Do Better, Be Better
On the heels of a social media effort highlighting the unacceptably common abuse of women, many dudes are asking what we can do. With a major gaming convention (TwitchCon) happening this weekend, it’s occurred to me that this is an excellent time for men to back up their promises to do and be better. Whenever an industry as male-dominated as videogames gathers it seems extra important for us make a renewed commitment to eradicating abusive behavior.
So while you are out and about, I want to offer you some tips for helping, because it’s not always easy, warranted or wanted and yet it is still very much our responsibility to make sure that our spaces are safe for everyone.
PRE-GAMING AND PREPARATION — Be There
Let your friends know ahead of time that you are committed to their safety and will help if they feel uncomfortable (AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH ON THAT COMMITMENT). You might want to establish some kind of signal ahead of time — something subtle but clear (a safe word is good, but a gesture could be better).
ON THE SHOW FLOOR — Be Available
Years ago, I learned a trick that I’ve come to call the “Frag Doll Rescue” (named after the pro-gamer ladies who taught it to me). This is really useful if you are working a booth with others and are sharing a professional space. If a colleague appears to be involved in a discussion that has gone on longer than it should or looks uncomfortable, simply approach them and inform them of an urgent professional commitment they must have forgotten and whisk them away. It could be that your boss needs to talk to them, that someone arrived at the press desk asking for them or even that they have a meeting scheduled at another location, but the key is that they must be elsewhere right away, thus extricating them from the uncomfortable or inappropriate situation. If you were wrong and they are fine, they can always return to their conversation, but offering them a quick and painless “out” that doesn’t expose them to potential negative repercussions is the objective.
IN THE EVENING — Be Vigilant
After business hours is trickier, but even more important. Baseline, I would recommend simply being and visibly appearing vigilant. Watch your friends’ drinks. Look other men in the eyes, so they know you are present and watching out. You don’t need to be hostile, just there and unwilling to let anything slide. You see them.
If you see something, say something — find allies to back you up if you need them. Watch out for common abuser tactics like separating a target from the group, but be very careful with any confrontation because it could easily invite repercussions against the very person you are trying to help. Keep in mind that rolling up with a “is this guy bothering you?” isn’t often the best way to defuse that situation and could make it worse — some dudes cannot accept rejection and it is often the objects of their desire who pay the price. Don’t put anyone in a situation where they have to lie and say that everything is fine in order to preserve the peace and avoid conflict or danger. You might try engaging on a different topic, offer a disarming (but appropriate) compliment, or otherwise insert yourself socially into the situation. Follow your friend’s lead though and take the wave-off if it is indicated.
IN CONCLUSION — Be Better
Constantly remind yourself you just want everyone to be safe and happy and having a good time — you don’t need to win or conquer anything and you aren’t doing this for cookies or prizes. If you’re engaged in a potentially uncomfortable situation yourself, be receptive to other people who might interrogate your motives — understand the climate we’re dealing with and make an effort to avoid getting defensive over someone who is worried about their friend.
Make no mistake, gentlemen, we have been doing a shit job of living up to our responsibilities and we must do better. I hope this helps all my dudes out there and please feel free to offer up further suggestions you might have in the comments!