Remember the human: don’t be that guy at A&S classes and displays.

I was debating if I should post this one, or not.

*watches as the internet gets popcorn*

First and foremost, I am not unaware of my attitude problems, so this is not any way to raise me up above the rest, but rather a reminder for myself, and everybody else, to remember some core values of our society.

I am not a huge fan of A&S competitions, which I think is often reflected in my mediocre entries. And even though I have won Queen’s Champion in Caid, and now I’m baronial champion of Castlemere here in Trimaris, I’m still unconvinced that they are necessary.

I do enjoy displays, however, because it removes the stress of competition, and allows the artisan the chance to outwardly geek about their work, and chat with others informally about it. I love teaching, and I have some new material on deck for Pennsic which I will make a follow up post about.

Having been on both the judge and entrant side of competitions, attendee/displayee (I made a word), student/teacher etc, I feel that I need to speak up about what NOT to say when you’re not the person teaching or displaying.  Judging is in a class of its own, so that discussion will probably wait for another day.

My anecdote:

My last couple of Pennsics in the A&S display have been rough, and I’ve had a couple of hecklers in my classes as well. Now, Pennsic is big. People come from all over the world to camp as neighbors for 2 weeks out of the year, and with that draw, comes all sorts of people from all walks of life. Despite my extroverted personality, I still have anxiety, my husband is the polar opposite being introverted and never stressed (ever.) I understand that there is a spectrum of communication disorders and other issues that individuals face, and it was learning about these issues, as well as coming to terms with my own, that has helped me start reeling thoughts and actions back.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had classes heckled. I’ve had people yell at me for not giving them the ‘yes’ answer they wanted, and I’ve been called ‘wrong’ and other things, and watched students storm out. This is not a common occurrence, mind you, but it has happened. While my brain has told me to throw a chair at them, I’ve never actually done it, because I’m usually standing there, dumbfounded by the outburst coupled with the heat, and wondering why someone would just ruin my class like that. One time, I had a jerk that yelled back at me for the entire first half of my class, that a countess interfered and told him to leave. I could have done this, but I was on a time constraint, and didn’t want to detract from the content for those who were there to actually learn something. This was several years ago, now (I want to say 2011-2012), but I’m still unsure of how to react appropriately when it happen again. I say “when”, because it’s endemic. I’m not the only teacher to get this treatment.

In fact, I get “screamed” at in emails more than anything else. I want to say that for every 10 emails I get with information or research requests regarding my blog content, 1 of them will end with explosions and flames. This is when I stop responding. Sure, I could take them for a walk out to the internet woodshed, but that does me nothing but sate a momentary burst of anger, and will only make the querent more pissed. I save that ranting for social media, which I shouldn’t do either, but sometimes, I need to let the heat out. Again, not just me, I’ve heard similar stories from other blog and site owners. Yikes.

Now, I need to talk about the Pennsic Knowne World A&S Display, and I am going to be blunt. The last year I participated (2016) I met, some of, the NASTIEST PEOPLE IN THE SCA EVER. I have displayed on-off only for few years, but two years ago, I damn near quit the SCA for good because of my Pennsic experiences. I’ve been playing now for 20 years, and I was ready to walk, because a few people did not think before they spoke to me. Going back to the issue of communication and neurological disorders, I tried to be kind, but by the end of the day, I could not, and packed up and left early.

What was I displaying? My thesis. Yeah, it was all machine sewn and I had bought trim on it, but I thought that I could discuss my research behind the garments without getting shredded by the thread counters. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I felt defeated and hurt, and was only boosted by a laurel friend from Atlantia, who actually had to chase off one of the assailants, and several people who urged I present at the International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, which I did, thanks to them. My work was on the table for no less than a minute before I was verbally accosted by someone claiming to be a laurel, (I have my reservations about this. I know a ton of peers, and this was so out of character, I think she was lying as an excuse to be rude,) who snarked me for not doing my own goldwork embroidery. My head spun. I’m not an embroiderer, I am actually terrible at embroidery, so I explained, gently, that this was predominantly an academic project, not an SCA one, and I was limited to one semester for completion. So even if I could embroider, there was no way I could do that much work in my allotted time. She fired back, and said that me purchasing sari trim was “tacky”, and because she could embroider that quickly, I should be able to do it, as well.  I decided to fire back with pulling out documentation from the Book of the Eparch, showing that trim and embellishments were controlled by different guilds than the silk sellers and tailors, so in period, I would not have embroidered or woven the trim used on a garment I sewed, but she wanted nothing of it. She just wanted to be rude. I had to stare at her nearby table the entire time, shellshocked, 3 minutes in to a 4 hour display.

I was handed a mimosa by my dear friend the Mimosa Fairy, and I thought I could shake it off. I could not. I was pissed. I wanted to throttle her. And then they just kept coming.

“Why didn’t you hand sew this?”
“I had three months, but here is this great paper and document-…”
“That’s not an excuse.”

And then the coups de grace was the woman who decided to attack WHAT I WAS WEARING as being wrong. It was no less than 90F out. I was wearing a tube with pins and had rushed over from the Unbelted Champions Battle. This is when I lost my patience, and told her to screw. When she complained to the organizer (Atlantian Laurel friend) she was told to stop her rudeness, and get out. Apparently, she felt it necessary to critique every woman’s hot weather bog dress, and I just happened to have hit my last straw and told her to scram.

I packed up and left 2 hours early. Not wanting to people anymore, and wondering if I should even bother sticking around war.

The Lesson:

Why am I whining about this now? Because Pennsic is fast approaching, and I don’t want to deal with it again. I don’t want anybody to deal with the thread counters, the garb snarks, the hecklers, and the pedants.

It is HARD being a teacher. It is HARD to display your art. It takes huevos to get up there. Of course I’ve listened to teachers I’ve disagreed with. You wait until after class and offer to send them an email for further discussion, you do not disrupt their hard work because your research experience tells you otherwise. If it’s really bothering you, get up, give them a friendly wave, and leave. That’s all it takes to be civil.

And despite my own quirks, I cannot, for the life of me, understand those that approach people who are willingly displaying their artwork in the heat of the afternoon for hours, and be rude to them, especially a peer. I was told that the reason people were being rude to me was because I wasn’t wearing my coronet. I should not have to have a specific award, or piece of jewelry to command respect. Again, have I seen research and projects I disagreed with, or thought could use some tweaks? Of course. What do I do? Give them my card and a token, and ask them to shoot me an email if they want feedback. THAT’S IT.  You don’t insert yourself in somebody else’s project unless they ask for it. You don’t stand there in pedantic, elitist glory and get to tell somebody that they should have done something differently. Artists always work hard, and no matter their level, are always their worst critic. Being a jerk to them is a great way to ensure that they never display again. Thanks to rudeness in the SCA, I almost stopped writing icons, and I’m definitely not showing machine-sewn work, ever, again, despite the novel of research that accompanies it. I’ll bring it to my classes, instead.

I love giving out little tokens, too. (As much as I love getting them.) It’s a nice way of saying thanks. I have a wonderful collection of fun beads, charms, beewax, and other goodies given to me because somebody admired what I did. Take the time to sit down and make some, or order something you can’t make. Those little thoughts mean a lot.

The bottom line is this, friends: We are all human beings with feelings. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been in the SCA for 20 years or 20 minutes. Remember the humanity. Remember that we all have something going on.

Don’t be that guy at the A&S Display! Don’t be that heckler in the classroom! Likewise, I need to not open my mouth if you ARE that guy, because I don’t know what’s going on in your life, either. Pennsic is hot. It’s wet. It’s stressful. Let’s all be better this year.

-Anna

Addendum: I’ve noticed some remarks across social media of people getting scared about teaching or displaying at Pennsic. I promise you, cross my heart, that this is not everyone at war. If you have a problem with someone and don’t have anywhere to turn, come find me at the display, or, I camp at the North Gate in block N-18, right on the corner. Ask for Anna (or Angela, most people in my camp refer to me as my mundane name), and I’ll make sure we set this issue straight with the university and display staff.

27 thoughts on “Remember the human: don’t be that guy at A&S classes and displays.

    1. Preach! I have experienced this many times. It really is hard to put what feels like your life work out there for people to simply tear it apart. Thank you for sharing.

  1. I’ve seen this behavior before at A&S displays at Pennsic and it truly breaks my heart. As someone with only 5 or so years in the society, I feel as though behavior such as this would turn me off to ever displaying work (if I had even an ounce of artistic talent, which I do not). I can only imagine how it must feel to be ripped on after busting my ass to do something. As a fighter, though, I do make it a point to check out the displays and talk with the artists and artisans about their stuff. I’ll never understand the elitist pedant mentality, especially from peers. It does not move the art, artist, or society forward. Quite the opposite, rather. I am sorry to hear of your experiences.

    1. The only thing I can do is push back. Of course, the people who probably need to read this, won’t. And that’s okay. If we can make the society more aware, then we can police the troublemakers and try to set them down the path to courteousness.

    1. Pennsic has really started to lose its magic for me. For many reasons. Climate change certainly isn’t helping, but it has become an awful lot of work to plan and go. I typically go for both weeks. Flying from Caid was not fun, this year we’re driving from Trimaris and I’m concerned about the car after 2 cross-country drives, going into the Pennsic haul with the trailer. My stress levels are sky high right now.

      We will be at Gulf Wars in March, if you do make it down there.

      1. Greetings Angela/Anna, and well met! This is the very first of your blogs I’ve read and I’m glad I did. Your experience w/in the classroom is so similar to mine – and I’m not teaching in the SCA (I’m just a rough-around-the-edges gentle). I honestly believe that this sense of rudeness and disrespect is the crusty residue of today’s social media. I’ve got students who come into lecture w/ this same attitude (some of them actually displaying it in the classroom) and it leaves me blinking my eyes in disbelief.

        It has become problematic in the SCA to the point that certain orders in my kingdom of Northshield recently stood and vowed to double-down on the practice of inclusiveness, helpfulness, respect for others. It makes me all misty-eyed at the display of chivalry. I had always believed (I’m a some-time player when time and money allow) that chivalry was at the heart of the entire reason for joining; I honestly thought people wanted to be part of something bigger (in dream) and better than the mundane world; otherwise, why join in the first place? I’ve long wanted to attend Pennsic War – but this sounds positively cut-throat. Screw that nonsense! With luck, I will be at Gulf War and hope to meet you there.

        Laurentia/Anorra of Westcotte
        (aka Anorra of the W.C.; aka Anorra of the Half-bath)
        Northshield

  2. Preach. It. Sister!

    My last entry in an A&S event (2½ year ago) was a miserable experience. I will never enter again, not even a non-competitive or display event.

    I’ll be at Pennsic again this year. It is best that I don’t attend the A&S display because I doubt I could contain myself around a-holes in the crowd.

    Einar, Ealdormere

  3. I know i have reached out to a few years ago for advice on Byzantine costuming. I sent you a Rosewater cordial 🙂 Anyway, good read and I haven’t experienced the same level as you are talking about but I have experienced similar. I much prefer displays to competitions because you can actually get the feedback you want/need from just talking about what you are doing. Keep up the good work.

    1. I very much remember that cordial. 🙂

      Honestly, this one year was the worst. Class hecklers come and go, but I’ve never been accosted like I was 2 years ago. If this is indeed a growing problem, I want to shut it down.

      1. One of the things I do is I recruit my own hecklers. I invite a friend to attend my classes. They help give accurate feedback but they can also help redirect any actual hecklers. They can also help ask questions to help the audience feel more comfortable with asking their own questions.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience. I would not wish it on anyone and am saddened that people feel the need to be nasty when offering comment. It’s not limited to the SCA, similar things happen in LARP but we don’t have a forum as such to let people air their comments. I hope you enjoy your next Pennsic regardless.

    1. This type of stuff is endemic to the world right now, not just the SCA or LARP communities. *points at political crap on Facebook* That type of online interaction is KILLING human interaction.

      1. Hi, Angela! I’ve never been a member of the SCA (though I’ve known tons of members), but I agree with you that this kind of rudeness has become endemic and is “KILLING human interaction.” I’ve been noticing it since at least 2004 but it’s been growing and infecting more areas of endeavor. Kudos for you for doing what you can to shut it down in the SCA.

  5. May I post this on my FB feed? I can’t go to big events for health reasons, but I know too many artisans, both old and new who have been heckled mercilessly for may different reasons and frankly, that’s BS.

  6. This is very well-written and on the mark. It’s sad that you would have an experience like that. I haven’t had any unpleasant encounters at an A&S display like that, but sometimes when I’ve displayed a copy of a Renaissance painting that I’ve done I’ve gotten odd comments at times, some from people who thought they were experts. I displayed a copy of a wonderful painting by Antonello de Messina of the Annunciation, showing just Mary and her reaction. In one comment someone noted that the background was too black, even though looking at the photo I had there of the original you could see that THE BACKGROUND WAS BLACK. My wife and I have been in the SCA for about 7 years and although we don’t make it to many events, I have heard far too many stories of this sort. What these morons don’t realize is that by treating another person like this they could very well be guaranteeing that the person never comes back. As a pastor I have often found that churches can sometimes be like this. All churches like to think of themselves as friendly and welcoming, but the reality is that they are often not, and succeed in alienating anyone with a new idea.

    My thought is that people who engage in this sort of behavior are actually insecure. They hide their insecurity behind bluster, hoping that nobody will call them on their behavior. If someone tried to pull that sort of hyper authenticity sh*t on me I’d start by asking them how they got to the event, if it was by walking or riding an animal. I’d ask them what their tent was made of, and assuming they’d say cotton I’d ask if cotton canvas was period for them.

    From what I’ve seen your work is well-researched and well-thought out. Don’t let the trolls bother you. Their small attitudes say much more about them than they do you.

  7. Assholery is fashionable currently.

    Maybe it’s because I’m older than dirt, with an AoA from 34 years ago, when the hospitaller kept a supply of towels and safety pins to make makeshift tabards for visiting mundanes.. Or maybe I’m misremembering a golden age that never really existed, when playing involved courtesy and Chivalry, in not being an arsehole, at least as much as it involved researching the authentic method for preparing Parys Pie, historically accurate locks and looses in archery, or weaving golden thread for others to use in embroidery.

    I don’t think I’m misremembering though. There were always islands of meanness, but they were dealt with by popular disapproval long before the peerage had to step in.

    Now ‘courtesy’ is reviled as ‘political correctness’, uncouth and bullying behaviour admired as ‘telling it like it is’, and while the true experts, masters of their craft, retain enough humility to continuously learn (how do you think they became masters?) some of those of lesser ability rely on braggadocio and ignorant bluster, driving out those who are often more skilled, even if currently still of journeyman level, with unadulterated meanness and arrogant ‘more period than thou’ cruelty.

    Which is period. But not the middle ages as they should have been, which is the name of the game. Pox and stench is also period.

    Articles like this one are healthy sweetly aromatic disinfectant. May the author have a receptive audience.

  8. Thank you for speaking out about this bad behavior. You spell out the exact reasons I rarely compete in A&S competitions (Though I too am the A&S Champion for my barony right now). You couldn’t pay me enough to compete in my Kingdom level competition. But there in lies another rant.
    Thank you for persevering, and sharing your knowledge. And perhaps, eventually, we’ll get people to be nicer to each other. I live in hope.

  9. I am sorry you have been subjected to such rudness. I, too, experienced something of the kind; I attended a class given by 2 costuming laurels (I have no expertise in that field and thought to learn from some who have done the research.) I sat quietly listening to the information when I was asked to be an example to the class, of what was wrong with my Roman garb. The first time I was asked to stand as an example I was a tad embarrassed, but thought to learn from it but when I was asked to stand, again, as a sample of what not to do, my ears were on fire with embarrassment I couldn’t wait for the class to be over. Needless to say, I tend not to go to classes often, now. I never told them how humiliated I was but it has stayed with me for years after.

  10. As a member of the Pennsic Cultural Affairs staff for the last several years (not last year) and a member of the SCA since rocks were soft, I have to say I am shocked and appalled. I had no idea that this kind of behavior was occurring at the University, and it is completely contrary to the very deepest values of the SCA.
    Be aware that there are University Ambassadors, identified with a black and white baldric with a CW badge on it. Their usual jobs are to help people find classes and to count attendance, but if someone is being a pest in class, anyone should feel free to flag one down and ask them for help – even a class attendee. If need be we have some not-terribly-shy people who can deal with even the most obstreperously discourteous, if necessary at some volume…
    The A&S Display I can’t help with in general. Maybe we should create a “Help, I’m being abused by an idiot” signal? I love the A&S Display, it always blows me away with the skill and talent and persistence shown, and would hate to have it eroded by bad behavior.
    All that being said, the SCA is a very accepting and tolerant group, which by its very nature attracts socially-inept individuals. It’s a great place to learn courtesy and social skills, but some of us are, um, still on the path.
    I hope we can meet! We’re literally right around the corner at the Cathedral, as are a lot of the folks on the University staff. Come by and say hi sometime!
    Catherine Aimee le Moyne, OP

      1. I referred your column to Captain Elias, the University Chancellor. Here is his exact response: “Yeesh. Can you please post that the Chancellor says that teachers are free to come to point and ask for some help when they have a troublesome student. I will personally go and talk to them. I don’t care if it is hizzzoner or even Odin himself.”
        This behavior is not, has never been, and will never be acceptable. We all lose when it becomes normalized.
        And yeah, becoming an ambassador would be excellent!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story so openly. That too is daring. I appreciate your courage. I too avoid competitions greatly because of the open door they provide for poor quality crtitique.

    I agree that the best we can do is “If you see something, Say Something.”
    — Sophia The Orange

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry that you have had these experiences, but I am grateful that you are shining light on this problem.
    -Elizabethe Alles

  13. I know this one… Heckled during my first class as a laurel, and first big event after as queen. I can laugh now, but it was hard to take at first.
    Thanks for the reminder that: we all need to be the best people we can be; that what excites us as artisans is not what excites others; and to check what is being presented before talking to people. Plus, you know, mind your manners – even in the heat and humidity.
    I’m glad you were brave enough to post this, i would never have found your blog without it. And from a fellow research nerd- cant wait to read you thesis!
    Portia (west/lochac)

  14. Any supposed peer who would hassle you only if you aren’t wearing your regalia (and would be polite if you had a coronet on) doesn’t deserve their peerage. I’m also appalled that ANYone would “heckle” an instructor during a class.
    I’m a Pelican in AnTir, and if I ever get to a Pennsic, I’m likely to spend a lot of time in scruffy “hot weather” clothes, barefoot if I can get away with it, and without regalia… and anyone who thinks they can snark at me because I’m not dressed up and wearing a medallion (haven’t got a coronet) can kiss my a$$.
    Thank you for sharing your efforts via A&S displays and teaching classes, and for this article. We need more people like you in the SCA.

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