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Let's Talk about Wording
[This is SCA politics; folks not in the SCA aren't likely to care about it.]

So it sounds like last weekend's BoD meeting was mostly uneventful -- nothing I've heard so far is head-exploding. That said, it does seem to have had its bits of Special.

The one interesting problem is the new change to the wording of the Same-Gender Crown Proposal. Specifically, the addition of a sentence, "No one may take part in the list as both competitor and also consort." This is a *huge* policy change, and a surprisingly bad idea -- it would have far more effect on traditional opposite-gender couples in Crown. I'm a bit surprised that the Board is even entertaining it.

So I'm contemplating a letter to the Board. Here's a draft, for commentary.
To the members of the Society's Board of Directors, from Mark Waks, known in the Society as Justin du Coeur: greetings.

I've read the informal reports of the Board meeting on October 27th, and most of it seems uncontroversial. However, I must express my concerns about the proposed change to law, in response to the Same-Gender Crown Proposal, to add the sentence, "No one may take part in the list as both competitor and also consort."

This seems like an extremely bad idea -- deeply at odds with established practice in many Kingdoms, and harmful in a number of ways. In particular, it is likely to lessen the number of women in the Crown List, since many of them are fighting for the man who is fighting for them. And indeed, given how many female fighters cite Duchess Rowen (who would have been excluded by this rule) as a primary inspiration to them, this rule change seems to have the potential to be quite damaging to the Society.

My understanding is that the proposed change is in response to concerns about "Ducal Daisy Chains" -- collections of Royal Peers who choose to collaborate in a massive rules-hack to improve their chances of winning. I'll be frank: I think this is unwarranted catastrophizing, the typical sort of rationalization people come up with to argue against the Same-Gender proposal to begin with. The prime rule of the SCA is "Don't Be a Jerk", and trying to legislate against the ten thousand ways one *can* be a jerk is just a recipe for tying ourselves in knots. I honestly don't think we should be spending so much attention on something that should instead be handled by social censure.

But let's take the concern at face value. If we really are concerned about this happening, a much more correct rule change would be, "Couples may compete for each other in the Crown List, but neither may compete for a third party". That is, it should absolutely be allowed for two Dukes to compete for each other, just as Rowen and Hector did and just as many opposite-gender couples do today. (I suspect that the social hassles given to the first pair to do so will help discourage subsequent rules-hackers.) We should call a spade a spade, and forbid only the sorts of unlikely grand conspiracies that seem to be the basis of the catastrophizing, without harming those couples who sincerely wish to fight for each other and are following decades of tradition in doing so.

You will also note that this wording has little to do with the Same-Gender proposal, intentionally. These "daisy chains" are already possible -- if people aren't worrying about that case, it is only because they are not taking the female fighters sufficiently seriously. The fact that this issue is only coming up in the context of the Same-Gender proposal is, honestly, quietly insulting to the many talented female fighters of the Society.

I hope you take this suggestion into consideration.

Mark Waks
(Wow, it goes against my grain to use my mundane name in SCA correspondence, but as I've remarked before, the Board appears to be deeply embarassed by the notion of the game intruding into their sphere of operations at all.)


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I like it; it's exactly what I was thinking about last night. One must wonder why your proposed language was not what was presented. It seems as though it would be more obvious and more inclusive than what was actually put forth.

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Ah -- yes, all of the comments came after I originally read the article, so I hadn't noticed them. Seems like a lot of people are thinking along similar lines, which is good. But it's likely best if the Board hears these ideas from a number of directions -- I'm content to let them choose the wording that seems best, so long as the idea is there...

FYI, the BoD _is_ reading the EKGazette.
They have been some of the commenters.

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It seems obvious and reasonable to me. In fact, I'm inspired to put in a similar letter, expressing similar thoughts, to my own Board member.

Please do. Getting a bunch of individual letters along similar lines (but not a simple chain letter) is likely the most effective way to get the point across that folks care about this, and that there are better approaches...

Thanks for this. I read the EK Gazette summary and was confused, but I don't follow fighting enough to have understood the alleged reasons for the change. Now I get it.

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Well, this is my understanding of the way it's been explained to me, but I think it's only half the story. It's pretty clear that *some* folks just plain don't ever want two Dukes fighting for each other, and are weaseling rationalizations to avoid coming out and saying that in as many words. IMO, that *has* to be allowed if we're going to have any courage of our convictions, but that's a debate that we should have more honestly and openly...

This is the same idea I had, of allowing a couple to fight for each other but not allowing daisy chains, posted in comments on an f-locked lj. It would keep a romantic triad from all fighting for each other, but I think that is a much smaller possibility than the known practice of couples fighting for each other already prevalent in heterosexual pairs.

Edited at 2012-10-30 11:27 pm (UTC)

I'm pretty munch in line with your recommendation. Its essentially in line with current EK traditions except that we allow we allow for same sex pairings. I suspect most Easterners would agree with you but I'm curious on the reaction of kingdoms that allow for the daisy chain approach. But that might be the intent of the BoD with this language.

Per the Gazette:
The Board stated that they are actively attempting to provoke a response by their use of language. They want communication from membership on this topic. They want to know, what other things can we gain by allowing or disallowing these changes?

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You've been to science fiction or gaming conventions, yes? The SCA BoD is analogous to a convention's ConCom. The SCA is merely larger.

Don't let the discussion here bother you - in the day-to-day experience of most SCAdians, the BoD... isn't an issue. Our host here is a policy wonk (and I mean that in a good way). For someone like me, who just wants to go to events, do some arts and crafts, and maybe experiment with whacking people with rattan on rare occasion, the BoD comes close to "might as well not exist".

Yes, quite true. Sadly, one side-effect of playing for a long time, often at the fringes of the very high levels of the club, is that I am extremely conscious of how the sausage is made, and find it extremely difficult to ignore. That's a lot less visible to most folks, most of the time...

And, of course, someone has to pay attention to how the sausage gets made. Sausage quality tends to drop if you don't.

The point being that so long as there are sufficient food inspectors, most of us can be pretty blithe about consuming the sausage :)

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I think it needs to be explicitly stated that the creation of this rule would have likely eliminated the first woman to win a Crown

*Only* woman to win a Crown, still. There have been other women who have won coronets, but AFAIK she's still the only Queen by Right of Arms.

I continue to wonder why "opposite sex" remains the default.

Playing Devil's Advocate: I do actually sympathize somewhat with the bind that the Board is in. The Census produced a lot of interesting results, and one of those results was that this issue is *extremely* contentious. And not just in the conservative South -- even in the East, one of the most pro-change Kingdoms, the margin in favor of the Same-Gender Crown proposal was far from overwhelming.

They're in a very tough spot. It's quite clear that whatever decision they come to, it will piss off a large fraction of the Society. So they're taking it very slowly, floating trial balloons and experimenting to see how they can minimize the psychic damage. I happen to think this particular experiment was surprisingly badly thought out, but I'm not surprised that they appear to be grasping at straws a little...

I really don't like the idea of a case by case review - if we're trying to anticipate every unhappy scenario, personal grudges or something might be imagined to come into play.
While I totally support the idea of same-sex couples being monarchs, I also don't think we necessarily have to have "couples" in the sense of any kind of long-term relationship. I like the inspirational idea, but I also kind of like the idea of a completely "marriage of convenience" equivalent, which would be gender-neutral in this case. Someone who is a good fighter would be on the lookout for a consort who is good with business details, can safely drive all night after an event, has a lot of period camping gear in his or her basement, etc. Strictly based on practical considerations. That would be not have been uncommon in the middle ages, after all. ;-)

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And is quite common in the East, yes. (King Edward has won for two ladies, neither of whom is his wife. She is wise enough to know that she wouldn't enjoy being Queen.)

This is very close to my thoughts on the topic. I was thinking I would wait to send my letter until the formal request for comments came out, to be sure that it went to the proper place.

The BoD is reading the Gazette, and told us where to direct comments, so please don't be worried that if you send comments now the address that was given that they will get lost.

Your revised wording doesn't cover what I think you hope it would. As I understand it, you want to make sure that if a couple is fighting in crown, that they're fighting each other. More to the point, if a competitor in crown is also another competitor's consort, that they fight reciprocally for that competitor and not for a third party. However, your wording (I think) sets it up so that no member of a couple may fight for anyone else regardless of whether both members are fighting or not. *That* is, I think, equally damaging and should be avoided.

Of course, this doesn't touch polyamorous relationships and the fighting/consort pairs that could be legitimate in such a setting. But I've had a hard day and don't want to touch that can of worms apart from bringing it up. :-)

Oh my gosh, I knew Rowan and Hector when I was active in Texas. I'm so happy to hear she's still around and doing so well. And I hope the BOD listens to you. That sounded very well thought out.

Well, keep in mind that Rowan was Queen, what? -- something like 20 years ago now, and that's what she is legendary for. I honestly have no clue whether they are still active nowadays.

And I hope the BOD listens to you. That sounded very well thought out.

Thanks. On my own, I wouldn't expect to have much effect, but it sounds like a number of folks are planning on writing their own letters along similar lines. Hopefully the collective message will get through...

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