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Sophia Bush Wages War on a Convention That Promotes ‘Empowerment of Women’

A One Tree Hill convention called EyeCon has been introducing fans to the show’s stars for more than a decade, but after 18 cast and crew members signed an open letter detailing a toxic and abusive set environment created by showrunner Mark Schwahn, the annual event is under fire. Some of the stars, including Hilarie Burton and Sophia Bush, are saying that, in light of changes this year, they won’t be attending.

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According to its website, “EyeCon’s executive staff is composed of strong, independent women (and one pretty cool guy!). We not only believe in the empowerment of women, we endorse and practice it in our personal lives as well as EyeCon.”

Hilarie Burton, who was one of the stars who claimed to have been abused by Schwan, was one of the first to come out publicly and say she won’t be attending any EyeCon events this year or in the future. Replying to a fan on Twitter who asked, Burton explained, “I personally feel exploited by their ‘girl power’ angle, which exists at the expense of some of us who went through a difficult time on that show. They’re using our sisterhood as a sales gimmick. No thanks.”

After making that statement, Burton was attacked on Twitter by some of EyeCon’s employees, whose tweets were retweeted by the convention’s main account. Her costar, Sophia Bush, came to her rescue, posting a lengthy statement about EyeCon to Twitter and writing, “Hilarie Burton is my sister. Don’t fuck with her. Period.”

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In her statement, Bush also criticized EyeCon’s empowerment angle, saying she and the other stars weren’t consulted at all before their letter about their abuse was made into the convention’s theme.

“You want to throw a ‘women’s empowerment’ event but bash a woman who said that the way it’s been handled doesn’t feel good to her? A woman whose personal victimization took the world’s stage this past fall? Whose sisterhood circled around her, and each other, to see to it that he be stopped from treating other women in such a way? How. Dare. You,” Bush wrote. “Want to know why Hil said she feels exploited by this ’empowerment’ con? Well add my name to that hat. Because so do I. We told our stories. As a united front. We refused to let it get tabloidy and gross.

“And then suddenly a convention publicly announced that they want to empower women? Now, that would have been FINE — lovely, even — IF THEY HAD SPOKEN TO US ABOUT THIS. Had they called our reps and said, ‘as fellow victims in our own individual ways, we want to make the next con all about women, and raise money for women’s charities.’ They did not. Let me repeat. They. Did. NOT. They didn’t ask a single one of us if we’d feel okay focusing a convention, which is dedicated to the show on which many of us were harassed or abused behind the scenes, around those very issues and thus offer an expectation to all fans and attendees that we would be discussing these past violations and focusing on issues that none of us want to be forced to relive in meet and greets and photo sessions. They made an announcement without thinking of any of the women of One Tree Hill for a second. And now they are defending themselves by saying that Mark took advantage of them too? That he ruined their ability to watch a show which felt like their safe space. Well it HAPPENED to us.”

Bush also called out the fact that with women’s empowerment as the convention’s theme, the female stars of the show who attended EyeCon might feel pressured to talk about their abuse, even though they weren’t invited to weigh in ahead of time.

“They announced a deeply personal theme and intention, which revolves in this context, around what all OTH fans know happened to us, without thinking about us at all,” she wrote.

More: Sophia Bush Calls Out ‘Vile Creatures’ on Twitter

EyeCon has been a yearly One Tree Hill convention since 2006, and while we can’t confirm that Burton and Bush have attended every year, members of the cast do appear at each year’s event to meet fans and participate in panels and Q&As. Could this be the end of EyeCon?

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