Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Gaming -> Gamergate; Fandom -> the Hugo Debacle; SCA -> ???

I was chatting with alexx_kay over lunch about the mess currently going on around the Hugos, and the Gamergate mess that predated it. (tl;dr: the Hugo nominations got somewhat hijacked by a bunch of relatively right-wing fen, who somewhat successfully packed the nominations with authors they approved of. As for Gamergate, it's a gigantic bundle of stupid around the ways videogaming is changing as the audience becomes more diverse, which has exposed just how deep some of the misogyny runs there.)

And it occurred to me: why *hasn't* this wave of stupid hit the SCA? Far as I can tell, this is only two separate controversies on the surface -- they're revealing very similar problems in two wings of geekery. The SCA draws from much the same population, with considerable overlap, and I don't think there's a magical fairy wand that saves us from this craziness. So it's interesting to speculate about the sociological aspects of the SCA that have muted the problem. Here are some offhand thoughts; I invite other observations.

We've already been through it: The Stupid is mainly about diversity, and while the SCA *has* its diversity problems, some of them were addressed a long time ago. Here, I'm thinking of the Women in Combat argument, which as far as I can tell was quite the fight 40 years ago. But by the time I started, it was semi-settled -- still some grumbling, but most people considered it a done deal. And I generally think of the final nail in the coffin of that argument being Duchess Rowan winning the Ansteorran Crown, establishing that you could not only have female fighters and female knights, but Queens by Right of Arms. The issue isn't entirely dead -- far as I can tell, it's still somewhat hard for a woman to get a belt -- but it doesn't seem to be a flashpoint issue any more.

The Board Saves Us From Arguing Amongst Ourselves: I am famously unfond of the SCA's highly-centralized organizational structure, but it does have one curious advantage -- when we *do* have a major diversity fight, much of the vitriol is channeled away from each other, to the Board of Directors instead. The recent same-sex-consorts issue is a good case in point: while there was a fair amount of argument online, most folks know that that accomplishes little. So these sorts of debates necessarily focus on convincing the Board of the rightness of your cause, which drains some of the energy away from flamewars and petty gamesmanship.

We're Not Very Diverse: Not all of these observations are going to be positive. To have a fight over diversity, you have to *have* diversity, and we're not great in that regard. For example, I've noticed for many years that, among probably 500-1000 people I know in the SCA, I can probably count my black friends on the fingers of one hand.

We're fine in some regards -- for example, the SCA's religious diversity is exceptionally broad. (Although we've had our own, sometimes very weird, tolerance problems there.) But as a club, we're conspicuously pretty whitebread.

We Officially Care About Behavior: Say what you will about the problems of the SCA's award system, one real positive is that it reifies the notion that behavior matters. It's far from perfectly enforced -- we've all heard complaints "Why did they give That Jerk Duke Stumblebutt a Pelican?" -- but good behavior *tends* to be rewarded, and bad behavior *tends* to be punished. That's not accidental: the Peerages are downright explicit that courtesy (however you want to interpret that) is expected of a Peer, and the meme trickles down from there.

This was driven home to me at Birka, at the height of the Rapier Peerage argument. While I'm still a bit cranky at the Chivalry for not accepting Rapier Knights (which I still think would have been a far healthier solution for the SCA as a whole), I was impressed that, with just a bit of process-prodding from Countess Meggie, everyone in the debate managed to sit down and have a thoroughly civil and reasonable discussion about it. And moreover, several of the Chivalry went out of their way to make the point that, while they might be opposed to giving a belt to fencers, they were going to throw their weight behind the notion that there *must* be a path to Peerage for the fencers.

Which doesn't mean we don't have flamewars, of course. But as a rule, participating in a flamewar is a good way to get people tsk'ing at you, even people who agree with you. It's rarely lauded, and being known as a flamer (or a troll) tends to cost you politically.

We're Kind of Static: Both Gamergate and the Hugo thing are variously driven by sexist, racist, homophobic and sometimes anti-Semitic impulses. But by and large, you can't *say* those things in public, so they both devolve to a common whine of, "Those People are changing My Geekdom into something I don't recognize!" I'll credit Alexx for pointing out to me that there's a common, deeply reactionary thread underlying all of this.

I'd love to say that the SCA isn't at all reactionary, but that's totally not true. Rather, this cuts to one of my common complaints about the modern SCA -- we're getting kind of stale. Back in what I think of as the club's heyday (late 80s - early 90s), there was a deeply experimental thread in much of the SCA; I thought of it as Carolingia's core ethos. In more recent years, though, I've had a real sense that things have changed very little. It's still *fun*, but we know what the club is, we know how it works, it's all ring-fenced by both cultural habits and an enormous body of rules. Not many people are really pushing the boundaries.

As a result, we aren't changing much these days, so it's hard to complain that it's becoming unrecognizable. Of course, we get that complaint *anyway*, over every little change, but it's usually such obvious catastrophizing that it doesn't carry so much weight.

So -- those are some ideas. Other observations, comments, disputations? I'm mainly interested in this point as an interesting lens to play my traditional game of compare-and-contrast between the various threads of Geekery Assembled...
Tags: sca politics

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