There has been a bit of a firestorm over Gen Con's handling of a blog posting complaining about their SPA icon.
The icon has been offensive to attendees over the past couple of years. The icon is being found offensive because of its depiction of women and which has been debated heatedly in several blog postings including the original Critical Hits blog by Matt Dukes.
The issue of the icon being offensive has been raised over the years in other blogs and posts. Here is a comment from 2009.
Just an FYI, one comment I heard a few times this past con, both in the halls and at our women in gaming seminar, was the use of the ball and chain for the spa icon. The main concensus was that just about anything would be less offensive. Any chance of changing it to perhaps a craft icon, people or just a house? (any other suggestions?)
The entire dialogue is fairly tame without anything coming of the discussion.
This year's discussion is entirely different. The arguments and complaints appear to be the same from previous years, what is different is the way Gen Con chose to handle the response.
Here is Jeannette LeGault's response to the criticism of the SPA icon:
GEN CON’S RESPONSE TO THE OPEN LETTER
Thank you all for your comments. Let’s go over some facts to set the record straight as some incorrect assumptions are being made here. Hopefully these facts will shed some light on this topic.
• Gen Con’s majority shareholders are women.
• Gen Con’s CEO is a woman and the staff is primarily made up of women.
• I picked the icon. I consider myself an independent, liberal minded woman. I picked it not because I thought it represented who or what I was or as a reflection on women, but because I thought it funny and I liked the irony. Yes it might be base, I’ll give you that, but I’m getting off point.
• The SPA icon has been around since the program began four years ago – it is not a new icon.
• Now in its fifth year, the SPA program has grown exponentially and boasts over 90 events in its offerings for 2010. Not all events are knitting or scrapbooking. The program also includes such events as wine and beer tasting, walking tours, chainmaile classes, Pilates, Irish Dancing, yoga, etc.
• SPA events are very popular with all types of people, gamers, gamer widows and widowers. A lot of the events sell-out.
• Events at Gen Con are submitted by fans for fans. While Gen Con hosts and sponsors some events, the majority are run by you. If you don’t like the offerings don’t go to that event, if you want to see something specific, host an event yourself! Simple as that.
I respect that we all have opinions, believe me I know I do … I find it ironic that the author of the open letter has his website sponsored by cougarlife.com. But I digress. I wonder if such passionate responses on such a non-starter issue might be better served on issues that really matter to women such as domestic violence, health, slavery, prostitution, the list goes on sadly.
Vanir you mentioned you were a karate instructor; it would be wonderful to have a beginning/intro to Karate class to include as part of the programming at this year’s show, SPA or otherwise. Since I’m the director of events at Gen Con you’ve come to the right spot, let me know!
Thank you all for your opinions and for calling attention to a wonderful program that Gen Con is proud to support. The process for picking the icon was not an arbitrary one; thought was put into it. It’s hard to pick one “icon” for such a diverse group of people and event types and to find one that wouldn’t be misconstrued as something else. The icon was chosen for its tongue and cheek aspect, nothing more and will remain as is for the time being.
If you want to talk to me directly about SPA or anything Event related please feel free to do so. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC
Unfortunately for Gen Con, Jeannette's response come across as aggressive, non-apologetic, and an attempt to justify.
Gen Con has everything to lose and nothing to gain with this response. She attacks the original poster and claims he is a hypocrite, thus attempting to discredit his statements by discrediting him.
She uses the defense of being a woman and that Gen Con's staff is primarily women to attempt to invalidate the offensive nature of the icon.
She states that the decision for the icon was not an arbitrary one, but then states that it will not change and is not open for discussion.
Credit goes to Jeannette for taking ownership for the decision and providing a means for communicating with her for those who wish. But it is very clear that she isn't changing her decision simply because of someone's opinion that differs from her own.
What is the harm in changing the icon? There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by demonstrating a sensitivity to your customers.
It takes years to build up a strong brand and image. That image has to be protected or a small event or issue, similar to this one, can do tremendous damage in a matter of moments.
Here is hoping that Gen Con quickly puts this issue to rest with a swift change of the icon and a thank you to the community for bringing it to their attention.
If they don't, then it will be a bigger issue next year.