Being nice to each other at conventions is good but doesn't replace need for harassment and accessibility policies

Yesterday the World Fantasy Convention 2016 uploaded accessibility and harassment policies to their website. I wish they'd done this before being criticized for not having them and before their deadline passed for a registration fee increase, but it's good they now have the policies.

But one particular response to this issue troubled me (and no, it's not being referred to as "Sanford and his ilk" for saying a convention should have these policies). I'm troubled by how many people said these policies wouldn't be needed if people only treated each other with kindness and respect.

For example, in the screengrabs from the World Fantasy Con 2016 discussion group, one of the organizers said "We should not need these policies. ... Play nice and mind your manners."

I understand the appeal of statements like this. I'm generally an optimist. I believe if people treated each other with respect and kindness and goodwill, most of the world's problems would disappear.

Yet I'm also a realist. Even though versions of the Golden Rule have been preached and taught for thousands of years, people still don't behave in this idealistic manner. And that's one reason why statements like "We wouldn't need these policies if people behaved" rubs so many people the wrong way. It's like people making such statements are using wishful thinking to avoid dealing with a problem, or sticking their head in the sand because the problem isn't "their" problem.

I mean, would you seriously follow the advice of anyone who made the following statements?

  • We don't need laws and a court system and police because people generally behave themselves.
  • Don't lock the front door to your home at night because people are generally trustworthy.
  • You don't need passwords for your bank and work and other life accounts because it would be bad manners to steal your money or personal information.

Anyone who made such statements would be laughed at for not seeing the world as it is. Yet somehow it's acceptable to dismiss having a code of conduct and accessibility policies for a convention because all we need to do is have people be nice and mind their manners?

Everyone should be nice to each other at genre conventions. Good manners are a wonderful way to smooth personal interactions. But don't pretend such acts of kindness and good behavior can ever replace policies for dealing with harassment and accessibility.