I can’t believe I have to write an article like this in 2015; the drama involved feels so high school I could swear it was still the 90’s, and yet it would appear that it doesn’t matter how old you are, fear of exclusion is very much real.
I am of course talking about the Honey Badger Brigade and their expulsion from Calgary’s Comic Expo. First, let’s get some background on the whole situation so you can see where the controversy was born from. Comic artist and member of the Honey Badger Brigade, Alison Tieman, registered a booth in the name of her art at Calgary expo. Despite rumors, she claims this was not done with the intention of subterfuge. She later decided to bring the Badgers along and by the time the expo opened, the booth was registered under the name of the Honey Badger Brigade.
The Honey Badger Brigade is a self-proclaimed Men’s Rights Activist group made up predominantly of women, with the belief that women should not always be portrayed as victims. Many members of the brigade are also members of Gamergate and some of the art available for purchase at their booth displayed Vivian James, mascot of the movement, and the Gamergate logo.
Gamergate is certainly unpopular with some people due to the idea that the movement is linked with misogyny and harassment, and so it was no surprise that when images of the booth began appearing on the internet, there was a Twitter outrage. People were upset that people from a movement, which has been accused of harassment, were allowed to set up a booth at Calgary Expo. Tweets like this were certainly not uncommon.
Despite concerns, there are no rules that exclude certain groups from the expo and so they were allowed to stay until the Women into Comics panel which Alison attended and answered questions at. The full audio was later released by the Honey Badger Brigade where people could judge for themselves the tone of her discussion with the panel. The discussion lasted less than 10 minutes (between 18:45 and 28:40), and panelist Brittney Le Blanc gave this account of the discussion:
“Their questions did take up quite a bit of time at the panel and served to derail the topic onto another tangent, which was frustrating for the panel and for those in the audience. It’s what they came to do, and in part, they succeeded. I would say that it brought up some great discussions though, allowing us to talk about the lack of representation for people of colour in comics and to give well deserved props to artists like Sophie Campbell … I truly believe in freedom of speech, but coming to a panel with the entire purpose of derailing it and shooting down the voices on the panel isn’t constructive. It appears that was their plan for the expo, to come and to loudly take over the spaces of other people – although it was not violent or threatening, it’s disrespectful, disappointing and offers a prime example of why these panels need to exist in the first place.”
Here we see Brittney describe the discussion as not “constructive” and “disrespectful” though at no point did she describe the discussion as harassment. Clearly Alison’s comments annoyed some of those on the panel so maybe there should be some reaction to this. So what should her punishment be? A slap on the wrist, a formal apology to the panelists, even banning from future panels? No, it was none of these. Instead all of the Honey Badgers and their booth were thrown out of the expo and the $720 they spent in tickets absorbed by Calgary. The cost to the Badgers was obviously much more than this. Other than their time and resources, they in total raised over $9000 in order to attend the expo, and donators obviously missed out on their chance to meet the Badgers themselves.
For me this whole debacle comes down to something extremely basic. The organizers of the Expo did not want the Honey Badger Brigade at their event, and as soon as they realized the politics of the group they looked for any reason, no matter how trivial, to evict them. If the reason the Badgers were removed from the expo is for derailing conversation at a panel, then why not simply ban them from panels, but allow Tieman to continue to promote her art?
What made me the most sad about this whole event is how much Calgary Expo used the term “everyone” when describing the reason for the Badger’s expulsion. “a safe space for everyone“, “a fun event for everyone”, though I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t a fun event for Alison Tieman and her fans who lost $1000s and the chance to connect with each other.
Calgary Expo please reserve the right to selfishly ban all the people who you don’t agree with from coming to your events, just don’t do it and tell me it’s for all our benefits.
What do you think of the events at Calgary Expo?
All images are sources from Twitter.