Save vs. Misogyny: An Open Letter To Gen Con’s Event Organizers

I’ve been coming to Gen Con every year (save one) since 1997. When I first got married, I brought my wife. Not being much of a gamer, she was bored out of her skull, but she is quite resourceful and found things to do in Indianapolis while I was in a berserk game-frenzy for four days. After a couple years of this, she decided she would rather stay home when I went to the ‘con, which is fine with me. These days, she takes our son to visit Grandma for a couple days, and I head to Indy to nerd out as usual. I’d much rather she was relaxing somewhere she liked than being stuck effectively alone in another state for most of any given day for a four day period.

A couple of years ago, I noticed events starting to appear in the Gen Con catalog under the heading “Activities for the Better Half.” I thought this was a really good idea. Most of the activities had to do with crafting and dancing, but they’ve started to expand to things like women’s self-defense (which, as a karate instructor, is a topic near and dear to my heart). I’m not sure I agreed fully with most of the events being geared toward women (surely there are male non-gamer spouses?), but these events seemed like a step in a good direction. Granted, these activities aren’t near numerous enough to take up a non-gamer’s whole day and night, but it’s certainly far better than nothing if they don’t want to stray far from the convention center for something to do. At its heart, this is an accomodation for non-gaming spouses to make them feel more welcome. I can’t speak for anyone else’s relationships, but I know I have a lot more fun when I know my wife is happy (and if she isn’t, I’d rather it wasn’t because of me). This is a win-win for everybody.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went to register for events this year to find this:

Let’s review. Non-gamer spouses are offered events to help them pass the time and have a little fun. +5 to diplomacy, good job! And now they’re being visually characterized using an old euphemism holding down their gamer-spouse and keeping him from having fun. It does not take a particularly high INT score to understand why women would find this offensive.

As for us guys — you shouldn’t put up with this either. Especially if we have kids, some of us are depending on on our spouse’s kindness in taking over our responsibilities for a few days so we can go to Gen Con. It’s hard enough not to pull Wife Aggro under these circumstances without the convention’s organizers officially mass casting Mordenkainen’s Anachronistic Misogyny all over everything. Sure, I get it. It’s a joke. It’s a terrible joke that reflects very poorly on geeks everywhere. As a part of society that generally slants more toward the progressive than most, this should make us all angry. And even if none of the societal or ethical implications bother you – this kind of thing makes women angry and makes it harder for guys to enjoy our yearly pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca.

And so, I plea to the elder gods of Gen Con: Please, please change your stupid ball and chain to something less offensive and horrible.


  1. Have you looked at the even list? I went to Gencon 06 and I glanced over it while picking events. I can’t remember the details but there where only a handful of events and they where all either bellydancing or knitting type things. As I recall both my father & I commented on that in our little review forms.
    .-= Canageek´s last blog ..Saragasso of Dungeons =-.

  2. I don’t find that too terribly offensive (and certainly not horrible), but it is pretty stupid and unnecessary.
    .-= Wyatt´s last blog ..Regarding NAA V1.5 =-.

  3. I’m a woman who games. I am married to a gamer. Even without being a non gamer that annoys the crap out of me.

    When are we going to get passed the 1950s?
    .-= Filamena´s last blog ..The Word =-.

  4. Is it just me, or is this kind of thing also part of a more general trend of late which has gamers holing up and segregating themselves even further?
    .-= Fabio “Sooner” Macedo´s last blog ..[Video games, market, trends] The Wake-up Call series: there’s a crack in your hard-core =-.

  5. Oh come on! That is hilarious. Don’t take it too seriously!!

  6. Thank you. I thought I was the only person who noticed this.

  7. justaguy says:

    Eh. I dunno. I suppose it’s a joke that is old and tired but a ball and chain joke is not the 1950s. It hearkens to a “laugh at ourselves” sort of thing, to me anyways.. And maybe my wife is just atypical (which I guess the computer tech and gamer thing already point towards) but her reaction to this sort of thing is just a shrug and a “What?”. Or maybe our “being offended” bar is just set much higher than most…

  8. While i can see the humour in the ball and chain logo i agree that it probably isn’t good idea for the organisers to present wifes, husbands or any sort of partner in such a negative light. I know if it were flipped and i was a non-gaming spouse, this symbolism would probably make me feel unwelcome if i were attending an event i wasn’t interested in.

    All in all there is a sort of cheeky humour here which isn’t necessarily harmful or overly derogatory to any individual, however it is probably best left to people making jokes between good humoured friends and left out of events and public forums. But thats just my two cents.

    .-= Scott Wallace´s last blog ..Save vs. Misogyny: An Open Letter To Gen Con’s Event Organizers =-.

  9. “Wife Aggro.” …clutch

    Otherwise, I have yet to experience a convention. I’m not sure I have an idea of what to expect.

    .-= Tourq´s last blog ..Gaming Tools, #4 =-.

  10. I showed this to my wife this morning and she suggested an alternate image: the harpy.

    I love my wife.

  11. Hawthorne says:

    Wow…with so many legitimate things to get upset about in this world, you choose to plant your flag on this one?

  12. I see the “it’s just a joke maaaaan”‘s have already begun.

  13. I understand what you’re saying. I know how sensitive a situation like this can be and when you’re asking a non-nerd, non-gaming female partner to come to an event like this with you, it’s already going to be a little touch and go. You don’t need the organizers prodding the situation with a hot poker. The people responsible for this sign don’t have wives or girlfriends.

  14. I find your use of the word Nerd Mecca to describe GenCon as offensive…

    I also find your site’s use of advertisement for Marrying a Millionaire offensive… What????


    IMO, we need to stop worrying about what offends us, or what might offend someone. There will always be someone offended, whether on purpose or not. So let’s stop pretending that people have a right not to be offended.

  15. I can’t say it’s a real surprise to me that the responses are falling largely into two camps: “OMG OFFENSIVE” and “LOLZ IT’S FUNNY, DON’T TAKE THIS SO SERIOUSLY”. Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion – but I think Scott hit it squarely on the head in that is it one thing to make this kind of joke privately and quite another to have an event’s organizers paint people in a negative light. If you were a woman and you didn’t game, how would you like to show up to a place and have a sign say, “Hey Debbie Downer, how about you come do this stuff while your fun-loving husband participates in our event without you weighing him down”?

    I classify this joke in the same dangerous category as making fun of your wife’s weight. Even if you’re gentle and you make it incredibly clear that you are joking, there is still a real risk of future retribution / genital trauma. If you’ve absolutely got to make a joke like this, you sure as hell don’t do it to her face.
    .-= Vanir´s last blog ..Save vs. Misogyny: An Open Letter To Gen Con’s Event Organizers =-.

  16. @Fabio—
    Yes, I agree. I see Geek, Nerd, and other words all ove the place here. And I see them primarily in enabling term usage. Adults are adults.

    Vanir, this line of your and the whole, ‘gamers are geek males’ attitutide bothers me just as much, as it propogates the issue,
    “this kind of thing makes women angry and makes it harder for guys to enjoy our yearly pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca.”
    I recognize that you trying to make a point here, and you deserve the credit for it, but I think that the gender-specific parts of your post are part of the problem. I know you mention it when you raise the question, “Surely there are male non-gamer spouses”, but you raise it in such a way that makes it seem nearly preposterous.

    Anyway, I agree that it is a stupid attempt at humor. I have a lot of female gamers in my groups, and they openly wonder why a hobby for supposedly smart folks is so anachronistic. I’d find it far more useful for GenCon and other conventions to do more events with husbands and wives as teams, maybe beginner games for non-gaming spouses…I wonder if Phil could GM an under 11 event? I think that would be a HUGE family draw. Nothing wrong with trying to make it a family pilgrimage.

    Thanks for recognizing this.
    .-= LordVreeg´s last blog ..edited Celtrician Worship =-.

  17. Hey! No fair making me have to defend myself!

    Anybody else find it interesting that the people who AREN’T offended are a lot more vocal than the people who ARE? 🙂

    Who said you don’t have the right not to be offended? Certainly, I was trying to persuade people to realize this is a bad idea, but I respect your right to have an opinion.

    The article might not look like it, but I have no illusions that ‘gamers = geek males’. I was speaking primarily to gamer-geek males for this article’s purposes because the “Activities For The Other Half” events are catered primarily to women – presumably the women these gamer-geek males would be bringing. To be honest, I can’t think of any female gamers I know whose husbands don’t also game. I don’t think it’s preposterous, but I do think it’s probably uncommon based on lots of, um, scientific research. Yes, that’s it. Regardless, I’ll keep what you said in mind. I certainly don’t want to be part of the problem.

    Your wife is awesome. 🙂
    .-= Vanir´s last blog ..Save vs. Misogyny: An Open Letter To Gen Con’s Event Organizers =-.

  18. I suppose I should add my wife’s response to the ball-and-chain:

    “I think it’s really offensive, but it’s nowhere near as bad as that stupid f#*king NASCAR logo.”

    That’s what I get for marrying a graphic designer. 🙂
    .-= Vanir´s last blog ..Save vs. Misogyny: An Open Letter To Gen Con’s Event Organizers =-.

  19. Vic: Awesome, I can’t wait to use blackface for my next character if I shouldn’t worry about offending anyone!

    (Not that these two situations are comparable, but still… clearly, it’s bad business, more likely to drive off then attract customers.)

  20. Lets have fun with analogies. If this were a ‘blackie’ face and the assumption being made was that most gamers are white-guys so those traveling with black partners may want something for their black partner to do and we’ve chosen this colourful anacronysm from the past I don’t think we’d be having this discussion on IF this is appropriate.

    Okay, it’s not race. We could argue the situation above is never going to happen.

    As a female gamer this isn’t going to make or break my experience. I’m not so offended that I’m going to boycott the convention or encourage others to do so. I am going to quietly roll my eyes and make a little mental note of another stupid thing to ingore in the gaming community that may or may not want my participation as a women.

    Gaming is one of few areas that is still very gender divided. There is an impliclit assumption that gaming is for boys and men, women and girls are a distinct minority. But, gamers are growing up. Many gamers that have stuck with the hobby are now participating as adults with partners and children. Many of those partners are non-gamers.

    Without getting into the gender parity at the moment portraying non-gaming partners as a ball-and-chain no matter how tongue-in-cheek the intention seems like lazy marketing – at best – to me. This is a hobby that is intensely visual. Are we saying there was no one to come up with better iconography? Or heck, it’s a spa day – what about an image that says “spa”?

    On the female side of things…. I haven’t been to GenCon (Canadian) but for FanExpo… if I think of the vendors floor alone between the almost naked models, the over-representation of artists displaying T&A artwork, and the guy who screamed at me for asking if they had any “girl t-shirts” in their booth of thousands of t-shirts…. walking through a convention as a woman trying to find something that I want to buy… and I’m saying this as a woman with money in my pocket… is difficult. I nearly always leave conventions having purchased nothing.

    Then there have also been the heavily male skewed games. I joined a pick up game of Serenity once where the GM had generated all of the female characters in incredibly revelaing clothing, all of the females had the “hot flaw” (we asked – apparently it gave male characters a mandate to hit on all female characters) and were also either bi-sexual or lesbian with a sexual compulsion. Yes, this was the worst example, but it actually happened.

    There’s a lot of good things about conventions. The amazing work that people put into the costumes. Getting to see sneak previews of movies, ask questions of writers and designers on panels and trying new games. I keep coming back for these reasons.

    To sum up, it’s not that I’m easily offended. It’s just that it would be more fun if these things didn’t happen.

  21. TheMainEvent says:

    To keep up with the event organizers at Gencon, I’ve already added my yellow star of David flair to Critical Hit’s give aways this year.

  22. As a joke, its an old, tired and out-dated one which deserves to be taken out and shot. As an image which is supposed to be for events which support, encourage and recognise those non-gaming partners who have come along with their gaming S.O.s, it’s in very poor taste and an utter fail.

    Way to go for sending the wrong message on every level, folks.
    .-= greywulf´s last blog ..Victory of the Daleks, a review =-.

  23. Of course it’s a joke. But a joke sometimes reveals interesting things about the teller. There is a reason that white racists never start off their jokes with “Three white guys go into a bar.”

  24. I just asked my wife (who does not consider herself a “gamer wife” at all, by the way). Her response? “It is rude. It could be funny, but I don’t care. There is *no* way I am going to vacation in Indianapolis”.

  25. @BeagleSmuggler.- thanks for the time spent writing that. I think you are right on target. I have heard similar responses from my players. One of them is dead convinced that the population gender sku would have ended over a decade ago if the gaming industry wasn’t causing it.

    @Vanir, Thanks for the response. I doubted you were part of the gender problem, but I wanted to respond to the OP fairly, knowing you’d have no problem making it clear where you stood.
    .-= LordVreeg´s last blog ..edited Celtrician Worship =-.

  26. Y’know, everyone always gets all caught up on “offense”:
    “Is this offensive?”
    “I don’t think this is offensive!”
    “The (single anecdotal example of a member of potentially-offended group) that I know isn’t offended so this isn’t offensive.”

    I submit that “offensive” is not what’s at the core here, since that is a subjective thing and only happens on the receiving end. What’s more important is that this shows a level of disregard and inconsideration on the part of the message-crafters.

    A con organised by a bunch of men should not be calling any women “balls and chains” because it’s disrespectful. It’s not women’s responsibility to announce and defend whether they’re offended—it’s the con organisers’ responsibility to Not Be Dicks.

    (Oh hey, my old post on my languishing blog is topical. Funny that.)
    .-= d7´s last blog ..Paizo’s response to criticism of their portrayal of women =-.

  27. Just wanted to add that I have been going to gencon since 2006 with my group. My boyfriend is in fact not a gamer and due to the lack of interest providing him anything else to do he has yet to accompany me. Heck I’m not going this year since he requested that maybe I could spend all that money on a vacation together.
    Yes, male non gamers happen and ignoring that will lose them money

  28. Thank you d7. The point is not offense – the point is we should treat human beings like human beings.

    As long as we’re dreaming, hey Gen Con, you could think about asking the guys who wear blackface and call it drow makeup to stay the hell home.

  29. I’m a girl. Well, a woman–I’m 45. I’ve been gaming since I was 15, which is probably longer than some of the men saying “this is just a joke” have been alive. I don’t care if it is “just” a joke, or meant to be funny. It is not funny, and I tend to regard people who do think that this sort of thing is humorous as people I’d rather not get too close to, because they tend to think other things are funny that I also find offensive.

    There are a couple of problems here. First of all, the misogynistic “humour” needs to go away, because even if it’s only offensive to some of the people you’re trying to please, the fact that it is offensive to some of the people you’re trying to please means that from a wholly practical and utilitarian POV, it’s counter-productive and hence not useful.

    Second of all, there’s a basic problem in setting up a track for non-gaming partners of gamers and that’s that non-gaming partners of gamers have only one real common interest: their gaming partner. Some of them may be interested in beginner’s level games, but some of them may have other hobbies that are already taking up most of their free time. Many of them are not looking for new hobbies.

    Non-gaming partners of gamers are not all straight women. Some of them are gay or bisexual men, and some of them are gay or bisexual women. (Of course, homophobia in gaming is often an even worse problem than misogyny.) Some of them are transgender, too. The thing is, most of them are geeks, because how often do non-geeks marry/pair up with geeks? Assuming that partners are going to be Debbie or David Downers who have only traditional mundane gender-specific interests is insulting to both partners and the gamers they came with. My last non-gamer partner was a bisexual man who was nuts about anime and manga. He couldn’t see the use of tabletop gaming because he didn’t have the “Let’s Pretend” gene, but he sure was a geek. I don’t think I’ve *ever* dated someone totally mundane. I’m not sure where I would meet someone like that!

    There’s nothing wrong with sewing circles and basic self-defence as Gen Con activities that may be of interest to some gamers as well as to non-gamers. I love gaming, but at 45, after an 8 hour run, I want a break myself before the next one, and would happily go to a self-defence workshop or a stitch-and-bitch or set myself down in an anime room (I’ve never been to Gen Con, I go to DunDraCon and local meets though, but surely GenCon has anime?) to zone out. And the person who crocheted me my beloved stuffed pink Dalek IS a gamer–and a guy.

    I suggest the following:

    1) A track of “family friendly” programming for kids and those looking after them (hopefully, if kids and both parents are at a gaming con, both parents are sharing this responsibility), which can include beginner-level gaming sessions, and should include activities for older school-age children and teenagers that would be safe for them to do while BOTH parents are out and about having fun;

    2) A track of not-necessarily family friendly geeky activities, which would be interesting to people of all genders who happen to like those activities, with the not-necessarily family friendly stuff happening after 9 PM. By geeky activities, I mean things like knitting (most knitters I know are fannish), self-defence workshops, anime room, discussion of fantasy/sf works and media that gamers and non-gamers alike would find interesting, costuming workshops, zine/self-publishing workshops, art, tarot and astrology, fun-with-science/mythbusters type workshops, fannish crafts… and yeah, wine tasting or a spa side trip could be fun for lots of people! Some of these activities could cater to a non-straight-male demographic–for instance, having yaoi one night instead of hentai in the late night anime room–and in my experience there ARE men who enjoy stitch-and-bitch sessions, slash/yaoi, shoujo manga, costuming, spa days and other activities usually thought of as “female friendly”.

    There’s NO NEED to advertise these activities especially to non-gaming partners or specifically wives and girlfriends and make it clear to them that by virtue of not being active gamers themselves they’re excluded from the gaming “fraternity”…they already know they’re non-gamers at a gaming con. If you put these activities on the schedule and don’t HIDE them from everyone, the people who want to do them will turn up, and some non-gamers might enjoy taking a break/trying something new which they might not have done if you had ghettoised this track.

  30. So, instead of taking a side, I’m going to be informative and neutral:

    Suppose, instead of presenting an argument about the original position, I constructed a position that was superficially similar to the original position, and defeated that instead.

    Now that would be just like constructing a man out of straw, and defeating it instead of my actual combatant. (Lookin’ at you, Game)

  31. It hearkens to a “laugh at ourselves” sort of thing, to me anyways.

    Actually, no. It hearkens back to a ‘laugh at the fun-killing bitches we married’ sort of thing. To grownups, anyways.

    Well said, Vanir. Of the many reasons this hobby isn’t taken seriously, this should be one of the easiest to address. Sigh.
    .-= Wax Banks´s last blog ..Michael Greenberger on financial regulation. =-.

  32. *first time commenting here*

    @LordVreeg – I absolutely agree that the gaming industry is behind the gender split (or perception thereof) in gaming today. I also think that there are a LOT more women gamers out there (like me) than a lot of people seem to think.

    @Tiferet – Can I sit next to you? I’m 44 and have been gaming since I was 18. I would have started at 15, but they guys I knew in High School refused to let a girl into their group. Thinking on it, none of them had girlfriends either. Funny that.
    .-= L Jonte´s last blog ..20 Things about Wizard101 (That You Should Probably Already Know) Part II =-.

  33. Wow, it seems like whoever came up with that icon didn’t think it through before they posted it.

  34. TheMainEvent says:

    @Froggy: The problem with your attempted exposure of the strawman is that The Game freely admitted and identifed it was an extreme situation. For real unapologetic (and perhaps oblivoius) straw manning check out Rand, Ayn.


    Thank you all for your comments. Let’s go over some facts to set the record straight as some incorrect assumptions are being made here. Hopefully these facts will shed some light on this topic.

    • Gen Con’s majority shareholders are women.
    • Gen Con’s CEO is a woman and the staff is primarily made up of women.
    • I picked the icon. I consider myself an independent, liberal minded woman. I picked it not because I thought it represented who or what I was or as a reflection on women, but because I thought it funny and I liked the irony. Yes it might be base, I’ll give you that, but I’m getting off point.
    • The SPA icon has been around since the program began four years ago – it is not a new icon.
    • Now in its fifth year, the SPA program has grown exponentially and boasts over 90 events in its offerings for 2010. Not all events are knitting or scrapbooking. The program also includes such events as wine and beer tasting, walking tours, chainmaile classes, Pilates, Irish Dancing, yoga, etc.
    • SPA events are very popular with all types of people, gamers, gamer widows and widowers. A lot of the events sell-out.
    • Events at Gen Con are submitted by fans for fans. While Gen Con hosts and sponsors some events, the majority are run by you. If you don’t like the offerings don’t go to that event, if you want to see something specific, host an event yourself! Simple as that.

    I respect that we all have opinions, believe me I know I do … I find it ironic that the author of the open letter has his website sponsored by But I digress. I wonder if such passionate responses on such a non-starter issue might be better served on issues that really matter to women such as domestic violence, health, slavery, prostitution, the list goes on sadly.

    Vanir you mentioned you were a karate instructor; it would be wonderful to have a beginning/intro to Karate class to include as part of the programming at this year’s show, SPA or otherwise. Since I’m the director of events at Gen Con you’ve come to the right spot, let me know!

    Thank you all for your opinions and for calling attention to a wonderful program that Gen Con is proud to support. The process for picking the icon was not an arbitrary one; thought was put into it. It’s hard to pick one “icon” for such a diverse group of people and event types and to find one that wouldn’t be misconstrued as something else. The icon was chosen for its tongue and cheek aspect, nothing more and will remain as is for the time being.

    If you want to talk to me directly about SPA or anything Event related please feel free to do so. My email address is

    Jeannette LeGault
    Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC

  36. Yeah, I just liked the article.

    nuff said.

    .-= Tourq´s last blog ..Gaming Tools, #4 =-.

  37. Political Correctness has taken such a hold on society that I think many are offended because they think they ought to be. I thought it was funny. Then again, I’ve been called offensive, and worse, for my views. Go figure.

  38. @Jeannette LeGault

    Straight up: You’re wrong, and you are defending being so.

    What you find funny is immaterial: associating women with a ball-and-chain icon is part of the continuum of treating women as second-class citizens which makes domestic violence, sexual exploitation, anti-women health policy, and slavery perceived as more acceptable by those who perpetrate it than it otherwise would be if the population at large—and people in positions of power and responsibility such as yourself—did not promote and excuse degrading terms for women.

    Do you think donkey punches are funny? They’re the punchline of a joke, but they are part of the our society’s narrative that says it’s okay to single out women for sexual violence.

    Do you think calling women whores, bitches, sluts, battle axes, dried-up hags, or harridans is OK? Is it OK when it’s funny? Have you liked it when you’ve been called that? Have you enjoyed being the butt of jokes? Do you think every single one of your female attendees likes being called a ball and chain?

    Do you think that the women’s health section of a government website should use the ball-and-chain icon? Do you think it’s right when organisations assume that knitting and children and wine tasting = women? (FYI: I am a male, full-time caregiver for my child, a knitter, and an avid wine fan.)

    Do you think that maybe there’s any possibility that using a women-specific slur to denote a range of non-gaming activities is inappropriate, or are you merely concerned with covering GenCon and your ass?
    .-= d7´s last blog ..Paizo’s response to criticism of their portrayal of women =-.

  39. Dear Jeanette,

    I’ve very disappointed by the response offered by GenCon. While I think there are some very good and encouraging points your response failed to address the issue at hand, recognized the complaints received or provide any direction for future resolution that would see this issue solved in the future.

    Let me take a moment to recognize the things that I think are good about your response: accepting responsibility for who made the choice, highlighting the long running success of this program and taking the opportunity to educate this audience about the depth and breadth of the program.

    What I would have hoped to have seen but did not included:
    – recognition that this did raise significant concerns amongst your target market (i.e. gamers who attend conventions)
    – along with admission that the choice was perhaps out of line, since it is a website a promise to fix the icon (it’s clearly clip art, I’m sure another piece can be selected).
    – a commitment to a future high-quality communications with the understanding that mistakes and misintrepretations do happen and GenCon will make every reasonable effort to produce high-quality materials.

    The part that truly bothers me is that in this response you see this as “a non-starter issue” and make the implicit assumption that those of us who are concerned about this are thereby not concerned about what you call “issues that really matter.”

    On this last point I would suggest that those of us who are concerned about things such as: domestic violence, human sex-trafficking, rape, gender disparity and more are concerned about issues such as these because they serve to ‘normalize’ an accepted negative stereotype of women. One of the core components to prevention and harm-reduction (which are population methods of addressing the “issues that really matter”) is addressing “Denormalization”. That is to make it socially unacceptable to produce, propagate and promote the undesirable behaviour – in this case negative stereotyping of women, in another case it could be the acceptable use of tobacco around kids, or perpetuating homophobia.

    If I were your PR company (which, if you have one that advised you on this letter I would highly recommend switching companies) here is the letter I would have written.

    Dear Bloggers,

    Thank you all for your comments, it’s very exciting that so many people have become engaged around the affiliated program offerings at GenCon 2010. We are very proud to have made supplementary program offerings available to our attendees for 5 years.

    In addition to the programs discussed here I would like to take a moment to highlight our other offerings which include not only craft and spa focused programming, but which also include over 90 events such as such wine and beer tasting, walking tours, chainmaile classes, Pilates, Irish Dancing, yoga, etc.

    With regards to the issue addressed here on the use of a ball-and-chain icon to represent a spa event, I accept full responsibility for the selection, it was intended to be tounge-in-cheek and obviously missed the mark. I do regret this choice and another icon will be chosen for the website program as soon as possible.

    GenCon is committed to producing a high quality convention with high quality materials. We definitely want to encourage participation of women. In fact, GenCon’s majority shareholders are women and our CEO is a woman – so this issue resonates with us and we have heard your concerns. We look forward to sharing a great convention with you!

    Contact information (optional)

    I suppose the good news is that I, being Canadian, am not your target market. I have heard many good things about your convention and I know many people from the Toronto gaming community travel to GenCon annually. It has been something I have considered, but I think I will consider a while longer. I do hope to see some positive changes in this direction.

    Sara McMillen
    Toronto Are Gamers

  40. To be fair, Vanir, Jeanette does have a point about the irony of having this sort of editorial come from a blog sponsored by Cougar Life. While I realize that most bloggers simply sign up to a package advertising deal and the banners are selected by an advertising house that posts them based on the demographic that comes to the site, if you do have control over it, please fix.

    If you don’t I’m interested in seeing your next editorial on how the advertising selection for bloggers needs to be more responsive and I hope you get as much response on that one as you have to this one.

  41. Hello, my name is Dave Chalker, and I am the owner of Critical-Hits, as well as the Editor-in-Chief. Thank you for your responses.

    Please read the following clarifications:

    • The views of individual authors do not necessarily reflect the stance of Critical-Hits, other authors, or its editorial staff.
    • As Editor-in-Chief, I did clear this article for publication.
    • The ads on this site are generated through GoogleAds and we do not necessarily control which ads appear on our site for specific users, nor do those sponsors specifically know what site they are serving ads on, as it is primarily handled algorithmically.
    • As a gaming site, we are ill-equipped to address issues such as domestic violence, health, slavery, prostitution, and many other issues. We do, however, comment on issues related to the world of tabletop gaming.
    • All comments left by me are intended to be read in full, including parenthetical statements and to whom the comment is addressed.
    • Any battles against Men of Straw will only be conducted if they are worth XP.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Dave Chalker

  42. I honestly don’t get what the problem is. Being a female gamer myself as well as married w/ a kid…. I’m at a loss why anyone would be offended by this. I can guarantee that nearly everyone who has been married has referred to their significant other as the ‘ol ball and chain’, even if in jest.

  43. I thought Jeanette’s response was ridiculous, condescending, insulting, and very, very dismissive.

    I also blogged about it here.

    The veiled-and-not-so-veiled attacks on Vanir and this site made me quite unhappy, to say the least.

  44. @athenahollow: *gape* Holy crap, no. I would never call my wife “the ol’ ball and chain” even in jest. That’s not right.
    .-= d7´s last blog ..Paizo’s response to criticism of their portrayal of women =-.

  45. Athena, you wrote: Being a female gamer myself as well as married w/ a kid…. I’m at a loss why anyone would be offended by this.

    You realize that doesn’t meant that other people won’t get offended, right? It doesn’t mean those other people are wrong just because you don’t think it’s stupid.

    And likewise, the fact that I think it’s stupid (and offensive) doesn’t make YOU wrong, either. We’re both right about our reactions to it.

    The problem is, while I’m sure there are plenty of people like you who are not bothered by this, there are plenty of people like me who ARE… and just from the standpoint of bad PR, that makes this a pretty bad idea for GenCon to stand so strongly behind it.

    Beagle Smuggler’s proposed letter is much better than what we actually got, because it acknowledges that the logo does cause offense rather than dismissing and chiding those who pointed out the offensiveness.

  46. PS: Even if you’d call your partner a “ball and chain” in private, that doesn’t make it appropriate for a high profile, professionally run gaming con.

  47. “Any battles against Men of Straw will only be conducted if they are worth XP.”

    .-= Andy´s last blog ..Hiatus =-.

  48. Beagle / Sara — I think you’re right that it’s not a good ad for this site, but I wonder how much of it was shaped by the way google and other ad servers provide ads based on the page content — which in this case would be the original post plus the comments.

    I’m just getting Amazon ads now, but I did get the CougarLife one, too. I’m wondering if the type of conversation — discussing a “joke” about women — triggered the ad, or if CougarLife ads were all over the site on other pages earlier.

    (Think for example if a company went to google and bought up the keyword phrase “ball and chain” for example!)

  49. For what it’s worth folks, I’m not happy about the Cougar Life ads here either and am doing what I can to remove them… before this post, they had never shown up. (We still have never been able to fully get rid of Evony ads.)

  50. Well…at least it isn’t a chainmail bikini…
    .-= Zachary Houghton´s last blog ..Calling All Amber Fans! =-.

  51. It just goes to show that no matter what you say or do there’s a good chance that you’ll offend someone.

  52. Chuck, I think that rather it shows that if you intentionally use offensive imagery as an ironic joke, sooner or later someone will call you on it.

    You sound a lot like the white straight cis men moaning about “political correctness” on Twitter, when the truth is, the con did something pretty unprofessional and not inclusive, and got called out for it. That’s not “being PC” as much as saying “hey, wait, we think GenCon should be better than this.”

  53. Jeanette,

    First, as the person who opened this can of worms, I want to thank you for responding. It’s one thing to blog about something that made you angry, but it’s quite another to explain yourself to a horde of people you suddenly found foaming at the mouth about something you did that you really had no idea anyone was going to respond to with anything harsher than a chuckle or a roll of the eyes.

    You and I (and about half of the Horde) obviously have a difference of opinion about this, and I really appreciate you clearing up some misconceptions and presenting your views. The last thing we need here is people going off half-cocked making wild assumptions based on conjecture and flying into a flaming berserker rage.

    As a gamer and a blogger, I feel it’s my responsibility to try to do and say things that promote a positive gaming experience for everyone so we can all have fun and maybe even be better people in the process. When I saw your icon, it made me angry, and I tried to get our readers to see this how I do – that this kind of humor wasn’t positive, might hurt some feelings, and ruin somebody’s fun. Sure, my goal was to get you to change the icon. I was also hoping to change a few minds if they saw enough people who’d been affected negatively by a stereotype. I was simply looking to make my world one notch brighter, and I apologize if I got you trampled in the stampede.

    I had absolutely no idea this article was going get even half the response it did. I have people coming out of the woodwork telling me thanks for bringing this to light, because they really wanted *someone* to do it. I hate to throw statistics around, but last I checked, this article had been retweeted 38 times and received almost 1200 pageviews. I have never, ever, seen people respond to something I’ve written like this.

    Does this mean I’m right? Of course not. Those numbers don’t mean squat. However, I think you can see just by these comments alone that there are more than a few people out there who aren’t very happy about that logo, despite it being in use for several years.

    Gen Con is supposed to be the “best four days in gaming”. In fulfilling this promise, I would really love to see Gen Con exemplify the best qualities of gamers. In the name of promoting a positive experience for EVERYONE who comes to Gen Con, I urge you to reconsider your decision to keep using this logo.

    The natives are sufficiently restless that this debate isn’t likely to reach a peaceful consensus, so it’s time to close the comments. Jeanette, I am completely open to listen to anything further you have to say, so please email me if you’d like to continue this conversation. Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to respond.


  1. […] the non-gaming partners of the thousands of gamers that flock to Indianapolis every year. Critical Hits highlights GenCon organisers’ efforts, bringing to our attention all the non-gamer activities on the schedule for women1 in all their […]