Feminism is not just an ideology. It’s a responsibility. While we all screw up, because we are all socially conditioned by patriarchy and dismantling the bad paradigms we absorb takes work, by assigning your space with the label “feminist” you are making a certain social unspoken commitment.
And part of that commitment is to not colossally screw up harassment cases.
I’m not going to go into the logistics of the fail because other people understand it far better (Natalie Luhrs has done a great job compiling the relevant information), other than to point out the fact that despite having zero connections to organized fandom I had heard of this guy and his bad behavior years ago. Instead I’m going to go over the messages sent and received.
It should be quite obvious, but in case it needs to be stated, catering in one’s rhetoric to the redemption narrative of someone who serially harasses women sends a message to harassers and potential ones that their behavior will be light on consequences, and that their comfort is more significant than that of the women they are harassing. It sends those same messages to those who have been harassed or might be.
It discourages people from reporting harassment, because once one has reported harassment one has a greater emotional stake in the results. Someone has put their ass on the line, because reporting harassment is never consequence-free — amongst other dangers, one faces the possibility of retaliation by the harasser and his or her supporters — and this particular failure added to those consequences.
When a self-declared feminist organization screws up a harassment case and follow-up this badly, including spreading dishonest victim-blaming crap that the harmed party then has to defend herself against, they add an icky layer of betrayal to an experience already, at best, highly unpleasant. And in this case, the harm caused to the reporters seems to be far greater than the consequences faced by the dude who harassed them.
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is a reinforcement of rape culture.