Apparently the correct way to handle this is to be angry on the internet where their other customers can see me.
I love GenCon. I have been attending GenCon since before I could walk or feed myself. I said my first words at GenCon and unfortunately this also means that I know something about the history of sexism at GenCon. When my parents first started attending they could not conceive of the idea that my mother might want to be there for the games. She came with my father, so obviously he must have dragged her along against her will. Naturally, she did not need to buy a badge, since she would not be gaming. My mother was every bit as much of a gamer as my father. I am glad that she could take this situation as humorous and move on to have fun with her free but very insulting entry.
This is the kind of blatant discrimination that we have behind us. This is what we need to keep in mind moving forward.
I am disgusted by GenCon's responce to Vanir's reasonable criticism. This is the text of their "official response" (from his comments):
Thank you all for your comments. Let’s go over some facts to set the record straight as some incorrect assumptions are being made here. Hopefully these facts will shed some light on this topic.
• Gen Con’s majority shareholders are women.
• Gen Con’s CEO is a woman and the staff is primarily made up of women.
• I picked the icon. I consider myself an independent, liberal minded woman. I picked it not because I thought it represented who or what I was or as a reflection on women, but because I thought it funny and I liked the irony. Yes it might be base, I’ll give you that, but I’m getting off point.
• The SPA icon has been around since the program began four years ago – it is not a new icon.
• Now in its fifth year, the SPA program has grown exponentially and boasts over 90 events in its offerings for 2010. Not all events are knitting or scrapbooking. The program also includes such events as wine and beer tasting, walking tours, chainmaile classes, Pilates, Irish Dancing, yoga, etc.
• SPA events are very popular with all types of people, gamers, gamer widows and widowers. A lot of the events sell-out.
• Events at Gen Con are submitted by fans for fans. While Gen Con hosts and sponsors some events, the majority are run by you. If you don’t like the offerings don’t go to that event, if you want to see something specific, host an event yourself! Simple as that.
I respect that we all have opinions, believe me I know I do … I find it ironic that the author of the open letter has his website sponsored by cougarlife.com. But I digress. I wonder if such passionate responses on such a non-starter issue might be better served on issues that really matter to women such as domestic violence, health, slavery, prostitution, the list goes on sadly.
Vanir you mentioned you were a karate instructor; it would be wonderful to have a beginning/intro to Karate class to include as part of the programming at this year’s show, SPA or otherwise. Since I’m the director of events at Gen Con you’ve come to the right spot, let me know!
Thank you all for your opinions and for calling attention to a wonderful program that Gen Con is proud to support. The process for picking the icon was not an arbitrary one; thought was put into it. It’s hard to pick one “icon” for such a diverse group of people and event types and to find one that wouldn’t be misconstrued as something else. The icon was chosen for its tongue and cheek aspect, nothing more and will remain as is for the time being.
If you want to talk to me directly about SPA or anything Event related please feel free to do so. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC
Women can be sexist. Saying "my company has women in it" is like saying "I have a black friend". It's tangential and unrealistic to expect that every woman (or person who works with a woman) has a full understanding of the gender related issues that upset other people.
Also, attacking Vanir by bringing up the sponsors of his website is not appropriate or related to the topic at hand.
I don't know if you are a gamer. I don't care other than to ask if you fully understand how sexism still affects the women at your con. Have you enjoyed the stereotype of the non-gamer wife every time you walk into the exhibit hall and have exhibitors address your husband and ignore you? Have you sat down to games and enjoyed being asked if you date the GM (who you've never met) because you got a ruling or a character that someone else at the table thinks you didn't deserve?
Being a gamer is part of my identity and that icon says that you do not understand or respect how others have hurt me and continue to hurt me by disregarding my identity and feelings. "Oh haha it was a joke" is no more an appropriate excuse here than when it's used to excuse any other disregard for the feelings of others.
Don't tell your customers they're jumping at shadows because you don't want to take responsibility for a mistake. Listen to us and have some compassion for how these stereotypes become powerful and can do real harm to us. As GenCon, you have the power to stop this kind of thing from being officially sanctioned. You have the power to, in some small way, tell people that this stereotype is wrong and should not be used against us.