Saturday, 9 April 2016

A Grown Up Subject

I've thought about writing this blog quite a bit this week. You see in respect of the subject matter those who need to read it and take notice won't. Those who don't need to will read it and it will make no difference to them. Then again, as Edmund Burke said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

Whilst I wouldn't claim to be a particularly good man I hope I am not evil, and so I think I'll have my say.

Just under a week ago a long term wargaming ex-serviceman friend of mine shared a link to a Tumblr blog posting, entitled "Tabletop Wargaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem". And there, I've just lost all those who need to read further. For those of you who haven't read it the posting documents the relentless sexual harassment that a female games shop employee and game hobbyist in Canada has suffered in over a decade of being part of the hobby. In Canada. Home of nice people.

Okay, get this straight. This wasn't just about sexism but about sexual harassment as well. Sexual harassment that involved the physical assault on a fellow human being. If you don't think that's wrong you need to crawl back into your cave and never come out in polite society again.

Being in the 50+ bracket I realise that I'm part of the problem to some extent. Things that were acceptable when I was growing up are now recognised as being completely unacceptable. Attitudes change as we become better people. If you want another example in the way attitudes change don't forget that in the 18th century it was a status symbol to own slaves, now we realise that it isn't.

HOWEVER I've spent 30+ years working in the financial services business and I have had my fair share of diversity training. I know it is traditional to poke fun at these courses and waffle on about "political correctness gone mad" but if you could just hear what some people say during them you know there are people who have a problem. Political Correctness is about respecting people who are different and not discriminating against them because they are different. Most "isms" are about the exercise of power over those who don't have it. Bear that in mind when some Daily Mail reader, who has never faced  real discrimination in his life, goes off on one.

The reaction to the original blog has been varied, but there are two aspects of it I want to address here. These can be summed up as follows:

1) It's happening in RPGs/Board Gaming. I do xyz gaming, it's not happening there.
2) I've never seen it, so it's not happening.

So, point 1. I'd regard myself as a historical wargamer who occasionally dabbles in RPGs and board games. I know people who only do historical games and there are people who only do RPGs or board games. The hobby isn't homogeneous but there's a lot of crossover. We all go to the same shows/conventions and we mostly frequent the same shops. Hobby magazines mostly cover all aspects of the hobby. If there's a problem in one area of the hobby, it's quite likely (if not a racing certainty) that its in all the other areas too. Why? Because generally speaking all aspects of the non-computer wargaming hobby are patronised overwhelmingly by the same demographic. Yes, there are women who game, but they are not, in wargaming terms "the other half of the sky". Not by a long, long, way. If there's a problem with those who play RPGs, there's a problem with those who do miniatures gaming. Taking extremes into account a lot of people dress the same and shower with the same degree of regularity. It's not a great stretch to assume that they share the same set of social mores or attitudes towards women.

The second point is just facile. A lot of people have called the woman concerned a liar or a fantasist based on this position. Right, let's try to put this into words the hard of thinking might get their heads round. Just because I haven't seen it doesn't mean it isn't happening. When I got bullied at school the perpetrators made sure no one else saw it, - or at least no one else who'd be brave enough to stand up and do something about it. Many, many, years ago I worked in a team where we had a problem. We knew we had a problem but you just couldn't nail down the evidence. People moved on for other reasons, the problem went away. I deeply regret now I didn't do more at the time.

This is happening,  - believe it. If it happens in the work place where it is a manager's job to stamp it out, be sure it's happening in the hobby arena as well. So, instead of saying "I haven't seen it, it isn't happening", say "When I see it, I will challenge this type of behaviour". Do not blend in with the crowd and snigger along with the rest of them.

Of course it might be that the people concerned think the behaviour is acceptable. Well it isn't. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

The original post that kicked this off is here: White Male Terrorism Post. If you haven't read it, you should.

44 comments:

  1. As the father of a daughter and grandfather of two granddaughters who
    all game, this was a hard read.

    I did read the latter as well, very troubling.

    There is no excuse for such dehumanizing behavior of another, those who do so should be shunned and prosecuted.

    That said, as the old expression goes
    eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, we all need to be watchful...

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    1. I was going to mention that I have a daughter who likes board games and goes to games evenings, but then I thought that this should offend me whether I have a daughter or not.

      I'm sure she can look after herself (after all she teaches maths in a secondary school in a less than affluent area) but it shouldn't even be a consideration.

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  2. I have just read the original post as well as yours. I do not know what to say or think...
    There is no excuse/justification for such behaviour ever/anywhere/any time!
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

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    1. when I read the original blog for the first time I was left speechless too.

      It's bad enough if this type of thing happens at work, but when you are out enjoying your hobby it seems even more wrong.

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  3. Some males are still living with a 1950s mentality, and I'm sure that certain aspects of the internet industry have something to do with it. I don't know the answer, but regret the situation.

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    1. The answer is to stand up and be counted when you encounter this type of behaviour. Also, spread the word, share the links and fight for a better world.

      This is one of those occasions when internet traffic volume can help as well as what you do with your purchasing power.

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  4. Good for you mate - well done>

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    1. Compared with what the Canadian woman has done, I've done nothing.

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  5. I'm speechless , I had no idea this sort of thing happened in our hobby - the sad thing is none of the men (?) involved seem to realise what they are doing is wrong and immoral - so sad , Tony

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    1. I think it might be a case of you don't want to believe it could, but wargaming is a microcosm of society and will exhibit all the bad as well as all the good in us.

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  6. Let's get a sense of perspective here. What ever may or may not have taken place in these reported incidents is nothing to do with the hobby of wargaming. Lots of people in the world exhibit views and behaviours that we may not agree with - and don't for a minute suggest that this is somehow the sole preserve of white males. Their particular "interest group" is irrelevant - they could equally well be tiddlywinks players, allotment gardeners, flower arrangers or ballroom dancers. I very strongly resent being labelled a sexist, racist, potential rapist simply because I have an interest in military history and miniature figures. By all means, beat yourselves up, but don't drag me into your guilt trip.

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    1. Jeremy,

      Thanks for your comment as it gives me a chance to address a few things I missed out in the original post.

      1) Is it all true? Well, we know that the woman concerned won the sexual harassment case against her employer in the biggest payout ever in her state. So of the allegations that can be tested they have been shown to be found in her favour.

      2) It is true that a lot of people show behaviours we may not approve of. I struggle to think of a circumstance where prolonged sexual harassment can be regarded as something we should accept. It may not be the sole preserve of white males, but tabletop gaming is largely the pursuit of white males, and this activity is present amongst the community. It is unlikely to be perpetrated by people who do not fall within our predominant demographic.

      3) I don't know whether or not our particular interest group in this respect is relevant or not. I'm inclined to think it is for reasons I won't go into here. The point is that I can't do anything about sexual harassment amongst flower arrangers as it isn't something I do. Wargaming is and I can.

      3) I'm not branding you a sexist or a potential rapist. In the same way that not all football fans are racists, but it doesn't stop the FA running the "Kick it out" campaign.

      4) I'm not asking you to feel guilty. I'm asking you stand up and object if you see behaviour amongst other members of the wargaming community which is unacceptable.

      Thanks once again for giving me the opportunity to make these extra points.

      Trebian

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  7. I don't see this as anyone being labeled anything; it's about despicable behavior on the part of some hobbyists. It's certainly true that such behavior is not limited to gamers, far from it. The issue for me is, as was originally stated, whether to assume it does not exist simply because I haven't seen it, or that I'm not guilty of it myself. (In this sense, it's similar to the delusion that racism is no longer a problem; the perspective of the victims is rather the more relevant.)

    And for what it's worth, no, I have not personally witnessed behavior like this myself. However, in Don Featherstone's book, Complete Wargaming, there is an article he wrote some years ago about how unpleasant a woman was who attended some meetings of the local club. I must confess it made me cringe a bit. If it were a man who behaved like this, the rest of us would be inclined to simply consider him alone to be a jerk; he would not be generalized as being representative of other males in the hobby. Inasmuch as women ARE rather rare, there is the danger of regarding one member of the minority group to be typical of the rest. I'm not suggesting this is a conscious act, it's just an unfortunate habit of thought many of us have without realizing it.

    Chris Johnson

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    1. I fully endorse your sentiments i the first paragraph.

      As to the Don's objectionable woman, I can't say I've read that bit of that book. I can say that of all the women I've come across who board game or wargame I can't think of any of them who were or are objectionable.

      As for the blokes....

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  8. Hi. I've seen these allegations before. I *think* they them from a game store in Winnipeg where a female clerk took a manger to court over wages and working conditions. Since then the allegations seem to be magnifying. I have no idea who the aggrieved parties are, but the story has shown up in social media posts from time to time.

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    1. Yes, it is the Woman from Winnipeg.

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  9. Yep. The human rights awtd and key on are from Winnipeg:
    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/taking-a-stand-against-abuse-284204591.html
    Why would anyone bother to keep pursuing contact with these same sort of people?
    I solo game, have so for years.

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    1. Thanks for posting the link.

      I do a bit of solo gaming, but mostly I like to meet other people whilst gaming. Nearly all of my friends I have met through wargaming, and genertally I think wargamers are decent, interesting & amusing people (see my blog post on whether or not wargamers are boring).

      One of the things that upsets me about this is that it tarnishes something I value a lot.

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  10. Sorry for the bad grammar. My android spell checker is awful.

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    1. No worries. The contribution is what is important.

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  11. I have not read the orgigonal but to be frank I'm not surprised. Over the years I've met some truly awful people in this hobby- though very much in the minority.
    Closet Nazis and racists are the obvious ones- using their "hobby" to be an extension of their "beliefs" and making all the usual excuses. That some others will wish to score points is equally unsurprising. Whwe something nasty is discovered someone always wants to shout Yah boo sucks look at them ! Thats how we get from "Unpleasant mannerless bastards" to "White male terrorists" .The first being obvious the second PC hyperbole.
    As Doug says - why would you go near these braindead scum. One of the reasons our group is "closed"- ie membership by invitation is to filter that kind of shyte.

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    1. Yes, the closet or not so closet Nazi is always deeply unsettling.

      Our local group is also "closed" although not deliberately. Invitation only is the rule as it meets in my shed.

      This mainly applies to public wargaming areas like shops and shows.

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  12. Later I've now read the piece- If true its shocking - adn we have only the piece to judge- this kind of stuff is not merely a gaming problem but all of life.
    Sad middle aged gits who are frustrated is not merely a gaming problem. That others- hearing this- allow it to happen is the most appalling part.

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    1. As said above we know some of it is true because she won the case.

      In the UK I think we should be more inclined to believe the victim after the whole Saville thing. In this case she has already won, so what is the point in her dragging out awkward personal stuff after the case is settled?

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    2. It is now fashionable to wave your dirty laundry in public. It seems to accentuate your victim status.
      In this case- nasty though it is I still don't see how we get from individual nasty bastard to gamers are "white male terrorists".

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    3. Her blog entry would say it is more than one nasty bastard. I take your point on the use of the word "terrorism", but then I suppose that no one would read a blog headed "Some people aren't very nice". It's a polemic and she uses inflammatory language to make a point.

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  13. I'm also minded of another of Burke's bon mots
    "The more I see of men, the more I like dogs"

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  14. ??Now I'm confused??
    http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/human-rights-commission-hands-down-biggest-award-in-manitoba-history-1.1255489
    Instead of a hobby store it was a bar?
    "Emily Garland was awarded $7,750 after a frequent customer allegedly made inappropriate jokes, touched her and talked about rape. Garland worked at Grape and Grain from January 2009 until May 2010, when she was fired."
    ???!!!???

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    1. The location was GameKnight, which can clearly be seen next door. The two businesses are owned by the same bloke, Scott Tackaberry. Don't know why the court case is against the Bar, - probably something to do with the ownership structure. Emily Garland worked in GameKnight.

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  15. Really shocking to read the original. I am relieved to say I don't think anything I've seen or heard has been anywhere near as bad as 90% of what she talks about experiencing.

    That however is about as positive a spin as I can take from it. It is the case that the hobby is older, white male dominated (I'm one) and that their all too freely expressed views, in my experience, are frequently objectionable and occasionally, literally, criminal.

    It saddens me that the only way I can get to enjoy the hobby is to associate with them. Otherwise it's solo gaming which I am afraid doesn't work for me. However such associations poison the experience and ensure that I do not participate fully - lest I end up in conversation with some of them rather than simply playing the game.

    I try registering disbelief or disagreement with irony or ridicule but this seems largely ineffective.

    Ah well, you were right to say it. Just a pity it makes me miserable to hear it.
    Cheers

    Andrew

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    1. I think you should try, even if you feel you are having little effect.

      I agree that sometimes you hear people say things at shows and you think "Did I really just hear that?" however it is wrong to let those with objectionable views drive you out of a hobby you love.

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  16. It isn't just our hobby either I have come across this sort of behaviour in other areas too. Not just from older white men either. Its as much a symptom of a lack of education and wide ranging experience of the world as anything else. But just like Trebian I agree that we have to make our opinions clear to anyone who openly expresses sexist or racist opinions.

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    1. Agreed the issue isn't unique to wargaming. I don't think anyone has claimed it is. A lot of those who have objected to what Emily Garland has written have used that line of argument. They don't seem to understand, like you point out, that it's irrelevant that we aren't unique.

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  17. This story has totally passed me by, but thank you for posting it.

    Reading her story made me feel guilty, and it's not the ritual white-man guilt that I'm supposed to suffer from. (I don't, by the way.) It's the guilt that claws its way through my insides when it dawns on me that men of similar age, education and social conditioning could even begin to think that such behaviour is OK. It leaves me both stunned and diminished.

    And angry. To those that claim "it couldn't happen here", you surely know that such comments are part of the problem. "It damn well won't happen here" starts to take us down the right road.

    I worked in financial services for a long time and always imposed my "Granny test" on the product designers. "Would you be happy for someone to sell this product to your Granny? Discuss." It was powerful, if not always perfect.

    So in the same vein; "would you be happy to explain to your mother why you chose not to intervene when you saw her grandchildren being exploited by some sleazeball?". Good luck living with yourself if you get that one wrong.

    It's not about rolling eyes at PC comments; it's about sticking up for someone who needs your help. It's basic decency; civilised behaviour. Surely we're human beings first, and wargamers a distant second?

    *climbs down off his soapbox*

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    1. Quite so. This is nothing to do with PC or not PC. As you say "It's basic decency".

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  18. Rather than characterise this story as a guilt trip, it seems to me to be more helpful to understand that the first stage to solving a problem is to acknowledge that one may exist. The problem ceases when the person whom it affects acknowledges that it is no longer a problem.

    Regards, Chris.

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  19. My sister (age 22) is a gamer, and is in fact an event organizer for her local gaming store, and I hear similar stories from her about white male gamers in their 50s causing problems for female gamers, for gamers of color, and for younger gamers. These guys don't seem to realize that their exclusionary, bullying, unsavory behaviors will result in their hobby dying with them. Fortunately, I think some game store owners are starting to wise up and realize that losing a generation of customers to please the old guard is bad for business - a shame that it takes a hit in the wallet to make change sometimes, but so be it - and are starting to police these behaviors.

    My sister witnessed a white male gamer in his 50s harassing an African-American female gamer in her early 20s who was refereeing her first game. She intervened and asked the man to leave her alone, he complained to the store management - and the store owner asked him to leave and not come back. I hope this becomes more widespread.

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    1. That's both depressing (because of the reported harassment) and heartening (because of people standing up) at the same time.

      Good for your sister.

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  20. Sadly, it's too true. I have played RP, board games and wargames for 40 odd years and even now, 2016, I have seen guys behaving unacceptably. Having a daughter who plays similarly, I have been acutely aware of the way some guys come on to women (who are generally in a definite minority) in games shops and clubs. Not good enough guys. (1) There is a standard of acceptable behaviour which, by the way, includes taking a shower and wearing a clean t-shirt (2) How are we to encourage women to join and play if we scare them off and (3) How would you react if it was your sister/child who was the subject of attention? As for store managers/more senior adult males in clubs - it's your job to ensure that this does not happen or is curtailed as soon as it's spotted. If necessary kick the offender out for a few sessions and if they don't get the message, permanently with a warning of passing their info on to interested parties. There is no room for this behaviour anywhere!

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    1. It's brilliant that more support and, alas, evidence, is coming out supporting Emily Garland's position.

      I thought long and hard before writing this piece as I wasn't sure if it belonged on what is generally a fun to wargame blog. Happily most of the comments have been supportive and I've only lost one follower.

      Quite right in all you say about what can be done.

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  21. Thank you for posting this here. I'd read the original piece and found it surprising but believable. There have been some articles recently about the experiences of women in sport, particularly football, which were full of similar experiences so I think this is part of a wider problem in many activities which are/have been largely male dominated.

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    1. You are right about the original article. Doubts about its general veracity are dispelled by comments like those of Bill above.

      Today is Salute. Hopefully people will be coming home with tales of what a female friendly environment it was, with no diversity issues at all.

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