2013 was my third PAX. And it’s going to be my last, unless things drastically change for the better.
I’ve given PAX multiple chances to stop being an unwelcoming and hostile space to women. I’ve volunteered at PAX, and spent countless hours offline and online discussing how to make the space welcome the actual diverse array of gamers and fans present in the real world. But I cannot in good conscience go to PAX any longer. The visible leadership of PAX doesn’t want to change the status quo, and refuses to learn the decency and empathy required to help PAX change.
The “change from within” movement I’ve encountered from multiple attendees is admirable. But the battle they’re fighting is and will be long, uphill, and slow. PAX is home to a great deal of institutionalized sexism, much like our shared and overarching culture. And I am tired of fighting that battle at PAX, because I don’t think that battle will ever triumph there.
PAX will never change unless it unseats its leadership, or its leadership changes at the very top. And changes does not mean “stops saying horrible things.” It means that the leadership has to listen and change in response to what people say to them.
Am I hurt and angry that people will continue to give money, energy and airtime to PAX?
Because so many people ‘know better.’ They’re voices for social change and often staunch supporters of women and minorities of all kinds in other spaces and their daily lives. But when it comes to PAX, they fall down on the job. When you support social change, you have one job: to resist the status quo that oppresses and attacks so many people. Making an exception for PAX is sending a message that you will only go so far for change, that you will only care so much about those who are oppressed and demeaned among you. That your fun or career trajectory will come at a cost to others that reinforces the cycles of oppression.
My energy, time, money and airtime will go to other cons. It will be invested in other spaces. My struggle to fight institutionalized sexism and prejudice will continue, within larger culture and the multitudes of co-cultures contained within it. But all of what I am or could ever offer will no longer go to PAX. I will no longer be a part of a space where I have been viciously sexually harassed, challenged to prove my “geek cred.” I will not give more of myself to a space that shouts women down, online and offline, when we have asked to be treated with basic decency and respect in PAX space.
It is time for me to stop being part of the problem.
It is time I stop falling down on the job.