Today at the Calgary Expo an exhibitor was removed for no solid reason that we can find yet. The Honey Badger Brigade is a self described “collective of artists, techies and frothing lunatics that spawns radio shows, podcasts, animations, illustrations, comedy, comics, fiction and other brainchildren.” They profess to support issues that are under-reported regarding male victims of rape, abuse, veterans affairs and custody issues. They also support free expression in art and media, and ironically as they were being excluded from a convention that professes to support inclusion, their poster supporting free speech was prominent in social media.
I say the reasons aren’t solid because this is the only statement I was able to get Calgary Expo to commit to.
I was unable to obtain any clarification about what policy was violated. Unfortunately that left me having to make some guesses as to the reasons, based on a deleted tweet that you can see here. The tweet links to an article claiming that a #GamerGate group was planning to infiltrate the expo and cause issues. My opinion that this is their reason is further cemented by the Calgary Expo twitter account stating that the joke was in fact the Honey Badger’s words. They were the exhibitor’s words but when you read them below hopefully you’ll see the problem as I did. I can only speculate at the reason for the first tweet being deleted, I, and several others commented that it could question the convention’s bias since they were talking about investigating the matter at the time as well. One would think looking into something as serious as harassment would require a certain level of impartiality that would be suspect if they were already sharing an article accusing the Honey Badgers of ‘infiltrating to disrupt’ the con.
@Torchiest That was actually the exhibitors own words.
— Calgary Expo (@Calgaryexpo) April 17, 2015
Now far be it from us to question someone’s ability to process humor, but in our humble opinion the click-bait sites that ran these stories as all of this was happening, and everyone that swallowed it wholesale needs to work on their reading comprehension. Here are the words of the Honey Badgers that were so completely misunderstood.
In April of this year, the Honey Badgers plan to put on a booth at the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo!
We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own. Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware. Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way.
That’s it folks. As men’s issues advocates and defenders of creator’s rights to create unmolested, that’s what we have to say to the nerds and geeks and gamers.
You are fantastic as you are, carry on.
Yep, in today’s political climate that’s considered an extremist position. Just letting creative communities create; consumers consume what they want; and gamers get down to the business of vidya without being judged.
So if you share our vision of a world in which nerds and geeks and gamers roam free and unfettered, help us spread that message by throwing a few shekels our way to attend the con.
People actually used this to claim they were fake gamer girls intent on causing disruption and strife. One look at their site and, while you may not like the politics, there is no question they are fans of the genres that are covered by such a convention. If you aren’t sure, wonder if they actually caused a disruption, they recorded the panel they attended and are accused of disrupting. The ‘offending’ question is around 18:30 as best I can tell, but I listened to the entire thing and can’t for the life of me find where they disrupted anything. You decide, please don’t take my word for it.
It is absolutely worth noting that the panelists did answer the questions presented, there was no sense that the Honey Badgers were unwelcome at this point. We have no idea if the panel had anything to do with them being kicked out, but it is one of the popular ideas being pushed by detractors of the exhibitors and the click-bait sites that wrote about it earlier. So far we have yet to be able to pin down exactly why there were kicked out. Some allege that there were accusations of harassment, but we haven’t seen anything on that.
In a recently released statement the Honey Badger Brigade gives a brief summary of events of the morning they were kicked from the con. The part that still rings so ‘off’ for me is this.
Security staff approached the HBB booth, ordered us to leave, and refused to state the reason why unless Alison Tieman agreed to speak to them away from the other members of the group, without recording. They informed Alison that they had received complaints on social media, including 25 allegations of harassment. No evidence was presented, no request was made for information from HBB, and no specific incident was cited until further questions were asked of security.
I don’t know about anyone else but when I’m in a strange city (I’ve never been to a different country, I can only imagine) the last thing I want is to be separated from the only people I know. I don’t know why security would do that unless they wanted to put someone off their guard. It may have just been poor judgement but it really has the feel of intimidation rather than asking someone to leave and explaining why…which was eventually done. I won’t quote their entire press release, but security cites the panel linked above, which was clearly not in any way a disruption as far as I can tell. I asked the Honey Badgers a few questions and Alison was fantastic enough to take the time to respond.
F&B: If Alison can comment (I wasn’t sure, when I sent this, if it would actually be Alison answering the emails), was it threatening to be asked to be separated from the only people she knew in a strange city and country? It just seems strange they would ask that unless it was a tactic to put someone off balance.
Alison: I think I was in shock a bit when it happened so I don’t know if I can completely articulate what I felt and I often have some difficulty doing that at the best of times. But yes it was intimidating, which is why I asked for my husband to come with me at least. There were four people who came to evict us, including Shayne Henkleman, a female con organizer I couldn’t identify and two security staff.
Later on while we were disassembling our booth I noticed that another female con organizer and the security staff were laughing. At that point I think it hit me what was happening and I started to cry because I felt so isolated, humiliated and targeted. So I guess you could say I was emotionally impacted.
I didn’t think it would happen because I thought the Calgary Expo staff would be committed to letting everyone speak, not just one side. I didn’t submit a panel because I thought we were too small audience wise to warrant that kind of attention. Plus a panel creates a very hierarchical atmosphere with one group talking down to the audience. In fact the CalEx was the first time I’ve ever been at a con where non-guest panelists were not just behind a table but also several feet above the ground as well. I thought that was odd considering the small size of the rooms some panels were held in. It definitely created an intimidating, hierarchal atmosphere.
I figured we’d have some interesting debates at the booth but that it wouldn’t go further than that. I didn’t realize that the expo staff were politically aligned with the people who oppose gamergate themselves.
F&B: There were rumors the group was belligerence when asked to leave. Was there anything that happened that might have given credence to that rumor?
Alison: All I can say is that if what we did at the panels was considered harassment then I don’t know what belligerent means to the people involved either. So I can’t comment.
F&B: There is rumor that gender was an issue in your group’s removal. How would you address that to fans and detractors alike?
Alison: In terms of gender being an issue; I think being a female member of gamergate as well as an advocate for men’s issues was a problem to them. I think ultimately it comes down to an issue of perspective also; I don’t have an easy time adopting gender typical traits like seeing myself in terms of being a victim–which seems to be how we define femininity in many respects. So when I go to a panel with gender typical women who are able to see themselves as victims readily, I feel alienated by the lack of my voice and what I feel is a recognition of my lived experience as someone with a far higher than normal threshold to view herself as a victim of some circumstance or another. I need a rational explanation to accept that notion because it doesn’t make sense to me immediately.
F&B: At this time has Calgary Expo offered, or have you asked for a refund, even partially?
Alison: At this time the Calgary Expo has not offered any reimbursement.
F&B: Do you plan to attend other cons, and if so is there anything you would do differently next time?
Alison: I think the only thing I could do differently is be a different person with a different lived experience.
I thank the Honey Badgers Brigade, and Alison, for taking the time to talk to our little webzine. I reached out to the Calgary Expo for further comments but all they offered was the official statement I shared above. I had hoped to get the exact policy infraction the HBB is alleged to have violated but it seems it will remain as vague as the statement. We will keep you posted if more develops, and a possible look into links between groups involved if anything substantial presents itself. As the HBB have all said on social media, do go to the Expo, do not punish the other exhibitors, if you go in protest, be safe, be legal, and be awesome.