Scandal rocked the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo Friday when The Honey Badger Brigade, a group of mainly female geek culture critics and men’s rights activists were ejected from the event.
The group is openly sympathetic to Gamergate, an online movement that campaigns for improved ethical standards in games journalism. Gamergate is not without controversy, however, and has attracted claims of misogyny from some critics. HBB was removed from the 4-day convention after organizers said they received 25 claims of harassment.
According to a short statement issued by CalEx, HBB was in contravention of CalEx’s mandate for a “positive and safe event for everyone.”
“We have reason to believe that the Exhibitor (sic) in question does not fall in line with this mandate… so we have politely requested that they not participate in our show or future shows. We continue to build a positive and fun event for everyone.
“We have evidence that the group in question was actively disregarding our mandate. We support free speech – and continue to promote equality across the board. Their removal from the show had zero to do with gender, and everything to do with our show policies, which apply to all exhibitors and attendees.
“We are very proud of our initiative for #ExpoEquality and we wish everyone a happy, safe and fun Expo.”
The claims of harassment came following a panel discussion, “Women Into Comics,” which took place on Thursday night. During the panel Q&A, HBB founding member Alison Tieman answered a question from the floor in which she identified herself as an MRA and criticized feminism. “The reason why I don’t like feminism is because you promote this idea that women are defined by being victims. If you look at the content of all of your issues men also face considerable problems… and they need to be brought into the story and not just for men’s sake, but also for the sake of challenging the notion that women are defined as victims.”
On Friday morning, as HBB were setting up its booth, it was approached by security and asked to leave the venue. “When we went in this morning, security came over straight away and told us we had to shut down,” said HBB member Hannah Wallen.
The order to leave was particularly hard on Tieman who broke into tears upon hearing the news. Tieman, who has been working for seven years on her comic book series Xenospora, is now banned permanently from CalEx. “Alison is a woman in comics who has been banned from this event, Canada-wide, for life, because she is an outspoken woman,” said HBB member Karen Straughan.
HBB’s expulsion from the event created a firestorm of criticism on social media with many accusing CalEx of censorship.
#CagaryExpo positive and safe for everyone Unless your the wrong type of person that does not "fall in line with the mandate" then its exile
— Gayle Redhead (@Gayle36) April 17, 2015
Was there any proof of the Honey Badgers disrupting panels at #CalgaryExpo? Other than "BECAUSE I SAID SO" from SJWs I mean.
— Ashton Liu (@Ash_Effect) April 17, 2015
So.. in the end, what were @Calgaryexpo afraid of? Assault? Threats? Of course not. They were afraid of the Honey Badgers POV. Terrified.
— 9v (@9voltmonster) April 17, 2015
— Rowen Ilbert [Izzy] (@IzzyBak21) April 17, 2015
— Video Culture Replay (@VCR_Blog) April 17, 2015
THE IRONY OF KICKING OUT AND CENSORING WOMEN FOR PUTTING UP A SIGN SAYING 'AGAINST CENSORSHIP' It's just too fucking much. #GamerGate
— Sam Ovett (@sjovett) April 17, 2015
Not everybody, however, saw the expulsion in negative terms. CalEx attendee Michael Grey said “it’s good that they’re gone. We don’t need people like that here—this is supposed to be a safe space for everybody.”
— Amy (@AmyStephen) April 18, 2015
Good. "Check out MRA Group Honey Badger Radio Removed From Calgary Expo For False Information, Disruption" http://t.co/EQxMMRHsHn
— Jonathan Hansen (@HANSEN_SOGROOVY) April 17, 2015
Just learned that the GGers/"Honey Badger Brigade" folks with the GG booth at @CalgaryExpo are disrupting women-oriented panels.
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) April 17, 2015
While HBB is gone from this year’s event, it may not be the end of the controversy. “We’re exploring our legal options at the moment,” said Straughan. “Hopefully if nothing else we can get Alison reinstated at these events so she can continue to promote her work.”
CalEx has become one of the most popular events in the geek culture calendar. Event organizers are expecting over 130,000 attendees over the course of the event which runs until Sunday.
CalEx refused to comment on HBB’s removal from the event when contacted by TheDC.