Just got back from the San Jose Fantasy Festival, played with my baby girl, recapped with my wife, and had a few moments of down time before opening my computer to catch up on everything I missed while at the faire for the weekend.
My post wrapping up the event is forthcoming in a day or two, I just need to rant about something that happened to me this morning.
Just in case some of you don’t know, I am a storyteller at Renaissance Faires and other similar events. Sometimes they can get a bit baudy and naughty, and in other cases, especially after some alcohol, they can get pretty bad. Sexual innuendos abound, and depending on the faire and the crowd, pretty inappropriate. Now, let me say that this is the exception rather than the rule,but it comes up from time to time. I love that Renaissance Faires exist and provide me with a way to earn a living that does not involve sitting in a cubical…and a great way to get the word out about my books.
Recently, the world of comic book and science fiction conventions has had a bit of controversy over the reaction cosplay (dressing up like favorite characters from comics and movies and such) has gotten recently. Some of the costumes can be somewhat revealing, and it’s become a bit of a controversy, as you can see in these two articles: Cosplay is not Consent and Cosplay is not a Permission Slip. In a nutshell, these articles say that just because a woman is wearing a skimpy outfit does not give you permission sexually harass her. I agree fully with this. Hell, even if you ogle her, you best be bloody discreet about it.
At Renaissance Faires, we occasionally have the same issue, which could be called, “A bodice is not consent.” Just because a woman wears an outfit that is historically accurate for the times that reveals more of her cleavage than you are used to seeing outside of faire, does not give you permission to treat her like anything less than a lady.
Are we all on the same page here? If you’re not with me already, let me sum up that stance that I’m taking here: No matter what a woman is wearing: Don’t be a douche nozzle. Really. Don’t.
Okay… Now that we got that out of the way, I can start my rant. Wait, I didn’t stat already? Nope. All the above is just context.
Earlier today, just before the faire opened I engaged in conversation with another performer from the faire. We proceeded to give each other a bad time over something trivial. It’s a hobby. I like to give people a bad time any chance I get. I’m very good at it. Few people at faire are my equal. This lady, playing the part of a princess, was not my equal. As her frustration grew, she decided to escalate our interaction. She reached out and pinched my nipple through my t shirt.
I batted her hand away and took a step back. She followed me, reaching with her other hand, for my other nipple, telling me that I was off balance and she needed to set things right. (Or some such. I’m paraphrasing, as I don’t recall what she said verbatim.) I continued backing away and batting at her hands to keep her from pinching me again. While doing this, I tried to bring up how outraged everyone would be if this situation was reverse. She said something like, “if it was reversed, you wouldn’t be able to get to mine.” (She was wearing a very tight corset and gown, so technically, she is correct.) At least one of her friends made cat calls as I tried to get them to realize how inappropriate this woman was being, even saying, “It’s not harassment unless she’s in a position of authority over you.” (That one I remember clearly.) Realizing that they weren’t interested in seeing my point of view, I removed myself from the situation, much more easily I might say, than a woman might have if the roles had been reversed.
I bitched to a few friends. I took a couple of deep breaths to calm down. I decided that I would rant about this here, and get on with my day.
Fast forward to the end of the day. I had all my stuff together and was heading to the car. I saw the faire promoter helping direct traffic onto the faire site for break down. I warned him that I was probably going to write a potentially volatile blog post about events at his faire. He asked me to explain. I did, and why I was upset about it. About the double standard. He pointed out the Guild Master of that particular group of ladies (who normally play courtesans – irony of irony). I recounted the situation. I got much the same attitude from this woman as I did that morning. The guild’s leader even went so far as to say, “Maybe you should have enjoyed it.” That’s when I walked away.
I’m disgusted. If the roles in this situation were reversed, I would have been GONE from the faire the very moment I laid hands on the girl. If a male guild master had been so flippant about this, I’d be surprised to see the guild there ever again. Right now we’ve got a lot of talk going on about the “Rape Culture” in our society. We need to have this conversation. But most of the noise I hear from this conversation is about how men behave toward women.
Well, it’s got to go both ways. This is not about me trying to downplay the importance of this conversation. We must have it. But…we must have the same conversation with everyone. Respect has to go both ways. Because, if I had matched this woman’s behavior, even in retaliation, I doubt anyone would have said to her, “Maybe you should have enjoyed it.” Hardly. My career as a storyteller would be DONE. OVER. No discussion. The renaissance faire community in Northern California is a close, fairly small, and VERY talkative group. It would get around. I’d stop getting hired to events. I’ll put money down that I’ll see these ladies at a future event.
Now, I probably wouldn’t be this pissed off if any of them had acknowledged the validity of my experience and my outrage. But no. Just got the brush off. Maybe because I’m a guy and I deserve it. Maybe because I’m a performer, and I should just take it in stride as part of the job. Point is, they seemed completely unwilling to see the situation from my experience or be willing to seriously examine their behavior. Maybe it was my fault, because maybe there’s something wrong with me because I’m a man, and I should have been grateful a woman was touching me like that.
So here’s the deal: Men. Women. Both. Other. Don’t be a douche nozzle. It’s not actually that big a challenge. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment. End of list. Don’t do it. If you even have the whisper of doubt in the back of your mind, it doesn’t matter what sex you are, what sex the other person is, or the sexual orientation of either party, remember kindergarten and keep your hands to yourself. Don’t touch, don’t speak, hell, best not to even look.
And if you do slip up, and touch, speak or look at someone in a manner that creeps them out at any level above 0%, acknowledge that they have the right NOT to be creeped out by you in any context. APOLOGIZE. recognize the validity of their experience. APOLOGIZE AGAIN. Then make sure your creep factor goes to 0%. If you can’t make that happen, leave. That’s it. End of list.
Don’t. Be. A. Douche. Nozzle.