I’m in the SCA and I love camping in the boonies where, with a clear sky, I can see the edge of the galaxy unaided. It was like that for me on May 23rd. I was sitting with 10 new best friends, four of them adults, the rest between 16 and 9, talking about silly things. I’d entertained the 10 and 9 year-olds with stories of the stars, both Greek, Cherokee, and everything else I could remember. The real gory stories too, like how Heracles killed his wife and kids. Twice. The good stuff. And we all watched the tail end of a meteor shower (one or two shooting stars, the rest were obscured by the previous cloudy night).
It was smelly, silly, noisy. It was fun and sad, as there were the inevitable creepers. One drunk and disorderly ended with him being kicked awake the next morning by his fellows and informed he was why they were leaving two days early. One fellow was running around naked. There are always creepers like that when you get 2500 people to play pretend in the woods and allow them to drink.
As we loaded up the car on Sunday, a half-day early due to the wasp infestation and a series of red-ant bites on my hand, a friend came to help us load and asked how far north we were going. Then she told us that a couple planned classes that day were canceled. The class was on chivalry.
That was how I found out about what happened in Santa Barbara. I actually repeated “Santa Barbara?!” three or four times, and “What the fucking fuck!?”
I am profoundly glad I was camping with the SCA when this happened. I spent a long weekend with people, playing pretend in the woods. Our ‘persona,’ the character we play from the middle ages (with an attempt on realism, though for me, more of one for fun and enjoyment), may look nothing like us. Our persona are different ages, races, classes, genders, and everything else you can imagine. I got to see the vigil of what is the second female knight in Caid (that’s the kingdom where I live, I’m also in the Barony of Gyldenholt with our fabulous two barons). Basically I got to see everything the way I wish life could be.
I saw friendship, fun, camaraderie, silliness, jokes, serious lessons, fighting (for fun), archery, dancing, drinking, drumming, celebrations, and everything of everything. Some people go all out looking like the middle ages nobility, and others less so. The point for all of us was to enjoy ourselves, and if you enjoy the SCA running around in ripped pirate pants and no shirt? Hey, have fun with your badass self. A month ago, someone gave me guff for a less than correct attire, and I asked her if she was having fun. “Is telling people they’re not perfect fun to you? Cause if so, carry on. I’m going to go back to having fun with my friends, though.” Have fun.
Why do I have to play pretend to see that kind of world? Why do I have to retreat to the woods to live in a place where the asshattery and creepers are rare and everyone, male and female, steps up to say “Bro, that’s not cool, go home.” We self-police pretty well, and when we see places we need to do better, we work on it. We aren’t perfect, but we all talk and change and adapt and grow. We’ve kicked people out for not playing well with others and running with swords. If you camp with someone who acts up, you go home with them.
But then I looked at the ‘real world.’ The mundane world, as we SCAdians call it, and I sighed.
I’m lucky because I’ve not been harassed that much. But that I have to consider it that way is daunting. That I have to worry about people’s reactions to me and wonder “Is this because I’m a woman?” is sad. That I’ve seen people go from being receptive to my suggestions when they think I’m ‘Mike’ to hostile and aggressive when they find out I’m a woman is depressing. I certainly did hide behind a gender neutral pseudonym on purpose for years. I still don’t correct people when they assume I’m a man because it’s safer. When they ask why, I ask them “Does my gender matter at all to my ability to help you solve problems?”
I want to have fun without hurting anyone. I want to live my life in a way that makes the world better for me and everyone I interact with. I want to enjoy my life and I want you to enjoy yours. Why is that so hard to accept?