Feb 022011
Ranty McRantington logo

Continued from previous post.

Finally we have the main event.

Penny Arcade and the Dickwolves.

Those of you who know about this quite possibly saw it heading this way. Those of you who don’t, you’ll need some backstory. A whole lot of backstory. I’ll try to keep it short and relevant (but will possibly fail. my apologies).

It all started on 11 August 2010 with this comic strip entitled “The Sixth Slave”:

Penny Arcade, "The Sixth Slave", 11 August 2010
I remember this strip pretty well. I remember it because I laughed. That’s notable because I don’t actually laugh at Penny Arcade all that much. Most of their strips fall somewhere between a mild titter and blank-faced apathy. However it’s received, it takes all of 20 seconds to read and then I move on about my day. But “The Sixth Slave”, yeah, I read that one and laughed. Ages ago I myself made this very observation in City of Heroes with supposedly being a superhero, but out-leveling an area means no longer giving a shit that people are being mugged on every street corner.

So in summary: I get the joke. I laughed at the joke. I then went about my business.

13 August 2010, and it’s time for another strip. This one is called “Breaking It Down”:

Penny Arcade, "Breaking It Down", 13 August 2010
I read this strip too, though I didn’t remember it until recently. The reason I didn’t remember it is that I didn’t think it was funny. I went exactly no further with it than that. read…not funny…next.

It should be noted that I’m not part of the Penny Arcade community. Aside from the strip being part of my network of site feeds, I have no idea what is ever said about anything in relation to it. I didn’t stop to learn anything about the reaction to “The Sixth Slave” that lead to “Breaking It Down”. My involvement with the PA strip was no more than looking for a funny. I didn’t find it that day so I moved on.

Fast forward to last week. I begin to hear rumblings in the gaming community about some pretty nasty shit being directed toward one of its own, Kirby Bits aka Courtney Stanton. Relevant things to know about Courtney: she’s female, she’s feminist, she’s outspoken, she’s a rape survivor, and she’s pretty damned pissed at Penny Arcade.

All of this began to come down last week, on 25 January. Well Egypt started doing a little thing of their own on the same day, and my focus shifted. I read a bit, but didn’t get too deep into the muck. Later in the week some much more important personal stuff caused a focus shift again, so I didn’t come back to this for a while.

Things I learned before Monday:

– On 6 October 2010, Tycho/Jerry announces the addition of a Dickwolves shirt to the PA store. In the same set of blog posts, Gabe/Mike makes a post mocking trigger warnings:

(Trigger Warning for attempts to coerce laughter through foul language, Dungeons, Dice rolling, contempt for Hydra’s bodily autonomy,Dragons,)

– There’s pretty significant backlash with the shirt being a particular focus, for reasons that I’ll go into shortly.

– Fast forward to 25 January 2011. Kirby Bits talks about why she will not be speaking at PAX East 2011.

– 26 January 2011, the Dickwolves shirt is quietly, without comment, removed from its store. Penny Arcade is thanked by many of its critics.

This is where I set my bookmark in the debacle. Overall, it seems a pretty decent place to let the matter rest.

I was in for quite a surprise when touching base again a few days later.

The outpouring of just … base vitriolic hatred I saw toward women in general and Kirby Bits in particular took my breath away. I’m still floored by it. Since Monday morning, I’ve been spinning this around and around in my head like a centrifuge, trying to separate out my reason from my feelings, and I can’t get away from this basic central fact:

On the one hand you have people speaking emotionally and angrily because they have been traumatized in the most violently invasive life-destroying way imaginable and they feel belittled, trivialized, condescended to and made the stuff of punchlines.

On the other hand you have people raging at rape survivors because they cannot buy a t-shirt.

Whatever else my feelings, I cannot get around this. I cannot believe that I’m seeing this happening, here, now, before my eyes. This is a visual breakdown of just some of the comments that have been directed at Kirby Bits over this.

Over a t-shirt, guys.

Over. A. Fucking. T-shirt.

It breaks my heart.

But we’re not done.

On 29 January 2011, Gabe posted the following explanation for the Dickwolves shirt removal. His post is copied here in its entirety:

It’s true that we have decided to remove the Dickwolves shirt from the store. Some people are happy about this but a lot more of you are upset. You think we’ve caved into to pressure from a vocal minority and you’re not entirely wrong. let me at least break down why we did it though.

First of all I would never remove the strip or even apologize for the joke. It’s funny and the fact that some people don’t get it, or are offended by it doesn’t change that. People complained about the strip and that’s fine with me, my response as always is “if you don’t like it don’t read it.” It is very easy not to log on to Penny Arcade and read our bullshit. We’ve always made offensive comics and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If jokes about violence,rape,aids,pedophilia,bestiality,drugs,cancer,homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic.

PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter. These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable. It’s how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show. For me that’s an easy fix to the problem. I really don’t want to have this fight and if not having it is as simple as not selling a shirt then I’ll do it. Contrary to what they might think I’m not a complete asshole.

Now for some people removing the shirt isn’t enough. They don’t want to come to PAX or support PA because of the strip or because they think Tycho and I are perpetuating some kind of rape culture and that’s a different matter. First off it assumes a lot about us that simply isn’t true but more importantly it’s not something I can fix. I’ve gotten a couple messages from people saying they are “conflicted” about coming to PAX. My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.

So there you go. It’s not a simple decision. No matter what we do we’ll have people mad at us. If you want to talk more about it we can chat at PAX.

-Gabe out

At first reading this, I felt better. What Gabe’s saying, in some ways, makes sense and mirrors some of my own feelings. I can agree, 100%, that Penny Arcade is one thing, an entity unto itself, while PAX and Child’s Play are another. I’m on-board with this. I agree with it completely.

I’m even with Gabe toward the end: “Don’t come if you don’t feel you should. If you’ve already bought tickets, we’ll refund your money.” That sounds completely reasonable. Generous, even.

Then I’m sucker punched. “I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.”

Wow. I just … wow. That’s not for the benefit of anybody who’s been genuinely hurt by this. That’s not attempting to meet someone halfway. That’s nothing short of a colossally over-sized ego thinking that what they do is so awesome it is utterly irresistible, regardless of the depth of pain you might be feeling. And even then, even if you did want to come so badly that you’d push all that hurt aside? Fuck you. We don’t want you here.

I’ve been in a whirlwind about all this. I’m very torn. As I mentioned above, I’m partially on Gabe’s (and presumably Tycho’s, though he’s yet to speak out) side. I don’t think there should be anything we can’t talk about. I don’t think there’s anything we shouldn’t joke about. I think that we have to keep the light shining on every facet of the human condition to better be aware of it, to better understand it. Joking about things is a way of dealing with some of the truly horrible shit we’re capable of doing. Once one subject becomes taboo and untouchable, we pave the way for any subject to become taboo and untouchable.

So I am completely behind PA creating that strip and then keeping it up even in the light of all this. Hell, I still think it’s funny. As Gabe himself says, this isn’t the first time they’ve done a strip that offended someone, and it certainly won’t be the last.

But somewhere between “The Sixth Slave” and “Breaking It Down”, this became something much, much more. This became personal. This became a vendetta.

All those times that Penny Arcade has been offensive? All those emails and complaints that Gabe and Tycho doubtless receive every week? Where are the rebuttal strips to those complaints? Where are the hurtful, directly-targeted side comments in subsequent blog posts? Where is the merchandising for the violently murdering AIDS-riddled drug-addicted dog fuckers?

The problem with the Dickwolves shirt is really pretty simple. Opponents argue that the logo design (here it is again) is done in the style of sports team shirts, which individuals wear to show their support. We know exactly one thing about Dickwolves, and that is that they rape. The argument, then, is that this shirt could be seen as “Go Dickwolves!” or, in other words, “Go Rapists!”

Now I don’t think that was the intent per se, I really don’t. But you cant separate out the release of this shirt on the heels of the “Breaking It Down” strip – again, the only time in ten years that Gabe and Tycho have seen fit to respond directly to the criticism that they themselves acknowledge as a regular fact of life with their comic – and the intentionally hurtful mock “Trigger Warnings” post that Gabe makes on the same day the shirt is announced.

In light of all this, the absolute best you can say about the Dickwolves shirt is that it was meant as a swipe at an already deeply wounded group of people whose only crime was saying they didn’t like a comic strip.

But wait, there’s more.

We come back to the most recent developments, that being the actual removal of the shirt. Like I’ve already said, I still can’t wrap my head around what Kirby Bits has had to face, save to say that as a gamer I am deeply ashamed to see my community turn on one of its own like this. About this. I’m still swimming in so many emotions that I can’t quite see where to go and what to do. So forgive me for what is surely about to seem a very selfish turn. I don’t mean to belittle either the larger issues at play here nor the pain Kirby Bits and others have undeservedly received and doubtless will continue to receive in the coming days, weeks and months for no reason other than speaking their minds. I don’t yet know how to resolve those things, and so I turn my focus inward to something I can figure out: why this has affected me so personally.

It comes down to PAX.

I love PAX. Adore it. Mike and I went in 2009 and 2010, and all things remaining equal had every intention of going to 2011. I’ll let Past Me explain what I think is the greatest part of PAX (from my write-up of PAX 10):

There’s been a lot said about the PAX experience. “Home” is how it’s mostly described, and it’s definitely a feeling that can’t be overstated. I’m generalizing pretty heavily when I say this, but geeks and nerds are a socially awkward lot by and large, and as a result I think it’s a subculture that thrives when in a “safe” place. When that safe place just happens to be with 100,000 or so people who feel the same way you do and love all the same shit you and get all the same jokes you do … well, it’s pretty bloody awesome.

When I read Gabe’s post about the Dickwolves shirt removal, as I said, I got it. “PAX is a different matter though,” he said. “We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen.”

Yes. Yes, this exactly.

But then: “I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.”


Penny Arcade, @cwgabriel 'I'll be wearing mine.'

Cozmicaztaway: @cwgabriel If people already have the shirt and wear it to PAX, then what?
cwgabriel: @Cozmicaztaway I’ll be wearing mine to PAX.

This says only one thing to me: PAX is run by spiteful hypocrites.

Gabe has publicly stated he is aware that the shirt causes serious problems for some members of the PAX community. In his own words, “whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter”. For the good of the gaming community – for the good of PAX – Penny Arcade made the decision to pull the shirt.

But Gabe? He’s gonna wear his anyway.

How can you say that you acknowledge the negative impact of your merchandise at a place that you want to be safe and welcoming and inclusive while at the same time personally showcasing the very thing that has caused all the pain and exclusion at the very place you just said should be open to everyone?

I cannot reconcile this. Gabe wearing the shirt is either an act of childish cruelty against the very people he claims are the motivation for dropping the shirt in the first place, or he simply never meant what he said about wanting PAX to be a place for any and everybody who loves gaming.

It’s hypocritical or it’s cruel. Take your pick.

I don’t know that I, in good conscience, in now having come to this realization, can ever go to PAX again. And that, too, breaks my heart.

  • Ross

    I’d managed to be unaware of all of this. Wow.

    It sucks when people who belong to a group with which I identify — in this case that includes both “gamers” and “men” — are such unmitigated dicks.

    I’m not sure what to say beyond that.

    • Jet Wolf

      It’s tough to say much beyond that. I mean obviously I DID, hello wordspill. But this is a massively – and surprisingly – complicated issue with a crazy amount of layers.

  • http://www.coherentlighthouse.com/ Scott Elyard


    I wonder if gabe’s reaction would be the same if he had known someone, personally, either a friend or family, who had been raped. I don’t know. Maybe it would be. I don’t see introspection as a strength of his.

    Apart from being asinine, his tweet appears to me to be petty and vindictive. It’s possible he was just being glib, but I’m not really inclined to grant him the benefit of the doubt. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t have the energy for it.

    PA itself is too far under my radar to be worth the time and effort it would take for me pay attention to it any more. It was cute for a bit and sometimes still is, but rudeness as a motif becomes tiresome easily, and they know few other skills.

    I don’t know what it is about gaming culture in general, but I think events like this demonstrate why I’d rather do other things with my time. Dealing with obnoxious people is endemic to any past time with a social element (especially online), and I’ve largely left the hobby in the name of choosing my own battles (and other reasons, to be honest). I guess I can always play Myst or Riven again if I want, but dealing with infantile, poisonous people from every corner is beyond my capabilities, and that tends to curtail enthusiasm. That sort of embarrasses me, because I know the culture could stand some improvement, especially on matters like the above.

    Regardless, this is well said. And it helped clarify for me another line of reasoning regarding why I don’t much care for PA any more. (The internet was designed for illumination, and that is how it works, no matter what some infant on a game forum believes.)

    I vectored in via @amymebberson, and am merely a fan of her and your work (As If, &c.).

    • Jet Wolf

      I really would like to think that attitudes would be different if they could personalize this, but in the same breath I think “But it shouldn’t have to go to that extreme.” I’ve never been sexually assaulted, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has anyone I’m close to. And yet how difficult is it to consider the feelings of those who have? I’m no saint by any stretch, and yet really? Not that hard.

      I don’t know. The more I think about this more disturbed I am by the utter lack of any kind of empathy from Gabe. It’s like a deep failing as a decent human being, you know? I mean I don’t know the guy, but how he can not only be indifferent to the pain but antagonize it. How is it that neither he nor Tycho have yet to step forward and say “Guys, stop trolling”? How is it that neither can remember Wheaton’s Law?

      There’s a lot – a whole hell of a lot – to be said about gaming culture, and a lot of it isn’t good. I think that’s again another reason why, on the selfish “all about meeee” side, I’m so angry and disappointed: Gabe and Tycho were better than this. They’d done a lot of good for the gaming community, both within and without. That they can’t seem to see that this is undoing all of that is maddening.

      Thanks for reading. As If … good times. :)

      • Madra Liath

        They’ve come forward with a call to stop trolling since someone posted a tweet that threatened Gabe’s wife and child. That’s what it took.

        • Jet Wolf

          Yeah, so I saw. I don’t want to have the “that’s what it took” reaction, I really don’t, but they’re making it so damn hard.

          • Catalogue Browser

            Celebrating a death threat as a solution to an argument doesn’t say much for anyone on either side of it.

            • Jet Wolf

              I completely agree with you.

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  • http://jackbootedliberal.com Joshua

    On the other hand you have people raging at rape survivors because they cannot buy a t-shirt.

    I believe that you’re probably aware of what I’m about to say, but I think it needs to actually be said, so I’m going to say it–not in a sense of correcting or educating you, but just trying to add to the discourse.

    I don’t think the rage is about not being able to buy a T-shirt. Nobody gives a shit about a T-shirt. The T-shirt is just a symbol. The rage is about the perception of over-sensitivity to rape victims, which actually means showing ANY sensitivity at all to rape victims. The outraged people would probably all agree that rape is bad and rape victims deserve compassion, right up until they are asked to go out of their way AT ALL to actually address the existence and consequences of rape. When they’re asked to do that, the outrage flies fast and thick, and their (probably unwitting, but disgusting nonetheless) support for rape culture shines through.

    • Jet Wolf

      I agree with you, the shirt has become a symbol on both sides. Which interestingly I think makes it all the more easy to see just how out of control things are. We don’t have to whip out some crazy over-simplified analogy to make a point, it’s built right into this debacle.

    • http://blog.sinthetik.com SushiSpook

      I’ve been on the other end of it, where I was the one who got called over posting what I thought was humorous, but was actually offensive to others. If you laugh at something, and then you are, by proxy, taken to task for finding amusement in something that denigrates another, your first reaction is to lash back – because you basically feel like someone has insulted you.

      You may not have any right to it, but I think that’s how this started – people laughed, and when other people justifiably became upset over the trivialization of a traumatic event, they felt like they were being called Bad People. And punches got thrown.

      I do believe that humor and rational discourse often get strangled in the coils of offensensitivity, and I think it’s good and healthy to talk about that because understanding can come from discourse and healing can (not always) come from the de-mystification of good humor, but clearly it’s gone way beyond that, and people have become entrenched and can’t talk *to* eachother, just *at* eachother. And I think some of the vitriol comes around people not wanting to examine too closely their justification for supporting the whole dickwolves thing for fear that they may believe their justifications are not just.

  • Adamuz

    From Spain, completely against all the stuff you say.

    You all could also asume that the t-shirt, far from supporting rappist, suports the comic per se and the idea como political incorrection and the idea of joking about whatever, and that by taking away that shirt you put boundries. I deeply doubt that anyone, and specially PA, supports rape. I also doubt that if there is anyone who does, will wear a t-shit saying so.

    I find disturbing the fact that ANYONE would choose to see the shirt as supportive of rape…

    While I do understand and suppor victims of the horrible crime that rape is, I also understand the reaction of the people who deffends the strip and the shirt. Maybe the laters are right, but defending the t-shirt does not make you a rapist or a rape-friendly person, it just makes you someone who think that it´s funny to laugh about disturbing shit (the kind of person who enjoys American Dad, Family Guy, South Park, and so on…where they pull this kind of humor all the time) and that are against boundries.

    I think that Gabe, by wearing his T-shirt, is not an aggresion against rape victims. It is someone standing with his work and with the idea of not having to change your sense of humor for anyone.

    One thing is being a victim from one of the most horrible crimes, and another is making a criminal out of someone who has a weird sense of humor.

    Sorry for the poor english.

    • Jet Wolf

      Sorry for the poor english.

      I think I followed you well enough, no worries.

      Like I mentioned in another reply, there’s a lot going on here. Your comment is focusing on the rape culture aspect, which is absolutely a major factor of all this but isn’t so much the focus of my post. There are lots of sites talking about that particular topic as it relates to this in far greater detail than I feel I have the knowledge and experience to address.

      That said, I cannot in any way say that the “defenders” of the shirt have any right at all to some of the violently hateful things that have been said to Kirby Bits. I don’t care what the motivation, we as a community – we as a society – should find no reason to condone telling another person that they hope they are raped to death. The violent hatred she, and others, have endured and continue to endure simply because they were hurt and said so is inexcusable.

      No I don’t honestly think that Gabe wearing his Dickwolves shirt is saying he is pro-rape (at least not directly; see above re: rape culture and my not feeling qualified enough to debate it), but he knows what it has come to mean and he will wear it anyway.

      Speaking about Gabe and the shirt and PAX, these are indisputable facts (indisputable because Gabe himself said them):

      1. PAX is open and inclusive to all people who love gaming.

      2. The Dickwolves shirt has hurt people and has made them reluctant to attend PAX.

      3. The Dickwolves shirt will no longer be sold because it is antithetical to PAX.

      4. Gabe will wear his Dickwolves shirt to PAX.

      These things do not follow. You can’t in one breath say that you want PAX to continue to be the touchstone where everyone of every size, stripe and walk of life is welcome with open arms for the love of gaming and then turn around and say that you are going to wear the very thing at the heart of this controversy at that very same event.

      Basically, you can’t claim to include while brandishing the symbol of exclusion.

      • Adamuz

        I do understand your point, and I do agree that some of the responses to the criticism are almost criminal. But so are some of the accusations. And the same way that this fact does not make the idiots who are harrasing Kirby Bits right, nor does those idiots make the harrasing of two artist right.

        This means I will not decide upon the subject just basen in how people is reacting to this because everyone is blowing this out of proportion. I do find disturbing most of the ways people is verbalizing the support to PA but I do belive this to be a case of Political Correctness trying to coerce some humorist into stop making his thing. And I shall not have any of that.

        And I do not find that Gabe attitude is weird or that it disqualifies him from humanity, I think that he stands with his art and his humor. He, as an individual, support this t-shirt, but he will not do so in the context of his bussiness/comic. He probably just wants the t-shirt to mean what it intended it to mean: We´re like to laugh about very stupid jokes.

        • Jet Wolf

          And I do not find that Gabe attitude is weird or that it disqualifies him from humanity, I think that he stands with his art and his humor. He, as an individual, support this t-shirt, but he will not do so in the context of his bussiness/comic. He probably just wants the t-shirt to mean what it intended it to mean: We´re like to laugh about very stupid jokes.

          That’s a right you of course have, but breaking it down to the very basic issue of “Gabe wearing the shirt at PAX”, I can’t see how it doesn’t completely undermine his very own statements earlier that day about why they pulled the shirt in the first place.

          You and I are obviously sitting at least somewhat on opposite sides here, so what’s your take? What do you think about Gabe saying that they won’t sell the shirt at PAX because “we want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome”, then saying on Twitter that he’ll wear his? Do you think those are two contradictory ideas? If not, why, and if so how do you reconcile them? I truly can’t see anything better than hypocrisy.

    • Ross

      See, for me it’s less about the shirt itself, or even the comic, as it is the fan reaction. Did you see the image that Jetwolf linked? “Slut,” “whore,” “asking for it,” “should have been killed by her rapist”… I’m sure there’s plenty more.

      This is what people are talking about when they refer to “rape culture.” It’s not people going around saying, “I support rape! Hurray for rapists!” Instead, it’s people talking about, making jokes about, and reinforcing a whole raft of attitudes and stereotypes that, in the real world, lead to women being raped. Raped by guys who think that hey, she’s a slut, and sluts like it. Raped by guys who figure she wouldn’t have dressed sexy if she didn’t want it. Raped by guys who think that she must be a lesbian and all she needs to be “cured” is being forced by a man.

      What’s reprehensible to me, in this situation, is that Gabe and Tycho have pitched their flag with the people calling Kirby a whore who deserved to be raped. They may not be advocating rape, but they’re supporting rape culture. And for a couple of guys who have in the past been better than this — who have proven that they do in fact know better — it’s particularly disappointing.

      • Jet Wolf

        I can see not thinking through the impact of “The Sixth Slave”. I can even, if I try really really hard, see the knee-jerk reaction in “Breaking It Down”. But no matter how hard I squint, I cannot for the life of my understand why they wouldn’t err on the side of genuine hurt feelings on such a painful issue and leave it there. Even now, even with today’s explanations, there’s no hint of any kind of remorse. There’s no acknowledgment that I could see for the callous, even cruel way they’ve been like a dog with a bone about this. When given the choice to just be empathic human beings, they chose to deliberately keep on hurting people. I just don’t understand that.

    • Heather

      Adamuz, you beat me to it re: the shirt. It’s a symbol of support for PA (to many people, myself included.) and we laughed and cheered when it was announced. I was there. Many of us were just didn’t understand why Breaking it Down, and the apology that was proffered in the article for the strip, didn’t seem to be enough. So people started to get angry for what, in their view, were unwarranted attacks on beloved community members. People on both ends were overreacting. And then it seemed to stop. Yay!
      I couldn’t believe it had started again. And with such viciousness! How I wish, oh how I wish, that Gabe had just ignored everyone after that last PA blog post. I thought it was a good post. It spoke to people on both sides of the issue.I thought: “I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.” was funny, a jibe at the ultra-offended, and in no way serious.

      And then Gabe didn’t ignore people. And he started behaving like many people who have had enough of being harassed for something they apologized for already, and are angry. He got petty and pissy right back.
      But you’re right–that’s no excuse for some of his recent behavior. Everyone in this argument is an adult. More of them need to behave like one. There is a fundamental misunderstanding over what is, and is not, acceptable treatment of a serious issue–and it’s not going to get resolved. People need to accept that other people have different opinions, that other people may never understand them, shut up, and treat each other like decent human beings do!

      On that note, Yours is the first truly reasonable, calm blog I have seen on the topic (maybe I missed the others?) and for that I thank you.

      *Please excuse this hasty draft, as I have to run to class, no time for editing. Perhaps I should have waited then, but I was afraid I would forget.

      • Jay

        Interestingly, I didn’t actually think much about the whole situation until that last blog post. The way he distanced himself (and his fans) from those with complaints while taking no responsibility for the issue (“some people”, “some kind of rape culture”) made me feel like I should take a closer look at what had transpired.

        That’s when I read the numerous tweets that Mike had been making.. they made it pretty apparent to me that there wasn’t a fundamental disagreement – it was just a simple lack of respect. He didn’t care enough to consider the opposite perspective. (And, unfortunately, probably has no incentive to care about it, either.)

        • Jet Wolf

          I don’t think I could put it better. His attitude over the past week has been unfathomable to me. I have real difficulty in seeing how anybody could read those things and still be unquestioningly in his corner on this.

      • Jet Wolf

        You’re very welcome, and thanks for your comments. You and I have some differing opinions on what Gabe said and how it said it, but as neither of us were the offended party I suppose that neither of our opinions really ultimately matter on that.

        What I can say, and what I think that a great many people on both sides feel, is a fervent wish that Gabe and Tycho had just let it go. Why they felt the need to pursue this of all things after brushing off a decade of controversy makes no sense to me.

  • sls

    “Where are the rebuttal strips to those complaints?”

    That sentence right there really clicked for me. Great question. Why the everloving hell is there all this vitriol in the first place? It’s like they forgot you can just shrug and move on when someone says “this offends me” and you feel like you’re too good to apologize. Instead it’s all “YOU CAN’T CRITICIZE ME! CENSORSHIP! DICKWOLVES DICKWOLVES DICKWOLVES DICKWOLVES P.S. DICKWOLVES!!!!”

    • nylorac15

      This exact phenomenon is a big part of the reason why so many people are so angry about this. It happens with alarming frequency when people speak up in defense of women, or rape survivors, or other mocked and ignored groups. Why only them? We can only speculate, and the typical conclusion of that speculation is “because people who don’t have to worry about uncomfortable things get pissy when they’re reminded of them”. Which is a very simple description of what misogyny and rape culture really is.

      • Jet Wolf

        As I said to sls, while I don’t know exactly what’s going on with them, I certainly couldn’t rule out what you’re saying either. Clearly there’s a lot going on under the surface here, and finding out exactly that is could only be a positive.

    • Adamuz

      Well, that logic aplies to all those who felt offended by the comic, who could have also, as you said, shrug and move on, so I completely disagree with your message.

      • Jet Wolf

        But I think it’s important to remember the difference between being the offended and being the offender.

        Plus, we have to look big picture here. Gabe and Tycho have arguably made their living out of being offensive to whole swaths of people. It’s a source of pride for them. They’ve been at this for what, 13 years now? This strip, to them, should’ve been no different from the hundreds before it which had pissed people off. Yet they MADE it different. “Shrug and move on” is exactly what they’ve been doing, only this time they didn’t. When you have a long-established pattern of behaviour that suddenly shifts – particularly when it causes so much damage to so many people – I think we have to ask “why now”?

        • Adamuz

          I inted this to be the last post about the issue as I respect Tycho and Gabe wishes for this matter to be dropped.

          I think that Gabe and Tycho response to this matter has been different because the ones attacking the strip have acted different from others. PA first response was to take matters humorously like they always do. They take this one step further with the T-Shirt, but only because, and this is only my opinion, the critics were also one step further in means of lenght of time and gravity of the accusations (supporting a crime such as rape is unlawful in my country, as is acusing someone of something such as that without proof). Hence the tiredness of PA and their desire to just wipe it off with a bad joke (the t-shirt). Six months, six month after publishing it. The t-shirt thing came after Four months of attackst from concerned people.

          Now, I do belive that ignoring the critics is not PA style, as the Jack Thompson thing shows. Their “thing” is to mock the ones attacking them, and that´s what they did. Only this time they didn´t have an asshole in front, they had a lot of people with some reasonable concerns, but still relentlessly attacking them and accusing them of something very heinous.

          So yeah, another approach could have been better given the circumstances but I do not belive that they are entirely wrong to just say “we are not going to be called “rapist-friendly” and just nod and smile”. And their counter attack was to do more jokes.

          And responding to the post up, I´d say that while probably Gabe´s statement of that he´ll be wearing his t-shirt to PAX was the result of rage inducing twitting and tiredom, I´d say that I do think that we should sepparate Gabe the PA guy who stopped selling t-shirt with mike the artist who could wear it to prove that he cannot be coerced by public correctness.

          Thanks for an interesting and calmed place where to discuss such matters without all the buzz and crazyness. I´ll be sure of keep on checking it.

          • Jet Wolf

            I understand that you probably won’t be responding further and respect that, so while I’ll address a couple of your points, I don’t expect replies to them. Consequently I’ll try not to say anything too left of field. :)

            I knew when I saw Gabe and Tycho’s call to drop the matter that we’d see many people saying “well that’s that then” and move on. My own feelings on that aside, I also don’t think that it’s fair to try and end the conversation when we weren’t the ones offended by it. You and I are in the unique position to be able to form opinions about something that doesn’t really affect either one of us. Consequently we have the luxury of disengaging whenever we like … but that’s not actually true for either Gabe and Tycho or those they offended and then antagonized.

            As for the antagonizing, whether it was warranted or unwarranted, justified or unjustified, I think at this point we’ll agree to disagree.

            Much the same with his public declaration that he would wear his shirt. Perhaps you’re right and that’s exactly how he viewed it. I can’t know how he thinks. But if that’s the case, I do have to say that I feel it’s unbelievably naive and short sighted to believe the two can be separated when it’s gotten to this point. I admit that him just being unfathomably stupid and insensitive about it is a less bitter pill to swallow than one of deceit and malice. So I appreciate that viewpoint.

            Thanks for your comments. We don’t completely agree, but I’ve enjoyed discussing it with you.

      • http://www.coherentlighthouse.com/ Scott Elyard

        I didn’t feel offended by the comic. Nor the shirt. Nor the tweets, because, and this important, I wasn’t their target.

        What I find interesting is the notion that Gabe poking a hornet’s nest after he’s knocked it down with a rock is now supposed to be free of all consequence. Their response is designed for that effect. And it won’t work, because that’s not how reality deals with acts of stupidity.

        Analogy: chucking stones wasn’t going too far. Kicking the nest wasn’t going too far. Poking it with a stick and goading it, that wasn’t going too far. But Gabe spitting out hornets and crying is, finally, going too far?

        I can only be sympathetic to Gabe in this case if he were being grossly misunderstood. But that is not how I interpret his comments, nor the reaction of others.

        He can learn his lesson and try to gradually undo the damage done over time, or do just what he’s doing now.

    • Jet Wolf

      I mean, “shrug and move on” has pretty much been their mantra as far as the strip’s concerned, no? I’m not sure where I sit on nylorac15’s explanation, but there must be something at the root here. I think a not insignificant amount of self-reflection in figuring out what that underlying cause is could do Gabe and Tycho a world of good.

      • Madra Liath

        It seems to be the confluence of two things. One: an awful lot of men – even enlightened ones who are down with a black president, abortion and gay marriage – think society treats men and women equally. They don’t realise that that’s not true. They have huge blind spots about what women find threatening, or sexist, or upsetting, either because they don’t care to think about it or because they’re harbouring some prejudices of their own.

        Two: People who consider themselves enlightened really, really hate it when a member of a minority they don’t belong to points out that they said or did something that’s kinda bigoted. It messes with their sense of themselves as good, forward-thinking people, and provokes an unpleasant comparison to backward, horrible people. The response is to get defensive and decide the problem is on the critic’s end. I know because I’ve had that reaction. I’ll bet most white, straight, cis-gendered liberals have.

        • Jet Wolf

          That is a really interesting viewpoint. Not being able to crawl around in their headspace I can’t truly know what’s going on in there, but there’s a lot here that feels right to me and rings true. Definitely something to think about. Thanks for that.

  • Stephanie Jane

    This is all just awful. And personally, I know how much you guys enjoyed PAX. So I’m sorry you’ve lost something so important to you.

    What I want to know is, what was going on behind the scenes between August, when the strips came out, to October, with the shirt, to January, with the explosion of all this?

    That being said I’m beyond shocked anyone would mock trigger warnings, which is just an inexcusable absence of basic decency in any circumstance.

    • Jet Wolf

      Yeah, I’m still really upset about it. I don’t know what we’ll ultimately do. I like to think that something will change, something will happen, that will somehow make this better enough for me to be able to go. It’s only just February, September’s a long way off yet.

      But honestly, I can’t figure out what would make it better. I thought maybe I’d, I dunno, find something when Tycho finally spoke out, but I didn’t. The whole thing is extremely depressing, and I have the luxury of not having been personally offended by any of this. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who loved PAX and have directly felt this impact.

      What I want to know is, what was going on behind the scenes between August, when the strips came out, to October, with the shirt, to January, with the explosion of all this?

      I’m not exactly sure. This site has done a pretty good job of trying to get it all straight, but even it has a pretty significant gap in that time period. My guess is that as far as the PA guys were concerned, nothing was going on because they weren’t seeing it. Meanwhile resentment and implications grew, until it erupted again with Kirby Bit’s very public decision to not attend PAX East.

      So much mess that could’ve so very easily been avoided.

      That being said I’m beyond shocked anyone would mock trigger warnings, which is just an inexcusable absence of basic decency in any circumstance.

      I know. That’s part of why I’m so torn. How can I just keep excusing horrible thing after horrible thing in the name of ignorance or misspeaking? There has to come a point where that just doesn’t cut it any more, then what’s left?

  • nylorac15

    Re: Humor and topics being “off-limits”. My favorite blogger has a short discussion of that. Note that she has been one of the most visible and vocal critics of PA, and she agrees that they’re shouldn’t be. There are caveats, though, and I agree with them.

    • Jet Wolf

      Thanks for the link. I’ve read up a few things on the feminist side of the issue, and there’s definitely a lot going on. I don’t agree with everything said and every conclusion reached, but I think there’s a lot of value in, at minimum, understanding where everyone is coming from. Sadly I think that involves a lot more effort and concession than some people are prepared to give, else I doubt we’d be here right now.

      • nylorac15

        Yup, you’ve nailed my sentiments there. I’m not a survivor, so I doubt the comic would have impacted me initially, and the underlying joke is without a doubt funny. (My employer blocks their website, along with anything else remotely related to gaming. Grrr. So, I missed its initial appearance.)

        If we accept that all topics are fair game in art, though, then shouldn’t it really stand that all personal reactions and discussions of those topics are welcome as well? Otherwise, what’s the point? But these reactions weren’t allowed, apparently. Survivors (most of whom are women) were declared hysterical, oversensitive, humorless. Charges that are made against all women on a ridiculously frequent basis over just about any subject.

        Any woman or survivor that’s decided they don’t feel like putting up with it are going to flee PA and PAX in droves. Gaming’s “Convention for Everyone” is now no longer. How Mike and Jerry could be so short-sighted about this is flabbergasting.

        I appreciate this conversation a lot, and the time you’re putting into it. I hope I haven’t been off-base at all. <3

        • Jet Wolf

          Oh no, not off-base even a little. I’ve been really twisted around by this on a lot of levels. I’m still sorting through it all. I think that dialogue about it is crazy important, because that’s the only way we can at least try to understand and reconcile. I was talking about just that with my husband this morning, and will probably turn it into its own separate post (because I JUST CAN’T SHUT UP apparently!)

          tl;dr I appreciate all comments and the thought behind them. We may not agree but if we can talk then we’re doing something right.

          And yes, I think that is a very important point. I believe no topic should be taboo for a joke, but so too should no joke be above reproach.

  • PAUL

    I think its a bit unfair to judge Gabe as a hypocrite for his twitter comments. His twitter comments read as someone reacting rashly and unthinkingly to a sweep of vitriol directed against him. That doesn’t excuse his tweets, and he has since apologized for them. The calm, more reasoned, posts on their front page reflect better on the PA guys, and I think those posts are a truer reflection of themselves than kneejerk swipes on twitter.

    • Jet Wolf

      There’s a separate post I plan to make that’s relevant to this so I won’t go into it too much here. I can agree with your point that Twitter has an immediacy to it that fosters a particular kind of attitude and impression. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to cling to that exchange as tightly as I have been. The question then is whether or not his response addressed that attitude and impression, and here’s where the new post will come into play. Because for some he clearly did and for others he clearly didn’t, and I sadly find myself in the latter category.

      Your comment’s given me a lot to think about with that. Thank you.

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  • nylorac15

    For anyone who isn’t familiar with the concept of rape culture and how it relates to this issue, a primer for you. Liss is a great writer and choses her words very carefully, so if you don’t grok her point after a first read, try again. Note that this blog’s commenting policy is hardcore, so don’t bother trying unless you actually follow their rules.

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  • Rabbit

    Um, I really don’t understand any of this, having only come upon it this evening. The comic wasn’t even about rape. I thought the shirt was making fun of sports mascots. I’ve certainly seen worse things on the internet, many of them created by women, and yeah, people say horrible stuff on the internet. It’s the internet. So, um, I am kind of baffled by the whole ordeal and thus can offer no coherent opinion…but I’d like to point out that Gabe has a tendency to poke at people when he’s feeling defensive. For instance, the Harlan Ellison incident. He lacks tact, sure, but that’s the Gabe we all know and love and Penny Arcade wouldn’t exist without his weird sense of humor. His feelings got hurt too.

    I think canceling your trip to PAX is a terrible idea. It’s something you guys love and by September nobody will even remember any of this. Don’t let the haters ruin your good time or the only people left at PAX will be the ones that think actual rape jokes are funny and that calling people names is a valid form of argument.

  • taren

    fascinating that it’s always the same sort of people who defend their “politically incorrect” jokes, and always the SAME TYPE OF JOKES, ie making fun of women who are raped (women in general), “homosexuals” (though GOD FORBID they admit that some of us homos ARE women who want no part of males and their frankly inferior looks), those who live with HIV and AIDS (or DIE from it, even worse), and those who are brave enough to cure their existential angst (and sensitive enough to have such angst to begin with, unlike all the “tough bros”) through drugs other than the ultimate dumb guy drug, marijuana. My theory is that all of you who propogate such assault on the weak were nerds in high school who jerked off at the idea of dating cheerleaders and circle-jerking with football players. instead of championing the outsiders, you decided to engage in the all too familiar stockholm syndrome and attack those whom you perceived as “weaker”. and since there are all too many of you polluting the current zeitgeist, there are a million apologists for your repellent social Darwinistic drivel (and by the way, the football players you once worshiped would STILL call you ‘fag’ and beat you up, no matter how many AIDS and rape jokes you make). If this is merely about “free speech” (always the defense of those who attack the weak), I’d like to volunteer my own comic strips and jokes, where women enjoy poisoning men and watching them vomit, where lesbians make “realistic” dildos by castrating men who are too ugly to penetrate women (and too sexually ignorant–can’t even pronounce ‘clitoris’ let alone find it) and creating their own “real life” dildos for the sexually dissatisfied heterosexual women…where some of the rape survivors you vilify decide to start toting chainsaws and Louisville Slugger bats for tender hetero male buttholes…These are politically incorrect and controversial as well, huh? So how come the only ‘politically incorrect’ and so called ‘controversial’ “art” that is ever disseminated merely contributes to the status quo’s opinions? What you puds are doing is not at all subversive or avant garde at all…in fact, your views are equal to the most repellent conservative factions of our government..whether they admit it or not.

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  • Leeroy

    Well, people are generally cruel. At our most basic, when we think nobody is watching or nobody will care, we are essentially evil. So, none of this comes as a surprise. I think the PA guys have done a good job with making PAX into an excellent environment for gamers. Yes, they are constantly making bad decisions and crude jokes. But, after all, that’s how they make a living. I don’t think they understand the situation most rape survivors have to deal with. I don’t think they ever CAN understand it.

    They are men. Wicked, foolish, and proud of it. I do not condemn them for being what they are, because, truthfully, in my inmost being, I know I’m basically the same. I think all men are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=603643882 Jeremy Kuehnau

    It’s a T-Shirt. Anyone who chooses to be offended by a T-Shirt needs to get off the internet and go outside and do something else for awhile.

    Fucking Drama-Lamas.