Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, the largest Canadian-owned pop culture convention, boasts an attendance of over 97,000 as of 2014. And as of yesterday afternoon, they have also been at the center of a harrassment-based media vortex following social media reports that a paying exhibitor was selling #GamerGate merchandise featuring the hashtag and the hate movement’s off-kilter mascot, Vivian James.
#GamerGate, a hashtag coined by Joss Whedon friend Adam Baldwin, is a rallying point for harrassment against outspoken women in video games, including feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, and game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu. While claiming to defend the idea of “ethics in games journalism,” the hashtag has been overtly deployed to harrass, threaten, and humiliate women in the video games industry; this and other bullying incidents have prompted Twitter to revise their anti-harrassment policies.
The recent trend of very public anti-harrassment efforts is a heartening one, and while it hasn’t stopped harrassment altogether, it has bolstered the efforts of vocal female creators and anti-bullying allies. As more organizations codify their policies of inclusion, public spaces have become safer for outspoken women in traditionally male spaces, and reinforce the need for industry support of underrepresented groups. Via Calgary Expo’s Twitter account:
— Calgary Expo (@Calgaryexpo) April 17, 2015
Here’s my slow clap:
And yet, as all women in nerd space know, this victory could be a Pyrrhic one. #GamerGate allies are busily spinning the situation as an anti-women censorship effort on the hashtag #ExpoGate. The Honey Badger Brigade, an MRA-sympathetic group, raised over $9,000 to “infiltrate” Calgary Expo (link concealed via donotlink), and are organizing via Reddit and other social media outlets to gain sympathy for a discriminatory cause.
Women, especially marginalized nerd women, can and should speak up for their own rights. According to Calgary Expo’s anti-harrassment policy:
The Comic & Entertainment Expo Committee does not tolerate harassment of any type at any of its events. Harassment can take many forms. It may be, but is not limited to, words, signs, offensive jokes, cartoons, pictures, posters, e-mail jokes or statements, pranks, intimidation, physical assaults or contact, or violence.
Calgary Expo staff heard a complaint, then responded quickly and decisively to ensure the safety of its participants. We applaud this action. And we strongly encourage other conventions that promote safe spaces for women to follow this example.