Monday, July 14, 2014

If you see something, say something

I was telling my sister about Cards Against Humanity and the rape allegations against Max Temkin.

I told her I now felt strange about accepting a free flight / hotel from them to attend GaymerX and show my half-baked game in their sponsored room. Before, I had thought of it as part of their attempt to make things right, after they finally removed the totally unacceptable "date rape" and "passable transvestite" cards from the game -- and if they were going to commit substantial time, energy, and resources into this community, then maybe that would allow for some healing? After all, I had only had fantastic interactions with the extremely helpful CAH production staff at the expo. (I am still extremely grateful for everything Trin and her team did for me and the other developers.) However, it's safe to say that their intended redemption narrative has now been somewhat derailed...

My sister said it reminded her of American Apparel ousting Dov Charney, where the institution had to rescue itself from toxic thinking and behavior, and that was the only way to do it. I disagreed with that comparison. Charney was totally unrepentant, while Temkin at least made some attempt to internalize feminism, even though he ended up getting it horribly wrong. Doesn't learning involve making mistakes, even horrific mistakes?

Yes, my sister said, but none of that should shield him from criticism... and she's right. Here's some good criticism.

The more cynical will say he consciously wore feminist language as armor to deny responsibility -- and the vast majority largely want to stay silent, whether because of CAH's clout / influence or because "there's no proof" or "there's enough drama already" and so on... but saying nothing already means you're speaking in favor of how things currently are.

So, uh, I wanted to say something. But I'm not really sure what to say, because it's not clear what reconciliation might look like? Like, okay -- I agree that he screwed up in a really big way. I don't think anyone wants to destroy Temkin. Not even the person he hurt wants that. Now what?

Should he write another post where he apologizes for his non-apology, and is that enough now? Should CAH try to sponsor anymore games events focusing on diversity and inclusivity, or would their involvement now compromise the safe space of that event? What does it mean to create a safe space in games? Can we separate Temkin's words from CAH, and if we can, then what does CAH as an institution think about this? Why was Temkin's statement wrong, and what can we educate people about it? How do the women who work for CAH feel about this? What is the current thinking about how best to practice consent? How do we read all this, next to the ongoing dialogue that happened in and around GaymerX?

Here's my bold idea: some game journalists could do some reporting on this because there might be a story here? And then journalism can serve its vital function to inform a community and promote civic discourse!