Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This Whole Convention Harassment Debate

Actually, I want to start with a small but relevant aside.

I'd been exhausted by stories where people threatened to rape somebody for saying something they didn't like. It's been a really long year for that, and lately I just hadn't been clicking on the stories forwarded to me because once you learn the pattern, it's depressingly predictable. I don't open about 75% of "gaming culture" interest articles for this reason.

And then somebody forwarded me this.

While the Zelda stuff is cool, incredibly well drawn, and focused around an already relatively strong (in later games) female character from a property that my mom and I played together when I was a child, what really struck me was "inspired by Anita Sarkeesian's video game tropes".

If you were lucky enough to miss the row, Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist gamer who set up a kickstarter to fund a series of videos talking about tropes in video games that were misogynist, like how frequently they are kidnapped or incapacitated non-playable characters. Sarkeesian's kickstarter was successful, but plagued by criticism like how she was asking a suspiciously high amount to cover production values of a series she was already producing and also how she was a horrible bitch who needed to be raped to death (the latter coupled with denial of service attacks and porn on her wiki page and so on). The bulk of the information available about the project has focused on the harassment campaign, with many people being very excusing of it as "just the way the internet is".

And then this Zelda thing. This thing where somebody opened with "I listened to Anita Sarkeesian and I thought she had a point, so I did something about it." There've been a couple of these- hacks that let you play the Princesses instead of Mario or Link and the like- people doing stuff that's creative, productive, positive, and elegantly brilliant.

And it uplifts my whole soul.

Despite the convention harassment debate following a depressingly similar early trajectory, I have been keeping up with it. If I want to play games, I can play them without interacting with too many of the people online who give the hobby a bad reputation, but writing and meeting other writers is something I want to do at a semi-professional level, and that probably means conventions.

And honestly, I feel good about where it is.

There was a while there where the first women out of the gate to complain about behavior they had experienced got shouted down. The dismissal of  Rebecca Watson (not a sci-fi writer, but the same sort of thing) was particularly ugly. But what started as a trickle turned into this gut-wrenching flood of testimony from women who hadn't previously spoken up because they were afraid they'd cut themselves off from careers, because people around them told them it was somehow their fault- or they did speak up and nothing was done. It got too big to ignore, and for the most part- and this is what's important here- everyone I've seen has said "this is a thing we should not allow to happen." Almost nobody anymore is saying "maybe it's just all in their heads".

And instead of spending time arguing whether people (both male and female, which is a point I've seen made multiple times in the last few days) attending conventions have a right to expect not to be stalked, grabbed, and harassed, people are posting information about how to report. People are posting about how to organize conventions to avoid this while keeping the environment fun for people. Big name authors like Scalzi are pledging not to attend any conventions that don't have a clear harassment policy and information about how to report.

People are past the stage of complaining, and they're in the stage of doing. Of fixing.

It's very easy to feel like standing up and saying something is wrong isn't worthwhile. It opens you up to attack, it can cut off avenues to reach your dreams. But stuff like the above gives me a lot of hope, because people aren't just speaking into an angry, hostile void. People really are listening, and at least some of them are going to pick up the tools they have at hand and build a better world.

And that's fucking beautiful. 

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