[sca-comments] (no subject)

Laura Hewitt laurae.hewitt at gmail.com
Sun Oct 4 13:21:02 CDT 2020


Dear SCA Board of Directors;

I would love to dress this letter up in the lovely language of the Dream,
with all the  "be it hereby known" and "forasmuch as this" flourishes of
the calligraphy of rhetoric as time will allow. However, be it hereby known
that I'm not writing to you about anything fun, and forasmuch as this
concerns how someone is presenting himself and the SCA to mundanes and new
players, I shall be limiting myself to the demotic.

I'm told that there is some controversy over the motives for Ogier de
Corbeil’s recent chastisement by Three Rivers regarding how he represents
the Society for Creative Anachronism and how he acts toward newcomers,
especially female-presenting newcomers. I am writing this to tell you how
he treated me as a newcomer, and to ask you to draw your own conclusion.
Note that this is not a formal complaint, although I am cc'ing the Kingdom
Advocates.

When I connected with the Barony of Three Rivers, Ogier reached out to
welcome me, representing himself as a sort of unofficial hospitaler,
offering to answer all my questions. He told me that he does this for
everyone.  That's wonderful! Welcoming new members and answering their
questions is important and worthy of respect! He said he had no official
title or awards, but made himself out to be akin to the ubiquitous
fantasy-novel character that turns out to be more quietly powerful than any
king because he is so wise and well-regarded.

While I cannot speak to his motives, I can say that Ogier made certain that
I knew that part of the price of admission to being accepted by the local
group was making him a priority in my life.  It was quickly made clear that
I was to be at his beck and call at all times. He felt personally attacked
and deeply wounded that I occasionally stepped away from our Facebook
“chat” to work, sleep, bathe, and interact with family members.I was
brought up in the deep south of the United States and in Great Britain; if
you tell me, “It hurts my feelings when you do that,” I take that very
seriously. I chalked it up to cultural differences, but spent a lot more
time on Facebook than I wanted to.

(Please excuse my rambling. I feel like there's a lot going on here, and
stripping the matter down to its bare bones feels almost like I'm
distorting.)

He often made statements that may have seemed innocuous to any reasonable
person outside the conversation, but came across as a bit... off.

Not to bury the lede, I will skip ahead to the day I blocked him, that
moment when he actively and definitively crossed the border into the Land
of Absolutely Not Okay for Me:

He was advising me about armor. He was talking at length about my breasts,
in the context of heavy fighting, and when I said that I preferred not to
be talking about my breasts with him, he told me that if I did not allow
him to assist me with custom-creating a breastplate and fought using loaner
armor, there was a serious risk my that nipples would be severed due to
crush injuries.

On the surface, "armor should fit well, otherwise you risk injury, and
those who are not grown-up enough to speak frankly about body parts are not
grown-up enough to fight," seems innocent, but I think I may be forgiven
for asking my chatelaine to see if there was someone who could talk to him
about how sometimes, it's important to read the room and respect stated
boundaries.

I took care not to name him or give identifying details. She immediately
asked, “Was this Ogier?”

(I have since spoken to an M.D. with a specialization in wounds and trauma,
a female heavy fighter of some note, and a designer of modern body armor,
none of whom feel this is a realistic risk or something that people with
biologically  female bodies should worry about more than people with
biologically male bodies.)

This wasn’t a pennant gules issuant from a field of pure azul, members of
the Board.

The hair on the back of my neck started prickling early in the conversation
when I asked him about possible racist factions in the SCA, in the context
of Norse imagery being appropriated by local white supremacist groups and
the recent swastika inicident in Caid. He scolded me, saying that I was
"bringing politics into the SCA," and that I would be socially shunned and
blackballed from receiving awards if I continued to be publicly vocal about
my opposition to Nazis. Not "the party I didn't vote for," but actual
1488-spouting, Hitler-adoring Nazis.  When I refused to hand him over
complete control of my expression of politics on my personal,
non-SCA-related Facebook page, he posted a page-long rant on his Facebook
page about how people who refused to be apolitical were “ruining the SCA.”
Yup, that’s me. Ruining the SCA.

In that same conversation, he voiced as a casual aside the opinion that the
only reason age-of-consent laws should be enforced within the SCA was
because mundane law enforcement might get crabby about it. Can we agree
that this is not an opinion that should be freely shared in an “unofficial
hospitaler” role?

He strongly implied that local light fighters were cagey and best avoided,
but didn't really exist, as such. I don't know if that's true.

Then I mentioned my church. He told me it was not okay to mention religion
in front of SCAdians unless it was clear that it was persona-related and
not “real,” and strongly intimated that I might be persecuted or shunned
for not being an atheist. The sense I got from his words was not, "Some of
us can be sensitive around the matter of religion," or, "Around here, they
persecute Christians," but, "I do not go to church and I do not like it
that you do."

He hinted that I should stop talking to people in my barony that weren't
him or personally vetted by him, and outright said that I should not spar
with anyone but him for the first year or so.

"You can't talk to anyone but me. This is for your own protection," can
feel intrusive and not a little creepy to me.

I am very openly aromantic and asexual. I made certain to underline that
and put it in bold lettering for him. Even so, I was made to wonder on
several occasions whether he was trying to change that. His words and
action made me feel very uncomfortable without being able to articulate
exactly why. Nevertheless, I felt rather like a child being offered candy
and a ride from a windowless van; sure, this was probably nothing to worry
about, but if something were to happen, the inevitable question would be,
“Well, what did you expect?”


While his intent may not have been to exert that kind of pressure, that is
how it came off, and he needs to work on the impression he gives:
apparently, others have felt this way  It’s a problem to me that he does it
in a manner that invites being laughed off as “awkward flirting” or
dismissed as “oh, she’s just jealous that she’s not the only one/ she
should be grateful for male attention/ there’s absolutely nothing wrong
with being generous and attentive!”  You’re right, hypothetical outsider.
There is nothing wrong with generosity! It’s like feeding fish… but the
wise fish always remembers that there might be a hook hidden in that stinky
cheese.

I find it telling that stopping our dialogue was an immediate and immense
relief. I also find it telling that this relief was sullied by knowing that
he knew my workplace and my approximate schedule, and that I realized I now
didn't want to be a fighter, because he is an experienced fighter, and he
would know how clumsy and physically vulnerable I am and maybe get ideas
based on that.

Unfortunately, his response to my telling him, politely, that I needed a
moment and I was blocking him, effective immediately, his response was to
find a way around the blocks to imply that I was being oversensitive and
state that he didn't know what he did wrong.

Members of the Board, I did not find that reassuring. No-one ever finds
that sort of thing reassuring. I stayed because of the kindness and
patience of the leadership, particularly Baroness Gwendolyn verch Morgaine
and Auga Ormstunga, but how many others did not know their grace and
good-hearted encouragement?

Ogier is without doubt a great source of knowledge and service to this
community. However, I nearly left because I felt unsafe around him. Even if
you believe his motives to be pure and noble, I would bet any treasure you
asked that I am not the only woman who has thought very hard about whether
she is safe in his version of the Dream. How many women has he scared off?
How many women go very still when they see him? How many Pelicans and
nobles would be surprised to hear that someone is implying that he secretly
outranks them all because he's just that great of a guy and refuses all
accolades?

Perhaps I am being silly and over-reacting.

Perhaps he just needs a bit of a talking-to. (Or would that be another
talking-to? Or “yet another talking-to”?)

Has he expressed any understanding of why he is being called out?

Has he expressed any desire to change?

I trust you to ask yourself these hard questions when you ask yourselves
whether he is indeed being sorely mistreated and abused by the populace and
nobility of Three Rivers in the name of liberal politics.

I am proud and humbled to call myself

Mel

A Member of the Barony of Three Rivers and Your Humble Servant,

(Laura Hewitt)
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