Founder's Forum: An Update on Gary Con

dreamstime_l_29100647.jpg

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to thank all the people who supported the Boycott of Gary Con over their decision to make Bill Webb one of their special guests. Boycotts continue to be one of the most successful tools in the activism toolbox. Monday, Gary Con made a post indicating Bill withdrew himself from the convention. To find Bill’s statement, though, we had to go deep into the page of Alyssa Faden, who is a cartographer that works with Frog God, and who has also apologized for other well-documented instances of harassment.

We’ve been successful at getting the immediate problem to stay home, but if my tone ‘sounds’ dry and slightly bitter rather than celebratory, it’s because Gary Con allowed Bill to withdraw himself and save face rather than making a bold statement and removing him. Instead of showing their commitment to being a safe, family-friendly place, they decided to tell people that they’re safe and family-friendly. One of those resembles a bunch of words on a web page. The other resembles action. If there was action on the part of Gary Con here, both parties have decided to obfuscate that fact so as to make the fewest amount of people possible have to choose between supporting safety and inclusion and supporting Bill Webb’s drunken escapades.

Speaking of making people choose sides (a ridiculous notion - of course we want people to choose between safety and danger), let’s talk about Bill’s statement. He posted it on Alyssa Faden’s thread. I haven’t found anywhere else it’s been shared. Here’s a screenshot in case it disappears:

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 8.58.36 AM.png

By the way, I attempted to defend myself in Alyssa’s thread, but she removed my comments.

By stating it in this manner, Bill is attempting to divert attention from himself to me, making him just as much a victim as BJ - a move I frankly expected he’d take. With only my voice out there talking about what happened, that move is working. I’ve been waiting for other women to stand up and speak out with me, but they’ve either chosen to do so in private spaces, made promises yet to be filled, dropped me for my negativity, turned a blind eye to the entire thing, or came out in support of Bill. I’ve seen quotes, and heard additional stories about Bill’s unwanted liquor-scented advances, but not publicly, so I can’t share those stories.

There’s so much I could say to the lack of support by women, but I’m going to limit it to two salient points. First, if you pick and choose what activism you engage in, only choosing that which allows you to operate from a place of safety and comfort, you live a life of profound privilege. Queer, trans, black, indigenous, and people of color don’t get to make that choice. Ever. That’s why mental health incidents are much higher in non-white and non-heteronormative populations.

Secondly, Bill isn’t the only man like this in gaming. We all have a story or know someone who has a story of a guy that got a little too grabby after one too many drinks (or sometimes stone cold sober). They pop up all the time anonymously, and there’s a whisper network of who to avoid where and under what conditions. Bill’s antics were well-known. Silence only helps them get away with it. In the end, the decision to act or stay quiet is entirely yours, but please consider stepping out of your place of safety for the sake of all the women yet to experience people like Bill.

There’s much more I could say about Bill’s statement, but unpacking it would take a lot of time I don’t have. This is a classic example of Gaslighting. An attempt by a privileged white man and his cronies to change the narrative into something less damaging. He’d have you imagine the whole thing as an innocent little foible they both would rather forget, but she wasn’t the only woman and this isn’t the only story of Bill losing any sense of professional propriety after spending too much time at the bar.

Bill’s shown no remorse for his actions, and doesn’t think his lengthy, repeatedly-rebuffed attempts at getting women alone are cause for alarm. He’d rather we all just shut up about it so he can keep doing it. He didn’t stop hitting the bar after doing so got him in trouble, with people reporting to me that at Gary Con 2018, Bill spent much of his time walking the convention in his bathrobe, acting intoxicated. Nothing screams “family-friendly” like that!

Gary Con’s response to the boycott was, frankly, tepid and predictable. I suspect it wasn’t a decision Bill came to by himself. This is the time-honored tradition of white men helping other white men out of a jam by allowing them to save face by exiting themselves, and in so doing get the last word. We’ve seen it happen over and over and over and over and over again. It would’ve been remarkable had Gary Con decided to break that pattern and take a stand for the safety of their guests over the comfort of a known harasser. Would’ve been. Unfortunately, they chose the safe way out and stuck to the script.

I’ve been asked if the boycott is over because Bill’s now gone as a special guest, and the answer is an emphatic ‘no’. The boycott may be specifically about Bill Webb, but it’s also about whether or not Gary Con is a safe place for anyone not white, not male, and not heteronormative. Based entirely on Gary Con’s complete lack of action, their weak harassment policy which has stronger punishment language for eating outside food than sexually harassing someone, Bill Webb’s attacks on me via his announcement, the continued attacks on me and anyone who supports me by the employees of Frog God Games, and the flood of hate mail, blog posts, and forum posts - most of which contained some form of degrading insult or threat and were written by ‘proud’ Gary Con GMs - the boycott stands. Gary Con continues to be an unsafe space.

Ultimately, as I said before, the decision is in your hands. There are many people out there right now who would have you believe I’m skilled at manipulating masses of people into doing my bidding. I tell you what will help, and you decide whether or not to do it. I don’t want you doing something mindlessly just because I said it. I’ve given you the information, you can go find more for yourself by doing some Google searches… read it all for yourself and come to your own conclusion. Fight in your own way.

In the end, you’re the only person who has to be satisfied with your decision.

Thanks again to those who showed up. You made a difference.

May Your Holidays Be Full of Love,
Stacy Dellorfano
stacy@contessa.rocks

PS: Two things to note. One, you may think our contact form allows you to leave anonymous hate, but we do have your IP address and I will happily report every threat directly to your ISP or workplace. Two, my pronouns are they/them, and have been for a couple years, now.

Stacy Dellorfano