On the morning of April 18th, the artist group known as The Honey Badger Brigade was removed from The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo due to allegations of harassment of attendees as well as disruption of various gender-subject related panels. The details regarding exactly what happened are murky at best as social media discussions on the incident are an absolute quagmire with accusations and statements from all directions.
The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo describes themselves as a convention for pop culture taking place in the city of Calgary, Canada. Most of the attendees and events fall in line with typical nerd culture, with categories surrounding comics and science fiction/fantasy. Major guests this year included Hayley Atwell of Captain America/Agent Carter, Mark Meer of Mass Effect, and Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother/Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo features panel events that span numerous fandoms along with artists booths and cosplay contests.
The Honey Badger Brigade describes themselves in their Badgerfesto as well as verbally describing themselves as an MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) group:
The Honey Badger Brigade is a collective of artists, techies and frothing lunatics that spawns radio shows, podcasts, animations, illustrations, comedy, comics, fiction and other brainchildren.
We defend freedom of expression and believe all artistic works and social commentary should have unfettered access to compete in the market place of ideas. As such we oppose those who seek to restrict freedom of expression to expressions that don’t step on their very wide and very long toes. In fact we suspect the joy for these individuals is not in expression or sharing expression or even critiquing it but in rejecting it as immoral. Once they infect a creative community, they eat through it by ejecting more and more artistic expression as impure and sinful till all that remains is a burnt out husk populated solely by individuals trying to throw each other out of it.
We all came together because of a mutual interest in men’s issues, which can be observed in most of our work. We touch on women’s issues as well, but we do not shy away from critiquing feminine vices. The main women’s issue we grapple with is how the politicizing of female victimhood through misleading or outright false statistics traps women in an emotionally abusive web of punditry and public manipulation.
The Honey Badger Brigade attended The Calgary Expo through the 17th of April. There they attended panels and sold merchandise — most notably pieces of art depicting logos and characters in support of #GamerGate, the ongoing consumer revolt that continues to flame up in the video game fandom. On the morning of the 18th, Twitter users alerted the account of Calgary Expo to the existence of the booth. Calgary Expo swiftly responded and ejected the Honey Badger Brigade from the expo.
Social media exploded in all directions following this event, with praise, accusations, and outrage regarding the ejection. That outrage was multiplied once it became known that a majority of the Honey Badger Brigade team that had attended and created works for the expo were in fact women. The fact event organizers would bar women from an event is controversial in and of itself regardless of reasons. An explanation was demanded of the event organizers of Calgary Expo to which they responded:
The Calgary Expo is a positive and safe event for everyone. We have reason to believe that the Exhibitor 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 polices, 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 section of The Calgary Expo regarding their belief that the Honey Badger Brigade did not fall in line with their safe space mandate was in regards to a The Mary Sue article recently posted attacking the group using the description of the Honey Badger Brigade fundraiser page as evidence of intent of disruption for the event. The statement in question reads:
In April of this year, the Honey Badgers plan to put on a booth at the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo! We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own. Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware. Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way.
That’s it folks.
The event organizers of The Calgary Expo took the statement regarding “infiltration” due to “decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery” as evidence of the Honey Badgers Brigade intent to disrupt panels.
The Honey Badger Brigade had their own press release which you can read in full here:
Early this morning, [Ben Marasco and Kelly Dowd, Calgary Expo] staff (See edit notice at bottom) banned Honey Badger Brigade (HBB) from the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo (CalEx). Security staff approached the HBB booth, ordered us to leave, and refused to state the reason why unless Alison Tieman agreed to speak to them away from the other members of the group, without recording. They informed Alison that they had received complaints on social media, including 25 allegations of harassment. No evidence was presented, no request was made for information from HBB, and no specific incident was cited until further questions were asked of security.
Upon further questioning, security mentioned the Women in Comics panel discussion from the previous day, where Alison was given permission to speak. Alison spoke briefly in relation to a topic brought up by the panelists. Accusers, however, claimed that Alison derailed the conversation. Alison and myself were in attendance, and you can listen to Alison’s statement in the panel here on YouTube. You can hear Alison, myself and indeed the entire panel in the full discussion record.
According to the audio recordings, via Youtube linked in The Honey Badger Brigade press release, it appears as though the allegations of harassment involving the artist team were false reports.
The following day on the 19th, the Honey Badger Brigade allegedly met in a nearby park to hang out and meet with fans or supporters. According to tweets of members of The Honey Badger Brigade, an officer arrived to the meeting. Members of the group claim the officer informed them that the police had recieved reports from the Calgary Expo Security Staff that the group was meeting in order to protest or disrupt the expo. When group members informed the officer otherwise, he left.
— Rachel Edwards (@naughty_nerdess) April 19, 2015
The final day of The Calgary Expo concluded on the 19th — with The Honey Badger Brigade not in attendance. Social media continues to be an absolute mess regarding the issue with no end in sight. Whether the controversy will die down or continue to rage is anyone’s guess.
Both The Honey Badger Brigade and The Calgary Expo did not respond to requests for comment.