Many people have already written about The Bell & the Blade’s policy-violating merchandise at Gen Con 2013. The booth, also known for being the “Nazi fanboy” booth, was carrying novelty underwear with slogans in direct violation of Gen Con’s one paragraph anti-harassment policy (outlined here). Two pairs1 in particular were cause for concern:
“I could use a little sexual harassment.”
“Get me drunk…then we’ll see.”
I am one of several people who reported to Gen Con staff, both through Twitter and direct contact with security and booth management. I reported them on Saturday.While my twitter complaint was not directly addressed, a friend who also reported (and received over 80 retweets) was told the vendor had been told to remove the merchandise and that staff would follow up the next day.
Along with several others (mostly women), I consulted security as per the anti-harassment policy, and was directed to booth management. A male staff member told us he knew exactly what booth we were talking about, and directed us to a female staff member. She informed us that they had been reported, and if they were still up the next day to return to booth management.
On Sunday morning, I quickly checked the booth just to confirm that Gen Con staff followed up on their public statement. They had not. The underwear was inside the booth, as it had been on Saturday when I reported it. I followed the instructions and went directly to booth management, this time alone. I initially spoke with a volunteer, and was again directed to the same female staff member I spoke to previously (in hindsight I should have gotten names). She told me it had been reported and there was nothing more they could do. The entire exchange was very dismissive and condescending.
I contacted my podcast co-host Kevin Weiser and told him about what had happened when I followed Gen Con’s directions. He had been among those who had reported the booth as well, and returned to booth management, pointed out his press badge2, and stated any conversation would be on the record. Unsurprisingly, letting staff know that press will be reporting on the issue got a far less dismissive response. He was directed to event staff after initially speaking to a volunteer.
Kevin recorded a quick discussion3 with a female staff member (identified as Jeanette in the recording) about what the anti-harassment policy involved and what Gen Con would require of from the booth.
From the transcript: “As long as it’s not, y’know, obviously in your face, then, and it’s moved inside, whatever that means to that booth, then that’s our policy.”
Compare this statement from a Gen Con staff member to the public statement made by the official Gen Con twitter as posted above. I know Gen Con is a large event with many booths, many volunteers, and many staff. Overall, I did have a wonderful time. This whole incident, from the fact that this merchandise was allowed in the first place, to the dismissive attitude, to the inconsistent responses, has marred my view of how much Gen Con actually takes anti-harassment policies and harassment complaints seriously.