My Journey From Dismantling Rape Culture to PAX East

 Sex, Sexy & Sexism: Fixing Gender Inequality in Gaming panelists (photo courtesy

photo courtesy

Talk about juxtapositions… In a matter of days I went from presenting at the University of Vermont’s 9th Annual Dismantling Rape Culture Conference in Burlington, Vermont (population 42,282) to sitting on a panel at PAX East 2014 (70,000+ attendees jammed into the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center). Total attendance at the Dismantling Rape Culture conference; around 400 passionate people, many of whom are activists and/or allies dedicated to eliminating rape.

PAX East the other hand, is the east coast version of the Penny Arcade Expo a mega-event which has had it’s name tarnished by a rape joke controversy and trans-phobic tweets made by one of Penny Arcade’s founders. As a result there are many in the gaming community who now boycott all the Penny Arcade Expos.

Until this year, I had never attended a Penny Arcade Expo before. But there I was at PAX East to participate in a panel on gender inequality in gaming. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much… I figured we’d get low attendance at best and at worst a room full of angry rape apologists. Instead we ended up with a packed room of around 500 people, men and women, excited to engage in dialogue about sexism and rape culture in gaming. It was heartwarming.

For those who attended the panel at PAX East and decided to check out, first I’d like to say welcome! Next I want to reiterate a point made during the panel and finally issue two challenges…

The issue of ally-ship came up in the panel numerous times, including during the discussion of “white knighting.” I don’t think the importance of allies can be overstated if any change is to occur. Speaking to the men for a second… If you haven’t discovered already, being an ally may be challenging at times, but it helps to remember that for every accusation of “white knighting” we face, outspoken women are dealing with steady streams of rape and death threats. Just ask Anita Sarkeesian or activists like Suey Park to name a few.

As allies we can help deflect some of this hatred and more so, challenge other men in spaces where women aren’t present. There will always be griefers, trolls and assholes in this world, but when more male allies, straight allies and white allies choose to stand up and be louder than the racist, sexist and homophobic douche-bags out there, the griefers will be drowned out. Only then will gamer spaces and events be safe for all.

Now the challenges…

1. Men, if/when you see other men harassing Cosplayers of any type… making inappropriate comments or making them feel objectified or uncomfortable in any way, I challenge you to say something. Show that not all men think and act the same and take a step toward making our events safer, more comfortable spaces.

2. This year, we had to extend the Q&A at our panel just to get one comment from a woman. Part of that was the panel’s fault for not leaving more Q&A time, but the rest was due to the amount of men rushing to line up first. So, I’d like to challenge PAX panel attendees to pay more attention to who lines up for Q&As, and as a result gets the opportunities to speak. Take a second to consider; is it possible to self self-organize into a system that guarantees more inclusivity, that allows for a broader range of voices to be heard? In future panels, I hope this awareness can come from the crowd and not be forced by the panel moderator.

That’s all I have for now. I’m still shaking off some of that vacation inspired rust, but by next week I’ll be back to full strength. Till then, welcome new readers and please leave some comments below!



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  • Teggas April 19, 2014, 9:47 AM

    Duane, I enjoyed your contribution to the panel discussion. Your advice about the Q&A line is right on! I’ve attended Pax East for five years now and have always been impressed with the panels on gaming from LGBT and women’s perspectives. I’m glad this year was no different.

    • Duane de Four April 20, 2014, 10:50 AM

      Thank you, I’m glad I was able to contribute in a positive way. As a first time PAX attendee I was happy this conversation happened and I hope to view and participate in more… they’re definitely needed!

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