Before I begin, let me just say 95% of Gen Con was amazing. I didn’t catch anyone leering at me, I didn’t get “accidentally” ran into, and no one questioned my geek cred. Gamers were helpful, instead of sarcastic, when I mentioned I hadn’t played a game.
But, and there’s alway a but, when I finally convinced my husband to come with me on Sunday things changed. Suddenly, I did not exist. Vendors would address my husband, ignoring me. One booth that stands out in my mind, actually answered my husband when I asked a question. As we were walking away, my husband said: “It’s funny, I know nothing about gaming but they’re all talking to me. They answer me when you ask a question.”
It was kind of embarrassing to our culture. Here I had convinced my husband to come with me to Gen Con so he could “experience my world” and my world had shown itself to not give a damn if I was part of it. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. So I sent the following email to the game publisher from the booth that stood out:
I stopped by your booth with my husband at Gen Con this weekend. While we were at the booth, I asked a question and the answer was addressed to my husband.
Now, I realize (or at least hope) this behavior was not intentional but it was a bit rude. I am actually the gamer in the household, and drug my husband with me on the final day of Gen Con so he could see my world.
Please in the future do not assume the male is the gamer, and even if he is the question should be answered to the person who asked it. That is just polite and good manners.
I received the following response later the same night:
We own game stores too and we teach the staff not to do that… but it’s hard to remember such things when 99.9% of the people talking to you have a “lady” in tow. I’m glad to hear you are the gamer and we need more of you. Sorry if you were unintentially insulted.
Which of course just angered me more. First of all, why is lady in quotations? Secondly, this is just condescending. What I had expected (or wanted) to hear was something along the lines of : “I’m sorry that our representative acted in this way. We appreciate all of our customers, and do not want our company reflected in this way. We will work with our reps to make sure they are addressing all potential customers equally.” But what I got boiled down to “sorry that you’re upset, but most our customers are male so its not our fault.”
I replied with:
Even if the guy has a “lady in tow,” if she asks a question she should get an answer.
To which the company responded:
Agreed. It was hecticly busy.
Normally, I wouldn’t’ have even sent the initial email. I would have just brushed it off. But when my husband pointed it out, it became clear how ludicrous the situation was. And time and time again I see comments along the lines of “sexism isn’t bad at conventions, the women I know don’t experience it.” But do you know they don’t? Have you asked? Because this kind of behavior is so normal, something I am so used to I don’t even bring it up.
By assuming I wasn’t a gamer and therefore not a potential customer, this game publisher has ensured I will not become one. Women are nearly half of the world population, that’s quite a market to be shutting down.
And it’s not cool.