When Nazis Get Rapey

Back from GenCon — and had a relatively good time. It’s always nice to meet the folks who enjoy your work, and GenCon also serves as a time to socialize with colleagues and friends whom we only see a couple of times a year if we’re lucky. On the professional front, several things came together which have me very excited, and I am finally now an Ennie-Award-winning game designer, having a 1/12th share of the one given to DOCTOR WHO: ADVENTURES IN TIME AND SPACE (11th Doctor Edition) for “Best Family Game.”

But this post isn’t about the good stuff. It’s about the very bad.

Belle and Blade (no, I’m not going to link to their site. I won’t give them the traffic.) is a fairly notorious vendor at GenCon. Officially, they focus on “military interest DVDs” — the booth is filled with copies of The Longest Day, Midway, Saving Private Ryan, The Four Feathers, Zulu, that kind of thing. Of course, if you look a bit closer, you’ll also find such gems as Ilsa, She-Devil of the SS, Red Nights of the Gestapo and Stalag Bitch. The Nazi fetishism continues on the inside of the booth, where you can find Triumph of the Will and T-Shirts emblazoned with each of the SS Division insignias, “Afrika Korps World Tour”, and other such gems. They’ve been an embarrassment to the industry for the years they’ve been exhibiting, but, depressingly, it seems a not-insigifiant part of the gamer audience actually gets into that kind of shit.

So I was not surprised when Valerie Laproye of French games publisher 7ieme Cercle was upset on Thursday night, telling me of the Nazi crap she’d seen in the dealer’s hall.

Then she mentioned the panties.

Wait, what?

I was used to the Nazi-fetish bullshit carried by Belle & Blade, so I was surprised when Valerie listed women’s underwear in the litany of the booth’s product — She said they were carrying black underwear, hung at child-height on the outside of the booth, emblazoned with slogans like “I COULD USE A LITTLE SEXUAL HARASSMENT.” She was quite upset by this — and I was as well. I had thought that admiration of the Nazis was as low as this exhibitor could go. I was wrong.

The next morning, I swung by their booth (1622) before the hall opened, and snapped a couple of pictures:

sexualharassment

In this shot, you can see the “sexual harassment” panties, above a pair that reads “you must be at least this long to ride” (with a picture of a ruler), and another that says “this is why I get my way.” The next shot I took, though, is where things got even worse:

getmedrunk

There, in the center, you see a pair emblazoned with the slogan “Get me drunk …and we’ll see.”

Let that one sink in a bit.

I headed over to security, where I showed the pictures to a friend I have on the staff, who was as pissed off as I was. He promised to escalate it further up the chain.

After that, I heard nothing more — things got very busy for me, and I was unable to head back to the other side of the hall to check up on things. On Twitter, more people started expressing shock and outrage. I mentioned it to several colleagues at the show as well. I know that many of these people filed complaints of their own with GenCon.

On Sunday, I heard several reports from friends that the panties were gone — but I’ve also heard via people on Twitter that they’d been only moved inside the booth, to share shelf space with the Nazi fetish bullshit. So far, there has been no official statement of any kind made by GenCon regarding this issue.

GenCon has vendors guidelines, and a clear policy governing harassment, and women’s panties emblazoned with encouragements of harassment and date-rape would seem to be clear violations of these policies. The silence, especially given that complaints began as early as Friday morning, is concerning.

The message that these products, and any action taken (or untaken) regarding them, sends about our industry is a fairly loud one. I will be keeping my ear to the ground for any news regarding this issue, and will pass along anything I discover. I would request that anyone with any further information please add it to the comments below — and also please send your concerns along to GenCon, letting them know how you feel about this vendor and their products.

65 Replies to “When Nazis Get Rapey”

  1. It’s already been answered, Michael. See Selena’s comment from 9:28 this morning.

    Additionally, the harassment policy (again, linked above) specifically states “We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form.” So again, clearly covered.

  2. Gareth,

    For the third time, I am asking you, as the author of the article, in your own words, how do the items constitute sexual harassment?

    Why are you so keen on avoiding this question?

  3. Michael, for the third time, I’m telling you: The question has been answered.

    You can now go ahead and spring your clever trap and deliver your scathing coup de grace, which you’ve been dying to do since you showed up.

    Go ahead. We’ll wait.

  4. Gareth,

    How and why did you become so jaded? I was merely asking a question, one that you, for some unknown reason, refuse to answer. It makes you look like you’re blowing smoke, and I really hope that’s not the case.

    Selena’s argument is not satisfactory. Merely offering items for sale is not sexual harassment and does not constitute a hostile environment. Since the customer is free to either not patronize the vendor or leave the vendor upon the realization that the items are offensive, no hostile environment exists.

    Now, perhaps I’m wrong. I’m willing to admit that I might be. If that’s the case, then, please, show me where I”m wrong.

    Why do you keep avoiding this?

  5. Nobody’s avoiding anything. You seem to have mistaken “answers that you don’t like” with “avoiding the question.”

    Fuck off, now. I’m done with you. You’re not just “merely asking a question” — you’re persistently (4 posts now) and knowingly trolling. You’ve gotten enough attention. Further posts from you will be deleted.

  6. And now, since I’m getting a flood of harassing posts from Michael, I’ll point out that it’s probably not a smart thing for him to do, since his IP address is 173.29.58.107, and his Service Provider is Mediacom Cable of Robinson, Illinois.

    Jus’ sayin’.

  7. The gaming community tends to be filled with backwards-thinking folks. Posts like this, from Gareth, are good for the community. It’s like lifting a rock and shedding light on the critters underneath.

    And the critters need the light shed on them. They’ve been living in their echo chambers with their like-minded backwards-thinking friends for long enough. What they need is some fresh air and some good old-fashioned exposure to scorn and outrage.

    It’s one of the best tools that society has to modify behavior.

    You might call that “being self-righteous” or “riding around on a high horse” … but this is exactly the sort of thing that affects social change. And as a gamer who’s surrounded by other gamers… I really see the need for some serious social change here.

    And if you stop and think about it for a minute, you do too.

  8. Thanks for posting this. I didn’t notice the offending items, but I pretty much ignore that particular booth anyway.

    While Selena covered this upthread, I do want to confirm that yes, indeed, those items would constitute sexual harassment if they appeared in a work environment. If you ever find yourself receiving training regarding inappropriate sexual conduct, they will cover this sort of thing. And it doesn’t become less harassing if it’s at a convention rather than a workplace.

    Honestly–and I say this as a fortysomething male who personally enjoys women in sexy costumes–but I was put off by a lot of things this year at Gen Con. I cringe when I see pre-teen girls (of which there were plenty) being confronted with the highly sexualized material that springs up wherever geeks gather.

  9. Another thing to consider: Some of the original complaints were coming from women in the industry — and for those women, the convention IS a workplace.

  10. Hey Gareth, sorry about the idiots on your article, but at least there seem to be a good chunk of mature folks out there who don’t quibble over definitions and are mature enough to understand how some things can be offensive even if they themselves are not offended.

  11. I would definitely state that this kind of active confrontation is what this kind of scummy behavior deserves. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis once said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. Out in the sun where everyone can see, this kind of crap just won’t fly. Although I definitely think the overall Con could use more airing out. The level of blatant exploitation of sexual matters did disturb me somewhat when I attended GenCon this year.

  12. To all the people asking why this is sexual harassment:
    The publicly-displayed almost-advocation of sexual harassment.

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