Penny Arcade / PAX gender controversy catch all.

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This is being created as a place to discuss issues of sexism and transgender discrimination by Penny Arcade including what is being brought to PAX.

Some discussion has taken place here:
http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...

Credit to this post for starting things off:

Edwin wrote:
IMAGE(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BNNbpRzCMAAFqwa.png:large)
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/JrDe6HF.png)

Why am I not surprised?

Just re-quoting a comment from the prior thread from shoptroll:

shoptroll wrote:
Hypatian wrote:

if you use the word "cis" I probably will hate you too.

heads up if you use the word "cis" save yourself some time and don't bother tweeting at me.

Okay, so we're supposed to explain to him how he's wrong... except that, you know, the one pair of terms that's actually relevant (trans/cis) is off-limits because... ? I don't know, because then you could have a real discussion without using terms that other people? ffs.

That read to me as someone knowing they're out of their league and trying to control the terms of the debate (another defense mechanism). I remember something similar happening around the dickwolves debate in that he wasn't very nuanced with a lot of the terminology surrounding that topic and I imagine it's the same way here.

To play devil's advocate, I think the reason he posted the email from Sophie is that she at least tried to explain where she was coming from in terminology he understands. It's definitely a non-apology, but I think she was at least trying to talk on his level. My guess is that he's very uncomfortable with these subjects and people throwing around terminology he doesn't know compounds that.

However, if he was actually making good on any promise to learn more about these issues he shouldn't have an issue with people dropping terms like cis into the discussion. In fact, he shouldn't have any issue with people using those terms if he wanted to learn more. It's not that hard to figure out what they mean, took me a minute on google/wikipedia to figure it out.

EDIT: Not excusing his behavior, but someone really needs to sit down with him and go over this stuff with him in a way he can understand it. I'd really like to believe he can change, just yeesh. It's ugly watching this over and over and over. Very glad to see a number of the games press (and other gamers) calling him out on it and his juvenlile defense of his behavior. Gives me hope for the gaming community at large.


This is where I am with this.

Hypatian brought up this well thought our piece by Papier Haché (The Hornet's Nest Kicked Itself ) And while I totally agree with it, it speaks entirely to an audience that is either trans or already on board with the language and thought surrounding trans issues. It's simply not language that will speak across the chasm that someone like PA's mike obviously resides on the other side of.

Last time I was an Enforcer, in 2010, the top floor of the Washington State Conference Center, where PAX Prime is held, was used for a trans conference (Gender Odyssey) at the same time.

Uncomfortable bedmates? Seems so.

I don't think Gabe has any excuse left. We went through this all before with the dickwolves issue. PA's response to that really soured me on Penny Arcade. I went again to PAX the following year because I appreciated the experience it gave me (playing board games with Goodjers for three days), but never really found another PA strip funny after that.

Between missing PAX last year (and surviving) and this, I think I'm done with the Penny Arcade conglomerate in toto. Gabe and Tycho are leaders whether they want to be or not (and they have a large hand in PAX, so they at least tacitly acknowledge they want to be), and I believe they're obligated to conduct themselves like leaders; and actively educate themselves where they know they're ignorant. Gabe is doing the complete opposite of that, in the most juvenile and repugnant way.

I could have said that verbatim in 2010, and it can be said again now.

Penny Arcade had a place in the conversations around video game culture, but the conversations have evolved and they have not. They can catch up or be ignored.

Gender identity is a difficult subject if you aren't familiar with it. Heck, it can be even if you are. And the terminology does change over time, and a lot of people don't even know there IS terminology. All this to say that it can be tricky, and there are indeed some vocal people who will get really bent out of shape if you're not word-perfect on this stuff. But most people are super cool about it and will just say "hey, here's what's up..." and then you have the opportunity to dialogue and learn and make friends and things are cool.

That's not what Gabe did. That's not what Gabe has done. Dude likes to offend, then get super dickish when people are offended. This is not an uncommon personality type, and many careers have been focused on this kind of dynamic. His fans think it's totally cool. It's the classic case of "nobility of offense". It's lame. He's lame. That whole thing is lame. I feel bad for the cool kids who work in the larger PA organization. But I don't think Gabe's going to get any better as he gets older and more encased in a bubble of a community. I don't read Penny Arcade. I don't go to PAX. I have no stake in this whole thing, so it just strikes me as a dude being a dick to transfolk. If anything I think his visibility is causing people to give him far more benefit of the doubt than he would otherwise have.

Oh, and lolz at that panel. Jesus christ, gamers. Grow up.

Gravey wrote:
I don't think Gabe has any excuse left.

Yup. I was willing to overlook the dickwolves thing because that was my first real introduction to the concept of rape culture too, so I could sympathize their lack of understanding. Maybe this will be a learning experience for them, I thought.

Then came the convention creeper comic, the transphobic twitter rants, this panel debacle and now even more transphobic twitter bullsh*t. Gabe still hasn't learned a damn thing. I'm done.

Not to deflect this away from Mike, but shouldn't some ire also be directed at the people who originally proposed the panel as well?

shoptroll wrote:
Not to deflect this away from Mike, but shouldn't some ire also be directed at the people who originally proposed the panel as well?

As someone who help puts on an annual user conference that also relies on a community of users and third-parties to provide a lot of the content, yes. But then again, we also reject several panels/sessions every year because we don't like the topic or the tone.

At the very least people should understand that someone from PAX looked at the session description, most likely edited the heck out of it because people can't write, and were entirely OK with it.

I am curious as to if we do give special treatment to rape.
Am I making too much of a stretch when I compare Trogdor with the dick wolf? Is being burned alive any less horrific than rape?

We would think that perhaps Trogdor is not to be taken seriously but why then should the dick wolf?
What about other fictional characters like Mike Myers or Freddy Kreuger?

Have 25% of people been burned alive?

shoptroll wrote:
Not to deflect this away from Mike, but shouldn't some ire also be directed at the people who originally proposed the panel as well?

I think that's a separate, but still valid, issue. I'm taking as my jumping-in point how Gabe handles his reactions to these issues—which has a long and consistent history. Hell, I'm so out of the loop that I thought his earlier anti-trans* tweets were the same as this new issue. But apparently (now that I'm caught up on the FemFreq thread) there's been more going on with PA since the Dickwolves, and none of it encouraging.

clover wrote:
Have 25% of people been burned alive?

If they didn't want to be burned alive, they shouldn't have worn such flammable clothing. They were clearly asking for it.

Have 25% of people been burned alive?

Ouch. That is a good point. I had no idea the percentage is that high. I am quite literaly dumbfounded.

Shouldn't have lived in thatched-roof cottages.

fangblackbone wrote:
I am curious as to if we do give special treatment to rape.

Because rape's place in our society and culture is different than murder. Also it is more common. Also there are survivors dealing with it. Also people tend to blame the victims of rape. Also people tend to try to qualify the guilt of rapists. Also because there are varying degrees and types of sexual assault and violation, some of which are laughed off regularly by people outside of the situation. Also because rape as a concept seeps into a lot of other things. It's just different. Like child pornography is different. Like cannibalism is different. Different horrible things are different.

We're still in a place where we're trying to get everyone on the same page of taking rape seriously or even convincing people that sex with a passed-out-drunk woman is rape. This makes it a very live issue in a way that murder isn't. Longer discussion there, but you can at least see where people might be coming from.

I'm a little shocked that there hasn't been *any* statement from Official Pax, or Pax Australia, or Robert Khoo, or ANYONE, to try to perform damage control.

Edit: Robert Khoo's got a tweet saying that they're not transphobic, and that Mike feels terrible. That seems to be the only official response I've seen so far.

muttonchop wrote:
clover wrote:
Have 25% of people been burned alive?

If they didn't want to be burned alive, they shouldn't have worn such flammable clothing. They were clearly asking for it.

In cases of legitimate burning aw f*ckit, I'm too tired of this sh*t to finish that joke.

Highly recommend the Girls with Hoodies podcast this week, which touches upon many things, rape jokes included.

Tanglebones wrote:
I'm a little shocked that there hasn't been *any* statement from Official Pax, or Pax Australia, or Robert Khoo, or ANYONE, to try to perform damage control.

Edit: Robert Khoo's got a tweet saying that they're not transphobic, and that Mike feels terrible. That seems to be the only official response I've seen so far.

That's one thing I don't get every time this happens to PA: it's not just Gabe, Tycho, and Khoo anymore—though even if it were just those three, isn't it (at the very least) Khoo's responsibility, as the guy in charge of their business, to do that damage control? Or put Gabe on a leash, or educated.

Now the PA umbrella is a retinue of comics and shows and the convention and the charity... but with each offense and disaster, they don't act like a company, just two rude dudes making yucks.

Are their employees not ashamed of the public conduct of PA? Is Khoo?

Gravey wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:
I'm a little shocked that there hasn't been *any* statement from Official Pax, or Pax Australia, or Robert Khoo, or ANYONE, to try to perform damage control.

Edit: Robert Khoo's got a tweet saying that they're not transphobic, and that Mike feels terrible. That seems to be the only official response I've seen so far.

That's one thing I don't get every time this happens to PA: it's not just Gabe, Tycho, and Khoo anymore—though even if it were just those three, isn't it (at the very least) Khoo's responsibility, as the guy in charge of their business, to do that damage control? Or put Gabe on a leash, or educated.

Now the PA umbrella is a retinue of comics and shows and the convention and the charity... but with each offense and disaster, they don't act like a company, just two rude dudes making yucks.

Are their employees not ashamed of the public conduct of PA? Is Khoo?

Ben Kuchera apparently was:
https://twitter.com/BenKuchera/statu...
https://twitter.com/BenKuchera/statu...

But then shut down that side of the discussion and went back to talking about games.

I'm just going to say that I would go to that panel. I think it's a discussion worth having: have things become too heated in game design, gamer culture, and so on? Is there a way to change the tone of things - which is currently, "Thing happens, everyone immediately jumps to 'you're horrible' and Twitter/Kotaku/Etc all draw the exact same battle lines all over again."? It's a state of affairs that is toxic all around, I think, since someone with a "white dude problems!" mentality has to be enlightened, and there might be better ways to reach people like that. The ones who can be reached anyway.

That said, I wouldn't be shocked if it was just an hour and a half of white guys all talking to each other about how unfair everyone is to them and they just wish the women would calm their tits or whatever. But I think there's room for interpretation there.

Am I being too simple minded by saying don't support them financially if you find them or their company offensive?

fogrob wrote:
Am I being too simple minded by saying don't support them financially if you find them or their company offensive?

I think it's a good start. I'm also being loud about how I'm not supporting them, because ideally I'd like to see them change their behavior, rather than collapse financially for want of my $160.

Bloo Driver wrote:
I'm just going to say that I would go to that panel. I think it's a discussion worth having: have things become too heated in game design, gamer culture, and so on? Is there a way to change the tone of things - which is currently, "Thing happens, everyone immediately jumps to 'you're horrible' and Twitter/Kotaku/Etc all draw the exact same battle lines all over again."? It's a state of affairs that is toxic all around, I think, since someone with a "white dude problems!" mentality has to be enlightened, and there might be better ways to reach people like that. The ones who can be reached anyway.

That said, I wouldn't be shocked if it was just an hour and a half of white guys all talking to each other about how unfair everyone is to them and they just wish the women would calm their tits or whatever. But I think there's room for interpretation there.

If the language describing the panel wasn't couched in completely sexist and racist terminology, I'd have been more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Per this tweet from one of the participants, apparently the really f*cked up language originates from only one of the panelists:
https://twitter.com/miss_raej/status...

Bloo Driver wrote:
I'm just going to say that I would go to that panel. I think it's a discussion worth having: have things become too heated in game design, gamer culture, and so on? Is there a way to change the tone of things - which is currently, "Thing happens, everyone immediately jumps to 'you're horrible' and Twitter/Kotaku/Etc all draw the exact same battle lines all over again."? It's a state of affairs that is toxic all around, I think, since someone with a "white dude problems!" mentality has to be enlightened, and there might be better ways to reach people like that. The ones who can be reached anyway.

That said, I wouldn't be shocked if it was just an hour and a half of white guys all talking to each other about how unfair everyone is to them and they just wish the women would calm their tits or whatever. But I think there's room for interpretation there.

I checked out some of the people involved, and I don't have high hopes... the way the panel summary is worded now suggests something a bit tamer, but the original wording was very antagonistic. I'll be going to Auspax, but I'll probably be busy when that panel is on, so the decision is made for me.

Tanglebones wrote:
If the language describing the panel wasn't couched in completely sexist and racist terminology, I'd have been more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Per this tweet from one of the participants, apparently the really f*cked up language originates from only one of the panelists:
https://twitter.com/miss_raej/status...

If I had to guess, I'd be putting my money on the guy who writes for Penthouse, and notes in his summary that he's an "ardent fan of the female form".

I've never even heard of these guys...

Regarding the terminology thing. I understand that this is new to most people and the terminology is constantly changing. But that doesn't excuse inappropriate behavior when hearing an unfamiliar term. In fact, one of the really great things about asynchronous communication is that you can take time to research unfamiliar terms and so make an attempt at an informed reply even when talking about something entirely new.

Mike appears to have that particular social dysfunction that drives him to burn down the house the moment he realizes he's done something wrong. I get it. But as far as I'm aware he's never actually apologized for the missteps he's made, even after thifs have cooled down, and I also don't see evidence of an attempt to change his behavior.

Redwing wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:
If the language describing the panel wasn't couched in completely sexist and racist terminology, I'd have been more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Per this tweet from one of the participants, apparently the really f*cked up language originates from only one of the panelists:
https://twitter.com/miss_raej/status...

If I had to guess, I'd be putting my money on the guy who writes for Penthouse, and notes in his summary that he's an "ardent fan of the female form".

I've never even heard of these guys...

Even if the language is just that one guy's fault, and the panel is totally intended to be an innocent exploration of issues, how does Pax not have a response after all this sh*t? The PR failure is really surprising, considering that this supposed to be an organization of people who 'get it'

Okay. I'm sure I'm about to step in something here, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

The description of that panel only seems mildly offensive. Maybe a nose wrinkle, but then I would have ignored it (if not for this thread).

And then Gabe's all blase about it. I'm not really sure why we'd expect him to ... much of anything at this point. His modus operandi is dismissive or offensive. For that matter, Khoo is the business guy. And someone I don't actually remember was hired to help run PAX, nu? Why didn't either of them get complained at? Or if they did, why aren't their responses here?

I wasn't terribly offended by dick-wolves when that happened. I felt like it was a comic about the inhumanity of player characters in static/rigid game set pieces. Other people felt differently, and then Gabe was a huge ass about it. So, maybe I'm out of touch is what I'm getting at here.

Also, I'd never heard of "cis". It hadn't honestly occurred to me that there was a lexical gap there to fill. Wikipedia got me caught up, so there's that. Just a little more about where I'm currently standing, information-wise.

I guess I just don't see what the big to-do is about some Internet grade idiot. (See obligatory MacBeth reference.) I can find people a hundred times more offensive by joining chat on X-Box Live, putting almost anything into Google and pressing "I feel lucky", or even just talking to other people in the building I work in. Gabe wishes he could see the day when he's the most offensive thing in my life.

Spoiler:
Idiots on the Internet always make me think: It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Sometimes I like to think that Lady MacBeth was actually predicting the Internet.

Okay, feel free to set me straight. Preferably via infodump and not flames. I guess either would be a learning experience though.

-Z

complexmath wrote:
But that doesn't excuse inappropriate behavior when hearing an unfamiliar term.

Oh totally agreed. I mostly wrote that up front to concede the existence of a learning curve, the fear of angering people by getting it wrong and to head that off as an explanation of his behavior. All day on twitter it's been "the real jerks are the people who yelled at him! he just didn't know the right terms! raaaaar!"

Hi Zudz, welcome to P&C - make sure you've got your flame retardant suit at the ready

The very short, short version is - just because you weren't offended doesn't mean that a whole lot of people who *were* directly affected by Gabe's language were also not offended.

I think that one thing that frustrates me about this is that my experience growing up was probably pretty damned close to Krahulik's. I grew up in the same city. I'm one year older. Same culture of peers. Probably similar culture of parents. Probably bullied about the same amount in school. Same love of games. And honestly, I used to appreciate the kind of shock humor that PA uses. And I do tend to be more in-your-face confrontational about things at times than I ought to be--although I like to think that I do my best to target ideas rather than people.

And yet, I somehow took an entirely different set of ideas away from those experiences than he did.

Well, except one set of ideas he and I shared, more or less, for most of my life: The transphobia. You know, I internalized that. It was hurting me for twenty years, and really really messed me up for ten of them. I know exactly where it comes from: that's the culture we both grew up in. And now I'm still struggling to deal with the aftershocks of it on my own life... and he's spreading it so that a new generation will have to deal with it.

It's exactly these same attitudes that make it so that I'm afraid to talk to my dad on the phone again, because the last time I did I ended up being an emotional wreck for a week. I excuse it somewhat in my dad's case, because I know that the culture he grew up with was even more rigid about gender than mine, but I still can't subject myself to it. And yeah, if next time we talk he pulls it again? I will straight up walk away.

And here is this guy, this peer of mine, just spewing it out there.

Ugh.

Every year I find myself somewhat disappointed that I've let another year pass without attending a PAX to meet up with cool people from places like GWJ, but simultaneously happy that I didn't support, either through money or attendance, the sh*tty attitudes of people like Gabe who refuse to grow up and join the world of mature, thoughtful humans.

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