There’s been a lot going around about +Indie+‘s interview with +James Desborough. As a privileged, middle class, white male of a certain age (too young to be old, too old to be young) I’ve only started to seriously consider and think about issues regarding diversity, sexism and even racism in the past couple of years. And I consider myself a progressive, inclusive person.
As a relative newcomer/outsider to these debates I went back and looked at the history between Desborough and – well, the Internet. I got a good start with this blog post by Jon Kim. After looking over his links I came to much the same conclusion as Jon did (at least regarding the controversy he was writing about). Then I brought myself current on the Indie+ interview and the current responses.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I feel Desborough’s perspective is reasonable to a degree, consistent and he is very articulate. I don’t agree with everything he has to say. I think coming from the position of having been the subject of a lot of vitriol, his experience is relevant and important to understand. I feel there is a portion of his body of work that is in bad taste, and might be offensive to some (particularly women). I do agree with him in that individuals are responsible for the harassment that occurs at conventions. I’ve seen it first hand. I don’t agree that it is only the individuals – there is definitely a “culture” that at some level tolerates odious behavior among its members. Hell, 20 years ago I went with a large mixed gender group to Gateway in L.A. We came up with our own safety guidelines for the women (some of whom were not yet 18) in the group because we were already aware of how women were treated at cons. I would like to assume it has gotten better since then, for whatever measure of “better”. I disagree that harassment policies are not needed. Just like the argument, “Nobody needs a firearm, they can just call the police” is ridiculous, the contention that there is no need for a policy because of the ability to call law enforcement is ridiculous for the same reason. I do agree that any policy needs to be vetted and carefully constructed in order to prevent abuse. I apologize if any of this disappoints any of a number of people whom I respect that take opposing viewpoints.
But where I’m going to start to lose respect for people, and one of the reasons for this post, is that the level of vitriol, mischaracterization, outright twisting of words and blatant disrespect I’ve seen – present and past -is shameful. It’s on both sides, typically not the principals at the center of the debates, but I see a lot more of it from people who are “anti-Desborough” than pro. It’s disheartening to say the least.
That’s pretty much all I have to say on the matter. Any further discussion is, as always, welcome in the comments.