It’s been more a week since I wrote my last post, A Statement of Equity and Justice in the SCA, and the response to Ealdormere’s equity and inclusivity statement, the Declaration of Virtues, has been… mixed.
We attended another SCA event this past weekend – Huntsmans’ Harvest, one of Ealdormere’s premier archery events – and the Declaration document was present. The list of signatures on the parchment has grown ever-longer. Online, many Ealdormereans are pledging to sign it as soon as they’re able to attend an event, and many people from across the Knowne World are praising its language and phrasing.
Some, unfortunately, are not. I’ve had a few – not many, but a few — online interactions where people condemned the Declaration and anything like it as rendering the SCA hostile to “people who disagree with diversity” or, in one memorably irritating dog-whistle phrase “traditionally-minded” players. Apparently asking players to treat each other with respect is so profoundly offensive to some people that they feel that it’s a first step to their being driven out of the SCA altogether… just for being “traditionally-minded.”
Stop being disingenuous. No one of good intent wants to make someone unwelcome in the SCA for a legitimately-held political belief, whether it’s being a conservative, or a liberal, or even having no political opinion whatsoever. But we also don’t want to want to have people feel unwelcome because of their orientation or their race or religion or their disability or whatever else… and sadly, due to some ill-intentioned people among us that has been happening.
I want to make something clear – I’m happy that the Declaration of Virtues was written and declared. I’m happy that the BoD has been passing policies making it clear that everyone is welcome in the Society and bad behaviour will not be tolerated. I’m happy that the College of Heralds is clarifying and expanding its list of banned hate symbols. And I’m very happy that people who are bigots — racists, misogynists and homophobes — are uncomfortable with these positive changes and are beginning to fear that they won’t be welcome in the SCA.
I am not happy that any these things were necessary in the first place.
The SCA, as I’ve noted before, has some systemic flaws that certain bad actors have exploited. That needs to be corrected. It is currently being corrected, which is a difficult and uncomfortable process. It is also a necessary one: some of the people I’ve been dealing with – including the person who used the infuriating phrase “traditionally-minded” – are demonstrably bigoted (a quick dig through that person’s Reddit profile revealed blatant homophobia, as a specific example) so my sympathy for their discomfort is limited, even at its most generous.
What it boils down to, for me, is that if you read something as judicious and polite as the Declaration of Virtues and think it’s aimed at you… then guess what? It’s probably aimed at you.
(Frankly, the Declaration is a much milder statement than I’d have preferred — if it had been entirely up to me, the Declaration would have been a lot less Kumbaya and a lot more Ride of the Valkyries. Of course, it wasn’t up to me, and I’m honest enough to admit that was probably a good thing.)
But those kinds of confrontational complaints, as I noted above, are not the majority. The majority of posts are from people praising the Declaration. A tiny minority is from people who oppose it as “political correctness gone out of control.” (I hate the term “political correctness”, by the way; I once had a friend who used a Chrome browser extension to change “political correctness” into “treating people fairly” and right-wing websites got a lot more honest.) Those responses piss me off, true, but at least I can get a good fight out of them.
But it’s the third category of responses that irritate the hell out of me: People saying things like “I don’t see why this is necessary,” or “Why can’t we just get along?” or “I just want to go back to having fun in the SCA and not have to deal with this.” They are a minority, true, but not nearly a small enough one. I’ve taken to calling these “blind eye posts”, because as far as I’m concerned what they’re really saying is “I’ve spent X number of years turning a blind eye, so why are you making me look at this now?”
And I cannot respect that reaction.
We’re making you look at it because turning a blind eye is part of the problem. The reason that bad actors have been able to take advantage of the flaws in the system is that other people – otherwise good people – have turned a blind eye to bad behaviour for too long. It’s taken a couple of seriously egregious incidents in the past year – the Caid Swastika Incident and the Trimaris Controversy among them – for the flaws in the system to be laid bare in a way that many SCAdians aren’t willing to tolerate any further.
I’ve repeatedly stated on this blog that the SCA’s biggest flaw is now and has always been that SCAdians will tolerate any level of injustice and unfairness in order to preserve their hobby. Complaints that you just want to go back “to when the SCA was fun”… that’s a blind eye post. The SCA hasn’t always been fun for some people. We turned a blind eye to things we should have seen. We’ve accepted things we shouldn’t have accepted.
And we’re still doing it.
Actions like diversity statements are a small, first step towards fixing the problems. When we take these steps I expect pushback from racists and homophobes and other problem players because frankly, these steps are aimed at them. But when people complain because their goddamn comfort zone is being effected? No. Just, no.
The SCA, some will claim, is “just a game” and they want to go to events to relax. But the SCA isn’t just a game, it’s a community. And yeah, I guess I am a bit sorry that things are uncomfortable in your community right now. It’s my community too, and it is uncomfortable when you’re made to confront injustices… especially if part of confronting those injustices is being made to realize that you’ve been complicit in them. I know: I’ve had to do it myself in my own life, more than once.
But what we’re doing in our community, right now, is important. The bigots and the bastards and the bad actors, they’re going to fight it because they’re the problem. I’m ready to cope with that. But I’m really getting tired of seeing these distress of the privileged posts by people who just wish it would all go away.
It’s not going away. It can’t go away because if it does, this community dies. In the long run, it dies.
It’s a point I’ve made again and again over the course of this summer, and it’s a point I’m going to keep making: The SCA, fifty-plus years along, is at a critical juncture. We have to decide whether the Society becomes a larger, more inclusive and welcoming community where people are safe, or whether we want it to become a smaller, more insular organization where only certain people are made to feel welcome.
I’ve decided to fight for larger and more inclusive Society for Creative Anachronism. Partly because as a progressive I genuinely care about inclusion, diversity and equity in our community and – let’s be honest – partly because I’m a stubborn bastard who doesn’t want a hobby of fifteen years to go down the tubes due to stupidly self-inflicted barriers to growth. (That’s a real concern, by the way – look at the decline of Civil War reenactment in the USA. They built in barriers – racial barriers, gendered barriers, financial barriers and so forth — and their hobby has declined into such a small niche that it’s in danger of becoming nonexistent.)
Here’s the thing, though: The fight doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Most people in the SCA want the Society to be inclusive and accepting. They want new people to join. They want to retain members and have long-term friendships and have many years of special memories. They want to work together, to belong to something bigger than themselves, to do something important. They want the Dream.
Don’t say “I didn’t see a problem and I just want things to go back to the way they were.” Say “I see how it is and I want things to be the way they always should have been.”
I honestly don’t think saying that is too big a stretch for SCAdians.
Lord Fulk Beauxarmes