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RPG Industry sexual harassment, Mentzer, abuse and what do we do about it?

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Bailywolf

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alright, this went from simmer to boil awful quick. It needs to cool off. Folks are getting very personal, and it can't go well. If the thread boils over it'll have to close, and I don't want to do that because important things have happened, and I think might continue to happen.

Also, from now on, nobody conflate the actions of an individual with the company they're associated with unless somehow directly related. We're walking a razor edge keeping this open. Everybody, be cool.
 

Holden

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Nicole, I'm sorry to hear about the harassment and abuse you've suffered in the past. That's horrific and inexcusable and you should never have been subjected to it. However, I don't think that makes it right to decide which other victims do or don't have a right to feel aggrieved or threatened by your employee, or where the statute of limitations on their grievances runs out, nor to answer public accusations of malfeasance with public silence.

Also, you never "called me out" on Twitter. You and Colin both tried to threaten me if I didn't stop talking about the problem of epidemic abuse in tabletop, in response to which I blocked you. I do not live an ideologically pure life. My brother voted for Trump and I still speak to him. My oldest friend is guilty of unprofessional flirting with co-workers and prospective hires that made them feel demeaned and professionally compromised, and I did not expose him because he has supported me when no one else did, kept me sane in the year after my mother died, pulled me out of suicidal ideations on multiple occasions, and pushed me to pursue my writing when everyone else in my life told me to give up and do something practical, and my loyalty to him runs bone deep. I know the name of someone in the industry I've seen named as a rapist and serial molester by half a dozen different reputable professionals, and every day, I fail to put his identity out in the public because I'm afraid of being targeted with a defamation lawsuit in retaliation-- he has a litigious reputation-- even knowing that my silence leaves him free to create new victims. I am very imperfect. But my shortcomings don't change what's right and wrong, and you can't bully me into silence.

I hope your desire to make tabletop a more inclusive place bears fruit in the future. It would produce a world we'll both be much happier to live in. I'm not going to respond to this tangent again as this is a thread about victims speaking out and working out better ways to create the community we need.

edit: Just saw the redtext after posting, sorry D:
 
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Guvmint Helper

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Well, back to the 10000 foot level, the process of an accusation being brought up without unnecessarily outing victims, followed by an opportunity for the allegations to be addressed, is kind of what I intended as a suggested improvement in terms of shining a light on problems in the community.

What's the best way to make that sort of thing happen in a useful way? Is it something like this? Does it look different? Is RPGnet a good place for it?
(I don't mean to shout down specific conversations about a particular individual or about Darren's existential angst, just that I don't really know much about most of what Nicole and Holden are discussing, and can't contribute in any useful fashion to that.)
 

The Scribbler

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Holden, I am confused about the disconnect.

Based on your own words, your position is very similar to (I won’t conflate the two) a close friend of Mentzer who refused to expose Frank taking part in the thread. Such a person could also have strong feelings on the right and wrong behavior of others, but it would be understandable for some people (like Jaym and Nicole have in your case) to find that inappropriate or questionable.

Do you feel that is an unrealistic or unfair position? Because until you outright said you didn’t expose him out of loyalty I could at least understand how you might feel differently, but now I am unable to wrap my head around it.
 

Future Villain Band

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And as we have pointed out - men don't get to be in on most whisper networks.
That’s simply not true. With the exception of the incident with Black Hat Matt and maybe one other thing, there’s not a single thing in this thread that a lot of people related to the industry at one or two removes haven’t known about already. The first thing that happens when I start freelancing for this group or that is a freelancer or ex-freelancer calls me to talk about who to avoid and who is a problem.

It’s an industry with a large, wholly unprotected labor pool of reasonably intelligent people who usually get paid very little, and which gets by to a large extent on social ties. The whisper network is the only way information gets around. It’s also the reason why a lot of people don’t come forward — when you’ve heard something second-hand, you don’t want to get it wrong and call someone out publicly in case you did get bad information.
 
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Eskidell

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I'm trying now to get my newly-launched FLGS, where I play D&D weekly, to adopt any sort of code of conduct / anti-harassment policies at all. I had a conversation with the manager last night and it did not go well. He was very unreceptive. But the idea was probably new to him and he did say he'd speak to the owners, so, we'll see. But I'm not thrilled that both he and, AFAICT, both owners are cis abled white dudes.
This is several days old but there's a place in town called Knights Watch Games which has rules posted, and at the very top is at least a mission statement that's a good place to start.

The Laws of the Land said:
Knight Watch Games aims to create an atmosphere that is free of harassment and discrimination of any type. We, as a collective geek community, have fought hard to welcome persons of all walks of life into an accepting culture without fear of being discriminated or oppressed.

Harassment of any type has no place within Knight Watch Games. Our establishment welcomes all types of people without discrimination against race, ethnicity, gender self-identification, age, sexual orientation, uniformed services, or physical appearance. This also includes harassment against, or initiated by, any of the staff at Knight Watch Games. If, at any time, a suspected act of discrimination or harassment has been witnessed, we encourage those involved to notify management immediately.
This is posted on their website in an easy to find spot, I think they're posted in the store itself, when the owners gave us a tour of the store they told us about it and they even printed out a copy for us since we asked (we were scouting for places to hold board game nights and I wanted a printed out version to see if we could abide by them). It might not be comprehensive, but it's definitely earned a lot of goodwill from our group just by going that extra mile to point out that yes, they take that stuff seriously.
 
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Nikchick

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Okay wait, are you accusing John of all of those things and holding Holden responsible? Or is he responsible for everyone at OPP? Because it was McFarland with the rape, not John. Conflating those accusations is not okay in a discussion like this.

And as we have pointed out - men don't get to be in on most whisper networks. So why are you calling him out as a shield? When he has repeatedly come out in belief and support of women here and elsewhere at the expense of his career, and friendships?

Like, fair bias here, Holden has talked me through more PTSD flashbacks and retraumatising incidents than any dude who is not my husband.

And here is the thing when you say "(a man thinking he's being flirty or funny, inappropriate jokes and insensitive comments) and should NOT NOT NOT be conflated" thus far the only public story about John is that level of behaviour. Which, from her own account, he stopped when he found out she was working for OPP too.

Muddying waters by lumping together offenses is not helping anyone stay safe.

And as I said before - whisper networks are as much social networking as any other damn thing.
VL Darling, I'm not sure where to begin. I made the references I did in the manner I did because I do not feel right telling details and naming names here, in this intensely public forum, that are not my stories to tell or that will accidentally out the victims in those stories BUT I know that Holden has the same sources and that he is aware of the existence of those accusations. In order to make my point TO HIM, I didn't need to get specific and, in fact, I didn't name John or Matt or assign specific blame to anyone (other than the obvious reference to the already-well-discussed situation with Matt in this very thread, which I didn't think needed attribution at this point). I am not trying to muddy the waters but yes, I am calling him out as having been a shield. If he is going to push the story that I (or Green Ronin) am problematic and MY repeated belief and support of women is up for debate because of my position on CA Suleiman in specific, I AM going to call on him to repudiate (and not with a meally-mouthed "Yeah, dude has hurt some people" deflection) those in his circle who have been accused of much, much worse without a peep from him. Holden has absolutely been part of a whisper network. Matt MacFarland was right there with him. This is not a situation of "Oh, how could he have known..." and THAT is why it irks me every single time. I don't expect every bystander to this duscussion to know those details but I'm confident Holden knows what I am referring to and why I, frankly, expect him to put up or shut up.

The "inappropriate messages" accusation against John Morke is not the only one out there, it's just the only one being publicly discussed here because Jaym decided to mention it openly. The other things he has been accused of are known to many, and fall into the much worse variety, but without the consent of the victims or their active participation here, I'm not going to do more than look Holden in the [virtual] eye and tell him to clean his house before he comes over to criticize mine. I didn't intend for that to muddy the waters but I also did want to stress that Suleiman has never been accused of anything remotely like those other accusations floating out there (against Matt, John, Frank, other unnamed bad actors) and bringing him up in this context conflates his behavior with some really bad shit and adds his name to a list that he does not desreve to be on.

And here's where we get into the sticky territory of addressing the "and what do we do about it" portion of the thread. I hear your heart-felt defense of Holden and I absolutely believe you that he has been there for you, that he has been an ally and a support, that you have seen him be a good actor. My interactions with him have been...different. Same man, different vectors, different experiences but also true and real. There is not a woman in the industry who isn't put in that position, of knowing someone and believing in their goodness or trusting in their genuine friendship with a man who another woman finds creepy or dismissive or sexist or worse. I don't think Holden needs to do anything except examine his positions and own where he's been wrong, because he HAS been wrong. I'm not calling for people to hate on him or slander him or blackball him or anything like that. But even so, your impulse was to jump to his defense because in YOUR experience he has earned that trust and loyalty and I'm not trying to naysay that at all. It's possible for a lot of these people to "be both" and it inevitably puts us on "sides" and seemingly against other women and *that* is something I don't think is productive at all. I think that is the challenge we have as women in the industry as we attempt to address "what do we do about it". I am not sure how to best address it except to assess the severity of the offense and when we're on the person's "good side" be the voice that says, "Jesus Christ, stop that. *I* know you but that person doesn't and they find it creepy [or dismissive or whatever]."

I don't think any of the people who have the actual, serious accusations raised against them are 100% bad, irredemable people either but some are going to be willing to own their behavior, change, and atone where they can... and some are not. I think we need to focus on the ones out there who are behaving the worst and doing the most damage, starting first with the ones who stubbornly refuse to accept they are in the wrong or who are unable or unwilling to change their behavior (because they're hardcore alcoholics and won't stop drinking and thus won't stop being out of control, for example). I want to save my fire for those people. I believe it's possible for us to address the rest, the bad joke, inappropriate innuendo brigade in particular, without taking a scorched earth policy. I believe it's possible for us to stand up for ourselves and set our boundaries and teach these "least worst" offenders how to be better. Show me you're willing to be better, to learn and TRY? That's where I want to spend my support. I didn't come out of the womb holding the views I have now and I'm not the same person I was when I was getting into the industry at 19 or 20. I have done the best I knew how and when I learned better, I did it better. I'm going to keep that up and I'm going to offer the same chance to be better to anyone who wants to work in good-fath alongside me in that effort. It's one of the few things I actually have control over.
 

Amora

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I am backing Nicole on this. A number of people came to me when the talent search was announced, and I spoke to everyone who had concerns at length. The main accusations against Suleiman are "He flirted with me fifteen years ago in an improper context", and "God, he was a dick and I didn't like working with him". I'm not even going to get into the anti-Semitism and terrorism stuff, because, as Nicole said, that was someone stirring up a thing they knew nothing about. He has had issues. He is still imperfect. He listens, he learns, and after knowing and working with him for nearly a decade, I trust him. I am also aware that the loudest voices against him have plenty of skeletons in their own closet, and find the hue and cry to rise hardest when those doors start opening.

Suleiman is not perfect, but I trust that he is safe, and that he has been working for years to improve himself and become a good ally.

Holden, I'm sorry, but people like you are the reason I have trouble trusting vocal allies. "Well, he was good to ME, so I'm going to keep protecting him while he harasses a lot of other people" is a thing I have heard MANY times. I find your response to Nicole frustrating at best, and dangerous at worst. No one is asking you to betray John, but with your very public and very aggressive voice, it is a *problem* to be sheltering someone who has preyed on so many women, while shouting for someone else's destruction. I can absolutely assure you that people see you, see your platform, and then look at John and say "Well no one that vocal about women's rights would be friends with a predator, he must be safe", because that's about the only way we have to vet industry figures.

And let me say this: one of my best friends was accused of sexually assaulting someone at a party. I publicly acknowledged the accusations, dealt with the issue, and removed him from my life. Someone I've known since kindergarten, a brother in all but blood, started emotionally abusing his wife. I helped her leave him and now he and I no longer speak. Over and over, I have had to stand up against people I love and care about, people I have worked with, often to protect people I don't care about or actively dislike. It *sucks*. But by protecting one predator, you're putting dozens in the way of harm. The interaction with John creeped me out, badly, but I am rather numb to it at this point. What others have reported is not just creepy, it is predatory and threatening, and one of these days, that brother of yours is going to hit someone in a weak spot, on a bad day, with just the wrong words.

Please stop and take a good, long look in the mirror. No one is bullying you, no one is threatening you, and I find it interesting that you're accusing a woman of bullying you when she asks you to take ownership of your problem.
 
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