One of the things I like the least about being in the SCA is the occasional gust of negative bullshit that blows through. Case in point: this morning.
First off, I had to deal with an irritation on the Armour Archive. It’s a great resource for armorers and historical re-enactors but the “discussion forums” are just chock-full of asshole behaviour. I quit the Armour Archive more than a year ago after a single (and private) request to stop using “gay” as a pejorative term resulted in a shit-blizzard of abuse and harassment. About a month ago I reactivated my account in order to buy a pair of used spaulders from a gentleman in Texas and started poking around again, cautiously. After this weekend’s successful demo, I took the plunge and posted a great photo of me in the “show us your kit” thread… and got a snarky comment about the boots I was wearing. Now, compared to a couple of weeks of abuse and threats surrounding my so-called “gay agenda”, somebody garb-snarking me about modern leather boots doesn’t even register… but it’s enough that I’ll be quitting the Archive again. Once burned, twice shy: the same high-school bullshit is clearly still going on and I don’t particularly feel like putting up with it.
I know I’m opening myself up to being accused of “over-sensitivity” or “over-reacting”: garb-snarking my fighting kit is relatively minor (and the boots in question are a flaw which I’m aware of and personally ready to put up with — I have a surgically-reconstructed left knee and I haven’t invested in a medieval turned-shoe which can accommodate the insoles I need in order to not be in agony after a few hours in armour) but it’s the kind of thing I’m less inclined to tolerate these days: over and above the fact that even with the boots my kit is a lot more authentic than about 90% of SCA fighting kits, there’s a just a certain irritating assumption of superiority that hits exactly the wrong note with me.
I personally feel that the development of my kit is worth noting: I’ve worked hard to get it to this point and I have every right to be proud of it… but not to lord it over others who haven’t had the opportunity to get to that level or to snark others because they haven’t been as successful as me. We all start somewhere, after all, and your choices are your own business and none of mine.
It was the other thing that happened this morning that really put me over the top, though: I received a comment (which I chose not to approve for public consumption in accordance with the rules of my blog) on my post where I aired concerns over the fighting at Pennsic telling me to “man up and stop being a pussy.” That’s going to be an asinine statement at the best of times, but I thought the asininity was particularly impressive considering it came in from an anonymous commenter. And yes, I’m being sensitive to certain things in our community, particularly our online community, because I frankly don’t need to put up with it.
Responding directly to that anonymous commenter who told me to “man up and stop being a pussy” because I expressed concern that some people on the field might be contravening safety rules: Ignoring the blatant and offensive sexism of your comment, let me just say you first. Sign your name — even your SCA name — to that sort of statement and I’ll consider it. Of course I’ll probably write an entire blog post ripping you a new one over the implication that having female genitalia is somehow an insult, but if you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen, right? Having dished out that “advice” you should be tough enough to take a bit of feedback… or is that why you didn’t sign your name to it?
I think it might be time for some honest self-examination, buddy… if you’re “man enough” to do it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing worse in the SCA than watching someone (especially a newcomer) being treated badly. As the years go by there’s a certain hardening that happens, a certain reduction in expectation as the shine wears off and the work sets in; but it just breaks my heart to watch an experienced player (even peers!) being insensitive and callous in public and spoiling that shine for newcomers, deliberately or not. A complaint I hear a lot about the SCA is “it’s just like high school”; and considering how little fun the average nerdy, romantic, socially awkward teenager (i.e. the demographic which grows up and joins the SCA) had in high school, that’s not a comparison we should be proud of.
You can go on the internet and see any number of criticisms of the SCA and most of those criticisms are from people who’ve quit because they had a bad experience. In almost every case, that bad experience stems from someone in the SCA having been mean or petty. I’ve run into that kind of crap before and there have been times when only thing which kept me in the Society at the time was the fact that I had a lot of time and money invested in this hobby relatively early on.
Constructive criticism is good; it’s one of the things I was intending with my post about fighting at Pennsic, as with various other posts that I’ve put up on this blog. I’ve upset folks at times, yes, but I’ve never deliberately set out to hurt someone’s feelings on any issue… and that’s what upset me this morning: it didn’t feel like I was getting useful feedback, it felt like people were just trying to be mean. But one of the things about being an adult, unlike when I was a teenager, is that I’ve learned I don’t have to put up with it. There’s always those people who are going to try that bullshit, but they are not to be looked up to nor emulated… and if you can learn to tune them out, so much the better.