I’ve been slowly catching up on the #1reasonwhy phenomenon—it’s still a little staggering to see a Twitter conversation between two people I know personally evolve into a trending topic covered by multiple news organizations!
I had little to add to that conversation. I’ve been really lucky and I don’t really have any stories to share, even though I’ve been involved in gaming for almost 17 years, I’ve been a professional for nearly 10 years, and I’ve gone to many conventions. Sure, I used to occasionally get mistaken as a spouse who was dragged to a convention, but once people were set straight I was always immediately accepted into the conversation as a gaming professional. And now that I have some high profile games under my belt, no one makes that mistake anymore.
I’ve given some thought as to why I’ve been so lucky, and I think it’s a variety of things.
My gaming groups
I started gaming relatively late in life, after I was married. My first gaming group was all adults and overwhelmingly female—Clark and me, another couple, and two single women. Most of us were newbie gamers. It was a very safe place to learn to play. The guys were the ones with the most experience, but they were so eager to share a beloved hobby with us that there was no condescension or belittling.
When we moved, our next gaming group learned to deal with nursing infants at the table. Again, I wasn’t the only woman—Shannon Butcher was in one of our groups and Jessica Banks was in both. Jim and Shannon’s tween son often played with us as long as his attention held out. After the Butchers and Bankses moved away, our group changed again—and it brought two new couples and another series of nursing infants.
I’ve always gamed with friends, I’ve never been the only woman, and I’ve always gamed with adults. I know not everyone has access to a situation like this, but oh my goodness what a difference it makes. The kinds of horror stories I hear about would never happen at our table.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, I got into editing because I was friends with Cam Banks. Anyone who knows Cam knows there’s no way he was going to be awful to me—he’s a genuinely decent human being in addition to being one of my best friends. Plus Jess would kick his ass. So I never once in any way felt like being a woman was a liability working with Cam. I also started out with Margaret Weis’ company—the whole company was used to seeing a woman in a position of authority. I may have had to convince them they needed an editor, but I never had to convince them a woman was capable of doing the job.
Next, I worked with Evil Hat. It’s true that in much of my work on The Dresden Files I work almost solely with men (lots of women have contributed both writing and art, but due to when I came onto the project and because of my role, I’ve had little to do with them). But I was fully respected as a professional editor from the get go. Maybe I wasn’t as aggressive as I could have been sometimes, but that’s because I was star struck to be working with Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, and Leonard Balsera! When we all got together at Fred’s house or at a convention, I never felt like the token woman. It was often only later that I would realize I’d been the only woman. I was just a professional among my peers.
Now, anyone who hires me does so based on my reputation. And you don’t do that and then abuse that person for happening to be female. Plus I don’t work with jerks. Everyone I’ve worked with has been amazing, but I’m lucky to be in a position now where people approach me—I don’t have to go out looking for jobs.
I didn’t go to a convention until my kids were old enough to stay with Grandma for a week (as has been mentioned in #1reasonwhy, it often just makes sense for the mom to stay with little kids). Clark had been to Gen Con a few times so he was eager to share it with me—I wasn’t wandering around lost by myself at my first convention. Within a few years, my involvement in RPG editing meant that conventions were a chance to meet up with the people I work with. I’m typically surrounded by my friends and coworkers, many of whom happen to be male.
I often wear a corset or work a booth—I’ve even worked a booth while wearing a corset a few times—but I’ve never had anyone be anything except occasionally slightly creepy. I’ve never experienced an overtly lewd comment or an unwelcome touch. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to avoid this—maybe because my husband or someone else is usually with me? I don’t know how much of a role this plays—I know some of the real creeps don’t care who’s around, for instance—but I do wonder if my tendency to be surrounded by safe guys protects me from the jerks.
(Addendum: I’m typically surrounded by friends—both male and female. My female friends are just as scary as—if not scarier than—my male friends if you threaten one of our group.)
I’ve never been sexually assaulted. Once when I was a young teen, some skeezy guy tried to convince me to join him for a party at the abandoned train station, but when I looked at him like he was insane, he didn’t stop me from walking away. During my college years, I was in some situations that in retrospect were pretty damn vulnerable, but I was always lucky enough to be with guys who didn’t take advantage of me. Therefore, many things that are triggers for lots of other women aren’t triggers for me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not even noticing some of what goes on, especially at conventions, because it doesn’t set off my danger sensors.
The traumatic bullying I suffered in middle school and early high school? It was all at the hands of other girls. I learned to fear them, not the boys. Luckily, the female gamers I know are supportive and wonderful, so I haven’t had to deal with middle school flashbacks.
To sum up
I never had to navigate the waters alone. I came into gaming as a married adult, not as a single girl. I game with friends, which always includes other women. I hang out with really great guys who have never done anything to make me uncomfortable and who probably unintentionally form a buffer around me. I started my career with people who already respected me as a person. I am very lucky.
I know that there are plenty of misogynistic assholes out there. My heart hurts for the horrible experiences so many of you have had. My brain aches when the trolls come out to prove that misogyny is alive and well. But please know that there are lots and lots of wonderful people out there, too.
I’m incredibly grateful I have nothing of substance to add to #1reasonwhy, and I’m equally grateful for the courage of so many people to speak up and share their reasons. I believe that your courage will help change the atmosphere so that eventually my experiences will be the norm.