The Hated Ones: We Just Wanna Have Fun

As I settle in for a cup of tea and a good old fashion hate-watching of Fifty Shades of Grey, I'm absolutely shocked and appalled and genuinely disturbed by what's happening in the gaming community just North of our town of Toronto. While I had no intention of getting involved, shit happens. Two years ago I got involved when asked about safety tools and making a con inclusive. Several women organizers spoke up. We were told to tone it down, we were dismissed, and we were shouted down by con attendees who hated the idea of changing their ways to accommodate a safer space.

Silenced, we women departed. Until a lovely person wrote an article about the sexism she experienced at this convention. The con organizer posted it to the group (which was awesome) and then promptly everything fell apart. The behaviours from 2016 happened again. Deleting of messages that weren't supportive of the con. 24 hour banning of those who were saying harassment was happening. Silencing. We were beginning to give up. The organizer walked away until today, letting the group go wild in his absence.

Since Thursday I've been shouted down, dismissed, invalidated, gaslight, and cred checked by the organizer. A close friend is receiving rape and death threats. The women, trans, and enby folks who are speaking out are being yelled at. Deadnaming was called "bickering" by the organizer. The people who are shouting down the minorities are being listened to, while those of us who tried to calmly explain how to make the con more inclusive can't fight anymore. I spoke calmly and was ignored. I told the organizer to own his complicity in this and was told I was wrong. I explained to the organizer how deleting posts supports abuse and was ignored. I told him he was dismissive, and he told me I was wrong and my perception of it was wrong.

It's still on going, and it's a pile of flaming trash. The organizer had made it expressly clear that he doesn't value inclusivity, to the point where regular attendees are even asking what the hell he's thinking. He hasn't owned any of his behaviour, hasn't apologized for silencing or gaslighting or invalidating the women, trans, and enby folks on there. He's just said he's going to make posters of their harassment policy. That's it.

I wish this was surprising. I wish I could say "this doesn't happen anymore!" and yet here I am, still making posts about how cons are failing everyone who isn't a straight white man. I've made several on how to make your con better, more welcoming to women (because let's face it, I'm just a white woman, I can't speak to anything else), and how to be less sexist. I don't think it's hard, but I'm baffled at why this little con from a little town in Ontario is digging in its heels and using all its willpower to play the "poor me" card instead of owning its problems.

What honestly surprises me most is just how much gaming culture reminds me of Fifty Shades of Grey. The more I watch this, and Ana (the main woman) is sucked into the abusive world of Christian Grey (the main dude), who offers her a contract for the supposedly consensual abuse she's about to receive, and she wants to edit it and refuse it but still wants to be in his world, the more and more I'm realizing the social contract of gaming doesn't want to be edited. Or voided. It expects us, the women, the trans, the enbies, the disabled, the queer, the People of Colour, to sign it. It wants us to buy in to the abuse.

Ana opens the door to Grey's torture room and is scared. Hell, she jokes he's a serial killer at one point and is actually afraid of this guy. But she's fucking him. And she's sleeping in his house. And she's playing his games where she can't touch him and she can't love him but he can do whatever he wants. He makes her sign a non-disclosure agreement so she can't talk about it. She just wants to be liked for who she is. She wants to be loved. She doesn't get why he says he cares and then wants to actually hurt her. It confuses her. But she's supposed to submit to the abuse to please him. And if she follows the rules, she gets rewarded. If she doesn't? Punishment.

The social contract of gaming states that I should go to games, I should let the casual sexism just keep happening so I don't make waves, and I should be nice and pleasant about the sexism I do encounter. Silence is where I should live, unless I'm behaving like "ones of the boys" and playing the game the way they want. I'm not supposed to push back. I'm supposed to be okay with women sexily draped on the cover of game books, of people hitting on me, of people getting in my space, of women being kidnapped and raped at conventions, of accepting unwanted touch, and of being called a girl, hysterical, bitch, whore, slut, and anything else I am going to be called for being woman.

I'm supposed to play by these rules so that I'll be liked and loved. If I try to push against the contract, I get punished with harassment and abuse. Or name calling. Or public shaming. Or doxxing. Or threats. I'm the problem. I'm doing all the wrong things. I'm demanding a voice when I shouldn't have one. I demanding recognition of harm. I'm demanding that people own their shit. And I'm demanding that my ability, my knowledge, and my self be worth respecting and being valued. This is all worthy of metaphorical Christian Grey punishment.

And why? Because I'm ruining someone's fun. 

Time and time again I see posts about how we're all just here to have fun. Why do I need to make it serious? Why bring the real world with me when we're just here to escape the real world? How dare I say a safety tool will make things better when it could ruin someone's game? It's a game! It's about fun! It's not about my SJW thoughts or my poor triggered self or my hysterical needs in a game! It's about good, old fashioned, dice rolling fun.

Y'know what's not fun? Sitting down a table and being told to let the real gamers play because you're a woman. Sitting down at a table and having someone detail how hot their woman elf character is and how much her boobs bounce around. Sitting down at a table and being given a character who's dressed in tin foil that literally falls of every time you move. Sitting down at a table where the GM describes every woman as sexy and in detail. Sitting down at a table where you are talked over and ignored. Sitting down at a table where your character is raped. Sitting down a table where someone wants to rape you.

It's almost like we're people from the real world sitting at a table with other real people who have real life opinions on my role as a woman in society and especially in a game. Real world views, like sexism, follow us into our fiction. We have hundreds of years of sexism and racism and ableism and queerphobia and transphobia coming to the table with us. All of those -isms and phobias are absolutely zero fun. No fun. They're upsetting, traumatizing, abusive, and horrific. They're everywhere. They're not stopping and if you're not fighting them, you're probably allowing them to happen.

How many times have we sat a table and watched something uncomfortable happen? Instead of calling it out, we let it slide. We don't want to be the person at the table who causes an issue because then we're going to be the one ruining the fun. Despite the fact that the shitty thing happening is ruining our fun and someone else's fun. Most of the time we don't even know what to do. Do we tell someone? Who do we tell? What if they're a guy and you're uncomfortable because it was a guy who just harassed you? What if they're not around? What if they're busy? What if they don't believe you? What if?

I know I've sat back and accepted casual sexism because it was the easy road. It usually is. Saying anything invites abuse and harassment for those you're at the table with. So you sit, for four hours, having zero fun and feeling like shit. Why? Because you're not a straight white dude. Because you don't deserve to have fun. Because if you demand to have fun, you're going to be hated and called everything in the book. Because you have no right to demand a safe space for yourself or anyone else.

Ana pushes the boundaries, demanding humanity from her abuser who was raised in a toxic environment that's left him fucked up. As she refuses to accept the contract he puts forth, instead, strives to work with him to make both of them happier, it becomes rampantly clear that my inability to accept the social contract of gaming is going to be a problem. I won't sign it. And so I'll be gaslight, abused, harassed, threatened, and invalidated. I will be cred checked. I will be told my opinion is wrong and that the facts I have are lies. I will be silenced. My voice will mean less than someone else's because I am ruining someone's fun. Gaming doesn't get to be fun for me a lot. Or for a lot of people I know. Because the fun of cis-men is put first. Because we matter less.

When the author wrote her article on her experiences, the first responses were folks being horrified. As the conversation circled around to the fact that people had been asking for change in this con for over two years and they were told to shut up, things escalated. And escalated. And escalated. When women come forward to talk about what's wrong with your convention, there are several things you can do to ensure that you're helping. None of them are abusive.

The first mistake is disbelief. Believe it. It's happening. 

The second? Silencing. Deleting our comments. Banning us. Kicking us out. 

The third is gaslighting. This is telling us that we're wrong, that we remember it wrong, that we're the problem. 

The fourth is defending yourself, your con, or your friends of decades because how dare we suggest they suck or they're harmful or that it's a toxic environment.

The fifth is inaction. Do nothing. Pretend it's fine. Say some platitudes and don't apologize and don't set hard lines. 

If you do any of these, well, you're part of the problem. Do the opposite of each one. Believe us. Listen to us. Welcome our feedback. Incorporate it. Do your research. Learn. Be a positive force for positive change. Get rid of your old habits, see how they're toxic, and really open your heart and mind to hearing what people have to say. Grieve that you're part of the problem and then do better. It's not easy. No one should say it's easy. But the steps are easy to see even though they're hard to follow. It's so much easier to just let us suffer and allow the abuse to keep going.

But like Ana asks Grey point blank before he hurts her too much and she walks out:
 "Why do you want to hurt me?" 

I really can't understand why people are okay with people being hurt and harassed. Why the comfortable means more to them than a person's right to have fun at a game. We just want to have fun. Isn't that obvious? We want to sit down at a table, laugh, roll dice, and have a fan-fucking-tastic time. Why else would we keep coming back? You're one hell of a good fuck, gaming. And yet you're the ones who are stopping us. Your sexism, your hidden problems with women at the table, with anyone at the table that isn't you. With all your isms and all your phobias. You want to have fun? Me too, buddy. Me fucking too.

Shed the dead skin of the social contract. 
Toss it into the fire and burn it.
Let me have some fun.