Quick Hit: Dickwolves shirt removed from store

In our linkspam, you may have seen the post “Why I’m Not Speaking at PAX East 2011.” If you haven’t, here’s an excerpt:

A couple of months ago, I got asked to be on a panel at PAX East 2011. I’d attended the IGDA Leadership Forum in October and been kind of a bitch (aka myself) on Twitter throughout the conference, mocking the verbal fuck-ups of men speaking about an industry that’s supposedly trying to be less of a sausage fest. [...] This got the attention of someone who was (and maybe still is, for all I know) working with the PAX East team to put together some less sausage-fest-ish content for the convention, and I got offered a spot on a panel about women and video games in some way or another.

I said no, which given the circumstances probably doesn’t surprise you. Leaving aside the fact that I think it’s a little wrong-headed for people in the industry to get too tied into a fan convention in general, what I want to say is that as someone working in the game industry, I think the recent merchandising decisions of Penny Arcade have made PAX and PAX East into spaces that I don’t want my industry to align itself with, and I’m not going to give Penny Arcade content as long as they keep selling that merchandise.

Penny Arcade’s continued use of rape as a punch line on their merchandise, and their sale of that merchandise on their site and at their events, is poisoning video game culture and video game fan events. If their charity work and structuring their cons to be less creepy to women were in the name of positively changing the perception of video games and gamers, then I do not understand their decision to pander to a puerile, sexist portion of their fan base, especially when it is so starkly prohibiting the participation of the people whose lives are being used as a punch line. In short: Why have they stopped following Wheaton’s Law?

It seems that this post and other well-reasoned emails have made a real impression:

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.

They have also offered to refund anyone who bought tickets to PAX but still feels uncomfortable attending.

Despite talking about why the offending comic itself was effective for me (and this does not mean I think it should be effective for anyone else), I did think the t-shirts were an incredibly inappropriate and tacky response, and I’m glad I won’t be seeing them for sale.

5 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Dickwolves shirt removed from store

  1. Emily

    While I’m relieved that the shirt was removed, I still find the tone of Gabe’s post to be dismissive at best: “some sort of rape culture”? Really?

    Also, according to a twitter post he’ll apparently be wearing the shirt to PAX.

    1. Terri

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s the *best* possible action, but given that he’s fairly clear about the fact that he really doesn’t get it and isn’t sure he ever can, I’m impressed that he was willing to say “I don’t understand, but you’ve told me this would help, so I can do that.”

      Baby steps, and likely with many more future mis-steps (like that tweet… ouch), but I think it’s really important that they’re recognizing that there needs to be a big division between PAX culture and Penny Arcade culture.

  2. ~A

    So does this mean you’ll reconsider speaking on the panel at PAX? These kinds of cultures can’t change without people helping them along. Even though I agree that Gabe could have been more graceful about removing the shirts, the shirts are gone, and it seems like they’re trying to make a good-faith effort to set things right as far as conventions go (can you name one other convention that’s banned Booth Babes? I can’t).

    1. Terri

      I am not the person who posted the original post about not speaking at PAX East, so I can’t tell you anything useful from her perspective.

      (I approved this post because a couple of people seem to have that mistaken impression. My apologies if this was in some way unclear. I’m actually a big fan of PAX despite having mixed feelings about Penny Arcade, and would totally speak if someone invited me. But they haven’t, so I’m just going as a regular attendee. ;) )

  3. ptp

    I can be seen in the back-post you referenced defending the dickwolves joke, but I find the response, whereby they market and sell t-shirts that further the thing that people complained about, pretty asinine. I’m really glad that people stood by this, and I’m glad that it had an effect.

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