Inspire Confidence – Standing in solidarity

In the last 2 weeks the gaming industry has seen a couple of polarizing situations regarding representation and treatment of under represented creators, in this case women. Please note there are several links in this blog that lead to articles that may not be considered family friendly or safe for work for language, I have tried to label them as such. Also, I am going to put a trigger warning on this blog post, if you are a gender minority there may be quoted/paraphrased comments in here that may be upsetting. I don’t want you to be hurt by the words of other people, so definitely skip the abridged comments.

Now, let’s take a look:

Green Ronin talent search

On April 3rd, Green Ronin announced their talent search for a female* identifying writer to work on the newly announced and upcoming Lost Citadel Roleplaying project. An admittedly small but vocal corner of the internet lost its collective mind. Most notably there was ongoing outrage at ENWorld until Morrus shut it down.

Never say I don’t love you, I read (most of) the comments and will summarize so you don’t have to subject yourselves to that level of punishment. I was going to refrain from sarcasm in my recounting, but it was hard and I have decided to include some of the more offensive comments abridged, because we need to be aware of the awful things others say and shed light on the horrible things that non-hetero, non-cis, non-white, and/or non-male identifying individuals experience on a regular basis, it’s the core of this article. I stopped reading before reaching page 10, because I love myself too. Of the over 2 dozen people who commented, the following comments came from approximately 7 commenters (my eyes were bleeding, so it was hard to count). Some of the most notable comments include the following:

  • Outrage that men are being excluded from one single opportunity to freelance for Green Ronin.
  • Accusations that Green Ronin is breaking sex discrimination laws – they aren’t, it’s a talent search to win a contract, not a permanent job – not unlike Paizo’s RPG Superstar.
  • Numerous attempts to prove Green Ronin is somehow breaking the anti-discrimination laws, including “photographic evidence” of Green Ronin company photos for head counts and cut and pasted Washington State ordinances (seriously).
  • Denouncements of Green Ronin and promises to never purchase their products again.
  • Railing against “feminist propaganda” and what is known colloquially as reverse sexism.
  • Passive-aggressive comments about how the writers supports Green Ronin and that Green Ronin is allowed to do what they want, but the writers may not purchase said projects because they feel forced to endure inferior materials because men aren’t included in the talent search and might have written something better. Yes, more than one commenter made these observations.
  • Verbalizing disappointment in a product that doesn’t even exist yet because someone who does not identify as male will definitely be writing it.
  • Men (presumably from context) who have a desire to maybe write for Lost Citadel projects but are now refraining from submitting to Green Ronin because of their sexist decisions. As if to guilt us into missing their voices and talents.
  • Statements of agreeing to disagree.
  • Countless horrible, ignorant erasure, male centering, and sexist comments. Various reported hate speech comments included someone equating mental illness with non-binary cis identity and one man will be “disavowing” his gender so he can enter (or so he says).
  • Personal attacks on Nicole Lindroos, C.A. Suleiman, and other commenters.
  • Several supportive individuals trying to herd angry cats and educate.
  • Solidarity with Green Ronin and comments that the commenters will purchase this yet unproduced product to support the non-male voice.

As you can see Green Ronin’s decision to offer an opportunity to a non-male identifying individual to write something yet undetermined for an upcoming project unleashed some seriously insecure feelings in what I can only assume are men, although I know there are women out there who think the woman’s place is in the house raising children. Green Ronin and C.E. Suleiman are providing the chance for an under represented voice to be heard. They aren’t taking away the white heterosexual male voice, they are adding more voices to the story.

If you identify as non-male, you may enter the talent search at Green Ronin.

Monica Valentinelli

On April 11th, writer and game designer Monica Valentinelli withdrew as the Literary/Game Designer Guest of Honor at Odyssey Con due to the inclusion of known offender Jim Frenkel (Monica doesn’t name the individual, but there is no point in being coy here, he is named by several other bloggers already) on several panels with Monica and his role as Guest Liaison. Upon realizing that Jim Frenkel still worked with the convention, Monica contacted the convention by email. Odyssey Con responded with a dismissive and gaslighting email, then went on to share Monica’s emails publicly to the internet. Members of the Odyssey Con went on to share other communications they had with Monica, which they have subsequently taken down, but were all captured in screen shots by Pretty Terrible blog – the language on this page is not family friendly, but provides the most complete coverage.

Which brings us to the title of this blog, after Monica withdrew from Odyssey Con due to concerns for personal safety and that of other attendees, Guests of Honor author Tad Williams  and film maker Christopher R. Mihm also withdrew from the convention in solidarity. It took Odyssey Con’s leadership a little longer to remove Jim Frenkel from their staff, but they have finally done so:

Odyssey Con regrets to announce that Christopher Mihm, Tad Williams, and Monica Valentinelli have decided that they are unable to attend Odyssey Con 17. We respect their decisions, and wish them all the best.

James Frenkel will not be attending Odyssey Con 2017. Mr. Frenkel is no longer associated with Odyssey Con in any way.

At this time, it is planned that Odyssey Con 2017 will go on as scheduled. We will continue to offer the stimulating discussions, anime and movie programs, karaoke and live music, LAN and face-to-face gaming, poetry, cash-prize writing contests, masquerade, our famous real-food Con Suite, the notorious (and often humorous) Opening Ceremonies, and the camaraderie and good fellowship for which OddCon has become well known.

We realize some may be disappointed in this change, and those wishing a refund for pre-registrations may do so before 4/21/17

What solidarity looks like

Unlike the numerous emails of anger at Green Ronin for doing something that inspires and encourages non-male identifying individuals to create, the general response to Monica withdrawing from a convention appearance has been more supportive**. I am certain there are critics out there. It is hard to express how comforting it is to know that there are people out there who believe that the things minorities experience are true and really happened.

In an ideal world, Green Ronin would not feel the need to run a non-male talent search because the female voice would be equally expressed as the male voice, as would the voices of POC, LGBTQ, and individuals with various disabilities. Unfortunately we don’t live in the ideal world yet and right now additional effort is being made to provide more diversity and representation. Solidarity in this case is all of the commenters who tried to herd the angry cats or stated they would purchase products of Green Ronin regardless of who wrote them. Standing beside Green Ronin’s decision to promote diversity and forward social progress is solidarity. The other GoH and guests in general who withdrew from Odyssey Con did so in solidarity.

Solidarity is when people support one another against a person or philosophy that seeks to oppress. Solidarity can be men who stand in solidarity with women, white people who stand in solidarity with people of color, heterosexuals who stand with the LGBTQ community, the people in question are not at risk per se, but recognize that others are and seek to stop the discomfort of others. As an aside, individuals who stand in solidarity often become at risk because of their decisions to stand against oppression. Speaking out, standing up, voting with your pocketbook are all ways to show solidarity. It is hard to turn down fun or exciting opportunities because there is a bad actor involved. No one wants to miss a convention, conventions are fun, but rewarding or supporting someone who chooses to make bad decisions that leaves others feeling vulnerable or in danger is not a show of solidarity, it promotes ongoing oppression.

All forms of harassment are serious and remain ongoing problems. Sexual harassment largely happens when the harasser gets his target isolated from others to avoid witnesses and to exert the greatest amount of leverage on the imbalance of power. Sexual harassment doesn’t only mean someone is sexually assaulted, although it can mean that, it includes anything where the aggressor preys upon the target in a sexual nature – obscene remarks, touching, or the like. In the case of sexual harassment, typically a man is acting against a non-male identifier, but all possible combinations can and do occur. The imbalance of power is that thing that allows people to believe that women always want sex and dress provocatively as a way of asking for sex, even if they married to their partner or are passed out, rather than believe they were raped; that women make less money doing the same job because they aren’t qualified or deserving of the same amount money; or that women game designers are somehow inferior to male game designers and that their products will be less desirably simply because they weren’t written by men.

Everyone should have the expectation of being safe and free from unwanted touching, comments, or worse when they are out and about living their lives or attending gaming conventions or any other thing a person might find themselves wanting to do. There are individuals who live in fear of stalkers, who reduce their contact with the world, who hide and move because someone has taken the notion that the individuals owes them something. No one should have to live like this. No one should feel like they have to withdraw a convention because there is someone there who is known to have problems knowing boundaries and sticking to them.

If you’re reading this, chances are you identify as a table top gamer. I challenge you to go to your gaming/nerd library and count up all the titles you have with women’s names on the front cover, count all the titles you have with men’s names on the front cover, then compare those numbers – are the equal? Open the covers of your hard back books and check out the contributors’ names – how many of your books have no female names among the contributors? Female game designers are out there, but we’re definitely still a minority. If you have any books that have only female contributors, I can assure you they went through the same types of attacks that Green Ronin is going through if they made any mention of using only women. Expectations of parity are not going to change on their own. Change only happens when we make it clear that we no longer find the current system acceptable, that we are not going to stand by and watch bad things happen to other people. Things change when we stand in solidarity.

*This was clarified in a post by Nicole Lindroos that anyone who identified as female, non-binary, intersexed, pangender, bigender, and/or agender may submit for the contest.

**Update 4/26/17 – In recent days Monica has come under attack by the Sad Puppies (of the Hugo voting Sad Puppies) for withdrawing from Odyssey Con.

Some of the following links are highlighted within the text of the blog and some have additional content. I have included them in one place because they are worth checking out.

Green Ronin announcement

ENWorld coverage of Green Ronin announcement –!-New-Vampire-Edition-Details-Green-Ronin-s-Talent-Search-7th-Sea-Explorer-s-Society-Int-l-Tabletop-Day-and-more!#comments

GMS Magazine podcast coverage of Green Ronin push back, NSFW for salty language –

Follow up interview with Nicole Lindroos –

Green Ronin Talent Search –

Monica Valentinelli’s withdraw announcement –

Pretty Terrible Blog’s coverage – contains salty language, but some great links

File 770 on Monica Valentinelli –

Jim C. Hines collected several links regarding Jim Frenkel –

Tad Williams withdraws –

Christopher R. Mihm withdraws –

If it looks like a duck –

Marital Rape –

“Clearly, a drunk can consent” –

Standford rape case –

Gender Pay Gap –

Female fan representation in computer/online gaming 9/2014 –

Female fan representation in computer/online gaming 9/2014-

Partial list of female board game designers –

Pitifully incomplete list of female role playing game designers –

Monica Marlowe

Monica Marlowe is the 2015 Paizo RPG Superstar. Winning the contest launched her freelance game designing career. Her winning adventure, "Down the Blighted Path" and PFS scenario "Captive in Crystal" are available through Paizo. She’s publishing additional gaming materials under Marlowe House and through 3rd party publishers. Monica is also active in the ongoing education in gender, sexual, and racial equality in the gaming community. Driven by a desire to see a more diverse gaming community, Monica has joined the Know Direction network to help and encourage all gamers, veteran and new, to find their voices. Monica lives in southwest Ohio with her husband, Andrew, and 2 children, Kate and Thomas.

1 Comment

  1. David S.

    Well written piece … too bad the above isn’t basic common sense for people.