At the 2008 Dragon*Con in Atlanta, a friend and I were crossing the street back to our hotel. About 20 yards just outside the main lobby doors, a young man had a young woman backed up against the wall and was yelling at her quite loudly as she cringed away from him. It was obvious to anybody going in or out of the lobby.
Did any of the three dozen or more con attendees who walked right by this couple stop before we got there? No. Did one of them go over to ask the young woman if she needed help? Not a one. As it was, we stopped and asked her, and the guy slunk away.
This got us to thinking (dangerous at best). Why didn’t anybody else stop? Why did it take that many people walking by before somebody stepped up to say “Hey, do you need some help? Are you OK?”
It would be easy to say that fans either are too self-absorbed or they just don’t care. But in talking to other fans out there, we got a very different answer. There is a sense that fans are afraid to get involved. That they worry about if they have the right to step in if they are not “official.”
So why not find a way for fans to give back to that fandom they so dearly love and embrace? In our case, we got involved with the Backup Project. Our way of doing so was to offer up con badge ribbons that were printed with the word “Backup” in large letters. It was, in essence, a way for people to signify that they wanted to help and would do so.
To date, we have given out more than a thousand ribbons. Stories have come back to us about “Backup” people helping to break up fights, escorting women to their hotels, distracting That Person from obnoxiously hitting on other fans. And each and every one makes us proud to be a fan. To know that our fellow fans do give a damn. Here’s a little write-up about our efforts for the 2011 Dragon*Con.
If you take a Backup ribbon or you wear a Geeks Got Your Back button, you are promising one very simple thing: You WILL help out anybody being harassed. Gender, orientation, presentation is irrelevant. You WILL find a way to help, whether by directly intervening, getting help from elsewhere, or simply listening the person being harassed. You WILL be there for them. You WILL accept that they believe they have been harassed. You WILL NOT question them or doubt them, You WILL give them whatever help they wish.
No judgement. No exceptions. Geeks got your back.