C2E2 was this past weekend, and it seemed to be an extremely successful show. There was generally a good vibe in the air, and I talked with a variety of people who were having a great show, regardless of what their criteria was. Retailers, publishers, individual artists, cosplayers, regular attendees… everyone I heard and talked to had a great time. What’s doubly impressive in that is that C2E2 is a large show—large enough that it can almost seem like several shows going on simultaneously. One woman I know spent most of the weekend attending panel discussions without walking the convention floor itself very much, while another I spoke with did the exact opposite while cosplaying. Neither of which speaks to the actors and celebrities who signing autographs and having photo ops.
One of the themes that I picked up on throughout the event, though, was one of inclusion. There were a number of panels discussing issues surrounding ethnicity, gender identity, etc. and that’s not uncommon these days. But what I heard in a number of instances outside those panels was that C2E2 was simply a better—and safer—show because of their approach to inclusion.
Like many other shows, they have posted harassment policy, but they also make a point of enforcing it. One woman noted that she had witnessed a possible problem last year, Tweeted about it, and almost immediately got a response from the C2E2 staff asking for more details so they could put a stop to it. She said she immediately felt safer, knowing that they were paying attention and trying to stay on top of things.
Another woman pointed out that there were new signs posted throughout the show this year that alerted attendees to how they could send a text directly to security if they witnessed anything. This not only would speed up the response, as it bypasses the marketing people handling the broad spectrum of mentions on Twitter, but it also allows for anyone with a cell phone to call attention to problems, instead of limiting it to users who have social media accounts and can access them via their phone. (While smart phones are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, they are by no means universal yet!)
By contrast, these same people talked of horror stories at other shows, notably Gen Con, that they simply would never attend again because the harassment there was so pervasive there. While Gen Con does have a written no harassment policy, it’s vague enough and so poorly enforced as to be non-existent. (While I haven’t attended the show personally, Gen Con was repeatedly mentioned to me by different people in different situations and contexts as providing a very bad show experience because of harassment!)
C2E2 seems to have taken the issue of inclusion to heart. Every year, there seems to be more and better representation of and by women (I saw so many Rey costumes!) and minorities, and every year the show seems to grow. Which makes simply business sense, when you think about it. If more than half of your potential audience (women, ethnic minorities, anyone along the LGBTQ spectrum…) doesn’t feel welcome at your show, they’re not going to come. And, as a business, why would you alienate such a large number of people, in order to accommodate a very small, but offensive, handful?