About the Backup Ribbon Project

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 Backup t-shirt, 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. We got your back.

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24 Responses to About the Backup Ribbon Project

  1. Alphakitty says:

    What a great idea. Especially since knowing there are other backup people can make everyone feel safer.

  2. Pingback: The Official Response to the Dragon*Con Statement Regarding Backup Ribbons | Backup Ribbon Project

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  4. Brian Peters says:

    Hey, this is awesome, but can I just point out one thing you might want to edit for clarity on this page? It’s not really that big of a deal, but in the last two paragraphs you use the phrase “That Person” (with that capitalization) twice. The first time “That Person” is a bad guy. The second time “That Person” is a good guy.

  5. Caitlin says:

    My major concern about this is your lack of screening for who wears the ribbon. I worry that bad people (mostly guys, likely) would use that ribbon as a way to hide their true intentions and a way to hurt people. Use it as a “white van”, if you will. Drunk people or people in trouble might see it as a beacon of hope and end up in more trouble because they let their guard down. Would it be possible for you to have meetings ahead of time for people to get screened by you guys and ALSO to learn the best ways to handle situations, numbers to call for assistance, etc?

    • thatwordgrrl says:

      Our response to this has already been adequately dealt with, both in regard to our FAQ and our response to Dragon*Con.

      In short, we would rather focus on the real threat of harassment than fight the “what ifs” of wolves in Backup Ribbon clothing.

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  7. Knittingmoose says:

    Could I make my own Back up ribbon? I don’t attend many conventions and don’t really know many people who regularly attend cons to order a bunch. I would, however, like to be identified as someone who would like to attend at the few cons I do go to. I don’t want to step on anybodys’ creative or authoritative toes but I would like to be identified as someone who is ready and willing to help.

    • thatwordgrrl says:

      Yes, absolutely! Feel free to make your own. We would ask that they be done in purple, so as to match ours and avoid any confusion. Just have BACKUP in nice, big, friendly letters.

      Thanks!

  8. The links to the sites seem to be broken – please fix as I’d LOVE to get a ribbon!

    Please and thank you!

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  10. Ryan Grimm says:

    I have done security for a few events, and was on the Cirque du Soleil security team back in 1993 in Boston.
    If you still have one ribbon to give out, please contact me so I can get one and wear it at Steampunk events that I attend……we need to ride on these miscreants so they do not do more harm.

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  13. Mura says:

    I’m glad others do this too. This is how I roll. Gotta have the courage to stand up for others.

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  15. Pingback: Proof of Concept | Backup Ribbon Project

  16. Valarie Kelly says:

    How can people start a project like this for other venues? Not cons for example?

  17. Pingback: No, you move | Backup Ribbon Project

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