Like it or not, our community is becoming more diverse as it grows more popular – as active members we need to welcome players from all walks of life. Part of that is admitting that we have a harassment problem and confronting it.
The social media side of tabletop has been buzzing about some incidences of sexual harassment at Origins for the last few weeks. Inappropriate comments and actions were made by several men to several women in attendance, and they were reported. GAMA, who runs the show, put out a statement acknowledging the situation, but have not made any actions they may take available to the public. I’m not going to dig into specifics because while what happened at Origins lead to this article, it’s not what this is about.
What happened at Origins isn’t a one-time occurrence. It’s not the first time, and undoubtedly it will not be the last. Harassment is a problem, the exclusion of players because they’re part of an underrepresented demographic is a problem. What I want to get into is what we – the community, store owners, and event organizers – can do to protect each other, customers, and attendees.
A good harassment policy can curb bad behavior before it starts. I’m going to use Privateer’s policy as my example because it was in place at a recent event, and because it’s good. It’s clear, it’s in plain language, it provides actions that can be taken, and it lists consequences. Store owners and event organizers take note: creating a solid policy isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t have to read like a lawyer drafted it. Your event and/or your store should have one, stop putting it off.
Make your policy easy to find, so everyone knows what is expected. And most importantly: enforce it. If rules aren’t enforced there’s no point in having them. If rules aren’t enforced victims of harassment won’t inform you if something is wrong. The cycle will continue, and part of the player base will continue to feel alienated and unsafe. This is a social, play with people face to face hobby – players should not feel unsafe participating in it.
We talk a lot, as a community, about not being a jerk during a game. That applies to all parts of the hobby. All that’s being asked here is that you not be a jerk. That’s it. Really. You’re at a game store, or a gaming convention – there’s a built-in topic to talk about. Start your conversations assuming the person you’re talking to is at your level, and adjust if they tell you otherwise. Don’t touch people unless you know they’re ok with it. If someone tells you they are uncomfortable with something you’re doing, stop. Treat people as you want to be treated. Don’t be a jerk.
Be an ally. See someone being a jerk? Tell them to stop, help people out of uncomfortable situations, and report the harasser if it’s warranted. If someone comes to you and tells you they’re being harassed, help them report it. Speak up. One of the women that experienced harassment at Origins wrote a piece about her experiences, this was what she had to say to those of us in the community:
Recognise that this is happening and not everybody has a voice to speak up about it but will handle it the way they can and when they can. Enforce a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. If you see your ‘bro’ making comments, say something. Believe women when they trust you enough to tell you that something happened. Getting angry is going to happen but that doesn’t help the situation, on some occasions, it can actually make it worse… the first step is to recognize that this does happen, more often than you think and we need to start realising this and we need to start taking steps to create safe spaces.
This is happening. Don’t ignore it. Help your community be better.
Want more than my viewpoint? Some of the contributors for The Dice Tower had an in-depth discussion about what constitutes harassment and what we can do to combat it. They have some great suggestions that you can use the next time you’re at your game store or an event.