People found out where he worked after the incident, not during. Was he wearing his work clothes? His employee ID? Even a T-shirt with the company logo on it? Did he say “FHRITP. Oh, and I work for Hydro One, in case you were interested”?

I reiterate: the guy acted like a tool. I’d feel uncomfortable working with that guy. His firing, however, sets a very dangerous precedent. How much control do we want our employers to have over what we may or may not say and do when not in the office? Will a company, concerned with dollars first and foremost, always stick to firings over behaviour the majority find offensive? Can we really trust them with that?

Put aside what Simoes said and did for a minute and think about this: what a person does on their own time, when not actually on the clock, is none of a company’s business. I have a friend who was once taken to task by a boss for using the “F” word on his own time. We both thought that supervisor was ridiculously out of line. With Simoes’ firing, bosses like that have just been handed a lot more ammunition. Don’t like that new guy at work? Find some footage of him saying something naughty. Bingo.

“We’ve seen a video of you out with your friends, Mr. Johnson, in which you stated that you don’t like packies.”

“But I said Packers! Green Bay Packers! We were just watching the game, and...”

“Nice try, racist. That attitude won’t fly here. Your career with the Pittsburgh Steelers is over!”

Humour aside, I hope you see my point.

“So Hydro One shouldn’t have done anything, then? Is that what you’re saying? They should have just let it go and let all their employees know that Simoes is the kind of guy they want working for them?”

Once word got out that Simoes worked for Hydro One, it would have looked very bad publicly if they hadn’t taken some kind of action. For example, they could have called him into his boss’s office for a conversation like this:

“We’ve seen how you act on your own time, Mr. Simoes. What assurances will you give us that you won’t bring that attitude in to work? We can’t control what you say or do when not on the job, but we can make sure it never happens here. We’ll be watching you closely from now on; any complaints of sexual harassment against you will be taken very seriously and punished accordingly. We will not tolerate that behaviour here at Hydro One, Mr. Simoes, do I make myself clear?”

Wouldn’t that have done it? It may not seem like a very big punishment, but I'm only talking about the employer's response here, not the justice we'd all like to see at the end of a Hollywood comedy.

I’ll say it again - Simoes deserved to face consequences for his words and actions. Here’s a question nobody seems to have asked - why wasn’t he arrested and charged? If I walked up to a woman on the street and told her I’d like to fuck her in her pussy, I’d expect to be charged for it. That would be an appropriate response. If I was filmed saying it, and the video went viral, and my boss warned me that saying something similar on the job would result in my termination, that would also be appropriate.

Terminating my job, though? Not appropriate. Because if it is, where do you draw the line? Where does it end?

Could I lose my job simply for having asked these questions in blog form?

“It seems you wrote an online post in which you clearly supported misogynist behaviour, Mr. Carter. Don’t bother to deny it, you said Mr. Simoes deserved to keep his job because sexual harassment is cool. At least, that’s how I interpreted it. So clean out your desk, woman hater.”

Have I just booed myself right in my hoo?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ad Astra Saturday & Sunday

Once again I've let too much time pass between blog posts, and between the event I'm writing about and now. You know what? I barely have enough motivation to get out of bed some days. Each post that sees its way to publication here is a miracle!

Sunday at Ad Astra was a good time. I spoke on two panels, attended the Mental Health and Fandom panel that afternoon (not sure why I wasn't on that one, but whatever), and hung out and gave support to my friends.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also talk more about Saturday. That's even further back in my memory, but there were a few decent highlights: lunch with Sarah Water Raven and her minions; sitting at a table in the book signing room with Suzanne Church, who gave me valuable cane-related advice; attending my friend Elizabeth Hirst's Pop Seagull Publishing anthology launch, where I heard some very good stories from some very talented authors and even found a piece of cake with my name on it; being warned that describing the plot of my novel Evil might be offensive to religious people at the Inclusiveness in Fandom panel; discussing my Doctor Who epic Bane of the Doctor during the FanFiction panel. Good times.

Sunday started with a two-hour look at trailers for upcoming movies. We looked at the teaser for the new Star Wars movie, plus trailers for summer soon-to-be-blockbusters. Then we discussed our reactions to those trailers, which ones we thought might be cool(Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road), which films we were cautiously optimistic about(Jurassic World, Terminator: Genysys), and which ones looked like they were going to suck huge, rancid monkey balls(Fantastic Four reboot, and a shitty-looking 'comedy' called Pixels starring Adam Sandler). It's a good ting we had a full two hours to work with!

My final panel as a pro panelist was another Doctor Who discussion (I'd been on one the day before focusing on 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi). This one was about show runners Stephen Moffat and Russel T. Davies and their differing styles, strengths and weaknesses. On both panels I was joined by my good friend David Clink, who provided many intelligent insights into Whodom.

Another good convention! Happy happy, joy joy.