My apologies to the former President of the United States. But this is a sentiment I can whole-heartedly get behind.
I guess a large part of this depends on what kind of geek you want to be. My version of Geekdom is inclusive, open, sharing, excited, committed to fostering growth and enjoyment of the things I like. I enjoy turning new people onto the things I get excited about. There’s a reason that the Geek Husband and I have several books that we keep multiple copies of so we can give them away to people. We like when new people like the stuff we like. It gives us new people to talk to about them. It lets us hear new perspectives on old favorites. It lets us bond with people.
And this is why I really do not get the Gatekeepers. I’ve written about Gatekeeping before and why it’s bullshit. But if you view fun as a finite resource, then I guess that makes sense, in a sad, lonely, shitty way.
Gatekeeping also serves a secondary purpose, that being protective. If you can keep people away from you via your Gatekeeping, this gives you an out when confronted with your own bullshit. If you can justify someone not liking you by means of grilling them relentlessly on the different types of Gundams, or who did the inking on a X-men #4, then you do not have to admit that maybe, just maybe, you’re an asshole and should work on that.
Now, to an extent everyone does a little gatekeeping (with a lower case g), because we pretty much want to hang out with people with the same or close enough to the same interests that we have something to talk about.
Personally, I just like talking to people who are passionate about something. Even if it isn’t a thing I’m into, I can listen to someone sing the praises of their hobby for hours. Because excited people are interesting. When I meet someone who doesn’t have an interest they’re willing to share, I always find that a little off-putting.
But yeah, we all gatekeep to an extent. We do it with our clothes, the jewelry we wear, our hair and make up. We do it with the signifiers we put on about our fandoms, be they Dr. Who, Marvel, or Football. We do it by choosing who we smile at and who we don’t.
Headphones on and book up is nature’s way of saying, “Do Not Touch.”
And while I want to be inclusive and friendly with everyone, that is not possible. Because if you are inclusive and friendly toward racists, sexists, and other bigots of any stripe, the people they victimize will never feel comfortable around you.
I think one of the most earth-shattering realizations that Ogre and I had collectively, was the realization that we could kick people out of our games for being disruptive asshats. I know, I know, but the Five Geek Social Fallacies are hard habits to break. But once we did, boy howdy, our games got so much better and more intense, because we were gaming only with people we trusted and who trusted us to be able to do some really intense storylines. It was utterly amazing.
Once we started extending the ability to kick people out of games to people who said racist or sexist things, or homo- or transphobic things, we noticed that we got to game with a far better class of players on the regular.
“Everybody’s welcome” sounds great in theory. But the truth of the matter is, without some sort of guiding principle, the assholes take over. Fast.
So, I exhort you to be the Geek you Want to See. Challenge racist, sexist or homo-/transphobic statements. Stand up for people who may not feel comfortable standing up for themselves if they aren’t sure anyone will have their back.
And if you are the person who was targeted, if you have the energy to do it, call out the bullshit and name it as the reason you’re leaving. Too often have I seen people quietly exit a game when it really would have made a difference if they had just said, “I cannot play with that racist mother fucker. This is the third time he’s said something racist and I will not tolerate it.” Or “That’s it. I’m out. This is the fourth time that the GM ignored my action even though I had initiative to listen to someone with a penis. Go fuck yourselves.” Yeah, that one’s autobiographical.
And when you get the obligatory, “It was just a joke…” bullshit. Stand firm.
“No. Jokes are funny. That was racist.”
If you don’t feel like being super confrontational, you can also ask them to explain how that’s funny, because you don’t get it. And frequently when they have to actually say, “Well, it’s funny because women are all stupid bimbos…” They’ll realize what that joke actually means.
And if they don’t, well, you can get more, better, friends.
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