Weinstein, Whedon, US

(ED: The recent spate of sexual assault and harassment stories coming out of Hollywood speak directly to a long-running dilemma within the geek community of appreciating art created by people who are problematic. How should we respond to our love of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Firefly in the wake of what we now know about Harvey Weinstein and Joss Whedon? Guest blogger Bill Ernoehazy suggests a possible answer.)

How do they get away with it?

It is true that Harvey Weinstein is now hip deep in trouble. NOW. But for decades, he preyed on people with impunity. Assaults on people in public, simply looked away from and ignored. Sexual assault accusations, covered up by local DAs and senior law enforcement officials.

How do they get away with it?

It’s easy to say “powerful people do”. It puts the problem comfortably over THERE, makes it something we can deplore in others.

In others.

That’s comfortable. That’s also a half-truth, at best.

Consider, for a moment, Joss Whedon.

How many of you, reading this, were uncomfortable at that very sentence? How many of you have a friend who, when they heard the stories surface, said “that couldn’t be Joss”? Or accused the people coming forward of lying in order to get at Joss? Maybe, just maybe, some of you reading this actually thought that yourself. Said it. Wrote it.


How many people around Joss heard something… or knew something… and couldn’t bring themselves to believe it, because of their belief in him?

It’s easy to blame Weinstein’s defenders, because he had money, and power. It’s easy to consider them venal and corrupt and bought off. But Weinstein supported many causes near and dear to people’s’ hearts, was considered a powerful ally because he publicly supported causes that mattered. Just as Whedon did.

It’s easy to look away when you want to.

No; it’s easy to look away when WE want to.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s the thing we should take away from the last month, from the revelations of Whedon’s ex-wife, to Weinstein’s fall, to even from Woody Allen trying to fly cover for abusers by crying “witch hunt” — too soon, Woody, really too soon.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to stop, when we hear something awful about someone we approve of. Someone we respect; admire; venerate…

Stop. Listen to the person coming forward. Don’t dismiss them because your hero might have done something wrong. Don’t tear that person down just to save your hero.



Bill Ernoehazy is an emergency medicine physician in Jacksonville Florida and environs. He was the editor of an anthology of transhumanist science fiction short stories, Against A Diamond Sky. Other fannish pursuits include speaking at SF conventions on medicine in and of space (he was once a NASA/Univ of Florida Physician Affiliate), martial arts as they’re portrayed in genre fiction (he is a researcher in medieval German combat styles), and punditry on futuristic developments. Following Steven Brust, he hopes to get some sleep Any Day Now.

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No, you move

I’ve procrastinated writing this. Ran errands, run laundry, scooped out the cat box. Anything to avoid sitting down and writing a post about Charlottesville. But the errands are all done, the laundry is folded and put away, and the cats don’t look at me as much in disdain before doing their business. So here we are then.

When I talk about how this all started, I mention the incident at Dragon*Con in 2008. Which is technically true, but in reality started much earlier in my life.


This young man was my father, in approximately 1942 or 1943. This picture was taken not long after he was sent to Europe, right before the start of his senior year at Texas A&M, when it was all-ROTC. During the course of his service, he earned a Bronze Star and was rated as an expert marksman.

It was not long after he arrived in Europe that his commanders realized he had another unique talent. You see, my father was first-generation Ukrainian Jewish immigrant and was fluent in Yiddish because that was the only language spoken in his house until he was well into his teens. Yiddish and German are closely enough related that a conversation can be carried on, but it is immediately apparent who is speaking which language.

At the end of the war, my father’s battalion was stationed at Stuttgart, one of the main industrial cities in Germany, and my father was tasked with getting the city rebuilt. This meant he had to talk to a large number of civilians in the city to get things rolling. It was pretty obvious to city officials that the young American Army officer helping to rebuild the city was Jewish. It was equally obvious to my father that those officials did not want to deal with him, but had no other choice. But he did his job, even though it meant looking in the faces of people who, were the situations reversed, would have sent him off to be killed.

When I talk about where my commitment for this started, I now realize it started with my dad. For all that he was utterly mystified by the introverted girl who loved “that weird sci-fi stuff” that he had brought into this world, he taught me never to start a fight, but damn well finish it if that was what it took. And if that meant protecting your friends, well, that’s just what you did.

People talk a lot these days about punching Nazis, in reference to the iconic image of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler. But I really think that there’s another way of looking at this. There was no debate about who started it or whether or not “both sides” were to blame for my father. There was a job to be done, and you just did it.

We know there are things we will not allow. We stand against them. And if the other side swings first, we stop them. We protect those who need it. In whatever way we can.

Or, as Cap would also say: No, you move.





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Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money…

OK, so maybe not the lawyers or the guns, unless the lawyer happens to be this guy:


But money? As the Beatles say, that’s what we want. Due to an attack of Professional Real Life (which also requires money, as such things oft go when one is self-employed), funds for Backup Ribbon Project have gotten severely depleted, to the point where there hasn’t even been any available for postage to mail out ribbons or buttons. 

But we here at Backup Ribbon Project are a resourceful sneaky bunch and remembered “Hey, wait a minute! Don’t we have some sort of fundraiser somesuch doohicky thingamobobby or another going on?” (yes, those are technical SEO terms, so y’all in the peanut gallery can just shut yer pieholes)

A frantic (and somewhat horrifying) search back through our browser history ensued. Followed shortly thereafter by deleting that website about miniature goats wearing Cuban-heeled boots that we have NO IDEA  how it ended up in our browser history… 

Ahem…where were we? Oh, right, low on money. Postage. Fundraiser. This is not the web browser you are looking for. Move along, now. 

After going through our browser history full of wholesome, family-friendly 60’s folk songs, we finally found the link to that fundraiser. And so, without further ado, or discussion about our completely G-rated browser history, here’s the link to our fundraiser:


If you click on the g, a new tab will open that should take you straight to our Generosity fundraiser page. Hopefully. Please let us know if it instead takes you to a page about…wholesome 60’s folk music. Just remember, the g stands for Generosity, which is what we appreciate in all of you. 

In case you are wondering what you get for your donation (aside from our thanks), all money goes directly to paying for Backup ribbons; Geeks Got Your Back buttons, stickers, and cards; envelopes; and postage. It does not go for any sort of footwear, specifically boots. Nope, not for boots. Or small farm animals. At all. 

So to thank you for helping us out, I’d like to share one of my favorite pictures that I got from one of my searches through my browser history…of wholesome 60’s folk music. Thank you and please enjoy!

(no goats or wholesome 60’s folk singers were harmed in the making of this post)




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On Safety Pins, Actions, and Intentions

Yeah, yeah, y’all knew this was coming…that whole safety pin thing. Really, it was inevitable. But it isn’t because I’ve been slacking (despite what I tell myself). It’s because I’ve had to sit down with  myself and have a really long hard think about not just how I feel about the safety pin issue, but how best to frame it around Backup Ribbon Project. I know there’s a great deal of controversy over what precisely the pin is meant to symbolize, and what should (or shouldn’t) be expected of anybody wearing (or not) wearing it. All I can say is that these are *my* thoughts and how I view it.

First, a bit of history: The safety pin concept actually first came about in response to the Brexit vote, in which the UK voted on whether or not to remain as part of the European Union. Ultimately, it voted to leave, albeit amidst a great deal of controversy and (sad to say) a rather sharp spike in hate crimes targeted against immigrants in the UK. I am half-British, born in London, and went back every summer while I was growing up. I first pinned a safety pin to my backpack as a show of solidarity to my British heritage and those who had wanted to remain within the EU.

Of course, it was quickly adopted here in the US immediately after our contentious presidential election, in response to our own sharp rise in violent hate crime. But this is where my attitude toward the meaning behind the pin had to take an immediate change. As a simple show of solidarity toward my British heritage, not much was required of me in order to have that pin be visible. In fact, most Americans likely would not know what it meant. But that’s all changed now.

I still have the pin on my backpack, but I am acutely aware that my attitude toward its meaning has dramatically shifted. Ultimately, it lives in the same space for me as the Backup Ribbons, but in a larger universe than just the geek community. It’s an active decision on my part to step in to back up anybody who is being either threatened with violence or actually being assaulted. And yeah, that’s a scary thing for me to contemplate. It’s one thing to say this for a geek event, but another entirely for me to say it for *any time I am out in public.* That’s an order of magnitude larger in my mind.

But at the end of the day, I find that I can’t NOT do it. I was raised to believe that actions mean more than intentions every single time.  We can say that we are willing to help, but until we actually put action behind that intention, we have not truly made a difference.

So I guess that’s what I would ask people to consider. Are you willing to actively do something to help? Obviously, it doesn’t have to be direct confrontation, but making an proactive step to reach out to those in need, rather than waiting for them to find you can make such a difference. Your actions toward somebody mean so much more than your intentions.

Solidarity is great. It felt good for me to do that in response to Brexit. Now that these same terrible things are happening right here in my very city? Solidarity is not enough. The safety pin is a great symbol to show that you will not stand for hate crime, but that symbol must also have action to back it up (see what I did there).

And yes, Geeks Got Your Back pins are in the works!



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Eight Years and Four Words

I have been spending the better part of this past week attempting to understand exactly what I need in order to satisfy the IRS requirements to file Backup Ribbon Project as a nonprofit. As I even type out that sentence, I remain stunned that what began just over eight years ago now has me trying to decide what National Taxonomy of Exempt Entity Code best describes this crazy endeavor.

All of it began with four words: “Hey, are you OK?” In that moment, my life changed, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. All I cared about was helping somebody in danger. Not being the person who walked by as if nothing was wrong.

And here I sit, eight years and many words later, staring at forms that make no sense whatsoever to me (and hey, if you know about this whole NTEE code thing, drop me an e-mail). Part of me thinks that this whole registering as a nonprofit rigamarole was absolutely not what I signed up for when I started this. I just wanted to give back to the geek community. I wanted to just do a small grassroots thing. It was never going to really go much of anywhere, right?

Except those grassroots caught fire, and now I no longer feel like I am the one person who refused to walk by as if nothing is wrong. I no longer have to start any conversation from “No, really, this happens in the geek community, and it’s a problem.”

I no longer am the only one willing to say those four words.

Maybe that’s why I am scratching my head at these IRS forms. Because enough of you have said those words that the time has come for me to level up. I’ve often joked that I was an army of one. I guess now the joke is truly on me, since I wouldn’t be at this point without every single one of you who took ribbons, wore them, passed them out, and talked about them. Believe me when I say that I am laughing in amazement and gratitude at this particular joke.

Eight years ago, it all started with four words.  I am looking forward to the next eight years!

PS: Just a quick reminder about our fundraiser! Part of our funding goal will be put toward the IRS application fee.




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The Best We Should Do

There was another post planned. It was discussing why MCU Captain America is the guy who has your back, and why the current Hydra agent version of Cap is so incredibly wrong. And it still  may happen, because it’s still kicking around inside my head.

But then, as often can happen, something else happens that completely changes what I have planned for this blog. In this case, it was the deaths of 49 LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly people (most of whom were Latinx, which should not be forgotten) at a gay bar in Orlando, FL. Like most of us who do not identify as LGBTQ, but as allies, we find ourselves wanting to help. We want to say the right words, do the right things, say anything, do anything that will help our LGBTQ friends and family members heal. Because if we find the right words, and if we do the right things, we can make it better. And we so desperately want to make it better.

But the hard truth is that we can’t. Because there is no “better” after something of this magnitude. Just as with the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the LGBTQ community will likely be changed by this. But we can help make it bearable. We can be the people who make giant angel wings to shield mourners from hate and bigotry. We can be bathroom buddies. We can be the people who say “Hey, not cool” if a coworker or a friend makes a LGBTQ-phobic remark. And we can just sit quietly and listen to our LGBTQ friends work through their grief and anger and disbelief.

I wish there were the right words and the right things to say and do. Maybe they could have been said and done before the night of June 12 so that none of this would have happened in the first place. Unfortunately, that was not the case. But we can help moving forward. We can do more than offer prayers or thoughts. We can offer actions.

And in the end, that is the best thing we can — and should — do.

No judgment. No exceptions. Geeks got your back.


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Geeks Got Girl Gamers’ Back!

Last weekend, I received a last-minute invitation to speak at a small convention aimed at girls who are into gaming. By my own admission, I do not identify as a gamer, which is a story unto itself, but I knew several of the people who were on staff, so I decided to check it out. Despite a rather unfortunate train mishap (and hooray for Himself, who fetched me from one stranded train to take me to another station to get me on my  way), we made it out there on time for our panel.

For a first-year con, I was pleasantly surprised that it had garnered a nice number of attendees. I ended up with anywhere between eight and 10 people in my panel, which was great. Not only were there girls in the audience, but some guys as well as parents.

We talked about everything from tips for attendees to use to keep everyone safe, the myth that is the Fake Geek Girl, the importance of inclusiveness in the geek community, and how to raise up the next generation of geeks. One parent mentioned taking her son to Wondercon this year for the first time, for which she got a round of applause for doing geek parenting right.  And of course, there were ribbons, stickers, and cards to hand out.

Everybody was extremely enthusiastic and seemed to have a great time at the panel, so I am chalking that one up as a win. Looking forward to being back next year!

P.S. Your donations help pay for those ribbons, cards, and stickers. Help us to help geeks keep each other safe.

P.P.S. If you are local to Southern California, please support Girl Gamer Gathering and help it grow in size and awesomeness!




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