At the Calgary Expo this weekend – a big nerd convention in Canada – Alison Tieman and the Honey Badger Brigade (a Men’s Human Rights and nerd culture group) were thrown out. The reasons given have been rather varied and sometimes contradictory but tend to cluster around a few accusations.
Before getting into that, here’s a little groundwork.
I am commenting on the basis that:
1). One need not agree with someone on everything in order to agree that they have the right to express their opinions.
2). Free expression is a fundamental human right.
3). Truth matters.
4). Private or public, groups, organisations and events should be held accountable for the things that they do when they are unfair or unethical.
I am also commenting on the basis that:
Conventions are part of the lifeblood of the nerd communities. A chance to get together, share concerns and ideas and to argue on important (YMMV) viewpoints from which D&D edition is best to the representation of female characters or those of racial minorities.
That genuine diversity includes a variety of different opinions and that discussion, dissent and argumentation is ultimately the crucible in which good ideas are tested and emerge, improved.
1. The Honey Badger Brigade Disrupted a Panel
You can see (hear) for yourself here that they did not. They politely – even asking if they could speak – dissented from the majority opinion that was present. That’s it. This cannot be a meaningful definition of harassment or disruption.
2. The Honey Badger Brigade Lied and Misrepresented on their Application
As well as being a Honey Badger, Alison is also the creator/owner of her own comic series and artwork. Her comic is Xenospora and I recommend checking it out as it is interesting work.
The purpose of the stall was primarily to sell and promote Alison’s work, but also as a home base for the Honey Badgers who were also helping and supporting her presence there, as well as being present to participate in panels and to hold the banner for Gamergate and Men’s Human Rights.
There is nothing wrong in any of this.
The Badgers have also been up front, obvious and hardly ‘stealthy’ about their intentions or fundraising either and there’s little doubt that someone will have contacted the expo before they even attended to ‘warn’ that they were going to be there, yet they were allowed to book and their money was taken – now effectively stolen.
You can review the openness of the Honey Badger’s efforts at their site, it’s al archived. Here’s the link.
Their passes were even issued under the Honey Badger Brigade name, so there was no duplicity or secrecy involved here.
At the 34 minute mark in the video in this link (not below) there’s details from the show programme and other material that show they weren’t sneaking.
3. They were harassing people.
Not having attended I can’t say whether this is true or not, but the accusations seem linked to the panel non-incident and so this can be considered to be covered under 1. 20+ reports of harassment seems unrealistic and to be brigading.
4. They were selling rape-joke merchandise.
This does’t appear to be true, I don’t think even the meta-rape-joke of Mr Tentacles was present. It appears to be an oblique reference to a particularly uncharitable interpretation of the Vivian James colours of green and purple. You have to be in the know and of a particular mindset to see this as being a rape joke in any way. More information on that can be found HERE.
When you describe your convention as a safe, diverse and equal space but then censor a group whose main reason to be there is to fight censorship and to present more diverse and little-aired opinions, you expose yourself to ridicule and considerable bad publicity. At the very least I would hope a mistake is admitted, Alison’s lifetime ban from all expo events is removed and that the Badgers get their fees back.
Even if you opose their politics and opinions, I think that any genuine, honest person can see that an injustice has occurred here, though it does serve to underline increasingly widespread problems with convention policies.
If you doubt the sincerity of Alison and the others, tell me that again after watching this.
There is a lot of disinformation going around about what happened and if you see more rumours, excuses or relevant info, please inform me in the comments or via Twitter (@grimachu) and I will attempt to cover it with accurate and sourced information, as above.