I’ve sat here for an hour staring at my screen, trying to decide the best way to talk about this, because the fact of the matter is there are a lot of vocal people that don’t think I have any right to talk about it at all, but they sure want my agreement on the matter so where does that leave us? Of course I should start by letting you know what it is we’re going to talk about. Recently a year-old story was dug up and has been circulating the internet, charmingly titled Tabletop Gaming has a White Terrorism Problem. Right there in the title, and the article throughout, it’s clear that my opinion on this isn’t welcome. I read the article, and can’t remember how many times my opinion is dismissed because of my race and gender, how’s that for irony? I had issues with the title, but more than that it looks like this issue may not be as cut and dry as it’s presented.
Wyrd responded recently, and a year ago. At worst this means much of the writer’s story is false. At best it means there’s a lot that isn’t as clear as people would like. If we’re taking each side’s word with the same value then we have to accept that she did try to extort them for a job, and that they did try to help her but she refused. Either way this casts doubts on everything else, and that’s my issue. I could go through the rest of the post and offer counter-points to some of it. I did that in my head as I was reading it, but doing it here wouldn’t be useful or productive. Plenty of people are most likely already tearing it apart a piece at a time and that will just be more noise in the crowd.
I want to have a conversation, an honest one where we aren’t invoking race, or buzzwords. I will absolutely admit that there are cases of sexism and racism in geekdom. I’ve seen them, and I’ve been the target of them. I’ve been told to shut up because I’m a man and my opinion is worthless, and the same thing because I’m white. I’ve been mocked, “Boo hoo male/white/cis tears,” and I’ve been accused of all sorts of awful stuff because of all of that. I’ve heard the sexual jokes, I’ve told them around company I know, and I’ve called out people who told them when it wasn’t appropriate. People can be assholes, and the disease of assholism doesn’t discriminate. It effects people of all walks of life, ages, genders, and faiths. I won’t deny that they exist.
What I do deny is that geekdom has some sort of epidemic of this sort going on. Am I wrong? Convince me, but you better be bringing more than a few stories whose teller has poisoned the conversation from the headline down. I absolutely believe in taking people’s stories seriously, but there’s a difference between that and believing everything wholesale. I know women who have suffered some of these things personally, and I believe them because I know them. I believe the stories at cons happen, and some shop owners can be pricks, and some gamers can be assholes. It’s popular to mock #notallmen, but how about #notjustmen? People have a habit of being jerks to other people, and like I said above, no one is immune from the disease.
I’ll be 40 this year, and I’ve been a gamer for more than half my life. I’ve been in more comic book and gaming stores than I can count. My first convention was in 2001 and I’ve been going to at least one every year since, sometimes two. I’ve gamed with women, both at the table, and on the other side of the mic. It’s easy to say I don’t see it because I’m blind, or ignoring it, but I have seen some of these cases and I’ve called them out just like I’ll always call them out. What that doesn’t convince me of is that there is a widespread issue out of the hundreds of thousands of gamers, hells millions of geeks world-wide, and the thousands of shops, stores and cons. Just like any community, any gathering of human beings, you will always have jerks, but we need to address those jerks, not paint an entire community, race, gender, or creed as terrorists, sexists or misogynists.
Of course people will get upset at this and say a lot of awful things about me, my opinion, my gender or my race. Or they might not. Only a few people may read this and they might all agree, I don’t know. I do want to say though, I know not everyone that wants this conversation thinks the entire community is garbage, but some do. It’s countless, the number of times I’ve seen people post how awful the tabletop community is, or gaming, or nerds, geeks, comic fans, etc. Not some, not a few, the community in general. Equally countless are the posts, comments and articles I see online about how it’s exclusively a male/cis/white thing, as if no one else in the world is capable of being a jerk. You want an honest conversation about this? Let’s start by treating each other like the community we are.
Like I said up front, I thought about this article for awhile, closed this post once, considered walking away from it all together because I know it would be easier. I was worried that people I know might take this as a response to something they’ve said or posted, when it’s not. Whether you take me seriously or not, yes I considered it easier to remain silent than to speak up. I know some people think that’s great, because it means I feel like they’ve been feeling, but I like to think the majority of our community is not that vindictive. We’ve gotten to a point in this discussion where it’s easier to not question everything, where people literally use the phrase listen and believe unironically. We’ve gotten to the stage where people who do speak up like this are accused of just wanting to keep things the same, when anyone who knows me can tell you I don’t want to keep anyone out of this community. But, I know to a few none of that matters.
I want an honest conversation. I want one that accepts all voices. I want one that doesn’t call people white terrorists, or uses race, gender, or charged buzzwords at all. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until someone convinces me otherwise; geekdom is one of the most tolerant, accepting, inclusive, and loving communities out there. Of course we have our dark spots, but I vehemently reject the notion that terrorism comes anywhere near being a reasonable comparison.