Founder's Forum: Boycott Gary Con

EDIT (12/15/2018): Since it’s become an issue, please be advised BJ was the one who informed me of the issue, and we’ve talked extensively about how she feels and what happened both during the incident and in the year since. She has given consent for me to use her name. No part of this post indicates you should contact BJ about anything. Your moral and ethical questions are yours to tangle with, leave her be.

EDIT (12/20/2018): I’ve toned down the language I use to describe what happened to BJ at PaizoCon. I recognize that some people equate attack with assault, which wasn’t at all what I was getting at. I consider harassment that doesn’t stop when the person is rebuffed an attack. I realize that some people may not. Mea culpa.

EDIT (12/27/2018): Here’s a follow-up on the whole thing.

Hello good friends,

Over the years, I’ve encountered many questions from white cisgender heterosexual males about what they can do to be better allies (or be allies at all) for the marginalized people in gaming. While most of the time my advice has been something along the lines of ‘find the marginalized people in your life and support their aims at leadership’, today the advice is going to be a lot different and a lot more specific.

This year, Gary Con has included Bill Webb as one of their special guests. Bill is the owner of Frog God Games (full disclosure: I worked for FGG as a contractor on a Swords & Wizardry project a couple years ago), and responsible for allegedly harassing BJ Hensley (one of the only women who owns her own game company) at Paizo Con over the course of a full day just this last year. Since coming out about Bill, people have made her life and her business more difficult by continuously silencing her story, and verbally/digitally attacking her, while Bill has gone on to have a relatively normal life… so much so that he’s being asked to come back to Gary Con! And as if that’s not bad enough, his bio reads:

Bill is a huge proponent of children and women in gaming. Perhaps his best moments have been "when the kids outsmarted me again."

Of course he’s a proponent of women in gaming.

BJ is not the only one he’s allegedly attacked, and I can personally verify the fact that he spends most of his times at cons passing out booze and acting intoxicated. It’s important to realize, when you see these things happen, the person reporting the account isn’t ever the only one targeted. This pattern has been repeated. By inviting him, Gary Con is making the few women that actually go to the convention unsafe.

If we are to put pressure on conventions to not bring in guests that could harm people in our community, we absolutely must have the support and action of our white cisgender heterosexual male friends, partners, and relatives. That means you must be willing to give something up to stand up for your beliefs. Gary Con is inviting dangerous guests and ignoring their female guest’s safety entirely.

Boycott Gary Con

Obviously, this message is intended for people who are intending to go to the convention. Doubly so if you happen to be one of the other special guests. Because Gary Con is attended mainly by white straight men, that means that you have to give up some of your privilege to be an ally, and that’s what being an ally means. You won’t be physically or verbally attacked or harassed. You’ll get to have fun and consider it a harmless bit of alcoholic romping.

In the meantime, because people who sexually harass women seldom stop doing it, the few women who go to the convention are targets of harassment, and may end up in a situation that will alter their lives forever. Like BJ.

To be an ally, you have to give up some of your privilege at times, and this is one of those times. Imagine being a woman trying to decide whether or not she’s going to be safe, or a person of color trying to figure out if they’re going to constantly have to deal with a lot of fragile white people, or a disabled person trying to suss out whether or not they’ll even have access to everything at the convention, or an LGTBQ+ person trying to decide whether or not they’ll have to pass as a straight person.

We rely on a whisper network to get out information because coming out about harassment and attacks can very well lead to a loss of work and, in some instances, blacklisting from the very industry you work in.

Cancel your hotel arrangements, ask for the money you spent on tickets back, write to Gary Con and let them know how you feel about their continued lack of support for marginalized people.

But, Stacy, all of my friends go to Gary Con!

Find another convention to meet at… unless you’re telling us your friends are more important than the safety of every marginalized person who attends. You’re not saying that, are you?

How about I just go so I can tell them to change.

Yeah, lots of people told me that last year. You can see how effective that was just by looking at the guest list this year. Tim Kask and Frank Mentzer have been in trouble with treating women poorly, too, and they’re also both on the list. If all the people who swore to me they were going last year to be part of the change did what they said, it’s pretty apparent it had no effect at all.

If we’re not there, our voices won’t be heard.

Yup. That is completely the point. Your voice is precious and special and worthy of people who deserve it. People who put women in danger wantonly don’t deserve that voice. Not until they change their ways.

But it’s never happened to ME before, and I’ve never seen it.

Unless you have issues with object permanence, it shouldn’t be that difficult to understand people don’t always behave the same way.

Demand more from conventions.

Boycott Gary Con.

Be an ally.

With Solidarity and Love,
Stacy Dellorfano
Founder & CEO, The ConTessa Foundation

Stacy Dellorfano