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The Unfortunate Epidemic of Bullies in Geek Culture

The Unfortunate Epidemic of Bullies in Geek Culture

By Tim Wainwright

Sexual harassment is an unfortunately vague and PC term, often used in shrill and bureaucratic ways. Which is sad, because it distances the English-speaking world from the sheer scummy filth of the incidents we dub “harassment.”

So let’s be specific.

During the most recent NYC Comic Con, a crew of wanna-be “personalities” led by a guy named Mike Babchik snuck into the Con, under the credentials of Sirius XM radio, and set out to get some hilarious footage for their fans. It was not hilarious. It was awful.

They asked cosplayer Bethany Maddock whether her costume “helped her get laid.”

They approached cosplayer Diana M. Pho (who goes by the moniker Ayleen the Peacemaker), a classy steampunk cosplayer, and asked her “Whether she was a geisha”, and where they “could buy an umbrella that comes with an Asian girl”. Those were about the least offensive comments from the interchange, the rest of which is simply inappropriate to reprint here.

Mike Babchik and his knuckle-dragging friends were farming content for their Youtube show “Man Banter”. Although they took down the channel, it’s still pretty easy to see that these guys and their show are just the latest unfortunate example of a bully culture that reigns supreme. It marches (or stumbles drunkenly) under the banner of "manliness," but really represents a historic low in standards of human decency. The unholy trinity of this culture is sports, beer, and porn, and Babchik has a history with all of them.

Anyone who cares to can look over the whole history of this show for evidence of a basic belief that women exist to be googled, ogled, and fondled.

Unfortunately, this “guy” culture is beginning to insert itself into geek culture. Proof?

The biggest sponsor of the whole Con was Arizona Iced Tea, who ran commercials before every panel on the first day of the con featuring a curvy blonde woman boasting about the company’s “giant cans!”

Or maybe we could look to the history of the wider world of geek culture with many more instances of Con harassment and, of course, ridiculous costumes for super heroines (The Hawkeye Initiative deconstructs this pretty well).

So, you may be asking, what can we do? Well, signing this petition is a start. As is recommending that Sirius get rid not only of Babchik (let’s be honest, a small fry within this lame culture), but adopt a respectful standard towards women in its content—if it wants to have a positive reputation within our community.

But in addition to all this, Ayleen the Peacemaker gave a kickass response to Babchik: she threatened to slap him, and then snapped her parasol shut.

What a classy, Steampunk way to handle that. The slap has fallen out of fashion, but Pho wasn’t afraid to belt this jerk one across the face if he kept up his idiotic behavior, and he fled like a rabbit.

Then, she went about writing one of the best comeback letters ever written.

Here’s part of it:

“I accepted an apology representatives from Man Banter made in your name, Mr. Babchik: a remorseful cry from bullies who knew they have been caught. But your colleagues' panicked emails will not make me accept the idea that you could buy me as a cheap joke, because so many of my fellow Asian sisters live their lives with the fear that they are nothing but things to be sold and used and discarded.

This notion cycles itself over and over again in today's culture, like loops of film spinning on a reel, like a rap song on repeat. These stories get repeated until they snowball into an illusion of truth that crushes living hearts and bodies and spirits beneath their weight.

I am writing this letter to tell this to you, Mr. Babchik, and everyone who thinks like you: I will not be bought by your remorse or your shame-filled Internet silence or your own fleeced sense of self-preservation after you said those words to me.

Not because the costs are too high.

But because I was never for sale.”

We hope that our readers, especially those dealing with sick environments at home, at school, or anywhere else, take courage from this. Speak out. There is no shame in pulling the blinders off of the world and calling bullies out for who they are. By speaking up, Ayleen the Peacemaker not only started to receive justice for the suffering she went through, but she also took down a whole show dedicated to encouraging a literally barbaric treatment of women, and saved who knows how many ladies from going through the same kind of assault down the road?

Follow her example.

You are not for sale.

Have you experienced bullying in a place you thought was safe?

Tags: bullying, radio, geeks, comic con, cons, nycc, mike babchick

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About the Author
Tim Wainwright

Tim Wainwright writes about monsters, sexual ethics, and public sector employee pension reform--and sometimes other things. You can follow him on twitter @Tim_Wainwright , because he has a strange desire to have people read the things he writes. He is growing to accept the fact that people will always call him "bud", and that he will never pull off the cowboy hat look.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.