The image here at left is the registration logo for GenCon’s “SPA” (Spousal Activities) program — as they say “Activities for the Better Half.” The program, started some years back, isn’t the worst idea in the world — things for the non-gaming spouse to do, if they choose to come to GenCon. All well and good, I suppose. But check the logo.
Ball and Chain. Get it? Har Har.
This darling little bit of misogyny in the name of “humor” has been called out in other blogs, such as this excellent open letter from Critical Hits to this rather more scathing entry at The Seven Sided Die. The comments that it has drawn, both there and on various internet fora, have come down to the predictable two camps: “Lighten up, it’s a joke,” and “What the fuck, GenCon?”
It’s not so much that I’m humorless, or looking to be offended here… although I do note with some interest that a fairly high number of the “it’s a joke” arguments feature some slap at the bogeyman of “political correctness.” It’s always been a maxim of mine that the more a person bitches about “P.C.”, the more likely they are to be speaking from a position of privilege and looking to maintain it.
It’s just that you’d think that a convention that represents not only the hobby itself, but also to a large extent the industry (by virtue of being its largest gathering, larger by orders of magnitude than the nominal trade show, GTS) would take much greater care not to reinforce the image of gaming as an emotionally-stunted, borderline-asperger’s, arrested-adolescence boy’s club.
You’d be wrong.
In a comment responding to the Critical Hit post, Jeannette LeGault, Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC, responds, basically saying that since the majority of shareholders of GenCon LLC are women, and she herself picked the icon, that people should just get over it. Read the rest of the comment — it’s completely dismissive, and yet another example of what passes for professionalism in this sad, dying little niche industry.
It’s a shame — I love RPGs, and I love gaming. But I am actively embarrassed by my industry, and (more often than not, sadly), many of my fellow hobbyists. That’s not a good place to be, but I honestly don’t know what to do about it.