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When Conventions Choose Business Over Ethics

By now, most people are aware of the backlash in Hollywood over decades of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Social media is littered with #MeToo, bringing new awareness to a campaign started a decade prior by Tarana Burke for women of color.

As we’ve made clear before, you cannot separate geekdom from the real world, so it shouldn’t be shocking that similar allegations exist in our world of fantasy and escape. From RPG designers and CEOs to comic editors and writers, there are geek “celebrities” now facing repercussions for their behavior.

Unlike Hollywood, however, fandom itself doesn’t seem to be getting the hint about what’s happening. While the industries are divorcing themselves from the individuals, conventions have been wary to cut off guests that might bring them business.

When North Texas RPG Con was repeatedly e-mailed about their choice to host Frank Mentzer and Bill Webb, despite allegations and current events, they doubled-down on some their mental gymnastics.

“I don’t care if a member of ISIS or the most wanted person in a America comes to the Con, as long as they are there to game, and everything is about gaming.”

The full response goes even further, suggesting these behaviors are able to be ignored in the name of “fun”. No matter how heinous or illegal the guests’ actions, everyone should turn a blind eye and keep politics out of the fandom.

Worse, others are defending this convention’s practices. They argue that “blackballing” is inappropriate and demand precise lines be drawn about what is (or isn’t) acceptable from a guest.

One member of GamesFest in Hertfordshire, UK even went as far as to suggest these allegations are just “disagreements on social media” and to allow predators and criminals who have “done their time.”

This willful ignorance and continued support for known predators and criminals is precisely the problem with society. By refusing to enact any social consequences for the inappropriate and damaging behavior of these people, the acts and harm continue.

Conventions and organizers like this may not be directly responsible, but they’re complicit in the continuation of misogyny and rape culture. Business over ethics is everything wrong with our world and has no place in a geekdom that supposedly idolizes superheroes and utopian futures.

While the industry is finally making a move to fix their decades (or more) of silence, we need the conventions at the heart of these fandoms to do the same. If a guest has flagrant allegations against them, whether proven or not, then it’s time to step up to the plate and refuse to host them.

Maybe you lose out on some attendees, but I bet you’d gain more respect (and visitors) if you show some consideration and moral compass. Even if the guest turns out to be falsely accused (which, if you haven’t noticed, is rare), then all you did was miss a year.

Please don’t double-down on all the worst mental gymnastics to try and defend hosting sexual harassers, misogynists, and criminals. Now is not the time to play “ignorant moderate” while inadvertently supporting these predators and bigots.

Conventions: Choose your guests wisely and make a stand.

I can guarantee the attendees are doing the same when picking where to spend their money.

About Brook H. (87 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... what hasn't Brook studied. Knowledge is power, which is probably why he ended up with degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology, not to mention majoring in everything from computers to business while working in theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance his children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate (he's HoH himself), lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

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