On October 8, 2018, Lisa Olson, a former employee of Roseville’s Source Comics and Games, published a Facebook post about her experience as an employee that went viral and elicited many comments from both customers and other former employees about their experiences in the store. Below is an open letter that was sent to Twin Cities Geek this week by the game masters who run the Kattakemeros and Kosnos games at the store on Sundays.
Shieldmaiden Sundays are a casual meetup in the Source Comics and Games game room for women who want to meet other women with whom to participate in nerd-oriented activities, such as playing games, painting miniatures, and reading and making comics. This letter represents the views of the two groups that run all-female/femme RPG games during that time. These two groups have been using the space the longest and are Source regulars, but they do not speak for all those who participate in Shieldmaiden Sundays—only themselves.
We are the Shieldmaidens of Kattakemeros and Kosnos.
We believe Lisa Olson. We have all been Lisa Olson. We don’t have the luxury to be surprised by this information, so we’ve chosen to be angry. That it is happening here, again, because most of us have had at least one bad interaction while at the store. At all stores. Because this is not unique to one place, but a systemic issue (hopefully) in its death-throes: gatekeeping and misogyny in geek spaces.
We stand with the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the ignored, and the invisible. We are the shieldwall with and for our sisters, not just our cis-ters.
The concept of the Shieldmaidens has never been just about the Source. We highly encourage more chapters to pop up, whenever and wherever you feel welcomed. We are not a Source organization; we are our own collective of women/girls/femmes/female/LGBTQAI+ geeks. Anyone can step up and lead an event or a game or a movement. Thus, any decisions about events at the Source must be undertaken by the members of that event/group, as individuals.
At least one group has decided to stay, that they will not be driven out by toxic masculinity. Another has decided to find another venue. Some are still deciding. All are valid choices, and should be honored. There are many ways to fight this fight.
(If you have the option, please do not fight this fight by buying from Amazon instead. There are better options without worker exploitation.)
We would be remiss if we did not mention how the staff—and Hans—has either stood up for us during an incident or given a personal apology afterwards, regarding interactions with other groups using the space. We do not believe Hans to be an inherently terrible person. But none of us were born “woke.” We have all had work to do, and work we are still doing, to overcome the prejudices we have internalized. Hans, like everyone else, clearly has more work to do. More work than we would have hoped, apparently, but that does not make the situation unsalvageable.
As the Shieldmaidens of Kattakemeros (Chandra’s game) and Kosnos (Quinn’s game), we believe the Source can and should be better. We are dedicated to improving the world around us. Some of our members are currently discussing the logistics of a purchasing boycott, to continue until management provides concrete steps towards improvement, but that is still in the formative stages. We will, effective immediately, stop promoting the store to our friends and family as a queer- and female-friendly space to shop.
We highly suggest the Source show us that our faith in its potential is not misplaced by:
Code of Conduct
Immediately making the rules for the game room the rules for the entire store and holding all employees to the same standard as their customers.
Participating in a training program on gender, sexuality, and disability. Most colleges have these programs available and some will even come to the store. The University of Minnesota comes highly recommended.
Learning how to spot and intervene in any interactions that might be making other customers uncomfortable or feel unsafe.
Hiring more diverse staff and listening to their suggestions. We have a rich pool of very geeky people in the Twin Cities from which to find passionate, knowledgeable candidates of various backgrounds.
In the spirit of complete inclusivity, installing automatic doors, which will benefit the disabled, the elderly, parents, and anyone with their hands full for gaming purposes. We laud the unisex, accessible bathrooms, but they also need automatic doors.
We will not tolerate the continuation of toxic masculinity such as Lisa has described. It is everything we are against. At the same time, we acknowledge and support our allies that are on staff with the Source. Know that you’re seen, loved, and supported, and we’d form up the wall in front of you like we would for any of our sisters because we know you’re in this with us.
It should be noted that Hans was not the only problem Lisa faced. Some of the issues came from store patrons. Members of OUR geek community. The Source is not the only place where change needs to happen.
We’re Shieldmaidens, with all that entails. We will not tolerate racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or misogyny. We are blazing a better path for our younger members, towards a better geeky world WITHOUT this baggage. Now it’s time for the Source to be better too.