Fineness & Accuracy is seven years old today.
Last year I wrote a wrap-up post about the Hopscotch music festival in Raleigh, NC, so this year I’ll do the same; but I’ll skip the prefatory material. My final tally for this year: 38 bands. This was Hopscotch’s 5th year, and my 3rd year coming to Hopscotch.
Joel didn’t come this year, but some other friends, Seth and Chris, did; they stayed with a friend nearby, while Aggie split the hotel room with me so she wouldn’t have to drive back to her house in Chapel Hill every night.
We ate the requisite dinner at Beasley’s, and Aggie and I ate “breakfast” around 11:30 or noon at the Raleigh Times all three days. I was happy to see the little Greek place on the city plaza was still there, for fast, cheap, delicious gyros without having to leave the main stage show; and New Belgium was still the primary beer sponsor, with $5 draughts and $4 cans on the plaza — prices that would be unheard of even at a regular bar in Boston, let alone a limited-access concert venue like this.
I managed to marshal my now rather old phone’s battery life well enough to get at least one photo of every main stage and nighttime club show I saw, though most are not great shots. (For excellent photographs of Hopscotch, try Aggie’s preview post and her Flickr photostream.)
Bands I saw:
- On Thursday, The Hive had bluegrass all day from noon to 5:30. We stopped in there first, and I came back by later in the afternoon.
- Slim’s was holding their annual Potluck day party; we caught Beauty World out on their back patio, but between the sun, the humidity, and the giant A/C exhausts, we didn’t say long.
- Richard Bacchus was playing over at the Pour House, whose darkened interior and perpetually-Lysol-smelling narrow brick alley entryway were a break from the intense heat at Slim’s.
- We went back to Slim’s, briefly, for a glimpse of See Gulls, a band I was very excited for and which had built up quite a buzz by the time the festival started. They played at one or two other day parties, and also a club show on Saturday, so — the patio still being an open-air oven — we didn’t stick around long.
- After going back to the Hive for a little more bluegrass, I headed over to Foundation, a basement level joint that I believe is new since last year, for the Merge listening party. Foundation seemed like a nice, chill place, and they had Copper Fox, my favorite rye whiskey of all time, made only in small batches and not consistently available up in Boston. Aggie met me back there, and then we met up with Seth and Chris for dinner at Beasley’s.
- Local hip hop team Professor Toon and the Real Laww opened up for the first ever Thursday night City Plaza show with a fun set, but I was really there to see…
- De La Soul, the Thursday headliner and a big get for the festival. Like all the hip hop “elder statesmen” I’ve had the luck to see, these guys know how to move a crowd with the best of them.
- Strange Faces at Tir Na Nog
- Last Year’s Men at the Pour House
- Colossus at Kings Barcade
- Solar Halos at Kings Barcade. Kings is honestly one of my least favorite Hopscotch clubs, but Solar Halos were phenomenal last year and I was thrilled to see them again. They played a great set, and I said hi to singer Nora Rogers and bought their split 10″ (with Irata; released on Crimson Eye) after the show. I hope they put out a new record before long. It was relatively early, but I was pretty tired at that point, so I took a pass on the Other Colors and MV & EE sets I’d been planning to see, and just went back to the hotel.
- Michael Casey, a friend of Aggie’s, was opening with a set of magic tricks at the Hive, so we stopped by there first.
- After Casey’s routine, we stayed for some of folk trio The Memphis Dawls.
- We headed over to the Pour House, and saw some of Homer Sparks‘ set, though I wasn’t very impressed by him.
- Ghostt Bllonde played next at the Pour House, with impressive energy.
- We headed out to Crank Arm Brewery, an excellent little bike-themed brewpub in a space that was a mediocre nightclub (and a Hopscotch venue) a couple years ago. Amigo were playing their last few songs when we got there.
- After Amigo, Caleb Caudle, an impressive singer-songwriter, played a set at Crank Arm.
- Next was over to Slim’s, hosting the Churchkey Records day party, for Gross Ghost, a local band doing pretty well for themselves (they played a day party two years ago, and opened on the main stage last year).
- I ended up feeling pretty exhausted, and decided I needed to go back to the hotel for a nap. That meant missing Spider Bags, whose Merge debut Frozen Letter just came out, unfortunately. I hope to catch them again, perhaps at next Hopscotch. Churchkey was selling some 7″s dirt cheap at the merch table, so on my way out I grabbed a couple of those — one from the Dirty Little Heaters, and one with no text on the label.
- Lonnie Walker opened with a solid rock’n’roll set, after which I got a gyro and some pasta salad.
- St. Vincent put on an impressive stage show, tinged with a “weirdness” that felt pretty self-consciously performative to me, but the music was so good it was hard to be bothered by that.
- Spoon were the Friday headliners, and were also very good, but for whatever reason I’ve never gotten into them, so I didn’t stick around for their whole set. Besides, I had somewhere to be.
- Deep South The Bar is one of the farthest Hopscotch venues from the city center, but I made the trek out there for Wailin’ Storms, and was very glad I did. Their doom-country was impressive as hell, and I’m planning to buy their album.
- After Wailin’ Storms, I headed over to the Lincoln Theatre, one of my favorite Hopscotch clubs, for Sinners & Saints, who I suppose one might call outlaw folk. They turned in a great performance, and I had a piping hot slice of pizza from the Pie Pushers food truck conveniently parked outside.
- Next up at the Lincoln was Loamlands, an excellent folky rock band much in the vein of Mount Moriah, whose set I also enjoyed quite a lot.
- I headed back to the Pour House hoping to catch part of Open Mike Eagle‘s set, but when I got there, he had just finished.
- I went over to Tir Na Nog instead for some of Dark Rooms, then called it a slightly early night again, as Mapei (who I’d been looking forward to) had canceled, and Slim’s and the Hive had lines. The next day I heard that Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon had something of an outburst on stage at the Lincoln, cursing out the crowd and calling them “fucking hillbillies”, for being too talkative during his set. (I see that he is now selling T-shirts based on this incident.)
- Hi Ho Silver Oh at the Pour House were a pretty good start to the day.
- Free Clinic at the Hive were kind of mediocre, and the (very white) frontman kept saying things like “Jah love” and “Jah bless” and then clarifying that he’s not Rasta, he was just joking around. Fellow white people: maybe don’t do this, on account of how it’s racist?
- But we were really at the Hive for See Gulls, since an indoor show sounded like a much better idea than Slim’s patio was. As expected, they were phenomenal. They only have a couple songs up on bandcamp, but hopefully there’s an album in the works.
- I took a quick nap again to recover some energy, then headed to the “Babes in Boyland” day party, a benefit for Girls Rock NC. When I got there, Caitlin Rose was finishing her set with a full band; very good stuff, and I wish I’d heard more of it. Babes in Boyland also had an ice cream (like, scoops, not packaged bars and novelties) truck, which was crucial in the heat.
- After an interlude with the What Cheer? Brigade arriving to work up the crowd, Ex Hex (Mary Timony’s new band, with a record coming out next month on Merge) played a great, energetic set that I’m very glad I saw.
- The first opener was Valient Thorr, a throwback metal band who — as you may have inferred — do not take themselves too seriously, but they’re pretty serious about their music, and they put on a good, fun show. Saturday was by far the loudest on City Plaza, and had the thinnest crowds of the three nights. Hopscotch is a very eclectic festival, but I think it’s just difficult to draw as big a crowd for metal as for rock and hip hop, these days.
- Death, the Detroit protopunk band and subject of the excellent documentary A Band Called Death, played second, and were also great. I highly recommend checking out the documentary (which is on Netflix as of this writing). It’s fascinating to imagine how the landscape of popular music might have been different over the past forty years, if they’d been able to find a label willing to put out their record.
- The Saturday headliner was Mastodon, and while I enjoyed this set a lot, I think their heavy, churning sound contributed to the crowd thinning out a bit more.
- See Gulls played at Deep South Saturday night, but even before Mastodon were done on the main stage I was seeing tweets saying the venue was at capacity with a 100+ person line outside. Doubly glad I’d caught them earlier at the Hive, I elected not to make the trek.
- Instead, I went over to see a local metal band (this was something of a theme for Saturday) called Demon Eye at the Lincoln. Demon Eye’s lead singer — a tall, muscular man with very long hair — is also, I am informed, a children’s librarian. They were very good.
- I walked over to the Fletcher Opera House (it was a little surprising that it took me this long to get there this year!) to see Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, a solo singer-songwriter. She’s talented, but a bit twee for my taste, and I decided before long to find something more energetic.
- Around the corner from Fletcher is a the Kennedy Theater, a little black-box space where I saw Wold last year. A hardcore band called Davidians were playing there, which was a big improvement over Wold in, for example, the “moving around” department. If I cared more about hardcore I probably would have enjoyed Davidians quite a bit. Instead, I headed back to Lincoln for another slice of pizza.
- Inside, Sub Rosa were finishing their gothy set. For those who like their metal with lots of stringed instruments, this was great; myself, I wasn’t mad at the music at all, but they weren’t who I was there to see.
- Who I was there to see were the next (and final) two bands. First up was Witch Mountain, pairing churning, sludgy doom metal with singer Uta Plotkin, who shifts gears effortlessly between soaring highs, bluesy belting, and death growls. I bought their LP between sets, and I’m looking forward to their third album, due out next month. Sadly, word is after their current tour and the album release, Plotkin will be leaving the band; but no doubt whatever she does next will be as remarkable.
- The last band I saw was High On Fire, Matt Pike (of Sleep)’s other stoner-metal band. Where sleep is hypnotically slow, High on Fire is thrashingly fast; Sleep was the last show I saw at Hopscotch last year (also at the Lincoln — in fact, every year so far I’ve closed out the festival at the Lincoln, in 2012 with Wye Oak’s incredible performance). Much like with Sleep, High on Fire turned the packed room into a sweaty, headbanging mass, and I went back to the hotel worn out from three amazing days.
Hopscotch remains my favorite three days of the entire year. Raleigh at the beginning of September is still hot and humid, but it’s bearable, and has such a wealth of excellent food and drink that even without the festival it would be a fun place to spend a weekend. With 150+ bands to see — and a dozen or more choices across all genres at any given time between noon and 1AM, all within at most ten minutes’ walk — it’s an experience to which nothing compares.
Best shows I already knew were going to be great: De La Soul, Solar Halos, Ex Hex, Death, Mastodon, High on Fire
Best shows I didn’t already know were going to be great: Caleb Caudle, Wailin’ Storms, See Gulls, Witch Mountain
I’ve written about Penny Arcade and the Penny Arcade Expo quite a few times before, though not more recently than about a year and a half ago on this blog. In fact, these old posts are a pretty good way to trace the development of my views on PA, PAX, and “gamer culture” (a nebulous term to be sure, but I think not a wholly meaningless one).
- March 2010: Et In Penny-Arcadia Ego
- January 2011: Why I’m Conflicted About Attending PAX East 2011 and the followup Well, I Guess That Resolves Things
- March 2011: Really, Gearbox? Really?
- September 2012: Oh look, it’s time to talk about gamer culture and rape culture again.
It would not be overstating the case to say that my opinions of all three things have gotten no more favorable since that last post. (Elizabeth Sampat’s Quit Fucking Going To PAX Already, What Is Wrong With You from last September is another worthwhile read.)
I’m still friends with a number of people who regularly attend PAX, some of whom are indie devs who exhibit there. I know that the “should you boycott PAX” question is a prickly one for some, and I want to try to be careful here not to blame individual choices for systemic problems. In any case, I think my views on whether PAX can be “reformed” or “improved” or “changed from within” have been clear for some time now: it can’t, because the people who run (and profit from, let’s not forget) it and actually most of the people who go to it either actively oppose any such efforts, or simply don’t care.
I’ve sometimes taken a harder line on things like this, and I certainly know and respect many people who still do — whose position is a flat “don’t go to PAX”. In the abstract, I think that’s the right choice, but practice is always messy. Ultimately, PAX isn’t going to stand or fall, or change or stay the same, on the choice of any individual to go or not to go. All the same, if you’re a ticket-buying attendee, I hope you’ll consider not going; the people in charge of the event do not deserve your money, and there’s a great deal else to do in Boston, and many offsite or after-hours chances to meet up with other games people who’ve come to town for PAX.
It’s important to remember that the problems with Penny Arcade, and with PAX, are symptomatic of problems in game culture writ large, which themselves are symptoms, or manifestations, or particular versions of societal problems. Most everything wrong with any of these microcosms is, ultimately, linked to the racist, patriarchal, capitalist structure of society.
But it’s a funny kind of symptom — we can see this in other sexist media, for example, as well — in that culture is a feedback loop, so the symptoms actually exacerbate and prolong the disease. A fever is a symptom of an infection, but imagine a virus that could survive at 98.6°F but thrived at 103°: the fever would only make the infection worse.
How do you fight that kind of disease — how do you diminish or break the cultural feedback loop? That’s a good question. If PAX does collapse, without any general improvement in gamer culture, something just as bad will likely take its place. To switch metaphors abruptly, audio feedback can be diminished by attenuating the signal at the input, the output, or both. Criticism of games, games culture, games media, and games events (and in particular of prominent events like PAX, E3, GDC, etc.), on grounds of diversity, inclusivity, and social justice has become much more vocal and widespread in recent years (meeting, of course, predictable resistance and backlash); and “counterprogramming” (though much of it is not positioned directly in opposition to the “mainstream” events) like Lost Levels, Different Games, No Show Conference, etc., also seems to me to be on the rise.
I don’t mean that to sound like blithe it-gets-better-ism; “things” are not “getting” better — many people are putting in real, hard work, often with little or no compensation, to make things better. I think probably the best way to “fix” the culture, insofar as we can, regardless of anyone’s individual decision on PAX attendance, is to try to support those critics and counterprogrammers, to join them in the work, or to give them what support we can, or to contend with those who try to tear them down in defense of the status quo.
Again, it’s no secret I dislike Penny Arcade and all their works, with considerable intensity. If their offices were shuttered tomorrow I wouldn’t feel the world had lost anything of value. I avoid visiting their website, and I definitely don’t go to PAX. But (if these are the only two possibilities, which they probably are not) I’d rather see a future in which PAX and Penny Arcade rumble on, perhaps a slightly smaller fish than they are today, in a somewhat bigger pond — but one full of clear, sparkling water and every kind of fish and water plant — than one where they float belly-up, but everyone keeps struggling through the same shallow, polluted muck.
Hey look, Fineness & Accuracy is six years old today! And I don’t really post here much anymore. We’ll see if that changes; sometimes things go in cycles, but sometimes they end.
Anyway, six years is a decent span of time. Thanks to everyone who’s read and/or linked my posts.
I don’t think I wrote about it here, but last year I went to the Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh, NC (my first time in that city, and in the South at all, actually). I hadn’t really heard of Hopscotch before I learned John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats would be playing a solo set, including a batch of one-time-only, acoustic, no-recordings-please, you’re-here-or-you’re-not piano covers of heavy metal songs. As one might imagine, that spiked my interest meter, so I did some more looking, and discovered a massive, three-day festival with an immensely diverse lineup — and several acts aside from Darnielle that I wanted to see live, including a late-night Wye Oak set and The Roots headlining. My college friend Aggie lives, works, and takes photos at rock shows down in the Triangle, so with the promise of seeing her again for the first time in years, and having her expert guidance around the local bands playing the free day parties, my decision was made.
(The promise of Darnielle’s set and the range of great other stuff also convinced my friend Melanie (@grammar_girl) to come down — but she was hit by a car and broke her hip in August, and although she’s now recovered just fine, she was in no shape to hike all over downtown Raleigh in September.)
I went down thinking it would be a one-time fun fling for me (after all, I’m not so young anymore), to see an unusually great lineup of bands I love and reconnect with an old friend. But, as anyone who knows me in person and/or follows me on twitter will probably recall re: my absolute inability to shut up about it already, I was basically camping their website for the ticket announcement from the day I got home. I got in on the early-bird sale for Hopscotch 2013, booked my flight and hotel shortly after, and convinced my friend Joel (who I’d talked into some concerts here in Boston, with reasonable success) to come along this year — and be extra careful when crossing the street until we’d gotten back.
This year was to feature Big Boi as a headliner, but he canceled a few weeks ago, and was replaced by Holy Ghost! and A-Trak on Friday night; Saturday, Spiritualized headlined. I actually skipped both headline slots this year (though I did see a couple of the City Plaza shows — Gross Ghost in the first spot on Friday, and Lollipops and the Breeders on Saturday).
Hopscotch is a great festival, both for seeing acts you already love, and for wandering around to see what sounds interesting, and discovering bands you’d never heard of; not to mention the amazing restaurants (chicken and waffles at Beasley’s is a must, Raleigh Times and the Busy Bee are great as well, and the Mecca is the Platonic ideal of a greasy spoon) and regional craft beers.
This year was every bit as great as 2012 was, and I can’t wait to see what next year brings (still crossing my fingers for Dessa, POS, or others — or better yet, all! — of the powerhouse Minneapolis hip hop collective Doomtree; Neko Case and Kelly Hogan; or Kendrick Lamar and Okkervil River, who played Boston Calling this past weekend instead. Just in case anyone from the Hopscotch organization is reading this!).
Shows I saw this year (probably leaving out some acts from the day parties, though):
- Joel was a finalist in the drawing to win a bike from New Belgium brewery, which got him a pair of tickets to the VIP party on Thursday, where we mingled some, had free food and drinks, and were asked to draw on the wall with staff-provided pencils. (He didn’t win the bike.)
- Nathan Bowles, playing solo banjo in Fletcher Opera Theater, which has amazing acoustics. I loved his music (and he looked really familiar, I swear he played with another band I saw last year), though he ran long.
- Midnight Plus One at the Lincoln Theatre, delivering noisy, energetic rock (an excellent counterpoint to the previous show).
- Eros and the Eschaton filled perpetually crowded, sweaty dive Slim’s with fuzz and floating vocals.
- Expo ’70 built soundscapes up in the Hive, above the Busy Bee.
- I saw a little of The Rosebuds‘ performance of Sade’s Love Deluxe in the quite large Memorial Auditorium
- And finally, I stopped in to see Wold (the main Hopscotch band page for them just says “Bio coming soon”; the genre guide for metal has a better description), in the black-box Kennedy Theater. Wold was certainly interesting, but drew a very small crowd, and their having performed only four times previously in their 10+ year career showed. When first the vocalist, and then the drummer — that is, the entirety of the band — unceremoniously walked off stage with the looped ambient noise still going around half past midnight, I didn’t stick around to see if they were coming back. On the plus side, I’m now on a very short list of people who can say they’ve seen Wold live. Perhaps there’s an online support group where we can all commiserate.
- Spent most of the day at the Bitchfork day party, which centered queer women, and included Creedence Queerwater Revival (an all-female CCR cover band), Shirlette Ammons — who’d opened on the main stage before the Roots last year — and Sookee, and took place at a yoga/gymnastics studio, with aerial gymnastics performances during the music.
- Tried to get into the Merge Records listening party, but the venue was at capacity and had a long line.
- Word got around that Action Bronson had hurt his back and missed his flight, and as a last-minute replacement to fill his 11:30 slot at the Lincoln, they’d called in…Big Daddy Kane. Good lord. That was not a thing I had expected to hear!
- Gross Ghost opening on the city plaza gave a great show.
- Went back to Fletcher to see Lady Lamb the Beekeeper — but another last-minute cancellation, this time next act Night Beds, with no one to fill the slot, pushed her set out to 10:30pm. Instead, I stopped in to see Turf War at the Lincoln for a little while, then went to Tir Na Nog for some of Shirlette’s nighttime set.
- At 10:30, back to Fletcher for Lady Lamb (for real this time), which was a phenomenal show. Spaltro performed her first song completely in the dark, all house and stage lights off; then the lights came up to show her, alone with her guitar, on the expanse of stage. The one sour note came not from her, but from a moment when, as she re-tuned between songs, she offered to answer questions from the audience, and one dude yelled “what do you look like naked?” At least (take notes, PAX!) the rest of the audience didn’t cheer or play along with that bullshit.
- After that I went over to the Lincoln again, because passing up a chance to see Big Daddy Kane when the opportunity presents itself is not something I am prepared to do. I stayed for 30-40 minutes of that…
- …and returned to Fletcher to catch most of one of the shows I was most excited for out of the whole festival: Mount Moriah performing their entire catalog (one EP and two LPs, the latter of which, this year’s Miracle Temple, is among the best releases of a year full of great new records). I was able to snag an open front-row seat for most of their self-titled album and all of Miracle Temple, and it was as incredible an experience as I could’ve asked for. I had considered trying to catch the end of Earl Sweatshirt‘s set afterward, but Mount Moriah ran a bit long, so I called it a night.
- The Afternoon Delight street party at Raleigh Times; the Food Truck Round-up at the Lincoln; Tir Na Nog, Slim’s, the Saturday Shredstorm at the Hive, and Trekky Records’ Day-Dream at the Pour House — and that was just the day parties. Tried to get in to Kings Barcade to see Flesh Wounds play Nirvana’s Incesticide, but there was a long, slow-moving line.
- Then openers The Lollipops at the city plaza, followed by…
- …The Breeders, playing all of Last Splash. There was a guy a little ahead of me in the audience wearing a Sleater-Kinney shirt. The whole set was amazing.
- Skipped out on the plaza after the Breeders, and checked out Saints Apollo at Tir Na Nog, but was unmoved by their Nice-Guy lyrics.
- Over at the Lincoln again, however, I was very impressed by Solar Halos. Their Demos EP (on their bandcamp site) is, along with Lady Lamb’s Ripley Pine and Shirlette’s Twilight for Gladys Bentley, one of the records I’m definitely going to buy based on their Hopscotch show.
- I got to Kings a little early for Fat Tony, so I caught the tail end of Cesar Comanche‘s set, which was also pretty good. Fat Tony’s set was great, despite losing one of my fancy etymotics earplugs (and what good is just one earplug? no good, is what).
- A quick run back to the hotel for a backup pair of less-fancy, plain-old-foam earplugs later, I returned to Fletcher for Minnesota slowcore legends Low, a show a Carleton alum could hardly afford to pass up.
- I could only stay for a few songs, though, because two more can’t-miss shows were coming up in rapid succession. First, next door at Memorial, John Cale, a man whose musical breadth and impact are such that “legend” doesn’t suffice. In that big auditorium, his sound was incredible, and I almost would’ve stuck out the rest of the night there if it weren’t for the final show of the night.
- That final show was genre-defining stoner-metal band Sleep, another long-standing, but rarely-performing act. Unlike Wold (who among other things were, I think, not well-served by the Kennedy’s odd space, and might’ve done better at Slim’s). Sleep had the Lincoln packed with metalheads and weed smoke, headbanging in slow motion to their churning riffs, a near-perfect conclusion to the weekend.
- On Sunday the festival’s officially over, but there’s always a few parties left. This year I hung out a little at Slim’s annual Hopscotch Hangover as well as the Pour House’s post-Hopscotch party, after brunch at Joule (who now serve the brunch Poole’s used to). And then it was time to catch the cab to the airport, and head home to Boston, ready to sleep for as long as I possibly could.
As many people are already aware, a woman named Adria Richards, who worked at a company called SendGrid, was fired yesterday. Both Richards personally, and SendGrid as a company, have been under attack by individuals, and by Anonymous. These attacks are “retaliation” for the firing of a developer at Play Haven, by Play Haven, after that developer
was ejected from the PyCon conference taken aside and spoken with by PyCon staff (Update: the accounts I initially read said he’d been removed from the conference, but that was evidently not the case. My apologies for the misinformation.) following Richards’ reporting to the conference that he was making inappropriate jokes in the audience of a talk.
A lot of virtual ink has been spilled already on this topic, and as a cisgender, hetero white man, whether or not my understanding or ideas are correct, my voice is not among the ones that need to be heard most. (This is also a big part of why I haven’t been blogging nearly as frequently as I used to.) That said, I wanted to list a few links covering the story-so-far, as best I’m aware of it, and make a few short remarks on the matter.
First, Richards’ own account of the incident at PyCon.
Next, a Venture Beat article discussing the incident and some of the fallout, including DDoS attacks against SendGrid.
Here’s the Facebook post where SendGrid announces firing Richards.
This post by Amanda Blum has been getting a lot of circulation (perhaps because, I uncharitably speculate, Blum leads with “I don’t like Adria Richards,” imputes to Richards a history of being “unreasonable”, and insists “This wasn’t about feminism, and she shouldn’t be allowed to sit her perch on the issue.” and “Adria reinforced the idea of us as threats to men, as unreasonable, as hard to work with… as bitches.”). I think there’s a lot wrong with it.
Here’s a further post on SendGrid’s blog about Richards’ firing. Interestingly, they make the same mistake I did yesterday: they interpreted a proposed change to the PyCon code of conduct as a confirmed change intended to prohibit public discussion, like that Richards engaged in, of harassment incidents. My friend @quarteringsea, however, pointed out to me that PyCon say the proposed change (under considerable discussion on their GitHub repository) was intended to target the kind of doxxing and attacks Richards has been subjected to, rather than her initial report:
(Further update: it is actually now completely unclear to me which behavior the change is meant to address, so I’m cautiously holding out hope, but PyCon really needs to do a better job clarifying the situation. A Code of Conduct should be unambiguous.)
Finally, Melissa McEwan has an excellent response at Shakesville to some of the most common criticisms of Richards’ actions; and my friend Courtney Stanton has a thoroughly documented piece at BuzzFeed linking these incidents to the whole disgusting history of sexism and harassment in the tech and gaming worlds.
Here’s what I want to say, and it’s almost certainly redundant with some of what I’ve linked above, but the right way to articulate what bothered me most about the common insistence that “she should have just asked them to stop” instead of publicizing the photo: There is no fucking reason the onus should have been on Richards to politely ask the men to stop. She had a right to expect professional behavior, and moreover the odds of a man responding constructively when confronted by a woman — especially a woman of color — over sexist behavior are, in our society in general and in the male-dominated, “proudly-politically-incorrect” tech world in particular, extremely low.
Maybe the persons in question would have responded calmly, apologized, and improved their behavior in the future, but anyone who knows anything about how women who complain are treated in male-dominated fields (allow me to again recommend Stanton’s BuzzFeed post above) knows that, without already knowing them personally, there is no reason to assume they would. The odds are much, much stronger that they’d be defensive, dismissive, passive-aggressive, or just plain aggressive, and quite possibly escalate their inappropriate behavior — and that they’d feel themselves perfectly justified in doing so, that no one around them would step in, and they’d later deny having done anything wrong. (For an excellent account of how this sort of thing often works, I recommend my friend Maddy Myers’ writing on the fighting game community.)
“In an ideal world,” as the device goes, would it likely be preferable for a person witnessing inappropriate behavior to try asking those responsible to stop before taking any other action? Well, in an ideal world, no one would be behaving inappropriately in a professional setting in the first place; but let’s set that aside and stipulate that yes, if you have a reasonable expectation that a polite admonishment and request will be effective in both stopping the current problem and reducing future problems, without compromising your safety, that’s the fastest, lowest-friction, best response. We do not live in a world where women, especially in male-dominated spaces, can reasonably have that expectation. Keeping it private doesn’t necessarily result in any less harassment, but making it public does make it harder for everyone else to deny it’s happening.
A final note: As my friend @lastnora pointed out, the “don’t publicly shame people, that hurts the community, let’s just deal with it internally” logic being deployed in a lot of responses to this incident is precisely the logic of abusers. Don’t make the family look bad, don’t make the church look bad, don’t make the [whatever group] look bad — but a group that protects hostile or abusive behavior is bad, and to try to keep it looking good is deeply dishonest. Nora’s tweets, referring to the proposed PyCon Code of Conduct language:
I’ve been toying with the idea of, and over the weekend finally got around to finishing, a silly little Twitter bot, 2edStatBot, which generates a set of AD&D 2nd Edition stats — old school, 3d6 in order — picks a class recommendation based on a not-very-sophisticated algorithm (re-rolling if it can’t find a recommendation, which in practice means if every stat came out below 9), and tweets the result, every ten minutes:
STR 11 DEX 9 CON 17 INT 16 WIS 10 CHA 14 (Mage)—
AD&D 2nd Ed Stats (@2edStatBot) January 28, 2013
The code is basically just Darius Kazemi’s Metaphor-a-Minute, except with all the metaphor-related guts replaced by random-number-related guts, and like Darius’s bots, it’s running on Nodejitsu (in fact, since Nodejitsu requires apps to respond to HTTP requests, I figured that endpoint might as well do the same thing as the Twitter bot, so if you want, you can go get a D&D character there, too).
I’ll upload the source code here shortly; it’s rather hacky but it works. I should probably put it on some public source control repository or something, but I never did figure out git. At some point I plan to make it respond to mentions, so you could tweet “@2edStatBot roll me a ranger” and it would respond with an appropriate set of stats.
Update 2013-12-25: Well, I finally got around to figuring out github and uploading the 2edStatBot source, nearly eleven full months after the bot went live. Whoops! Here it is, if you’d like to take a look: https://github.com/smadin/2EdStatBot