A recent decision by the organisers of one of Australia's largest pop culture conventions has sparked controversy in the fan community.
A petition has been created to have the organisers of Supanova pop-culture expo revoke their invitation to Firefly actor Adam Baldwin. The US actor is due to appear at their Sydney and Perth conventions later this year.
Baldwin has been credited with fuelling the recent vicious attacks on feminists who have spoken out against sexism in video games. In late August, Baldwin tweeted the hashtag “#Gamergate” alongside a link to a video accusing game designer Zoe Quinn of sleeping with a male video game journalist to get better game reviews — a claim for which there is no serious evidence.
He has continued to use the hashtag for other tweets promoting the idea that feminism is trying to destroy male gaming culture, among other things. The hashtag became popular among sections of the gaming community who were taking up the cause of a movement that Baldwin claims is about "ethics in games journalism".
However, the movement turned very quickly into a misogynistic attack on women in the gaming industry after a number of feminist critiques were released exposing sexism in the industry.
Baldwin proceeded to tweet personal information of Quinn and another game developer Brianna Wu, which was used by his supporters to send threats to the women. Baldwin then accused Wu of lying about being driven from her home amid safety concerns. He also accused another woman, Anita Sarkeesian of being hysterical after receiving messages threatening violence and rape.
Wu has publicly supported the petition by spreading the link on twitter while calling Adam Baldwin a “sexist bully”. She also tweeted her own feelings on the issue saying: “Something geek culture is struggling with is making the culture open to women. I think Adam Baldwin is the complete opposite of this goal.”
Baldwin is a self-professed conservative who prides himself on speaking up against what he believes are “social justice liberals” trying to silence his “dissent” and “destroy [his] personhood”. In another one of his Twitter crusades last year, he said that gay marriage would lead to incest for tax benefits.
Baldwin is now claiming that the petition to have him removed from the Supanova guest list is built on lies and defamation.
Another petition has been created by fans who say they are fighting for free speech by accusing the original petition of trying to silence views different from those promoted by a “limited sect”. As of January 29, this petition had around 1000 more signatures than the original.
The organisers of Supanova have given a non-committal response to both petitions, saying they respect fans’ right to speak up about their beliefs provided they did not attack the opposing party. They say they are discussing the issue, but have not given an indication of their decision.
Meanwhile, the original petition is gaining support and is well on its way to meeting its goal for signatures. Whether Supanova decides to act on the concerns raised by the petition, it has already begun to spread its message.
It proves at least that there is a strong opposition to sexism in Australian geek culture which will hopefully continue to grow.