Tina Beychok has been involved with the Back Up Project from the very beginning, but she’s taken on a unique way of helping spread the message.
“The Back Up Project is designed to ensure that people will be willing to step in to help women when they get in trouble at conventions,” she said. “Stories started coming out about situations like these, where no one stopped to help because no one thought they had the right to intervene. I looked for a way to identify the people willing to provide backup, so people would know who could help, and to make those willing to help feel like they had more legitimacy.”
Beychock started making purple ribbons just the right size to fit on a convention badge. With BACK UP in gold lettering, the ribbons make it clear that the person wearing one is willing to serve as a resource for women (and men) who run into trouble being harassed at conventions like Dragon*Con, among many others.
“If you’re a woman, and you’re involved in fandom, you, at some point in your fandom career, are going to be subjected to something like this,” Beychock said.
The Back Up Project, which is shorthand for the full name—Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project and Gentleman’s Auxiliary—“aims to make help against harassment visible and available, to create safer environments, to help women to support other women and men to challenge other men.” The project focuses on creating safer spaces at scifi/fantasy, anime, comic, and other fan conventions.
“One of the things as part of it is that it’s essential for each person involved in the project to find your own way to implement it,” Beychock said. “I had the idea of making up these ribbons. It just was this crazy idea I had to get more visibility and it just took off.”
Beychock started offering the ribbons free of charge and estimates she’s given out 1,000 or more over the past year.
“It’s been overwhelming that so many people are willing to step in,” she said. “I tend to be kind of cynical, so it was great to see that so many people want to give back, and that they now have a way to do it.”
Beychock provided ribbons to the Daily Dragon, which will have them available for interested con-goers to pick up in the DD offices (Chicago E–F, Hy). If you find yourself threatened or harassed during the con, you can look out for those ribbons on the badges of your fellow con-goers and ask for assistance.
“I had an email from someone at another convention who was able to step in and help out because another attendee recognized the ribbon,” Beychock said.
More information on the Back Up Project is available on the organization’s website, backupproject.org.
“This is not my project,” Beychock said. “This is just my way of my way of helping to implement it and publicize it.”