Warning: Adult discussion of harassment, rape and bad humans

With the recent report from the New York Renaissance Faire (http://westchester.news12.com/story/41591009/ny-renaissance-faire-employee-one-of-the-most-humiliating-moments-of-my-life ) I am sure that many individuals were horrified and appalled at what happened. But if you ask anyone who works at a renaissance faire, well, let’s just so say not a lot were SURPRISED.

Does that speak poorly of faires, yes and no.  They are a microcosm of other areas of society where #MeToo happens and like those are both good and bad.

Good; Renaissance faires are a marvelous place where the shy and less socially experienced get to learn about other people, other parts of the world and it’s a geeky place where everyone is welcome-initially. They often don’t have after-hours police, or in the case of small faires, perhaps no police at all and rely on internal security.  A lot of people who make up a faire don’t fit neatly into our modern society’s check boxes and it some areas *cough the bible belt cough* it may be the first place that one might get the first taste of alternative lifestyles, religions, other cultures and sub-cultures. Good Rennies are tolerant people who want to welcome new people into the faires and help them develop as people. We ‘play’ at being old-timey, we don’t live in a fictionalized time where it’s okay to be a douchecanoe.

Bad: Welcoming communities sometimes can be TOO tolerant and welcoming and wanting to believe that everyone is inherently good sometimes don’t follow up with the “harsh vibes” they should or are reluctant to bring in police or social agencies because that would cause issues for not just a perpetrator but also those people around them. And let’s not forget our so-called “history purists” who feel that it’s perfectly okay to use the disadvantaged, innocent and poor.

So how does this happen?  Like many innocuous organizations-with good intentions.

The first renfaire I worked was started as a chance to sell swords and raise money for charity. And that was nice. But then it devolved because people used it as an excuse to do drugs and “shop” underage lovers.  Why didn’t anyone say anything? Well, first some people wanted to believe it was “just rumors” and some people were actually blackmailed into keeping their mouths shut. And the people in charge just didn’t want to sully the reputation of the organization or the faire and it was easier to just choose to believe it wasn’t happening because  it wasn’t happening TO THEM

I think you’ll understand that model didn’t hold up or keep people for long.

Unlike other bits on the subject I am going to give some advice when you find yourself on the wrong end of these interactions.

You can walk away.  The first rule of life saving is “save yourself” they do not expect you to cling to someone who is flailing and going to cause you to both drown. Harsh? Yes, but completely viable.

You can document and try to bring it to the internal authorities. Don’t give them your original material because if someone loses it either consciously on non-maliciously, you are up the creek.

You can bring it to law enforcement and to legal representatives.  They could choose to ignore it but when you have an insurance company or sponsor of a faire and you bring this material and use the words “potential lawsuit”, it’s like the sky is lit up with spotlights and the dogs are out for blood.  This will probably kill any chance you have of working that faire again but if you are like me, you have no worries about napalming that bridge if it saves another person.

You could write about it online. My feeling is if you are going to so this do it meticulously and with every detail and citation because going online has now left you open to anonymous personal attacks. I’m not saying “don’t do it” but even if you are excruciatingly specific and backed by many, there will about 1/3 who will use the “well if it’s true, why is this person still free to do ‘x’?” and they will call your validity into question.  When I see these things brewing I just alert everyone. It’s not my job to be judge and jury, we have people who are police, counselors and oversight committees whose ACTUAL JOB it is to sort through these and my self-appointment is not going to benefit anyone.

Will I personally judge? Yes. Will I take action and make a note about these things? Absolutely.  We have fostered a feeling in the troupe that we hang together and have our own backs and will not tolerate certain behaviors.  Everyone (except the kids obviously) in our troupe has been CORI checked at one point or another. Everyone has day jobs where we are professionals. Are we considered sort of snobby? Yeah, but I’d rather have someone think I’m an elitist snob than get caught up in the crap that can happen at renaissance faires.

And I’m going to say that you don’t have to put up with this-there are plenty of organizations that would love to have you. If you read this and you need to talk-text or call us

So some examples of where it all went wrong local to us:

Arisia Science Fiction Convention

Jeff Mach (former owner of Wicked Faire) and more Arisia